Budapest cultural center unlocks local Jewish history


(JTA) — Jews in Budapest attended an event inaugurating a museum and research center in a historic Jewish district.

Among those visiting the building earlier this month were the mayor of the 7th district, known as Elizabethtown.

The mayor participated in a candle-lighting ceremony for Hanukkah, which was led by Shlomo Köves, the rabbi of the Chabad-affiliated United Hungarian Israelite Community, or EMIH.

The new building is designed as a model home of a Jewish family in the 19th century. It is slated to be turned into a museum, pending permission from state authorities. For now the center will house temporary exhibitions on the ground level. Not all of its rooms currently are in use.

The building was renovated over several years by the municipality, which still owns the building. There are many similar buildings in the 7th district which currently remain unrestored.

The building also will feature a library and research area dedicated to studying the history of the local Jews, and for collecting, cataloging and evaluating original documents. The building’s interior yard, which is roofed, will host conferences, presentations and other cultural events. The space also includes plans for a museum with programming for schoolchildren of all ages.

It is the first and only place in Budapest where one can see traces of the assimilated local Jewish population as it existed in the 19th and 20th centuries, before the Holocaust.  Outwardly secular, Jews of the capital, including scientists, artists and businesspeople, were not separated and not closed into ghettos, but rather lived the life of modern citizens. Jews were among the driving forces in the development of the Hungarian middle class, before Hungarian nationalists began to institute anti-Jewish policies in the years after World War I.

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