(JTA) – Hungary’s political and religious leaders joined the Jewish world in condemning an anti-Semitic verbal attack on a highly respected retired chief rabbi.
Chief Rabbi Emeritus Jozsef Schweitzer, 89, was accosted near his home in downtown Budapest on Tuesday by a man who swore at him and shouted, “I hate all Jews.”
The Hungarian government spokesman on Wednesday condemned the incident “in the strongest terms” and said the government was doing everything possible to repress “voices incompatible with European norms.”
Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi sent a letter of support to Schweitzer expressing solidarity in the face of what he called an “ignoble attack.” Opposition parties also condemned the assault.
Cardinal Peter Erdos, the president of the Roman Catholic Episcopal Conference, along with the leaders of Hungary’s Reform and Lutheran churches, also issued a joint statement condemning “in the strongest terms” the “cowardly attack” and expressing “sympathy and solidarity” with Schweitzer.
“It is with alarm that we learn that the prestigious Dr. Joseph Schweitzer, retired chief rabbi, our brother, has been harassed and humiliated in the street because of his religion,” the statement said.
Maszihisz, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, called the incident “another manifestation of a new racist hate wave that is flooding Hungary.” It urged Hungary’s leaders to take all steps to prevent such anti-Semitic incidents from happening in the future.