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HUNGARY: Govt grant 10-11 million USD for reopening of synagogue in Budapest

Hungarian Synagogue reopens for the first time since its destruction by the Nazis

On this occasion, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met to discuss antisemitism and the revitalization of Jewish life in Hungary.

By YOSSI LEMPKOWICZ

 

EJP (14.06.2021) – https://bit.ly/3vHC5Ip –  World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder joined Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban last Thursday for a reopening ceremony of Rumbach Street Synagogue in Budapest. The synagogue reopened for the first time following its destruction by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

 

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met to discuss antisemitism and the revitalization of Jewish life in Hungary

Nestled in what used to be the Jewish ghetto in Budapest, the Rumbach Street Synagogue will reopen for public education and use, many decades after the historic building was destroyed by the Nazis during their occupation of Hungary in the 1940’s.

Lauder joined MAZSIHISZ, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities and the Hungarian affiliate of the WJC, to celebrate the reopening of the synagogue, originally built in 1872 to serve Hungarian Jews in the eastern part of Budapest.

The celebration came immediately before a meeting between Amb. Lauder and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, during which Lauder personally thanked Orban for the Hungarian government’s financial support of the renovation and restoration of the synagogue building. The building is also the new home of the WJC’s Hungary office.

“Without this synagogue, I would not be here,” Lauder said. “My grandparents moved to Budapest to get married and had their wedding in the very space we are currently celebrating. They eventually moved to Vienna, and then to New York as antisemitism grew throughout Hungary. And if they did not make that move, I wouldn’t be here today, let alone part of this historic celebration commemorating a very positive step forward for Hungary’s Jewish community.”

Lauder displayed a stone that was part of the original Rumbach synagogue, which he has carried throughout his travels as WJC president. It was passed down by his grandparents to his mother, and then to him. He shared how that stone has represented a symbol of good luck as the WJC works to combat the rise in antisemitism around the world.

The synagogue building’s renovation was made possible thanks to a 3.2 billion Hungarian forint (about 10-11 million USD) grant from the Hungarian government, disbursed through a series of payments to recognize the fact that more than half of the Hungarian Jewish community, representing nearly 450,000 people, were murdered in the Holocaust. Due to the decimation of Hungary’s Jewish population, the congregation and its physical space were never fully restored after World War II. Now complete, the modern-era renovation will help support and revitalize the largest Jewish population in East Central Europe.

During his meeting with Prime Minister Orban, Lauder praised the government’s support for the Jewish community, particularly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its support to health, social and cultural institutions that improve the quality of life for Hungarian Jewry.

Lauder also thanked Prime Minister Orban for his recent visit to Israel and his ongoing support for the Jewish state on the international floor.

The reopening celebration also included a commemorative march around the Jewish neighborhood as community members danced with Torah scrolls, and a religious ceremony to place the Torah scrolls back in the ark and light the eternal candles. The chief rabbi of Hungary, Robert Frölich, and Israeli Ambassador to Hungary, Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, also participated in today’s gathering.

The synagogue building will now serve as an open synagogue, welcoming those representing all branches of Judaism with a moveable Bimah. The space will also host concerts and other events, serving as a space to educate all visitors about Jewish life.

Photo : World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder speaks in the Rumbach Street Synagogue in Budapest. Picture by the WJC

Further reading about FORB in Hungary on HRWF website





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FRANCE: City Council of Strasbourg rejects the IHRA definition of antisemitism

By YOSSI LEMPKOWICZ

European Jewish Press ( 06.04.2021) – https://bit.ly/3wNkWyW France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia ‘’deeply’’ regretted the decision of the City Council of Strasbourg, France, to vote against adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, despite a surge of antisemitic incidents in the city over the last year.

 

At a meeting of the City Council on 22 March, the left-wing Green Europe Ecology Party (EELV), refused to endorse the IHRA working definition, which was adopted by France in 2019 at President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative.

According to Strasbourg councillor Jean Werlen, the Council’s objection to the IHRA definition stemmed from its inclusion of examples outlining how the demonization of Israel and Zionism can be antisemitic.

“First, there is a Strasbourg tradition of never importing foreign conflicts into local religious communities. Second, it is out of the question to deny citizens the right to criticise a state, even a foreign one. We must condemn antisemitism, but we must be able to criticise a state and this definition prohibits any criticism of the policy of the State of Israel,” he declared.

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism clearly states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” while also recognising that manifestations of antisemitism “might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.

The definition has been adopted by dozens of governments and municipalities around the world, including Paris.

One Strasbourg Councillor who voted in favor of adopting the definition declared himself “dismayed” by the decision, emphasising that Strasbourg had been plagued by antisemitic outrages during the last year.

“The city of Strasbourg needs this definition because in recent months there have been several notorious antisemitic acts,” said Pierre Jakubowicz, who is a member of the  opposition Les Republicains party.

Among the incidents cited by Jakubowicz was an assault last August on a young Jewish graffiti artist who was jostled and showered with antisemitic abuse before the assailant grabbed one of his paint canisters and sprayed offensive slogans on the ground, including “forbidden to Jews” and “bitch.”

He also recalled the scandal in January involving two drivers working for food delivery service Deliveroo in Strasbourg, who refused to serve Jewish customers.

He suggested that the real reason for the council’s rejection of the IHRA definition was “the fact that some members of the city council majority openly support boycott campaigns against Israel.”

Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said ‘’the European capital has knowingly decided to show neither heart nor common sense.” Strasbourg is one of the two seats of the European Parliament.

Daniel Saada, Israel’s Chargé d’Affaires in France, sent an open letter to Strasbourg Mayor Jeanne Barseghian in which he expressed his “deep concern”.

“39 voices, including yours, Madam Mayor, have sent a message of moral bankruptcy, at a time when the urgency is to mobilize all democrats, a signal of renunciation while the manifestations of the revival of anti-Semitism in all its forms are multiplying every day,” he wrote.

In an other letter to the Mayor, Shimon Samuels, International Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center deplored that Strasbourg ‘’is the only city to reject IHRA antisemitism definition on “anti-Zionist” grounds.

‘’Madame Mayor Jeanne Barseghian, In representing the Green Party (EELV), you must be sensitive to the environment. You would thus be aware of the Natzweiler-Struthof camp nearby, where in 1943, a gas chamber was built for 80 Jewish prisoners at the request of Strasbourg’s University Institute of Anatomy. Their skeletons were to be used to prove “Jewish racial inferiority.” This example of antisemitism should be sufficient evidence of historic environmental poisoning.’’

On Tuesday, 350 academics from around the world signed a letter of support of the IHRA definition. More than 15 Jewish groups from around the world will post the letter.

https://adoptihra.com/supporting-ihra/

 

Photo  European Jewish Press :“The city of Strasbourg needs this definition because in recent months there have been several notorious antisemitic acts,” said Pierre Jakubowicz, a City Councillor who voted in favor of adopting the definition.


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