We were glad to see a lengthy article in the Christian Science Monitor highlighting the little Teleki ter synagogue in Budapest’s 8th District, and the project spearheaded by chairman Andras Mayer and his brother Gabor to renovate the little shtiebl and to revive its congregation. The 8th district is a run-down neighborhood that before the Holocaust was home to a large, largely working-class and poor Jewish population. Writers Giorgio and Nicola Pressburger grew up in the district and presented a wonderful evocation of the neighborhood and the Jews who lived there in their book Homage to the Eighth District.
Andrew Connelly and Helene Bienvenu write in the Christian Science Monitor that the Teleki shul
is one of the very last surviving “apartment synagogues” in the country and may well represent the spirited renewal of Jewish life that is currently sweeping the city.
For nearly a century since the shul’s foundation by Hassidic Jews from Ukraine at the beginning of the 1920s, it has survived World War II bombings, Communist oppression, and the damp – but from the last, only barely.
When chairman Andras Mayer, his brother Gabor, a dozen other members and a South African rabbi decided to renovate the shul – which like many prayer houses of its era situated inside an unassuming, shabby apartment – the ceiling was near collapse and the walls rotting.
The article goes on:
The Mayer brothers are almost evangelistic when it comes to their passion for revitalizing and unearthing the Jewish history of the neighborhood, with ambitious plans afoot for two books, a documentary, specialized Teleki Square merchandise including branded yarmulkes, and even homemade brandy.
Not every synagogue has a metallic vat of strong Hungarian “Palinka” fermenting in the kitchen, but then the shul is not like other synagogues. The equipment is brand-new, the apple mush has been checked for worms, and the whole process supervised by the resident rabbi thus denoting the potent house spirit to be kosher.
“I think we are going to become very popular,” muses Andras. However, discussions about the local area are always bittersweet.
“The saddest part about the history of this neighborhood is that people don’t know about it. Sometimes that’s for the best because there have been some nasty stories going on in some of the houses here. During the war this was one of the only sites of Jewish resistance against the Nazis, and there was a big bloodshed as a result. With brooms they were sweeping up the blood on the streets.”