According to our present knowledge, Béla Lajta's relationship with the Pest Chevra Kadisa, the Jewish community's burial society (responsible for the arrangement of its funeral matters and the maintenance of its cemeteries) began at the end of 1903. This year he won a competition for the construction of arcaded vaults in the Rákoskeresztúr (Kozma Street) cemetery. Lajta designed the row of arcaded vaults that the community wanted to erect along the road behind the cemetery's main building, in Ödön Lechner's Art Nouveau style, with an outer pyrogranite panelling.
In the following year the religious society commissioned the architect to serve as a permanent “technical advisor” for its cemeteries. He thus became an outside expert for a modest fee, who constantly received smaller or greater assignments that he performed – according to the annual reports – “with great diligence and professional knowledge”. When dealing with the cemetery’s technical issues, the Chevra Kadisa board based its decisions on Lajta’s expert advice, and most often it assigned him with the supervision of the construction work as well. His duties included designing the general layout of the Kozma Street cemetery (it is not known whether he finished these plans or not), vaults and minor buildings, as well as planning road construction and drainage projects, or sometimes even the monitoring of the elimination of “damp spots discovered on the building of the central cemetery”.
In the same period, from 1907 to 1914, the Chevra Kadisa provided Lajta with large-scale planning assignments as well: for example the hospice complex in Amerikai Street and the gate and burial ceremony building of the Salgótarjáni Street cemetery. Due to the effective contrast of the prismatic substructure and the arched dome, as well as the materials of different texture and colour (darker rubble-stone, polished marble, ceramic with white glaze) this building became one of Lajta’s most powerful works of art, reflecting archaic monumentality.
Designing funerary monuments became a chapter on its own right in Béla Lajta’s oeuvre after 1903-1904, presumably not irrespective of the above mentioned assignments from the burial society. More than thirty tombstones and family vaults are presently known to have been designed by him, the character of which changed in parallel with the evolution of his architectural style; from the refined forms of Art Nouveau to strict geometrical masses, providing a constant opportunity for the architect to develop his ornamental art.
Csáki Tamás: Lajta Béla művei a temetőben. NÖRI füzetek 19. (Salgótarjáni utcai zsidó temető). Budapest, NÖRI, 2019.