March 8, 2008

Jewish Budapest

Mom and I visited the second largest synagogue in the world located here in Budapest (the world's largest is in NYC). It is an amazing building with many Christian and Muslim influences in its architecture. The guide told us that this was both an homage to the history of Budapest Jews and also reflected their interest in blending with greater Hungarian society.

There are two synagogues as well as a giant courtyard that has several holocaust memorials. One memorial was paid for by Estee Lauder whose family has Jewish Hungarian roots. The other was paid for in part by the actor Tony Curtis who also traces his Jewish family back to Hungary.

It is on the edge of the Ghetto that the Nazis created to contain the Jews from 1944-45. As you walk around the neighborhood it still feels, looks, behaves like a ghetto. The buildings are in shambles, there is very little commerce and the few shops that are open the Jewish owners behave a bit like they are in hiding. An unexpected building deep inside the area was PricewaterhouseCoopers Corporate offices. Must be cheap real estate for the picking.