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BUILT BY ANGELS by Mark Podwal


The Story of the Old-New Synagogue

by Mark Podwal & illustrated by Mark Podwal

Pub Date: April 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-15-206678-9
Publisher: Harcourt

Legend, history and spiritual significance intertwine in Podwal’s illustrated free-verse poem paying homage to Prague’s Altneuschul, or Old-New Synagogue, which is the oldest in Europe, dating back to 1270, and is treasured for its early Gothic architecture. Built, according to legend, from the stones of Jerusalem’s destroyed Temple, the synagogue is a symbol of perseverance—surviving pogroms, fires, floods and war—and represents the struggles and endurance of the Jewish people. Childlike yet abstract drawings in acrylic, gouache and colored pencil—dominated by a combination of reds that symbolize the blood-stained walls from an earlier murderous rampage—delineate the building’s history as a haven for worship throughout the centuries. It remains today, restored to its original beauty: “Heavy stones, light stones, / stone pillars, stone walls, / stones carved like branches, / other like roots— / and as the angel decreed, / not one moved or changed in any way.” A beautiful, Impressionistic introduction to a portion of Judaic lore and a European architectural marvel. (historical note) (Picture book. 7-10)