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April 14, 2024

With so much happening, we thought a quarterly update would be useful. As always, please scroll down to see pictures. Wishing you and your families a happy Passover. Never in our lifetimes has the festival of freedom been so meaningful

 

Michael and Marc

 

Summary

  • Bernat Munkacsi a towering historical figure and emblematic for us today - spectacular renovation of his grave. Many thanks to Anthony and Amie Munk for sponsoring this project

  • Strong progress in renovating sections – 3 medium-sized ones completed, a total of 27,893 sq meters (7 acres) and 8,609 burials. Many thanks to Alex Soros for underwriting the renovation of S15

  • Maintenance  - our first full time employee off to a good start

  • A big thank you to Stihl of Hungary for providing us discounted tools once again

  • Plan for Second Quarter

 

 

The spectacular renovation of Mr and Mrs Bernat Munkacsi's grave

Early March marked the completion of a remarkable restoration — of Dr. Bernát Munkácsi’s beautiful tomb. In many ways, Dr.Munkácsi (1860 – 1937), is one of the finest examples of a proud Hungarian and a proud Jew and serves as an example for how we might act ourselves in today’s world.

 

Best known for his ground-breaking research into the Finno-Ugric roots of the Hungarian language and the early Magyars, Dr. Munkácsi was one of Hungary’s most distinguished linguists and ethnographers. His consequential explorations of the Middle Volga region and Siberia in the 1880s were supported by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Russian government, yielding breakthrough discoveries.

 

Despite his academic achievements, Dr. Munkácsi was never appointed to a teaching or research position at a state institution, by all accounts because he was Jewish. Although he was named a “Corresponding Member” to the prestigious Hungarian Academy of Sciences, it would take another twenty years (1910), until he was named a full member. Even then, there was discontent about Dr. Munkácsi’s Jewishness, with certain members of the Academy remarking that “a letter of baptism wouldn't hurt" his application. He steadfastly refused.

 

He remained undaunted in the face of antisemitism. Over the course of his illustrious career, he published countless books and articles, leaving behind a great legacy. In parallel, he also served as school inspector for the Jewish Community of Pest, reforming religious education by developing an entirely new curriculum. Faithful until the end, he died shortly after returning home from synagogue on the second day of Sukkot, 1937.

 

The restoration of this headstone was a labor of love. What initially appeared to be an unkempt, decaying chunk of cement turned out to bean elegant headstone made of exquisite, pink-hued marble. After carefully dismantling the tombstone, our restoration team polished the marble to a high gloss and re-engraved the badly worn inscription. Deciphering the Hebrew and Hungarian text was excruciating, requiring more than sixty hours of volunteer labor.

 

We are enormously grateful to Anthony Munk and his wife, Amie Rocket Munk, for their gift. We have helped many descendants repair their family graves and hope that more donors will do so. It keeps the cemetery “alive”. Please email us if you are interested. Particularly in a world where Jews are once again less welcome in academia and the arts, the restoration of the Munkácsi grave is of national interest to both Hungary and the Jewish people as a reminder of the greatness that can be achieved under persecution as well as the limitations.

The Munkacsi grave in sad disrepair. Its foundation was exposed and in danger of collapse, the white marble was cracked and illegible and the stone was extremely dirty

The Munkacsi grave in sad disrepair. Its foundation was exposed and in danger of collapse, the white marble was cracked and illegible and the stone was extremely dirty

After painstaking work and restoration, the final product as it looks today

After painstaking work and restoration, the final product as it looks today

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Our Work

 

Coming on the heels of Sections 30 and 31, we continued to concentrate on the right hand side of the cemetery, by far the older part. We started January continuing with Section 15, then moved on to 14 and have just recently completed 21. A big thank you to Alex Soros for funding the renovation of Section 15.

 

Click on this link to view the map and our progress:https://www.budapestjewishcemetery.com/map-of-the-cemetery

 

Section 14 is one of the oldest sections in the cemetery and contains 2436 burials over 8088 sq meters (exactly 2 acres). Our regular readers will recall that the cemetery opened in 1891; this section started in 1894. Most burials took place between 1894 and 1897 with some extra rows added between 1911-1920.

 

Section 15 hold the remains of 3210 souls over an area of 8902 sq meters. This section began in 1928 and most of the burials took place in the 1930s and 40s. This was one of the more expensive sections of that era and as a result, it contains some exceptionally beautiful funerary art. One unusual but beautiful example is the grave of the long forgotten but famous poet and chief journalist of Szeged, Ede Kisteleki 1861 - 1931.

 

Section 21 is a fairly large section with an area of 10,923 sq meters but just 2963 burials. It can be seen as a continuation of Section 28 where most burials are concentrated between 1905-1909. Most of the burials here took place between 1909 and 1912 but there are also has around 15-20 graves from the mid 1800s that were transferred from the Pest cemetery, sometimes to “reunite” a family.

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Section 15 before and after plus a side view from the road

Section 14: A before, during and after picture from the perspective of one grave. Below: another before shot

Section 21 is very large and its renovation is now complete. We do not have before pictures that allow us to boast!

New maintenance worker

We are pleased to announce that as of 1st of February, we have hired a full time employee named Pal who will focus exclusively on maintenance. Until now, all our maintenance work has been carried out by the same team that works on renovating new sections. We have reached a milestone whereby the maintenance is just too time-consuming and it was causing our renovation work to suffer. When we finish Section 20, we will have completed 210,000 sq metres (21 hectares) or 53 acres with 66,300 burials! This is already among the larger size of almost any Jewish cemetery in the world. We will supplement with temporary workers as need be but our experience to date is that if you stay on top of the little growths and small problems, the work is far less than if left. Had the cemetery been even minimally maintained over the years (e.g. new self-seeded trees removed every year), we would be in in a much better position than we are today.

 

Workplan for the second quarter

We are now in the early to middle stages of Section 20 containing 2257 burials over 7925 sq meters and expect to complete it in the next two weeks. This section can be seen as the continuation of Section 14 with burials beginning in1897 and the majority concentrated between that year and 1899.

 

After this, our plan is to tackle Section 38, one of the very large and most jungle-like sections at the back of the cemetery. The road runs all the way to the backwall of the cemetery and is about 250 metres in length. There are 89 rows with 5759 burials! There is only one section with a greater number of burials, Section 40 with 6651. Wish us luck!

Please welcome Pal, our new maintenance worker. Here he is on his first day with new tools. These were heavily subsidized by Stihl Hungary, which we appreciate greatly

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