Synagogue concerts with the Budapest Festival Orchestra
Two years ago, under the umbrella of our Community Week, we launched a tour of abandoned synagogues in Hungarian towns and villages, bringing music and life to these buildings and recalling the memory of the annihilated Jewish communities.
Our audiences are local residents. They are offered a concert free of charge, and a visiting rabbi talks about the synagogue and the history of the local Jewish community. We invite the audience to share their memories of their former Jewish neighbours and friends.
In 1 December, 2016 we organised a special fundraising concert in the wonderful Dohány street Synagogue, Budapest, having a capacity for 2700 people. Daniel Barenboim, the incomparable pianist-conductor who often speaks up for a better world also supported the Synagogue Concert series of the Festival Orchestra with his presence, his ethereal music-making and a speech given at the event. The music critic of The Observer had the chance to participate in the concert and published a report about our initiative and the concert itself, saying: “Free from any symphonic boundaries, this remarkable orchestra must also be the world’s most versatile.”
Synagogues still stand in many of the villages and small towns we’ve visited, even though they’ve not had Jewish inhabitants for a long time. Some have been beautifully restored, others are in ruins or have been turned into furniture shops or a gym. We have always received a warm welcome and encountered many moving memories. One concertgoer arrived from a distant continent after having heard that a concert will be held in her old home town’s synagogue. In one village, it was the first time since the war that people filled the benches. Other synagogues have no benches at all, no Torah ark, and no glass in the windows.
What’s our purpose? We would like to reduce prejudice and tell the story of how Christians and Jews used to coexist peacefully here; their children attended the same schools and neighbours would greet one another.
Music brings people closer to each other and purifies memories.
Help the Budapest Festival Orchestra continue this concert series. Support the Synagoge Concerts of BFO!
The Synagogue concerts are a joint initiative by the BFO, the United Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH), and the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz).