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Published: August 8th 2007
The synagogue in Budapest is the second largest in the world. The largest is in New York City. Frankly, to me, except for the Star of David and the Hebrew written on the walls, the synagogue in Budapest looks very much like a Christian church. I was surprised that the synagogue has an area from which a speaker can be better heard which is much like those in large Christian cathedrals. There is a circular staircase to walk up to the 'raised pulpit'. It is in the same location that I have seen raised pulpits in Catholic churches and cathedrals. Perhaps this is not uncommon. Regardless, I was surprised. - I am not sure if it is common or not but this synagogue was so enormous that it was necessary, I am sure, for anyone speaking to the congregation to be raised and more or less in the middle of the seated persons in order to be heard. This synagogue had a larger seating capacity than the opera house in Budapest. It surprised me that Budapest had such an enormous number of observant Jews in the city to need such a large worship space. Then it greatly saddened me
The ceiling above the Ark
to realize the seats were empty after the holocaust. All those people with such devotion to God that they built this wonderful place in which to worship God and then to know hate killed almost all of them. Very very sad. We were so fortunate in the timing of our visit. Someone came in while we were standing at the front of the worship space who must have been a large donor or a famous person. A leader of the synagogue came with the man and his family and raised the curtain and then opened the Ark to allow the man to handle the scroll. We got to see all this happen and see the absolute transportation of joy on the face of all the family. It was such a joyful time. We felt very privileged indeed.
Outside the synagogue itself is a memorial garden. There is a lovely silver tree on which people can hang silver leaves with the names of relatives, friends who were killed in the holocaust. The branches of the tree are broken off and do not continue to the ends of the branch. However the willow-like small branches come
out of the lower part
The Ark with the curtain drawn
of the silver branches. It is a lovely sight and a wonderful memorial. There are many memorial spots in this garden and many small stones placed in memory as if this were a cemetery.
In the part of the building that is upstairs, there is a museum of old objects of worship and a absolutely marvelous art museum with the most unusual weaving I have ever seen. We forgot to get the name of the woman who did the weavings. But they incorporate poetry and portions of the scriptures plus imaginative and wonderful designs. They are about the most creative pieces of art I have ever seen. I'm sorry photos are forbidden in the art museum area. What a good place to visit and how much we saw and enjoyed! I would highly recommend visiting this synagogue and the museum and memorial area.
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