The historical Silk Road, stretching from Italy to China, has seen renewed interest in recent years. A new project aims to trace Jewish culture and history along the famous trade network, from Venice to Izmir and on to Uzbekistan, India and China.
The historical Silk Road, stretching from Italy to China, has seen renewed interest in recent years. A new project aims to trace Jewish culture and history along the famous trade network, from Venice to Izmir and on to Uzbekistan, India and China.
Introduction to Jewish Budapest [caption id="attachment_52145" align="alignnone" width="914"] City of Budapest- Photo by Jorge Franganillo from Barcelona, Spain, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] Budapest, the vibrant capital of Hungary, is home to a range of fascinating cultural heritage sites associated with its important Jewish history. As one of Europe’s greatest cities, Jewish Budapest preserves a remarkable record of Jewish life over several centuries: from the prosperous medieval communities that lived here during the Middle Ages to their modern-day counterparts. The Hungarian Jewish community was one of the largest in Europe prior to World War II; however, unfortunate events during the Holocaust decimated its numbers and drastically changed the shape of Jewish life in Budapest. Despite this, Hungary remains an important center for Jewish culture, and visitors can find plenty of sites related to its past and present significance. From ancient synagogues and cemeteries to modern memorials, Hungary’s Jewish history is always present in Budapest. Jewish Culture and History in Budapest Early Jewish Life in Budapest Jewish presence in Budapest dates back to the Roman times, but the Jewish community as we know it today began to form during the Middle Ages. The Jews settled in Buda and Pest, which eventually merged to become Budapest in the 19th century. Life for early Jews in Budapest was marked by a blend of rich cultural traditions and occasional challenges. They established synagogues, schools, and vibrant neighborhoods, contributing significantly to the city's diverse cultural fabric. However, discrimination and periodic persecution were not uncommon, especially during times of political upheaval. Despite these difficulties, the Jewish Budapest community persisted and thrived over the centuries, producing notable scholars, artists, and entrepreneurs. The 19th and early 20th centuries saw a period of increased integration and prominence for Budapest's Jewish population, until the dark days of World War II, when the Holocaust tragically decimated their numbers. Nevertheless, the resilient Jewish community continues to play a vital role in the cultural and social life of Budapest to this day. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Jews in Budapest had a wide range of occupations, from craftsmen and merchants to scholars and scientists. They were an integral part of the city’s social fabric and made significant contributions to its political, economic, and cultural life. Jews played important roles in business as well as medicine, education, literature, music, and the arts. As entrepreneurs, scholars, and professionals they were highly respected in society and made a lasting impact on Budapest’s development. Recent and Contemporary Jewish Life in Budapest Before World War II, Budapest was home to around 200,000 Jews and served as the hub of Hungarian Jewish culture. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, it became a refuge for Jewish refugees, including those from Germany, Austria, and Slovakia. Despite Hungary's alliance with Nazi Germany, the Jewish community in Budapest felt relatively secure until the German occupation in March 1944. The occupation led to severe restrictions on Jewish life, confiscation of Jewish homes, and internment in transit camps. Between April and July 1944, Jews from Hungarian provinces were deported, leaving Budapest as the last major Jewish population in Hungary. In June 1944, Hungarian authorities ordered Jews into marked buildings throughout the city, sparing them temporarily from deportation. Raoul Wallenberg and other diplomats aided Jews with false papers and safe houses. In October 1944, the Arrow Cross party's coup put Budapest's Jews in peril again, resulting in a reign of terror, forced labor, and a devastating death march. The Arrow Cross then confined the remaining Jews in Budapest to a closed ghetto, where thousands were executed along the Danube. Soviet forces liberated Budapest in February 1945, with over 100,000 Jews still in the city at that time. The life of Jews living in Budapest, Hungary today is characterized by a diverse range of experiences. Budapest has a small but vibrant Jewish community that actively participates in cultural, religious, and social activities. While anti-Semitism has not been eradicated entirely, Hungary has made efforts to combat it, and Jews in Budapest continue to enjoy the freedom to practice their faith and celebrate their cultural heritage. The city is home to several synagogues, including the magnificent Dohany Street Synagogue, which is one of the largest in Europe. Additionally, Budapest hosts Jewish cultural festivals, events, and museums that showcase the rich history and contributions of the Jewish community. Like other urban centers, the daily life of Jews in Budapest is shaped by the broader societal context, but they contribute to the city's cultural mosaic and maintain a resilient and vibrant presence in the Hungarian capital. Iconic Attractions and Events in Budapest The Jewish Quarter in Budapest The Jewish Quarter in Budapest, often referred to as the "Jewish Quarter District" or "Erzsébetváros," is a historically significant and culturally rich neighborhood located in the heart of the city. This district bears witness to Hungary's Jewish heritage and is home to a thriving Jewish community. One of its most iconic landmarks is the Dohany Street Synagogue, a magnificent and historically significant place of worship. The Jewish Quarter is