Looking for a Permanent Place of Worship

When Opatija became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1920 following the Peace Treaty of Rapallo, Jewish people were authorized to establish an independent community. The statute was approved through a decree dated 12 December 1922 (no. IV Culto 44806/2637) by the prefect of Trieste, Francesco Crispo Moncada (1867-1952). In 1923, the Jewish community of Opatija does become the youngest (and smallest) one in Italy. In 1931 it consisted of 80 members.

The Jewish community of Opatija immediately began to look for a permanent place for worship and a rabbi to officiate rites. It was only in 1925, however, that the project was entrusted to two civil engineers, Vittorio Angyal (1889-1952), of Hungarian origins, and Pietro Fabbro, the owners the Rijeka-based Impresa Costruzioni Edili. A few years later they were commissioned to build the synagogue in Rijeka as well. According to the Croatian architectural historian Zlatko Karac, the project was similar in many ways with the Trieste synagogue, although it was more linear in form and less rich in Jewish ornamentation. The Opatija synagogue was to be built in Mandrija Park, in the city centre. 


V. Angyal and P. Fabbro, "The project of the Jewish temple for Opatija”, 1926
Source: https://cja.huji.ac.il/image.php?id=180976&m=medium
© Courtesy of The Center for Jewish Art

On January 1926, the foundation stone was laid down during a ceremony attended by the prefect of the Province of Carnaro, Anselmo Cassini (1868-date of death unknown), rabbi Israel Zoller (1881-1956) of the Jewish community of Trieste, and other municipal authorities. Bernard Nathan (1881-1968), a Hungarian immigrant who had settled in Opatija in 1892, proposed that the synagogue be named after the Italian King Vittorio Emanuele III. A letter from the Jewish community to the prefect of the Province of Carnaro on 26 March 1926 reads: "In a letter dated 9 August 1925, the Jewish community of Opatija informed the Royal Subprefecture of Volosca of the forthcoming start of construction on the Jewish temple, which - as a homage to His Majesty the King and in recognition of the sentiments of the Jews of Opatija towards the great Italian homeland - [...] they decided to call it the "Vittorio Emanuele III Jubilee Temple".

Nathan became president of the Jewish community of Opatija in 1926 and, despite his efforts in the following years, the construction of the synagogue was interrupted due to the difficulty of raising funds for its completion. The part of the synagogue that had already been built was eventually abandoned and its materials were removed during the Second World War.