The congregation of around 300 orthodox Jews and members of the wider Jewish community sang and clapped as 23-year-old Shlomo Koves was inducted at the tiny Chabad Lubavitch synagogue.
Chief rabbis Mordechai Eliahu of Israel and Berel Lazar of Russia joined the leader of Budapest Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, in placing a prayer shawl around Koves' shoulders. "The Torah has returned from Israel with this young rabbi," Eliahu said in his speech of blessing.
Born in Budapest, Koves graduated from high school in Pittsburgh before studying to be a rabbi in Paris, New York and Israel. "Before World War II there was a large Orthodox Jewish community in Hungary," Oberlander told The Associated Press. "Unfortunately, most of them perished in the Holocaust, but we are turning a new page with the induction of this young rabbi."
Oberlander, who is of Hungarian descent, moved to Hungary from New York in 1989 to help rebuild the Orthodox community, which now runs its own kindergarten, schools and a weekly newspaper.
Around 600,000 Hungarian Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Around 100,000 Jews still live in the country, but only a few hundred are practicing Orthodox Jews. "Religious teaching was banned under communism," Oberlander said. "But here we have a Hungarian-born young man who has studied to a level where the Chief Rabbi of Israel attends his ordination."
President Ferenc Madl attended the celebration and U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Rep. Tom Lantos - both of Hungarian descent - sent letters of congratulation to the Chabad Lubavitch community.