23 September 2016

"How Goodly Are Thy Tents, O Jacob…" • Wall Paintings in Bukovinian Synagogues

   The Chernivtsi Museum of the History and Culture of Bukovinian Jews

„How Goodly Are Thy Tents, O Jacob…“
Wall Paintings in Bukovinian Synagogues

Chernivtsi-Kyiv 2016

Synagogue wall paintings in Bukovina:

The history of Eastern European synagogue painting, which has left traces in Bukovinian synagogues, extends over four centuries. Originating in what was then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the late sixteenth century, it saw its heyday in the eighteenth century when it spread from the Dnieper River to the Rhine and from the Baltic Sea to the Danube [Fig. 1]. At the turn of the twentieth century, following the immigration of Jews to Palestine and America, it was introduced to other parts of the world. During the interwar and, especially, the post-war period, the physical elimination of the Jews, as well as the strengthening of political regimes professing militant atheism, together with a large-scale emigration, made it impossible for the remaining Jewish communities to return to their traditional ways, and the practice of wall painting came to an end. Nor did it take root in the New World as the transformations that were underway in the Eastern European Jewish immigrant communities came into conflict with the ideology and aesthetics embodied in traditional synagogue painting - art that became symbolic of the mentality of an Eastern European shtetl* [Transliteration of Hebrew terms and names conforms to modern Israeli phonology.] with its strong folklore and mystic core.

Today, it is difficult to appreciate the scale and forms of this artistic phenomenon, which is inseparable from Eastern European Yidishkait. Its special significance owes to its profoundly spiritual content and the combination of faith and liturgy, mysticism and folklore with the European experience. Synagogue wall painting became a vivid and original form of the visualization of the Jewish „picture of the world“. Magical symbols and representations of the biblical past and the Messianic future envelop the synagogue walls like a single artistic shroud turning the prayer hall into a visible Jewish Cosmos, where everything was as sacred as it was symbolic. It was there that the Almighty revealed himself to the Jews and they could lament their exile, galut, in their prayers, and dream about their return to Eretz Israel.

20 August 2016

Photo Finish and Balance Sheet in Rheinberg (5574 km)

Distance: 5,574 kilometers = 3,464 miles
Travel period: 19.07.2016 - 17.08.2016 = 30 days
Difference in temperature: 13°C = 55°F (Leipzig) / 38°C = 100°F (Budapest)
Photos: more than 8,500
Traffic tickets: € 36,00 = US$ 41.00 in Vienna
Major problem: Lost top case lock on Ukrainian roads (bad vibrations)
Bakshish: affordable
Travel expenses: affordable
Personal meetings: innumerable
Experiences: priceless
Fun factor and risk of repetition: extremely high

Stages (10 = 5,574 km = 30 days)

Photographic Supplement

Get-together in Maramureș

Real Estate to Sale at the Romanian - Moldavian Border

Welcome in Seven Cents in Moldova

Top security at the Bălți Jewish Cemetery

Brush-up in Czernowitz

Old hat(s) in Lviv
Get-together on Herrengasse in Czernowitz

Czernowitz Jewish Cemetery

17 August 2016

From Little Vienna/Paris on the Pruth to Florence on the Elbe (4957 km)

(Dresden, 16.08.2016 - 17.08.2016) This is the ninth stage of my motorcycle ride to Czernowitz and at the same time the last one before getting back home. Czernowitz sometimes is labelled as "Little Vienna", sometimes as "Paris on the Pruth", while Dresden is also known as "Florence on the Elbe".


My personal opinion: Neither Czernowitz nor Dresden need to pander to Vienna/Paris or Florence respectively, both they have their own character as well as a charming and unique townscape!

16 August 2016

I'm Happy Again in Kraków (4412 km)

(Kraków, 15.08.2016 - 16.08.2016) It's not that I was unhappy so far, by no means, but a stopover in Kraków, or more precisely in Kazimierz, the Jewish historical district of Kraków, is always a pleasure, but...


...Kraków is at the same time the main destination for Holocaust tourism. "Krakow, once home to a thriving Jewish community, now resembles no more than a ghost town in terms of its Jews of yesteryear. All that remains are the synagogues and the graves, and - in place of Jewish businesses and restaurants - there now stand 'Jewish-style' cafes and tourist bookshops where tomes on the long-lost community are snapped up like hot cakes. They do a roaring trade, even in the harsh, snow-covered month of November, as Krakow's streets teem with tour groups from all over the globe." This citation is from Seth Freedman's article in The Guardian "There is a Holocaust industry" from the year 2007. Since then the Holocaust tourism rather increased, but Seth Freedman's postscript reads as follows: "But why is that a bad thing? It is essential learning for anyone with a vested interest in the history of mankind." - Now I wonder, if that's going to be a model for Czernowitz too?!

