Current interior: Photo - Polish Radio
“This is something that did not have to happen and I cannot understand the thinking behind the decision,” Jonathan Ornstein, head of Krakow's Jewish Community Centre (JCC) told Polish Radio's English Section.
The Chewra Thilim synagogue is part of a late nineteenth century building that was returned to the Jewish community in 1997 after the collapse of communism.
The property had been sitting empty for years, and extensive murals were recently discovered at the site, but on Saturday it reopened as Mezcal night club under the terms of a new lease.
“The murals aren't protected at all,” Ornstein stressed.
“Less than two weeks ago, Krakow hosted an international conference on Jewish heritage where experts from over 20 countries discussed the importance of safeguarding buildings exactly like this synagogue,” he said.
“Now we have a situation two weeks later where Krakow's Jewish religious community leadership makes a decision which contradicts all the principles of respect for our heritage which the conference sought to reinforce.”
Meanwhile, British Jewish scholar Professor Jonathan Webber, who teaches at Krakow's Jagiellonian University, has written an open letter to Tadeusz Jakubowicz, head of the city's Jewish community, and to the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich.
“I am shocked that such a decision could have been made by those responsible for the Krakow Jewish community and for its historical and cultural heritage,” he said.
“This is a deeply disturbing abuse of our heritage. How can we ask the Polish government and the Polish people to respect our heritage if we do not do so ourselves?”
Last week, Tadeusz Jakubowicz told the Gazeta Wyborcza daily that “such a beautiful building should live.”
He said that the proprietors of the Mezcal club are “serious people” and that “if there are any problems, we will simply stop working with them.” (nh/pg)