Back in 2001 in Budapest, we were a small Jewish students group called Marom, looking to organize a Chanukah festival. We worked with limited resources, but had lots of ideas. One was to set up a multimedia installation inside a synagogue with bright contemporary graphics projected on the walls, intertwined with old black and white Yiddish movies. But we needed projectors.
We reached out to the C3 (Cultural and Communication Centre), created by the Hungarian Soros Foundation, which gave us the two projectors we needed. This was our first encounter with the philanthropy of Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. Today, Marom is a place where hundreds of young people volunteer in programs promoting social justice and democracy in Hungary, and where they can reconnect with their Jewish heritage. We receive support from the Open Society Foundations, along with other donors like the European Union.
But for the first time since the end of communism, we Hungarian Jews are justified in fearing for our security, given the Hungarian Government’s apathy towards Soros, and far-right rhetoric. The Prime Minister Victor Orban has focused much of his re-election campaign on attacking Soros, claiming he is trying to “flood Hungary with Muslims” and putting Hungary’s existence at stake. His Government has even reportedly started distributing a book by a known conspiracy theorist disparaging Soros.
This summer, Hungary’s parliament approved a law restricting the activities of NGOs receiving international funding. The new law forces organizations that receive more than $28,000 (£21,000) from foreign donors to disclose the personal data of all of their individual donors. Consequently, it has become very challenging for us to persuade individuals to donate money because it means their names and addresses will be listed on a Hungarian government website.
As a Jewish group working on social justice, we are not optimistic towards the current situation. The Government’s well-documented campaign against George Soros plays with obvious antisemitic representations from the 1930s, which has drawn wide criticism. .. read more: