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Jews in Hungary protesting lowered payments for survivors

BUDAPEST, Jan. 11 (JTA) — Hungary’s Jewish leaders are asking the country’s high court to review a recent decision by Parliament to cut one-time payments to relatives of Jewish Holocaust victims. The plan, part of this year’s government budget, reduces the payments to Jewish relatives by more than 90 percent — from $4,500 to $140. “The Hungarian Parliament passed this law in spite of our protests,” said Peter Feldmayer, president of Hungary’s Jewish community, who called the move unconstitutional. This is not the first time that Jewish leaders in Hungary have been outraged over these one-time compensation payments. In 1992, the Hungarian Parliament passed a law giving $4,500 in compensation to heirs of Communist victims. After opposition from Jewish groups, the law was modified in 1997, adding the heirs of those who died between 1938 and 1945 to the list of people entitled to compensation. There are currently about 100,000 Jews living in Hungary — and an estimated 25,000 Hungarian-born Jews living elsewhere — who would be expected to claim eligibility for the payment. Feldmayer said Hungary’s organized Jewish community would agree to a reduction from the $4,500 paid to heirs of the Communist victims and would even agree to be paid in installments. “The Jewish community understands the economic hardships of the country,” he said. This one-time payments would be in addition to the small monthly payments that Hungary began providing to Holocaust survivors in 1997.