International workshop organized by ÓVÁS! Associaton

Jewish Contribution to the Urban Development of European Cities


Session 1.

Fredric Bedoire, Royal Institute of Art, School of Architecture, Stockholm

Jewish Contribution to the Nineteenth-Century Metropolis

My introduction intends to show different attitudes and possibilities for the emancipated Jewish entrepreneur to realize the Messianic dream of a new Jerusalem in the European city. The background is his effort to modernize society and give himself a visible place in the city. He never wishes to create a Jewish community, or a modern ghetto, his aim is to collaborate with Christians. There are almost always Christians involved in his projects.

  1. Berlin around 1840-80. Here we find a continuously growing Jewish society consisting of real estate owners and prosperous merchants early in the 19th century. Their real importance as city improvers comes, from the 1830’s, with the development of the bourgeois villa, with Tiergarten as the first establishment, and followed by the area around Charlottenburg. From Berlin, Dresden and other German cities, this way of modern living spread all over Europe and the US. It is typical that these villa districts have never been exclusively Jewish but had room for wealthy Christians as well.
  2. Paris around 1860. Jewish contribution here is connected to the huge city development of Napoleon III and Haussmann. Here, we do not find a special settlement for the prosperous Jews. The Jewish entrepreneurs, such as the Péreire Brothers and James de Rothschild, have greater social or comprehensive ambitions. The Péreire’s, especially, are involved with infrastructure, railways and railway stations, coaches, trams and hotels and also other collective enterprises, property companies for new domestic areas, such as the elegant quarters around the Opera, Parc Monceau and the early villa district of Parc Montmorency, and also the 16th district. Gare du Nord was erected by the Rothschilds and Gare de l’Est by the Péreire’s; both railway stations were owned by them.
  3. Vienna around 1860. The developments of the emancipated Jews in Vienna city centre are limited to the area near the Ringstrasse, a monument of the liberation for the economic élite in 1850’s. Here, the bankers and other businessmen belonging to the same group financed the project of the emperor on the former city walls. The Jewish bankers also took part in building institutions as Musikverein and Operhaus. They embellished the huge street with their private palaces or “Nobelmietshäuser”, together with some palaces for the archdukes. They created the most impressive avenue in nineteenth-century Europe.
  4. Budapest around 1870-85. As the most Jewish of all named European capitals, Jewish people have lived in many parts of Pest. The manifestation of their activity is Andrassy út (Sugárút), a great avenue organized and financed by the Jewish bankers, who just had received their civil rights. It became such a high-class manifestation that it was regarded as a national highlight, not less important than the 1896 Millennial festivities. With its high standard, its technical equipment and fine neo-renaissance architecture Andrassy út became a highlight in European urban design.

Rudolf Klein, Saint Steven University Budapest, Faculty of Architectural Sciences

THE “MODERNIST SHTETL” Újlipótváros in Budapest

– An Urban Historical and Architectural Study –

In this paper, I am going to present Újlipótváros or New-Leopoldstadt in Budapest, one of the most important modern Jewish quarters in Europe, built in the period between World War One and Two. New-Leopoldstadt is a unique settlement, a little ‘city within the city’, along the left embankment of the river Danube, with its main square, main street, luxurious cafés, hidden synagogues, which has been the home to many prominent Jewish intellectuals in the past 80 years.

A mere century after living in the Shtetl/Ghetto and rushing to gentile neighbourhoods of Budapest, Jews returned to a modern version of the Shtetl, a settlement where they constituted the vast majority of inhabitants. Architects and house owners were almost exclusively Jewish.

Emancipated Jews chose to build their houses in an easily recognizable modern style that highlighted their liberal values and attitude, vis-à-vis the conservative, anti-modern spirit of interwar period Hungary. While compact, this little district is neatly embedded into the urban fabric of Budapest, visible from the Margit Island and the Buda Mountains adjacent to the northern fringe of the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Danube Pest riverside.

Miklós Konrád, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Historical Studies, Budapest

Jews in the Popular Culture of Fin-de-siècle Budapest

This paper aims at presenting a brief panorama of the Jewish contribution to the popular culture blossoming in fin-de-siècle Budapest, with a special attention to the rôle played by Jews in the development of cabarets. Also, it examines the question of what was specifically “Jewish” about this Jewish contribution.

Session 2.

Dominique Tomasov Blinder, Patrimoine Juif, Barcelona

Travel Back and Forth: Building and Rebuilding in Barcelona

Jews, as a people living in diaspora, have always brought with them ideas/techniques/approaches from their places of origin to where they settled. In doing so, they planted innovative seeds in the new destinations.

This was so in Spain in the Middle Ages and in the modern times, too, though the Jewish contribution is not always obvious here. This might be explained by the 400 (in some areas 500) years of a total absence, as well as by the fact that, today, Spanish Jews represent a negligible percentage of the country’s total population (approximately 30,000 out of 47 million).

This presentation will identify Jewish traces in the structure of the city of Barcelona from the period when Jewish life flourished in the Middle Ages, deciphering their historical meaning. It will also treat the modern times, when Jewish presence -discontinued from the Middle Ages and quite heterogenous – gradually takes a new shape in contemporary Spain. Yet, most Jewish contributions were related to culture, economy, sciences and other areas, without always taking an immediate architectural or urban shape.