15 August 2016

Meeting Friends in Stryi and Lviv (4060 km)

(Lviv, 13.08.2016 - 15.08.2016) First I had the privilege to meet my friend and photographer Andrzej Polec from Warsaw in Stryi. We met just in front of the synagogue, an oasis of calm middle in this magic Galician town. Andrzej is the author of many books, among them "Zapomniani" - Forgotten. We, Jews of the Borderland.


On the very same day, in Lviv, we had a friends reunion of old and future Czernowitzers (f.l.t.r.): Christian Herrmann, photographer and author of the Vanished World Blog • Edgar Hauster, world traveller and blogger • Sylvia de Swaan, original Czernowitzer and professional photographer from New York • Jay Osborn and Marla Raucher Osborn, gifted researchers and genealogists, focussed on the documentation and preservation of the Rohatyn Jewish Heritage.


On Sunday, August 14, 2016, my friends took the new express train 702 to Czernowitz; from Lviv to Czernowitz in just 03:34 hours! It's an excellent timing and the possibly starting point for a serial story. Bound for Kraków, I'm passing the relay baton on to them. Have a great time in Czernowitz and please don't hesitate to share your Czernowitz adventures with all of us!

13 August 2016

An Experimental Photo Session in Czernowitz (3720 km)

(Czernowitz, 05.08.2016 - 13.08.2016) Let's go for a walk on today's Olga Kobyljanska Street, formerly known as Iancu Flondor Street during the interwar period and as Herrengasse in the "good old days" before World War I. Check it out, move the slider, compare and enjoy!

JuxtaposeJS, this new, fancy - and free - photo comparison tool was brought to us by Knight Lab. The Northwestern University Knight Lab is a team of technologists and journalists working at advancing news media innovation through exploration and experimentation. More Czernowitz pre-post comparison photos are on the way to be published after my return home! So what else is new in town? Where do we start?


Construction and renovation works take place at every turn, such as everywhere on Olga Kobyljanska Street and f. i. at the cross-roads Tolstogo/Waggasse - Pereyaslavs'ka/Steingasse. Since the Russia-Ukraine gas disputes, thermal insulation became a topic in civil engineering in Ukraine.


Energy savings and pollution control became essentials for the Czernowitz police forces too. They now draw closer, silently and "soft-footed/tired" on Prius, Toyota's hybrid car.


When it comes to food and drink, cuts are no more the order of the day. Nearly every day a new restaurant / bar / coffee shop opens its doors to the public, such as the brand new NYSP (NEW * YORK * STREET * PIZZA), just by my Bukovyna Hotel.


The Pokémon Go Mania - youngsters know, what I'm talking about - hit Czernowitz without remorse. Here too, in a way at the end of the world, in front of the Czernowitz Regional Archives, four Czernowitz kids are on the hunt for Pokémons. Good hunting!


Beyond the daily museum work, the Chernivtsi Museum of the History and Culture of Bukowinian Jews became a starting point for creative work and for international partnerships in the cultural sector. Members of the Düsseldorf Jewish Community attend a museum visit under the guidance of director Mykola Kuschnir.


Only the Czernowitz Jewish Cemetery - fortunately - didn't change and it's waiting patiently for the volunteers from SVIT and ASF to do their best in order to restrain the uncontrolled vegetation growth of the last season.


P.S.: As evidence of my statement, that Czernowitz is fully focussed on electromobility, last night two participant teams (USA, Chech Republic) at the 80edays parked their Teslas just at the entrance of my Hotel Bukovyna.

06 August 2016

Nine out of Seventeen Soviet Bus Stops between Bălți and Czernowitz (3612 km)

(National Road M14/H10 Bălți - Czernowitz, 05.08.2016) I was always fascinated by the survival capability of Soviet bus stops. They persist to survive regardless of the passenger volume and whether busses are still stopping there or not - and normally they don't!


I've photographed the eight remaining bus stops alongside the Ukrainian track section to Czernowitz during my 2013 journey. These and more Soviet bus stops from my 2008 rides are just one click away: