Dohány Street Synagogue, Budapest

An interesting tour of the largest synagogue in Europe and one of the world's largest.

The beautiful Great Synagogue was built in 1859 to host the growing Jewish community of Budapest. Before the Second World War, Budapest's Jewish population reached 23% of the total population of the city, but after the anti-Jewish law, the Holocaust and all that terrible part of history, the city's Jewish population is less than 1% of its total.
We took an interesting tour of the Synagogue complex and learned a lot about its history, its layout and architecture and how it all was affected by the Holocaust and the War.
This twin-tower synagogue was built in a Moorish style inspired by moorish Andalusia architecture. The Central Synagogue in NYC is an almost exact copy of the Dohány Street Synagogue. Its layout is quite similar to the 3 nave spaces fanned in accordance with the Christian liturgy, for the first time in the history of Hungarian synagogue-architecture.
In the side-aisles there are two-storey women's galleries supported by very slim paired columns. The synagogue’s internal and most saint and therefore the most typical artistic part is the sanctuary covered by a penditive dome, the Ark of the Covenant or Torah Cabinet. The Ark is decorated with a tympan lying on two marble columns.  In front of the sanctuary two well-wrought gold-plated candelabra of cast-iron stand with 12 candle-like bulbs each, in front of which the eternal light (Ner tamid) is burning permanently.*
The synagogue was damaged during the wars and although there was no fatal damage, at the end of the war immediate restoration was needed. Then, after temporary renovations, a full one became necessary and started between 1991 and 1996, it was largely funded by Hungarian Jewish American Estée Lauder.  

In 1944, the Synagogue was part of the Jewish Ghetto and served as shelter for a lot of people. Over 2.000 people who were relocated to the ghetto died there from hunger and cold during the winter 1944-1945 are buried in the courtyard of the synagogue. It is not customary to have a cemetery next to a synagogue, but the establishment of this cemetery was the result of historical circumstances and this relocation.

We also visited the Raoul Wallenberg Memorial Park in the rear courtyard of the Synagogue, which holds the Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs. Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews by giving them Protective Passports under the authority of the Swedish Legation and by preventing the murder of 70,000 residents of the Ghetto.
Wallenberg was abducted by the Russians in 1945 and his fate is still unknown. The Russians claim that he was executed in a Russian prison. There are still efforts to find out what happened to him.
The Memorial of the Hungarian Jewish Martyrs in the Synagogue complex was built by Imre Varga and it resembles a weeping willow whose leaves bear inscriptions with the names of victims.
The Jewish Museum, adjoining the Dohány synagogue, was built in 1930 in accordance with the synagogue's architectural style and attached in 1931 to the main building. It holds the Jewish Religious and Historical Collection, a collection of religious relics of the Pest Hevrah Kaddishah (Jewish Burial Society), ritual objects of Shabbat and the High Holidays and a Holocaust room.

A very intersting visit which continued later with our walk around the Jewish quarter, its corners and its passages.

Dohany Street Synagogue
Dohány u. 2. - 1074 Budapest
Tel: +36 (1) 343-0420
Opening times:
Until October 2014: Sunday-Thursday 10 am to 6 pm; Fridays: 10 am to 4.30 pm; Saturday: Closed.
From November 2014: Sunday-Thursday 10 am to 4 pm; Fridays: 10 am to 2 pm; Saturday: Closed.
The ticket office closes half an hour earlier.
Closed also on National and Jewish holidays (check website for more info)

*Parts of this text were taken from the Synagogues website: http://www.dohanystreetsynagogue.hu/

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