Fundacja Brama Cukermana (Cukerman Gate Foundation) in Będzin, in Zagłębie Dąbrowskie, was established ten years ago at the initiative of Karolina and Piotr Jakoweńko. The impetus for its creation was the need to save this Jewish prayerhouse with its historic polychromes, located in “Brama Cukermana”. After the War, the synagogue served as a private home. Today, thanks to the efforts of the Foundation and the residents of Będzin, it houses a unique museum.

In June 2019, remnants of the women’s gallery (i.e. the place intended for women) was discovered in the Będzin prayerhouse. In Orthodox Judaism, women pray separately from men. Today, the organisers are providing the entire prayerhouse to women – literally! It is the historic, architectural element – the original timber ceiling of the balcony – which inspired the ”Babiniec” project curators, Iza Grauman and Karolina Jakoweńko, to create this space for women at the “Brama”.

This is not the only reason for initiating the project. In 2015, work began on a gallery of characters relating to Będzin’s Jewish history. It tells of Będzin’s inhabitants who, in a special way, entered into the history of the city – teachers, scientists, artists, soldier, inventors, rabbis and doctors. It also does not forget about those who died during the Holocaust, as well as those who survived it and remembered about Będzin. The creator of this gallery is Andrzej Ciepał.

The fates of the women, Jewish pre-War residents of Będzin, which appear in the gallery, have become “Babiniec’s” most important inspiration. This project is intended to be educational and consists of a series of gatherings, tours and workshops. All the workshops are dedicated to female heroines – selected inhabitants of Będzin - Chaja Klinger, Dora Reym, Dora Diamant, Rachela Olewska (Zelmanowicz), Helena Warszawska and Cyrla Szajn. Workshop participants will refer to them directly or by using metaphors, creative reflection, contemporary art media and visual arts. Meeting at the Brama, surrounded by historic polychromes, in a women’s circle, they focus on demanding topis and, thanks to invited guests, they explore the topics in an interesting, critical, sensitive and universal manner.

Among those involved in events held in June, August and September 2019 were activists and initiators of artistic and social activities Patrycja Dołowy, Monika Drożyńska, Dorota Hadrian, Maria Janicka, Natalia Romik, Aga Szreder and Alicja Wysocka. Workshops utilise handicraft forms relating to fashion, clothing, sculpture, installations and photography – the aim of the work being jointly developed during the gatherings. The starting point is dialogue which, as an idea of agreement, guides the mission of the “Cukerman Gate”.

The finale of the project, consisting of an exhibition and a performance walk, following in the footsteps of Będzin Jewish women, took place on 15th September 2019. The creators of the exhibition were all participants and their texts and documentation will be included within a publication planned for release in the autumn. More information on the project you can find on the ”Babiniec” fan page.

This project was financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, through its Culture Fund and from the Śląsk Province Local Government budget.

Material source: Brama Cukermana press releases.