Prayers ring out again in historic Budapest synagogue

·2-min read

For rabbi Peter Deutsch, it was an emotional moment to lead the first official morning prayer service since the Holocaust in the reopened 150-year-old Rumbach Street synagogue in Budapest.

"The building has a big history and saw a lot of sadness. I can hardly believe that I am now able to continue the history," Deutsch told AFP at the renovated Moorish-style synagogue, which was built in 1872 by Viennese architect Otto Wagner.

"It is perfectly proportioned, surely one of the three most beautiful synagogues in Europe," said Deutsch, at 35 one of Hungary's youngest Orthodox rabbis.

A few blocks away from the Great Synagogue -- the world's largest Jewish house of worship outside New York -- the Rumbach Street synagogue lies at the edge of what was Budapest's Jewish ghetto during World War II in the city's seventh district.

An estimated 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished during the Holocaust.

Mostly killed by the Germans during their occupation of Hungary in 1944-1945, the decimated Jewish community that survived the war was not able to repair the synagogue, and it lay derelict after closing in the 1960s.

Deutsch said he hoped that the six-year, 9.2 million euro ($10.9 million) renovation, funded by the Hungarian government, will help support and revive the country's Jewish population, which estimated at around 100,000 is the largest in central Europe.

"We are starting gradually with prayer services twice a week and hope that will become even more regular," he told AFP.

The building welcomes worshippers from all branches of Judaism -- with a moveable "bimah" podium or altar -- as well as tourists.

Aiming to educate visitors about Jewish life, it also hosts a museum, office space and a kosher cafe and will host concerts and other events.

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