Herzl’s Budapest with Howard Lupovitch
Theodore Herzl was born and grew up in Budapest in a rapidly growing Jewish community situated in a rapidly emerging European metropolis. He lived in the heart of the most Jewish part of the city and a stone’s throw from the large Dohany Street Synagogue. Although he was religiously lax and largely indifferent to religious observance, he came of age in a vibrant world of Jewish ideas, lifestyles, and identities. In addition, he grew at a time when there was little or no antisemitism in Budapest, and later referred to the city as “an oasis in an antisemitic desert.” His life in Budapest epitomized that ways that living in a big city was simultaneously helpful and detrimental to Jewish identity. Detrimental because the anonymity of the bog city facilitated disaffection and drift away from the Jewish community; helpful because the concentration of several hundred thousand Jews in a compact urban space invigorated Jewish life by providing a large constituency for a variety of Jewish communal institutions.
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