Despite the vast influence of Chabad in media, recently there has been some press coverage about the conflict between the Orthodox and the Chabad communities in Hungary, the most important one being the article of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. But there are still many confusing elements in the story, and we are here to help.
- What should I know about Hungarian Jews?
- What should I know about the Orthodox community?
- How did Chabad arrive to Hungary?
- What is the background of the current conflict?
- What happened since the takeover?
- Who are Shomrei haDas and how can I help them?
What should I know about Hungarian Jews?
Most Hungarian Jews are either the descendants of Moravian Jews arriving in the 18th century from the west, or related to Chassidic Jews arriving from Galicia from the east. The most prominent rabbis were the disciples of the late Chatam Sofer זצ”ל or his descendants and studied in his yeshivah in Pressburg. By the second half of the 19th century, the growing tension between different fractions of the Jews led to a schism, and in 1868 the more assimilated Neolog Jews founded their organisation, the predecessor of current Mazsihisz, while in 1871 the more traditional Jews founded the Orthodox community, the predecessor of MAOIH. Jews not willing to join either side were known as the Status Quo community.
The Holocaust did not affect the same way the three main branches. In smaller cities and villages, mainly populated by the more religious, the death rate was around 80%, while in the more secular Budapest this figure was far lower, around 50%. The Status Quo branch was destroyed, while in 1950 the communist government forced the Orthodox and Neolog to form a single organisation, called MIOK, which lasted until 1990. Many survivors left the country after World War II and after the revolution of 1956. As a consequence, although there can be 50–100,000 halakhically Jewish persons in Hungary, the overwhelming majority of them are secular, and only a fraction leads a religious lifestyle.