Budapest has long been a magnet for Jewish Tours. American-Jewish tourists staying at Budapest’s
Four Seasons Hotel or the renowned landmark Gellert Hotel & Spa make a beeline to see Europe’s largest synagogue, the majestic Dohany Synagogue. Here’s the irony. The Dohany Synagogue wasn’t even built by a Jew – but those two world-class hotels were!
I believe that prominent buildings built by Hungarian Jewish architects serving many different functions
for use by Jews and Christians are more inspiring than visiting the usual empty synagogues (not even
built by Jews) and full Jewish cemeteries. Tours should show Jewish creativity and genius, not just Jewish loss.
Budapest’s unorthodox, Orthodox Synagogue (1913) is a work of art unlike any other synagogue in Budapest – or in the world.
It was designed by two Jewish architects, the Loffler Brothers, in a style that’s “Individualist Secessionist” (Art Nouveau). Hungarian Jewish architecture student, Janos Hajos, won a gold medal in the first modern Olympics in 1896. He later designed the Art Deco Budapest sports complex which is even named after him. How’s that for Jewish pride? Hungarian Jewish architects didn’t merely design
homes for wealthy Jewish clients, many won competitions for prestigious government ministries. Sandor Fellner designed the Royal Ministry of Finance in 1904 in a retro-historical style popular at that time. In many European cities, banks and department stores were Jewish-owned. In Budapest they were Jewish designed. Hungarian Jewish architects even designed buildings for learning. The Trade
School by Bela Latja (1912) is ahead of its time – featuring many Art Deco details almost a generation early. The most lavish decorative arts museum building the world – and a Budapest landmark – is the sensational Applied Arts Museum with its exotic tiled-patterned roof. It’s the work of Jewish architect, Gyula Partos, and his internationally famous partner, Odon Lechner. Visiting the Applied Arts
Museum you’ll also see the art that furnished Budapest’s great buildings. The standout is Functionalist’s (Modernist) architect Laszlo Kozma’s unique furniture. Kozma was a Jewish furniture designer in addition to being an architect who brought Bauhaus to Hungary.
And, if you get tired of sightseeing, you can take in a show at the beautiful Secessionist New Theater, across from the Budapest Opera House. Designed, of course, by a Hungarian Jewish architect.
By Professor Barry Goldsmith