Until World War II, Hungarian Jews had been well-assimilated into secular society for centuries. On the eve of the Holocaust, Hungarian Jews numbered some 800,000 people, with Jewish professionals representing 25 percent of the country’s medical establishment, writers, musicians, attorneys, engineers, and journalists. Over the years, Hungarian-Jewish athletes won Olympic medals, and scientists earned Nobel prizes as well as other global awards.
Then came the Holocaust, decimating Jewish life. Over the course of eight weeks in 1944, the majority of the Hungarian Jewish population was deported to concentration camps, with over 425,000 being deported to Auschwitz. Some 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished during the Holocaust. World War II was followed by decades of communism, with religious observance totally suppressed. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, Jewish life reemerged, reestablishing for the first time in half a century.
In 1994, JDC established the JCC Budapest, known popularly as Bálint Ház (due to the generosity of the Balint family of London). Its opening enabled Hungarian Jews to celebrate Jewish cultural life again. Soon, the community was flourishing once more.
Today, there are about 100,000 -120,000 Hungarians with Jewish ancestry – Holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren – the largest Jewish population in Central and Eastern Europe and one of the most historically influential Jewish cultures in the world.
The JCC Budapest – Bálint Ház lies at the center of that story of rebirth. JCC programs provide foundational instruction about Jewish values, culture, and religious practice in a secular, non-judgmental, and safe environment.
Still, there are thousands of Jews in Budapest who have not been ready to emerge out of the shadows to embrace and celebrate their Jewish roots.
Help us welcome them in, as they find their own Jewish path to becoming proud members of the global Jewish community.