Funny what we forget. I got an SLR camera for my ethnographic fieldwork in the early 1990s, thinking it would be an important tool for documenting everyday life. I even experimented with shooting and developing black and white film (this was a film camera). The photos are interesting because they capture things I deliberately went out to photograph. As it turns out, fragments of Jewish culture figure prominently; they’re the subject of 28 out of 112 photos. Here are some of them from Lesko:

This ornate facade of the synagogue features the Ten Commandments and the inscription in Hebrew: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven” (see Virtual Sztetl). The building was partially destroyed during World War II, and rebuilt in the 1960s and 70s. That’s when the round tower was enlarged and the curved roofline was added. You can tell because the newer features are made of brick instead of the original stone. Here are photos of the interior and exterior of the synagogue in 1932 (from


Last spring, I learned that the iron railing that used to surround the central alter is now a balcony on a building in the center of town. I actually took this photo of it in 1992, but had no idea where the balcony came from.


The balcony on this building used to be the iron railing around the alter in the synagogue, Lesko 1992

It’s one of the prettiest buildings in town, especially since it was renovated and repainted golden orange. Still, this railing brings to home the fact that fragments of Jewish life and its destruction are hiding in plain sight. I suppose its appropriation is what preserved this particular part of the synagogue. But knowing what it is and where it came from, it seems horribly, terribly, out of place.