Hungary Seeks Better Image With Jews Amid Anti-Semitism Surge

Hires Heavyweight PR Firm — But Issues Remain

No to Hatred: Hungary has been hit by a rising tide of anti-Semitism.
getty images
No to Hatred: Hungary has been hit by a rising tide of anti-Semitism.

By Ron Kampeas

Published October 23, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Armed with a powerful New York public relations outfit and a pledge to commemorate the mass deportation of Hungarian Jewry, the Hungarian government is preparing to challenge what it says is an inaccurate image of a country lax in confronting home-grown extremism.

Ferenc Kumin, an adviser to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban who handles international communications, reached out to JTA last week to counter what he says are unfair perceptions of his government’s treatment of Jews and other minorities.

“In the American public discourse, there is a lot of talking of anti-Semitism and racism in Hungary and the connected concerns,” Kumin said in an interview. “We try to bring a realistic picture. We don’t want to say it’s not there. But in certain accounts this issue is exaggerated.”

Kumin’s outreach is part of an intense effort over the last month to push back against perceptions that Hungary has failed to address the rise of anti-Semitism — particularly the emergence of the extremist Jobbik party, which controls 47 of 486 seats in the parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics told a conference on Jewish life and anti-Semitism in Budapest this month that it was time for Hungarians to accept their responsibility for their role in the Holocaust.

“We know that we were responsible for the Holocaust in Hungary,” he said. “We know that Hungarian state interests were responsible.”

Hungary also announced that 2014 would mark Holocaust Remembrance Year, 70 years after the deportation of at least 450,000 Hungarian Jews to the Nazi death camps. And on Monday, the government announced that it had hired Burston-Marsteller, a PR heavyweight based in New York, in part to reach out to the Jewish community.

But U.S. Jewish officials and Hungarian critics say the country’s issues with extremism run deeper and broader than its treatment of the Jews. Navracsic’s speech was a major step forward, they say, but it was just that — a step.

“The fact that he said clearly that we are responsible for the Holocaust here in Hungary was a powerful statement, but why was that dramatic?” wondered Rabbi Andrew Baker, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international affairs. “Most countries have come to recognize their responsibility.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.