REDISCOVER - THE NEOLOG SYNAGOGUE OF FABRIC DISTRICT - TIMIȘOARA

02-03-2020

The Neolog Synagogue of Fabric District Timișoara, was built in the year 1898, by the prosperous local Jewish Community of the town quarter, which at that time declared itself as a Status Quo Ante Community. This meant that they did not want to take part in the great dispute that was taking place in Hungary after the year 1866, between the Orthodox Jews who were more conservative and the Neolog Community which was adopting reforms in order to help the integration of community members in society. This situation was maintained till after World War I, when this community had to split also. In the end after the separation the new Neolog Community was using the great synagogue, while the Orthodox were left with the praying room built in the yard of the building. Though the community was prosperous, and could afford to pay for the beautiful monument that we can still see, the Town-Hall also contributed to the effort of the members, by organizing a lottery, the income of which was donated to the synagogue.

The architect of the building was Lipót Baumhorn, a Budapest based designer, who worked formerly with Ödön Lechner, considered generally the most important creator of the Hungarian Art Nouveau Style. Baumhorn designed the first synagogue of his carrier in the year 1888 for the town of Esztergom. He was an independent designer beginning with the year 1894, and after 1900  he became well known for his works which still exist today in Timișoara (today Romania), Szeged (today Hungary), and Novi Sad (today Serbia). He used generally for his buildings decorative elements of the vocabulary of the Art Nouveau movement, but used to mix them often with other decorations originating in different historical styles. With at least five important public buildings designed for Timișoara after the year 1900, Baumhorn became an important architect of the city, appreciated ever since then. Oszkó Ágnes Ivett considers in her study "Baumhoirn Lipót (1960-1932) - The architect of the Eclectic - Art Nouveau Synagogue Architecture" that the synagogue designed for Timișoara is ending the first part of the career of the architect. She states that after the years 1897-1898, when he designed the synagogues for Timișoara and Szolnok, the plans of these buildings were reused later in many of  his creations.  So we can accept that the synagogue built by the architect in Timișoara is a prototype for his later plans, also for the beautiful synagogue of Szeged, which is considered his masterwork. In the office of the Jewish Community of Timișoara, there is an interesting picture on the wall of the entrance hall. It is a painting, but the heads of the gentlemen that are represented there are photographies inserted in the picture. It represents the committee and the president of the community, who are all seated around a big table, and deliberating about the plans of the future building of the Community Centre. The only person who is standing in the picture, with plans in his hand, is the  honorary member of the Neolog Community of Central Timișoara, architect Lipót Baumhorn .

Since it was built, the Synagogue of Fabric District has always been considered one of the major architectural monuments of Timișoara. Even today when it is in a bad condition, its beauty attracts constantly the eyes of tourists and local people. The initiator of the plans for the new worship place was Jakab Singer, a well known rabbi and scholar, who was the leader of the community during many years. Jakab Singer (1867-1939) studied religion and philosophy in Budapest, and became the rabbi of the Fabric Community of Timișoara in 1896. An intellectual with interest in various fields of culture, he promoted the idea of the new building immediately after he became the rabbi of the community. He had the opportunity to use the building with his congregation all the rest of his life, during forty one years.

Looking at the beautiful rich decorations of the building we can easily immagine the wealth and ambitions of the Jewish people of the neighbourhood. The construction is quite big, elegant, monumental, and used to be inundated by a special light, that originates in the windows of the dome. Singer and the local community leaders wanted to impress the members of the congregation, and all other people with this impressive, lavish monument, meant to show the strength and vitality of local Jewish people. Watching the Synagogue built in Timișoara, and the one constructed immediately after it in Szeged, it is impossible not to be really impressed and astonished by the luxury and elegance of the buildings. There is a tragic and stark contradiction between the self confidence of these communities around the year 1900, and the events that took place only forty five years later during World War II.

The Timișoara synagogue surely is a precious stone of local architecture. Baumhorn choose to use many elements of Moorish Style, which was much used in those days to decorate Jewish worship places, but he also added some others inspired by traditional European architecture, especially by Gothic and Romanesque. There is no contradiction  in the composition of the