Church on Sunday/Synagogue Saturday: Fabric New Synagogue in Timişoara, Romania
I haven’t written about synagogues, mostly because they are pretty scarce in Serbia. But right next door, Romania’s Jewish population was once the largest in the Balkans. So when I went day-tripping with a couple of housewives (and one househusband) to Timişoara, Romania, I knew we had to pay a visit to the Fabric New Synagogue.
Synagogue construction started in the late 1830s and was likely completed in 1889. The building is on a small street, and once you turn the corner, it’s an impressive sight. Even with all those lousy power lines blocking the view.
We walked to the iron gate, but were disappointed to see that it was locked.
Looking inside the gate yielded a bigger disappointment. The inside of the building is dilapidated. But through the dust and rotting wood, stained glass and an intricately carved ark shine through the darkness.
The Fabric New Synagogue was an important addition to Timişoara architecture; the mayor even attended its opening ceremony. But a hundred years later, World War I, the ensuing Soviet occupation, and departure for Israel reduced the Romanian Jewish population from 428,000 in 1947 to less than 8,000 today. The synagogue is currently closed for structural repair, and it’s unclear when it will reopen again. This photo gives an idea of the interior.
The state of the Fabric New Synagogue may have been disheartening, but we were glad we saw it. Not only is it a part of Timişoara’s history, but it led us to the strangest park I’ve ever seen. More on that this week.