Jewish Heritage Europe

Fate of ruined synagogue in Constanța, Romania, in balance

Constanţa, Romania. Ruined Ashkenazic synagogue, looking toward the Ark, August 2014. Photo © Dejan Petrovic


The Romanian news site Info Sud-Est runs a strongly worded article on the disastrous condition of the Ashkenazic Great Synagogue in the Romanian port of Constanța, including a sharp indictment of  local officials and popular opinion that have allowed the building, the one surviving synagogue in the town,  to crumble to the point of collapse.

The article, by Florin Anghel and Cristian Andrei Leonte and subtitled “a story of hatred and indifference,” accuses the city of willful neglect tantamount to the deliberate desire to erase of any form of tangible Jewish memory in the town. This, they write, is despite the fact that the “stereotype” of the city is  “a melting pot of religions and minorities.”

The city’s Sephardic synagogue was razed in the late 1980s, under the communist Ceausescu regime.

The article links to a powerful photo essay on the synagogue. The photos shows a tree growing in the middle of the ravaged sanctuary and gaping holes in the ruined floor of the double women’s gallery and partially destroyed roof.

In a separate, more detailed architectural, article, “The Architectural Heritage of the Jews in Constanța,” Nicoleta Doina Teodorescu and Corina Lucescu write that less than 20 years ago, the synagogue was in decent shape and used by the small local Jewish community. Now, however:

From the entire synagogue, there are only three full walls left, fractured diagonally. The roof was destroyed, so were the majority of colored glass windows. The walls still preserve intact Jewish symbol – Star of David.  Although the entrance to the synagogue is not forbidden, even though the synagogue is in danger of collapse, the access is impossible because of the packs of dogs in front of it. On the left and right side of the building, there are new buildings; whose construction has only weakened the”skeleton” left standing .. [As recently as] 1995-1996, the local residents said that religious services could be held in the synagogue. Once abandoned, without a security guard hired to watch it, the building was ransacked of anything that was not nailed down. The tenants of the neighboring house, who had put a chain to the gate and a few dogs in the yard, were the only ones to make sure and prevent homeless people take shelter inside the building.

Designed in the Moorish style by Adolf Linz, the synagogue, according to Teodorescu and Lucescu,  was built between 1910 and 1914.

In the 1990s, Aristide Streja and Lucian Schwarz, in their book ”Synagogues in Romania” described it as follows:

The openings of doors and windows have their top frames of Moorish influence, on the ground floor in a horseshoe shape, and upstairs in trilobite forms ….The Central aisle raised and vaulted contains the men’s entrances, and the lateral aisles, horizontally leveled, contain the women’s entrances. The horizontal cornices and those arched to the tympan are outlined by the festooned profiles. The Torah Ark ensemble […] 8 m in height, which dominates the large assembly hall, is detaching itself on the background with some grooved glass windows, with a rich and traditional decoration. The galleries reserved for women spread out on the west, north, and south sides. The Great Synagogue in Constanţa is a building of an impressive architectural value.

The coverage in Info-Sud included statements by the President of the Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities, Aurel Vainer, as well as by the president of the tiny (a few dozen members) Jewish community in Constanţa, the local Archbishop and the mayor of the nearby city of Tulcea, where the synagogue has been restored.

Vainer pointed to the “lack of interest” that “led to this disaster” and underscored the financial difficulties posed by a restoration project on such a scale. He appealed for aid from civic and other parties. Archbishop Theodosius promised help, but mainly “moral support and human resources specialists,” and he also urged state and local authorities to fund the project.

JHE has posted at length on the challenges of preserving and conserving Jewish heritage in Romania (click the “Romania” tag in the sidebar). We have posted, among other things, the full text of Lucia Apostol’s presentation on Romanian Jewish heritage given at the managing Jewish immovable heritage conference in Krakow in April.

Travel story about Constanta in NY Jewish Week features the synagogue



2 comments on “Fate of ruined synagogue in Constanța, Romania, in balance

  1. It is utterly essential for the heritage of the Romanian people (Jewish and non-Jewish) that the synagogue in Constanta be completely restored and be once again the hub for a growing, strong and vital Jewish community both in the city and for all Romania.

  2. Lucia Apostol has the enormous task of looking after 837 Jewish cemeteries and other heritage sites. How can we lend her a hand?

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