Modernity and its related intricate processes gave birth in the European intellectual and social areas to a dichotomy constructed around the idea of the existence of two civilisations, one good, based on the old modes of existence, and one bad, visible in the upheaval purported by the new technological processes that brought the old world to an early death. This model of thinking came in various forms and was enriched with new themes. One of its first established advocates was Rousseau, the influential ideologist of the French Revolution who saw this dichotomy as being more than a by-product of modernity. Probably inspired by Christian philosophers like Saint Augustine and his De Civitate Dei, Rousseau expanded to the whole society this theory of the dual nature of the human, hence he imagined a state of nature that was closer to human nature, and a society based on contractual relations within which the individuals and community at large make compromises to keep the contract going.
In Central and Eastern Europe, economic modernization in the nineteenth century came along structural difficulties, which made politicians and public intellectuals imagine political projects and theories that emphasized the discrepancy between, on the one hand, the industrial world, and the mechanized relations between people, and, on the other hand, the rural world or the pristine world of the village that had a holistic sense of community. Later in the century, the radical nationalists exploited the negative effects (e.g. unemployment or disappearance of social categories) of what seemed a never ending process of modernization, and reverted Rousseau`s model by attacking the contractual bases of society, and by praising the natural impulses of the individual. The first, they saw it as a Jewish invention, (sic), as a vicious attempt of constructing a separate world within the modern cities (the most extreme of them even saw the city of the end of the nineteenth century as a Jewish invention per se). The second, they saw as the other world, a world completely separated of the one of the city liberal professions and other modern attributes, a world meant to reiterate the archetypes of the older community.
In this research draft, we are suggesting how this theory of the two cities can be applied if we trace the dynamics within the community that was seen as the main author of the hated modernization, the Jews. The very existence of the Central and Eastern European Jews, the ghetto and its realities, serve as a good example for investigating these dynamics. Accordingly, we select three peripheral small towns located at the crossways of Empires and we depict (via photo material as well) the relations existing between Jewish community and the dominant community. A basic question refers to the place of the Jewish community in spacial, historical, and anthropological sense. The best symbol of these is the synagogue. Its location and role in the life of the respective communities is filled with meanings.
In the case of the first city of interest, Krynki, town in North-Eastern Poland, along the border with Belarus, the fate of the Jews of the area can be illustrated by the fate of the three Synagogues: one of them is nothing but a memory and few pictures in the archives, just some of its walls stand still, the other, the Chasidic one, witnessed several reconstructions, and one can even see a Little Free Library type of enterprise in front, sign that here exchanges take place, even if mainly touristic; the balance between the two discrepant sights is achieved by a third Synagogue, the one called `Caucasus` located on the Piłsudski street at no. 5, modest in appearance, resembling a private house, nevertheless surviving all the other usages that have been ascribed to it since the end of WWII (e.g. cinema, warehouse). Indeed, the disappearance of the Beth Ha Kneseth Synagogue by the hand of the Nazis during WWII never to be restored afterwards can be related to an attempt of removing one important page of history from the life of settlements like Krynki (e.g. before WWI, Krynki, an important commercial centre in the area, had a Jewish population of almost 80% of the total population of the city). Yet, the still standing parts of the walls of what once was the Synagogue call for the cultivation of memory; the walls are there standing in the middle of the city to bear witness for the ghetto, hence for the trauma that this inflicted upon the city. On the other hand, the restored Synagogue of Słonimski Chasids, one of the few Chasidic synagogues still existing in Poland, was built in the second half of the nineteenth century. Its name, Jentes Beth Midrasz, is related to the founder, Jenta Rafałowska-Wolîson. Before burning in 1880s, it hosted a Jeshiva. During WWII, Nazis destroyed what had been reconstructed of the Synagogue. Today, of the original Synagogue, only the semicircular windows remain. The Synagogue of Słonimski Chasids tells the story of the Jewish community of Krynki. Located not in a very central area of the town, half praying house, half school, it represents the worldview of one of the most traditional communities, the chasids, as well as their place in the community of the gentiles, namely on the periphery. The last Synagogue, `Caucasus`, comes to bridge the symbols of the other two: it is located in the center, but not as central as the Christian places of prayer. Its very existence nowadays, in spite of the different usages it received throughout time, is a proof of the lastingness, and, implicitly, of the influence of the Jewish culture in the area.
In Tykocin, another city located in the North-Eastern part of Poland, host of an impressive Baroque Synagogue, renovated in recent years, therefore, we may say, an opposite case to what we described as happening in Krynki, one can still perceive the once existing segregation of the Jewish community. This is visible at the level of the bridge separating the ex-Jewish community (Kaczorowa- the duck being an important bird in the Jewish tradition) from the rest of the town, but also of the street names; Kaczorowska is the street still named this way that marks the boundary between the two worlds.
In Carei, in North-Western part of Romania, along the border with Hungary and close to Ukraine, all areas having a complicated history in which Jews were concerned, the Synagogue, located as it is near the castle of the local aristocrats, the powerful and politically influential (even in the Budapest Parliament) Károlyi family, stands witness to the constant negotiation and enmity existing between the once powerful establishment (legitimised via medieval credentials), and the harbingers of the new world in Central and Eastern Europe, the traders, the craftsmen, in short, the Jews.
These are three instances and responses to the complicated nature of the inter-ethnic relations of the area, until WWII. Even today, when the big majority of the population that once inspired the theory of the two cities has long disappeared, the spatial and anthropological specificities of the towns that once hosted this community can be retraced.

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