Katrin Kessler, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Bet Tfila – Research Unit of Jewish Architecture in Europe

Movement and Presence – the Jewish Topography of Berlin

From the end of the seventeenth century, the modern Jewish community in Berlin developed and grew to one of the most important Jewish centres in Europe. Around 1930, the community was the largest in Germany, with about 120,000 members. Traces of this Jewish life, interrupted by the Nazi rule and the Second World War, can still be found in many places.

During a research project that was carried out for six years between 2006 and 2014, the Bet Tfila Research Unit, together with the Center for Jewish Art in Jerusalem and the Centrum Judaicum in Berlin, tried to establish a Jewish topography of Berlin.

By researching the location and history of the many Jewish community buildings we were able to identify 2,517 objects that are situated at 1,384 sites throughout the city. It became clear that several centres of Jewish life can be located, which developed and were active at diverse times. By comparing the migrations within the city of the individual institutions, one can see the shifts that occurred in the life of the Jewish community. Especially in the nineteenth century, one may even distinguish between the social position of the so-called Ostjuden coming from Eastern Europe and that of the German Jews. This way, the dense network of Jewish life in Berlin is visualized through the many sites that Jewish institutions occupied in the city. The paper will also show how and why some centres developed, while others became abandoned.

Catherine Szántó, AMP (Architecture-Milieu-Paysage) laboratory, Paris-La Villette School of Architecture

Jewish contribution to the Urban Development of Paris

The emancipation of the Jewry in France from the early nineteenth century allowed Jews to contribute, in terms equal to the other members of the society, to the building of the new „capital of the nineteenth century”. The new Jewish financial aristocracy commissioned apartment houses, luxury villas, buildings for philanthropic institutions. They participated in the development of the new banking models that made the Haussmannian transformation of Paris possible, acting as developers in the quickly urbanizing outer areas of the city.

The talk will present some examples of the Jewish contribution to the urban development of modern Paris and its surroundings:

  • The Péreire brothers and the Plaine Monceau (1860s);
  • Emile Deutsch de la Meurthe and the Cité Universitaire Internationale (1920s);
  • Albert Kahn and the Archives of the Planet (1920s).

Session 3.

Michael Miller, Central European University Budapest, Nationalism Studies Program

Nostalgia for „The World of Yesterday”

Jewish Quarters in Moravia in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Ruth Ellen Gruber, Jewish Heritage Europe, Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, London

Life after Life: Historic Jewish Quarters in Twenty-first Century Europe

In the decades following the Holocaust, surviving Jewish built heritage was largely ignored, neglected, forgotten or even deliberately destroyed. Since 1989 — as part of a process some called Jewish archaeology — there has been a concerted effort to rediscover and recover this architectural heritage, which provides a physical context for the rediscovery and recovery of Jewish memory, culture, traditions, life. My presentation will describe several examples of this process.

Session 4.

Anna Perczel, ÓVÁS! Association, Budapest

WHO LIVED, WHO BUILT HERE? Jewish Contribution to the Development of Budapest as a Metropolis (1840–1944)

In the development of the metropolitan character of Budapest, the Jewish bourgeoisie of the capital, greatly strengthened during the nineteenth century, played a major role. This role in the development of the capital has been extensively discussed by various authors. The novelty of the program launched in 2015 by ÓVÁS! Association under the title „Who lived, who built here?” consists in our presentation – through the visual exhibition on a website of buildings, the entrepreneurs and architects who built them and the residents who lived in them – the degree to which the Jewish population of the capital contributed to the latter’s urban landscape. This contribution was especially noticeable on the Pest side of the Danube but it is also perceptible in Buda and Óbuda. However, it is most prominent in Elisabethstadt (7th District), Theresientstadt (6th District) and Leopoldstadt (5th District), and is even more concentrated in Neu-Leopoldtstadt (13th District).

In the case of Elisabethstadt and Theresienstadt, about half of the buildings – although in some places even more – that form the cityscape were built by Jewish contractors, planned by Jewish architects. This sort of Jewish contribution is unknown and invisible for the most part. Mostly those significant synagogues and those Jewish institutions are known, which could escape the post-war nationalisation and, as such, could maintain their original function. Passers-by do not know anything about the past of the apartment buildings that determine the character of the streets and roads, nor of former Jewish institutions, former Jewish association headquarters, or of the smaller synagogues.

At our website and at the exhibition that will be opened after the workshop, we are presenting this “invisible Jewish Budapest”.

János Ladányi, John Wesley Theological College Budapest

WHO LIVED, WHO BUILT HERE? Is there a way to create a representative sample?

This part of the research aims at creating and analyzing a representative sample to be taken from the full database relative to the area under consideration. The creation of the representative sample is necessitated by the fact that we have no reason to suppose that the buildings which have already been included in the research do not differ in several aspects from those which have not yet been included, while it is impossible to research the totality of the buildings. Thus, our only way to obtain data that are characteristic of the entire area under investigation without a representative post-processing of all the data is to create a random sampling on the existing body of the research findings. Yet, if the random sampling is executed correctly, there is no reason to suppose that the results should be any „better” or „worse” than those gained from a full record of data.

Andrea Szőnyi, USC Shoah Foundation Institute, Zachor Foundation for Social Memory, Budapest

Local History, Jewish History and Education

My contribution presents the methodology and pedagogical impact of the walks for teaching local history on the example of on the example of already existing educational walks.