Jewish Heritage Europe

Romania: More Hanukkah cheer as new Jewish Museum opens in restored Teleki synagogue in Oradea

The new museum in the Teleki synagogue on the night of the opening. Photo courtesy of Livia Chereches

With a celebratory Hanukkah event, the new Jewish museum in Oradea (Nagyvarad), Romania was opened in the city’s recently restored Primariei (Teleki) Street (Hinech Neorim) synagogue.

The museum, which includes sections on local Jewish history and on the Holocaust, will function as a branch of the Oradea City Museum Cultural Complex.

Local dignitaries including political and religious leaders attended the dedication ceremony and lit the candles of a Hanukkah menorah — watch menorah lighting HERE.

In the former sancturary, now part of the museum. Photo courtesy of Livia Chereches

Oradea Jewish community president Felix Koppelman called the opening an “extraordinary” event for both for the Jewish community and the city as a whole, as well as for tourists and Jews with roots in the region.

Major financing for the synagogue restoration and museum came from the city. The city web site quoted Mayor Ilie Bolojan as saying at the opening that City Hall financed the rehabilitation of this building two reasons:

“the first is a sign of respect and recognition of the Jewish community’s contribution to the history and development of Oradea. Our city looks like it does today, because for hundreds of years three communities — Jewish, Hungarian, and Romanian — each contributed to its architecture and development. The second reason is the compassion and remembrance, because, as you know at the end of World War II in the spring of 1944, when Oradea was under Hungarian administration, one third of our city residents, the Jewish community, were deported. This was a real tragedy, because unfortunately most of them have perished in concentration camps. It is therefore a matter of moral reparation from the city, because we want that such tragedies never happen again, and this place where we are today is to be one of remembrance. “

Watch a video about the restoration and creation of the museum

The ground floor of the museum includes information panels and objects related to the Jewish  life in Oradea, which had one of the oldest and most important Jewish communities in Transylvania, and present how local Jews helped build the city.

An exhibition case in the new Oradea Jewish museum. Photo courtesy of Livia Chereches

Jews may have lived in Oradea as early as the 15th century, and there was an organized community by the early 18th century.

In the Black Eagle Arcade, Oradea

On the eve of World War II, the city’s 30,000 Jews made up about one-third of the local population, and Jews were among the social, business, commercial and professional elite.

Oradea is noted for its rich collection of art nouveau buildings,  many of which  were either designed by Jewish architects or owned by local Jewish businesses or families. These include the famous Black Eagle Arcade, built in 1908 and designed by the Jewish architects Marcell Komor and Dezso Jakab, who also designed the synagogue in Subotica, Serbia.

“Most of us know these emblematic art nouveau buildings Oradea, but few know the history behind these buildings, which now become historical monuments and are trying to be brought  back to light through rehabilitation,” the City Hall web site quoted City Museum director Angela Lupşea as saying.

The upper floor of the museum houses a permanent exhibition and memorial on the Holocaust. There are symbolic train tracks, and the names of the 30,000 local victims are written on the walls of the exhibition space.

Names of Holocaust victims written on the walls of the Jewish museum in the teleki synagogue, Oradea. Photo courtesy of Livia Chereches

 

As we reported earlier, the synagogue itself was rededicated after restoration at a ceremony on October 9 — the date marked as Holocaust Remembrance Day in Romania.

It was the latest of three synagogue restorations in the city in recent years.

 

Click here to see a report on museum opening on the City Hall web site

Click here to see a Facebook album of photos of the new museum and opening event

 

(Many thanks to local activist Livia Chereches for allowing us to use her pictures.)

Symbolic train track as part of the Holocaust exhibit, Jewish Museum Oradea. Photo courtesty of Livia Chereches

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