Thousands in Budapest flock to Jewish street fair in sign of community’s revival

June 13, 2018

In scene uniting Jews of all denominations, some 10,000 brave thunderstorm to throng Hungarian capital’s touristic Kazinczy street for annual Judafest

BUDAPEST – Thousands flocked to Budapest’s Kazinczy street in the heart of the historic Jewish ghetto on Sunday to celebrate the city’s Judafest.
Braving an afternoon downpour, tourists and locals alike visited the massive street festival, which annually showcases all things Hungarian and Jewish. It’s quite a coup for a central European Jewish community still recovering from World War II and decades of Communism.
The thoroughfare, a common tourist destination throughout the year, teemed with both Jewish and non-Jewish onlookers who stopped at the dozens of stalls offering traditional Jewish foods, handmade items for sale, and information on the multitude of religious and community initiatives that operate in Hungary and the surrounding areas.
Parents pushed baby carriages and walked hand-in-hand with children who sported brightly colored face paint and clutched balloons decorated with the logos of Jewish organizations.
“I think we have even more people than last year,” festival organizer Pepe Berenyi told The Times of Israel. Berenyi, who is also the deputy director of Budapest’s Balint House JCC, estimated that 9,000 to 10,000 people had passed through the festival by mid-afternoon.
Judafest perennially brings together congregations and organizations from all walks of Hungarian Jewish life and across secular and all religious denominations — no mean feat for any Jewish community. The festival was organized by Budapest’s Balint House JCC and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and featured over 30 partners from across the community.
This year also saw significant representation from the country’s periphery and Israel, including the towns of Koszeg, on the Austrian border, and Komarom, on the border with Slovakia – in keeping with the festival’s theme of “Hungarian-speaking Jewish communities.”
A secular humanitarian organization set up shop across from Chabad Hasidic emissaries who gave passersby the chance to say a short prayer with a set of phylacteries. Representatives from many of the city’s various synagogues lounged together amid the many food stands offering tastes of traditional Jewish fare ranging from cholent to freshly baked challah to plates of Israeli hummus.
In the late afternoon, the sunshine gave way to heavy gray storm clouds when a not-completely-unexpected thunderstorm struck. But revelers stuck it out, huddling with umbrellas for half an hour in stone alcoves along the alleyway. As the rain finally started to let up, a handful of teenagers with matted hair took back to the street and danced in their wet clothing to Israeli music that continued to play from a nearby stall.
“Well, it was a great six hours,” joked a resilient Berenyi, who worked for months to put the festival together.
But despite some setbacks – the amplification system and other electronics were taken out of commission by the storm – visitors did not seem deterred. Stall owners bailed out water, dried off their merchandise, and went back to serving the many attendees who stuck around.
A planned concert went forward as an acoustic performance, and the three singers made up for the lack of a sound system by asking the audience to accompany them, turning the show into a sing-along.
At 19:48 Israeli time, to correspond with the year Israel was established, 70 community dignitaries released dove-shaped balloons in honor of Israel’s 70th year of independence.
Onstage, Balint House JCC director Zsuzsa Fritz sang “Lech L’cha,” by singer Debbie Friedman, citing the song’s significance.
“The song is taken from the biblical passage where God first commands Abraham to go to Israel, and promises to bless his offspring and make them into a great nation,” Fritz later told The Times of Israel. “I really felt that this was especially appropriate here as we continue to grow our community.”
Fritz said that the event was an incredibly effective outreach tool, and could encourage many people to engage with Budapest’s Jewish communal life who otherwise wouldn’t take the initiative.
Berenyi said that in Judafest’s inaugural year, Hungarians were hesitant about street festivals of any type – let alone obviously Jewish ones. In all, there were seven partners that first year, and, unexpectedly, the daylong festival was a huge success, drawing 2,500 people.
But in recent years, Judafest has grown considerably, attracting dozens of partners and drawing 12,000 attendees.
Fritz cited an impact study that the Balint House JCC conducted at the event, with pollsters asking attendees questions related to their levels of Jewish participation.
“I was walking by and overheard one of our surveyors speaking to a woman of about 60,” Fritz told The Times of Israel.
“She asked the woman if this was the sole Jewish event that she attended this year, and to my surprise, the woman answered yes,” Fritz said.
“I was sure that she looked like she participated more regularly – in this business you get a feel for these things – but this just shows that events such as this are of the utmost importance and can bring people into the fold who otherwise would feel insecure.”
The article was published on The Times of Israel

Additional Articles

At least 44 dead, hundreds hurt in crush at Lag BaOmer event in northern Israel

Terrible and tragic news from Israel. Our hearts are broken at the loss of so many lives on Lag B’omer. The EJA mourns each and every life lost and extends its deepest sympathy to the families concerned. We also wish a speedy and full recovery to the many injured, some critically.

Greetings for the Upcoming Rosh HaShanah by Prime Minister of Hungary, H.E. Mr. Viktor Orbán and by Ambassador of Hungary to Belgium and Luxembourg H.E Dr. Tamas Ivan Kovacs

Lithuanian Tourism Chiefs Condemned for ‘Immoral’ PR Stunt in Ongoing Fight Over Jewish Cemetery

The head of Lithuania’s Jewish community has strongly condemned a government-sponsored publicity stunt that showed hundreds of chairs marked with fake 1,000-euro notes lined up outside a state-of-the-art convention center that is being constructed on top of a Jewish cemetery.
Simon Gurevich — chair of the Jewish community in the capital Vilnius — told local broadcaster LRT that the display staged by tourism agencies was “immoral,” as the chairs had been stacked “over the heads and bodies of the people who created the ‘Jerusalem of the North,’” invoking a term that was often used to describe Vilnius, then known as Vilna, before the Nazi Holocaust.
Jewish activists and human rights groups have spent the past three years opposing the government’s construction of the convention center on the site of the Old Šnipiškės Jewish Cemetery, where thousands of  graves are buried beneath the surface.
Last Friday’s display at the site was organized by Lithuanian tourism chiefs as a mocking response to the continued delays in the construction of the convention center, with the fake cash intended to symbolize the amount of money allegedly being lost because of the continued protests of Jewish organizations and others.

