After a quick stop in Kazimierz Dolny (we’ll get to that later), we arrived in Zamość, a pretty city not too far from the Ukranian border. Zamość was built to look like an renaissance Italianate town. Every day, the Handshouse crew was commuting by bus about 20kms down the road to a little village called Szczebrzeszyn to work in their converted synagogue.
That evening, four travel students, Cheryl, Evelyn, Sarah, and Helena, ran a casual shabbat service for the Handshouse group. After explaining the importance of the candles and prayers, they led everyone in a little dancing and broke open the challah.
Handshouse completely converted the former Szczebrzeszyn synagogue into their painting workspace. Nearly every inch of the building was covered with notes, paints, and finished or not-yet-begun panels. The new students were learning the painting techniques that Handshouse has developed over the last few years, and focusing on the intricate flowers that pattern the ceiling.
The painting leaders were each tackling a new iconographic animal. Krista Lima was tasked with painting the leopard (she had painted the matching lion/tiger last year). This pair is unusual amongst the various creatures painted on the ceiling because of their very human-like faces. Some scholars think they might be a crafty way of honoring a synagogue donor without actually painting them. Krista joked that she thought the faces reminded her of Rick and Laura.
Here’s a quick video of Ariel Rosenblum painting in the Hebrew letters on one of the many inscriptions:
Thomas Hubka joined the group later in the week.
Tom is the author of “Resplendent Synagogue”, one of the major sources of information about Gwoździec. This was a great opportunity for the students and painting leaders to get Tom to weigh in on the symbolism important to the Polish Jews of the 18th century.
Just up the hill from the synagogue was one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland. Like many others, it was in very bad repair. Another reminder of the loss of Jewish culture.