Good news — it looks as if the grand New Synagogue in Gyöngyös, Hungary — used since the 1990s as a furniture store — may be transformed this year into a cultural and exhibition center.
According to Nepszabadsag (summarized in English by the Budapest Beacon), the synagogue is to be purchased by the state, and transformed under a 1 billion forint ($4.5 million) project devised MP Jozsef Balasz of the ruling Fidesz party into a “Coexistence House” that will serve the city for exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events, as well as for tourism. It would also house a permanent exhibit on local Jewish and Holocaust history.
According to the media reports, a government decision to support the project is expected to be made this spring.
Meanwhile, Hungarian architects Laszlo Eperjesi and Rene Kalacsi have already developed a design concept, and the project is to be overseen by the directors of Budapest’s Holocaust Documentation Center, Szabolcs Szita and Janos Botos.
The grandiose domed and turreted synagogue was built in 1931 and designed by the Budapest-based architect Lipot Baumhorn, pre-World War II Europe’s most prolific synagogue architect, and his son-in-law Gyorgy Somoghi. It was Baumhorn’s last great work.
It was bought in the 1990s by a private individual who turned it into a furniture store but did not change or damage most (or at least much) of the interior — the wares were displayed inside the sanctuary and foyer. This owner is, the media states, now prepared to sell the building to the state.
Read more about Lipot Baumhorn and his work in JHE coordinator Ruth Ellen Gruber’s articles in Centropa.org and in the New York Times online. Her book, Upon the Doorposts of Thy House: Jewish life in East-Central Europe, Yesterday & Today, includes a lengthy chapter about Baumhorn.