Dohany Street Synagogue

Budapest, Hungary


Anastasia Chukovskaya

The largest Synagogue in Europe was built by three architects who had a challenging task to accommodate it and the community buildings at an asymmetrical plot of land. The result is one of the world's most beautiful synagogues that was later replicated in NYC. Its decor features Byzantine, Oriental, classicism and Moorish elements while its two towers remind of Christian churches. It is constructed of the most cutting edge materials of the 1850s – original brick outside and baked brick inside. The 5,000-pipe organ was the issue of debates – can it be played during the shabbat service as playing means working which breaks the commandment. The instrument was played by Franz Liszt and Camille Saint-Saens.
The synagogue belongs to the neolog Jewry, which emerged in Budapest in the mid 19th century – its followers wanted to modernize the service, so the synagogue has a female balcony and women are also allowed to stay downstairs to the right of men.
During World War II, the Great Synagogue saw bombings and was used as a stable and a sorting facility wherefrom arrested Jews were sent to camps. After the war, the cemetery appeared in the yard.
The synagogue was restored in the 1990s and is now the gem of the quarter getting its glory back after the turbulent 20th century. It has a monument to Righteous Among the Nations who saved Jews despite all dangers – a willow with their names on the leaves.
To the left of the building there stood a house (it hasn't survived) where Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, was born. He is revered and remembered in every tour along with other famous Jews, like Nobel prize winner or other prominent people.


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