It was recently made official: After more than 60 years, the synagogue in Sárbogárd has finally been put in the hands of people who care about Jewish heritage and want to renovate this special building to preserve its tradition, writes Bennem élő eredet.
According to Bennem élő eredet,
the last synagogue in Fejér County still standing in some form, with the structural elements of the original building preserved, is in Sárbogárd.
This came from Viktor Cseh, and few people know more about the rural past of Hungarian Jewry than he. After decades of research by the website’s founding teammate, his massive volume published last year should be proof enough.
But the fact that it is a truly special building has been confirmed to by others as well: Norbert Lakk, who has written a book on the Jewish history of Sárbogárd, and Pál Stern, who has been following the Jewish history of the settlement for many years as an „all-round” historian.
They have now come forward publicly for the first time to say that
after more than half a century, the synagogue in Sárbogárd is finally been in the hands of people who are determined to preserve the building and local Jewish heritage.
The war-surviving congregation of the synagogue, which had been consecrated in 1879, sold the building in the 1960s due to dwindling membership, and the dilapidated building was taken over by the General Consumption and Sales Cooperative (ÁFÉSZ).
Photo: Bernadett Alpern
In recent decades, there has been a clothes shop on the ground floor and a furniture store upstairs. Although it is protected as a national monument, its fate has long been uncertain.
However, it recently has become the property of the Alba Regional Cultural Foundation. The foundation would not have been able to pay the purchase price of several million forints (Ed. note: The foundation is adamant that it will not publish the specific amount) without the generous support of Hit Gyülekezete and the construction company Szegletkő Kft.
The intention of the buyers is clear: They want to save the synagogue, and as much as possible of the Jewish historical values and memories of the town, for the future, Pál Stern told us. He also emphasized that Dr. Gábor András, the grandson of the former rabbi in Sárbogárd, Ármin Ábrahamson, also contributed to the acquisition of the synagogue with a significant donation.
“I don’t know exactly when, at what pace and by when the synagogue will be renovated, but I felt that if I could, I had a duty to be a part of this story. If only to honor the memory of my family”
– said Dr. Gábor András, who has rabbinical ancestry dating all the way back to his great-grandfather in the city’s former Orthodox community.
Dr. Gábor András and Pál Stern in front of the synagogue
He himself first visited Sárbogárd with his father in the 1970s, and since then, he and his family have regularly visited the cemetery and passed on the history of their ancestors and the treasures and responsibilities of the Jewish people to future generations.
At present, the new buyers have already succeeded in structurally stabilizing parts of the building. For example, it has been properly insulated so that the former leaks are now just a memory. According to Pál Stern, the planning of the complex renovation, which is expected to take many months, will be carried out in parallel with the determination of the cultural activities and dignified Jewish memorials that will be carried out in the building.
Even if the building is renovated, it is difficult to imagine that it will have a life of faith. But who knows? In any case, it is more realistic to assume that in a few years’ time, the synagogue will serve cultural and community purposes: as an exhibition space, a concert and event hall, a venue for special classes.
There will be plenty of work to be done, for example, deciding what to do with the religious books and parish records that have been stored in the synagogue attic for decades.
There are no records of the establishment of the Jewish community in the district of Sárbogárd. However, it is certain that there was already a lively Jewish presence in the 18th century. The first prayer room was built in 1799, and the first rabbi was probably Solomon Bischitz, a prominent Talmudist who had fled from Prague.
Before 1944, the area around the synagogue on Bercsényi Street was prosperous: In addition to the 400-strong Jewish community of Sárbogárd, Jewish residents of Hercegfalva, Sárkeresztúr, Sárosd, Sárszentágota and Sárszentmiklós, for example, also came to pray here
The community of several hundred people maintained its own elementary school and yeshiva until WWII.
The local Jews also played an important role in the cultural, economic and public life of the town. There is now a real chance to preserve their memory in a worthy way, Bennem élő eredet concludes, adding, „Thank you!”