Taube Philanthropies Honors Polish Architect Maria Piechotka, A Pioneer of Synagogue Preservation

Maria Piechotka renowned Polish architect and author of several groundbreaking publications upholding the architectural memory of buildings destroyed in WWII, especially synagogues, was honored for her commitment to preserving Poland’s Jewish heritage, on September 16, at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Taube Philanthropies presented its 2016 Irena Sendler Award to Piechotkowa at a ceremony under the museum’s replica of the 18th-century Gwoździec wooden synagogue, created by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland.

We come together under this magnificent synagogue replica and intricate painted ceiling to honor Maria Huber Piechotkowa because this replica – and the phenomenon of today’s Jewish cultural revival in Poland that it exemplifies – would not have been possible without the pioneering vision, passionate interest, and dedicated research that Maria and her husband, the late Kazimierz Piechotka, pursued over many decades. Together, the Piechotkas rescued from virtual oblivion the wooden synagogue’s architectural significance and beauty and established its place in the histories and heritages of Poland and of Jews for generations to come - said Shana Penn, Executive Director of Taube Philanthropies, who presented the award to Piechotka.

Piechotka was active in the Warsaw Uprising and in 1944, began her efforts to record the architectural detail of destroyed buildings, with a special focus on wooden synagogues. Together with her late husband, Kazimierz Piechotka, she co-authored several books on the subject, including Gates of Heaven: Wooden Synagogues on the Territory of the Former Republic, published in 1957, which has become the seminal work in the field. In 2000, the couple was awarded the Jan Karski and Pola Nireńska award from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Also in attendance at the ceremony were Ewa Czerniawska, representing Polish President Andrzej Duda and Minister of Justice Krzysztof Kwiatkowski; Rafał Perl, representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich; Chairman of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland Piotr Wiślicki; Piechotkowa’s sons, Michał and Maciej Piechotka, both architects; and Katarzyna Zachwatowicz, a friend of Piechotkowa, whose father Jan Zachwatowicz was the architect who led the monumental postwar reconstruction of Warsaw, particularly the Stare Miasto, and was a mentor to the Piechotkas.

 

About the Irena Sendler Memorial Award

The Irena Sendler Memorial Award was​ created in 2008 by Taube Philanthropies in memory of courageous partisan Irena Sendler whom Yad Vashem named a “Righteous Among The Nations.” Each year, in commemoration of her, the award is​ presented to Polish citizens who have been exemplary in preserving and revitalizing​ their country’s Jewish heritage.​ Nominations for the annual award are reviewed by a panel of Taube Philanthropies advisory board members and Jewish community leaders in Poland. Previous awardees include Association's Treasurer and Board Member - Jan Jagielski.

 

Photo: Maciek Jazwiecki; left: Awardee Maria Piechotkowa; right, Shana Penn, Executive Director, Taube Philanthropies;