We had dinner last night with some inspiring leaders of the Hungarian Jewish community. I was fortunate to sit and chat with Andras Heisler, the newly-elected president of the federation of religious communities.
“Without the Joint,” Andras said, “there would be no Jews in
The largest-ever relief operation conducted by the Joint, by budget size, was the $35 million program to provide food, medicine and clothing to several hundred thousand Hungarian Jews after the Second World War.
Negotiating with the new communist regime (many of whose leaders were anti-Zionist and extreme Stalinists of Jewish descent, generally hostile to Jewish and humanitarian concerns) meant negotiating with a government that had no desire to protect its own Jews. By the end of 1945, the Hungarian ration card entitled its holder to exactly 556 calories (out of the 2500 a healthy person required).
And … Hungarians had relatives in the countryside. They hadn’t returned from the ghettoes and camps. The Jews had nothing. No strength, no food. No families.
JDC had to save them from death.
The fact that there’s a thriving community – and a living one – is testament to what happened here almost seventy years ago.