Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

New Commitments in Ancient Eger

Aryeh Ehrlich, Hungary

Rabbi David Keleti was an accomplished maggid shiur in Israel when he discovered he had another mission. A native of Hungary and fluent in its language, he left his family behind and set off to sustain the trickle of Jews whose identities were reemerging from decades of persecution and neglect. Would he succeed? We spent a Shabbos there to find out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The cannons no longer blast from atop Dobo Square. In fact, this historic plaza has just undergone a dramatic 21st-century facelift. But as I stand here, at the foot of the ancient fort of Eger — a 500-year-old castle and monument to patriotic heroism in Hungary — I can almost hear the desperate cannon fire in our imaginations. The fortress has known regional wars, bloody battles, and passionate revolutions, although now the artillery barrels stand empty, dusty, and abandoned. A bit like the Jewish community that once thrived here. Eger — known as Erloi by the Jews (spelled Erlau by the Germans) — is famous for its ancient battles, but also for its hot springs and world-class wines, about which Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said that anyone who tastes Hungarian wine can never go back to the taste of other wine. There is no kosher Hungarian wine, though; during my Shabbos in Eger, I made Kiddush on American grape juice. Ancient Eger, contested by the Turks and then the Habsburgs, always seemed to bounce back from calamity. In 1800, a fire broke out and consumed half the city; in 1827, another fire destroyed the city center; and four years later, hundreds of residents died in a cholera epidemic. But it never recovered from the horror of 1944, when the Jews of the city were rounded up into a brick factory, loaded into cattle cars, and shipped off to Auschwitz. Few survived the Holocaust and even fewer found their way back to their hometown, although one prominent survivor from Eger is the Rebbe of Erloi, Rav Yochanan Sofer, who returned to the town with a handful of students and reestablished a yeshivah before moving to Eretz Yisrael in 1950. Today, just a few dozen Jews are left — but that didn’t stop Rabbi David Keleti from renting out one of the tourist hotels at the foot of the castle for a weekend of Jewish inspiration. And that’s how I wound up getting dragged into a circle with Benche and his friend Binyamin Zev — a former Neolog and passionate baal teshuvah — as they do a little jig on a street corner to a song that emerges almost instinctively.

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you