70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel
The union of two worlds
The Memorial Museum of Hungarian Speaking Jewry, Safed
By Juli Kristóf - 2018-02-09
Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll
There were about twenty of us in the 2009 Taglit-Birthright group - boys, girls, mainly from Budapest of course - and all of us Jews, so or so. More or less. For the majority, Judaism was sort of exotic – they may have heard of it a little at home, but the details disappeared in the past, with grandmother - and the ties were limited to some kind of intangible spiritual connection to the Jewish quarter.
Then the plane took us - this rag-tag intellectual-left-wing troupe - and landed with us in Israel. Where everything is Jewish. The signs. The cities. The roads. And of course, there are tons of synagogues, as well as the hats-and- caftans Über-Jews. It was all amazing and somehow ... alien.
We arrived to Safed on the third day of the trip. By then we have been to Haifa and Meron, have seen Tel-Aviv and the mountains of Galilee. And this Jewish world became more and more alien to us, instead of familiar, as it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be familiar – but it was not. It was different – exciting and reckless, but also noisy and vulgar.
Then the bus stopped in a small field on a hilltop of Safed; we spilled out and found ourselves inside at the meeting point of our two worlds.
Photo: Juli Kristóf
The museum was not big, and it was not particularly modern either. But in the comforting twilight of the inner space embracing us, it began to tell us about a past, which the majority knew only very little. About our past. About the past that made us want to go there.
The exhibition presents the life of the Jewry that (also) speaks Hungarian, about their customs and lifestyle, and of course about the tragedy that obliterated the communities of the (greater) Hungarian countryside, their prayer houses and their mikveh. Small bits and pieces tell us about the world of our grandparents, our great-grandparents – here and there a siddur, a yellow star and some relics. These are the mementos of the
Jewry of our kind.
(Click on the image to view the gallery)
Indeed, what do we need Hungary for - there, in one of the secluded rooms, stood the Aharon Chodes of the Tokai Synagogue. There were pictures showing - shockingly, really - as its details, once carved, decorated and painted with faith and great care, used to be rotting away under a tarpaulin in the courtyard of a peasant.
They might as well have chopped it up for firewood - but it was rescued, restored and preserved by the Lusztig’s, the founders of the museum. The museum was founded by Chava and Joszef Lusztig in 1986, and
opened in 1990.
Just as the museum preserves the memory of a larger, more complete Jewry. There are, of course, exhibitions in Hungary as well that try to commemorate the Hungarian Jewry - but here, in Eretz, this is the only one. This one is a stronger link than any other. It connects the past with the future. The future - with us.
My Israeli-converted- Hungarian-Jewish soul feels really at home, just here, in the Hungarian Museum of Safed.
The Memorial Museum of Hungarian Speaking Jewry, Safed is open from 9am to 2pm on Sundays until Thursdays; 9am to 1pm on Fridays.
Photo: Juli Kristóf
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