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Hungary Jewish Leader Charges Fraud at Historic Synagogue

The head of Budapest’s Jewish community said he filed a complaint with police alleging fraud and embezzlement at the historic Dohany Street Synagogue.

David Schwezoff told the Hungarian media last week that the community was at least $400,000 short in ticket revenues from visitors to the synagogue, the Nepszava newspaper reported Monday.

The president of the Mazsihisz Jewish federation, a Hungarian umbrella organization with which the Budapest community is affiliated, disputed the charge.

The revenue collected from ticket sales from the past two years was $1.21 million, Nepszava reported.

Last month, Schwezoff canceled the community’s contract with the firm responsible for collecting entrance fees to the community-owned synagogue, according to the paper.

It was unclear who Schwezoff accused of graft in the complaint, which has not been made public. Schwezoff and the community’s spokesman, Balazs Csaszar, were unavailable for comment.

Andras Heisler, the president of Mazsihisz, in disputing Schwezoff’s allegations claimed that ticket revenues will be approximately $2 million. In an interview with Nepszava, Heisler accused Schwezoff of “running amok and compromising the Jewish community’s honor.” Heisler told JTA on Thursday that Schwezoff, who was elected president of his community last month, was “not competent as a Jewish leader due to his current actions.” He declined to make any further comment on Schwezoff.

In a radio interview Wednesday, Heisler warned that Schwezoff’s actions could jeopardize the popular Jewish Summer Festival of Budapest because it has been organized for the past decade by the owner of the company that collected fees to the synagogue. Schwezoff removed the owner, Vera Vadas, from the positions on Oct. 31.

Schwezoff told the Heti Valasz weekly that Heisler treats him “as an enemy” partly because Schwezoff, who was not born Jewish, was photographed several years ago while wearing women’s clothes at a drag club.

“Mr. Schwezoff had a colorful life in the past,” Csaszar told JTA last month, adding that Schwezoff “made a 180-degree turn” and “has been living according to the Torah, keeping Shabbat and kosher.”

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