June 1998 Issue
There is no reason to fear of an anti-Semitic revival initiated by the new government – argues Attila Novák against the deeply rooted conviction of the majority of Hungarian Jews. Time has come to evaluate the political parties according to their programmes and policies instead of labelling them „anti-Semites” and non „anti- Semites”. After the recent elections we have a chance to have a moderate right wing government which distances itself from the extreme right party of István Csurka.
The library of the Rabbinical Seminary which, although very much neglected during the past thirty years, nonetheless preserves some truly unique books, will be relocated to another floor, to make room for the Pedagogical Institute of the Seminary. The librarians are at loss to understand why the 130 thousand volumes have to be moved, instead of the desks and chairs of the new institute. It would appear that the decision-makers considered the fate of the library secondary to various, obscure administrative considerations.
At the general assembly of the Budapest Jewish Community and the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary there was no mention of the scandal aired by Szombat, namely that the director of the Budapest Jewish cemetery drew 12 million Forints (c. $60,000) on the basis of false invoices and is unwilling to show the receipts proving that he did not pocket the money. Why wasn’t anybody prepared to challenge to Budapest president who is reluctant to offer any information on the community’s affairs, while the national president who is more inclined to keep in contact with the public was criticized severely. Is this a sign of democracy or of weakness?
János Bársony, a Socialist MP of the previous government was the single Hungarian MP among the twenty who accepted the invitation to go to Israel and participate in the gathering of Jewish MPs last year. Many of the invited MPs considered an Israeli visit untimely just before the elections, although some were prevented from participating by other engagements.
Our foreign affairs section begins with a Tunisian travelogue by Gábor Szerényi, according to whom the official tolerance towards the Jews hides strong anti-Semitic sentiments. The second report describes the fate of the falash muras (forcefully converted Jews) remaining in Ethiopia, while the third report takes us to Manchester and its growing Jewish community. This city, with its Orthodox renaissance, shows a rapid growth, in stark contrast to other parts of England, where the Jewish communities are decimated by assimilation.
In the second part of our section on Israel’s fiftieth birthday, we have published excerpts from studies by Amos Oz and Alain Dowty. Another study details Israel’s economic miracle: how the country, starting from the „zero point” threatened by enemies from all sides became a highly-developed industrial country within the span of fifty years.
A Hungarian-Austrian historical conference was held on the sixtieth anniversary of the Anschluss (the Nazi occupation of Austria). Most lectures focused on the tragedy of the fleeing Jews. Before the „Endlosung”, the Nazis often provided the Jews with false visa and often also provided Danubian ships for them (obviously, for a good fee). Most of these Jews eventually reached a safe haven in England or the States, or – to a smaller extent – in Palestine. Lacking a visa, however, many of the refugees were stranded underway and the Nazi power eventually caught up with them again. These refugees then lost their lives in one of death camps.
Shakespeare’s play, The Merchant of Venice, has been adapted to the stage for the second time since 1948 – before 1989 the play was a taboo. This issue concludes with a review of the theatre performance.