The synagogue was built Radom in 1844 or 1846 in the then Jewish quarter. It consisted of a prayer room for men, which was erected on a 18 by 18-meter square plan and an adjacent two-storey vestibule with three entrances measuring 16.2 by 5.8 m. The synagogue was about 418 m², it was 9 meters at the highest point and the vestibule measured 7 metres.
The main hall contained a centrally placed bimah (an elevation, with a table for lecturing and reading the Torah, also serving as a lectern and the place where the cantor leads the prayer). The roof truss was supported by four wooden columns. In the square designated by the columns, a regular 12-sided poligon formed a base for the apparent dome. There were 12 windows in three walls, and the interior of the prayer hall was additionally lit by 24 small windows placed just under the dome.
The synagogue was built from baked brick, plastered with lime mortar on both sides. The main walls were 76-77 cm thick, those in the vestibule - 61-62 cm. The roof was made of dark iron sheets, the ceiling was decorated with gilded patterns. The main entrance was in today's Podwalna Street and the vestibule had three entrances. In later years the bulding was modernised and remodelled many times. Next to the synagogue there was also a bet ha-midrash (‘Institute of Learning’).
Ben-Zion Gold (1926-2016), the author of The Life of Jews in Poland before the Holocaust: A Memoir wrote: „People came to bet ha-midrash to pray together and study. The bet ha-midrash in Radom was located in a large, rectangular hall, furnished with long tables and benches; its walls were lined with bookcases stocked with Bibles, Talmuds*, Commentaries, Codes**, Responsa***, and Hasidic theological literature of all periods. In the center of the bet ha-midrash was bimah - the elevation on which Torah was read. Opposite the bimah, on the east wall there was another elevation where Aron ha-Kodes – the Holy Ark was kept, with the scrolls of the Torah inside.”
The lectern, a place for the cantor leading the prayer was situated below, to the right. On both sides of the Ark were honorary places, usually occupied by a rabbi and one of the the elders. Women sat on balconies, invisible to men. Bet ha-midrash opened before dawn and closed at midnight. Morning prayers began at sunrise - as soon as one minyan ended (a prayer quorum composed of at least 10 men), its place was immediately taken over by another one. Before the day began, several devotions had taken place. Those who worked all day came early - some were reciting psalms, others studying a chapter from the Mishnah or a page of the Talmud.
Then they formed minyans, said morning prayers and went home. On winter afternoons beggars who had finished their rounds met around hot stoves and talked about the events of the day. Working Jews appeared late in the afternoon for minha and maariv - afternoon and evening prayers. After the minha, waiting for the evening to come, most spent their time studying. It was a time for a magid - an itinerant preacher, to came upon the bima and preach. Most of the magids were well versed in the matters concerning heaven, but they definitely knew more about hell.
Wailing monotonously, they told blood-curdling stories about punishment awaiting all sinners, which left listeners in tears. During the day you could meet several groups of people in the bet ha-midrash. There were zajdene junge-lejt (silky boys), or promising talmudists, who were dependent on their in-laws. There were batlonim - men whose wives were breadwinners while they were studying Torah, trying to earn a better place in the afterlife for themselves and for others. There were also old men who devoted themselves entirely to studying. And finally there were scholars, some of them with rabbinical studies, taking care of boys who had recently completed the cheder."
The synagogue and the bet ha-midrash had their own choirs and their own cantors. In 1939, Moses Rontal was the cantor in the synagogue and Israel Kupfer in bet ha-midrah.
After the German occupation of Radom in autumn 1939 the synagogue was closed and its interior destroyed. After the creation of the ghetto, the synagogue became a medical facility providing quarantine for people who had been in contact with typhus. The ruined building was demolished after 1945and its remains were used in 1950 to build a monument designed by Jacob Zajdensznir from Radom. Four column bases still visible in the square are the only remains of the synagogue.
The Book of Radom; The Story of a Jewish Community in Poland Destroyed by the Nazis, published in the US in 1963 recounts this story: „In connection with the synagogue building in Radom, there is an interesting story, reported to us by Mr. M. Staszewski of Tel Aviv. It tells of the struggle of the Jews of Radom in the 1830s, the generosity of the German Jewish Baron Rothschild and the plight of the great Jewish community of Frankfurt, Germany, 100 years later. The Jewish community leaders of Radom had made many attempts to secure a building permit for a synagogue from the local authorities, all to no avail. Nathaniel Beckerman, one of the leaders and a man of stature and wealth, in a desperate move, decided to try and get a permit directly from the Tsar of Russia through the intervention of the world renowned, influential head of the House of Rothschild. Beckerman traveled to Frankfort and was received in audience by the Baron Anshel Rothschild. As a result of Beckerman's trip Radom received shortly afterwards not only the Tsar's permit to build a synagogue, but also a generous personal gift from the Baron and a donation from the wealthy Jewish community of Frankfort towards the building fund. A full century later, in 1936, an urgent letter was received in Radom from the Jewish community in Frankfort, asking for the immediate repayment of 3600 marks. To us in Radom this request was another proof of the plight of German Jews in the early years of the Hitler regime. As a footnote to the story may we add here that the synagogue in Radom, a proud symbol of Jewish community life was destroyed by the Germans 100 years after its erection.”
This is how Jehoszua Perle (1888-1943) describes the Radom temple in his famous book Ordinary Jews: "The synagogue was spacious and cool. Drums and trumpets beautifully carved on the eastern wall of the synagogue, which always seemed to accompany the cantor’s song, today were as silent as sheep before the rain.”
"There were also many private houses of prayer in the city, and in 1926 there were at least 12 of them. At the time they were run by Abraham Mentlik, Zelik Goldfarb, Nusyn Rozencwajg, Szlama Frydman (at 29 Lubelska St., now Żeromskiego), Szmul Frydman, Mordka Opatowski (at 14 Lubelska St.), Szlama Margulis, Moses Szmendra, Luzer-Majlech Rokce, Icek Leslau, Josek Tajchman and Józef Rabinowicz (at 23 Lubelska St.).
Z. Chołuj, Synagoga w Radomiu – próba rekonstrukcji, „Radomir” 1987, nr 5, s. 61 - 64; The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, signature. W.K.Ż.-I, R.2610; The Book of Radom; The Story of a Jewish Community in Poland Destroyed by the Nazis, USA 1963; Ben Zion Gold, Cisza przed burzą. Życie Żydów w Polsce przed Holocaustem, Kraków-Budapest 2011; J. Perle, Żydzi dnia powszedniego, Warszawa, 2015.
* Talmud - commentary on the Torah, the most important text of Judaism containing the first five books of the Bible. The Talmud explains how to properly understand the things described in the Torah and how to observe the laws described there.
** Halakha codes - all legal and religious laws and rules of conduct regulating the life of Jews. The basis of halakha is the so-called written law, that is Torah, which contains the description of the daily rules and practices which the religious Jew should follow. Halakha has been systematically developed by generations of rabbis until the present day. From a literary perspective, it can take the form of a single statement, a debate between the rabbis and a letter or ordinance.
*** Responsa - Rabbinic responses to questions of Jewish law.
1,2 – Synagogue and prayer house, National Digital Archives
3 – The interior of the synagogue in Radom, The Book of Radom; The Story of a Jewish Community in Poland Destroyed by the Nazis USA-Canada 1963