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Zabludow Synagogue taken in 1910
October 2004 Completed

Download the Common Heritage Brochure

Common Heritage: The Wooden Synagogues of Poland Schedule of Events

Joint Lecture

Zabludow Synagogue Project

2008 Door Replication Workshop

During a four-day workshop, some 40 people turned several large logs and pine boards into a full scale model of the section of the 1637 Zabludow synagogue log wall, door jamb, door and forged hinges, using only traditional hand tools. Participants learned how to square the logs with axes and then rip cut the logs with a frame pit saw and a whip pit saw under the leadership of Jim Kricker, Michael Burrey and Pret Woodburn.

Read more about the workshop.

Past Exhibitions

The completed Zabludow Synagogue model developed by Handshouse Studio is featured in several major exhibitions, and Handshouse is working to arrange the exhibition to travel to other locations such as Chicago, Boston, Florida and several locations in Poland including the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, the Museum Podlaskie in Bialystok, Poland, the Tykocin Synagogue in Tykocin, Poland and the Stara Synagogue in Krakow, Poland.

Handshouse Studio and Tom Hubka presented an Exhibition of the Zabludow Synagogue and Gwozdziec Synagogue photographs, drawings and the Zabludow Synagogue model at the Oberlin College Mudd Library, the main campus library, in Oberlin, Ohio.

Oberlin exhibition

Thomas C. Hubka is Professor of Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and award-winning author of Resplendent Synagogue: Architecture and Worship in an Eighteenth-Century Polish Community (Brandeis University Press) and Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn: The Connected Farm Buildings of New England (UPNE).

The completed Zabludow Synagogue model was featured at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Entitled "Common Heritage: The Wooden Synagogues of Poland," the exhibition included a series of events celebrating Jewish architecture and culture in Poland and America from Oct. 20 through 24. Associated with the exhibition, Jim Kricker, millwright from Rondout Woodworkers, Saugerties, NY, demonstrated traditional building techniques similar to methods used for the construction of the original synagogue.

Nostrovia! Experiencing Poland
November 11-23, 2004

An exhibition of work inspired by the rich cultrual history of the people and places of Poland from a recent trip to document its sacred spaces. Download the brochure.

"The 18th Century Wall-Paintings from the Polish Wooden Synagogues: Jewish Liturgical Art in Polish Context"

Joint Lecture Dec. 6 & 7 Sponsored by Handshouse Studio, Mass College of Art and Brandeis University

Thomas C. Hubka and Marc Michael Epstein will interpret the artistic techniques, architectural context, and Jewish iconographic meaning of the wall-paintings from 18th century wooden synagogues of Poland. Special emphasis will be placed on the interpretation of animal iconography which was a primary vehicle for artistic expression and liturgical meaning.

About the Model

The 4'x4' Zabludow Synagogue model has been completed in recent workshops at Handshouse Studio. The spring workshop involved a dedicated team who made the walls and the unique timber framed roof structure over the main prayer hall. The later workshops focused on the tower roof structures and constructing all the finish work.

Just as in full-scale construction, the details have taken lots of time. We made all the wooden shingles and laid the tiny shingles in a similar way it would have been done on the real building. We built the windows and several small dormers as well and the front outside balcony, inside balcony, stairs and doors.

The model has two sides totally complete to look like the original synagogue as seen in pictures; and two walls have been left exposed, revealing the structural details and how it all went together.

The students first studied the Zabludow Synagogue from several sources: the measured drawings done in 1923 by students and faculty from the Architecture Department of Warsaw Technical University, photographs from the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, and Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka's book Wooden Synagogues.

