Home  ->  History & Geography   ->  Przedbórz Jewish History  -> The Przedbórz Wooden Synagogue   -> Wooden Synagogue Interior decoration

Przedbˇrz Wooden Synagogue Interior Decoration (This is adapted from

  1. the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs archive website. Specifically, it's from a Sept. 6, 2003 posting, which itself seems to be taken from a 1996 article in The Israel Review of Arts and Letters.
  2. Gelernter [2012] and Wischnitzer [1964])
In 1760, Yehuda Leib, a "folk artist" or perhaps professional synagogue painter, painted an illustration of the verse, "By the waters of Babylon," (from Psalm 137) on the walls of the synagogue of Przedbórz, showing a czymbal1 (a Polish cembalo, or hammered dulcimer), trumpets, a cello, etc. - against the background of an imaginary rendition of Jerusalem as a city of towers, with birds fluttering in the sky. At the time, this was an already traditional style of painting, seen in other synagogues such as the one in Grójec. (See below.)

A portion of the Yehuda Leib painting, 170 (+/-) years later. The painting appears to be severely water-stained.

See another portion of the painting, showing the musical instruments.

Questions: What is known about Yehuda Leib? Was he a professional synagogue muralist? Where did he live? What else was he known for?

Jewish Gen says he "constructed" (supervised the construction of?) this synagogue and of the one in Pinczow.

David Gelernter [2012] quotes the following note on a painting in the Gwozdziec synagogue:

"See all this was made by my hands [Isaiah 66:2], for the glory of the place and the glory of the community, the artist Isaac son of Rabbi Judah Leib haCohen from the holy community of Jarychow, in the year 1729."
(See similar comment in Hubka [2003], page 9.)

These open the possibility that the Przedbórz painter was Isaac ben Yehudah's son, named Yehudah Leib ben Isaac ha-Cohen. Perhaps research focused on Jarychow (Jericho?) would reveal more.
According to Heaven's Gates [pg. 158], the Gwozdziec synagogue excelled in preserving painters' signatures.

Apparently it was quite common to decorate synagogue interiors with paint pictures of animals, birds, and musical instruments. For examples, see:

1. The Polish translation sites don't translate czymbal, but Steve Scher figured it out.
Last modified 24 Feb. 2016