Hungarian Jews Concerned About National Elections

Jewish Community Stays Put


Hungarian Jews Concerned About National Elections

Shabi Michaeli, Rabbi Shmuel Raskin, Arik Yomtov, Rabbi Koves, Elie Weisel, Former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, Yossi Priel, Rabbi Oberlander, Minister Peter Kiss (file photo)

by Chana Katz - Budapest, Hungary

April 9, 2010

(Lubavitch.com) Hungary's Jewish community is keeping a wary eye on this Sunday's national elections, in which a right-wing extremist group is expected to garner an unprecedented number of votes. 

"We're talking about a party not yet represented in Parliament that could now become the second largest bloc in the government. People are very concerned about it," said Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, who, with his wife Batsheva, has spent the past 21 years working to revive this Holocaust-decimated community. 

The election comes five days after hundreds of local Jews joined a demonstration to protest political winds that have many concerned..Just last week, stones were thrown at the window of Chabad Rabbi Shmuel Raskin's home during the second-night of Passover, as 40 guests sat around the Seder table.

Police have yet to arrest anyone in connection with that incident, but Rabbi Oberlander said the perpetrator was possibly a neighbor disturbed by the festive late-night singing.  

The demonstration was organized by a Jewish member of the Socialist party, which is expected to trail significantly in the upcoming election.

With the nation experiencing its largest economic slump in two decades, the Socialist party has rapidly lost popular appeal. Shock waves reverberated in the country this past summer, when the far-rightwing party, Jobbik—calling for financial reforms and police crackdown on the gypsy community—secured 15 percent of the local votes, more than three times its projected gains in the European parliament elections. 

"The Jews are concerned about the elections, but not only the Jews -- any rational person should be concerned about such an ultra-extremist group gaining power,” said Rabbi Oberlander.  

Despite a growing number of anti-Semitic incidents,there has not been a discernible pattern of emigration, or aliyah.  

Hungary lost more than half a million Jews during the Holocaust. Today there are 100,000 Jews living in this central European country, making it home to one of Europe’s largest Jewish communities. Today, Budapest’s Jews enjoy Jewish schools, synagogues, kosher restaurants, a mikveh, a Chabad Campus center, and a Rabbinical college. 

Last year, the Hungarian parliament honored Chabad of Hungary for twenty years of service to the country’s Jewish revival. Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel was present at the ceremony and he urged the Jewish community of Hungary to stay true to their Jewish identity and to “stand together.”  

Rabbi Oberlander underscores Wiesel’s message.  

"Obviously we have to take into consideration that sometimes people can be intimidated. But hiding your Jewish identity is a mistake. That's why we have the Chanukah menorah in the biggest square in Budapest. You have to be clear of who you are and where you are going."  

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