Head of Hungarian Jewry steps down amid criticism

Head of Hungarian Jewry steps down amid criticism

Following resignation, entire leadership of the Jewish community quits in solidarity

BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA) — The president of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, or Mazsihisz, resigned over criticism that he did not challenge Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s statements on anti-Semitism in the country.

Dr. Peter Feldmajer quit Sunday following a non-confidence motion and several hours of fierce debate at the annual meeting of Mazsihisz at the Budapest Jewish community headquarters. He has served as the organization’s president since 1991.

Following Feldmajer’s resignation, the entire leadership of the Jewish community — including the two vice presidents and seven others — offered their resignations.

A delegate, criticizing the “egoistic style” of the present leadership, spoke ahead of the agenda at the meeting, which had been scheduled to discuss the community’s budget.

Some 49 of 89 delegates expressed support for the no-confidence vote. Feldmajer had started his second term as president in 2005; his first term was from 1991 to 1999.

Gusztav Zoltai, Mazsihisz’s managing director, who also resigned, was subsequently reelected by the delegates with a two-thirds majority, the only member of the leadership to retain his position.

Feldmajer was blamed for being too soft on Orban after the prime minister offered his perspective about anti-Semitic acts in Hungary in a speech at the recent World Jewish Congress General Assembly in Budapest. In the speech, Orban condemned anti-Semitism in Hungary, but critics said he did not go far enough in condemning the far-right Jobbik party in his own government.

The following day, WJC President Ronald Lauder rapped Orban for his remarks, but later renounced the criticism and apologized. Critics said the apology was engineered by Feldmajer.

A delegate at the Mazsihisz meeting told JTA that Zoltai’s reelection as managing director, making him the only leader in power, goes against the group’s by-laws.

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