Upcoming Plans

Handshouse Studio is working with several colleges in a multi-college class called Historic Wall Painting. This class will build a wooden replica of a cupola (ceiling) of the Gwozdziec Synagogue, which was originally built in Poland in 1731 and was destroyed during the Nazi Invasion of World War II. Working with faculty and historic experts students will research and paint the complex historic images of the wooden replica ceiling. The class will include students and faculty from Rhode Island School of Design, Mass College of Art, Wheelock College and Wentworth Institute of Technology, to make at Handshouse Studio a replica, as accurate as possible, of this unique religious object from Eastern Europe. The finished work will be exhibited around the country and included in a larger exhibition of historical documentation.

Guest speakers will include Tom Hubka, architect and professor from University of Wisconsin and author of the book Resplendent Synagogue about the Gwozdziec Synagogue, and Marc Michael Epstein, professor at Vassar College and author of the book Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature.

Additional Information

Tilford Bartman, whose father was born in Zabludow and who has been compiling an extensive history of the Shtetl of Zabludow, has produced a DVD called "The Zabludow Wooden Synagogue" as well as a website a Tilford is in constant communication with Zabludow survivors who remember the synagogue. The following is from Tilford Bartman:

    "The wooden synagogue built in the Eastern Poland Shtetl of Zabludow in 1638 was one of the cultural treasures of Polish Jewry. During the first war when the Germans occupied the area it was visited by the Kaiser's son Prince August Wilhelm, who took many photographs of the buildings exterior, interior, and the remarkable collections of ritual art objects.

    In the 1920s, it was visited by architects from the Institute of Polish Architecture at the Polytechnic of Warsaw. Oscar Sosnowski, its founder in 1923, was quite interested in Jewish culture, and he soon began a project to inventory synagogues. Architects and students of the Institute of Polish Architecture went out and did drawings. They also did many copies in color of the polychromic decorations of the wooden synagogue interiors. Sosnowski was killed in 1939 at the outbreak of WW II. Szymon Zajczyk from the Institute began a broader study of monuments of Jewish art and was murdered by the Nazis. The Institute was burned by Germans in October of 1944. Some of the drawings and measurement files were saved by staff, but the hand painted copies of the interior decorations could not be saved. After the war the school was rebuilt as the Department Architecture of the Polytechnic School of Warsaw. The synagogue and most of the rest of the town was destroyed by a unit of the German Wermacht ( regular German Infantry) on June 26th, 1941."


In October 2003, Rick and Laura Brown represented Handshouse Studio in Bialystok, Poland, at "Annihilated Heritage - Zabludow Project International Workshops for the Preservation of Historic Wood Building Tradition." Participants from around the globe learned about the multicultural heritage of the Podlasie region of northeastern Poland, and its numerous wooden landmarks: farm buildings, Catholic and Orthodox churches, and mosques. The result of the conference/workshop was the adoption of the Bialystok Resolution, whereby participants pledged to develop an international learning network and to reconstruct the 17th century wooden synagogue of Zabludow, Poland, destroyed in World War II.

Handshouse Studio & the Learning Network

In the spirit of the workshop and the resolution, Handshouse Studio determined to contribute to the international learning network by integrating the subject of the Zabludow Synagogue into the classroom at three of the Colleges of the Fenway: Massachusetts College of Art, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Wheelock College, through connected academic and studio courses, an intensive model making workshop, and a travel program to Poland through Mass College of Art.

At this Website, we will explain our program and participation in detail. We invite you to visit these sections:

  • Background

    The history of Handshouse involvement with the Zabludow Synagogue Project, especially the conference in Poland, which which resulted in the Bialystok Resolution signed by all the participants at the conference
  • College Coursework

    How Handshouse connected the Zabludow Synagogue Project and the Bialystok Resolution with the coursework of Mass Art, and Colleges of the Fenway through the Technology and Culture class, the Travel Program, and the Handshouse Studio Zabludow Model Workshop
  • 2004 Poland Trip

    A Travel Program led by Handshouse with MassArt students to visit historic sites and document one or more existing wooden religious structures in Poland.

  • View all of the Model Workshop Photos

  • Student Involvement

    The personal comments of the students about this project and this way of learning.

Wooden Synagogues



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