Róbert Frölich, Hungarian Chief Rabbi and retired Brigadier General as the Hungarian Defence Forces first chief military rabbi chaplain, discussed various aspects related to Israel, the safety and security of Jews in Hungary, and the future of the Jewish community in an interview with Index. Reflecting on the Hamas attack on Israel, Rabbi Frölich expressed his shock at the images and events. He compared the brutality of the terrorists to the early 20th-century pogroms in Russia.
Rabbi Frölich discussed how the international community’s opinion on Israel often shifts depending on the narrative presented, mentioning the influence of the Arab world on media perceptions. He touched on the complexities of the Gaza conflict and the necessity of adhering to certain principles even during war.
Regarding Jewish safety in Hungary, he stated that currently, Hungary appears to be one of the safest places. The Hungarian government has taken steps to protect Jewish institutions, including providing additional police support.
The chief rabbi declared that Budapest and Hungary as a whole an island of peace for Hungarian Jews.
He reminded that there have been no flag-burnings, no throwing of stones in Budapest, as the Hungarian government has not allowed any anti-Israel protests to be held.
On the topic of moving the Hungarian embassy to Jerusalem, Rabbi Frölich noted that as Jerusalem Israel’s undivided capital and undisputable capital, it should be common practice for countries to open their embassies in the capital city. Rabbi Frölich underscored that if would bean enormous symbolic gesture if Hungary chose to move its diplomatic mission to Jerusalem, and would logically follow from its Israel policy.
Regarding the changes in the leadership of the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz), Rabbi Frölich noted that Andor Grósz, the new president, has emphasized intra-communal reconciliation and distancing the organization from partisan politics. The Rabbi welcomed the aspirations of Professor Grósz, adding that he has indeed observed a decrease in public disputes within the community since Grósz’s election. He highlighted that thanks to the less partisan tone, negotiations with the government for support in renovating and operating the Rabbinical Seminary have finally commenced.
Rabbi Frölich emphasized the need for Mazsihisz to focus on building and development,
strengthening its position in society through initiatives such as synagogue improvements, community programmes, projects, and education. While he spoke critically of EMIH, the Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities, remarking on ‘vast sums of money flowing in from the United States’ to support the community which he considers to have no roots in Hungary, he acknowledged that it has also made important strides in expanding the availability of kosher food and book publishing in Hungary. In what he implied was a competition with EMIH, he stated that Mazsihisz is picking up the gauntlet, building on its long-standing presence in the country.
Sources: Hungarian Conservative/Index