The Bulgarian Jewish community is donating the synagogue in Vidin, on the Danube River, to the municipality, raising new hopes that the hulking ruins of the once magnificent building may be restored as a cultural venue and tourist attraction.
The Shalom Association, which represents Bulgarian Jewry, took the decision at a meeting of its consistory assembly in March, after meetings between between Shalom secretary-general Yosif Melamed and Vidin Mayor Ognyan Tsenkov.
According to a Shalom representative, Tsenkov had given “highest guarantees that the building will be restored to its previous glory and serve as a town landmark.”
No timetable or concrete plans have been announced for restoration of the building. It is estimated that the cost of the restoration could amount to $5 million – $6 million, which still needs to be raised.
In a separate development, a group of students with connections to Vidin are hoping to organize a crowdfunding campaign for the synagogue as well as other actions to further the restoration of the building.
Built in 1894 in a neo-Gothic style, the synagogue, which is listed as a national cultural monument, was put on the World Monuments Fund Watch list in 2004.
At that time the WMF reported that:
During the 1970s the Ministry of Culture and the National Institute of Monuments developed a plan to restore the building. Work began in 1983 and continued until 1989, when the collapse of the communist regime lead to the abandonment of the project, just as workers had removed the roof. Exposed to the elements for more than a decade the synagogue is now a ruin. Complete photo documentation of the synagogue and its interiors took place prior to the restoration attempt and could be used as the basis for a new restoration program.
In 2012, the Ministry of Culture announced plans to adapt the building into a museum complex and library, to be named after Vidin-born Jewish artist Jules Pascin (1885-1930). But as we reported in 2013, restoration work stalled. In the video on the Bulgarian news site gospodari.com, posted below, reporter Petar Antonov focused on the lack of progress.