The Great Synagogue at Tykocin is one of the oldest and biggest in Poland. No wonder, the Tykocin Kahal (Jewish community) came second in importance in Poland only to the Cracow one. Built in 1642, the synagogue was not only the house of prayer for the over 2000 of Tykocin Jews, it housed school rooms, small shops and women's rooms of prayer in the...more
The wall opposite the entrance in the Tykocin Great Synagogue is lined with showcases containing old Judaic objects used for worship. However, it is difficult to take pictures of them through the glass so we managed to photograph just a few. The crown in the picture (Keter Torah) is put on Torah when it is in the Ark. There is also a beautiful...more
There are just a few old Jewish houses remaining in Tykocin, but they are not easy to find. However, the custodian at the Beit Midrasz, the study house, which forms part of the Museum at the Great Synagogue, kindly gave us directions how to get to one of them. This little timber house with some of the windows and door boarded over and the Star of...more
A separate room in the Great Synagogue is devoted to objects owned by the Tykocin Jews which remained after the Shoah. Here is a collection of old photographs of the Jews, both of those who died and those who had managed to survive the Holocaust, mainly by emigrating before it started. One of the photographs shows the fifth form of the Jewish...more
The interior of the Tykocin Synagogue was ruined by the Nazis but renovation works in 1974-78 led to the discovery of real treasures: Hebrew and Aramaic polychromies covering the walls.As the lighting of the synagogue was not sufficient in the past ages, it was difficult to read from the prayer books so whole pages of prayers and psalms were...more
The 18th century Beit Midrasz, or the house where Jewish people came to study Talmud or other religious writings is part of the Museum at Tykocin. Re-built after the war, it now houses a collection of old Polish furniture, paintings and other objects connected with Tykocin. One of the most interesting exhibits there is the interior of an old...more
In the middle of the market square stands the monument to hetman Stefan Czarniecki, the Polish national hero mentioned in the Polish national anthem, famous for the defense of the Polish cities at the time of the Swedish 'deluge'. Czarniecki was presented with the Tykocin estate by the king in recognition of his great contribution to Poland's...more
Founded by Jan Klemens Branicki in the years 1740-1750 and designed and built by Józef Sekowski and Jan Henryk Klemm, this magnificent late baroque church occupies the whole east side of the market square. Its facade with two symmetrical arcaded hemispheric wings, each with a tower at its end, is truly imposing. The gate is decorated with...more
The Lopuchowo forest, just a few kilometres SW of Tykocin, was the final stop for the Tykocin Jews on the 5th and 6th of August 1941. On this date, under the command of special delegate Wolfgang Birkner of the Warsaw Gestapo, police units 309 and 316 - "Kommando Bialystok"- together with local police drove the Tykocin Jews out of their homes and...more
One wall of the synagogue is occupied by what looks like an altar - the Aron ha Kodesh, which is the most important place in a synagogue. Here behind the 'parokhet', as the curtain is called, is the Holy Ark, the cabinet where the Torah Scrolls are kept. A scroll is taken out at services on the Sabbath, and on Monday and Thursday morning and a...more
Founded by Krzysztof Wiesiolowski, the Great Marshal of Lithuania and subprefect of Tykocin, this building was erected in 1633-34 on the plan of a square with a yard in the middle and two towers facing the river, which are no longer there. It looked like a small castle but was destined for war veterans, who had spent their life in the service of...more
The interior of the Holy Trinity Church at Tykocin is truly magnificent: the walls and ceilings of the 3-aisle church are decorated with splendid polychromy, some of which, painted by Sebastian Eckstein, dates back to 1749. The rest, by Wladyslaw Drapiewski and matching beautifully the 18th century paintings, comes from 1912. The main altar is all...more
This restaurant is situated at the back of the Beit Midrasz by the Great Synagogue. It specialises in Jewish (kosher) and regional dishes but you can get some typical Polish dishes as well. It's a nice place with Jewish music, which I love, playing softly in the background. Some of the decorations must be Jewish too, like the old embroidered tapestries on the walls.
All the food seems to be freshly made. We have been there twice and the service was always prompt and the waitresses very polite. They didn't even charge us for the hot water with a slice of lemon that I drink instead of tea.
Favorite Dish: We obviously wanted to have a taste of Jewish cuisine so the first time we both had kugel, i.e. potato cake. The second time we were hungry after the long drive from Warsaw so my husband had tripe cooked the Jewish way and Jewish bigos (cooked cabbage with plums and other ingredients, but no meat, which you always have in its Polish version) with fried potato slices, which he said were excellent. I had kreplech - Jewish dumplings with meat filling, very delicate and tasty. We would have had something for dessert but a large group of elderly citizens burst in, all very hungry, so we left to find good seats for the Hanukkah celebrations. After all, it would have been hard to take pictures from the last row.
Most of you probably know this but as I saw a few men in the Synagogue with their heads bare, it might be worth mentioning. To show respect, men (but not women) should wear some kind of headgear in a synagogue. Quite the opposite to the Catholic churches, where they are supposed to take their hats off on entering a church.
You should also remember that the Aron Ha Kodesh is a kind of altar and that is why it should be treated with due respect. I saw two visitors trying to look behind the parokhet until a woman from the staff restrained them.
The terrible events of 5-6 August 1941 left a deep scar on the town and its inhabitants. We cannot bring the Tykocin Jews back to life. What we can do though is not to let them fade from our memory, but keep them in our hearts forever. So when we come to Tykocin, let's visit the mass graves in the Lopuchowo forest and leave a pebble on them, as Jewish people do, to show that we remember.
But the now retired director of the Museum at the Synagogue, Ewa Wroczynska and the cast of the Amateur Theatre of Tykocin do more than that. She writes scripts based on diaries, court documents and the like, bringing to life characters from the town's past. The whole town joins in the performances, the oldest actor is 81, the youngest just 10.
Special focus is given to Jewish festivals. In the autumn, for instance, the town celebrates Sukkot to commemorate the escape of the Jews from Egypt. A thatched hut is then built in front of the synagogue and, after prayers, everybody partakes of Jewish plaited white bread, honey and raisins.
At Chanukkah, which is celebrated around Christmas time, the synagogue fills with the local people and visitors who want to hear about the Chanukkah traditions, listen to the diaries of Tykocin Jews being read, see their photographs on the screen and watch the Chanukkah candles being lit. Afterwards, everybody is treated to latkes, traditional potato cakes fried in olive.
At Purim, another Jewish festival, commemorating the salvation of the Jewish nation from the cruelty of Haman, when his name is pronounced during the prayers, everybody stamps their feet, claps and shakes the rattles to drown out his name. After the prayers, a Jewish carnival starts with people walking the streets dressed up, singing and dancing.
In December last year we went to Tykocin to attend the celebrations of Chanukkah. For more pictures of the celebrations see the travelogue.