By COLlive reporter
Hungarian president Katalin Novák toured the historic Mád synagogue and historic Yeshiva building in advance of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, marking her first official visit with the Jewish community since her election as president in March.
Rabbi Shlomo Köves, head of the Chabad-affiliated Association of United Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH) and his wife Devorah accompanied the president during her visit.
President Novák visited the majestic synagogue as part of her tour of the Tokaj Hegyalja region, which is home to a rich Jewish history. Built in 1795, the Mád synagogue sits on a hill overlooking the region’s rich vineyards. It is one of Hungary’s oldest surviving synagogues and a rare example of 18th-century architecture.
The area is experiencing a surge in Jewish tourism as visitors flock to the Tokaj Mountains to pray at the graves of Judaism’s great rabbis, or tzadikim, buried in Mád. When no infrastructure existed to serve Jewish tourists from Hungary and abroad, Köves hosted thousands of visitors in their home, where guests learned about Mád’s Jewish heritage and about Judaism in general.
With the help of EMIH, including Rabbi Koves and Gábor Tóth, EMIH Chief of Staff, the area now offers overnight accommodations and a kosher kitchen.
President Novák’s visit concluded with an informal discussion over a kosher lunch about the meaning of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. According to Jewish tradition, Rabbi Koves explained, the fate of the entire world is decided on Rosh Hashanah, and the holiday’s main obligation, or mitzvah, is to hear the sound of the shofar.
To commemorate her visit to the Jewish community, Rabbi Koves presented President Novák with a shofar, which she tried successfully.
Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on September 25.