The Sofia Synagogue is a sightseeing object, with lots of international tourists visiting each year. But, even more than that, it is a house of prayer for the few belivers among the relatively few Jews living in Bulgaria.
Construction for the synagogue started some 110 years ago. In September of 1909, it was inaugurated, in the presence of Bulgaria’s Czar Ferdinand I. The Jewish community was headed by Rabbi Marcus Ehrenpreis, back then.
The affiliation of this synagogue is Orthodox Judaism, at least officially, but it actually serves all believing Jews. The religious building was erected to accommodate 1,300 worshippers. At this stage, far less Jews usually go to attend the services Rabbi Bechor Kachlon provides nowadays.
This synagogue is the largest one in Southeastern Europe and only one of two functioning ones in Bulgaria, the other one being located in Plovdiv.
The Jewish Museum of History is also part of the Sofia Synagogue, but it actually does not feel like a museum.
What makes the synagogue special is its beauty, its calm atmosphere, but mainly the fact that it is there, that it exists, meaning that it endured the Holocaust.
While Macedonian and Serbian Jews were transported through Bulgarian territory in freight trains, in order to be deported by the Nazis and murdered in concentration camps, most Bulgarian Jews survived, thanks to people in this country, who demonstrated courage and determination.
The location of the synagogue is perfect: It is right in the center of Sofia, between the Market Hall and Zhenski Bazaar (Women’s Market). It is worth a visit, for non-believing Jews too. And for non-Jews.
Click any photo to start the photo tour.
By Imanuel Marcus