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!
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • 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.