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What is Mazalot?

Mazalot of the Lower East Side

Mazalot is a sacred Jewish art form featuring zodiac symbols. Typically depicted as murals.

The zodiac tradition is discussed in the Talmud, and in the writings of Medieval Jewish scholars, including Nachmanides, and the 16th century Kabbalist Isaac Luria. Earliest examples are the floor mosaics of second to sixth century Roman synagogues in ancient Palestine.

In Eastern Europe, the Jews revived the ancient tradition of depicting the zodiac by painting the motifs on the walls and ceilings of their wooden synagogues. The destruction unleashed by World War II resulted in the elimination of many of these synagogues or their conversion for general use.

This endangered 2,000 year old synagogue art tradition made its way to the Lower East Side via immigrants from Galitzia, a region on the borders of modern-day Poland and Ukraine.

Today the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy helps look after the preservation of Mazalot at Bialystoker Synagogue and Congregation B’nei Jacob & Anshei Brzezan (a.k.a. The Stanton Street Shul). We are also aware of other examples from the 8th Street Shul, which is now a private residence. In the conversion to the private residence the Mazels were removed. View our slideshow tothe right to see the last known remaining photos of these.

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