Thanks to a more than €1.41 million grant from the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), two historic synagogues — the Kapolnas street synagogue in Debrecen, eastern Hungary and the Zion synagogue across the border in Oradea (Nagyvarad in Hungarian), Romania — are being restored and will be promoted as part of religious tourism itineraries and cultural and educational programs.
The project was officially launched with an event in Oradea in October, though it actually got under way in December 2012. The restorations are expected to be completed by the end of May 2014. The project comes within the framework of the Hungary-Romania Cross-Border Cooperation Program, whose description states that:
The project proposes an innovative approach for using an abandoned synagogue in Romania and transforming it into a cultural centre and tourist information centre. Equally, on the Hungarian side, a synagogue is reconstructed, as part of the project. Within the renovated Jewish churches, an itinerant photo exhibition about Jewish history and traditions will be organized. The photo exhibition will be located for one week in Synagogue in Oradea, and one week in synagogue in Debrecen. After the project ends, the exposition can be maintained or even more, can be exhibited at other synagogues in the region. Direct target groups include various local institutions (city hall, departments of culture, patrimony, etc. Philharmonic.), the [Jewish] communities in both cities, but also other citizens, artists, researchers, teachers, students, graduate students, various specialists in art history or Jewish history, tourists that will get information from tourist information centre operating in Zion Synagogue etc.
The total budget for the project is €1,892,150, of which the ERDF provided €1,414,284. Other funding comes from other sources including the two partners, the city of Oradea and the Debrecen Jewish community.
The monumental domed Zion Synagogue, towering over the Cris River, is a landmark in
downtown Oradea, much of whose center comprises a striking collection of art nouveau buildings. Built in 1878 for the Neolog community, it was designed by David Busch, at the time the town’s chief municipal architect. Though listed as a historic monument, It has long been out of use and in deteriorating condition. See details of the Zion synagogue restoration project HERE.
There are five other synagogues in Oradea — the local Jewish community is situated in a complex that includes two orthodox synagogues, both of which also have been undergoing renovation, and three other synagogues in town are disused.
The Kapolnas street synagogue in Debrecen is one of two synagogues in the city still used by the Jewish community, with about 1,000 members the largest and most active Jewish community in Hungary outside of Budapest. (The town’s Great Synagogue was destroyed in World War II.)
Both synagogues are listed as cultural monuments. The Kalpolnas street synagogue, built in 1909-1910 for the Status Quo Ante community, was designed by the Budapest-based Laszlo brothers in an eclectic style with a distinctive arched entryway. It is used now mainly for community events, rather than regular weekly services. According to the Hungarian news agency MTI, the building will undergo repairs to its roof and drain pipes, and the interior and facade will be repainted.