A Budapest Secret Revealed

And the answer is… my new cover photo is from the synagogue on Rumbach Sebestyén utca in Budapest’s District VII. It’s in ruins. There’s a man in a small booth selling tickets to visitors, but those are few and far between, and the modest ticket price of 500 forint doesn’t contribute much toward the cost of the massive restoration it needs.

It could be as spectacular as Budapest’s big synagogue on Dohány utca, which is Europe’s biggest functioning Jewish temple. But perhaps the fact that the Rumbach utca one stands in ruins reveals more about Hungarian history. In World War II, 16-18,000 rural Hungarian Jews were rounded up here and taken to a Nazi-occupied region of Ukraine and slaughtered. After the war, the community returned, but abandoned the synagogue in the 1960’s since the building was falling apart, and the community that founded it, a group that felt the Dohány utca synagogue was too progressive, while the Orthodox one too restrictive, was left to choose.

Our guide, a young Jewish woman whose family history is rooted in this neighborhood, took us into the octagonal space to look up at the spectacular cupola. She told us that a synagogue is not holy in and of itself, like a church – only when enough people gather there. There were only five of us there at the time, so it wasn’t holy. Nevertheless, it was magical. And it will be used for a theater performance soon, at which I hope enough people will gather to make it a holy place once again, despite its troubled history.

My mother and I were on a UniqueBudapest tour entitled Secrets of the Jewish Quarter. I’ve only given away one tiny secret here, so I highly recommend you attend this (three-hour) tour, and I’ve enjoyed their other tours, team-building games and parties! See www.uniquebudapest.com, or email info@uniquebudapest.com for more information. Here’s a link to the synagogue on a map of Budapest… http://g.co/maps/deu9a.

About adriknows

One day, people looking for tips on life in Budapest started coming to me. Friends, then friends of friends, and so on. People were telling newcomers and longtime Budapesters alike, “Adri knows!” Now it’s time to share what I’ve picked up over more than a decade of fun-and-frequently-frazzled family life in the big BP.
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7 Responses to A Budapest Secret Revealed

  1. Petra says:

    Oh, thanks for sharing this, I always wondered about the story of this building when we lived close or when I walked around. And I will definitely take the tour!

    • adriknows says:

      That’s good to hear! It was really fascinating, both the tour and the building. Enjoy.

    • adriknows says:

      That’s good to hear! The tour was so interesting it took me a whole blog post to write about just a few minutes of the three-hour journey. Please mention my blog when you contact UniqueBudapest!

  2. david wellens says:

    Your article is so tenderly written, Adri. I hope you turn your series into a book someday soon.

  3. gergokocsis says:

    Wow! This post was great! I have only walked past the synagogue a couple times, but the street feels very special to me because on the opposite side from the synagogue stands an empty lot, where a house was demolished in 2002. That house the Jakabffy house is where my great grandparents (Albert József and his wife Jakabfy Katalin) are said to have lived and where other parts of the Jakabffy family lived.
    It was great reading about this interesting and beautiful building. Thanks.

  4. Pingback: Live It. Love It. Budapest! | adriknows

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