János Kőbányai (1951-)

John Kőbányai was taken to Teleki Square by a creating “accident”. Returning home from half years’ “illegal journey” to Israel as a “Baal tsuva” he began to learn Hebrew from Teleki Square synagogue’s (in exile) rabbi, Tamás Raj. He once told Tamás that a French Tunisian friend of his arrives to Hungary during the autumn festivals. Tamás proposed the guest the “Sephardic rite” Teleki synagogue. János went along. Once there, Mr. Glaser made him a regular of the Shabbat minjan.

Kőbányai, who previously wrote sociography, thought he would write a sociography titled “The minjan“. Nine members Teleki Square Kile’s life story, based on interviews. His would be the tenth – the story of his (re)converting to Jewish – a kind of a self interview. Interesting about The Teleki Square Synagogue was that mostly working class people used to come here. Unfortunately during the ten-year period, while Kőbányai visited Teleki, the “project” has not materialized. The first interviewee, Uncle Joe Heller once collapsed in the synagogue… During two and a half years, Uncle Joe told enough for thousands of pages on tape. Jewish Novel would have been a sociography, also never finished. First, Uncle Joe’s wife, and then his death prevented the complete life story to be told. Some interviews were also made with Jakab Gláser – hastily, before a hospital treatment – but several other people have died during interviewing or before they could take turn. The real obstacle was Kőbányai’s change of role: the writer become a regular member. The required spacing of the writers dissolved in the community. It is a shame that this document to the 20th century Hungarian Jewish fate is not going to survive…
Meanwhile, around the fall of the communist regime Tamás Raj was appointed to be the rabbi of Nagyfuvaros Street Synagogue, and ‘Kile’ was left without a rabbi. The reading of the Torah could be resolved without one, but none left to say the Droshe. Kőbányai thought that this is the task for the writer – and, he undertook  to prepare week after week from the week’s Parhsah and additional information – and the Kile liked the lectures. This “task” unconsciously made an immeasurable assistance to the deepening in his work – the Jewish culture – not from interest – but from the real-life purposes, that was lacking from the education of his – and his whole generation.
The half-“rabbi” status was to put an end when Kőbányai left for Ph.D studies in Israel. Then asked his partner, Agnes Fenyő’s son, András Mayer, to replace him in the minyan.
But that’s another story.

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