Rival Jewish leaders in Hungary celebrate Hanukkah jointly to promote unity


(JTA) — Leaders of rival Jewish groups in Hungary attended a Hanukah candle-lighting ceremony together in a bid to demonstrate unity and deescalate the conflict dividing them.

Tamas Mester, who heads the Budapest Jewish Community, came to the city’s Zsilip synagogue on Tuesday.

Mester’s organization is the largest member of the Mazsihisz federation of Jewish communities, which is predominantly Neolog, a local denomination of Judaism similar to Conservative, or Masorti, Judaism.

The synagogue belongs to the EMIH federation of Jewish communities, which is Orthodox and affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. The rabbi at Zsilip Synagogue, Shmuel Glitzenshtein, had reached out to invite Mester.

Mazsihisz, which is both larger and more divided internally than EMIH, has clashed increasingly with EMIH in recent years over a range of issues, including Hungarian politics, with Mazsihisz using harsher rhetoric against the country’s right-wing government. A prominent Mazshihisz rabbi, Zoltan Radnoti, has called EMIH “sellouts” publicly.

Amid expansion at the EMIH federation, the dispute has rippled to include core Jewish issues such as the burial of Holocaust victims and funding.

Mester, speaking at the Zsilip synagogue, said the two federations are set apart by “different views and trends” but nonetheless are part of “one nation, one heart” working for common goals.

In a statement about the event, Rabbi Shlomo Koves, who heads EMIH, wrote: “We are sending a message of peace to Mazsihisz leaders and asking them to act together in helping our fellow Jews in the dark days” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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