The Pásti Street Synagogue. Credit: Chabad
The Hungarian town of Debrecen, situated near the border with Romania, experienced a historic day last Wednesday, when Rabbi Shmuel Faigen was installed as head of the local Jewish community. This was the first time since World War II that the city had seen the ordination of an Orthodox rabbi.
Debrecen has the second largest population in Hungary – after Budapest – and was home to a large Jewish community before the Holocaust. According to The Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, around 10,000 Jews lived in the city in the 1930s, representing 8% of the total population. Currently, the Debrecen Jewish community has around 1500 members, which is less than 1% of the total population.
Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who attended the ceremony, stated: “On behalf of the Israeli Rabbinate, I wish to acknowledge the unprecedented renaissance of the Hungarian Jewish community. I have been to Hungary four times in the past 10 years, and each time I see more and more synagogues opening, and more people going to Jewish schools and synagogues”.