Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Budapest Silence

Faigy Schonfeld

I look at the shimmering blue Danube and all I can see is blood. In my head, faraway screams, whimpering children, takkatakkatakkatakka — gunshots, and blood

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

 Mishpacha image

Photo: Shutterstock

I f there’s one thing that strikes me about Budapest, it’s the silence. It rings.

Oh, it’s busy, full of tourists and beggars and honking cars. But still, it’s silent.

Friday night in Budapest; something sad and beautiful and bittersweet riffles through the dry August air. We walk as the sky turns lilac then purple, and people rush about, oblivious to the soft whispers of an arriving queen. In shul, we stand in the gallery and watch the varied group of men, swaying and singing together, a thin flute of voices echoing in a cavernous hall.

I start Lecha Dodi. It is Shabbos but still, it’s hard not to cry. It’s so big in here, high ceilings and large rooms and the women’s galleries, two of them. Around me is a large gallery, now filled with my friends, usually silent. I look up and there’s another, identical gallery... circling the entire shul, cavernous and empty.

I close my eyes and faces float inside my eyelids. Dark eyes set in sweet faces, framed in white Shabbos silk, pretty woolen dresses and pearl necklaces, grasping little hands in their own. There must have been so many of them, once. So many young mothers and wise bubbies, bright-faced girls with dark locks and ruffled collars, squeezing past each other to get a glimpse of the shul below. So many little shoes must have stamped on the wooden ledge of the mechitzah, girls in velvet dresses and boys in keshketlach, licking sticky fingers and pressing their noses to the wooden gate.

I lick my lips and taste the energy, the perspiration and excitement;

 

I open my eyes and look down, almost hoping to see a stampede of joyous men in shiny beketshes and shtreimlach, clasping hands and singing.

The handful of men sit and sing, beautiful songs, in a big, lonesome shul.

Shabbos morning dawns bright and cloudless. Walking down the bustling streets, admiring the vintage buildings and breathing in the summer air... I can almost forget where I am, forget the shadow hanging over the pleasantness like a mourning veil.

Almost, though not quite. We stroll past the Danube, silver, blue, and scalloped with a stretch of diamonds. They are very busy with their Danube, these Hungarians. In our hotel, pictures of the luminous river are hung along the hallways; through the speakers croon lilting songs of, “The Beautiful Blue.”

But I’ve read too much. I look at the shimmering body of blue and all I can see is blood. In my head, faraway screams, whimpering children, takkatakkatakkatakka — gunshots, and blood. I swallow and look away. There’s too much to imagine around here.

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.
CAPTCHA
Message


 
Letters That Speak
Shoshana Friedman They tell us what it is that our readers want
Peddlers of Hope and Faith
Rabbi Moshe Grylak A personal tribute to two warriors of the spirit
Coddled on Campus
Yonoson Rosenblum Animosity against Jewish students going strong
Take Yes for an Answer
Eytan Kobre We’re not rage monkeys with skullcaps
Sefirah? What's Sefirah?
Rabbi Henoch Plotnik A tragedy swept under the rug?
Top 5 Jewish Reminders
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Have we lost our ability to remember?
Work/Life Solutions with Mordy Golding
Moe Mernick "It’s okay to change the plan as you go"
A Modern Eternal Flame
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman The classic rabbinic dictum still stands
I Don't Work on Shabbos
Baruch S. Fertel, MD, MPA, FACEP with Zivia Reischer You don't cut corners with Yiddishkeit
Mood Mix with Sheya Mendlowitz
Riki Goldstein "It’s a truly heilige niggun"
Truth Will Tell
Faigy Peritzman To constantly be in a state of upward motion
Mad at Dad
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Why many fathers get a bad rap
Eternal Victory
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz To be personable, you need to develop your personality
The Baker: Part IV
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "She’s just a pareve version of her potential self”