Overview: Although almost every wooden synagogue
in Poland and Lithuania was destroyed in WWII, a number of people have
contributed to keeping their memory alive and in the public consciousness. This page
lists those I know about, and some I don't know about.
After I realized that the names show up in various sections in this website,
I decided that there should one place where their names can be found. You
have to use the search box at the upper right of the screen to find everywhere a
particular person is mentioned.
There are a couple of places where there must have been an influential person,
but I don't know who he/she is, so they're listed as unknown1,
An apology: in almost every case, there must have been a host of people
involved in a project, but I only have the names of one or two of them. I
apologize to all whose names would be on the list had I only known of them.
These people are listed in alphabetical order by last name, even though some
clearly have had more wide-spread influence than others.
A Sample of Influential People in the Story of Post-WWII Wooden Synagogues: (in alphabetical order by last name)
Rick and Laura Brown of
Handhouse Studio, who created a program of learning by doing, and in particular trying to build
replicas of old structures using tools and techniques that might have been used in the original construction.
They used this to build life-size or nearly life-size portions of the
Zabłudów Synagogues, as well as 1:12 models
of them. Their
Gwoździec bimah, ceiling, and cupola are in the
Polin Museum of the History
of Polish Jews, where they will be seen by millions of people over the
course of time.
Boris Feldblyum, who has restored photos of
many synagogues, wooden and others.
(You have to browse his
website to find them.)
David Gelernter, whose review "A Tale of Two Synagogues" in the Winter 2012
issue of the Jewish Review of
Books provided additional visibility of Hubka's book to many who had not previously heard of it.
Thomas Hubka wrote the most in-depth study of a Polish wooden synagogue, using
Gwoździec because it has the best surviving documentation.
The Browns probably could not have completed their work without his book and
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is the Chief Curator of the
Polin Museum of the History
of Polish Jews and especially of its core exhibit, including the
Gwoździec partial replica created under the leadership of the Browns.
(The link is to her Wikipedia page.) I assume she was a key player in
the POLIN museum's decision to include the Gwoździec partial replica.
M. & K. Piechotka published material from the archives of
the Warsaw Polytechnic Institute in Polish (1957) and English (1959). These
books were followed by Heaven's Gates in Polish (1996) and English (2004).
These books remain the most complete and broadest surveys of Polish wooden
synagogues, and as key references for many of the other people listed here.
Unknown1, whoever had the inspiration and did the work to create the Piechotkas' 1996 and 2004
Heaven's Gate books,
which are like entire new projects, rather than 2nd editions.
Moshe Verbin, who
built about 30 wooden synagogue models which can be seen in Israel and in
Wittman of Berkeley, who lead Congregation Beth Israel's failed attempt to
build a modern-day adaption of the Przedbórz wooden synagogue. While
the project was not completed because of funding and perhaps other reasons,
it generated publicity throughout the U.S. and perhaps elsewhere.
Read about the April 2016 Curating Culture, Making History: On the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jewsevent.
Other names will be added as I get around to them.