Friday, March 22, 2013


I spent the last couple of days with my colleague Zsuzsa Fritz, Director of the Balint Jewish Community Center in Budapest and the International Szarvas Camp in Hungary.

Like so many in Hungary, her family sought to protect her and never told her that she was Jewish—concerned that she would never be able to advance in communist Hungary if she was openly Jewish. There were no elements of Jewish life in her home growing up, though all her family members were Jewish.

Then at age 16, Zsuzsa's father died and at his funeral, conducted with Jewish traditions, she discovered that she was Jewish.  For several months she tried to absorb this stunning reality.

This was then the last decade before communism's fall and the Jews of Hungary started to feel more secure as Jews. She joked that her mother asked her to go find a nice boy at a local Jewish Rabbinical school, and listening to her, she started attending all kinds of Jewish events, eventually leading her to a trip to Israel and a lifetime career in informal Jewish education.

With her exceptional drive and passion for informal Jewish education, today Zsusza is the Director of the Balint JCC, a focal point for Jewish life in Budapest. Today Hungary is home to 120,000 Jews, the largest Jewish community in central Europe.

Her story is the story of Hungary's Jews, a miraculous transformation that she passionately shared, first-hand, and which is still taking place through the support of our partners. 

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