History of the Frankel Synagogue

Frankel synagogue

History of the Frankel Leo Street Synagogue

The synagogue was built in new gothic style. It was constructed by Sandor Fellner. Its inaguration took place on August 8th, 1888 at 8:00 AM. Originally, the synagogue was built in an open space and in 1928 it was surrounded by a seven storey apartment building serving the needs of the growing community. In the place of the synagogue a small praying house was standinf for over 100 years. The synagogue was empty and used as a stable during the Shoa.

Many excellent rabbis served in the Frankel Synagogue (used to call Zsigmond street Synagogue).
Dr. Bertalan Edelstein (1876-1934)
Dr. Pál Vidor (killed in the Holocaust)
Dr. Arnold Kiss (1869-1940)
Dr. Ödön Singer (1916 – 2002)

Present rabbi of the Frankel Synagogue

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Rabbi Dr. Tamás Verő was born in Budapest, in 1972 in a traditional Jewish family. He took very active part in rebuilding Jewish life iin Hungary after the end of the Communist era. Rabbi Verő was ordained by the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Budapest in 1999. Since then he serves the congregation of the Frankel Leo street Synagogue. During the last 15 years Rabbi Vero Has built up the most active and welcoming community in the city, He put special emphasis to attract,  involve and educate young families and children. Beside the congregational work Rabbi Vero is the rabbi of the Scheiber Sandor Jewish Elementary and Hig School and the city of Veszprém. He is the funder and organizer of the Budapest and the Internatibal March of the Living program. Regulary visiting and helping the work of the Balint Jewish Community Center, the Lauder-Javne School and the Benjamin kindergarten.  He was a madrich, unit head, coordinator, and today is the rabbi of the Lauder- Joint Jewish Summer Camp in Szarvas. Rabbi Vero, or as children call him, Tomi-rabbi is one of the mosty loved character of the Jewish Community of Budapest. His wife, Linda, is the writer of Bee Jewish Children’s Books and responsible for the children’s aducational programs.



History of Buda

In medieval times, Jews lived in Buda as merchants, shopkeepers and craftsmen. A Jewish community formed in the late 11th-early 12th century. A synagogue was built in 1307, but was destroyed a number of years later. The Jews were expelled in 1348 and again in 1360, but were allowed to return shortly afterward.

The Jewish community gained prominence in the late 14th and early 15th century. In 1446, wealthy Jews participated in the royal ceremonies of King Mattahias Corvinus. The King designated the head of the Jewish community in Buda as a spokesperson for the country’s entire Jewish population. A second synagogue was built in Buda in 1461 and survived for many years.

The situation for Jews took a turn for the worse in the 1490’s, their property was confiscated and loans to Jews were not paid. For the fifteen years before the Ottomanconquest of Buda, a period of unrest ensued.

The Ottoman victory against the Hungarians in 1526 led to a mass exodus of Jews to Western Hungary, others were deported to different areas in the Ottoman Empire. Two years later, Jews began resettling Buda once again. A period of tranquility for the Jewish community lasted until 1686. Jews were heavily taxed, yet their community continued to grow. Jews were active in commerce, finance and were tax collectors for the Treasury. There were Sephardi and Ashkenazi congregations, in this period. In 1660, the Jews population numbered 1,000 and was the largest in Hungary.

The Jews sided with the Turks during the Austrian reconquest in 1686, and only 500 Jews survived the Austrian siege; the Jewish quarter was ransacked and Torah scrolls were burned. Expulsions, violence and anti-Jewish legislation marked the Hapsburg’s rule. From 1686-1689, Jews were not allowed to live in Buda.

Jews began returning in 1689. In 1703, Buda was declared a free royal city and Jews were given protection from the royal family. In 1712, however, Jews were once again briefly expelled from Buda.

In 1715, Charles III told the Burghers (local middle class population) to stop violence against the Jews and a short period of peace ensued. The Emperor exempted some Jews from the restrictions placed against them, leading to resentment and attacks against Jewish homes in 1720. Charles III still tried to protect the Jews.

During the rule of Maria Theresa, conditions deteriorated for the Jews. She expelled the Jews from Buda in 1746. Her son’s (Joseph II) rule was marked by an improved situation for the Jews; he permitted Jews to reside in the city in 1783.

In the 1830’s, a Jewish elementary school opened and, in 1866, another synagogue was built. Buda became part of Budapest in 1873.

History of Obuda

Jews have been living in Obuda, „Old Buda,” since the 15th century. The community dissipated after the Ottoman conquest in 1526 and was not reestablished until 1712. The Jews were given protection from Count Peter Zichy, whose private estate encompassed Obuda. Jews were given a charter in 1746, in return for an annual protection tax. By 1784, 109 Jewish families lived in Obuda. The first secular Jewish school in the Hungary opened in Obuda in 1784. Obuda’s synagogue was destroyed in 1817 and a new one was built in 1820.

