BUDAPEST (JTA) – A ceremony marking the 150th anniversary of Eurasia’s largest synagogue paid homage to Budapest’s Jewish community.
Civic and religious dignitaries representing major segments of Hungarian society attended Sunday’s ceremony celebrating the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the Great Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest in Eurasia with a seating capacity of 2,840.
The ceremony marked the start of a yearlong program of cultural events celebrating the synagogue, including a major exhibition of the history of building. The National Bank of Hungary has issued a commemorative coin.
The building’s Moorish structure, in the style of ancient North Africa and Spain, served during the Holocaust as the community center of the Budapest ghetto, where some 17,000 people died of hunger, disease and murder. Today it is a symbol of Jewish revival throughout Eastern Europe.
“The synagogue has never ceased to serve the Jewish community despite the events of two world wars,” Hungarian Chief Rabbi Robert Frolich declared at the ceremony.
Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said the consistent contribution of the Jews has hugely enriched and strengthened Hungarian society. He expressed regret over the need to station policemen permanently before the building to protect it from attack.
Hungary must "quarantine" the political ideas of neo-Nazism and "socially isolate" its advocates who would like to bring back the horrors of the Holocaust today, Bajnai said.
Others attending the ceremony included Aliza Bin-Noun, the Israeli ambassador to Hungary, as well as a former Hungarian prime minister, prominent parliamentarians, and leaders of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and major Christian churches.