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The Wolf Popper Synagogue: ul. Szeroka 16
It wouldn't be much of a surprise to find that tourists have walked past the Wolf Popper without realising its presence. Thankfully, a shield outside the building alerts visitors to its existence.
Wolf Popper, a rich merchant, founded the synagogue in 1620. Given his wealth it seems likely that the synagogue would have been expensively furnished. In common with the other synagogues of Kazimierz the interior of the synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The building ceased to function as a synagogue after the war. In 1965 the Jewish Council handed over the building to the Old Town Youth Culture Centre (YCC for short) for use as an art studio, a role that continues to the present day.
Is it worth investigating this building further? Most definitely! Marzena Dudziuk who teaches at the Wolf Popper explains why:
"The role of the YCC in the Popper Synagogue includes organising a wide-range of educational activities for children and young people or for anyone who takes an interest.
Art classes, architecture courses, weaving, and stained-glass painting classes all take place in the synagogue. There is also a Studio Gallery which encourages the promotion of young artistic talents and organises exhibitions.
In addition, there are often lectures given on art, culture, history, concerts, book promotion evenings, meet the author events, general knowledge quizzes about Krakow, improvised lectures on ancient culture and of course there is a well-developed programme on Jewish culture.
As part of the Jewish culture programme there are workshops on Krakow and Kazimierz and the coexistence of Polish and Jewish culture. Events include such things as:
- Lectures, illustrated with slides and photographs, showing the history and culture of Jews in Poland.
- Workshops in the Jewish folk art of paper cutting. Participants learn the techniques and the historical reasons behind this art form.
- Art classes which aim to widen people's knowledge of symbolism and artistic motifs in Jewish art as well as classes in Jewish dance.
The YCC Study Workshop on Jewish History and Culture, an initiative that began in 1995 and the only one of its kind in Poland, organises a yearly art and photography competition as well as lessons in Kazimierz on the Holocaust and a series of film showings. In addition to workshops with a Jewish theme, there is also a more general educational programme on culture and art.
If you step into the Popper Synagogue you will see children's drawings on the walls, you will hear and see people dancing to the rhythm of modern Israeli music; the synagogue is like a community centre. With its new identity the synagogue has opened a new chapter in its history, as a place of tolerance and education.
Visitors will find themselves in a vibrant and friendly place where they can find lots of information on the YCC, its activities and the long-running projects that take place in the Popper Synagogue."
What more can we say?!
Admission to the synagogue is free but donations are gratefully accepted - there is a donation box just inside the main hall.