MINELRES: Jewish nationality in Hungary?

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Nov 10 16:09:22 2005

Original sendr: Solymosi Judit <solymosij@mail.datanet.hu>


Article of the weekly Heti Világgazdaság (Weekly World Economy)
The full article can be read the following address:

Parliament is likely to have the final say on whether Jews should be recognised 
as a nationality in Hungary. But the Electoral Commission has given the nod to 
the petition needed to bring the issue before parliament.

"We have set ourselves the aim of having the Jews of Hungary recognised 
alongside the country's other national minorities," says a declaration signed 
by four individuals that has been submitted to the Electoral Commission (OVB). 
They chose the OVB because the 1993 Act on national and ethnic minorities says 
that if another group wishes to join the ranks of the 13 other recognised 
national minorities, the OVB has to give consent to the collecting of one 
thousand signatures. In this case, the OVB gave the go-ahead.

Curiously, the petitioning process was incorporated into the 1993 Act precisely 
because of the Jews. Some Jewish public figures have been trying to have the 
Jews of Hungary recognised as a nation since the end of the 1980s. Even the one-
party State raised the possibility in 1989, when a 'Nationalities College' was 
established under Imre Pozsgay's leadership. Jewish representatives were co-
opted into this body. They came from three organisations: Gusztav Zoltai of the 
National Representation of Hungarian Jews (MIOK), the journalist Tamas Zalai of 
the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association and Gyorgy Landeszmann from the 
National Rabbi Training Institute.

The body came up with a law that came into force in 1990. It listed eight 
nationalities, amongst them the Jews. But it was rescinded later that year by 
the first freely elected parliament. Work immediately started on its successor, 
which was to become the 1993 Act. But during drafting, the then Israeli 
ambassador, David Kraus, managed to gain the support of the Jewish community in 
Hungary to prevent the establishment of a recognised Jewish nationality.

"There are an estimated 100,000 Jews living in Hungary today, only 12,000 of 
whom regard themselves as religiously Jewish, according to the most recent 
census," said Gabor Deak, one of the people behind the latest petition. He has 
been working since the end of the 80s to have the Jews recognised as a minority 
nationality. He added that he was an atheist, but he had told the census 
officer that he was a believer to strengthen the Jewish community. He argues 
that even the non-religious should discover their Jewish identity - and a 
recognised Jewish national minority would be the best way to achieve this.

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