A new synagogue model – the “Turnertemple” from Vienna
New Synagogue Model introduced to Beit Hatfutsot’s worldly collection
Beit Hatfutsot held a festive evening on the occasion of the addition of the new synagogue model, the Turner Temple of Vienna, to its admired and unique collection.
Turner Temple was inaugurated in Vienna in 1871 by the Sechshaus congregation; it was a symbol of the community’s autonomy and served as a model of identification. Similar to dozens of synagogues, Turner Temple was burnt down during Kristallnacht on November 10, 1938. Today there is a memorial on the site of the Turner Temple, unveiled in 2010, as a permanent reminder of Nazi destruction and oppression.
Dr. Orit Shaham Gover, Chief Curator of Beit Hatfutsot, said that Beit Hatfutsot houses many models of synagogues from both the East and West and is proud to include the Turner Temple in the collection. The model will be part of new core exhibition at the New Museum of the Jewish People, which will open to the public at the end of 2017.
Creating the synagogue model required the joint efforts of a designer, curator, researcher, artist and historian, all of whom were supervised by Enia Zeevi Kupfer, Head of the European Desk at Beit Hatfutsot:
“It was a fascinating process to work in cooperation with both the generous foundations and the professional team who, together, brought forth the model as a testimony to the vibrant Jewish community who once thrived in Vienna before the Holocaust”.
Among the many guests who attended the opening event, were the honorable representatives from the foundations who sponsored the Synagogue model: Ms. Hannah Lessing, Secretary-General of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria; and Prof. Herwig Hösele, Secretary-General of the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria. They especially came from Vienna for this momentous occasion.
The distinguished guest speaker, Prof Moshe Yehuda, who closely followed the entire process for the past three years, commented that for him displaying the model at Beit Hatfutsot is a “closure”. Growing up in Vienna, Yehuda was a choirboy at the Temple and in fact saw it burn down when he was 12 years old. Following that tragic night, he left Austria and immigrated alone to Israel. He grew up in Israel and subsequently returned to live in Austria where he served as the Head of the Claims Conference.
Among the guests were the Honorary President of the Viennese community, Ariel and Judith Muzicant, Hanna Pri-Zan, Ami and Michal Federmann and Dr. Yossi and Daniela Beilin.
The synagogue model is presently on display in the Lobby of Beit Hatfutsot, and at the end of 2017 will become part of the new Core Exhibition.
The story of the synagouge
This synagogue served the Jewish community of Sechshaus, which became independent of the larger Vienna community in 1867. The members of this community were poor, observant Jews from Eastern Europe who wished for a synagogue of their own. Great efforts were invested in raising the funds for the construction of the building, which was completed in 1871 – several years after Austrian Jews were granted equal rights as citizens. This synagogue symbolized the Sechshaus community’s autonomy, and offered its members a model to identify with.
On Kristallnacht – the night between November 9 and 10, 1938 – the Nazis took out the Torah scrolls and other sacred texts kept in the synagogue and set fire to them in the front courtyard, while the synagogue building was burnt down. In 1940, the lot was nationalized and became the site of a garage, which was replaced by a gas station in the 1950s. The adjacent community center was destroyed in 1973, giving way to residential buildings.
In 2010, the lot once occupied by the Turner Temple became a memorial site symbolizing the destruction and oppression wrought by the Nazis. The memorial tells the story of the synagogue, and underscores its importance to the community that built it.
The Turner Temple was located on a street corner. Its impressive tower is 25 meters high, enabling it to be spotted from a distance. It was built in a neo-Renaissance style, and its walls and ceilings were decorated with delicate, non-figurative frescoes. Its construction combined traditional materials, such as plastered bricks, and modern materials such as iron. The interior could sit 850 people – 500 in the prayer hall and 350 in the women’s section. A unique feature of the building’s interior design was the consolidation of the elevated platform used for reading the Torah and the Torah ark, where the scrolls are kept, into a single unit.
The synagogue was designed by the Jewish architect Karl König, who taught some of the twentieth century’s most prominent Jewish architects. This was one of the first buildings he designed early on in his prolific career.
(Photos: Aviv Hofi)