Former synagogues in the towns of Eger and Zalaegerszeg are the latest synagogue buildings in Hungary to undergo restoration and repair.
Major renovation work at the former “New” Orthodox synagogue in Eger (in a renowned wine region of northeastern Hungary), is currently under way; while renovations at the former Neolog synagogue in Zalaegerszeg (western Hungary), were completed last December.
Today, both synagogues are used for cultural purposes. In Eger, the former synagogue is now used as a cultural center and art gallery, and after the renovation work it aims to expand its activities. In Zalaegerszeg the former synagogue has been used as the city’s concert hall since the 1980s; it also has a permanent exhibit on local Jewish history.
In 2020, despite COVID, partial or complete renovation work in synagogues was completed in several other Hungarian towns. We wrote about those in: Berettyóújfalu, Apostag, Makó, Karcag and Miskolc, while in Kővágóörs and Kőszeg work already started or is planned to start over the course of 2021. These projects have been funded with EU, state, and/or local funds. Some of the synagogues are still used by Jewish communities; others are mostly used as cultural sites.
In Eger, work on the synagogue started in December and should be completed by this summer. Built in 1893 by the Orthodox community, the synagogue has been used as an art gallery and community center since 2007. Now called the Sandor Ziffer Art Gallery, it has been part of the Dobó Castle Museum since 2013. Its interior retains some of the synagogue’s features, including the women’s gallery.
The renovation work aims to improve accessibility to the building, as well as renovating the façade, entrance, and reception areas of the gallery. The total costs amount to 122 million forints (around €340,000); out of which 84 million were allocated by an EU grant, and 38 million by the internal sources of the Gallery.
Watch a video about the renovation (in Hungarian):
The synagogue is one of two that still survive in Eger. The so-called “Old Orthodox” Synagogue, a neoclassical building dating from the early 19th century and designed by the architect Károly Rábel, still stands and since 2007 has also served as an art center. A third synagogue was the grand synagogue built for the Status Quo Ante community between 1911 and 1913 and designed by Lipót Baumhorn, the most prolific synagogue architect in pre-World War II Europe. It was demolished by the municipality in 1967.
Renovation of the former synagogue in Zalaegerszeg was funded by a 33 million-forint grant (around €91.500) from the Hungarian Government’s Settlement Development Program.
The imposing, twin-towered structure was built in 1903-1904 and designed in an eclectic, neo-Romanesque style by József Stern; since 1983 it has hosted the city’s concert hall and exhibition center. In 2014, a permanent exhibition on the city’s past Jewish life was installed on the upper floor. Entitled “The Past of Zalaegerszeg Jewry,” it includes objects and photographs provided by the Hungarian Jewish Museum in Budapest and the tiny local Jewish community.
The renovation work completed in December represented a repair and upgrade of its infrastructure: replacement of the parquet flooring, the installation of new lighting technology, the renovation of the changing rooms, and the partial implementation of an accessibility system. In addition, the internal walls of the concert hall were repainted; while in a second phase, the heating system will be replaced.