The Dohany Synagogue

The Dohany Synagogue (a.k.a the Great Synagogue) in Budapest - considered one of the most impressive Synagogues in the world - is the largest synagogue in Europe and the second largest in the world (after Temple Emanu-el in New York City).

Jews have lived in what is known today as Hungary since the Roman era. During the 11th Century, when the Arpad Dynasty laid the foundations of the Hungarian nation, Jews from Germany settled in Hungary, Bohemia and Moravia. Ever since, there were periods in which they found favor with the king and there were periods of persecution. At the end of the 18th Century, under the rule of Emperor Joseph the Second, the living conditions of the Jews of Hungary improved. In 1867 Jews were granted full emancipation. The numbers grew from a mere few thousand at the end of the 18th Century, to 200,000 by 1840. Hungarian Jewry made a significant contribution to the country's industrial, commercial, artistic and scientific development.

Palatial synagogues were established, such as that of the city Szeged, and the synagogues of Budapest - the Rumbach Synagogue, and especially the Dohany Synagogue which was established in 1859, and to which no synagogue compares in size and in splendor in all of Europe. This synagogue has a Moorish architectural design with twin towers. Its rededication in 1998, following renovations, took place in the presence of the President of Hungary, Arpad Goncz, and former Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir. The synagogue is situated on the site where Herzl's house stood (Theodor Herzl was born and educated in Hungary). It is a major tourist attraction in Budapest.

The Dohany Synagogue has witnessed tragic events in WW II. In March 1944, Adolf Eichmann arrived in Budapest with the occupying Nazi forces to supervise the establishment of the Jewish ghetto and the subsequent deportations to the death camps. For a time, Eichman had an office behind the rose window in the women's balcony. The Germans established a ghetto for the Jews in 1944 that served as a gathering place for deportation to the death camps. About 20,000 Jews took refuge inside the synagogue complex during the war, but 7,000 of them perished during the bleak winter of 1944-45 and were buried in the courtyard.

The synagogue complex also houses a Judaica museum, rich in religious artifacts, as well as another synagogue - "Ha’giborim" (The Heroes; built in 1929-31 to commemorate the Jews who died in WW-I), a library, an archive, a square commemorating Righteous Gentiles and a tree shaped monument. The monument is designed with leaves bearing the name of each of the 600,000 Jews who perished in the Holocaust, over two thirds of Hungary's Jewish population.

Today over 100,000 Jews live in Hungary, most of them in Budapest. The Jewish community in Budapest runs three schools, from kindergarten to high school, as well as a Rabbinical College offering university level studies. Diplomatic relations between Israel and Hungary, which began in 1948, were severed in 1967. The two countries renewed their diplomatic relations in 1989. The relationship between the two countries is flourishing both in economic cooperation as well as in cultural ties and tourism. About 300,000 Jews of Hungarian descent live in Israel today.

The stamp was issued in September 2000 as a joint issue Israel-Hungary. Artist & Designer: Zina & Zvika Roitman.