The Synagogue in Sofia: Refuge for the Saved Jews of Bulgaria

Sofia Synagogue is an impressive building, located right in the city center. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Sofia Synagogue is an impressive building, located right in the city center. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

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. 

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.

It sure feels like a historic place, since it is. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

It sure feels like a historic place, since it is. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

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, the 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.

Even the Rabbi's post box looks nice and historic. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Even the Rabbi’s post box looks nice and historic. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

If these benches could talk, they would be able to tell historic tales. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

If these benches could talk, they would be able to tell historic tales. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

This chandelier is supposed to be the biggest one in the country. But the one in Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral seems a lot bigger. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

This chandelier is supposed to be the biggest one in the country. But the one in Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral seems a lot bigger. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The view from the opposite side. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The view from the opposite side. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Historic items on display at Sofia Synagogue. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Historic items on display at Sofia Synagogue. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The Star of David at Sofia Synagogue. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The Star of David at Sofia Synagogue. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The symbol of an ethnic group. Most Bulgarian Jews were saved during the Holocaust. Their children and grandchildren are thankful. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The symbol of an ethnic group. The Bulgarian Jews were saved during the Holocaust. Their children and grandchildren are thankful. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

 

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at) gmail.com

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