Budapest, March 4 -- A long-running dispute over the allocation of Holocaust reparations to Hungary’s Charedi Jewish community is getting public notice this week. In a last-ditch effort before taking legal action, Róbert Deutsch, president of the Autonomous Charedi Jewish Community of Hungary (MAOIH), sent a formal letter to Neolog-Reform Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities (MAZSIHISZ) leadership requesting an immediate settlement of a 10 billion HUF ($33 million) debt it is owed.
The Federation has not responded to requests from Charedi community leaders since 2018. In a final attempt before asserting its claim in the dispute, Deutsch called on Federation president András Heisler to settle the debt in the coming week or face civil litigation. The Hungarian Jewish community is comprised of three denominations: Neolog-Reform (MAZSIHISZ), Chabad/Orthodox (EMIH) and Charedi (MAOIH).
“The Hungarian Charedi community is the oldest Hungarian Jewish denomination, and provides and oversees all essential services of religious life: kashrut, traditional Jewish education, mikvaot (ritual baths), and supplies for religious holidays and events, that have traditionally been the responsibility of the Charedi community for centuries,” said Róbert Deutsch, President of MAOIH. “We have been trying for years to settle this unjust allocation of resources peacefully, but unfortunately our initiatives have received no response. The responsibility we feel for the survival of traditional Hungarian Jewish religious values leaves us no choice but to take extreme action.”
In 1991 the Hungarian Parliament adopted a law that would compensate synagogue properties where no restitution or property was returned to its original owners. After lengthy negotiations, the established synagogues signed an agreement with the Hungarian Government for something called a “perpetual annuity” (or perpetual reparation). This converted any claims for real estate into annual annuities.
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According to the agreement, 5 percent of the real estate’s current value would be distributed in the form of an annual annuity so that religious organizations could maintain their community activities. The agreement was signed on October 1, 1998 between the Hungarian government and MAZSIHISZ, who then was acting on behalf of the three segments of the Jewish community. Under the terms of this agreement, the total value of the annuity fund -- 13,511 billion Forint ($43 million) -- was converted into an annuity source.
At the heart of the claim is the fact that nearly 40 percent of the 153 properties which form the basis of the perpetual annuity was real estate historically belonging to the Charedi community. Since 1998, the Charedi community received just over 5 percent of the total 30 billion Forint ($96 million) annuity, instead of the nearly 40 percent that it deserves.