Budapest has definitely become a destination place for many people eager to receive a great education or explore career opportunities. Without shadow of a doubt Hungarian capital enjoys great variety of ethnicities and religions. Historically one of the largest communities in Hungary is a Jewry.
In the beginning of the 20th century there were around 200 thousand Jews living in Budapest, making it one of the biggest Jewish populations outside the Israel. One century later Hungary remains a welcoming home to an expanding joyous and vibrant community of Jewish expatriates.
Drawn by optimism to experience and celebrate Jewish lifestyle just like they do at home, immigrants from Israel have established community centers and Hebrew associations. Erzsébetváros (Elizabeth town) of Budapest is dotted with fascinating symbols of the Jewish culture and history. The world’s second largest synagogue is located there, on Dohány utca, known as Tabakgasse Synagogue or the Great Synagogue. However, this congregation is not the only one available for High Holiday services, the Shabbat (Sabbath), the Torah readings or special events like bar mitzvah. There are around 20 active synagogues in the Hungarian capital; some of them are outside the original Jewish quarter, like the ones in the IV district, Berzeviczy utca 8 (constructed in 1886 by Ármin Hegedűs and Henrik Böhm, reconstructed in 1909 by Lipót Baumhorn) or VIII district, József körút 27 (Synagogue of the National Rabbinical Seminary, constructed in 1877 in Eclectic style). If a newcomer is looking for a Hebrew or English-speaking congregations, there are always people who can assist in the Jewish community centers.
Apart from the unique spiritual experiences, thriving Jewish quarter provides a vast variety of opportunities for those, who are looking to discover and experience a thrilling life of the Jewry in Hungary. A lot of buildings on the cobblestone streets of the Elizabeth town are peppered with Stars of David and Hebrew names; marking strictly kosher shops, cafes and restaurants. These are the places where everything from menorah to a challah can be easily found.
In the meantime, Jewish quarter has undergone a tremendous change, becoming a quirky new neighborhood. Nowadays, people go to there to join the stream of young, international and hip crowd. Hugely popular area of the 7th district is famous for a concentration of restaurants, venues and wine bars. Evolving trend of living in this particular part of the city is understandable – majority of finest art galleries, design centers and concept stores are located there. Works of the emerging new artists, lavish parties and the spirit of audacity – these are things that define Jewish quarter today.
Jewish community in Budapest most certainly stands on its own merits. There are phenomenal opportunities for those of expatriates, who are looking forward to making new friendships and connections, but yet do not want to get lost in the cultural melting pot of the global society.
by Ekaterina Egorova