One of the first synagogues in Bucharest was the Choral Temple, which was completed in 1857 by architects Enderle and Freiwald; it is a copy of the Leopoldstadt-Tempelgasse Great Synagogue in Vienna and has a façade decorated in Moorish style with yellow-and-red patterned brickwork. A wealthy Jewish community was established in the city by the mid-16th century but never lived in complete harmony with its Romanian neighbors. In 1593, many were killed during a rebellion against the city’s Ottoman overlords and unrest continued to rumble for several centuries.
Several years after the Choral Temple was built, it was destroyed in a pogrom and rebuilt in 1866. Even with the destruction, the city’s Jewish population continued to grow. By 1930, it numbered 74,480 while the pogroms and indiscriminate killings continued. During World War II, all Bucharest’s synagogues were closed down and many thousands of Romanian Jews were sent to their deaths in Transnistria and Bessarabia. Following the war, Jewish numbers in the city swelled with refugees from other eastern European countries but uncertainty under the autocratic rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu led to mass immigration to Israel.
With the collapse of Communism, a memorial was erected outside the synagogue in 1991 to commemorate the thousands of Romanian Jews who died in the Holocaust, and in 2006, a painstaking restoration of its interior was undertaken; the synagogue finally reopened in December 2014 with its Moorish tiles, carved wooden balconies and heavy chandeliers gleaming once more.
Strada Sfânta Vineri 9. Open for services Sun–Fri 8am & 7pm; Sat 8.30am & 7pm; admission free. Take the metro to Piata Unirii.