8. Jewish Budapest: 3-Hour Historical Walking Tour
Jewish Budapest is much more than the Jewish district and Dohány Street Synagogue that most walking tours present to visitors. On this 3-hour historical walking tour you’ll learn about the alternative Jewish experiences in a city where, before WW11, a quarter of the population was Jewish.
Major sites on this walking tour can include:
1. Buda Castle and Medieval Jewry
From 1100 to 1200, there was continuous Jewish settlement side-by-side with the emergence of Buda Castle Hill as the center of political power. Archival reconstructions provide a glimpse of remnants of the synagogue built here by the medieval Jewish community.
2. Óbuda Synagogue
Until 1844 Jews were prevented from buying property in Pest or Buda. As a consequence, the economic and cultural wealth accumulated by Hungarian Jews centered around a third township, Óbuda. An impressive Classicist synagogue, built and consecrated in 1821, was a proof of the affluence and influence of the community, and continued to be a symbol of the strong Jewish community that flourished in Hungary in the following decades.
Optional stopover: Frankel Leó Road Synagogue, a small eclectic synagogue, built in 1880 and hidden in the courtyard of a house
3. Lipótváros/Dohány Street
After the emancipation of Hungary’s Jews in 1868, Pest and ¬Buda began a swift transition into a unified and modern city. The formation of a Jewish upper-¬class bourgeoisie is exemplified by the Dohány Synagogue (1859), the greatest Jewish place of worship in Europe. This is the building that inspired Manhattan’s Central Synagogue.
Optional stopover: New York Café, once a bustling hub of Hungarian literary and fine arts figures, many of them of Jewish origin (still in operation)
4. Király utca promenade/Teleki tér
A significant influx of Eastern Jewish refugees during WWI created new centers that were very different from the opulent neighborhoods of established Hungarian Jews. Visit small Hasidic shtibls and Sephardic¬rite prayer¬ houses that still surround the market where peddlers and petty¬ traders operated during the interwar period.
5. Újlipótváros/Pest Ghetto
Until 1943 Jews of Budapest were in a relatively protected position compared to Eastern European Jews in general or Hungarian Jews elsewhere. Yet in October 1944, with the rest of the city’s citizens, they endured a Soviet siege, the Nazi and Hungarian Arrow Cross mass killings, and the coldest winter of the war.
Due to international rescue missions and the relatively rapid advance of the Soviet Army, the devastation, though terrible, was not complete. The 2 ghettos of Budapest in Districts XIII and VII offer a direct connection to the events. In addition, the lovely neighborhood of Újlipótváros provides a glimpse into the lifestyle of a mostly assimilated Jewish upper-middle class from the interwar and postwar periods.
Optional concluding venue: Kozma Street Jewish cemetery, a historical site that sheds more light on social and cultural preferences of Budapest Jewry than any building or memorial