News / Europe

Budapest Reopens Oldest Synagogue Amid Concerns of Extremism

People are queued up to visit the re-opened synagogue in Budapest, 5 Sep 2010
People are queued up to visit the re-opened synagogue in Budapest, 5 Sep 2010

Multimedia

Audio

After more than half a century, the oldest synagogue in Hungary's capital Budapest reopened Wednesday for the public, just in time for the Jewish New Year.  The synagogue was forced to close its doors following the Holocaust, when Hungary became a Communist nation.

Israel has described the event as proof of a Jewish revival in the country, despite concerns about anti-semitism.

Dedication Ceremony Signifies Jewish Renewal

A huge crowd, including Holocaust survivors, celebrated as a scroll of the Torah, the Jewish scriptures, was carefully carried into the 190-year old Obuda Synagogue.  The dedication ceremony came ahead of Wednesday's Jewish New Year prayers here.

De Thora-rol - a scroll of the Torah, the Jewish scriptures - is carried into the Obuda Synagogue in Budapest, 5 Sep 2010
De Thora-rol - a scroll of the Torah, the Jewish scriptures - is carried into the Obuda Synagogue in Budapest, 5 Sep 2010


Israel's Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger, who had come to Budapest for the events, said the synagogue's re-opening marks a new beginning for Hungary's Jewish community.

"Because of the Holocaust, a lot of people didn't come back to their places in this synagogue," said Metzger.  "And after some years, the Communists took it and changed it into a textile museum and than into a studio for the television.  So to come here after 50 years shows us that the renaissance in Hungary is real truth."

Metzger adds, however, that many Hungarian Jewish people remain afraid to openly attend religious services.  "Because of the trauma of the Holocaust, there are here people who don't think it's necessary to say that they are Jews, because they are afraid that the Holocaust will happen again. Who knows?"

Holocaust Survivors Are Wary, Yet Grateful

Yet several Holocaust survivors still come to listen to rabbis in the same synagogue some of them had attended when they were young.

Among other survivors is 73-year old Andras Szasz, who said it is a miracle that he can be at the re-opening of the synagogue.  He explained that he has a document that he was to go on a train for Jewish children to Switzerland.  His mother made a mistake with the departure time, though, which was lucky for him as the train was bombed and everyone died.  He said a Christian family in Budapest eventually managed to hide him and his parents in their home during the war.

The synagogue is shown earlier this year during its reconstruction, 2010
The synagogue is shown earlier this year during its reconstruction, 2010


At least 600,000 Hungarian Jews died during the war when Hungary was a close ally of Nazi-Germany.  

The young Rabbi Slomo Koves, who leads the Obuda Synagogue, admitted he is concerned about re-emerging extremism in Hungary. The far right Movement for a Better Hungary - or Jobbik - became the third largest party in recent elections.

Answering Racism With Prayers and Community

Koves said, however, the ongoing renovation of his synagogue is the best way to answer such concerns.  "The community from its own strength renovates it and uses it again for the same purpose, for prayers.  And that is the answer to all those voices that are here [representing] the strengthening anti-Semitism and the strengthening racism.  The best answer is to build [and] to get the community together and show that we are still living and give the people the chance to go back to their own identity..."

The Israeli government agrees. In letters, Israel's Prime Minister  Benjamin Netanyahu describes the re-opened synagogue as "the symbol of a Jewish renaissance" while Israel's President Shimon Peres says "May it be a house of prayer for everyone."

Jewish officials have made clear they hope that it will also encourage authorities to re-open other former synagogues in Eastern Europe.

With some 100,000 people, Hungary hosts one of Central and Eastern Europe's largest Jewish communities, outside Russia.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid