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Shmuel Polin

Lecture subjects

Focuses on Synogague art and architecture along the Pale until the period of Nazi and subsequent Soviet destruction. Lectures also include: Russian Jews during the Shoah Soviet foreign policies and state sponsored anti-Semitism.

Languages English, Hebrew, Russian

Based in: Cincinnati, Ohio USA

*Available online

Lecture options


Lecture with a presentation

Discussion / Q&A

Online lecture / Q&A




Shmuel Polin is an artist and imminent rabbi of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. Born in greater Philadelphia as part of the large Russian-Jewish community, his rabbinate and his artwork affirm this identity. As a subject of academic research, he has issued sermons and published articles on the FSU Jewish experience. In 2018, he worked at the Holocaust and Humanity Center of Cincinnati, translating survivor testimonies from Russian into English. Meanwhile, his art encapsulates the same calling of his rabbinate. He began exhibitions as young as 11 with his father (also an artist). Currently, he is leading “The Opening the Ark Project” of Cincinnati. The project is rebuilding one of the great arks of Ashkenazi Jewry destroyed in the Holocaust (in 1942). The ark was originally built not far from Bialystok. Throughout the summer of 2020, woodworkers and artists will be convening at his woodshop to work on the project. The project pulls other talented artists from within the Jewish community: woodworkers, painters, architects, etc. The finished product will be a 17-foot-tall Aron HaKodesh, which will be on exhibition at an important museum in Cincinnati (the Skirball Museum). As part of his project, Shmuel will be offering lessons and classes about the history of the wooden arks of Europe. The Jewish artists who survived the destruction of the Nazis had to change their craft under Soviet oppression. Shmuel has included in his lessons interviews with an artist from the FSU who worked on synagogue architecture before the war, but afterward and under Soviet oppression, he had to change professions (only to return to his trade after coming to America). Shmuel currently lives in Cincinnati, with his wife Daniella (also of the Philadelphia Russian-Jewish community), and his son Micha. His son’s bris was a powerful moment in his life. It was the first bris done freely, without fear of the KGB, here in America, for his wife’s family.


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