An overwhelming bipartisan majority of the US House of Representatives on Monday called for the extension of the United Nations…

According to Defending History — a specialist website that monitors and analyzes the official depiction in contemporary Lithuania of the country’s Jewish past  — Friday’s widely-reported display may have been the result of a photoshopping exercise, rather than an actual event.
One of the site’s reporters asked a contact at the Vilnius municipality “about whether the city’s permission had been given. The employee, who asked not to be named, said: ‘Of course it was virtual, photoshopped, but reported in the press release as being on the ground, in order to wind up the Jews so they will go crazy about their so-called cemetery.’”
Commented Defending History: “Whether on the ground or the web, this is one of the most disturbing manifestations of ‘elite antisemitism’ in Eastern Europe in recent times. Besides the humiliation of thousands of buried from the minority annihilated in the Holocaust, there is the classic antisemitic trope associating ‘Jews and banknotes,’ alongside the insinuation that only a convention center at this location can bring back the tourist industry after Covid-19.”
Local officials insist that there is no other appropriate site for the convention center, which is being presented as a major boon for the tourism and hospitality industry.
“We have been waiting for the Congress Center to be located in this place for many years, but in the face of the crisis, it is becoming critical for our sector,” Evalda Šiškauskienė, president of the Lithuanian Hotel and Restaurant Association, told local news outlets over the weekend.
The Article was published in the Algemeiner

סוף מר: החופשה של תלמידים יהודים מצרפת הסתיימה באירוע אנטישמי

האנטישמיות באירופה: קבוצת תלמידי בית ספר יהודי־צרפתי, שבילתה את חופשת הקיץ במלון בעיירה הקטנה טרילז’ ליד ספליט שבקרואטיה, נדהמה אתמול (שלישי) לגלות מול בית המלון “נוף” מפתיע שנוסף בשעות הלילה – צלב קרס ענק בצבע אדום שצויר על ידי אלמונים על הכיכר ועל המדרכה.לאחר שהמידע הועבר לשגרירות ישראל על ידי איגוד הקהילות היהודיות באירופה, פנה האיגוד גם למשרדי ראש הממשלה, הנשיא ושרי החוץ והפנים הקרואטים. כל הגורמים הרשמיים גינו את האירוע והביעו גילויי זעזוע והתנצלות כלפי התלמידים. המשטרה הקרואטית פתחה בחקירה.רוברט זינגר, יו”ר המרכז לאימפקט יהודי ולשעבר מנכ”ל הקונגרס היהודי העולמי, מסר: “לא מתקבל על הדעת כי חברי הקהילה היהודית של צרפת שרצו לבלות את חופשת הקיץ בקרואטיה או לחלופין בכל מקום אחר בעולם ייאלצו לחיות בתחושת פחד ובחוסר ביטחון רק בגלל זהותם היהודית. המקרה הקשה הוא הוכחה לכך שהאנטישמיות באירופה עדיין בוערת. אני קורא לכלל מנהיגי מדינות אירופה לפעול למען הגנת הקהילות היהודיות, ועל ממשלת קרואטיה באופן מיידי לקבל את הגדרת האנטישמיות הבינלאומית IHRA ולפעול למיגור התופעה”.
ח״כ יום טוב כלפון, יו”ר ועדת המשנה לזכאי השבות וקשר עם התפוצות, על המפגן האנטישמי מול תלמידים בקרואטיה: ״לאנטישמיות אין חיסון- אבל ליהודים יש בית. למגפת האנטישמיות באירופה עוד לא נמצא חיסון. ‏האנטישמים רודפים את היהודים, גם ילדים בכל מקום ואפילו בחופשתם. אבל בשונה מהעבר ליהודים יש בית, מדינה חזקה עם צבא חזק, בה היהודים יכולים להגן על עצמם. ‏אני קורא לאחינו בתפוצות בואו לארץ, לטייל, לנפוש וגם לחיות. כאן הבית שלכם”.יו”ר איגוד הארגונים היהודים באירופה, הרב מנחם מרגולין, הצהיר: “הילדים התעוררו וראו צלב קרס אדום ענק, סמל הכאב והרצח ליהודים בכל מקום, שאומר בבירור – אתם לא רצויים כאן. זה הצלב הבוער, הלולאה סביב העץ ליהודים. החופשה הזאת עבור הילדים האלה תהיה עכשיו חופשה בלתי נשכחת, מהסיבות הלא נכונות. אף על פי שאני בטוח שדעותיהם של האחראים לציור צלב קרס ענקי אינן מייצגות את הרוב המכריע של הקרואטים, תקיפה זו מסמלת עדיין כאב עמוק ליהודים בכל מקום”.הרב מרגולין הוסיף: “המלחמה באנטישמיות באירופה עדיין בעיצומה. ההתקפה הזו היא תזכורת לכך שלעולם לא נוכל להרשות לעצמנו להיות שאננים ולאפשר לנגיף האנטישמיות להתפשט ללא בקרה”.

Additional Communities
United Kingdom
When you click on "Donate" you will be redirected to a secure donation page