The synagogue in Sofia is a beautiful building and the temple of the Jewish community here.
The synagogue was built in 1909 and in those times it resembled the synagogue in Vienna which was later destroyed by the Nazis. The building is really impressive and this is the largest synagogue on the Balkan Peninsula and the third by sizes in Europe after the ones in Budapest and Amsterdam. Although the citizens of Sofia usually do not pay much attention to it, the building is beautiful and has large religious importance. Also this is one of the symbols of Sofia together with the Mosque and the Orthodox Church ‘St. Nedelya’ which are nearby.
The central hall which gathers the men of the Jewish community has a capacity of approximately 1000 people. There are also internal terraces where the women pray. Currently, there are restoration activities in the synagogue and the main hall is closed. The religious activities take place in a small room near the entrance. In the Synagogue you will also find the offices of the Jewish Religious Council. There is a small museum on the second floor of the building.
The construction processes of the building began in the year 1903. The most famous architect in Bulgaria in those times – Friedrich Grunange, was selected to design the building which was so important for the Jewish community in Bulgaria.
The location of the new building was central, in the heart of the city and on the property of an old synagogue, called “Ahava i Hesed”. The real construction began on November 13, 1905.
One of the really impressive elements in this building – the gorgeous brass chandelier weighing over 2200 kilos, as well as the large candelabra and other decorations were imported from Vienna.
The construction process met a lot of obstacles during the years but, finally, on September 9, 1909, the Central Synagogue of Sofia was formally opened and soon became the symbol of the Bulgarian Judaism and a sacred place for the Jewish community here.
During the Second World War the Jewish community in Bulgaria and the Synagogue as its symbol were in a great danger. During the bombing of Sofia in 1944, the Synagogue was hit several times. Its balcony and several columns in the sanctuary were partially destroyed. Also, the community’s famous Judaica library was destroyed and most of the valuable Hebrew books were burned as part of the anti -Judaist activities here.
Despite the crises through the years, the Bulgarian community is now pretty tolerant to the Jewish community in Sofia and the whole country and the Sofia Synagogue is one of the symbols of the Bulgarian capital.
Because of the lost shine of the building, In the last few years, an extensive fund raising campaign was begun to restore the Sofia Synagogue to its former glory.
During the restoration process the finest Bulgarian craftsmen are working on the project. The donation for starting the restoration process came from the Doron Foundation of Israel. This shows the importance of this building for the whole Jewish community.
The location of the Synagogue in the central parts of Sofia helps you also see other emblematic buildings in the capital which are located nearby.
The building is located in the center of Sofia. The easiest way to reach it is to use the subway and to get off at 'Serdika' station.