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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid