04 September 2023 Time to read: 3 mins

Vidin Synagogue Opening Ceremony after Complete Restoration

On 4 September 2023, the Vidin synagogue reopened its doors after undergoing complete restoration. The building was practically in ruins and a state of decay when it had been donated to the Vidin municipality by the Organisation of Bulgarian Jews “Shalom.” The municipality and other ministries participated in a multi-million euro reconstruction project, which included funding from the European Union, and restored the synagogue back to its original state with its intrinsic decoration. With renewed modern amenities, the building now functions as the “Jules Pasquin Cultural Centre.”

The site combines the functions of a museum, an exhibition space, and a multi-functional hall for a vast array of public events including concerts, workshops, and lectures. It also has an adjacent park. The second floor of the building was designed as a library with study spaces and has a particular area designated solely for the needs of the local Jewish community. This space also has a permanent exhibition dedicated to Jules Pasquin’s life and Vidin’s Jews. Having received high-quality copies of valuable Jewish books and documents as a donation from the State Archives Agency, there is a possibility that if decided, the centre could be used as a synagogue again in the future. The project’s success is a significant contribution to the conservation of Jewish cultural heritage in Vidin and Bulgaria.

The restored Vidin synagogue, Bulgaria.

During the opening ceremony, Mr. Rumen Radev, President of Bulgaria, emphasized that Vidin is among those notable Bulgarian cities where temples of the three Abrahamic religions co-exist side by side within metres of each other. In a world where intolerance and discrimination is growing, this sight represents the peaceful co-existence of religions and ethnicities that has always existed in Bulgaria and is an integral part of life there. Mr. Isaac Herzog, President of the State of Israel, gave a welcome address at the opening via a video message, emphasizing on the importance of the historical relationship between generations of Jews and Bulgarian land forged over the millennia. He stated that the synagogue tells the story of the proud local Jewish community which flourished for more than five centuries in Vidin. Expressing gratitude for the restoration of the synagogue, he pointed out that the building represents the fascinating history of Bulgarian Jews to people from all over the world and has come back to life after restoration.

Opening ceremony of the restored Vidin synagogue.

The opening ceremony was attended by many people including Mr. Krastyu Krastev, the Bulgarian Minister of Culture, Mr. Tsvetan Tsenkov, the Mayor of Vidin, and Mr. Yosef Levi-Sfari, the Ambassador of Israel. Among those present were also leaders of Jewish organisations, including the Chief Rabbi of Bulgaria, representatives from the Vidin Orthodox Metropolitan, and a high-ranking representative of the Muslim faith. At the ceremony, Rabbi Yoel Ifrak served a prayer consecrating the old synagogue, while Rabbi Yosef Salomon played the traditional instrument, the shofar. The ceremony was followed by a reception at the synagogue’s newly opened visitor centre and marked a significant moment in the history of Jewish life in Bulgaria.