Leonard J. Honeyman of Congregation Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim on Marvel Road sent in this write-up about an event there this past Sunday:
The resurgence of right-wing parties and their anti-Semitic words and actions in Europe in general, and Hungary in particular, is looking more and more like the events in the years before and during the Holocaust.
Hungarian-born Katalin Baltimore, child of Holocaust survivors, told a gathering at a synagogue in Westville that the ultra-right Jobbik (pronounced Yobik) party is now the third largest in the nation’s parliament and could strengthen further in elections set for April 16 of this year. “The right wing is getting stronger and their actions and speeches are becoming more like the ranting heard before World War II,” she said.
“We cannot be complacent when this is going on. We must be vigilant,” she told the breakfast meeting at Congregation Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim on Sunday. The event, sponsored by the synagogue Sisterhood, was held in memory of Sally Horwitz, longtime member and Holocaust survivor, who died last month.
“This is not just taking place in one little country. Most European countries now have ultra-right wing parties, many, including the Svoboda party of Ukraine, connected by the Alliance of European Nations Movements, founded in 2009 by Gabor Vona,” Baltimore said.
Since the downfall of Communism in 1989, Hungary’s economy has severely declined. Unemployment is officially close to 10 percent. Joblessness among youth is nearly 30 percent. Nearly 33 percent of the population lives in poverty, including a half million in deep poverty and deprivation (mostly gypsies). As in the years before World War II, the Jews are being blamed for the economic conditions and the advent of Communism in 1948 (many leaders of which were Jewish). The other targeted group is the Roma (“gypsies”).
The Jobbik party was originally established in 2002 as the Right-Wing Youth Association by a group of Catholic and Protestant university students, and emerged as the Jobbik political party in October 2003, with Gabor Vona at its head. The rightists have not held back in showing their power. In February, the party held a political rally in a former synagogue in the city of Esztergom. When Jews and others complained, Jobbik leader Vona insisted his party did not want to “provoke anyone, including the Jewish community,” but insisted they had the right to rally anywhere they wished, a position seconded by the government.
The party also held a rally in London, attended by more than 100 British-Hungarians, in an effort to try to win their vote in the coming elections. (Dual citizen Hungarians can vote).
Vona has said he wants to get closer to Iran and other Mideast nations. His party claims that Israel is trying to buy up all the land and colonize Hungary. In 2012, Jobbik members of Parliament also wanted the names of all Jewish parliamentarians publicly released, as they may pose security risks to Hungary. That effort was short-circuited when many non-Jewish members protested together with the Jews, wearing the Jewish star in support of their Jewish citizens, she said.
The party also wants the Hungarian government to reclaim land that once belonged to Hungary but was lost after the Treaty of Trianon of 1920, which resulted in the loss of over two-thirds of its land to other nations. This is an effort that sounds eerily like what Nazi Germany did before the start of true hostilities in the 1930s, beginning with the cessation of land in Czechoslovakia to Germany in 1936.
The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban seems to be in collusion with the party, allowing for statues of Communist leaders to be replaced by busts of government leaders of the Second World War who were allied with Hitler, Baltimore said. “School curricula now includes a list of suggested right-wing writers,” she said. The government also wants to establish religion classes in schools, a good way to isolate the Jews and Gypsies.
A new law on religion stripped scores of minority faiths of their legal status as religious organizations overnight including, initially, Coptic Christians, Mormons, and the Reformed Jewish Congregation.
“These efforts are taking root,” she said. “Jobbik could end up with the second highest vote in the Hungarian Parliament and could, along with other extreme right-wing parties across Europe, gain significantly in elections to the EU (European Union) in May,” she said. In a recent poll, about 48 percent of Hungarian Jews said that they are thinking of leaving the country.
In Hungary, the key figure to watch is Vona: He is young (28), charismatic, a good speechwriter, with a good sense of humor, who is attracting many college students to the party. He has studied history and seems to be able to manipulate the facts.
The right-wing agenda is gaining “all over Europe,” she said.
In January of this year about 17,000 marched in France to say “Jews have no place here,” she said. France’s Jewish community is seeing an unprecedented exodus, and the continuing tide of anti-Semitism has Israel preparing for still more immigration from France, she said.
In Ukraine, the Svoboda, or Freedom party, which has acquired seven of the top political positions in the new government, wants to limit immigration and limit civil service jobs to Ukrainians. It justifies this position by talking about not wanting to welcome “the Russian-Jewish Mafia,” she said. Jews in Ukraine are also very concerned for their future, she said.