Amid a string of anti-Semitic incidents in Hungary, the umbrella organization of Hungarian Jews has protested the naming of a Budapest street after an anti-Semitic author.
“The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary is shocked to learn of the renaming of a street in the Second District after Cecile Tormay,” read a statement sent on Thursday by the Jewish umbrella group, also known as Mazsihisz.
The letter about Tormay, who died in 1937, came days after reports of three anti-Semitic incidents directed at Mazsihisz and one of its daughter communities.
In the statement, Mazsihisz wrote that Tormay’s “open anti-Semitism” became “a standard for anti-Semitic leading figures of the Hungarian political life.” Masihisz Executive Director Gusztav Zoltai wrote that among those figures was Miklos Horthy – Hungary’s pro-Nazi ruler during the 1940s.
Mazsihisz called on Mayor Istvan Tarlos of the ruling Fidesz Party “to revoke his decision in accordance with public statements of the Hungarian government during the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem.” He said the Hungarian government was committed to fighting anti-Semitism.
Earlier this week, police removed from the Mazsihisz main office a package containing white powder which unknown parties had sent.
Earlier this month, Mazsihisz hosted the World Jewish Congress general assembly amid protests by hundreds of neo-Nazis and ultra-nationalists who opposed Budapest’s hosting of the event.
Many of the protesters were affiliated with the Jobbik party, Hungary’s third largest. Hungary’s Jewish watchdog on anti-Semitism, the Action and Protection Foundation, or TEV, has termed Jobbik “a neo-Nazi” party.
On April 26, Jewish worshippers discovered that anti-Semitic slogans had been spray-painted on the facade of a synagogue in Vac, a city located some 20 miles north of Budapest. A nearby Jewish cemetery was desecrated and at least two of its robust headstones were smashed.
Police are investigating the incident but the identity of the perpetrators is as of yet unknown, the MTI news agency reported.
Earlier this month, the heads of several major American Jewish groups called on Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday to confront Hungarian officials about the “alarming rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary.”
“Given the growth of hatred against Jews and other minorities (particularly the Roma) in Hungary, we urge you to keep the issue of intolerance and discrimination squarely on the US-Hungarian bilateral agenda,” the organization leaders urged. “We also encourage you to raise the matter personally in your direct dealings with Hungarian officials.”
The letter was addressed to Kerry and Ambassador Michael Kozak, the State Department’s acting special envoy on anti-Semitism.
The Jewish leaders commended the US State Department for its 2012 Human Rights Report that “identified a number of troubling developments” impacting the 100,000-strong Hungarian Jewish community, the largest in central Europe.
These developments included “the rise of the xenophobic and anti-Semitic Jobbik party, which has called for the creation of a list of Jewish public officials, repeated the historic ‘blood libel’ against Jews, and labeled Jews a ‘national security risk.’”
Jobbik is not a member of the current ruling government in Hungary, but holds 47 seats in the National Assembly, the country’s unicameral 386-seat parliament.
The leaders also noted an “increase in violence against Jewish individuals and institutions”; the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials; “the proliferation of anti-Semitic materials in the media, on the Internet, and in the streets”; and “the attempted rehabilitation and glorification of World War II-era figures, who were openly anti-Semitic and pro-fascist.”
An ADL poll in 2012 found that 63% of Hungary’s population held negative views of Jews, compared to 47% in 2009.