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Hungarian Chief Rabbi’s Outburst May Lead to Abolition of His Post

The leadership of the Jewish community here has approved a proposal to abolish the post of Hungarian chief rabbi in an effort to settle a controversy caused by remarks made by the incumbent, Gyorgy Landesman.

Landesman caused an uproar when he was quoted in a government newspaper as saying that “without Jewish contribution to Hungarian culture, that culture had nothing but peasant’s trousers and apricot whiskey.”

Immediately afterward, Prime Minister Jozsef Antall warned that the “comments of Rabbi Landesman could cause the outbreak of anti-Semitism in Hungary.”

Antall also asked David Kraus, the Israeli ambassador to Hungary, to use his influence to obtain Landesman’s resignation.

In response to the controversy, the Association of Hungarian Jewish Congregations approved the proposal, apparently made by the chief of the Hungarian Rabbinical Seminary, Rabbi Avraham Schweitzer, to abolish the post of chief rabbi altogether.

The proposal, which must still be approved by the Hungarian rabbinate, was seen as a sort of compromise solution, as Landesman will not be forced to quit his post in favor of another rabbi.

The post of the chief rabbi did not exist in Hungary before World War II and was created only afterward, following the model of the Catholic Church.

The Hungarian Jewish community has been divided over the Landesman case, with one faction saying Landesman should not be forced to resign and others saying his behavior was offensive not only to Hungarians but also to the Jewish community here.

Landesman himself is presently abroad.

The head of the Hungarian Zionist Association, Tibor Englender, has vigorously opposed proposals to force Landesman to step down.

Englender said the Zionist movement prefers Jews in Hungary to act on their own and not bow to outside pressures.

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