The American actress Jamie Lee Curtis has announced that she will partner with municipal authorities to raise funds from corporate and private sources to restore the local synagogue in Mátészalka, the town in northeastern Hungary that her grandparents came from, and turn it in to a community and cultural center.
Curtis, who has been filming in Budapest, made the announcement in a Facebook and Instagram post on Sunday after visiting Mátészalka, where she met with Mayor Peter Hanusi and toured a new memorial museum dedicated to her father, the actor Tony Curtis, which is due to open in the town on June 26.
Tony Curtis, born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx, died in 2010 aged 85. His widow, Jill-Curtis Weber, donated about 20 memorabilia items and paintings to Mátészalka in 2017.
“Today I represented my family at the pre-opening (opens 6/26) of the brand new Tony Curtis memorial museum and cafe in Mateszalka, Hungary where my grandparents, Helen and Emanuel Schwartz emigrated from,” Jamie Lee Curtis wrote, thanking her “new friends in beautiful Mátészalka.”
They have created a beautiful exhibition of images from his life and they have costumes from his movies and his paintings and awards. It is just down the street from the synagogue that my family worshiped in so long ago. It is empty now, as the entire Jewish population was exterminated but the building stands as a living tribute to those who lived there and continue to live there and I have committed myself to partner with the mayor to raise needed funds from the local corporate and private community to refurbish and retrofit this extraordinary building as a community center for celebrations and art and music.
No further details were available immediately.
The synagogue was built in 1857. It has been stripped of its furnishings but preserves interior architectural and decorative features including an elaborately painted ceiling.
During her meeting with Hanusi and other officials, Curtis recalled and paid tribute to the involvement of her father and sister in efforts in the 1980s and 1990s to help restore the Dohany utca synagogue in Budapest and create the “weeping willow” Holocaust memorial by sculptor Imre Varga, dedicated there in 1990. These efforts were carried out through the Emanuel Foundation, a New York-based charity co-founded by Tony Curtis in 1987 in honor of his Mátészalka-born father.
Mayor Hanusi posted a video of Jamie Lee Curtis’s visit: