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From an initial crowd of about 3,000, the number of visitors at the festival was around 120,000 this year, filling the cobblestone alleys and courtyards of the city wall to wall.
The biggest of the two wartime ghettos is now a thriving Jewish quarter, a year-round highlight on Budapest’s tourist map with the huge Dohany street synagogue – the model for New York’s Central Synagogue – at its heart.
Around it are more synagogues, museums, businesses, schools and restaurants, and sometimes a mix of those things, such as a Talmud class that is taught regularly at one of the famous Budapest “ruin pubs” - run-down buildings converted into bars.
PROUD OF ROOTS
Rabbi Zoltan Radnoti, the young leader of a small, modern synagogue in southwestern Budapest, said his generation was the first to be confident of its heritage after their traumatised grandparents taught their children to play it down.
“My parents’ generation, the one born immediately after the war, was protected so much they never got to experience their Jewishness,” said Radnoti. “They assimilated almost completely.”
“Now, my children take their Jewishness naturally, they have no doubts about their roots. They are kids who live in Hungary, speak Hungarian and follow the Jewish faith. The vast majority of young Jewish parents can and do choose this tradition.”
Besides religious freedom, the end of Communism in 1989 also brought a freedom of speech and politics that quickly gave birth to openly anti-Semitic political forces.
The Jobbik party, the third biggest in parliament, has used anti-semitic slurs to boost its standing before elections in 2014, drawing international scorn.
The strongest yet greeted last month’s call by Marton Gyongyosi, who runs Jobbik’s foreign policy cabinet, for Jewish members of government and parliament to be listed in the wake of Israel’s recent military campaign to stop rocket fire from Gaza.