Mád in the Tokaj region is famous not only for its wine but also for its wonder rabbis, as they are called by the locals. These Tzaddiks – true, holy people – were able to cure people regardless of their religion and help with their daily troubles. The Holocaust put an end to this but now the renovated rabbi’s house is once again welcoming pilgrims as the starting and closing point of the Footsteps of Wonder Rabbis.
Mariann Frank moved to Mád in 2014, when Budapest Festival Orchestra performed in the synagogue, and she met the representatives of the United Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH). Since then she has been in charge of the renovations of the rabbi’s house and she is the project leader for the Footsteps of Wonder Rabbis, which is a 150-kilometre pilgrimage route through 10 towns and villages with Jewish memorial sites and graves of the wonder-working rabbis.
Although the synagogue was ruined over the years since the Holocaust, its door remained open for visitors. Barnabás Fehér had the key and showed the building to whoever wanted to see its beautiful interior. Despite the fact that he was not born Jewish, he learned everything that a guide is supposed to know about the building and the history of the local Jews
The renovation of the rabbi’s house was started in 2015 by EMIH and is now complete. With the help of EU funds it holds an exhibition about the history of Jews in Mád. At the opening ceremony Rabbi Naftoli Ehrenreich, one of the sons of Rabbi Eliezer Ehrenreich, the last rabbi of Mád, recited the 23d Psalm, while the rabbi’s other son, Rabbi Joel Ehrenreich, emphasised how important it was for him that a marble plate with the names of the Jews deported from the area had been placed in the building.
Rabbi Slomó Köves, the chief rabbi of EMIH, spoke about the miracle of how Jews survived in the past and do in the present. He talked about the life of yeshiva bochers (students) who were obliged to “tag essen”, that is to say, beholden to local Jews who invited them to eat with them. Köves also spoke about the role of Mád Jews in the Hungarian freedom fight against the Hapsburgs in 1848. They did so by donating 300 forints, which was a huge amount at that time.
The exhibition consists of several parts, and it is recommended to walk through it in the suggested order to obtain a clear picture of the history of the Jewish congregation of Mád and how colourful their life used to be. The synagogue and the rabbi’s house can be visited every day between 9am and 4pm.
János Bátki is a tour guide in the historical Jewish Quarter of Budapest. He can be reached at email@example.com