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Hungarian Police Apologize After Skinheads Disrupt Menorah Lighting

December 9, 2002
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Hungarian police are apologizing for allowing more than 100 skinheads to demonstrate just as members of Chabad were about to light a Chanukah candle in a downtown Budapest square.

The skinheads, members of Hungary’s “Revisionist movement,” blocked the small square where Chabad members were about to light the sixth Chanukah candle on the evening of Dec. 4.

Police did not interfere, having given the skinheads permission to demonstrate against the Trianon treaty, under which Hungary lost more than one-third of its territory after World War I.

Though there was no physical confrontation, the skinheads shouted offensive slogans: “Hungary is for Hungarians, and it’s better that those who are not Hungarians leave.”

Only when they left, after an hour, could the Chabad members begin their Chanukah ceremony.

“We want to celebrate our holidays in dignity, as it is the case for Christians during the time of Christmas, and it is a pity that the ultra-rightist group acted against this rule,” said Peter Tordai, president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities.

The police apologized for allowing the demonstration at the same time and place as the Chabad ceremony.

“It was an obvious mistake, and we will find out who made it,” Laszlo Salgo, chief commander of the police, said Thursday on Hungarian radio.

But Chabad members were not mollified by the apology.

“This was the first time during the last five years that the Chanukah celebration was disturbed here,” the wife of the Chabad rabbi, Batseva Oberlander, told JTA.

Some of Hungary’s 100,000 Jews seem to blame Chabad for putting a menorah in such a public place. Chabad’s actions contradict Hungarian Jews’ tendency to maintain a low profile and avoid publicity.

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