Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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eign donations. Assimilation, Spiro contends, is a completed
process; Jews and Hungarians are indistinguishable.15 (In all
fairness to Spiro we should note that he is more effective as
a novelist than as a polemicist. His latest work o f fiction,
(The Newcomer, 1990), is a fascinating study o f nine­
teen th century Polish em igre poets whose mystical leanings were
heavily influenced by Jewish messianic thought.)
T h e re is no question that since the historical changes in East­
ern Europe, Hungarian cultural life has been made more com­
plicated, more tense, by thinly veiled attacks on what is still p e r­
ceived by some nationalists as the Jewish dom ination o f H u n ­
garian culture. In a m anner eerily reminiscent o f the hate-
mongering news media o f the late thirties and forties, right-wing
newspapers once again m u rm u r darkly o f international Jewish
cabals, and p rom inen t writers have accused Jews o f trying to
“assimilate” o the r Hunga rians .16 Yet the public debate on anti-
Semitism has not inhibited interest in Jewish publications, and
it clearly has not intim idated those with an invigorated sense
o f Jewishness.
Interestingly, one o f the popu lar manifestations o f the re ­
newed interest in Judaica has been an increased appreciation
o f Jewish humor. In the last several years at least ha lf a dozen
collections o f Jewish jokes have appeared in Hungary in huge
editions, including anthologies o f famous Hungarian Jewish an ­
ecdotes.17 Even expensive Jewish a r t books — a particularly op ­
ulent facsimile edition o f a medieval Spanish H aggada ,18 an
eighteenth century Megillah scroll19 — have fared well on the
Hungarian book market. A fine survey o f Hunga ry ’s many syn­
15. Gyorgy Spiro, “Kulonvelemeny” (Dissenting Opinion). In
tober 21, 1990:24.
16. On the recent rise in anti-Semitism in Hungary, see Judith Miller, “Out
o f Hiding.” In
The New York Times Magazine,
December 9, 1990:70. In Hun­
garian, see Peter Hanak, ed.,
Zsidokerdes, asszimildcio, antiszemitizmus
Jewish Question, Assimilation, Anti-Semitism). Budapest: Gondolat, 1984;
Dr. Peter Kende,
Ropirat a zsidokerdesrol
(Pamplet on the Jewish Question).
Budapest: Magveto, 1989.
17. See for example, Istvan Hajdu, ed.,
Osztropoli Herschel ostora
(The Whip
o f Herschel from Ostropol). Budapest: Minerva, 1985; Tibor B. Radvanyi,
Zsido viccek
(Jewish Jokes). [Budapest]: Ifjusagi Lap- es Konyvkiado
Vallalat, 1988.
The Kaufmann Haggada.
Budapest: Kultura International, 1990.
The Book of Esther.
Budapest: Helikon Publishing House, 1989.