renowned for its bustling atmosphere, with lively streets, eclectic cafes, and vibrant street art that gives it a unique character. Visitors and residents alike can explore Jewish heritage sites, including museums and memorials, that tell the story of Jewish Budapest's history and its resilience in the face of adversity, particularly during World War II. Today, the Jewish Quarter continues to be a hub of cultural and religious activities, as well as a center for celebrating Jewish traditions, making it a significant and dynamic part of Budapest's identity. The Dohany Street Synagogue [caption id="attachment_52146" align="alignnone" width="915"] Dohany Steet Synagogue- Photo by Alexey Elfimov, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] The Dohany Street Synagogue, located in Budapest's Jewish Quarter, is a magnificent and historically significant landmark often referred to as the "Great Synagogue" or "Tabakgasse Synagogue." Built in the mid-19th century, it is one of the largest synagogues in Europe and a prominent symbol of Hungary's Jewish heritage. This architectural masterpiece combines various styles, including Moorish and Byzantine elements, creating a stunning and unique design. The synagogue also houses the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives, which provides valuable insights into the history and culture of Hungarian Jewry. Tragically, during World War II, the synagogue served as a temporary shelter for Jewish families targeted by the Holocaust. Today, the Dohany Street Synagogue stands as a symbol of resilience and a place of worship, cultural events, and remembrance, attracting visitors from around the world who come to appreciate its grandeur and pay tribute to Hungary's Jewish community. Shoes on the Danube Bank [caption id="attachment_52147" align="alignnone" width="913"] Shoes on the Danube Bank- Photo by kallerna, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial to the victims of fascism in Budapest. Located along the banks of the Danube, it is composed of 60 pairs of iron shoes that represent individuals who were ordered to remove their shoes before they were shot by Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. This poignant and powerful memorial serves as a reminder of Hungary's dark history and honors the victims of fascism whose lives were taken in Budapest. It is a somber yet beautiful tribute to those who suffered, and has become an iconic landmark in Budapest. The memorial also serves as a reminder that such incomprehensible acts of violence must never be repeated. To this day, Shoes on the Danube Bank continues to be a place of reflection, mourning and remembrance for all those who perished in Budapest during the Holocaust. Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives [caption id="attachment_52148" align="alignleft" width="2048"] Hungarian Jewish Museum permanent exhibition- Photo by Doron Photography, Komáromi Annamari assistant[/caption] The Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives, nestled in the heart of Budapest's Historical Jewish Quarter and housed within the Dohany Street Synagogue complex, is a vital institution that holds a rich tapestry of Hungarian Jewish heritage. Established with the goal of celebrating the historic significance of the Jewish faith in Hungary, the museum has undergone transformations over the years. Today, it stands as a testament to resilience and cultural preservation. This museum showcases a diverse collection of Judaica, artifacts, and archives, notably housing one of Europe's most extensive Jewish community archives. Among its treasures are an exquisite 1602 copper Rimonim, showcasing Ottoman-Turkish craftsmanship, and a centuries-old gravestone from the Roman Empire era, serving as a poignant reminder of Hungary's enduring Jewish legacy. Beyond preserving history, the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives actively engages visitors and researchers, offering a window into the rich and vibrant tapestry of Hungarian Jewish culture and history. Popular Budapest Jewish Cultural Festival The Jewish Cultural Festival is centered around the largest synagogue in Europe, situated in a city with a profound European Jewish heritage. Throughout the entire week, attendees have the opportunity to savor a variety of Jewish music performances, encompassing klezmer, string quartets, fusion jazz, cabaret, and pipe organ music. These musical events take place at the Great Synagogue on Dohány Street, the second-largest synagogue globally, as well as at the Rumbach Street Synagogue. Alternatively, one can occupy the seats once frequented by their ancestors at the historic Goldmark Hall, which served as the epicenter of Jewish cultural life both before and after World War II. Remarkably, during the war itself, the hall was consistently filled every night, as it remained the sole venue where Jews were allowed to enjoy opera and theater performances. Iconic Personalities of Budapest Theodor Herzl [caption id="attachment_52149" align="alignnone" width="512"] Theodor Herzi- Photo by unknown derivative work: Alberto Fernandez Fernandez, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] Theodor Herzl was born in Jewish Budapest, Hungary in 1860 and was a vital figure in the establishment of modern political Zionism. He was a journalist and playwright who wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), setting out his vision for a safe homeland for Jews around the world. His 1896 Zion Congress held in Basel, Switzerland marked the start of organized Jewish nationalism. Herzl died in 1904 in Edlach, Austria, and was buried at the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel. His life and legacy continue to be celebrated today as an example of dedication to a cause and a leader for Jews around the world. He is seen as having laid the foundation for the creation of Israel and his vision of a Jewish homeland remains an inspiration to many. Vilmos Vázsonyi [caption id="attachment_52150" align="alignnone" width="516"] Vilmos