Thursday, December 15, 2016

The abandoned Vidin Synagogue in Bulgaria


The Vidin Synagogue was built in 1894 in Vidin, a city in northwestern Bulgaria, near the borders with Romania. It was once the second largest synagogue in the country and one of the largest in the Balkans. The large neo-gothic style building was constructed within a year using donations that came from all over Bulgaria and it was a symbol of wealth and pride for the local Jewish community that had flourished for more than five centuries after its arrival from Spain in the fifteenth century.

During and after World War II the Jewish population fled to Israel and Vidin Synagogue fell into disuse. In the 1970's, the Ministry of Culture of the communist country developed a plan to restore the building and work began began in 1983. In 1989, Bulgaria's communist regime collapsed, and the restoration was abandoned, just when workers had removed the roof. Exposed to the elements since, the synagogue today is in ruins. 

In 2009, ownership of the site was transferred from “Shalom” Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria to the state, in hopes that the synagogue will be restored and used as a cultural center. In 2012, the Ministry of Culture announced plans to adapt the building into a museum complex that will include a library, meeting hall, and spaces for prayer and for the commemoration of the Holocaust. However, no work has taken place until today.




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