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Update from Eastern Europe - Days 4 & 5

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

Shavuah tov from Eastern Europe.

Our itinerary this past Friday included major religious sites in the city of Budapest. We visited the cathedral of Saint Stephens, located on the western side of the city, and then we visited to synagogues on the eastern side, one being the very famous Donany orthodox synagogue, the other being Beit Orim (house of lights) synagogue, liberal congregation, where we worshipped on Friday evening.

The Dohany synagogue is more of a museum than a synagogue, though there is a worship group that meets regularly for prayer. The building is beautiful, located in a fashionable part of town, and attracts visitors from around the world.

The Beit Orim congregation is an active thought dying congregation connected to the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The congregation meets on Friday evenings and most Saturday mornings for worship and Torah study, and uses the building of the local Jewish community center. Our group was warmly welcomed into this congregation on Friday evening, and Rabbi Raj (pronounced ‘roy’) invited me to offer a few impromptu words to his congregation. The service lasted about one hour and 15 minutes long, and we enjoyed a beautiful and festive Oneg Shabbat afterwards.

Because of the political squabbles between the different parts of the local Jewish community, this congregation is dying and may not survive another year. The Orthodox community receives most if not all government funding for religious institutions, and, as the way things go, does not share much with the progressive community. At some point I will speak about this issue. But suffice to say that this is a fractured Jewish community.

Saturday, We drove to the city of Kraków, Poland, to prepare ourselves to meet members of the Jewish community there, tour the concentration camp complex of Auschwitz and Birkenau, and continued to learn more about the Jewish experience in Poland and eastern Europe.

July 22, 2019 19 Tammuz 5779