NEWS WATCH: Hungary Hosts Europe’s Largest Jewish Festival Amid Concerns

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By Stefan J. Bos,Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

The_Jewish_Summer_FestivalBUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)-- As many as 100,000 visitors from around the world are expected to attend the 16th Hungarian Jewish Summer Festival in Budapest, Europe's largest cultural event of its kind. The nine-day Festival, which ends September 2 and is supported by churches, comes despite concern over rising antisemitism in the country.

Spectacular Jewish performances reverberate throughout Budapest, including at the city's famed Dohány Street Synagogue, the second-largest Jewish house of worship in the world, and several other venues.

Concerts featuring Israeli stars as well as other high-level cultural events dominate the event, which have been overshadowed by what some call a Neo-nazi cloud.

Ahead of the event, Hungarian police began investigating the successor of the banned Magyar Gárda, or Hungarian Guard, which has been marching through villages of Gypsies, known as Roma, in uniforms resembling the Nazi-era.

It has close ties with the far-right Jobbik party, known for its anti-Roma and anti-Jewish views.

LANGUAGE OF ART

Jewish organizers say they hope the Festival will help to honor human rights of everyone with the "language of art".

Festival Director Vera Vadas is pleased that Catholic and Protestant Church leaders support the initiative, for instance at an arts exhibition.

"This event is particularly significant in terms of inter-religious dialog," she noted. "I would like to express that Christian-Jewish thinking can translate into love and the pursuit of peace and prevents any exclusion, discrimination, or intolerance."

Hungary's center-right government says it supports the Festival this year with 58 million Hungarian forints ($250,000).

It also used the gathering to announce it will enable student groups to visit the Holocaust Memorial Center in Budapest free of charge. At least 600,000 Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust during World War Two.

With as many as 120,000 people, Hungary still has Eastern Europe's largest Jewish community, outside Russia. And organizers believe the Summer Festival can encourage visitors to learn more about the rich Jewish heritage.

(BosNewsLife's NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist countries and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or other compassionate professionals).

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