Restoration work on the former synagogue of Apostag, a Danube-side village 80 km south of Budapest, is nearly complete. The building – listed as a national monument and now used as a municipal culture center — should be reopened to the public at the beginning of July.
Work started at the end of February and has been carried out throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, under strict health safety measures. The renovation project included repairs to both the exterior and interior of the building.
The roof was repaired, the drainpipes were changed, and the walls were re-plastered and painted. In addition, a 10 KW solar panel was installed in the garden, in order to power the synagogue’s underfloor heating. In the interior, the windows, doors and walls were repainted and treated to repel humidity.
The renovation project costed 40 million forints (around €115.000), of which 32.5 million forints (around €93.000) were granted by the EU funded Rural Development Program (Vidékfejlesztési Program, in Hungarian), and 7.5 million forints (around €21.500) by the Apostag Municipality.
“We were left this beautiful building, and it is our obligation to preserve it for our children and grandchildren”,Apostag Mayor Zoltán Zakar told JHE. “The synagogue is one of the most important built heritage sites of our village, and the citizens of Apostag are really proud of it. It represents the legacy of the Jewish people who lived and worked in Apostag before WWII.”
Before WWII, Apostag was home to a vibrant Jewish community, which was completely eradicated during the Holocaust. Built in the 1820s, the late baroque-style synagogue, with a central four-pillar bimah, stood derelict for decades until its first large scale restoration, carried out between 1986 and 1988 according to the plans of Peter Wirth, a Budapest-based architect. The synagogue was then declared a National Monument, and its restoration won the Europa Nostra award in 1989.
Until 2004, the former synagogue hosted the town library. Today it hosts a permanent exhibition dedicated to Lajos Nagy, a noted writer and journalist, and it is also used as a cultural center for exhibitions, concerts, and even weddings. The synagogue can be visited every day of the week.
The Jewish cemetery, located at the end of the large garden behind the synagogue, stood abandoned and overgrown for decades until 2012, when a youth group from the Lauder Jewish school in Budapest cleared it of vegetation. Following that, it was fenced, restored, and cleaned by the US-based Heritage Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries (HFPJC), which also organized maintenance.