Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Sivan 5768 - June 5, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Budapest Jews Troubled by Cultural and Political Antisemitism

By Arnon Yaffeh, Paris

Jews in Budapest want to continue living as Hungarians. According to the International Herald Tribune both religious and assimilated Jews have been suffering from various forms of persecution. A shattered glass front of an ad agency in the Jewish quarter serves as a grim reminder of the doubled rate of cultural and political antisemitism. Young Hungarian nationalists react violently to every Jewish cultural event, particularly if it's related to the Holocaust. These groups harbor nostalgia for the old days when their country was a Nazi ally.

The ad agency itself doesn't belong to Jews, but is located in the Jewish quarter and refused to sell tickets to a fascist concert. The next day the windows were smashed. During the course of several days last month fascist youths gathered outside the agency to protest. One thousand extremists faced off against 3,000 counter-demonstrators led by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.

Local Jews say that the more Jewish culture returns to the streets the greater the antisemitic reaction. Recently an exhibition of Holocaust artwork, for instance, stirred protest demonstrations.

A French government official who heard about a campaign to preserve the old Jewish ghetto in the 13th Quarter and started a petition against construction work found himself assailed by an antisemitic reaction. "The ghetto belongs to Hungary's past and not just to the Jews who abandoned the quarter," read a piece in a literary journal. According to the Hungarian committee set up to preserve the quarter the dispute has nothing to do with antisemitism.

Among the developers who apply pressure to raze the Jewish Quarter are Israelis as well. Janos Ladanyi of the Committee for the Protection of the Ghetto said that Jews who appear religious don't encounter problems. "In Hungary it is all right today if you behave as a religious Jew. The Ghetto is fine for that reason. It's a distinct historical entity. But what is now being denied here is the notion that Jews, no matter how we behave, are the same as non-Jews. The problem comes when we say we are like them," Ladanyi told a New York Times reporter.

But a Jew named Gabor Zoltan, who wears a yarmulke and sometimes serves as a tour guide for visitors at Budapest's old shul, said he was openly mocked on the street for wearing a yarmulke.

A well-known professor in the capital, who sometimes appears on television, said not long ago a car stopped at a crosswalk and the driver called out, "Ordinarily I'd run over a Jew, but because I recognized you I stopped."

Hungarian historian Tibor Frank said antisemitism is part of Hungarian youth's reexamination of their nation's history and they identify Jews with the communist regime, which had many Jewish leaders.


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