Vázsonyi- Photo by Mór Erdélyi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] Vilmos Vázsonyi was born in Jewish Budapest, Hungary in 1908 and is known as one of the most influential figures of Hungarian Jewish life. He served as President of the Union of Jewish Congregations from 1954 to 1988. During his tenure, he played a major role in rebuilding and revitalizing Jewish institutions throughout Hungary. He also became a leader in interfaith dialogue, helping to foster understanding and cooperation between different faiths. Vázsonyi died in 1999 in Budapest and was buried at the Kerepesi Cemetery. His legacy is remembered as a champion of Jewish life in Hungary who dedicated his life to rebuilding Jewish culture within the country. Summary of Budapest’s Jewish Story The story of Jewish Budapest is one that spans over centuries. From the iconic Dohany Street Synagogue to the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives, it is clear that this city was an integral part of Europe's Jewish cultural heritage before and during World War II. The history of Jewish Budapest is celebrated today through ongoing cultural events such as the popular Jewish Summer Festival, showcasing the many facets of Hungary's Jewish identity. Furthermore, prominent figures such as Theodor Herzl and Vilmos Vázsonyi are celebrated for their contributions to the cause of a safe homeland for Jews around the world. Jewish Budapest remains a testament to resilience and cultural preservation in times of sorrow and hardship, providing visitors with an opportunity to pay tribute to its Jewish community and to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of the city. As such, it is no surprise that Jewish Budapest is affectionately known as the 'Heartbeat of Jewish Hungary'. Enduringly captivating, Budapest is a place where history, culture, and resilience come together in a truly unique way. It is an experience not to be missed!
Israel on the River, Strelecky Island The Israel on the River event is a vibrant cultural festival that takes place annually in Prague along the banks of the Vltava River. Celebrating Israeli heritage and culture, this event is a splendid blend of music, art, traditional food, and engaging activities. The festival aims to promote cultural exchange and appreciation, fostering a sense of unity and mutual respect among diverse communities. Israel on the River provides a platform for individuals interested in learning about and experiencing the rich culture and traditions of Israel, making it a must-visit event for those seeking cultural immersion. Join Prague's Jewish community in celebrating Israeli cuisine and culture by the Vltava River on Strelecky Island! Entry is free and dogs are welcome. For more information and the full program, visit the event's official site.
Introduction to Jewish Mumbai Mumbai is a bustling metropolis with a rich and diverse history, including the contributions of its Jewish community. Jews first settled in Mumbai over 500 years ago, and today there are still many sites of religious and cultural importance to visit. From exploring the Jewish Quarter to learning about famous figures who lived or died in the city, there is much to discover on a journey through Jewish Mumbai. Join us as we explore this vibrant culture, uncovering centuries-old stories that have shaped this remarkable city. [caption id="attachment_52121" align="alignleft" width="1920"] Mumbai City- Photo from iStock by paulprescott72[/caption] Jewish Culture and History in Mumbai Early Jewish Life in Mumbai Jews have been living in Mumbai for over 500 years, though the earliest evidence of Jewish presence dates back to the early 16th century. During this time, Jews were welcomed by the Portuguese rulers of Bombay and granted special privileges that allowed them to practice their religion freely. Life for Jews was relatively peaceful during this period, with many settling into trade and commerce as well as other professions such as medicine. The city's growing wealth also enabled more affluent members of the community to build synagogues and even a cemetery. In later centuries, more waves of Jewish immigrants would arrive in Mumbai from countries like Iraq and Yemen, adding further richness to its vibrant culture. [caption id="attachment_52063" align="alignnone" width="912"] Jewish Encyclopedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] Jews have been an integral part of Mumbai's history for centuries, and their contributions to the city are wide-ranging. Over the years, Jews in Mumbai have taken on a variety of occupations including trade and commerce, medicine, banking, law and other professions. Many Jewish immigrants also had a hand in developing the modern cityscape with their involvement in construction projects such as building roads and bridges. Through these activities, they helped shape not only the economy but also the culture of Mumbai by bringing different perspectives from around the world. Recent and Contemporary Life in Jewish Mumbai Today, Jewish life in Mumbai is vibrant and diverse. While the community has shrunk to around 4,000 people since its peak of over 20,000 in 1948, it still remains an integral part of the city's culture and history. The majority of Jews living in Mumbai today are Bene Israel—the descendants of Jews who arrived from Iraq and Yemen centuries ago—though there are also members from other communities such as Baghdadi Jews and Cochin Jews. As well as being active members of their local synagogues, many Jewish families have become involved in business ventures throughout the city such as real estate development or hospitality services. Iconic Attractions and Events in Mumbai The Jewish Quarter in Mumbai The Jewish quarter of Mumbai, also known as the Judah Hyam Synagogue district, is a small but significant neighborhood located in the heart of the bustling city. The area is home to one of the oldest and most historically significant synagogues in India, the Magen David Synagogue, which was built in 1864. The neighborhood