Rama Synagogue, Krakow, Poland


Terumah (תרומה – contribution) Exodus from 25, 1 to 27, 19

Gd is asking the children of Israel to help build a sanctuary to dwell among them.

The Rema Synagogue (or Remuh), in the Jewish district of Kazimierz1, is Krakow’s only functioning synagogue. It was founded in 1557 by the banker to the King of Poland for his son Mojżesz ben Israel Isserles, known as The Rema2. The inscription above the gate on Szeroka Street announces this to the visitor:

בית הכנסת חדש רמא זצל
New Synagogue of Rema, of Blessed Memory

In 1988, during restoration works, polychromes were discovered. In the prayer room, a chair near the eastern wall is, according to tradition, that of the Rema. The holy ark, a work of the late Renaissance, is framed by pillars and overlooked by the Tables of the Law. The alms trunk at the entrance to the prayer hall bears the inscription “gold, silver, copper”.

Exodus 25, 3
וְזֹאת הַתְּרוּמָה אֲשֶׁר אֲשֶׁרוּ מֵאִתָּם זָהָב וָכֶסֶף וּנְחֹשֶׁת
and here is the ‘ offering you will receive from them:
gold, silver and copper.

The walls of the courtyard bear inscriptions in memory of the Jews of Krakow who perished in the Holocaust. In 1945, the synagogue once again became a place of prayer.

1 The movie Schindler’s Listwas filmed in  1993 in this neighborhood .
2 Rem”a (רמ״א) is the acronym of Rabbi Moses Isserles (1520-1572), author of religious, philosophical, scientific and mystical works. His Talmudic code of jurisprudence, titled Mappa (the Tablecloth), is still authoritative today.

Judean half shekel, Israel

Around the year 60

Mishpatim (משפטים – laws) Exodus from 21, 1 to 24, 18
Shabbat Sheqalim (שקלים – Sicles) Exodus from 30, 11 to 30, 16

Exodus 30, 11 and 12
כִּי תִשָּׂא אֶת-רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, לִפְקֻדֵיהֶם, וְנָתְנוּ אִישׁ כֹּפֶר נַפְשׁוֹ לַיי, בִּפְקֹד אֹתָם; וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה בָהֶם נֶגֶף, בִּפְקֹד אֹתָם.
When you make a general numbering of the children of Israel, each one of them shall pay the redemption of his person to the Lord at the time of the numbering, that there be no Mortality among them because of this operation.

יג זֶה יִתְּנוּ, כָּל-הָעֹבֵר עַל-הַפְּקֻדִים- מַחֲצִ sex הַשֶּׁקֶל, בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ:
This tribute, presented by all those who will be understood in the count, shall be half a shekel, according to the weight of the sanctuary;

According to the Halakha (Megillah 13b), one must give, before Purim, the remembrance silver of the half shekel given to the Temple. When we acquit ourselves, we must say “in remembrance of the half shekel” (Zecher Lemah’atsit Hashekel – זכר למחצית השקל).

The shekel is an ancient unit of weight as well as a monetary currency. It is equivalent to 180 grains of barley, or about 12 grams2.

Judean half-shekel of the 1st century:
Side face surrounding pomegranates, is inscribed Jerusalem3. On the tail side is a cut and the value of the coin.

1 beginning of Ki Tissa
2 in silver this corresponds to approximately 5€ or $5.10 or ₪20
3 in ancient Hebrew script

Congregation of Mount Sinai, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA


Yitro (יתרו – Jethro), Exodus 18, 1 to 20, 23

Exodus 19, 20
וַיֵּרֶד ה’ עַל-הַר סִינַי, אֶל-רֹאשׁ הָהָר
And Gd came down to mount Sinai, on top of the mountain

In 1654, twenty-three Jews of Sephardic origin settled in Nieuw-Amsterdam1. Little by little the Jews settled everywhere in the United States. In 1766, Isaac Pinto published the first bilingual Hebrew and English prayer book in New York. The Jewish population is estimated at 2,500 people during the War of Independence (1775-1783). In the 19th and early 20th centuries European emigration accelerated.
In 1906, a group of Central Avenue merchants came together to found the Mount Sinai congregation in Hudson City2. The architect Eugène Ciccarelli was then hired to design the building. He built an imposing Romanesque building surmounted by two Moorish copper cupolas in the shape of an onion. On October 11, 1910, former mayor Edward Hoos3 inaugurated it. He unlocks the Table of the Law doors. It is the oldest Orthodox Jewish congregation in Jersey City.

1 Current New York. In 1750, the city would have 300 Jews and more than one million today.
2 Hudson was a city that existed in Hudson County, New Jersey, United States, from 1855 to 1870, when it became part of Jersey City.

3 Based on May 3, 1897 to December 31, 1901

Isle of Man Jewish Community

Shabbat Shira, Beshalach (בשלח – when he sent away), Exodus 13, 17 to 17, 16.

Shabbat of singing, but we could say songs. When the Bnei Israel cross the sea, Moshe and the men sing a song (Exodus 15, 1 to 18), followed by that of Miriam and the women (Exodus 15, 20 and 21). In the haftarah, Dvorah and Barak also sing (Judges 5, 1 to 31). The parsha also relates the giving of manna by Gd.

Exodus 16, 4
וַיֹּאמֶר יי אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, הִנְנִי מַמְטִיר לָכֶם לֶחֶם מִן-הַשָּׁמָיִם
The Lord said to Moses, I will rain food from heaven for you

The detention camp
As the rise of Nazism, many Jews took refuge in Great Britain. In 1939, when war was declared, the British government, worried that enemy spies had been able to infiltrate, brought together hundreds of families of German origin and made them cross the Irish Sea to incarcerate them on the Island of Man in Hutchinson’s camp, as the British authorities considered them “enemy aliens“. Of the 1,500 Jews arrested in mass roundups, there are many well-known artists, musicians and intellectuals1.

Isle of Man
Today around 200 Jews still live on the small island, mostly in the capital Douglas2. This small community has a Jewish cemetery, but has no rabbi or kosher store, it meets at 30 Allan Street, in a private home. The community is represented at Tynwald3 by Leonard Singer.

1 Including Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, historian of art and architecture, Lord Arthur Weidenfeld, Baron of Chelsea, publisher, philanthropist and press columnist, Sir Charles Forte, founder of the Forte group, Kurt Schwitters, German painter, sculptor and poet (Dadaism) and pianists Marjan Rawicz and Walter Landauer (piano duo).
2 Kirk Douglas, whose real name Issur Danielovitch is the son of Jewish migrants from Tchavoussy who fled Belarus to escape the State anti-Semitism of the Russian Empire. At 74, he returned to Judaism. He died on February 5, 2020 (10 horses) at the age of 103. In 2004, his wife Anne Buydens converted to Judaism.
3 The Tynwald is the parliament of Isle of Man (Manx: Tinvaal means “meeting place” or “place of assembly”.