On my many trips to Poland, I always heard of the amazing synagogue structure in Lancut. In the past, circumstances had not enabled a trip to this town in Southeast Poland, near Rzeszow. But on my latest trip with Rabbi Gluck, Chief Rabbi of Galicia, while going to the graves of tzadikim, I finally got to see for myself one of most complete and highly decorated synagogues remaining in Poland.
The synagogue dates back to 1761 and was funded by the local landowner who built it in order to attract Jews to his town.
The unimposing front facade of the Lancut Synagogue hides a richly decorated interior.
During the Shoah, the local nobleman, Alfred Potocki, saved the synagogue by forcing the Germans to extinguish the fire they had ignited to destroy the building. The only resulting damage was to the women’s section, on the second floor, which was made of wood.
Detail of the roof of the bimah of the Lancut Synagogue.
Today the synagogue stands as a monument to the great Jewish communities of the past. In the entrance hall there is a collection of matzevot, gathered from different places, after having been scattered by the Germans and Communists. Off to one side is the small shul that was supposedly used by Rabbi Jacob Isaac Horowitz, the Chozeh of Lublin and Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk (Lejask), both of whom later moved on to the towns, for which they are more famous.
Partial view of the richly decorated interior of the Lancut Synagogue.
The Jews of Lancut were all exiled to Russia or were killed by the Germans. After the war the synagogue was used as a store but turned into a museum in the 1960s.
The Jewish community saw many important rabbis as leaders over the years, including: Moses Zvi Hirsch Meizlish (Meisels, 1758-67); Moses Ben Yitzhak Eisik; Aryeh Leibush (author of Gevurot Aryeh), 1777-1819; and Eliezer Ben Zvi Elimelech Shapira (Lancut’s rabbi, 1816-1865), author of Bnei Yissachar. (Encyclopaedia Judaica entry for Lancut)
Rabbi Eliezer Ben Zvi Elimelech Shapira (Lancut’s rabbi, 1816-1865), author of Bnei Yissachar.
Most people who visit Lancut go directly to the synagogue but the Jewish cemetery located on ul. Jageillonska 17. A gate leads up a flight of stairs with two ohalim near the entrance.
Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Horowitz of Ropshitz (Ropczyce) d. 1827.
Whenever I visit a synagogue in Poland, I make sure to daven Shacharis, Minchah, or Maariv there. Praying in the same shuls where great Jewish leaders from the past did is a most inspiring experience. This was particularly true at the shul in Lancut.