3. There’s a Lobster on the Ceiling of the Bialystoker Synagogue

Painting of a lobster on the ceiling

A guest on our last tour asked, “”What’s with the traif?” Traif means non-kosher food, and he was referencing the lobster on the ceiling mural. The paintings were hand done during the WPA era and the running theory is that the painter hired may not have been aware of the difference between a lobster and crab in terms of astrology. Astrological symbols are prominent in the decoration of the Bialystoker Synagogue.

As Dodi-Lee Hect writes, “Clearly inscribed [at the Bialystoker Synagogue] are the Hebrew monthly equivalents of the astrological signs…It is fairly clear that the prominent presence of the zodiac in the decorations of the Bialystoker Synagogue is not an expression this congregation’s belief in astrology. Rather its place of honor reflects the importance given to the recurring seasons and holidays that link us to both our history and our daily observances.”