Helena History Press

Anti-Semitism in Hungary

Appearance and Reality, Volumes 1 and 2

Executive Editor: Jeffrey Kaplan
Associate Editors: Zsófia Tóth-Bíró · Sáron Sugár · Lídia Papp · Tamás Orbán · Dávid Nagy

Helena History Press

Anti-Semitism in Hungary, Volume 1
ISBN 978-1-943596-27-0
278 pages

The Anti-Semitism in Hungary: Appearance and Reality Conference was the culmination of a nearly year-long research project on the topic of anti-Semitism in Hungary today. The subtitle of the conference, Appearance and Reality, was selected to test whether Hungary’s image in the western media as a country where anti-Semitism is almost in the DNA of the Hungarian people and where the current government manipulates these anti-Semitic feelings for political gain is factual. The research conducted, which included interviews with all the leaders of the various segments of the Hungarian Jewish community as well as with foreign scholars from the EU, Israel and the United States, sought to determine whether the pervasive image of Hungary as anti-Semitic had a basis in reality. 

The conference itself brought together the leaders of the primary Jewish organizations MAZSIHISZ and EMIH, along with scholars, journalists, and community leaders, as well as the Israeli Ambassador and scholars from Hungary, Germany, France, Poland and the United States. The results were striking. While the community hardly spoke with one voice, all agreed that the situation for Jews in Hungary had vastly improved over the last decade and that Jews were more secure in Hungary than in any other country save Israel with a large Jewish population.

Despite the long, bitter past, the Jewish community in Hungary managed to overcome the atrocities of the Holocaust as well as communist dictatorship era. And today, as said before, the Jewish community seems to be flourishing socially, culturally and religiously. This is all mainly thanks to the great support of the Hungarian government. 

—H.E. Ambassador Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, the Israeli Ambassador to Hungary

The Hungarian government has taken significant steps to combat anti-Semitism, and this has led to the dramatic decrease in the anti-Semitic violence that was common in Hungary a decade ago […] It is hoped that this conference and the publications to follow, will offer western readers a more nuanced, fieldwork based, view of anti- Semitism in contemporary Hungary that encompasses both perception and reality.

—Jeffrey Kaplan, Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Danube Institute in Budapest, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Trends in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Volume 1 Contributors

Tristan Azbej
Andrew Baker
Béla Bodó
Róbert Frölich
Virág Gulyás
Yacov Hadas-Handelsman
Jehuda Hartman
András Heisler
Ruth Isaac
Jeffrey Kaplan
Menachem Keren-Kratz
Tamás Kovács
Slomó Köves
Marek Kucia
László Kürti
Shaul Magid
Baruch Oberlander
Tamás Orbán
Tibor Pécsi
Sebastian Rejak
Sáron Sugár
György Szabó
Kálmán Szalai
Zsófia Tóth-Bíró
László Bernát Veszprémy
Tamir Wertzberger

Anti-Semitism in Hungary, Volume 2
ISBN 978-1-943596-29-4
246 pages

Anti-Semitism in Hungary. Appearance and Reality. Volume 2 takes the reader deeper into the forest with in-depth interviews with the leaders of the key streams of Hungarian Judaism and the leaders of contemporary Jewish institutions currently active in the country. The interviews are offered here as they took place, with a set of structured questions quickly becoming free flowing conversations that reflected not only on the topic of anti-Semitism, but also with often deeply personal reminiscences on Jewish life and how many families avoided any mention of their Jewish heritage, leaving their children to discover their Jewishness, often quite by accident.

Of the many interviews which were conducted over the course of a year and half beginning early in 2020 when COVID lockdowns restricted interviews to Zoom sessions, nine have been selected for this volume bringing together the leaders of MAZSIHISZ (Neolog), EMIH (Orthodox Chabad), MAROM (Conservative) and several key Jewish institutions serving the community as a whole. One additional interview was included with Virág Gulyás, a non-Jew who has created an organization to fight anti-Semitism.

Taken together, both volumes illustrate the aptness of the subtitle Appearance and Reality. Seen from the outside, from the EU and US, Hungary is portrayed as anti-Semitic—a dangerous place for Jews to live or visit. The reality, as seen from the perspective of Hungarian Jews, is perceived as the diametric opposite: Jews walk the streets safely, anti-Semitic violence is among the lowest in Europe, and under the Orbán government there is a zero tolerance policy for public expressions of anti-Semitism. Those interviewed in these pages have sharply differing views of Prime Minister Orbán and of FIDESZ, his political party. But there is a consensus that under the Orbán governments, anti-Semitic violence that was rife in 2012 has all but disappeared

It is our belief that together the two volumes of Anti-Semitism in Hungary: Appearance and Reality will provide readers with a picture of the vibrant Jewish community in Hungary and introduce the reader to some of the remarkable men and women that serve that community.

Volume 2 Contributors

Dániel Bodnár
Róbert Fröhlich
Gábo Gordon
Virág Gulyás
Jehuda Hartman Menachem Keren-Kratz
Slomó Köves
Báruch Oberlander Tamás Orbán
Ádám Schönberger
László Seres
György Szabó
Nóra Szilágyi
Zsófia Tóth-Bíró

Jeffrey Kaplan has published some twenty-three books and anthologies and over 100 journal articles and anthology chapters since his graduation from the University of Chicago in 1993. His most recent books include The 21st Century Cold Terrorism: From the Sicari to the American Revolt against the Modern World, and the first volume in the Routledge Distinguished Author series, Radical Religion and Violence: Theory and Case Studies. He has researched and taught in many countries, most recently in China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Hungary. He is currently a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the Danube Institute in Budapest, as well as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Trends in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

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