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Isi Davis - Making the Synagogue Rounds

posted 17 Jan 2018, 19:14 by Lodzer Shabbat-Bulletin

The Summer of 2017

Isi Davis - Making the Synagogue Rounds

Central Synagogue, Budapest

The Great Synagogue of Budapest, with its Moorish-style twin towers, on Dohány Street is a good starting point to learn about Jewish Budapest.


Jews were banned from the city in the 18th century, so they established a Jewish quarter just outside the old city boundary.


Remains of the old Pest city walls run on the opposite side of the road.


The Jews built their main synagogue in a residential area. Theodore Herzl, founder of modern Zionism was born in one of the buildings.


This stunning temple was constructed between 1844-59 according to Ludwig Förster’s plans.


The second largest synagogue (the largest stands in New York) in the world can take in 3,000 people.


Its Byzantine-Moorish style will fascinate you and remind you of monuments in the Middle-East.


Two onion-shaped domes sit on the twin towers at 43 m height.


The towers symbolize the two columns of Solomon’s Temple.

The spacious interior has equally rich decorations. A single-span cast iron supports the 12-m wide nave. ornate gilded column

The seats on the ground-floor are for men, while the upper gallery has seats for women.


Surprisingly, the synagogue has an organ, though this instrument is used in Christian churches. The temple’s acoustic make it a popular venue for concerts.

The Dohány Street synagogue witnessed the tragic events of WW II.


The Germans established a ghetto for the Jews in 1944 that served as a gathering place for deportation.


Many people found refuge in the Dohány utca synagogue but thousands died during the bleak winter of 1944/45. Their bodies are buried in the courtyard.


In the cobbled Raoul Wallenberg (Swedish diplomat who saved many Jews during WW II) park stands the Holocaust Memorial by Imre Varga.


It was erected in 1989 above the mass graves in the honour and memory of Hungarian Jewish martyrs.


On each leave of the metal weeping willow tree you can read a name of a martyr. inContext

Near the Tree of Life is the symbolic grave of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat sent to Hungary with the instruction to do whatever he could to save Jews from the Nazis. He gave Swedish passports to Jews and sent them to safe houses, saving tens of thousands from death. When the Soviets arrived, Wallenberg was arrested, accused of being a U.S. spy, sent to the gulag and executed. The small stones are symbolic of Jewish cemeteries where pebbles are placed on desert graves to keep animals from disturbing the remains.

A stained glass window that stands near the symbolic grave has fire that symbolizes the Holocaust, the Hebrew word “Shoah” literally means catastrophe, and the curling snake represents fascism. inContext



Kazinczy Street Synagogue, Budapest

The city’s Orthodox Jewish congregation decided to build its own independent synagogue in 1909. Based on the designs of Sándor and Béla Löffler, the Secessionist style synagogue was completed in 1913. The façade of the synagogue which fronts onto Kazinczy Street is considered to be one of the outstanding works of Hungarian Late-Secessionist architecture.


The principal feature of this red-brick building, located on the bend of Kazinczy Street, is its main entrance; this is also the focal point for the religious symbols. Access, to the recently completed Sasz-Chevra Chapel, can be gained via the gateway leading into the courtyard located next to the synagogue.


The synagogue has continued to function as such to this day. The Orthodox kosher Hanna restaurant is located in the building complex next to the synagogue. inContext



"Shoes on the Danube promenade" - Budapest

To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45.


Few places in Europe were left untouched by the events of World War Two. Sitting along the shores of the River Danube in Budapest is one of the most haunting memorials to the events of those dark times. In 1944 and 1945, the Hungarian government was run by the fascist Arrow Cross Party. The party was briefly suppressed by the Hungarian prime minister at the outset of the war, but ultimately rose to power with the support of Nazi Germany.


In the winter of 1944 and 1945, thousands of Jewish civilians – and those people who were simply suspected of collaboration – were executed on the banks of the Danube. The Arrow Cross Party forced their victims to kneel at the edge of the river, letting the water wash the bodies away after countless victims were gunned down.


In 2005, sculptors and artists Gyula Pauer and Can Togay crafted sixty pairs of 1940s-era shoes of all styles, (cast out of iron, not bronze, to prevent the theft of an expensive commodity,) facing the river where so many died at the hands of the Arrow Cross Party.


Haunting and powerful, the Shoes on the Danube are a poignant and chilling reminder of those dark times. inContext


Red River

the train was too late

by foot it was too far

the river too nearby

the hatred too strong

bullets through your head

river of blood

red Danube

dead Budapest

© by Jan Theuninck



Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam

The Portuguese Synagogue is a magnificent 17th century building found in the old Jewish district of east Amsterdam near Waterlooplein.


It is open to the public as part of the Jewish Cultural Quarter and is still used as a functioning Synagogue and also as a venue for candlelight concerts.


Amsterdam had a sizeable Sephardic Jewish community in the 17th century made up of those who had fled Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition plus Ashkenazi Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. Having prospered during the Dutch Golden Age it was decided to build a fitting place of worship.


The Portuguese Synagogue complex was opened in 1675 and is set in a courtyard surrounded by small buildings. The main Synagogue building (Esnoga) has a rectangular form and is built on wooden piles and includes a timber roof structure and 72 cast-iron arched windows.


The original Synagogue interior features wooden benches and impressive chandeliers which can be illuminated by hundreds of candles.  inContext


Thanks Isi. There are great stories behind your pictures.


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