Jewish Heritage Walking Tour (Self Guided), Budapest

Over the centuries, the Jews of Budapest were many times expelled from the city and had to rebuild their homes and lives after it. Therefore, it is amazing to see how much they have re-created and many of it is still preserved even after the WWII and the communist regime. This tour covers some of the most important sites that provide an insight into the history and culture of the Jewish population in the city.
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Jewish Heritage Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Jewish Heritage Walking Tour
Guide Location: Hungary » Budapest (See other walking tours in Budapest)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 km
Author: kane
Orthodox Synagogue

1) Orthodox Synagogue

The Orthodox Synagogue is the physical and spiritual center of Jewish life in the 8th District. It is located at 29-31 Kazinczy utca at Dob, Budapest, nestled in a quaint little community that has a kosher eating establishment, a school, and a prayer room. Nearby there is also a mikvah, which is the only one to be found anywhere in Budapest. The structure was built in 1913.

The Hungarian Orthodox Jews, which make this house of worship their home, are a rather unique off shoot of Conservative Judaism. They maintain many of the practices of the Jewish immigrants of Germany and Moravia. There is also a strong Hassidic background in these people, which came to the area from Poland and Galatia.

Many of the people who attend synagogue here are either the survivors of WWII or their descendants. Despite deportation by the Nazis, many of the original Hungarian settlers of Kazinczy were able to come home by 1944.

The easiest way to get to the Synagogue is by subway. You will make use of the M1, M2, or M3 line to Deak ter Station. You can then take M2 to Astoria Station, and then walk to Karoly korut in the direction of Deak ter. Once there, make a right at Dob utca.
Rumbach Street Synagogue

2) Rumbach Street Synagogue

Located in the heart of downtown Budapest, at the historic district of Belvaros, this synagogue has been the spiritual home for Hungarian Orthodox Jews since the late 19th century. Built to the design of Otto Wagner, the genius behind many Art Nouveau buildings in Vienna, this synagogue has an architectural style clearly reminiscent of the Northern African and Arabic themes, featuring octagonal, minaret-style columns similar to those of Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock.

The decorative brickwork on the outside of the building is quite remarkable, with carved stone and stucco complementing the wrought iron work. The multi-colored facade, along with the oriental style arches, make the perfect backdrop to the windows with the Star of David in them; at the center of the facade, one can also see the two stone tablets of Moses.

The interior of the synagogue is quite stunning too, with a soaring main nave, exquisitely decorated dome and ceilings, stained glass windows, and decorative arabesques on the walls. Suffered badly during World War II, the building has been out of service for almost 60 years now and its restoration is still underway.

The surrounding area is just as reflective of the Jewish culture and history with plenty to see. You can wander around and make a few interesting stops further afield to see the main Budapest synagogue, on Dohány Street, just a few blocks away.
Tree of Life / Raoul Wallenberg Park

3) Tree of Life / Raoul Wallenberg Park (must see)

Situated right behind the Great Synagogue of Budapest is the Holocaust memorial park set to commemorate those who risked their lives, during World War II, trying to save the Jews of Hungary from the Nazi extermination, and for which they are declared “Righteous Among the Nations”. Inside the park, there is a monument dedicated to these people. One such man is Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat and a key actor in the salvation effort who himself had disappeared mysteriously towards the end of the war. Among the others also honored by this monument is a little-known Spanish consular officer, named Ángel Sanz Briz, who virtually saved some 5,200 Jews by giving them Spanish passports and allowing to use the Spanish embassy as a safe house.

Also, in the middle of the park, there is another memorial called the Tree of Life – a commemorative sculpture paying tribute to some 5,000 Holocaust victims buried in the area. Designed in the form of a willow tree, symbol of mourning in the Hungarian Jewish tradition, it has the names of Holocaust victims inscribed on its leaves.

The park was established in the 1990s after Hungary regained a democratic rule. The memorial was completed in 1996, thanks to the generous donation from Estée Lauder, renowned international manufacturer of beauty and skincare products.

The Tree of Life monument is well visible from a distance, even outside the park. However, if you wish to see it up close, you'll have to pay an admission fee.
Great Synagogue

4) Great Synagogue (must see)

Built in the 1850s as a place of worship for the Neolog Jews, this is the second-largest synagogue in the world, running up in size only to the Temple Emanu-El in New York City. Just like its counterpart in Rumbach Street, the Dohány Street synagogue was also designed by Viennese architect, Ludwig Forster, in a similar Moorish Revival style. Set in the old Jewish quarter, the synagogue forms part of a larger complex that includes the Heroes' Temple, the graveyard, the Memorial, and the Jewish Museum. During WWII, Dohány Street marked the border of the Budapest Ghetto and today still carries strong Holocaust connotations.

The massive damage sustained by the Great Synagogue during the Second World War, followed by a long period of neglect under the communist rule, called for an extensive restoration work which finally took place in the 1990s.

The octagonal twin towers of the building, guarding the main entrance topped with a beautiful stained glass rosette, are crowned by onion domes that make it visible all over the city. Inside, the enormous nave rises almost 40 feet high revealing influence of the Gothic, Romantic, and Byzantine styles. Dominating the interior is a new mechanical organ replacing the original one created in the 19th century.

Just as in many other synagogues, the seats on the ground level are reserved for men, while the upper gallery is for women. In all, the place can seat up to 3,000 people.

Those interested in the Jewish history, can explore the Jewish Heroes’ mausoleum next door, or the museum and archives upstairs which are quite informative, thought-provoking and enlightening, if you like... Buried in the local graveyard are the Jews died during the Holocaust, as well as the non-Jews who helped saving Jewish lives. The adjacent park holds a memorial to these people.

The Great Synagogue offers group tours in a variety of languages. Visitors must observe a strict dress code, though. If need be, there's a special “overall” type of clothing provided at the entrance.

Opening Hours:
Rabbinical Seminary

5) Rabbinical Seminary

Rabbinical Seminary was founded in the very beginning of the 20th century. The seminary has a vast library giving the visitor access to over 150 000 highly valued works of Jewish literature. The rabbinical Seminary is one of the few that were operating during the regime of the communists.
Holocaust Memorial Center

6) Holocaust Memorial Center (must see)

The Holocaust Museum was opened to the public in February of 2004. The mission of this place is to present and preserve a permanent history of the Holocaust, and the role that the Hungarian people played during this part of World War II history. During this time, over 500,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis. There were also 50,000 Roma who were executed during the oppression.

The site used to be a synagogue. As plans were being made to build the museum, a decision was made to include the temple in the museum. So, it was renovated as well.

One of the things you will note about the displays is the very personal touch that has been used. There are accounts of real people here. In the first exhibit, called the Wedding Room, you will be taken back in time to how life was prior to the start of the war. You will then be taken to the Synagogue display, which has glass pews that contain pictures of lost houses of prayer, and murdered individuals. You will finally be brought to the place where the museum commemorates the citizens of Hungary and the foreign diplomats who risked their lives to help the Jews.

Why You Should Visit:
A well planned and executed exhibition, both informative and moving.
Combines individual family histories with overall political movements.

Opening Hours:
Thu-Sun: 10am-6pm, closed on Mondays

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