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November 10, 1989 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-11-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

!NEWS I

Hungarian Reforms May
Bring Anti-Semitism

RUTH E. GRUBER

Special to The Jewish News

T

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42

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 1989

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March of Dimes

he story of the Jews- in
Hungary is one of
tragedy and renewal.
If anything can be con-
sidered certain, it's the fact
that things change.
Today, in the midst of an
unprecedented post-war
revival, partly fostered by
the sweeping social and po-
litical liberalizations
throughout the Hungarian
system, Jews — like other
Hungarians — are keeping a
wary eye out for future, less
positive, developments.
Despite Hungary's newly
reforged diplomatic links
with Israel, despite the
renaissance of interest in
Jewish life and education,
despite a new government
policy which guarantees
religious freedom, many
people are concerned both
that the Hungarian reforms
could fail, and that anti-
Semitism could begin again
to flourish.
- "This is a country in the
midst of crisis," Deputy So-
cial Services Minister Istvan
Banfalvy said in Budapest at
the opening of the American
Jewish Joint Distribution
Committee's first East
European office.
"In a country where there
is social and economic hard-
ship, xenophobia could in-
crease," he said. "We all
know what tragedy this br-
ings to communities exposed
to prejudice." Said a
Hungarian-born journalist:
"The Hungarian govern-
ment is all for the Jews; the
Hungarian people, no."
These concerns were
echoed at a seminar in
Vienna on anti-Semitism in
Hungary. The seminar at-
tendants were told of a boom
in Jewish education, Jewish
children's camps, direct
flights between Budapest
and Tel Aviv, Jewish
Cultural Association ac-
tivities, the popular
Hungary-Israel Friendship
Society and other aspects of
Jewish renewal.
But they also heard that
only a relatively small frac-
tion of Hungary's 80,000
Jews actually take active
part in Jewish life. Most are
fully assimilated.
"Hungarian Jewish life
did not die, but it is very
different now and not too
strong," Budapest Professor
Tibor Englander said at the
seminar. "Both over-
pessimism and over-

optimism have to be
criticized," he said. "Years
ago, many Jews thought an-
ti-Semitism had died, now
many think it is reborn," he
said. "Anti-Semitism is
wearing a mask. We have to
recognize the mask and rec-
ognize who is wearing it."
Englander said there were
two big illusions about anti-
Semitism among Hungarian
Jews and "both are very
dangerous." One was that
"the old Communist regime
would save us from rightist
anti-Semitism. The second is
that a new democracy would
save us from Communist an-
ti-Semitism."
In fact, some Hungarians
say that as they have
become more open about

Some Hungarians
say that as they
have become more
open about their
Jewish identity,
overt anti-
Semitism also has
grown.

their Jewish identity, overt
anti-Semitism also has
grown.
One faction of the largest
opposition party, the
Democratic Forum, has been
accused of being anti-
Semitic, in part because its
political roots are nation-
alistic, rural, populist and
steeped in Christian beliefs.
Daniel Lanyi, an activist
at the Democratic Forum
headquarters in Budapest,
denied the party was anti-
Semitic per se. "Some of our
members are first-
generation intellectuals
with a rural background,"
he said.
"There probably are peo-
ple in the Democratic Forum
who are anti-Semitic," he
said, "but it's very difficult
to trace back. The politics of
the forum are very tolerant.
I reject the allegation that
the Democratic Forum is an-
ti-Semitic. There might be
people in it who are, but its
broad politics are not."
Before World War II,
Hungary had about 825,000
Jews, amounting to 5-8 per-
cent of the local population.
Communities flourished in
towns and villages around
the country as well as in
Budapest, although the
government between the
world wars was extremely
anti-Semitic.

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