How would you introduce yourself?
I graduated from the Hungarian University of Arts and Design as a product designer. Then I moved to the United States and graduated from the University of Illinois as an architect. Starting in 2002, I was employed by an international architecture firm where I designed sport facilities for 8 years. I moved back to Hungary in 2010 and have been employed by Graphisoft ever since. Within architecture, my main focus is education. Since 2014, Limmud has also been my labor of love where currently I am a board member.
What does Jewish identity mean to you and what role does active participation in the Jewish community have in your life?
On my mother’s side, I come from a secular Jewish family with a very strong Jewish identity. It is not impossible that the women in my family inspired Philip Roth to write the book Portnoy’s Complaint. I started to consciously and intensively learn about the Jewish culture and religion when I lost my mom in 2002. At that time I was still living in the United States and because I sent both of my children to Jewish educational institutions, I decided to map out the synagogues. Jewish tradition plays an important role in satisfying my own intellectual curiosity as well as in preserving Judaism.
What are the biggest challenges of the Hungarian Jewish community today?
In my opinion, the biggest problems in Eastern Europe are the assimilation of the generation that grew up after the Holocaust and its detachment from the Jewish community. That is the reason why so many people do not only turn away from a religious life but also from Judaism as a factor to bring community together.
What do you think about the coexistence between Jews and non-Jews in Hungary? How successful do you consider the dialogue between Jews and non-Jews?
In the Hungarian society, it is an obvious failure. So much so that I do not even see a meaningful dialogue. However, at my work place, I talk and joke about Judaism, Jewish religion, and Jewish culture on a regular basis with my non-Jews while sipping coffee and the fact that I can do this helps me to maintain my sanity.
What kind of a Jewish community would you like to see in 18 years? What steps would be necessary in your opinion to have this vision realized?
I’m currently reading a book on Odessa in the 1920s. Then and there, it was conspicuous that for the Jews, Judaism meant civilization, social affiliation, and culture as a whole less and less. However, it still had a cohesive force for the community nonetheless. The same is true for the period of the Jewish nightclubs in Király street. These are the periods I keep in mind when I interact with others within the community; we can build a similar, modern in its historical environment, innovative, diverse, and converging community.
As a parent as well as a volunteer, I consider the Jewish education of future generations the most important thing to do.
What are the biggest challenges of the Hungarian society today?
This question is too big of a challenge! If I had to answer it from the point of view of the community, I would highlight apathy and passivity as the biggest challenges. We know that Hungarians have civil courage. However, it mostly works on the level of the individual as well as the family.
In order to overcome these challenges, what do you think is the role of each individual, and what is the role of the Jewish and the non-Jewish communities?
I suggest guerilla warfare! With a small, mobile team in a familiar territory, success is possible and its exemplary impact is unquestionable.
What does Israel mean to you and how do you look at Israel?
Israel is a magnet. My primary bond with it is emotional. Whenever I visit Jerusalem, I get the Jerusalem syndrome and – I know it may sound ridiculous – I get touched by the site of the female soldiers, or when I hear about the umbrella that was used to disarm the attacker with a knife. I read the Israeli news first and I’m more interested in Israel’s future than in any other country’s.
What matters do you speak out about and what matters do you support within and outside the community?
In the community, I invest a lot in turning Limmud into a volunteer-based, well operating non-profit organization; we have a lot of work cut out for us. I also support the synagogue in Visegrádi street with small things and my help. Outside the community, I can think of my favorite American podcasts, e.g. ‘The American life’, or ‘Savage Love’, or ‘Israel Voice’.