ON A NEGLECTED stretch of road not far from the compound housing the bulk of Oradea’s Jewish infrastructure lies a dull brick building. Above the entrance is a small sign in stereotypical “Jewish” typeface. “Kosher,” it reads meekly, and below that, “Wine. Coffee. Jazz.”
With its graffiti-covered facade, the place hardly resembles a jazz club — but neither does it look like an old Vizhnitz synagogue. And though it’s still labelled as such on Google Maps, the building hasn’t been prayed in for over 80 years.
The city of Oradea, with a Jewish population hovering somewhere around 400, might not have the numbers to necessitate a kosher jazz bar, or to keep one afloat, but Jews don’t seem to be its niche audience: The handful of grungy-looking hipsters lounging in the courtyard are likely not familiar with the ancient dietary laws.
On a sunny day in early autumn, they recline easily beneath umbrellas on oversized chairs that look more like mattresses as ambient trance music drifts from the bar inside. A young couple talks quietly while the barman lounges nearby smoking a cigarette.
The bar’s owner, Andris Sella, says that the property which he now rents from the Jewish community has a troubling history, and has changed hands more times than the city itself. A mean feat: Oradea was in turns ruled by Turks, the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the Soviets, among others, before becoming part of modern-day Romania.
FULL STORY An abandoned pre-WWII Hasidic synagogue gets a second life as a kosher jazz club (Times of Israel)
Photo: Exterior of the kosher jazz bar and independent theatre in Oradea. (Yaakov Schwartz/Times of Israel)