Stepping inside Romania’s Fabric Synagogue in real life would be a dangerous proposition: Closed since 1986, the ornate 1899 structure in the heart of the city of Timisoara is crumbling inside.
Online is a different story. There, visitors to the Fabric Synagogue can look up at the domed cupola, its stained glass still intact even as holes dot the ceiling, and approach the ark, its closed doors leaving the illusion that a Torah might be contained inside. They can climb to the balcony and look out over the Hebrew letters still affixed to walls, then turn their gaze to the massive graffiti tag that occupies one whole wall of the second floor. They can even check out the synagogue’s dust-laden organ before walking into the Timisoara sunshine and strolling to the municipal parks along the Bega River just a block away.
The virtual tour is one of eight launched recently to give Jews — and non-Jews — the chance to immerse themselves in a world that is no more: that of the non-Orthodox Jewish communities that developed under the Habsburg Empire in the western part of today’s Romania.
Launched by Romanian NGO Pantograf in collaboration with Jewish local communities and activists, the website Povestile Sinagogilor, or Stories of the Synagogues at https://bit.ly/3F4T7sA (published in Romanian… use Google Translate at https://translate.google.com to convert to your favorite language), invites visitors to a virtual tour of eight historic sites in Romania, including Timisoara’s main synagogue, which has been recently renovated.
The website includes interviews with current Jewish leaders of each community, as well as the English and Romanian transcriptions of oral testimonies collected throughout the decades. In them, Jews who were born in the area recount the prewar era of interethnic coexistence, the years of fascist persecution, and the mass emigration, mostly to Israel, during and after communism.
You can read more in an article by Marcel Gascón Barberá published in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency web site at: https://bit.ly/3gsZ8Fd.
You can view the synagogues at: https://www.povestilesinagogilor.com/en/home.