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Interpreting Sacred Space in Subotica, Serbia

About mid-way between Belgrade and Budapest, Subotica sits on the Serbian side of the Hungary/Serbia border and is a charming, diverse city of approximately 100,000 people. I recently visited Subotica to check in on World Monuments Fund’s current projects at the city’s large art nouveau synagogue.

WMF has had a long history with Subotica Synagogue. It was included on the first World Monuments Watch in 1996, and it was on our original list of the 10 priority sites for the Jewish Heritage Program. Currently, WMF has two projects at Subotica Synagogue: restoring the southwest façade and installing an interpretive exhibition inside the sanctuary space.

I traveled with our two exhibition consultants, Vivian Mann and Rudolf Klein. Vivian Mann is the Director of the Master’s Program in Jewish Art & Visual Culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary and former curator at the Jewish Museum in New York. Rudolf Klein is a Subotica-born architectural historian who has written extensively on Subotica Synagogue, including an award-winning monograph on the building that was published in 2012. During our visit, we drafted a concept for the exhibition set-up within the synagogue’s sanctuary, looked through archives for historic photographs and documents related to the synagogue and the Jewish community, and studied the few surviving original Judaica from the community.

Over the next few months, WMF will work with Dr. Mann and Dr. Klein to develop content, curate images, and design panels to be installed in the synagogue. Now that Subotica Synagogue is open to the public for the first time in decades, this will be a wonderful opportunity to visitors to learn more about the history of the building and the Jewish community. WMF’s hope is that this will create greater stewardship for the site and will encourage locals to visit the synagogue to learn more about their city’s Jewish past.