Poland sketches #9 Jewish Quarter

Excerpt of my text in Diários de Viagem 2 (Travelling journals 2) freely translated from the original Portuguese:

“The visit to the New Jewish Cemetery, deep in the heart of the Kazimierz district had, ironically, wiped away the specter of death. A peaceful chaos of tombstones blended with nature. For many minutes, we were alone in the dead quiet alleyways, until the arrival of a small horde of Israeli orthodox jews, teenagers, clumsy, euphoric with their trip down history lane.”

cemetery, Krakow, Poland

They were actually looking for the tombstone I had chosen as a foreground to my sketch. As a gentile, I feared a theological clash, so I wandered away as the horde of teens, lead by an older rabbi, bombarded the sights and several tombstones with flashes from digital cameras and smartphones. Once upon their objective, it was prayer and picture galore! Not since visiting Jim Morrison’s grave had I seen such a devotion and touristic enthusiasm for a tombstone. Later I found the grave belonged to a certain Rabbi Akiva Kornitzer, born in the Netherlands in the 19th century, who was Chief Rabbi of Krakow at some point.

synagogue, Krakow, Poland, Remuh

Kazimierz, which contained the Jewish Ghetto during the Nazi occupation, is peppered with quite ancient synagogues. Remuh Synagogue is perhaps one of the least interesting ones, but it’s one of two which are still active in Krakow. The thing I appreciated most was the devotion to the written word that Judaism exudes, in that even a tiny synagogue like Remuh has a proportional library of books available to its community.