Júlia Csejdy, Budapest, Hungarian Museum of Architecture and Monument Documentation Centre

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In the study I tried to reconstruct the history of the Jewish community of Tállya and their synagogue, for up to now neither the community, nor the art historically important Torah ark has received due attention. After the Holocaust very few survivors came back to Tállya – a settlement in Tokaj-Hegyalja, a region of north-eastern Hungary – and not a single member of the former Orthodox congregation lives there today. The community built their third place of worship in the mid-nineteenth century, pulled down in 1964. The reasons why I found it important to map the socio-cultural and religious environment in more detail are commemorative and research methodological. The Israelite community enjoyed autonomy in choosing their rabbi and arranging all other domestic matters, and consequently, their taste, religious orientation, acculturation influenced the shaping of their synagogue building, the style of its furnishing and ritual objects. For lack of congregational documents, many kinds of sources (e.g. newspaper articles, recollections, biographies of rabbis, municipal documents) had to be interpreted within the context offered by the historical elaborations of the age. It was indispensable to shed light on the system of relations between Hasidism of growing influence from the early nineteenth century and traditional Orthodoxy, particularly because the tendencies of secession also appeared in the Tállya community, and the iconography of the Torah ark of their synagogue is most closely related to the carved Torah arks of East European Hasidic communities (in Poland, Galicia, Moldavia, etc.). According to archival sources the community leaders of Tállya could assert their wish to have the woodcarver create symbolic motifs on the ark despite the rabbi’s disapproval. As the direct antecedent to the composition I identified the masonry Torah ark of Mád, but the inventive, singular style of the carvings bears no kinship with the mentioned prototypes or the altars in churches in the vicinity. At the end of the paper I sum up the events that led to the demolition of the synagogue and the perishing of its interior furniture, relying on documents in the Hungarian Jewish Museum and the Monument Documentation Centre.

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