Hungary SIG #Hungary Center for Jewish History #hungary

Louis Schonfeld <lmagyar@...>

To all subscribers and others interested in Hungarian Jewish history and

For those of you who may not know, the Forward (English language edition) is
the most widely disseminated and read weekly Jewish periodical in North
America. The August 14th edition had an essay written by Dr. Allan Nadler,
former director of research at YIVO and a Jewish scholar of note, decrying
the complaints by secularists and others about the Orthodox structure of the
synagogue that is to be included in the Center for Jewish History now under
construction in New York City. While I choose not to comment on the merits
of Dr. Nadler's statements I felt it was now an opportune time to write a
letter to the editor with my own complaint described below. You should be
receiving this message before I send it to the Forward newspaper. I am more
than willing to receive and incorporate any corrections, egregious omissions
or editorial suggestions that anyone would care to send me. Please e-mail me
prior to noon (EST) Tuesday September 1st.

To The Editor:

I found such irony in the fact that Professor Allan Nadler makes a powerful
case for the Center for Jewish History to accommodate Orthodox synagogue
services within its boundaries. He states that he does so for the sake of
unity and to underscore the fact that American born Jews do not carry
"European Jewish ideological baggage." How does this square with the
complete and utter neglect of Hungarian Jewry by this future citadel of
Jewish learning and research? As the professor so poignantly writes: "the
real originality and great promise of this Center for Jewish History - is
how it will unify so many formerly warring factions of the Jewish
community". Does Hungarian Jewry merit neglect because it did not engage in
these internecine battles? To be fair the neglect of Hungarian Jewish
history will not cause a total lockout of information about its past. Among
the various organizations and groups that will be represented by the Center
for Jewish History one will be able to find an assortment of books and
papers relating to Hungarian Jewry. However, if a sample representation
displaying the panoply of Jewish historicity will be the salient feature of
the Center why not disband the European created, Leo Baeck Institute and
YIVO and incorporate their libraries and collections under the rubric of a
supra-institution whose all encompassing mission would have an appropriate
title? We know that it is not going to happen due to the residual feelings
of competition that remain >from those European battles that the professor
alludes to in his article. The constituent agencies of the Center for
Jewish History include the Leo Baeck Institute which represents German
speaking Jewry, YIVO does the same for Yiddish speaking Jewry, the AJHS
represents the contribution of American Jewry and the Sephardic Federation
does as much for the Sephardic community. Hungarian Jewry is neither a
hybrid nor a minor blip on the historical screen of Jewish history. A
dissertation making the case for the value and contribution of Hungarian
Jewish culture would require more space than I would be allowed here. The
literature of Hungarian Jews, Rabbis, scholars, scientists and Nobel prize
winners speaks compellingly for itself and does not require my solicitation
and contribution. Hungarian Jewry numbered 900,000 prior to the Holocaust
wherein more than 500,000 Hungarian Jews were mechanically but brutally
eliminated in less than one year due to the efficiencies of German
engineering and the judicious use of wartime propaganda. If history is the
mechanism where understanding is given to memory then how by any moral
yardstick can an institution calling itself the Center for Jewish History
neglect such a large and influential body such as Hungarian Jewry. Another
irony of this sad situation is that the foremost spokesman of "Memory" in
our time, Elie Wiesel is also a product of Hungarian Jewish society.

Louis Schonfeld
Beachwood, Ohio

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