Hungary Jews Emigrate Amid Anti-Semitism and Economic Recession

Greener Pastures Beckon in Vienna and Further Afield

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By JTA

Published February 20, 2013.
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Three years ago, Fanni moved to Vienna from her native Hungary with her husband. Now she is pregnant.

Though the couple would prefer to raise their child near their Jewish families in Budapest, rising nationalism and an economic recession are leading them to stay in Austria.

“I don’t want to cut my roots, but I see no good future for a child growing up in an increasingly xenophobic environment,” said Fanni, a lawyer, who along with others interviewed for this article asked that their full names not be published.

As many as 1,000 Hungarian Jews are believed to be leaving the country each year, spurring fears among Jewish leaders about the future of Central Europe’s largest Jewish community – some 80,000 to 100,000 people. Immigration to Israel has tripled in the past three years, to 170 in 2012. And many others have sought new lives in Berlin, London and Vienna, the Austrian capital just a two-hour train ride away.

“Had my law firm been hugely successful in Hungary, I would have stayed despite the negative atmosphere,” Fanni said. “And if the atmosphere was good but business was slow, I would’ve also stayed. But now the negative aspects outweigh the positive.”

The migration is part of a wider movement of Hungarians, some 300,000 of whom have sought employment in Western Europe over the past four years, according to government estimates. They are leaving behind a stunted economy with a contracting gross domestic product, an annual inflation rate of more than 5 percent and an unemployment rate above 10 percent.

But it also comes at a time of mounting anti-Semitism in Hungary, a development epitomized by the rise of Jobbik, a far-right political party that now occupies 47 of 386 seats in the Hungarian parliament. The party won 16.7 percent of the popular vote in the 2010 elections, a massive improvement over the 2.2 percent it claimed in 2006.

Still, Hungarian Jewish leaders dispute that anti-Semitism is at the root of the emigration.


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