Chief rabbi of Budapest, Robert Deutsch, dies at 59

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Rabbi Robert Deutsch, the chief rabbi of Budapest, following a long illness. He was 59.

Deutsch died Wednesday, the Mazsihisz Federation of Jewish Communities said in a statement that spoke of the community’s “shock and deep sorrow” over his death.

He served as the rabbi of the Bethlen Square Synagogue from 1988 until his passing, and as chairman of Hungary’s board of rabbis.

“He never broke from the ancient tradition and tried to do everything possible to maintain religious Jewish life,” the Mazsihisz statement said, adding that Deutsch revived the synagogue, “turning it into a strong religious community.”

Born in Debrecen, a city in eastern Hungary, Deutsch was the son of a prominent rabbi. Deutsch was nominated at the relatively young age of 28 to the post of director of the Budapest Rabbinate, and later head of the rabbinical board and chief rabbi.

In 2010, Deutsch skipped a ceremony in which he was supposed to receive the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary because the event fell on Shabbat. He picked up the honor – the country’s highest civilian citation – at a later date.

He is survived by three children. Deutsch will be buried Thursday in the Hungarian capital.

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