Hungarian Synagogue reopens for the first time since its destruction by the Nazis
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder joined Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban last Thursday for a reopening ceremony of Rumbach Street Synagogue in Budapest. The syangogue reopened for the first time following its destruction by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met to discuss antisemitism and the revitalization of Jewish life in Hungary.
Nestled in what used to be the Jewish ghetto in Budapest, the Rumbach Street Synagogue will reopen for public education and use, many decades after the historic building was destroyed by the Nazis during their occupation of Hungary in the 1940’s.
Lauder joined MAZSIHISZ, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities and the Hungarian affiliate of the WJC, to celebrate the reopening of the synagogue, originally built in 1872 to serve Hungarian Jews in the eastern part of Budapest.
The celebration came immediately before a meeting between Amb. Lauder and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, during which Lauder personally thanked Orban for the Hungarian government’s financial support of the renovation and restoration of the synagogue building. The building is also the new home of the WJC’s Hungary office.
“Without this synagogue, I would not be here,” Lauder said. “My grandparents moved to Budapest to get married and had their wedding in the very space we are currently celebrating. They eventually moved to Vienna, and then to New York as antisemitism grew throughout Hungary. And if they did not make that move, I wouldn’t be here today, let alone part of this historic celebration commemorating a very positive step forward for Hungary’s Jewish community.”
Lauder displayed a stone that was part of the original Rumbach synagogue, which he has carried throughout his travels as WJC president. It was passed down by his grandparents to his mother, and then to him. He shared how that stone has represented a symbol of good luck as the WJC works to combat the rise in antisemitism around the world.
The synagogue building’s renovation was made possible thanks to a 3.2 billion Hungarian forint ($11,254.53 USD) grant from the Hungarian government, disbursed through a series of payments to recognize the fact that more than half of the Hungarian Jewish community, representing nearly 450,000 people, were murdered in the Holocaust. Due to the decimation of Hungary’s Jewish population, the congregation and its physical space were never fully restored after World War II. Now complete, the modern-era renovation will help support and revitalize the largest Jewish population in East Central Europe.
During his meeting with Prime Minister Orban, Lauder praised the government’s support for the Jewish community, particularly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its support to health, social and cultural institutions that improve the quality of life for Hungarian Jewry.
Lauder also thanked Prime Minister Orban for his recent visit to Israel and his ongoing support for the Jewish state on the international floor.
The reopening celebration also included a commemorative march around the Jewish neighborhood as community members danced with Torah scrolls, and a religious ceremony to place the Torah scrolls back in the ark and light the eternal candles. The chief rabbi of Hungary, Robert Frölich, and Israeli Ambassador to Hungary, Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, also participated in today’s gathering.
The synagogue building will now serve as an open synagogue, welcoming those representing all branches of Judaism with a moveable Bimah. The space will also host concerts and other events, serving as a space to educate all visitors about Jewish life.