How would you introduce yourself?
I am Tamás Verő, rabbi, and as long as I can remember, I have been working for the Jewish community in Budapest and in Hungary. I have a partner in this work, but she is first and foremost a partner in my life; her name is Linda Bán. We have two gorgeous children, two girls, and a dog we adopted.
What does Jewish identity mean to you and what role does active participation in the Jewish community have in your life?
Without using big words, it means a lot. The Jewish identity means my everyday life, my Jewish community life. My life is also about organizing and implementing the Jewish holidays, different Jewish events, and the different individuals and members of the community are interesting and important for me.
What are the biggest challenges of the Hungarian Jewish community today?
The internal political battles within the community make our lives difficult. Our biggest challenges are the lack of those who perished in the holocaust and of their descendants, their irreplaceable number; the high number of those who assimilated; to reach and attract those who have distanced themselves from the community. This is also our biggest task.
What kind of Jewish community would you like to see in 18 years? What steps would be necessary in your opinion to have this vision realized?
Self-sufficient, proud, and conscious community is what I would like to see, where the different generations can live in harmony with one another in addition to the traditional Jewish family model. Everybody would find their role and field of interest in a colorful, bustling community life.
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?
There are groups, organizations, and people who can showcase an exemplary coexistence. However, there is a social group that has not faced its past or has not faced it truthfully, and this is an obstacle to a successful cooperation. This still requires a lot of work and education can help a lot.
What are the biggest challenges of the Hungarian society today?
Economic security can create a balance and provide a positive answer to our challenges. It is easier to tackle issues when people do not have to deal with a lot of stress and financial insecurity.
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?
If we are able to successfully introduce Judaism and our customs, we could tackle hatred and fear that feed on ignorance. An honest and transparent community life where openness and social sensitivity are the norm, where people pay attention to one another, could bring a solution to many issues.
What does Israel mean to you and how do you look at Israel?
I have been to Israel several times. I have traveled there with different groups, alone, and also with my family. I feel at home in Israel, in its well-known places, and luckily my family feels the same about the country. Jerusalem is a city with a unique ambience, which has a special place in my heart as well as in our religion. It is such a comforting feeling that there is a country the Jews can call their own. The Israeli society can be proud of its internationally acclaimed successes.
What matters do you speak out about and what matters do you support within and outside the community?
I try to find those things and initiatives that could be beneficial for the Jewry within and outside of the Federation of the Hungarian Jewish Communities. We face a lot of challenges during our youth events from kindergarten to university in formal and informal education alike. I support and work to strengthen community life. I look for answers to religious and non-religious questions. Moreover, I try to show an example and give guidance with my way of life to those who turn to me.
Tamás Verős is the rabbi of the Frankel Synagouge in Budapest