What It’s Like in Hungary Right Now


Even in normal times, I refuse to make sweeping statements about the situation in Hungary. Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, I am even less qualified to do so, since I hardly emerge from my room. But here are a few things I have noticed over the past two weeks.

First, the situation is hard on many of my students. They are dealing with uncertainties that no one is prepared for. What does it mean? What will happen with graduation and exams? Will we be at home for months and months? Will people close to us die? I can only respond that we don’t know but that we can stay informed, take care of ourselves, find ways to be in touch with others, allow for the difficulty, and let various joys in too.

I am moved by my students’ commitment to learning, keeping some kind of contact, and living. I have held online audio sessions with each of my classes, and the students are there, ready and eager to talk, and patient with the imperfections of this approach. There is something cheering about hearing each other’s voices and conducting a lesson of some sort, even a limited one.

The general attitude has been humane, reasonable, and flexible. Teachers receive updates and recommendations every day; several of these have reminded us to slow down, take things in measure, and avoid spending all day and night at the computer, for the students’ sake and our own. Overall, it seems that students, parents, and others appreciate not only the teachers’ hard work, but the chance to take a break here and there.

I have been very busy. Like many, I miss the classroom, which was both simpler and more complex at the same time. But I am also enjoying the online teaching–and receiving many writings that will go in the new online student literary journal, Folyosó.

What about synagogue? Well, it is canceled for now, and I miss it, but I have been enjoying davening (praying) at home. Last Saturday I intended to join an online B’nai Jeshurun (NYC) service, but it turned out that Saturday services were cancelled, even online. So I took out my siddur and chanted some beloved parts of the liturgy. One of these was El Adon, with the Modzitz melody (follow the link and the Flash sound player on the upper left).


On other fronts, this week I completed the purchase of an apartment here in Szolnok! I will move sometime this spring. It’s right near the Tisza river, the airplane museum, and the Marcipán confectionery (shown here below).


That wraps up my sweeping statement about what is happening in Hungary right now. Below: the first stork I have seen this spring.


I made some minor edits to this piece for clarity after posting it.

Leave a comment


  1. stemcellres

     /  March 28, 2020

    I enjoyed your comments on the situation at the moment here in Hungary. We retired nearly 6 years ago to Turkeve, which is about 45 min drive from Szolnok. We often come in for shopping or theater. I am curious. How large is the Jewish community there? Turkeve has none as far as we know although before WWII there was a significant community here and included the Korda family (Sir Alexander, Zoltan, Vincent). We are not Jewish, but many of our friends in Budapest (where we have a small apartment) are.

    • Thank you for commenting! There is a small Jewish community here (I don’t know how many people), but no regular synagogue services. There have been some beautiful events, though, including annual Holocaust memorials and a large event commemorating the synagogue’s 120th anniversary. I attend synagogue in Budapest, but it’s cancelled for the time being.


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