Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

Hungarian Rabbi Rejects Far-Right Party’s Hanukkah Greetings

(JTA) – A prominent rabbi from Budapest rejected an unusual Hanukkah greeting from the far-right Jobbik party, citing its alleged anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Slomo Koves, leader of the Orthodox Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, in an open letter Wednesday spurned the greeting his office received earlier this week from the party’s chairman, Gabor Vona.

“It’s a nice idea, but to show a genuine gesture toward Jews, Jobbik needs first to take some actions to distance itself from the wealth of evidence proving it is an anti-Semitic movement,” Koves wrote. He told JTA it was the first such “appearance of a gesture,” as he defined it, by Jobbik to the Jewish community.

Koves noted several anti-Semitic incidents involving Jobbik members, including a public vow made in 2014 by Vona himself to “immediately resign if somebody found out I had Jewish ancestry.” Last year he reaffirmed the statement in an interview.

Over the past year and a half, Koves said, “Jobbik has played a double game: Paying lip service to democratic values to pass off as a people’s party and reach power, while winking at its audience not to take this seriously.”

A Jobbik parliamentarian in 2012 called for registering Hungarian Jews as threats to national security, though he later said he meant to say Israelis. Last year, a Jobbik alderman from Budapest, Laszlo Benke, boasted over refusing to stand up at a memorial service for a rabbi. The party defended Benke’s actions.

But last year Jobbik messaging began shifting from xenophobic rhetoric to language with more positive messages, painting the party as not corrupt and in touch with the working class.

However, “they have not in the past attempted to appear as reaching out to the Jewish community, so this is the first such case,” Koves said.

“I would have been happy to accept their greeting, but I’m afraid at this point it can only be taken as an empty move that we cannot accept, which I am sure is designed to be used as propaganda,” Koves said. “If Jews accept their greeting, they can use it to show they’re not so bad. And if we reject, they can use it to show they tried but those nasty rabbis didn’t want to talk to them.”

To be taken seriously, the rabbi said, “Jobbik would have to reject their many, many anti-Semitic statements, replace the anti-Semites who run the party today.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.