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MAZSIHISZ opens to secular Jews

July 9th, 2018

The Chairman of the Association of Hungarian Jewish Faith Communities (MAZSIHISZ) argues in favour of broadening its ranks to non-believing Jews. He warns that, if they do not, the organisation risks disappearing from the scene.

In an OpEd piece in Index, MAZSIHISZ Chairman András Heisler interprets the results of a sociological survey on Hungarian Jewry as ‘a last warning’. He summarises the findings of the survey by explaining that Hungary’s Jews are cosmopolitan, urban, open to the outer world and less and less focused on the Holocaust.

The survey conducted last year and published in June in a thick volume characterises Hungarian Jews as overwhelmingly secular and politically left-liberal. The authors estimate the number of Jewish people in Hungary at 160,000, including those with only one Jewish grandparent. They perceive anti-Semitism as a disturbing phenomenon, but almost half of them have never experienced any expression of anti-Semitism and only a small fraction have witnessed physical abuse.

Most Jewish people in Hungary marry Gentiles, Heisler remarks and 73% celebrate Christmas. Only 1% are regular synagogue-goers. He believes that tens of thousands of secular Jews would be interested in attending communities where they can feel a relationship to their ancestry and would find ‘their home ’in a less centralised and less bureaucratic religious institution’. Orthodox communities stand no chance of reaching them, he suggests. On the other hand, Heisler writes, the neologue movement he represents could well do so if it becomes more open to secular Jews.

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