Jewish merchants and craftsmen thrived in Obuda. Jewish linen weavers and silversmiths were well known in the city. Obuda, was the only city in the Hapbsurg Empire where Jews were free to carry out certain trades.

History of Pest

Jews lived in Pest as early as 1407; a large community was documented in 1507. Records reveal Jews lived in Pest throughout the 16th century. After the Austrian conquest in 1686, Jews were prohibited from living in the city, or even spending a night there in an emergency. In the mid-18th century, they were allowed to come to the market held every week, which was attended by the whole country.

In 1783, Joseph II allowed Jews to settle in Pest. He enacted a special tax, the tolerance tax, which the Jews had to pay to the town. Restrictions were placed on the type of Jew who was allowed to resettle – only those living there before 1790 were allowed to settle permanently. These restrictions were repealed in 1840. Jewish commerce and trade grew and Jews began acquiring property and factories. Jews volunteered for the Hungarian Revolution in 1848 and the military stopped a mob attack against the Jewish quarter in April 1848. Jews also contributed financially to the revolution. The revolution was suppressed and the Jewish community had to pay a huge fine.

Pest’s first synagogue and burial plot were opened in 1787. Pest’s first Jewish school was opened in 1814, followed by a Jewish girl’s school in 1852 and a teacher’s college in 1859.

Budapest from 1873 to World War II

Max Nordau

This period was a time of prosperity for the Jewish community of Budapest. The community grew and played a major role in the development of the capital and the industrial boom in the country. The Hapsburgs recognized their achievements and 350 Jewish families were given the title of nobility. During this period, Theodor Herzl and Max Nordau were born in Pest.

A separate Orthodox community was established in 1871 and opened a school for boys in 1873. The Rabbinical seminary and a secondary school (gymnasium) were established in 1877. A second gymnasium opened in the fall of 1919 because of the rise of anti-Semitism.

A Jewish hospital and other welfare institutions were opened in 1841 and an Orthodox Jewish hospital was established in 1920. During this period many institutions were founded including the Hungarian Jewish Crafts and Agricultural Union, Pest Jewish Women’s club, two orphanages and an institute for the blind.

Jews in Budapest became active in the arts. One of the famous sculptors was Ede Telcs (1872-1948). He was known for his portrait busts and public monuments.

Following World War I, and before World War II, Budapest’s Jewish population reached its peak, despite problems of decreased birthrate and increased assimilation and conversion. Just under 45,000 Jews lived in Budapest in 1869, and by 1930, the figure was 204,371. Jewish community life was once again restricted during the early 1940’s. Before World War II, there were 125 synagogues in Budapest.

Budapest in World War II

In 1941, about 184,000 Jews lived in Budapest. Another 62,000 were considered Jews according to anti-Jewish laws in effect, so the total Jewish population was 246,000. At the beginning of the war Hungary sided with Germany and, consequently, was not occupied until March 1944.

Raoul Wallenberg

More than 15,000 Jews from Budapest were killed in labor camps and deportations before the German occupation. After the occupation, Adolf Eichmann started a Budapest Jewish council and denied freedom of movement within the city for Jews and forced them to wear a yellow badge. A Jewish ghetto was formed in June 1944; a month later, 200,000 Jews were moved to 2,000 homes. Plans were made to deport these Jews in July and August.

Meanwhile, the neutral states planned rescue actions for the Jews of Budapest. Raoul Wallenberg came to Budapest as secretary of the Swedish Foreign Ministry in July 1944 with instructions to save as many Jews as possible. He issued thousands of Swedish identity documents to Jews to protect them from Nazi deportation and is credited with ultimately saving as many as 100,000 people. He worked with the Swiss consul Charles Lutz, as well as Portuguese and Spanish legations to create „protected” houses and a „protected” ghetto to house the Jews with international identity papers. Wallenberg was last seen leaving the city on January 17, 1945, right after the Soviet army liberated the city.

During the German occupation, the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross Party came to power and carried out violent attacks against the Jews. They were shot and thrown into the Danube River. Tens of thousands of Jews died on death marches from Budapest to Austria. By the end of December 1944, 70,000 Jews lived in the central ghetto in Budapest and tens of thousands in the international ghetto or protected houses. The Hungarian government ceased to recognize international safe-conduct passes in January 1945. The Arrow Cross searched for Jews across the city and murdered them.

The international ghetto was liberated by the Soviets on January 16, 1945, and the central ghetto two days later. About 94,000 Jews remained in the two ghettos at the time of liberation. Another 20,000 came out of hiding from the city, and another 20,000 returned from labor camps and labor service detachments. Nearly fifty percent of Budapest’s Jewish population died during the Holocaust.