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Revival of Judaism in Hungary

In all of Eastern Europe, Hungary represents the best hope for the revival of the Jewish people. This is one of the findings of a report on Eastern Europe submitted to the Executive Committee of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture by its Committee on Eastern Europe at its recent meeting here.

Prof. Zvi Gitelman of the University of Michigan, chairman of the Committee, and Dr. Jerry Hochbaum, Foundation executive director, visited the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe at the Committee’s behest to study conditions and report their findings and recommendations.

“A favorable political climate for promoting Jewish activities and a revival of interest in Judaica are evident in Hungary, ” Gitelman observed. “There are films and books on the Holocaust. The Hebrew Bible has been republished in Hungarian. These are vital signs. This is an opportune time for the Foundation to step up efforts to reach assimilated Jews, cultivate Jewish leadership and support Jewish activities.”

MAJOR EFFORTS IN EASTERN EUROPE

Hochbaum reported that “the Foundation had undertaken a major effort to upgrade educational materials and programs for children and young people in Eastern Europe, most notably in Hungary. As a result of the Foundation’s stimulation and support, five volumes are being planned for different age groups and their families dealing with the Bible, Jewish history, and Jewish holidays and customs. This program of publication, prepared in consultation with the Jewish community, has been approved by the Ministry of Culture.”

According to Hochbaum, these are the first educational publications for children in Hungary since before the Holocaust.

A second important development reported by Hochbaum is a Center for Jewish Studies in Budapest to be established and named after the late Prof. Alexander Scheiber. The Foundation is negotiating with the Hungarian Academy of Science to establish this center which would engage in Jewish research and archival work.

The Foundation supports similar programs in education, archival and academic research, popular and scholarly publications and religious programs in Rumania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

Gitelman said, “Yugoslavia is a small well-organized and active community, with good professionals and involvement of young people. There is a growing interest in Jewish education, summer camp and youth groups which expose youth to Jewish culture and customs. There are a number of useful Jewish publications. Choirs in Belgrade and Zagreb function as communal social events and include Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and religious songs in their repertoire. There is a substantial archive and Jewish Museum.”

Hochbaum reported that the Memorial Foundation allocated $2, 160,660 to East European Jewry from 1965 to 1982 for projects in research and education.

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