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In Budapest, Roma and Jews use alternative JCC to fight right-wing populism [JTA]

Marom, the Jewish association that runs and owns Aurora as part of its outreach mission to young unaffiliated Hungarian Jews, provides office space and facilities to about a dozen non-Jewish activist groups committed to fighting these perceived trends. They include the Roma Press Center, Budapest Pride, the Migszol refugee advocacy group and the Zold Pok agency for social activism.

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Ádám Schönberger, standing, with other participants at the 2016 seder dinner at the Aurora Jewish community center in Budapest, April 22, 2016. (Courtesy of Marom)

Although she lives in the undisputed nightlife capital of Central Europe, Andi Angelip knows of only a handful of bars here where she is truly comfortable bringing a date.

Angelip, a 19-year-old student and activist for lesbian and gay rights, said she avoids “rainbow” establishments that cater only to homosexuals. Yet in a country where violent far-right activists regularly intimidate gays and lesbians, she also avoids romantic situations in mainstream clubs.

“It’s not so comfortable to be a minority in a country whose politicians preach for discrimination on a daily basis,” she told JTA last month.

Two years ago, Angelip found at least one place where she does feel comfortable: an avant-garde Jewish community center called Aurora. Since its reopening in 2014 in a poor neighborhood of Budapest, it has become one of the city’s hippest coffee bars – and a major hub for social and opposition activists fighting the policies of Hungary’s right-wing government.

“I come here because it’s just a cool place, but also because I feel safe and comfortable here, like I belong,” said Angelip, who is not a part of Hungary’s Jewish population of approximately 100,000.

She is not the only minority rights activist who regards Aurora, a 6,500-square-foot center located in a small building in the crime-stricken 8th District, as a sanctuary from reality in Hungary. Critics of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government here say it is mainstreaming hate crime and Holocaust revisionism, as well as promoting censorship of the press.

Marom, the Jewish association that runs and owns Aurora as part of its outreach mission to young unaffiliated Hungarian Jews, provides office space and facilities to about a dozen non-Jewish activist groups committed to fighting these perceived trends. They include the Roma Press Center, Budapest Pride, the Migszol refugee advocacy group and the Zold Pok agency for social activism.

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Members of Roma Sajtóközpont – Roma Press Center

While Angelip and a female friend chatted over beer on a recent Monday in the Aurora bar – a cozy space with 1970s décor and music by the French protest singer Manu Chao — Marom’s staff of about 12 met in their upstairs office to review last year’s activities, including the group’s weekly Shabbat services in their small egalitarian synagogue and celebrations of Jewish holidays.

In addition to religious services, Marom also organizes educational activities in schools about the Holocaust, programs for street children, and cultural events like film screenings and experimental music concerts. It also hosts political discussions, such as a sold-out Jan. 30 debate on populism featuring László Majtényi, an outspoken critic of Orban.

“We work with non-affiliated Jews who would never go to a synagogue or even the Balint Center,” said Adam Schoenberger, the president of Marom, referring to the Jewish community center in central Budapest funded by the Joint Distribution Committee. “So we try to sneak Judaism into our programming, just to give them a taste and whet their appetite: a klezmer concert here, a Hanukkah candle lighting there.” See full article here.

Source: Jewish Telegraphic Agency

 

 

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