Sunday, April 18, 2010

Documentary film re wooden synagogues

This morning Ira and I were part of the large audience that gathered at Bnai Zion for a screening of "The Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe". Documentary producer, Albert Barry delivered a moving introduction to his film, relating a bit of history about the 17th c. synagogues in the rural shtetls of Latvia & Lithuania; how each was the rich social, instructional, economic, religious center of the community. There were, in the film, several interviews w. Holocaust survivors who had memories of several of these treasured buildings. The film includes archived photos of life in the vanished communities as well as the Nazi and Communist desecration of the structures and the ensuing deterioration. Combined w. photos of their former glory from Polish archives, their condition is heartbreaking. Yet, there is only an aging, very small Jewish community remaining in these countries, so even if restoration were possible, who would be be utilizing them?
We were struck by these buildings' resemblance, even to the onion domes on some, to the Russian Orthodox wooden churches that have been restored on Kizshi Island, near St. Petersburg. Mr. Barry and his crew did a marvelous service in documenting so well what is/was remaining of these once beautiful, well-crafted structures that were the celebrated centers of Jewish life before the Holocaust.

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