“Charasho-charasho, life is good!” The newest synagogue in Budapest, Pesti Stibel, has opened 

A Neokohn munkatársa

The Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities (EMIH) opened its latest synagogue with a huge folk festival on Friday afternoon in the 6th district at Vörösmarty Street 55, where religious life will resume after almost 40 years. We attended the inauguration of Pesti Stibel.

The first event in the EMIH Synagogue Week series, which runs from August 27 to September 5, began Friday afternoon with the last letters of a Torah scroll being recorded in a ceremony at a hotel on Teréz Boulevard.

Foreigners and Hungarians alike gathered for the event, which included dancing and singing.

The elderly and the young, men and women, watched as Rabbi Shlomo Köves worked diligently at the table in the middle of the room to prepare the Torah. Several people helped Köves in his task, while he asked Dániel Bodnár, president of Milton Friedman University, to perform the honor of writing the last letter. 

The Torah is almost done… Shlomo Köves and Smuel Oirechman

The crowd then continued their journey by dancing and jumping down Szondi Street, which was closed to traffic, with continuous singing, evoking the atmosphere of a street carnival. The journey of a few hundred meters to the old-new synagogue at 55 Vörösmarty Street was secured by police in front of the marchers. The traffic of Nagy Boulevard in Pest did not stop, but

many passers-by stopped in the surrounding streets to photograph the celebrating Jews, something not seen every day. 

Participants in the “Stibel Dance,” choreographed to the song “Slava Bogu Charasho” (“Charasho-charasho, life is good!”) by Benny Friedman, an American Hasidic pop singer, presented probably one of the happiest performances of the year in front of the country and the world.  Hundreds of hands clapped in the sixth district for the “Charasho-charasho, life is good!” chorus. With this momentum, the celebrants arrived at the site where Jews last gathered nearly 40 years ago for Sabbath. 

Smuel Oirechman

In the mid-1980s, the declining religious community literally pulled down its blinds. In the absence of interest and faith, the synagogue of the Orthodox closed its doors. And this might have remained the case had Róbert Deutsch, elected earlier this year as leader of the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community (MAOIH), not visited EMIH.

Four months ago, the new leader of MAOIH, which takes care of Kazinczy Street Synagogue, asked the Shlomo Köves what they could do about the deteriorated building. 

There could have been no other idea for the leading rabbi of EMIH than to put life back into the Vörösmarty Street Synagogue and create a new community. After Bálint Nógrádi, an EMIH employee, put the mezuzah on the entrance door, the official parties spoke about this history in front of the celebrating attendees in the synagogue.

The series of greeting and inaugural speeches in Hebrew and Hungarian was started by Shlomo Köves. The rabbi, after blowing the sofar at the entrance, quoted the words of the prophet Ezekiel, assuring those present that „they will do their best to bring the dry bones to life again.” Köves highlighted that 

their crowd marching through the streets of the capital without fear or shame, as proud Jews, sets an example for others. 

Róbert Deutsch, Alex Clare, Shlomo Köves

The fact that EMIH has opened five synagogues in the last five years is just the beginning, because we want to open 50 synagogues in the next 10 years.

— said the rabbi, after whom Róbert Deutsch spoke to those gathered. The head of MAOIH mentioned optimistically that, contrary to some voices, “he does not feel that his organization has handed over the synagogue to the competing EMIH” because he thinks it is beneficial for everyone and inspiring for them as well to have a synagogue in Hungary. 

After the leaders, a special guest was given a chance to speak. Amnon Frankl was born in Israel but has lived in Pest for many years and is the great-grandson of Jicchák Slomó Zálmán Günsberger, the most influential spiritual leader in the more than 100-year history of the house of prayer. Frankl recalled with great reverence the humbleTalmudic rabbi, who lived strictly per the rules of his religion, and who served here for 40 years, until 1947. He then made aliyah with his family to Israel, where Amnon Frankl was born. 

“I am happy to be here, and I hope a thriving and populous community can take shape here as soon as possible. Although I will attend ZSILIP in the 13th District, as I live there, I will try to check in here from time to time,” said Frankl, who at the start of the renovation, which began a few months ago, found the synagogue in such a state as if the congregation had not left 40 years ago, but just the day before. 

The final speech was held by Smuel Oirechman, who, as the religious leader of the area surrounding the synagogue, will be responsible for life at 55 Vörösmarty Street. The young man, who is also the head of the Csengele kosher slaughterhouse and is known as a dedicated business person, began his greeting in Hungarian with unusual sensitivity, which may have been because his father was unable to travel here from Israel for this special day; it was to his father that Smuel offered his first blessing. 

In his speech, Oirechman called it fitting that when he first visited the synagogue barely half a year ago, he found a Jewish newspaper from the year he was born, 1983. As he said,

his synagogue was named Stibel because, per its meaning in Yiddish, he wants to run a small, intimate synagogue, which they want to make a cheerful, friendly home for young and old alike. 

He spoke proudly and gratefully to his audience, and at the end of his remarks announced that he would take the gilded key he had received as a gift from the builder of the house of prayer to the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, indicating the official opening of Pesti Stibel to everyone that day. The evening’s festive prayer and greeting of the Sabbath were closed by a prayer song by world-renowned British-Israeli singer Alex Clare, who also performed at the Sólet Festival on Sunday.

EMIH also opened a new synagogue on Sunday afternoon in Újbuda, at Bocskai út 37, under Rabbi Isaac Stell; and on September 5, in Újlipótváros, ZSILIP will be inaugurated in Újpest rkp. 1, under the leadership of Rabbi Sámuel Glitzenstein. 

Alex Clare, Nissim Black to perform at EMIH’s Synagogue Week  – Neokohn