29/06/2021

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The Hungarian Jewish Community and the Question of Anti-Semitism Today

On 28 and 29 June 2021, the Danube Institute sponsored a conference entitled ‘Anti-Semitism in Hungary: Appearance and Reality’. The conference brought together leading figures from the Hungarian Jewish community, Hungarian and foreign scholars, and a representative of the Hungarian government. A broad range of views were presented, but there was unanimous agreement that the problem of Hungarian anti-Semitism has declined significantly in the last decade, and that the Hungarian government has played an active role in this decline. This is the reality that was reflected not only in conference proceedings, but in reports issued by the EU, the United States government, and NGOs concerned with anti-Semitism. By contrast, the portrayal of Hungary in the Western media presents a much more dire picture. Indeed, when I came to Hungary in the summer of 2020, a close reading of The New York Times assured me that the Hungarian Parliament had been closed to allow the prime minister to assume near dictatorial power and that the ruling party’s appeal was in part powered by a wave of anti-Semitism that threatened the Hungarian Jewish community. To my surprise, the Parliament was very much open for business and there had been only one violent antiSemitic incident reported in the country in the last two years. The contrast between appearance and reality could not be starker, and it was this dissonance that was the real genesis of the conference, and of the studies to follow.

The Hungarian Jewish
Community and the Question
of Anti-Semitism Today

Jeffrey Kaplan

On 28 and 29 June 2021, the Danube Institute
sponsored a conference entitled ‘Anti-Semitism
in Hungary: Appearance and Reality’. The
conference brought together leading figures
from the Hungarian Jewish community,
Hungarian and foreign scholars, and a
representative of the Hungarian government.
A broad range of views were presented, but
there was unanimous agreement that the
problem of Hungarian anti-Semitism has
declined significantly in the last decade, and
that the Hungarian government has played an
active role in this decline. This is the reality
that was reflected not only in conference
proceedings, but in reports issued by the EU,
the United States government, and NGOs
concerned with anti-Semitism.
By contrast, the portrayal of Hungary in
the Western media presents a much more
dire picture. Indeed, when I came to Hungary
in the summer of 2020, a close reading of
The New York Times assured me that the
Hungarian Parliament had been closed to
allow the prime minister to assume near
dictatorial power and that the ruling party’s
appeal was in part powered by a wave of
anti-Semitism that threatened the Hungarian
Jewish community. To my surprise, the
Parliament was very much open for business
and there had been only one violent antiSemitic incident reported in the country in
the last two years.
The contrast between appearance and
reality could not be starker, and it was this
dissonance that was the real genesis of the
conference, and of the studies to follow.

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