Synagogue in Orla, Poland
Jews have lived in Orla since the 17th century, and was a majority of the town’s population on the eve of World War II. Orla synagogue was founded in the second half of the 17th century and was one of only a few stone buildings in the town until the mid-20th century.
The synagogue’s interior reflected baroque and Renaissance influences, and the most distinctive feature was the great Ark. The walls were painted with colourful frescoes mainly of animal and plant motifs. The building was frequently remodelled and a striking classical façade was added.
In the spring of 1942, the community was forcibly moved into a ghetto and, later that same year, transported to Treblinka extermination camp. The synagogue served as a storehouse for property stolen by the German soldiers from the Jewish population and the Ark was destroyed.
After World War II, the building was not properly maintained. It was occasionally used as a storage facility, but frequently stood empty and neglected, its condition deteriorating.
Since 2010, the Synagogue has been owned by the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland (FODZ). Several local civil society organisations also have an interest in preserving the Synagogue with the full support of the local Mayor and Municipality.
The Foundation raised the concept of the Synagogue being used for an innovative arts project inspired by the context of the building. FODZ and the Foundation invited the University of the Arts Poznan, Poland’s leading arts college, to explore the possibilities of this concept, which led to a week-long Arts Festival based within and around the Synagogue in 2021.
The three partners are now exploring the idea of the Synagogue becoming a centre promoting cross-cultural dialogue through the arts, joined by a fourth arts college - the Institute of Arts, Bialystok University of Technology.
A short film on the Arts Festival is available here.