Texas Hillels - Hungary - March 2012

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Texas Hillels: Day 4

Day 4 was a long day. We left our hotel in Budapest at about 9 am to head for Arad, Romania. The bus ride took a lot longer than expected. We had to wait about an hour at the border of Hungary and Romania to get all of our passports checked and stamped. Once all of that was over it was a quick ride to the Arad Jewish Center in Romania.

The Arad Jewish Center gave us a very warm welcome of a delicious three course meal. During our meal the President of the community told us about Jewish history in Romania and Arad.

Once we were all done eating we split into groups and visited some of the elderly living in the community, JDC-supported elderly home. One of the groups met with a few women who were very excited for us to be there. It was a great feeling knowing that we were really making an impact on the people in this small community who don’t get very many visitors. I saw that one group received beautiful drawings from one of the residents.

After our visits we were shown great hospitality of a couple of really great singers singing some songs in Hebrew while we drank coffee and ate some birthday cake in honor of one of the residents. After we were finished at the center we took a tour of Arad and visited the synagogue there.

We then finally reached Timisoara. We had dinner at the community’s kosher restaurant. There was so much delicious food there. After dinner we did some folk dancing with the Romanians. It was a lot of fun!

-Yamit L.

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Texas Hillels: Day 3

Day 3 was a personal and meaningful day for many people in our group. We began our day at a JDC-supported home called Sela and Ujpest, which houses holocaust survivors in one part and special needs adults in the other part.

We started out with the holocaust survivors, and people delivered gifts and talked to them about their lives. 6 of us volunteered to help out with an exercise class, and we sat in a circle and threw a ball to each other and introduced ourselves. The woman who ran the exercise program translated what we were saying to the survivors and what they were saying to us. some of them were able to communicate in English, but despite the language barrier for many of the people in this group we shared laughs and learned about their present lives and families. It was touching to talk to them and get to know them for a little bit.

After the survivors, our whole group headed over to the special needs home and sang some songs with them, which was very touching.

After, we spent a short amount of time at a Hungarian market where many us bought souvenirs like paprika, t-shirts and cups.

We then headed to lunch where we ate some delicious gnocchi and afterward split up into smaller groups to talk to hungarian individuals. Some people went to their homes to meet them and talk about their lives, and some people went to a “Cafe Europa” event where there were a group of women who survived the holocaust talked to us individually.

Many of us were very moved by the people who shared their stories and opened up about their lives. At our debriefing session later in the day our group shared anecdotes and sharing these stories really made the Hungarian community come to life.

Many of us are looking forward to keeping in touch with the individuals we met.

-Elana B.

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Texas Hillels: Benjamin Kindergarten & Sela Home

Just a little tid bit from Anna!

Yesterday we ventured to the Benjamin kindergarten and today we had the opportunity to go to the Sela Home for people with developmental disabilities. We could barely communicate with the Hungarian people at either place because of language barriers. Looking at each other with deer in the head lights faces or using body language was our only way to communicate with either group of Hungarians. But, in each situation both groups began to sing Israeli songs and the Hungarians and Texans suddenly bonded on a special level!

I am so amazed by the fact that our groups have such different upbringings and cultures but singing Israeli songs or Jewish prayers brought us together to form our own type of community!!
With love from the not so hungry Texans in Hungary!!

— Anna E.

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Texas Hillels: Reflections from Budapest

Being in Budapest the past few days was a very moving experience. I learned a lot about Jews in Hungary today as well as a lot of history. I thoroughly enjoyed it all.

While at the Dohany Synagogue in Budapest there is a tree. On the leaves of the tree there are the names of about ten thousand Holocaust victims that were from Hungary.

I spent some time looking at a few of the names on the tree and after a few minutes I was able to find my great grandmother’s name on the tree, Lilly Schwartz Kline. It was pretty amazing to find her name on the tree just by sheer luck.

This made this trip a much more personal and meaningful experience because it meant a lot seeing my personal family history. I tried to find a few more family member’s names on the tree but there was not enough time. Hopefully I will be able to go back to Hungary one day to check out the tree again.

