History of the synagogue

The building situated in 24 Kołłątaja Avenue in Będzin was erected at the end of 19th century for Cukermans – a wealthy Jewish family. In point of fact, it is a presentable, high-rised tenement house with extended back-premises reaching down to the 3 Maja Square and thus, forming a narrow street – a courtyard known as the Cukerman’s Gate. Incidetally, the term Cukerman’s Gate is commonly known amongst the local residents and moreover, it represents one of the few relicts of the Jewish history in the topography of the city.
During the interwar period, the head of the family – Nuchim Cukerman made every effort to expand the tenement house, the result being the contemporary exterior of the building. In the newly established part of the building – on the bottom floor of one of the back-premises, he founded a House of Prayer for both, his numerous family members, and for the community residing the Cukerman’s Gate.
It is also worth mentioning, that prior to the Second World War, not only was an enormous Synagogue located in Będzin, but also – as certain data would seem to suggest (Pinkas Będzin) – around eighty private houses of prayer!.
The opening of the Synagogue was held with due ceremony during the Jewish festival of Pesach, presumably at the beginning of 1920s.
The House of Prayer was used as a sacred space for both, men, as well as women, for whom a particular seating space was created one storey above (supposedly being a balcony with a separate entrance).
The walls in the interior were covered with paintings, characteristic enough for the decorations in synagogues, and inscriptions in Hebrew.
It is also true that in this very house (although there is no information of the exact part of the building) a religious school for boys called Cheder was operating, together with Ahavath Chesed (the Jewish Association of Mutual Support) and the headquarters of the Zionist Youth Movement Gordonia.
Nuchim Cukerman had died before the Second World War began – on May 28th, 1929, and was buried in Jewish cemetery in Czeladź. His wife – Rywka, along with most of their children, died during the Nazi extermination.
Suffice it to say that the Second World War and the Nazi occupancy resulted in the dreadful termination of the Jewish community in Będzin.
The policy of occupying troops led nearly to an utter extermination of Jews and, moreover, to the seizure of their wealth.

The Synagogues were either demolished, or converted in technical or residential premises. The same holds true for the House of Prayer in the Cukerman’s Gate – during the war it was converted into a warehouse.
After the war – in 1948, Bronisław Cukerman and Mania (Maria) Rozenblum – Nuchim Cukerman’s lawful heirs, who managed to be saved from the Holocaust, had sold the tenement, just before they emigrated from Poland, to two Polish families – Baliński and Klikowicz. The above fact resulted in the House of Prayer being converted into residential premises.
Partition walls were raised dividing the space into two rooms and a kitchen. Needless to say, that the previous Jewish women’s seating space, situated one floor above, was built over as well.
Curiously as it may seem, the paintings decorating the walls prior the war, have never been completely destroyed – that is to say – they were painted over.
Virtually during the whole post-war period the House of Prayer was used as a place of dwelling for Polish families. Currently, the Baliński family is the co-owner as well as the administrator of this particular part of the tenement, where the House of Prayer is situated.
In the year 2007, the paintings, or one should probably state – the remains of the paintings, saw the light of the day again. The students of the Mikołaj Kopernik Secondary School in Będzin unveiled the bygone House of Prayer from beneath the thick layers of paint.
The Cukerman’s Gate Foundation has been taking care of the House of Prayer since the year 2008. Due to the Foundation’s efforts, the polychromies have undergone a restoration, and more relevantly – they have been registered in the Silesian Registry of Monuments.
Presently the Nuchim Cukerman’s House of Prayer is being visited by the descendants of the former Jews from Będzin, arriving from all the world over, including the descendants of Nuchim Cukerman.

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