Report #13 about Roberta Books and Marysia Galbraith’s trip to meet Polish partners in preparation for the ADJCP‘s memorial visit to central Poland.

Lubraniec, September 14

The Lubraniec Synagogue stands as a testament to the Jewish residents of the town. It is one of only two synagogues in the ADJCP region that maintains the outward appearance of its original purpose, and the only one that retains original interior features.

Lubraniec synagogue. Photo source: Lubraniec Center for Cultural Heritage Facebook Page

Currently, the building houses the Lubraniec Center for Cultural Heritage. During World War II, the synagogue became a warehouse, and it maintained that function until about 1980 when it was renovated for its current use. Historical features remain inside and out, including fragments of the original polychrome wall paintings, the women’s gallery, and a hidden doorway with narrow stone steps leading up to the attic. The building was also adapted to its current function: the second-floor landing was enclosed for the director’s office, and a stage was added on one side of the sanctuary.

Director Zbigniew Wojciechowski and local historian Andrzej Tomczak shared some background information about the synagogue, the Jewish cemetery, and the Jewish community of Lubraniec. The community center has occasionally sponsored public events featuring Jewish history and culture, and Tomczak has written about the history of the town’s Jewish community. Wojciechowski is also a music teacher. He proposed moving the date of their annual Day of Jewish Culture event so it corresponds with our visit in May.

After touring the building, we drove to the Jewish cemetery, a rectangular grass-covered field off a narrow dirt road.

The site has a memorial stone, installed in 2010, with the simple inscription “Jews rest in this cemetery” written in Hebrew and Polish.

Memorial stone at Lubraniec Jewish cemetery

We walked up a few steps from the road, where a wall has been constructed out of matzevah fragments. There is a noticeable seam running about five feet from the ground which marks the original height of the lapidarium. After it was installed, more fragments were located and added on top, raising the wall another couple of feet. Many of these added fragments came from the rounded tops of matzevot. They contain symbols including crowns, candles, or water being poured from a pitcher into a cup. Three additional fragments sit at the base of the wall, brought individually from other sources. One small fragment has deep incisions cut into the inscription, probably where it was used to sharpen knives.

Even though there is no fence, the cemetery looks well-maintained. The grass isn’t too long and the path up to the lapidarium is in good condition.

Why did the synagogue and all of these matzevah fragments survive in Lubraniec, when so little remains in surrounding places? It’s a mystery I would like to solve.