Caransebeș „Beit El” Synagogue

The relatively small but well-organized community invested enough so that the house of worship would represent it worthily.

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2B Orșovei St.

The votive plaque on a synagogue wall provides information about the construction of the edifice. Budapest architect Lipót Langer designed the synagogue, but the construction work, which took place between August 15th, 1893 and September 28th, 1894, was supervised by Ede Winhofr, another Budapest architect.


The committee that supervised the construction was headed by the president of the community, Ignácz Neurer, and completed by Mór Halle, Vilmos Winternitz, Manó Keppich, and Benő Szörenyi.

The “Beit El” (“House of God”) synagogue of Caransebeş is located in the immediate vicinity of the central area, consisting of a set of pedestrian squares.

The entrance of the building is at the back, in the courtyard, but there is also a little access from the street through a small body attached to the façade of the building. The top of the entrance door ends with a Gothic arch. The building is in good condition, currently painted on the outside in shades of yellow and brown, and its main façade is composed of eclectic Neo-Gothic style elements. The tablets of the law are visible at the top of the roof, as in many synagogues in the world, and one can see three Neo-Gothic windows with stained-glass and a small rosette upstairs on the façade. On the edges, the columns attached to the façade end in two small metal towers inspired by the spires of Gothic churches. The windows on the side façades also end in broken arches, characteristic of the Gothic style. At the top of the window is a stained-glass with a coloured Magen David (“Shield of David”) (the six-pointed star used as a symbol of the Jewish religion).

Inside, the solid wood benches are carved with reliefs on the sides. The interior chromatics of the walls are dominated by beige and blue. Geometric designs practically cover all the interior surfaces of the synagogue and create a pleasant and elegant ambience.

Upstairs are the women’s balconies, supported by slender blue metal columns with striations. The capitals of the columns are inspired by Moorish architecture, as are the upper story arches they support. Here, one can clearly see the takeover of motifs from the architecture of medieval Spain, although the arches end with a sharp Gothic angle.

The elegant ceiling is also decorated with motifs from oriental architecture and has a coloured glass central mosaic, in the middle of which the chandelier is placed.

The Aron HaKodesh cabinet, or ark, in which the Torah scrolls are kept, is in the middle of a decorative Moorish-inspired wooden construction, painted white with gold decorations. The object impresses with its richness in forms and refinement. The cabinet door is flanked by a small Neo-Baroque-inspired portico. To the left and right of the door are two columns, each with gilt Corinthian capitals, supporting an arch with a central golden sunray motif. Such elements of Baroque inspiration were often used at the time in Catholic churches.

The Gothic-shaped windows facing the street show coloured stained-glass with delicate green and blue designs and a coloured Magen David on the upper side, like the other windows in the building. In front of the Aron HaKodesh, the raised area called the bimah, where the Torah is read, is delimited by a small elegant wrought iron fence.

The organ built by the company Antal Dangl and Son (Arad) is placed above the entrance on the balcony. A plaque on the instrument mentions that Antal Dangl was a builder of royal and imperial organs (so he also worked for the imperial court in Vienna). On the wall, one can see the portrait of the synagogue cantor, Adolf Adler, who was active here a century ago.

Inscriptions with the names of former parishioners are still preserved on a panel. The list helps us understand who the people praying in this building a century ago were. German-sounding names prevail, most of them of numerous Jewish families in the Central European area. Interestingly, the names are written on the plaques according to the rules of the German language; that is, the surname follows the first name and not inversely, as is the rule in Hungarian. This indicates that German was the mother tongue of most community members, and not Hungarian, as in many communities in Transylvania and Banat. However, the votive plaque describing the building’s construction dates was written in Hungarian, the official language at the time.

Dr. Horowitz (1906-1914), Dr. Ernest Deutsch (1914-1925), Dr. Taubes, and Dr. Schulsohn worked as rabbis in this synagogue. Since the 1970s, as a result of the decrease in the number of parishioners, the Jewish community of Caransebeș no longer had its own rabbi. The chief rabbi of Timisoara, Dr. Ernest Neumann, arrived here on various occasions. 

The synagogue of Caransebeș is a beautiful, elegant, and expressive building, especially on the inside. The small local community paid more attention to the interior of the building than to the exterior. The placement of the bimah in front of the Aron HaKodesh and the presence of the organ show that this community was of Neolog and not Orthodox orientation. The Jews who chose the path of reformed Judaism wanted to integrate into the local community, giving up certain customs and traditions of classical Judaism. The presence of the synagogue in the central area of the city and the way it was decorated show that the Jews of Caransebeș were well integrated into city life, and some of them were essential members of the town. Obviously, it was a relatively small but well-organized community that had invested enough so that the house of worship would represent it worthily.

Gabriel Szekély
Gabriel Szekély

Watch the interviews with Florin Schwartz, the president of the Caransebeș Jewish Community, and Carmen Neumann, museographer

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