Why should I visit Dohány Street Synagogue?The Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe and one of the largest in the world, seating nearly 3,000 worshippers and providing standing space. It was built between 1854 and 1859 in an interesting architectural style which combines Moorish style with Gothic, Romantic, and Byzantine elements, creating a uniquely beautiful building. It was one of the few major synagogues to survive the Nazi regime and World War II, although it was occupied by German forces and used as a radio base and as a stable, before sustaining some damage from air raids and during the Siege of Budapest. Due to communist Hungary’s secular policies, the synagogue’s restoration was only able to begin in 1991, being completed in 1998. The synagogue and adjoining Hungarian Jewish Museum hold many important historical and religious artefacts relating to Jewish communities in Hungary, several of which have survived to the present day through against all odds.
What is there to see inside the synagogue and the Hungarian Jewish Museum?The synagogue is worth a visit to see the impressive interior, which is elaborately beautiful and has some unique quirks that you wouldn’t see in other synagogues. For example, the Great Synagogue has an organ, which is highly unusual for a synagogue since the playing of musical instruments is prohibited on the Sabbath, at least in the Orthodox tradition. There are also pulpits for those delivering sermons, which is another architectural element that is more common in Christian churches, and not at all a common thing to see in a synagogue. The Hungarian Jewish Museum was founded in 1896, when it first exhibited approximately 1,500 artifacts relating to the Jewish community and its history. Visitors will see an extensive collection of Judaica, with some pieces dating back to at least the 17th century, and they’ll also be able to explore the extensive community archives.
Do we need to take a guided tour?It’s recommended that you take advantage of the free 45 minute tour which is included with the basic entry ticket to the synagogue. Your guide will be able to provide some context for what you’re about to see and to point out the most interesting architectural elements and artifacts. Private versions of this tour are also available. If you’d like to learn more about the Jewish community outside of the synagogue, there are also tours available which combine the synagogue complex tour with a walking tour of the Jewish district. The tour takes about 2 hours and runs from Sunday to Friday at 10 am.
Can we participate in services while in Budapest?You are welcome to join services at the Dohány Street Synagogue, which follow the Hungarian Neolog tradition. Men and women are seated separately, and you’ll need to ensure that you’re dressed appropriately for a place of worship, with no exposed shoulders or knees, and men will need to wear a kippah. No photography is allowed during services. In winter, services are held inside the smaller Heroes’ Temple as the Great Synagogue isn’t heated.