One of Budapest’s most remarkable and historical sites is ending a decade-long closure and renovation. The Rumbach Street Synagogue (Rumbach utcai zsinagóga) stands around the corner from Budapest’s more famous Dohany Street Synagogue, which tends to absorb much of the tourist traffic. But the smaller, less renown structure holds a charm over those who have seen its interior, which had its own deteriorated beauty.
Originally built in 1872, designed in the Moorish Revival style by Austrian architect Otto Wagner, pioneer of the Viennese Art Nouveau movement, it is in the heart of what is considered Budapest’s ‘Jewish Quarter’. This means octagonal shapes, balconies, minarets-style towers, domes. According to Wikipedia, the design is an homage to the Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine, which stands in Jerusalem. Indeed, it is the Islamic decorative elements that make the building so beautiful.
According to jewish-heritage-europe.eu, “The interior work amounts to a complete rebuilding and/or replacement of both structural and decorative elements, including the wall paintings and wood-paneled ceiling, and also rebuilding the destroyed ark in its original place, using plaster, glass, and gold; some changes will be made in order to allow the sanctuary to serve as a multi-functional venue for concerts and other events. The floor will be returned to its original decorative paving after the installation of underfloor heating.”
They synagogue served the city’s Neolog Jewish community until mass deportations during the second world war. What wasn’t destroyed at that point, was left to deteriorate. After the ousting of the socialist government, the space was occasionally opened for cultural events like concerts and art openings. A guard stationed there would sometimes give unofficial tours for a small gratuity. There is even an unconfirmed rumor that artist Yoko Ono was interested in taking over stewardship of the space to use as a studio.
If a synagogue can be described as ‘romantic’ than that would apply to The Rumbach Street Synagogue. And once reopened, it will be a small gem in the cultural landscape of the city, only polished and on display.
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