On 26 March 2018, the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, and the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, jointly inaugurated the newly renovated synagogue in the city of Subotica/ Szabadka. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán underscored the importance of the project in his speech during the inauguration ceremony:
The Serbian president and the Hungarian prime minister have come to Subotica/ Szabadka together with deeply respected Jewish religious leaders to inaugurate Europe’s second largest completely renovated synagogue: our common cultural heritage, a sacred Jewish building of unique style, the gem of the city and an outstanding example of Central European Secessionist architecture.
The Prime Minister went on to emphasize that it is “our moral duty to stand up for a Hungary and a Europe in which Jews and Christians can live and practice their religions without fear”.
In his speech, Mr. Orbán highlighted that today we are living in times when “the past opens a gate towards a common future”. He also expressed gratitude for this to Mr. Vučić, to Serbia and to Vojvodina/ Vajdaság.
Mr. Orbán stated that in a great many places around the world today such events could not be held at all, because in those places Jews and Christians are being persecuted. There are also places in Western Europe, he said, where synagogues and churches are being torn down, rather than renovated. “But we are proud of our religious heritage”, he said, and therefore in 2014 – in the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Year – the Hungarian government decided to launch a synagogue renovation program with a budget of HUF 10 billion, and several buildings have been renovated as a result.
Mr. Orbán stressed the significance of respect for Jewish culture and the Jewish people, and the fact that Jews have greatly contributed to the economic, cultural and academic achievements of Serbia, Hungary and Europe. Today, he said, joint tribute is being paid to “a brave and close-knit community”. The synagogue survived the most turbulent decades of the 20th century, and when under communism its very survival was at stake, the city stood up in unity for its preservation.
Hungary has been a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance since 2002 and held the chairmanship of the organization in 2015 under the leadership of State Secretary Szabolcs Takács.