The Jewish Town (1648-1772)

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Jews were to be found living in nearly all parts of the Republic. They were particularly numerous in the south-eastern provinces, where the owners of vast estates gladly leased out inns and mills to Jewish settlers. Under these circumstances, tensions arose between the peasantry and Jewish leaseholders as representatives of the nobility, culminating in the bloody Chmielnicki uprising of 1648. These traumatic events, recorded by an eyewitness, Natan Hanover, became engrained in the Jewish collective psyche. They were followed by a period of renewal, when the depopulated areas once more filled with Baroque synagogues and cemeteries full of richly ornamented matzevot.

The Into the Country gallery opens with an account of the wars that ravaged Poland in seventeenth century. Its main subject, however, remains the daily life of Jews on private noble estates, portrayed against the general background of the Commonwealth. Jewish life centered around the Marketplace and Synagogue. A replica of the painted ceiling of the wooden synagogue from Gwoździec, created by a team of experts and volunteers using traditional materials, tools and techniques, hangs above an area symbolically recreating the space of a Synagogue. In an area designated as Home visitors will discover relationships within the family and among neighbors, while at the Tavern and Church room will be given to a discussion of Jewish-Christian relations.

Time seems to have stopped in this gallery, which completes the picture of the modern Republic, while presaging the modernity of the post-partition era.

Lead Historian: prof. Adam Teller (Brown University).

The design and execution of the core exhibition was financed and overseen by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, thanks to the support of donors from all over the world.