Rumbach - The story of a newly rediscovered synagogue

Rumbach - workers on the roof
Rumbach Synagogue (Picture: M&HT)

The Rumbach Street synagogue was designed by the then only 27 years old Austrian architect, Otto Wagner, pioneer of the Viennese Art Nouveau. Hence the Moorish style with its surprisingly minaret-like towers and octagonal structure, an homage to the Dome of the Rock. The synagogue has been used as a collection point for some of the 16.000 Jews in 1941 who were deported to Southern Poland and massacred in Kameniec-Podolsk by the SS. In 1944 the upper floors of the street façade were hit by a bomb but the synagogue was still used for services when the Budapest ghetto was set up (late November 1944 - mid-January 1945).

 

Memorial Plaque at Rumbach
Memorial plaque for the deported in 1941

It was re-consecrated in 1947 but as the members of the synagogue declined in numbers and the building was literally falling apart, it was not used for religious purposes from 1961 on. In 1979 the roof collapsed and the building was bought by a state construction company in 1988 that did some conservation work, mostly outside and in the office areas. It was never finished and in 2006 the synagogue was returned to the Greater Hungarian Jewish Community.

Family celebrating a wedding in Rumbach synagogue
Wedding in 1947 picture: FORTEPAN / Hámori Gyula

 And now, the synagogue is almost fully restored and awaiting the official opening in 2020. The building will serve as an open synagogue, welcoming all branches of Judaism with a moveable Bimah and it will also host concerts and other events. We may say that it will become not just a sacral but also a cultural and art space. The completely rebuilt women’s gallery will host an exhibition on the famous Hungarian Pulitzer family and other parts of the vast complex will function as a new Jewish museum, with lecture halls, a café and shop with several features educating the visitor about Jewish life.

Rumbach synagogue befoer renovation
Rumbach before the renovation 2012 Picture Csaba Csetneki
Rumbach synagugue, renovated
By Thaler Tamas
 Rumbach renovated, Wall detail Picture by  Puffancs
Rumbach renovated, Wall detail Picture by Puffancs