New Reports Highlight Renewal of Jewish Life in Hungary, Poland

The renewal of Jewish life in Hungary and Poland comes under scrutiny in two reports published by the U.K. based Institute for Jewish Policy Research. The research, conducted by local experts on behalf of JPR and funded by the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, was designed to assess the development of Jewish communities in East-Central Europe since the collapse of communism, as well as the challenges they face going forward.

Research in Hungary reveals a community re-invigorated over the last 20 years, but nevertheless facing the challenge of low engagement in communal life: only 10 per cent of the Jewish population is affiliated to any Jewish organization. The report calls for:

  • the restructuring of the Hungarian Jewish communal infrastructure to ensure that decisions on issues affecting the whole community are made in a democratic and transparent fashion;
  • help to build a religiously pluralist communal environment;
  • greater levels of co-operation and co-ordination among Jewish communal organizations and initiatives.

The report on Poland testifies to the rebirth of a small community that has a disproportionate impact on world Jewry, not least because of the importance of Polish Jewish history and heritage. It also points to increased non-Jewish interest in, and sympathy for Jewish issues, and calls for:

  • greater investment in Jewish cultural and educational models that allow for new and creative expressions of Jewishness;
  • continued support for the minority Orthodox community which is likely to remain a pillar of Jewish life;
  • greater support for the development of non-Orthodox forms of Judaism;
  • an urgent need for the establishment of a Jewish old-age home in Warsaw.

The reports draw on structured interviews with communal leaders, professionals, youth leaders and analysts to create a multi-dimensional and up-to-date picture of Jewish life in both countries. They provide a practical guide for all those wishing to understand, develop or invest in the future of Jewish life in Europe, including national and international donors and foundations, leaders, community professionals, researchers and ultimately members of the communities themselves.

Commenting on the reports, Jonathan Boyd, JPR Executive Director and series editor, says:

“There are claims and counterclaims about contemporary European Jewish life – at one end of the spectrum there are reports of a remarkable renaissance of activity; at the other there is a strong narrative of decline. These reports are designed to navigate a path through this complexity, and they paint a rich portrait based on the views of community leaders and activists, as well as existing statistical data. They illustrate that both perspectives are correct: while Jewish life has undoubtedly been reinvigorated since the collapse of communism, considerable investment is required to ensure the long-term sustainability of Jewish life in both places.”

This series examines Jewish life in four East-Central European countries since the collapse of communism, and identifies the major challenges facing the Jewish communities in each place. The areas covered in the reports include religious life, education (formal and informal), cultural development, academic studies, preservation of heritage, young adult engagement, leadership development, innovation and social entrepreneurship, funding and philanthropy, welfare (children and the elderly), combating antisemitism, Israel education, advocacy and aliyah (emigration to Israel).

Each report is published simultaneously in English and in the vernacular. Further reports in this series will focus on Germany and the Ukraine and will be published in 2012.

The reports can be downloaded here in full:

Jewish life in Hungary: Achievements, challenges and priorities since the collapse of communism

Jewish life in Poland: Achievements, challenges and priorities since the collapse of communism