Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Hungary’s Jews face down new extremism

Reuters, BUDAPEST

Hungary’s center-right government condemned the remarks, for which Gyongyosi later apologized, and the US embassy in Budapest called them “outrageous.”

Although anti-Semitism has not yet led to serious physical confrontations, hate crimes have included desecration of Jewish cemeteries and a verbal attack in Budapest on 90-year-old former chief rabbi Joseph Schweitzer.

“I don’t think all people who vote for Jobbik are anti-Semites,” said Slomo Koves, the chief rabbi of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation. “But if Jobbik brings it into the public discourse, even people who were not anti-Semites before, they feel like it’s a way to show your frustration ... The problem is that this has an effect on the state of mind of all Hungarians.”

Andras Heisler, a leader of Mazsihisz, the Association of Jewish Communes in Hungary, said Jobbik was a danger to Hungary.

“I think this is real racism and inciting hatred. A bad economic situation, recession, usually flames tempers and this is the case now as well,” he said.

Laden with debt and hit hard by the wider debt crisis in Europe, the country is struggling to end recession and sort out its finances, and a series of austerity measures have increased tensions on the street.

Anti-Semitism has made some Jews more determined to stand up for their heritage, said Zoltan Jakal, a 36-year-old financial analyst and part-time cantor.

“I have several friends who have strengthened their Jewish identity because of a few incidents with anti-Semites,” Jakal said. “When there’s peace, people tend to forget they are Jews. If nobody else reminds them of this, anti-Semites will.”

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