BUDAPEST (Jan. 21)
A visit last week by Ohio Jews to Szeged, Hungary, marked the first time a Toledo Jewish group has come to see its sister city.
“We visited Szeged with open minds and open eyes,” said Joel Beren, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo. “Until last year, we didn’t even know there was a Jewish community in Szeged.”
About 400 mostly elderly Jews live in Szeged. The city is home to one of the largest and most beautiful synagogues in Central Europe. It was built in 1903, when the community was prosperous and had thousands of members.
The 19 Toledo Jews visited the synagogue, met with Szeged Jewish leaders and visited community facilities sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, including a home for the elderly and a kosher lunchroom.
They also met with Szeged’s mayor and other city officials, to whom they brought letters of greeting from Toledo’s mayor.
“Before World War II, the Szeged community was 6,000 strong — identical to the Jewish population of Toledo,” said Judah Segal of the Toledo United Jewish Appeal.
“What we saw in Szeged brought home to me what it could be like in Toledo if our community had been wiped out [in the Holocaust] and we were left just with a synagogue, a nursing home and a few people,” he said.
Still, he said, “it was heart-warming to see the people. They were so friendly to us. Both we and they felt a warm connection — it was like meeting our own family.”
Beren said the Toledo group wanted to keep in touch with the Jews in its sister city.
“They are grasping at any connection with the outside world,” he said. “I think we will maintain a relationship and try to do something for them, although we as a community do not have the means to address all their problems.”