JWR Wandering Jews

In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

The Little Synagogue that Refused to Die

By Andrew Connelly and Helene Bienvenu

Depite all odds -- some might call it an outright miracle -- a Budapest shul has survived two World Wars, the rise of the anti-Zionist Jobbik party, and rotting fixtures — and is now part of a resurgent Jewish community

The interior of the Teleki Square synagogue, once known as the Chortkover Kloyz

JewishWorldReview.com |

BUDAPEST — (TCSM) Too often recently, Hungary has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The elevation of the ultranationalist Jobbik party to the parliament in 2010 and the provocative, anti-Semitic statements made by their members that followed has led many to wonder: Who would want to be Jewish in this Central European, former Communist state?

However, hidden away through a courtyard in Budapest's ramshackle District VIII, an area of the Hungarian capital known for its high population of Roma gypsies and immigrants, the shul ("synagogue" in Yiddish) on Teleki Square -- once known as the Chortkover Kloyz -- is quietly challenging this notion. It is one of the very last surviving "apartment synagogues" (shtiblach) in the country and may well represent the spirited renewal of Jewish life that is currently sweeping the city.

For nearly a century since the shul's founding by Hassidic Jews from Ukraine at the beginning of the 1920s, it has survived World War II bombings, Communist oppression, and the damp — but from the last, only barely.

When chairman Andras Mayer, his brother Gabor, a dozen other members and a South African rabbi decided to renovate the shul — which like many prayer houses of its era situated inside an unassuming, shabby apartment — the ceiling was near collapse and the walls rotting.

"Everyone was waiting for this place to close down and nobody really cared about it," says Gabor. "This was nothing to do with the original Hungarian Jewish establishment. It was simply formed by a bunch of friends, they opened it and it was no one else's business."

The shul has never closed down, even during the war, always keeping a skeletal attendance. But in the last few years, the Mayer brothers and friends started to invigorate the community with new and young members.

"People were getting older and dying off. It was a disappearing culture, so it was not just a renovation needed here; we had to start a new life."

For centuries Hungary has been home to important and vibrant Jewish communities that, until World War II, lived in relative peace. They acquired a more prominent role in the late 19th century after many Jews took part in the revolution against the Habsburg monarchy in 1848, an event that is still considered a milestone in Hungarian history. Jews grew in number as the prosperous dual monarchy of Austro-Hungary established itself and many prominent figures of world Judaism claim Hungarian roots, such as the father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl.

During the interwar period, up to 25 percent of Budapest's population was Jewish. But under Miklós Horthy's rule as regent of post-World War I Hungary, numerous anti-Jewish laws were established restricting Hungarian Jews' ability to study and even cohabitate. This was the first of many discriminatory policies, culminating in the deportation of Jewish families with the active collaboration of the Hungarian Gendarmerie. Recently, some local municipalities in rural Hungary have caused uproar by erecting statues and renaming parks in honor of Mr. Horthy.

The deportation was was almost completed when Arrow Cross, the Hungarian fascist party, took power in October 1944 under pressure from Nazi Germany. In just a few weeks, around 450,000 Hungarian Jews perished at Auschwitz, leaving the country's Jewish population a mere fraction of its former self.

At Teleki Square, even with the new blood, it is still sometimes a struggle on Saturday mornings to make a "minyan," the 10-man quorum required for communal worship under Orthodox Jewish law. On the more quiet Sabbath mornings, some members walk to the neighboring synagogue to humbly ask to borrow a man or two.

For Sholom Hurwitz, serving as the shul's rabbi since its revival, the job can be sometimes challenging.

"After the Holocaust and the Communist suppression of religious organizations, lots of Hungarians forgot their faith, and this shul is part of the Jewish renaissance we see in Budapest," he says. "Not everybody present can read Hebrew, and in the beginning people had their mobile phone out on Sabbath! But there is a strong feeling of community here, and everyone agrees on Orthodox standards. I'm proud to say we are user-friendly and, being so diverse, we're one of the least sectarian prayer house in the city."

The "Jewish renaissance" underway in the Hungarian capital is twofold. Previously a tumbledown, crime ridden corner of the city, Budapest's historic Jewish quarter has morphed into a gentrified nexus of bohemia, replete with Jewish restaurants full of tourists and wine bars peppered amongst the towering synagogues. On a more intellectual level, the elevation of the ultranationalist Jobbik party and the virulently anti-Semitic beliefs held by some of their members have prompted a renewed wave of Jewish political engagement. Initiatives like the Sirály cultural center organize direct activism whilst running cultural events designed to encourage observant and non-affiliated Jewish youth alike to explore their heritage.

The majority of the congregation, at Teleki Square, where baseball caps are sported alongside yarmulkes, do not identify themselves as particularly religious, despite the synagogue's loose affiliation with the Orthodox movement. However, the stringent rules of a kosher kitchen and the Jewish lineage of the members ensure that they can also open their doors to whoever wants to observe.

Certainly within the walls on Sabbath morning, all the traditions are strictly kept, despite the often lighthearted atmosphere that pervades. As the rabbi chants in Hebrew from the hefty scrolls resting atop the bimah (the desk from which the Torah is read), the adjacent wall is dominated by a modern white clock inscribed with Hebrew numbers whose hands intriguingly tick backward.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". In addition to INSPIRING stories, HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.

"We wanted a nice ornate clock with a pendulum but some guy brought this back from Israel as a joke and it has stayed. It doesn't mean anything, although entering this shul is a bit like stepping into a time machine," Gabor remarks, exposing the modern idiosyncrasies that speckle the pious history of the shul.

The Mayer brothers are almost evangelistic when it comes to their passion for revitalizing and unearthing the Jewish history of the neighborhood, with ambitious plans afoot for two books, a documentary, specialized Teleki Square merchandise including branded yarmulkes, and even homemade brandy.

Not every synagogue has a metallic vat of strong Hungarian "Palinka" fermenting in the kitchen, but then the shul is not like other synagogues. The equipment is brand-new, the apple mush has been checked for worms, and the whole process supervised by the resident rabbi thus denoting the potent house spirit to be kosher.

"I think we are going to become very popular," muses Andras. However, discussions about the local area are always bittersweet.

"The saddest part about the history of this neighborhood is that people don't know about it. Sometimes that's for the best because there have been some nasty stories going on in some of the houses here. During the war this was one of the only sites of Jewish resistance against the Nazis, and there was a big bloodshed as a result. With brooms they were sweeping up the blood on the streets."

Mere blocks away stands a foreboding gray edifice emblazoned with the banner of the Jobbik party, currently the third largest political force in the Hungarian parliament.

Its vocal "anti-Zionist" stance has been accused by some as being a smokescreen for general anti-semitism, a charge that Jobbik vigorously denies, and many have drawn comparisons between the uniformed members present at their political rallies and soldiers of the Arrow Cross. Despite — or more likely because of — the high Roma and migrant population in District VIII, they maintain a high profile here.

Andras pays little heed to Jobbik. "People make distinctions between Nazis, neo-Nazis, and Arrow Cross, but what difference does that make to me? They don't care what kind of Jew I am and I don't care what kind of Nazi they are."

In a country with a tragic past too often misunderstood and manipulated for political gain, the restoration of the Teleki Square shul seems very much the symbol of the wider reconstitution of Hungary's Jewish identity: recovering, resilient, and threatened, but reasserting itself with characteristic quirkiness.

Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor — for free? Let us know by clicking here.

Comment by clicking here.

© 2013, The Christian Science Monitor