By COLive reporter
The Óbuda Synagogue in Hungary, one of the finest Jewish worship houses in Europe during its time, has returned to Jewish hands thanks to Chabad-Lubavitch.
The synagogue was designed by architect Andreas Landesherr in French Empire style, who greatly enlarged and embellished the original 1731 shul building, altering the appearance beyond recognition.
Obuda, today a neighborhood of Budapest, was at the time home to the largest Jewish community in the country.
In 1831, following the death of Rabbi Moshe Munz, the congregation left orthodoxy to follow reformist “Neolog Judaism” and later supported Hungarian nationalism by having sermons delivered every other week in Hungarian.
The community shrank throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries as members moved into the flourishing city of Pest.
In the 1970s, the by then greatly diminished Jewish community sold the building to the state for use as a television studio, although they did not make changes to its exterior facade.
In recent years, Hungarian-born Chabad Rabbi Shlomo Koves has worked on a deal to purchase the historic building.
New York philanthropist George Rohr has contributed an undisclosed sum through his confidant Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch.
The shul’s monetary value is estimated at $4 million.
Koves, leader of the EMIH Jewish Community and the director of the Open University for Judaic Studies in Budapest, has hired a company to renovate the interior.
“The building is 3 stories high with many rooms and halls,” Koves told COLlive.com.
“What we are renovating now is the davening hall with a new marble floor, a massive chandelier, an Aron Kodesh, a social hall and the kitchen on the first floor.”
He said he was aiming to have it ready for the upcoming Jewish High Holidays.
“The project is attracting a lot of interest from the Jewish and wider public. The Prime Minister is expected to attend the inauguration ceremony,” he added.