Hungary Grants Special Status to Orthodox Jewish Group

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The Hungarian government has granted the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH) special status in the country, giving it official recognition “in the highest category.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government signed a special accord with EMIH in Budapest Monday, providing its institutions the same financing given to similar state institutions, an arrangement offered only to a small number of religious bodies.

The agreement was signed by Zsolt Semjén, the Hungarian deputy prime minister, and EMIH chief rabbi Slomó Köves at the Castle District premises of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Mr. Semjén said that all three of Hungary’s Jewish congregations — the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz), the Hungarian Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community (MAOIH) and EMIH — are recognized by the government as religious communities “in the highest category.”

The Orbán administration introduced a law in 2012 that by linked the official recognition of churches to parliamentary approval, thereby reducing the number of recognized churches by over 90 percent, from around 370 to just 32.

Deputy Prime Minister Semjén said at the signing ceremony that the agreement acknowledges the contribution of the 15-year-old congregation to “the renaissance of Hungary’s Jewish community.”

In 2018, David P. Goldman wrote that Hungary stands out in Europe as uniquely safe for Jews as signs of violent anti-Semitism are on the rise across Europe.

While the leaders of Germany’s Jewish community warned Jews not to wear distinctive apparel following similar warnings in France, and Belgian TV could not find a single Jew in Brussels willing to wear a kippah in public, Goldman said he walked across Budapest wearing a kippah four times in a week and “no-one looked at my kippah twice.”

Goldman came to the politically incorrect conclusion that there are “no risks to Jews because there are very few Muslim migrants.”

Jewish life isn’t just flourishing in Budapest, Goldman wrote, it’s “roaring,” and on any given Friday evening, Budapest’s Keren Or synagogue hosts two hundred people for dinner. About 100,000 Israelis have dual Hungarian citizenship, he observed, and many Israelis own property in the country and vote in Hungarian elections.

Orbán himself is one of Israel’s few steadfast supporters in the European Union, and Hungary, along with Rumania and the Czech Republic, vetoed a European Community resolution condemning the U.S. for moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

Earlier this year, Mr. Orbán firmly denied accusations that his country is anti-Semitic, saying that mass migration has increased anti-Semitism in Western Europe but not in Hungary.

“Hungarian Jews enjoy the protection of the government. Also, we conduct a consistently pro-Israeli foreign policy,” Orbán said. “Because we are convinced that the existence of a Jewish state is not only important for European Jews but that the security of Israel is a key question for the stability of Europe.”

“Today antisemitism has assumed a new character: The enmity against Jews and against Israel is carried into our societies by migration,” Orbán said, noting that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Western Europe while it decreases in Central Europe, which has resisted mass migration.

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