Livia Chereches, whom I met at the recent seminar on managing historic Jewish property in Bratislava, has written with exciting news. The landmark Zion synagogue in Oradea, Romania, is going to (finally) undergo restoration.
A grandiose Neolog temple with a soaring dome, the synagogue is a city landmark that towers over the Cris river. Built in 1878, it was designed by David Busch, the town's chief municipal architect. Its interior features columns, arches, and vaulting decorated by geometric designs (painted by Mor Horovitz from Kosice). The Ark is framed by an elaborate arch and surmounted by a pipe organ.
Interior of Zion Synagogue, 2006. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber
Livia writes that under an agreement signed by the President of the Jewish Community Oradea, Felix Koppelmann, and the mayor of Oradea, the town will assume control of the synagogue and use it for exhibitions and other cultural purposes, but on occasion it will also be used by the Jewish community for religious purposes.
This year the municipality will renovate the exterior of the building, and meanwhile European Union funding will be sought for the interior. What's more, a planned high-rise parking lot, that developers wanted to build in front of the synagogue, will now be built underground so that the striking view of the synagogue will be left free.
"This seems to be a happy end to a long story with unsuccessful attempts to save the Jewel of the town of Oradea," writes Livia.
Oradea, which has a Jewish community today numbering about 500 members, has about four other synagogues. Two are in the Jewish community compound (one in use and one closed for hoped-for renovation) and two have been converted for other use.
As the author of National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe, I have roamed thousands of miles around Europe's historic Jewish heartland, bringing Jewish heritage to light for on-site explorers and armchair travelers alike. On this blog I will post photographs, links and personal experiences related to Jewish heritage sites and travel, particularly in the countries of east-central Europe.
Aside from clearly marked quotations, links and pictures, all material on this blog is copyright ⓒ Ruth Ellen Gruber
I'm an American writer, photographer, and public speaker long based in Europe. I've chronicled Jewish cultural developments and other contemporary European Jewish issues for more than 20 years. My latest books are "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," published in 2007, and "Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere)," published in 2008.
I also am working on "Sturm, Twang and Sauerkraut Cowboys: Imaginary Wild Wests in Contemporary Europe," an exploration of the American West in the European imagination for which I won a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEH summer stipend grant.