Hungary Church Pitches In To Build Torah Ark for Fire-Ravaged Synagogue

(JTA) — A Methodist church in Hungary offered to pay for the construction of Torah ark for a Budapest synagogue ravaged by fire.

The Zuglo Synagogue in the Hungarian capital’s 14th district sustained heavy damage in a blaze that broke out Monday night, possibly as a result of an electric failure. No one was injured but the synagogue’s Torah scroll was destroyed in one of the areas that was heavily damaged, the Mazsihisz umbrella group of Hungarian Jewish communities wrote in a statement.

“Our Methodist friends, the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship, informed us that they will cover the expenses of a new Torah Ark for the Zugló congregation,” Mazsihisz wrote.

Beth Orim, a Reform congregation, is raising donations among its members to pay for renovations at the Zugló, which services a Neolog congregation – a Hungarian stream close to Conservative Judaism.

While the exact causes of the fire are still under investigation, it is not believed to have been caused by arsonists, Mazsihisz added.

Whereas Mazsihisz praised the Reform and Methodist communities that offered help, the umbrella group responded with dismissive irony to an offer of assistance by EMIH, a Chabad-affiliated organization that is not part of Mazsihisz and which some perceive as a Mazsihisz competitor.

In a statement Thursday devoted to the EMIH offer, Mazsihisz wrote that EMIH owed it some money and that “the biggest help would be if you pay the [Mazsihisz-affiliated] Budapest Jewish Community bills that are already 30 days overdue.”

The statement went on to suggest that EMIH had a serious cash flow problem, making it “unethical” to accept its offer.

“It’s clear that Mazsihisz wants to humiliate EMIH,” said Andras Becker, a Hungarian journalist who recently wrote about EMIH’s ties to a media group that is already three months in arrears in paying journalists from the news site 168 Hours.

Shlomo Koves, a leader of EMIH and the chief Chabad emissary to Hungary, denied any organizational ties between EMIH and 168 Hours. Some owners of the news site were Jews and his “good friends,” he said.

Koves also disputed the claim that it owes money to Mazsihisz, saying it is part of a disagreement over approximately $1,500 in utility bills of a synagogue that EMIH rents from Mazsihisz.

“I cannot understand the desire to deal with such trivial disputes publicly in a way that does not add to the community’s unity,” he said.

Separately, the Jewish community of Moscow celebrated the opening of a new synagogue opposite a state university.

The Moscow shul opened last month near the Moscow State Institute of International Relations University of the Russian Foreign Ministry. It features a Jewish community center with a synagogue and a kosher cafe, according to the news site Davydov.

It is one of several dozen synagogues opened in recent years across Russia by the Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia.

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