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Jewish heritage of Tokaj-Hegyalja: follow the Wonder Rabbis

Synagogue MádTokaj and Nyíregyháza

Who were the Wonder Rabbis? How could the north-eastern ends of Hungary become the Hungarian centre of the Hassidic Jewish community? What exactly is kosher wine? You can find the answer to these questions (as well), if you ride your bike along River Bodrog. 

If you start your journey on the Trail of the Wonder Rabbis, you will get a quite surprising experience while retracing the footsteps of the region’s Hassidic Jews, whose community was once quite extended, and had rich culture. The 150-kilometre-long pilgrimage route connecting 10 settlements includes the Jewish memorial places and architectural beauties of the Tokaj wine region.  

Mád: the starting point

Mád is both the starting point and the end point of this excursion. The symbol of the settlement is the baroque synagogue, which is a monument building, and due to the balanced interiors created with lovely artistic details, it is one of the most valued architectural monuments of Hungarian synagogue construction. On the opposite side is the former home of the rabbi and the religious college, and the region’s biggest Jewish cemetery can be found at the edge of the village. This is the final resting place of the renowned rabbis.  

In the footsteps of legends

In Tarcal, you will find a synagogue built in Louis-seize style, and Tokaj has a Jewish house of prayer to visit, which operates today as a cultural and conference centre, proudly embellishing the town with its Moorish styled cupola and round-shaped roof windows. Bodrogkeresztúr is a highlighted location of the pilgrimage route, due to the fact that the renowned Wonder Rabbi of the Jewish community, Reb Steiner Saje, whose life is told in legends, lived and was buried here. His former dwelling place has become a major pilgrimage centre for the Hassidic Jews.  

Picturesque hilltops and bath ruins

Another well-known Wonder Rabbi, Friedmann Cvi Hers lived in Olaszliszka, a sleepy little village. You can find his tent-like tomb in the picturesque cemetery lying on the hillside by the stream. On the main street of the settlement, at the site where once the synagogue stood, is a holocaust memorial with unique architectural solutions. In Sátoraljaújhely, the Jewish population once counted more than four thousand people – remember this fact, when you walk by the two Jewish cemeteries of the town, the resting place of Wonder Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum, or the ruins of the house of prayer. In Erdőbénye, you can walk around the only Jewish bath of the Tokaj-Hegyalja region.

Although the pilgrimage route officially won’t take you there, do visit Mezőzombor near Mád, too, where kosher wine was produced as early as the 17th century, and this tradition has been preserved until the present day. Take advantage of this stop to enjoy a glass of kosher Furmint or Hárslevelű wine. 


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