Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hungary- Abandoned Synagogue 2

This once bustling area in the wine country of Hungary is now abandoned and neglected. The synagogue and the rabbi's house are in disrepair. There are no Jews left in this town.

Who says kaddish for these people? Which neighbors remember them? Is it the people who moved into their houses?

Photomontage from the book Behind the Scene/Seen: An Artistic Response to the Holocaust.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Clouds and Spirits

The Hungarian landscapes are spectacular, the skies startling, but the people are gone. All that remains are their names and our memories.

We must remember and insure that there never is a Holocaust again- for any group.

Photomontage from the book Behind the Scene/Seen: An Artistic Response to the Holocaust.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Echoes and Memories

Jews lived in Buda as early as the 12th century. The 220,000 Jews who lived in Budapest before World War II were ordered 1n June 1944 into 2000 houses, each marked with a yellow star. Tens of thousands of Jews were forced on a death march to the Austrian border. Behind the Dohany Synagogue is the Holocaust cemetery where thousands of people who died in the wartime ghetto are buried. The Soviet conquest in 1945 prevented mass destruction so that half the Jews of Budapest survived.

In the midst of charming boulevards and elegant buildings are reminders of hateful acts.

Photomontage from the book Behind the Scene/Seen: An Artistic Response to the Holocaust.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Budapest- Paris of the East

Budapest is the capital city of Hungary. It consists of three main parts: Buda, the hilly West side of the Danube, Castle Hill, District I of Buda, the oldest part of the city containing the eponymous Castle and many of Budapest's best-known attractions and Pest, the flat East side of the Danube, covering the modern commercial core of the city. The wide boulevards and lovely architecture remnd you of the regal past. Many of the buildings need renovations, but the elegant structure is very apparent.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cemeteries in Wine Region of Hungary

We visited the villages of Mad, Olaszliszka, Satoraljaujhely, Tokaj, Nyiregyhaza, Nagykallo, and Tarcal. Olaszliszka now has no Jews. In the 19th century, it was the center of Hungarian Hassisism. The cemetery is kept going by believers who comw to see the grave of Reb Friedmann Hirsch follower of Reb Moses Teitelbaum. Satoraljaujhely had 4000 Jews but now only has a few Jewish families. The cemetery is several hundred years old. The tomb of the miraculous Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum is here. It is visted by many pilgrims from the US on the anniversary of his death. The Tokaj cemetery is located in the picturesque nook of the Bodrog River. There are 15 tombs from the 18th and 19th centuries. Nyurefyhaza was home to 5000 Jews before the war. Now there are a few dozen. The cemetery was founded in 1840. Nagykallo is 9 miles away, In 1790 an organized Jewish community thrived here. In the 19th century a well-to-do community lived a peaceful life with its neighbors. Now there are no Jews in the area.

The gentleman in the first picture has lived in the area his whole life. He knows the history and shares it with tourists. He observes the Sabbath and has to go to Budapest for Shabath to find a minyan for prayer.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Some Synagogues in the Wine Region

Many of the small villages in the Tokaj region had thriving Jew communities living there for centuries. The synagogues were imposing buildings. The rabbis were well-known and respected. Some of the synagogues are now arts and crafts centers, or old age homes, or government offices. None of them have any indications on them that they were once synagogues- no signage. There are a few Jews that still live in the area that come to tell you the history, that take care of the building if it is still a synagogue- only two that we saw. In the whole area, there are only nine Jewish families. Many Jew were killed in the war. The survivors left to go to Israel or other places. Most Jews in Hungary live in Budapest or some in Dubrecen.

In my next post, I will show some pictures of the cemeteries and show you some graves of famous rabbis. Some of the families have made it their life's work to tend to the graves and keep the cemeteries clean and sanctified.

Restored Synagogue at Mad in Tokaj Region

This synagogue was built in 1795 in a unique baroque style. The exterior wall of the synagogue has been redone and the interior is under restoration. Funding and money are partially being given by the World Monument Fund in the frame of a Jewish Heritage Program. There is, however, no plumbing or electricity so the building cannot really be used. There are no Jews who will be using the synagogue. There is no minyan (the 10 men needed for prayer) in the area. Only tourists who come there to visit are interested in seeing the synagogue.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Tokaj Region in Hungary

My trip to Hungary began with a three-day visit to the wine region in the northeast section of Hungary. The Jews had been very integrated into the wine industry in the 18th and 19th centuries and had been very successful. They had built very large synagogues in their small towns. Now, the Jews were gone, killed by the Nazis and Iron Cross, but the buildings still existed. Depending on who was left in each town, there were different results of what happened to the cemeteries and synagogues. The area is lovely. The landscapes are pretty. The history is harrowing!

We stayed in the Grof Degenfeld Castle Hotel (top 2 photographs) and traveled to various small towns each day. The trip was very enlightening. I had a reaction that I did not expect!! In fact, it so startled me that I can home and made art so new that I had to buy a computer and learn how to use Photoshop to create it. The experience was life-changing for me. Our driver, guide, my husband and I became a band of 4 who experienced this together. Although they were Hungarian, they had never been to the wine district. We all learned together. More about that later.

All photograps were taken by me on the trip.