Arad Neolog Synagogue

The synagogue received the construction permit following emperor Franz Joseph's intervention.

Step beyond the doors!

We invite you to take a virtual tour of the synagogue.

The synagogue and the city

Read about the history and the architecture of the synagogue

10 Tribunul Dobra St.

The documents show that the first Jews who settled in Arad with the authorities' permission were Isac Elias and Marcus Mayr.

After 1717, a community grew over time. In 1759, a wooden synagogue was built on a lot donated by a female member of the community, whose name, according to the documents, was Nahuma. In 1764, the first religious service was held in the synagogue, held by Rabbi Jochanan. After this date, the rabbis in Arad were Broda Leb (1770-1786) and Stemnitz Hirsch (1786-1789). In 1789, at the end of the reign of Emperor Joseph II, Aaron Chorin, only 23 years old, was elected rabbi in Arad; he would become famous. During his 55 years in the rabbinate, Chorin became involved in community issues and embarked on the journey of reform, promoting numerous changes to community life and religious service that were adopted by other communities in the region much later. At the time, communities that had accepted the reforms were in Germany and elsewhere in the western part of the continent. Through the reforms he promoted, Chorin did not intend to renounce traditional values ​​and customs, but to facilitate the practice of the rite and the better social integration of the community members. Chorin also managed to establish a primary school and a yeshiva - a religious school, which was, however, closed by the higher authorities in 1805.

After thirty years as Chief Rabbi of the community, Chorin, together with the leader of the community, the merchant Moses Hirschl, whose house still exists today in the centre of Arad, decided to build a synagogue. As a result of the petitions addressed to the city administration, a general meeting of the council was held in 1821, in which it was decided that the place for a future school and synagogue would be a lot owned by the community, located behind the then town hall, in the current Avram Iancu Square.

After various postponements, the community wanted to erect a building with various functions (synagogue, school, housing for students, commercial premises, the rabbi's and the cantor's residences). The project was approved by the city council for another site located in The Fish Market, but not by the locumtenential council.

Confronted with the constant opposition to their wish to build a temple, the community started digging for the foundation on April 24, 1827, without having received any authorization. But what had been built by day, the authorities tore by night, and thus they faced a deadlock. In 1834, the president of the community, Moses Hirschl, requested and was received by the emperor Franz Josef, whom he gifted the future construction. The emperor showed understanding, so, due to imperial protection, the local authorities had to accept the construction of the new edifice, which was inaugurated in 1834. According to the regulations of that time, it was not allowed for the synagogue to be visible from the street, so even today, the place of worship is not visible from the outside, and access is through the inner courtyard.

Following the death of Aaron Chorin, the new Chief Rabbi, Jacob Steinhardt, introduced sermons in Hungarian in 1845, since the mother tongue of some of the community members was already Hungarian, not German.

In 1828, the community only comprised 812 people, but it continuously increased during the century.

In 1868-1869, at the congress of Jews in Hungary, there was a rift that definitively separated the communities that adopted the reform and became Neologs from those that chose the path of orthodoxy. In 1877, a new community split off, the status quo-ante one, which tried to follow the tradition from before the breach. The Neolog community in Arad continued to grow in membership and wealth throughout the century, as well as later, into the early 20th century. The First World War was a heavy blow to the community, with many young members losing their lives on the battlefields. The list of their names, engraved on marble slabs, can be seen in the synagogue and is, unfortunately, very long.

The Neolog Synagogue of Arad, built between 1827-1834, is located at 10 Tribunul Dobra Street in the central area of the city. The building, included in the list of historical monuments in 2004, was designed and built by master builder Heim Domokos from Arad. The edifice also contains, apart from the synagogue, which is entered through the courtyard, commercial spaces, offices, and living and storage spaces. It is a corner building with relatively simple façades decorated with small bosses on the ground floor, simple window frames on the first and second floors, and arched decorations above those on the first floor.

Inside, on the synagogue walls, the fresco with oriental geometric motifs creates a unique atmosphere. Although it is slightly damaged and the colours no longer show their former brilliance, the atmosphere still resembles that of a superb, intimate, but monumental salon. The columns, partially attached to the wall, and the beautiful cupola, towards which all the composition lines converge, give the interior a monumental aspect. The colour range includes shades of beige, brown, and gold.

The upstairs balconies were intended for women. Light pours through large windows facing the inner courtyard, positioned mainly behind the organ.

The entrance is on the side through a glass door with a large window above. Although enclosed in an inner courtyard, surprisingly, the synagogue is very bright, unlike most synagogues built at that time.

The Aron HaKodesh (or the ark where the Torah scrolls are kept) is a baroque construction with two groups of four pillars, each with Corinthian capitals, located to the left and right of the doors. The resolution of the upper part resembles that of neo-baroque altars of the period. The ornaments are gilded, including the two decorative vessels on the sides and the solar motif placed above in the centre. The large chandelier is also part of the elegant composition of the ensemble.

According to the inscription on the plate attached to the instrument, the organ was built in 1841 by Anton Dangl and Son, a company from Arad. It is also flanked on all sides by the arches of the balconies. The curtain (parochet) in front of the Aron HaKodesh is yellow. One can see a finely carved wooden throne on the bimah, the elevated area where the Torah is read.

The building has been in continuous operation for nearly two centuries. At the time of its construction, the synagogue, even if it was not visible from the street, was unique in the geographical area where it was located, and represented a considerable step forward from the small prayer rooms of the time. After the death of Aaron Chorin, four rabbis succeeded each other in a century as leaders of the spiritual life at the Neolog Synagogue: Jacob Steinhardt (1845-1885), Dr Sándor Rosenberg (1885-1909), Dr Lajos Vágvölgyi, born Kohn (1909 -1941), followed by Dr Iosef Miklós Schönfeld (1910-1994), Chief Rabbi in Arad between 1939 and 1960. He was accused twice of “Zionism” and arrested, but eventually he managed to immigrate to Israel in 1961. He was followed by rabbis Lerner, Kesztenbaum, Müller, and Wiznitzer for a very short time, but by then, the Neolog and Orthodox communities were already united.

Gabriel Szekély
Gabriel Szekély

Watch the interview with Raoul Vizental, the president of the Arad Jewish Community

Stories of the Jewish community

Read the stories of three generations of Jews and uncover the ever-changing destiny of this community

We invite you to explore other synagogues in the area