Hungarian resort town opens restored synagogue as educational center

A newly renovated former synagogue building and a modern virtual exhibition center has opened to the public in the western Hungarian town of Balatonfüred, March 20, 2018. Photo: Agnes Bohm


BUDAPEST (JTA) — A newly renovated former synagogue building and modern virtual exhibition center in Hungary was opened to the public.

The building complex opened Tuesday in Balatonfüred, popular resort town in western Hungary a 90-minute drive from the capital of Budapest. Owned by the municipality, the complex aims aims to serve as an educational and cultural site.

The original plan to restore the synagogue building was initiated six years ago by a local Jewish personality, Ferenc Olti, a Balatonfüred native whose family members were deported from the town and killed during the Holocaust.

Olti said Monday in a speech inaugurating the renovated building that the restoration of the synagogue and placing an exhibition alongside it focusing on prominent Jews was his idea.

Mayor Istvan Bóka was receptive to the idea and the synagogue renovation project was finalized last year. Work on the building and the exhibit was completed in seven months.

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The Norvegian Fund provided $768,000 to the project and the municipality provided $384,000. The Office of the Prime Minister also gave $146,000.

The synagogue was an active temple from the year 1855, when the Jewish community of the settlement purchased the building from the Calvinist Church. It closed in 1944, when the 153 Jews of Balatonfüred were deported on May 16 to Nazi concentration camps. Only 15 returned to the town after World War II.

Olti said at the opening ceremony that with no Jewish community to worship in the building, “we decided to dedicate it to an exceptional educational and cultural task.”

The modern virtual exhibition center is equipped with state-of-the-art digital technology allowing visitors to study and follow the lives and work of 132 Jewish standouts in the fields of medicine, biology, math, physics, chemistry, architecture and informatics. Some one-third of that group were either born in Hungary or had origins there, lti told JTA.

The House of Jewish Talents will be open to visitors Wednesdays through Sundays.