-Yamit L.

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Our Tumblr!

At the Szechenyi thermal baths in Budapest

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Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Texas Hillels: Day 2, Part 2

Cute Kids at the JDC-supported Benjamin Kindergarten!

Hi everyone!

After the cafe, we took a bus to the other side of Budapest, Buda. We are staying on the Pest side, so we crossed the bridge over the Danube River. Once on the Buda side, we went to the citadel overlooking the city for a beautiful view and picture spot of Buda, Pest, and the Danube. We also visited the castle in Buda where the kings used to live which was beautiful because we arrived at sunset.

We came back to the hotel and had our first reflection session where we shared our impressions so far and discussed our ideas about the concept of community with the JDC staff and our Texas Hillel staff. After that, we went to dinner and then sampled some of the Hungarian night life! Everyone’s having a great time!

-Risa M and Paul K


Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Texas Hillels: Day 2, Part 1

Greetings from Budapest!

Today has our first full day in the city and so far its been great. We started off the day visiting a nearby Jewish kindergarten. The kids were ADORABLE and so much fun! They sang us some Hungarian songs, and we returned the favor by teaching them a few songs in English. We also all sang a few songs in Hebrew. Its so amazing that even though we have such a language barrier with the kids we were all able to come together with the common bond of knowing the same Hebrew songs. Afterwards we spent some time playing with the kids during recess. We all had such a blast and weren’t ready to leave our new Hungarian buddies!

After visiting the kindergarten we went on a tour of the Dohany Street Synagogue, which is the largest synagogue in Europe. Three different architects constructed it so there were many different styles within the one building. It was so interesting to be in such a beautiful temple and learn the history behind it. From there we explored the Jewish quarter of the city for a bit and stopped at a cute cafe for lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon volunteering to help renovate a storefront that the JDC is helping to turn into a community space and job center when the space is finished, it will serve as a meeting place and resource center for needy families in the community. The group of us that helped paint the walls all wore white bodysuits to protect our clothes from the paint, which led to some great photo ops!

Currently we are all hanging out at a little coffee shop in the jewish quarter, Szoda Kavezo es Mulato, relaxing and awaiting our tour of the castles on the Buda side of the city. More updates to come later!

Szia! (that’s goodbye in Hungarian!),

Jessi F.

March 13, 2012

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Texas Hillels: Day 1!

We got into Budapest today around 2:30 pm and were whisked off to the hotel to freshen up. Budapest is beautiful! The architecture is insane (pictures to come soon!). We walked to the Hungary JCC which is very different from any JCC I’ve ever seen.

We joined a dancing class or adults with disabilities and at first i was apprehensive because we speak no Hungarian and they speak no English so how were we going to dance?! Thankfully a Hebrew song came on that everyone knew which instantly brought us together. It was amazing!

We then learned about Szarvas, an international Jewish summer camp in Hungary with campers from 26 different countries an got to meet some camper alums who are training to be counselors. It was cool bonding with the kids about their summer camp experiences because many of us had similar experiences at Jewish sleep away camp.

We also spoke to the director of the JCC who talked to us about the situation in Hungary for Jewish people. It was a bit shocking to hear that a political party that could potentially take over Hungary has an anti-Semitic and anti-gypsy platform. It just makes us aware that something needs to be done and awareness needs to be raised. We ended the night with a lovely Hungarian dinner and finally back to the hotel after a very long day!

– Hillary H.

March 12, 2012

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Texas Hillels: At the airport!

We’re finally at the gate to frankfurt/budapest! We all just played a game of catch phrase to kill some time. Yay one hour left!! More to come soon! -elisheva golani

March 12, 2012

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Final Orientation

To say we were excited and a little antsy at this 3rd and final orientation would be an understatement! This last orientation we really just discussed logistics of how we are getting to and from the airport in Houston as well as checked in with the different committees to see how they were progressing. We went over the basics of what we need to pack, etc. We leave for Hungary in less than 5 days!! So the next time you hear from us we will be in Budapest!