Cholent
Cholent iStock

An extraordinary event took place on Sunday this week in the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Many thousands, tourists and locals, came to a festival based around one of the most recognizable foods among the Jews - the cholent (hamin).

Rabbi Shlomo Kovesh, Chief Rabbi of the Amia Orthodox Jewish Communities Association in Hungary, told Arutz Sheva about the festival which is one of his initiatives: "It's a festival that is both very Jewish and very tasty. It symbolizes something very important: the revival of Hungarian Jewry.

"There are now about 100,000 Jews living here and most of them in Budapest. After the Holocaust, most Jews chose to hide their Jewishness and in recent years after our strenuous work in the Community Association and with 15 Chabad emissaries operating in and out of Budapest - there is a great Jewish awakening.

"The fact that in Budapest this year this is the sixth kosher food festival, centered on the most Jewish food - the cholent - and reaches about ten thousand people, makes the event one of the largest in kosher food in Europe. It is a very important symbol of the revival of Jewish life," he adds.

Plate of cholent at Budapest festival
Amia

An Israeli chef who works with the Jewish communities in Hungary is responsible for the giant pots that brew the cholent. So is it a gourmet cholent or the same stew that many of us prepare for Shabbat?

"It's both," says Rabbi Kovesh. "We want everything to be kosher and in order to ensure kosher everything has to be done in a central kitchen. But we have an Israeli chef who works with us throughout the year and he prepares the chulent and tries to bring home the flavor.

"In fact, we kasher a very large kitchen for this event, so we can cook for the whole event in a few hours. Of course, preparation itself takes a few weeks to find all the products that go into the cholent."

The thousands who packed the festival grounds got not only the traditional Chulent but also some twists. "We cook over ten thousand dishes for all kinds of tastes. This year, Chulent came as Hungarian, Israeli, Yemeni, vegetarian, and in other flavors. A lot of Jews and non-Jews come to the event. It has become quite a tradition and people wait for and anticipate this festival."

They come for the food but also for Judaism
Amia

Rabbi Kovesh points out that "beyond the food there are, of course, stalls that showcase Jewish culture and various Jewish organizations. Everyone who was present was amazed not only at the taste of the cholent but also the Jewish life here.

"The Gemara says: 'Great is a morsel of food as it brings people closer' and you see it at this festival especially. Of course, people come because of food, and love for cholent, but also because of Judaism and Cholent may be a Jewish symbol that Gentiles also look for. Come for the food and stay for the atmosphere. There were people standing in line for more than an hour to get a plate of cholent plate.

"The event also has big stages with Jewish singers and musicians and special activities for children. Some people are there for long hours and the most popular booth is called 'Ask the Rabbi.' We set up a booth and sit there with our rabbis on shifts and people ask questions - about Judaism, daily life, issues, and more," he adds.

"I think the festival adds appreciation to both kosher food and the Jewish community, and gives pride to the Jewish community that sees pride in Jewish culture and tradition," concludes Rabbi Kovesh.

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