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September 19, 2010

The World's Most Beautiful Synagogues

Great Synagogue Dohany Street Budapest A pictorial essay of the worlds most beautiful synagogues.

Great Synagogue Dohany Street Budapest 

The Great Synagogue on Dohany Street in Budapest.

For more pictures of the Great Synagogue on Dohany Street and for pictures of other beautiful synagogues, click here.

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Certainly is !

Thank-you for posting this photo and the link.

A good opportunity for some Jewish History. The shul pictured was built as what some readers would call "reformed". From their website:

Neolog Judaism in Hungary

Neolog Judaism is a mild reform movement within Judaism, mainly in Hungarian-speaking regions of Europe, which began in the late 19th century. The reforms were comparable to the more traditional wing of U.S. Conservative Judaism. At the time of its founding, the Orthodox Jews in these regions were particularly rigid against all modern innovations, so even these modest reforms had led to sharp organizational separation. Communities that aligned with neither the Orthodox nor the Neologs were known as the Status Quo.

In the nineteenth century, the Neolog Jews were located mainly in the cities and larger towns. They arose in the environment of the latter period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire generally good period for upwardly mobile Jews, especially those of modernizing inclinations. In the Hungarian portion of the Empire, most Jews (nearly all Neologs and even most of the Orthodox) adopted the Hungarian language, rather than Yiddish as their primary language and viewed themselves as "Hungarians of Jewish religion".

After the rise of Communism in post-World War II Hungary, the government forced Orthodox and Neolog organizations there into single organizational structure, albeit with a semi-autonomous Orthodox section. However, all three denominations (Orthodox, Neolog and Status Quo) have resumed their separate existences in the post-Communist period.

Seeing beautiful synagogues reminds me of R. Heschel's comment about Shabbat being a cathedral in time; the suggestion also being that for Jewish, the built beauty is not in the physical structures. I do not deny at all the beauty of such structures, or the beauty of such in cathedrals, mosques, etc - but in those religious spheres, there are different theologies, that have a different place for physical structures; cathedrals are "Tanach in physical space" for them. fine! Jewish has ONE in particular in mind, the Beit haMikdash. When Jews as a minority in diaspora put emphasis on beautiful places of worship *like their neighbors*, there is deemphasis on places of learning, places of service and Kosher relief resources - which have a bigger place in Jewish theology. They seem to forget how big non-Jews are in numbers, in unboundness is lifeway restrictions (no kosher/shabbat laws is the biggy), (Jews having no concept of a 'diocese' and Cath church structure of organization), and finances and sheer population that make up for the educational needs, social needs, etc., for the most part, they have no problem sending their kids to public schools, not living on top of each other to maintain community and eating only "their" food. They don't have the investment or need the emphasis on separate *places* of learning, etc, that a Jewish minority does. Also when big beautiful buildings are left behind in demographic shifts, it means new buildings must be built with the old buildings to own up to, or reorganizing of whole communities to accomodate. And then there's the pain of watching communities disintegrate and buildings go to others or go fallow, and then requiring money to maintain for no actual Jews ("We buy it, make it yet another Jewish museum!" But Jews ae living things - needing living places to live Judaism and all that costs money, no more museums to show 'what was'!). People get left with the false sense of nostalgia, and I think communities are often destroyed when this happens, and then there's no group to sustain or worry about the future of. Public religion plays nowhere near the role it did even a few decades ago, cath. parishes are closing left and right and identities are shifting as Cath ethnics intermarry and face flood of spanish-speaking caths raising language/cultural demands, obscures others (elderly). People move, buildings cannot and I think the investment people had made in a temporal building for them and their "children" - who move away - Jews are now in the aftermath of. There's a very expensive, and I mean SICK expensive Maghrebi sephardic synagogue I know of that is funded largely by wealthy old men who are dying off; there are not resources for a school, seems they were never interested in it or anything else to have a broader foundation for community - no, a synagogue with lots of plaques and indications of donation that these guys must think will be a legacy! - their grandkids will simply move, *just as they did* when the moved to the area. The building will be sold to be a megachurch in 20yrs I almost guarantee it, and the handful of affiliated families will have a small ethnic shabbat/yom tov enclave at best or simply assimilate to the ashkis all around them who DO have schools, etc. THEN I think there will actually form a community...

Beautiful!