also houses several Jewish institutions and landmarks, including the Knesset Eliyahu Synagogue, the Sassoon Hospital, and the David Sassoon Library. The Jewish community in Mumbai has a rich and diverse history, dating back to the 18th century when Jewish traders first arrived in the city. Today, the Jewish quarter continues to be an important cultural hub, where visitors can learn about the community's unique traditions, cuisine, and way of life. Knesset Eliyahu The Knesset Eliyahu stands as an Orthodox Jewish synagogue situated in the heart of Mumbai's downtown area. Remarkably, it holds the distinction of being the city's second-oldest Sephardic synagogue. Its establishment in the year 1884 is credited to Jacob Elias Sassoon, the son of Eliyahu David Sassoon and the grandson of David Sassoon. David Sassoon had sought refuge in India in 1832, fleeing persecution in Baghdad, and settled in Mumbai, which was then known as Bombay. The synagogue's preservation and upkeep are overseen by the Jacob Sassoon Trust. This architectural gem holds immense significance, drawing from its Jewish traditions and bearing the influence of both Indian and English colonial elements. [caption id="attachment_52064" align="alignnone" width="976"] Photo Attribution: World Monuments Fund[/caption] Gate of Mercy Synagogue The Gate of Mercy Synagogue, also known as Shaar Harahamim and Juni Masjid, holds the distinction of being Jewish Mumbai's oldest synagogue, with its origins dating back to 1796. Samuel Ezekiel, also known as Samaji Hasaji Divekar, a member of the Bene Israeli community, was the visionary behind its construction, initially near CSMT in South Mumbai. Subsequently, in 1860, the synagogue underwent a reconstruction and was relocated to its current position in Mandvi. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this vicinity was home to a small yet thriving Jewish population. Despite a decline in its congregational numbers over time, the synagogue remains active, hosting services such as the 6 AM prayer. It continues to serve a dedicated congregation of approximately one hundred members daily. Moreover, the synagogue holds a prominent place on heritage and religious tours within the city, allowing visitors to delve into its rich history and cultural significance. Hanukkah Jewish Festival of Lights Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, holds a special place in the vibrant cultural tapestry of Mumbai, India. In this bustling metropolis, home to a diverse Jewish community, Hanukkah is celebrated with enthusiasm and warmth. The Festival of Lights, which typically falls in December, is a time when the community in Jewish Mumbai comes together to commemorate the miraculous story of the oil that burned for eight days. The lighting of the menorah, a central tradition of Hanukkah, illuminates homes and synagogues across the city, symbolizing hope, faith, and the triumph of light over darkness. Delicious traditional dishes, such as latkes and sufganiyot, are savored by families and friends who gather to share in the joy of the festival. Amidst the bustling streets of Mumbai, the celebration of Hanukkah serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of unity, faith, and cultural richness that defines this remarkable city. Iconic Personalities of Mumbai Dr. Elijah Moses Rajpurker Elijah Moses Rajpurker, a prominent figure in Jewish Mumbai's Bene Israel community, was a medical doctor and public health advocate who made significant contributions to both healthcare and civic life. He gained recognition for his compassionate treatment of bubonic plague sufferers during an epidemic that afflicted millions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a municipal councilor and later as Bombay's mayor in 1937-1938, he played a vital role in establishing cemeteries, crematoriums, and institutions like the King George V Memorial Infirmary, providing medical care and shelter to the less fortunate. His election as mayor marked the growing professionalization and prominence of the Bene Israel community and underscored their acceptance within wider Indian society. His legacy endures through institutions on Dr. E. Moses Road, named in his honor, and his role as a respected communal leader of Jewish Mumbai. [caption id="attachment_52061" align="alignnone" width="367"] מאת דפוס בומביי - בומביי גאזט, רשות הציבור, https://he.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1400380[/caption] Ruby Myers More widely recognized under her stage name Sulochana, she was an Indian silent film actress with Jewish heritage, originating from the Baghdadi Jewish community in India. During her peak years, she stood as one of the most highly compensated actresses of her era, often appearing alongside Dinshaw Bilimoria in films produced by Imperial Studios. In the mid-1930s, she ventured into film production by establishing Rubi Pics. Myers received the prestigious 1973 Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest accolade in Indian cinema for lifetime achievement. She also adopted a daughter, Sarah Myers, who later became Vijaylaxmi Shreshtha after marriage. Myers passed away in Mumbai in 1983. [caption id="attachment_52062" align="alignnone" width="490"] See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] Summary of Mumbai's Jewish Story Mumbai's Jewish history is vast and complex, spanning centuries of migration, cultural growth, and resilience. From the early days of trading and settlement to modern times, this thriving community has left an indelible mark on the city's culture and identity. Its synagogues stand as monuments to centuries of devotion and faith; its iconic personalities represent a legacy that continues to thrive. As we explore and appreciate the many facets of the heritage of Jewish Mumbai, let us remember the stories that remain at its heart: those of courage, hope, and perseverance against all odds. This is the story of Jewish Mumbai - a city that celebrates its rich cultural diversity and proudly embraces its vibrant Jewish past.
