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August 12, 2011     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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August 12, 2011

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PAGE 20A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 12, 2011 'Wooden Synagogues of Poland and the Florida Connection' On Sept. 13, the Jewish Mu- seum of Florida opens to the public an exhibition that tells stories of Polish shtetls and some of their Jewish families who settled in Florida. The genesis of the "Wooden Synagogues of Poland and the Florida Connrcction" exhibit was the donation by English- man Peter Maurice of 10 models of 17th-18th century Polish wooden synagogues. He researched and built the 1/40-scale models 2003-2007. Jews have lived in Poland for more than 1,000 years. About 80 percent of the American Jewish community has origins in Poland. That is not surprising, as we know that this was the center of the European Jewish world with more than 3 million Jews before the Holocaust. The focus of life for these Polish Jews was their syna- gogue. For 400 years prior to World War II, the Jews of the shtetls built approximately 1,000 wooden synagogues, because timber was plentiful. According to some art histori- ans, the wooden synagogues of Poland, with their painted and carved interiors, were a truly original and organic manifestation of artistic ex- pression-the only real Jew- ish folk art in history. These Polish wooden syna- gogues no longer exist. Dur- ing World War II, the Nazis burned to the ground those still standing. Some syna- gogues built in the 19th and 20th centuries have been found in Poland and what is now Lithuania and are in deteriorated conditions. This exhibit conveys the enormity of what was lost during World War II. Poland was the place where the Nazis built most of the death camps. This is the place where most of Europe's Jews perished. The museum's founding executive director and chief curator, Marcia Jo Zerivitz, says, "While we have various models in our collections, from a kosher bakery in Lake- land to a model of our very own Beth Jacob synagogue, this donation is so unique in i - that it brings a taste of old Polish Jewish life to modern day Miami Beach. So many Floridian Jews have a family history from Polish shtetis. These beautiful, unique mod- els evoke memories of our heritage. When you look at them, you can almost hear the davening (praying) from within thewalls and recall the pain of suffering of all Eastern European Jews from the pe- Model of Gombin synagogue riod of the Holocaustwhen the Nazis destroyed these struc- tures and most of the Jewish people. Through the creation of these models, Peter Maurice ensured that an element of Jewish life in Poland would not be forgotten. And we are so honored that Maurice chose the Jewish Museum of Florida from all the museums in the world to tell this compelling, significant story." The exhibit runs through March 18, 2012. The Jewish Museum of Florida is at 301 Washington Ave., South Beach and is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Mondays and civil and Jewish holidays. Admission: adults, $6; seniors, $5; families, $12; members and children under 6, free; Saturdays, free. For information: 305-672-5044 or Tours of the Temple Tour8 of the School Mcct the Clcr y OMcct the Leadership Learn about CRJ SPECIAL RATES for New Members Brotherhood Barbeque