Pierre- very insightful! Gorgeous museums with historical relevance but impractical in today's times, something that even the Catholic church has recognized. As our country continues to decline morally and money for the needy is siphoned off for things like defense, bank bailouts, and corruption, churches will have to expand their role in humanitarianism, not spend money on the building and maintenance of these mini-maesoleums.

On the one hand I fully agree that after the Beit Ha'mikdash was destroyed, we do not believe in sacred space as such; and on the other, I challenge you to daven kaballat shabbat in the Altneu Shul (completed 1270) in Prague and not be moved to the core.

Breathtaking!

I was in Hungary while they were renovating the Great Synagogue on Dohany Street in Budapest. Your picture brought back memories!

But, Harold, it's "reformed" :-)

I've seen some of the spectacular synagogues in Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Florence, and Liverpool.
They are indeed breathtaking, with amazing acoustics to envelope you in a total spiritual experience.
None of them allow tourists to take pictures inside, for obvious security reasons.
This Hungarian shul is indeed the most awe inspiring.

I visited the Satmar shul on Rodney Street (Williamsburg) years ago, and it was an amazing and inspirational sight to see and to daven in. I wonder if any photos of the interior are available. Sometimes the greatest shuls are right here in our own back yard!

But, Harold, it's "reformed" :-)

... for now :)

Jews now have their own country after nearly 2000 years of exile.
Shuls in the Diaspora should not be revived.
All Chabad houses in the Diaspora should be closed, and "moved" to Eretz Yisrael.

Many a 50 year old shtiblach in NY/NJ or even Ashland KY (I've seen photos of a long-gone Orth. congregation there), and even Hillel has seen plenty of inner-life movement of attendants - setting aside vacant, expensive buildings with plaques and stained glass that could just as well done the job. Did they host inspiration, or were they asked to inspire on their own?

Altneushul or no, no one is guaranteed "movements" ANYWHERE - without Him who Moves things [like my cellphone sometimes I think]. That holds for Judaisms as well as the buildings Judaisms have built and paid for. God Hallows, whether prison cells, garrets, or chateaus; mere history does not hallow halls, no matter how hoary and 'hallowed' by time. Beautiful old things and even beautiful old people can have seen a lot in their time - or seen a lot of nothing that ultimately matters to God or the fate of man. All old things deserve some measure of respect - but buildings are buildings, and we all agree the Beit haMikdash was the Beit haMikdash (regardless of where it's design comes from...). I helped make minyan for a hollywood writer who died alone, without children, and only a distant family plot and a few estranged family members to note his passing - none of whom were present. After determining what his Hebrew name was from nearby ancestors' stones, the rabbi suggested that people were made happy with movies/shows he did - and that that was something (though none of which came to anyone there's minds), we read the ritual and that was it.

@Pierre...what your cellphone did is called a buttcall. We all have it done.

@Pierre...What a wonderful essay. Yes that is a magnificent building. There is another one in NYC, that is also Reform. May not be your taste, but if there are Jewish communities to support them, who are we to judge.

I, on the other hand, have had the most wonderful experience over the past two Yom Tovim. Two years ago, being a member of a Reform congregation (long, boring story), I was looking for a place to go for the 2nd day of R.H. I found the place, 6th & I Historic Synagogue, in DC. The building had housed a, then Orthodox, congregation, Adas Israel, between 1912 and 1952. When the Synagogue moved "uptown" to a new building in the early fifties, it was sold to an AME Zion Church, which maintained and used it for the next half century. When the were moving, and were set to sell the building to a developer, who was going to turn it into a nightclub (the area has become very "hot"), three very disparate members of the Washington Jewish Community stepped in and bought the building. It was completely rehabbed, and turned into a focal point of the Jewish Community. There is no congregation, per se, but a variety of groups hold services on a regular basis. This year there were over two thousand Jews, the vast majority of them young, davening in four separate services, ranging from very Orthodox (BTW, what were the guys in the small black kippahs, wearing tsitsis, doing smoking at about noon on the 2nd day of RH?) to Traditional (i.e. Conservative, mostly in Hebrew) to explanatory, to young a "young professional" group.

If you want to talk about beautiful, you just need to climb inside my head when I realized that I was davening beside my daughter, who is the 5th generation of my family to spend the High Holidays in that building.

BTW, the following is their website:

http://www.sixthandi.org

Due to the ignorance of some Haredi Rabbis, the Goyim now have every right to burn these shul's down.

Can someone pass the marshmellows?

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