Address: 7th district, Dohány utca 2
How to get there: Metro M1, M2, M3 to Deák tér, Bus 7, 7A, 78, Tram 47, 49
Open: 10am-5pm Mon-Thu, 10am-3pm Fri, 10am-2pm Sun, Closed on Saturdays
The Central Synagogue of Budapest is the second largest in the world. The Jewish Museum is hosted in one of its wings. The rich collection of exhibits covers many aspects of Judaism, including the ritual significance of the Sabbath, holidays and life cycle ceremonies. A separate section details the history of the Holocaust in Hungary. The museum, together with the archives, safeguards the past of the Jewish people, by collecting, systematizing and presenting their historical, religious and cultural-historical memorabilia.
Historically, treasures of Hungarian Jewry were on display as early as the 1884 Hungarian Goldsmith’s Exhibition, and subsequently in the religious art section of the 1896 Millennium Exhibition, which gave birth to the idea of a permanent Jewish exhibition. Miksa Szabolcsi and Sándor Büchler initiated the collection of valuable Jewish religious objects, personal belongings and thematically related pieces of art from within Hungary. In 1909, a committee to create a museum was established, and an apartment was rented in Hold utca, where the collection was first displayed in 1915, under the auspices of the Israelite Hungarian Literary Guild (IMIT). The exhibition was relocated twice since, to a Jewish school in Wesselény utca, in 1929, and then to its present location in 1931.
The present museum opened its doors in 1932, allocating its items in three rooms. The first displayed objects related to Hungarian Jewry, the second exhibited private antiques, and the third presented liturgical items. Originally, a library was planned to open on the second floor, but it was turned into a historical portray gallery. László Vágó and Ferenc Faragó, who matched its style to that of the neighboring Synagogue, designed the building itself.
In 1942, two conscientious employees of the Hungarian National Museum (dr. Magda Bárányné Oberschall and Gabriella Tápai Szabó) managed to hide the most valuable artifacts and religious objects in the basement of the National Museum in chests (the items were later returned to the Jewish Museum). The old charters of the historical documents were housed elsewhere, in the safe of a bank, but unfortunately perished. While the war raged, the building served as a link between the Pest Ghetto and the outside world, helping a good number of people to escape.
In 1947, the Museum reopened, and from 1949, it operated as the National Jewish Religious and Historical Collection. A few exhibitions followed, but the shortage of funds, and the deteriorated condition of the building led to it’s closing for a time. From 1963 to 1994, Dr. Ilona Benoschofsky directed the museum, and the present permanent exhibits were established on the first floor.
In 1933, burglars broke into the Museum, and stole most of its treasures. However, all items were miraculously found abroad, and brought back to the Museum, which was in the meantime completely renovated, the re-opening taking place in 1995. The permanent exhibitions were thus re-installed, and the spacious second floor has been used to host temporary exhibitions.