The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) may send people to physically prevent members of the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party from holding a rally at a former synagogue next Friday, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Jobbik, which the World Jewish Congress considers a neo-Nazi party, is Hungary’s third-largest party with 43 out of 386 seats in the legislature, and is currently gearing up to further improve its standing in April’s parliamentary elections.
As part of its political campaign, Jobbik is planning on staging a rally at the former synagogue in the city of Esztergom, whose Jewish community was wiped out during the Holocaust.
Party leader Márton Gyöngyösi has previously called for the government to draw up of a list of “people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who pose a national security risk to Hungary.”
While the local Jewish community has called upon Esztergom Mayor Éva Tétényi to prohibit the gathering, it is also preparing itself for a physical confrontation, Mazsihisz president András Heisler told the Post.
“In case this [gathering] will not be prohibited, the Mazsihisz and Jewish civil organizations will protest and physically hinder the Jobbik rally on the spot,” Heisler wrote in an email.
Mazsihisz has previously indicated a willingness to use physical force, if necessary, to combat rising anti-Semitism.
During an interview last June, Mazsihisz executive director Gusztáv Zoltai told the Post that “until this moment, we have [had] verbal attacks so we strike back with words, but we have more than words.
“We are strong, and if we have to, we will strike back,” he said at the time.
While neither the government nor the ruling Fidesz party have made any statements, the Esztergom branch of the Socialist Party has publicly voiced its opposition to the planned rally.
Jobbik’s use of a former synagogue is an “unworthy, ugly and cynical desecration of the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and the sentiments of the survivors,” local party chairman Tamás Gál wrote the mayor in a letter reprinted on the Budapest Beacon website.
“The institution is owned by the local government.
For this reason it is your responsibility to prevent this event from being held at this location,” he asserted.
The controversy over Jobbik’s use of the Esztergom synagogue comes as more Jewish organizations are declaring their intention to boycott the government’s commemoration of 2014 as a Holocaust memorial year.
Upset over what it claimed were instances of Holocaust revisionism by the government, the Mazsihisz stated two weeks ago that it was “contemplating refraining from participation in the events of the Holocaust Year.”
Since that time, both the Jewish Cultural and Tourism Center and the Frankel Synagogue Foundation in Budapest have announced that they would reject state funding for their activities.
In explanation of its decision, the Frankel Synagogue Foundation stated that its aim is to “draw attention to the government’s presentation of the [Nazi collaborator] Horthy era in a positive light, the appearance of [neo-fascist organization] Arrow Cross writers on the national curriculum and its qualification of mass murders as an ‘alien citizens’ procedure’ as well as several other manifestations that are incompatible with granting support for memorial events that pay tribute to the victims of mass murders or an honorable way of thinking.”
While local Jewish organizations may be boycotting the government, not everyone agrees with its stance.
The Rabbinical Council of Europe, one of two competing continental rabbinical associations, recently announced that in March it would be holding a conference in Budapest “in cooperation with the Hungarian government.”
“In the past few years, the voices of anti-Semitic ideology have become louder in the country. The conference is aimed at showing support to the Jewish community, and to the majority of Hungarians who experience with fear the negative developments,” RCE director- general Rabbi Menachem Margolin said in a statement.