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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Deutsch declined further comment on the subject, possibly because of the consternation his statements caused across the border, where Hungarian Jewish leaders criticized him for “sowing panic” and giving “false” data. But in talks with about a dozen Hungarian immigrants to Austria, most cited professional reasons as the primary driver of their emigration, even if the anti-Semitic rhetoric increasingly common in Hungary is never far from their thoughts.

“In every election, my parents would say that if a party like Jobbik entered the government, we would pack our suitcases and go,” said Gabor, a recent arrival to Vienna from Budapest. “The whole atmosphere is of things getting worse, not only for Jews. It can be a driving force for people to get the hell out.”

Founded a decade ago, Jobbik has grown to become Hungary’s third-largest party. The party drew international attention in November when Matron Gyongyosi, a Jobbik lawmaker, said that lists of Hungarian Jews should be drawn up as they represented a “security risk.”

Jobbik will likely remain out of the government coalition at least until the 2014 elections, but its growth has shaken the sense of security for many Hungarian Jews and offers added encouragement to leave.

“In planning my future and in terms of employment options, coming to Vienna made the most sense,” Gabor said. “It’s very near. You can still see your family and friends on the weekends.”

For young professionals like Gabor, Vienna offers a number of advantages over other places aside from the distance. For one, work permit requirements were waived in 2011 between the two countries.

But for some Hungarian Jews, the destination is less important. One middle-aged woman from Budapest, who spoke to JTA on condition of anonymity, is hoping to depart for Australia.

“I would most definitely like to leave Hungary but still haven’t heard from the authorities,” she said. “I am impatiently waiting for an answer and am really hoping for a positive one.”

Such cases make Adam Fischer, a Hungarian Jewish conductor who now lives in the United Kingdom and has studied in Vienna, an unequivocal supporter of the Vienna community’s initiative to bring over Jews.

“It’s better if Jews immigrate to Vienna,” he said. “That way they stay nearby and the thread is not broken. Plus, there’s always a chance of them returning if things improve.”


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