Reșița Synagogue

The relationship of the synagogue with the city's famous plant is complex. The factory produced the sophisticated metal elements that formed the structure of the building, a true rarity at the time.

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The synagogue and the city

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14 Mihai Viteazu St.

The synagogue building in Reșita is located in a central area of ​​the city, not far from the Mechanical Plant. The land was purchased in 1869 from the railroad company of the time. The construction, designed in 1878, was finished in 1880. The synagogue was reopened in 1907, perhaps following some repairs or a festivity for the visit of an important personality.

Unlike other synagogues modified over time, the one in Resita was designed from the beginning for the neolog cult, with the bimah positioned in the front of the hall before the ark - Aron HaKodesh (in which the Torah scrolls are enshrined), not in the middle, like in Orthodox synagogues. As in many other Neolog synagogues, there was also an organ, which disappeared during the subsequent repairs.

At first, there was a small Sephardic community in Resita, and over time, many Ashkenazi Jews settled here, so after the Second World War, almost five hundred Jews lived here. The Sephardic community was assimilated into the Ashkenazi one, and the waves of emigration after 1945 caused the number of members to decrease significantly.

In the past, many community members were factory employees; some were clerks or engineers, but many were simple labourers. Of course, there were also several intellectuals and merchants within the community. The relationship between the synagogue and the city's famous plant is complex. The factory produced the sophisticated metal elements that formed the structure of the building, a true rarity at the time. Another remarkable technological innovation is the heating of the building, done with an electrical junction through an underfloor heating system. The source of electricity was in the power plant nearby. The system remained operational for several decades after World War II, but eventually, the small community could no longer cover the bills for the factory.

In 1940, the state confiscated the building (it was “Romanianized”, as they used to call the procedure), and the Jews were displaced to Oravița for some time. The building came back into the possession of the community in 1947. In the 1970s, some repairs were carried which improved the condition of the building. After 2020, new repairs targeted the roof and exterior façades, financed from public funds for historical monuments.

The synagogue is located in a relatively densely built-up area. From the street, one can see only one façade, which is sober and somewhat monumental. It is consistent with the black furnaces of the factory in the background and the buildings in the area. On the main façade appear elements taken from the neo-Romanesque style. Large surfaces of exposed brick alternate with strips of plaster. One can also see thin lesenes (small columns attached to the wall), a specific rosette in the centre, windows with semicircular arches (in the full centre) at the top, and small decorative colonnades in bas-relief. The ridged roof has a cupola in the middle.

Inside, the elevated area with the Aron HaKodesh is bordered by a reconstituted stone balustrade with Romanesque elements. Furthermore, the motif of the small decorative colonnade reappears here. Next to the cabinet with a curtain in front (parochet), two columns with composite capitals painted in white and gold are placed on both sides.

The centre displays a golden Magen David, placed on a blue escutcheon, surrounded by golden rays. Above, the motif of the small gallery (colonnade) is repeated. At the top are placed the tablets of the law, which are also golden. The whole composition is framed by two monumental square columns with Corinthian capitals.

The entrance to the synagogue hall is from the backside, through a double wooden door. The interior decorations of the synagogue are clearly visible on the white painted walls. The cupola sits on an octagon-shaped tambour. The upstairs balconies intended for women are set on simple square columns with stylized capitals. The inside light of the hall is coloured by beams of different colours, because the windows have coloured glass pieces at the tops. The wooden benches on the ground floor have inlaid decorations on the sides. The chandelier is simple but elegant. 

The whole composition has an aspect of elegance and restrained sobriety. The building belonged to a small, not very wealthy community that had to find its place in a working-class city, where parties with extremist ideologies made intense propaganda in the past. Both the legionnaires, in the interwar period, and the communists later, wanted to mobilize the masses of workers. In the late 1930s, the atmosphere in the city became quite oppressive for the Jewish community. Besides the legionnaires, there was also a far-right party in the city, the fascist party, which addressed the local population of German origin. Eventually, after returning from Oravița, where Jews were displaced in 1940, the community regained its building. But on Saturday mornings, only the elderly could gather because, in schools and businesses, the activity was mandatory. Due to emigration, the community currently has 68 members.

Gabriel Szekély
Gabriel Szekély

Watch the interview with Ivan Schnabel, the president of the Reșița Jewish Community

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

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