Synagogue, burial ground, jewry
Jews, who mostly inhabited urban centres, were an important factor for the development of economy and citizenry in Lendava (Dolnja Lendava until 1955). Buildings in Glavna Ulica give evidence to this and Lendava has the most traces of Jewry in whole Prekmurje.
After the year 1867, when a stronger bond is created between Austria and Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire is created, Lendava becomes the district centre. This means that fast development starts in the town. Indexes of development of citizenry were: the office of a notary, court of justice, savings banks, fire brigade, public school, street lighting, railway, hotel, umbrella factory, brickworks, etc.
The town’s population was nationally and religiously very heterogeneous. Among Catholics, there were many Protestants and in the second part of the 18th century Jews started to migrate here. A strong and influential Jewish community sprung up.
Jews were merchants, craftsmen, innkeepers, doctors, savings bank founders, owners of industrial plants, lawyers, influential and also leading men in the town. They were the bearers of the development of the golden era of citizenry in Lendava.
The construction of the synagogue was started in 1866, in the time of rabbi Mojzes Schacherlesz’ serving. The synagogue is still standing and is the one of only two in Slovenia. The simple, but still wonderful two-storeyed monolithic building based on an almost square shape is covered by a pyramidal roof, the frontage is partitioned only by pilasters and a concave wreath under the roof.
There were 80 seats for men and 60 seats for women on the gallery. Today, the interior is decorated with gold-plated fluted iron pillars with a Corinth Capital which support the gallery.
The only thing that remained from the original fittings is the clock. The synagogue was used for sacral purposes until 1944, when services were abandoned after Jews were cast out.
After decades of degradation, the synagogue was restored in the 90s of the 20th century and today serves as a hall for exhibitions and events. There is also a permanent commemorative exhibition on Jews in Lendava.
In 1850, a Jewish school was opened near the synagogue and was active until 1921. It included also a flat for the rabbi. The building was dilapidating for a long time and eventually pulled down at the end of the 90s. The last teacher was Mrs Hermina Brünner, born Löwenstein, whose grave and tombstone can be found at the Jewish burial ground of Lendava in Dolga vas.
They started to bury Jews there after 1850, it was widened in 1880 and a mortuary was built afterwards. It is the only undamaged Jewish burial ground in Prekmurje. Typical Jewish names in Latin and Hebrew writing can be found on tombstones which all face Jerusalem.
The burial ground is cared for and tidy although descendants of Jews in Lendava are long gone. For this reason there are not many stones which are put on graves by Jews instead of flowers and candles.
The Jewish way of life is inseparably linked to religion, moral commandments, rituals and regulations.
Also Jews in Dolnja Lendava cherished the affiliation to the community and distinguished themselves from others in important parts of life such as food, school, rituals and clothes. They emphasised education and many of them were thus highly educated and therefore the holders of important functions in the town.
As most of the Jews in Prekmurje, also Jews in Lendava were neolgogic, although there were a few orthodox Jews before the 1st World War, but these also assimilated during the years. Colloquial languages were mainly Hungarian, German and Croatian.
After the occupation in 1941, Jews started to be chicaned and their rights to carry on a trade or business were taken. After the 1st April 1944 they were forced to wear the Star of David. They had to call at the synagogue by order of Hungarian gendarmerie on 26th April 1944. The next day they were taken on a long way with no return – to Auschwitz!