Prague's Old Jewish Cemetery The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague, nestled in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, is a significant landmark that draws innumerable tourists and history enthusiasts each year. Established in the early 15th century, around 1439, it served as the only burial site for Jews in Prague until 1787. This ancient necropolis is home to an estimated 12,000 tombstones, densely packed due to the lack of space, resulting in graves being stacked up to 12 layers deep. Famous Figures Amongst the prominent figures interred here are Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, renowned as the Maharal of Prague, and Mordecai Maisel, a philanthropist and leader of Prague's Jewish community in the late 16th Century. The cemetery also has a unique array of tombstone artwork, which over the years, has become an important lexicon of Jewish symbology. With its palpable history and unique visual appeal, the Old Jewish Cemetery stands as a poignant reminder of the rich Jewish heritage that once flourished in Prague.
The "Magen David" Synagogue in Byculla, Bombay was built in 1861 by David Sassoon, the first Baghdadi Synagogue in the city. The exterior has a Renaissance influence with a four-storey Clock Tower, and the interior features the Tevah and Hechal. The Synagogue's grounds are rented out for functions and two Jewish schools associated with it are open to all communities in the area.
The David Sassoon Library and Reading Room is a historic public library located in Mumbai, India. It was founded in 1870 by Sir Jacob Sassoon in memory of his father, David Sassoon, a prominent Baghdadi Jewish philanthropist.
The Shaar Harahamim Synagogue, also known as Gate of Mercy Synagogue, is the oldest synagogue in Mumbai. It was established in 1796 by Samaji Hasaji Divekar and the neighbourhood around the synagogue is colloquially called Israeli Mohalla.
The A.B Salem House is newly transformed, 350-year-old Heritage Guest House with four bedrooms in the historic Jew Street.
The Kashi Hallegua House is a historic Jewish synagogue in Kochi, India, built in 1568 by the Paradesi Jews. It was used for religious and cultural activities such as the Sukkah and Simah Torah festivals and for the bridegroom to dress for weddings. Today, it is an important cultural landmark showcasing the Jewish community's rich heritage in Kochi.
Be it breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a brunch, tea, or midnight snack, The Orchid Hotel Mumbai has got you covered! Check out their exclusive cafe in Vile Parle and relish a wide range of scrumptious treats and delights. Choose from Indian, Asian or Continental menus - a la carte or buffet. Just know that our chefs at our Vile Parle Restaurant, are ready to delight you with the fare they turn out for your dining pleasure.
Authentic Kerala cuisine at our in-house Ginger House Restaurant. Visitors as well as in-house guests are warmly welcomed at the restaurant. It is a place one must spend some time in. Being seemed as an architectural marvel, completely made up ofold-age antique furniture and providing the visitors the great view of Kochi bay waters, the ambience is perfect. The fresh good food and quirky arty ambience attracts the foreigners from around the world.
Joyce is a graduate in Economics & Indian History and holds a RED CARD Tourist Guide License from the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Government of India. He also obtained a Diploma in German Language and has undergone periodical refresher courses for Tourist Guides conducted by his parent department as well as the renowned institute 'KITTS' (Kerala Institute of Tourism And Travel Studies). Joyce offers a vehicle for transportation and is open to customizing the tour as per the preferences of his clients.