In Budapest, a vast array of exciting Jewish options


A Hungarian folk singer performs at the open house for Budapest’s Balint Haz community center. (Alex Weisler)

In Budapest, the (Kiddush) cup runneth over.

I’m used to cities that have one marquee event a year, where Jewish culture is something distinct and separate from a city’s soul.

Not so in Budapest. Here, the Jewish Quarter is the place to be — full of hip bars, interesting restaurants and quirky boutiques. It’s the fast-paced heart of a city where I haven’t found a boring neighborhood yet.

In fact, there’s so much going on that for the first time this trip, I’ve found myself having to say "no" — or at least having to cut out early or arrive late to balance all the opportunities thrown my way.
This morning, an enlightening interview with Boruch Oberlander, the chief Chabad rabbi here, meant saying no to an invitation to tag along on another synagogue’s charity visit to a Jewish hospital.

On Sunday, attending the open house of the Balint Haz, Budapest’s Jewish community center, meant that I missed the Shofar Flash Mob at Deak Square — a sort of impromptu shofar blowing that took place not just here, but in about a dozen cities all over the world.

And on Saturday night, I had to duck out of the Hanoar Hatzioni season-opening bash to attend the Budapest Jewish community’s celebration of Hungary’s World Heritage Days, which manifested itself in synagogue open houses, free admission to museums and a Balkan-style concert.

I’m not upset that I’ve had to make hard choices — I’m thrilled. Budapest is a phenomenally exciting city to be young in — and a fantastic place to be Jewish as well.

I’m starting to have a handle on how things work here, and I can’t wait to explore Budapest’s rich Judaism even further.

This is a city of about 100,000 Jews, a city whose Judaism is proud and out in the open.

Frankly, it’s refreshing. Stay tuned for the next three weeks.

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