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Update from Eastern Europe - Day 3 - Budapest

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

Shoes. Seventy-two pairs of bronzed shoes on the shore of the Danube River in Budapest.

And this is how many of the Jews, numbering between 2500 and 10000, were murdered by the Nazis in 1944 and 1945 before the end of the war. They were brought to the river, told to remove their shoes, and then were summarily shot and their bodies pushed into the flowing water.

This stunning memorial, dedicated in 2005, is one way that the Hungarian government is trying to properly remember and venerate the victims of the Holocaust who were killed at this spot. Primarily but not entirely Jews, the victims had no opportunity for defense, no opportunity for trials for evaluation. They simply died because they were Jews.

Thus began our stay in Budapest, Hungary. Today, in a constant drizzle, we toured the city seeing many of the sites that distinguishes this place following the fall of communism: a former secret police building turned into a hotel, former Soviet offices turned into apartments and museum spaces, and a burgeoning recognition of the role of Hungary in the Holocaust.

Such recognition spreads among the people. In fact, this evening, during dinner, a pianist in the restaurant where we dined played a selection of Jewish tunes. Now, it is likely that such a concert was offered because they knew that there were 19 Jews dining there. Be that as it may, there are many recognitions of the Jewish presence in this city around, and on Friday, we hope to visit the famous Dohany Synagogue, the largest synagogue building in the European continent. it is quite the tourist spot and destination. We will also learn more about Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved an estimated 120,000 Hungarian Jews.

We will also visit a liberal Jewish synagogue for Shabbat evening services, followed by a meal with one or more of its members. We will be fortunate to learn about the various controversies regarding both hungary's president orban and the internal disputes among members of the Jewish community of Hungary.

Stay tuned for more. We are thinking of you as we travel through Eastern Europe.

May 25, 2019 20 Iyar 5779