According to official statistics, in today’s Hungary, more than 80,000 individuals claim themselves to be Jew. Defining and framing Jewish identity has always been more problematic in the Diaspora, since, depending on time, place and factual situation, definitions for nation, nationality, ethnic, religion and even race did not seem to be able to grasp and clarify the meaning of Judaism. Still, in Hungary, since 1867 Jews have been considered a religious minority.Moreover, Hungary knows a very specific situation, in this sense that in 1868/1869, a rupture occurred in the Community causing 3 distinct communities to emerge, known as “Orthodox” (following strictly the rules of Halakhah, i. e. the entire corpus of Jewish Law), “Neologue” (introducing modern elements and distancing themselves from the tradition) and “Status-Quo” (not accepting the separation).Now a 4th group has emerged, taking its organisation and principles from US examples, called Reformed Jews, but not recognised as a Jewish community in Hungary and merely functioning as an association. However, in the post-socialism, the 4 categories can only be used as a basic background to analyse the new conglomerates that surfaced in the last years in the Jewish society, because the new self-claimed identities I am confronted with, such as “I am an orthodox-non religious-believer” or “I am a Neologue-religious-atheist”, need new approaches to interpretation.
These auto-definitions show that origin, ritual practice and fate can be distinguished from each other in contemporary Judaism, for example the “orthodox-non religious-believer” implies that this orthodox family (first generation), following the Holocaust and during Communism, detached itself from the everyday practice (second generation) whereby now the third generation has a faith in God without any religious rituals based on Halakhah. And the second auto-definition means somebody coming out a Neologue family and participating to rituals as part of their social life but without any belief in God.When surveying the full palette of Jewish identity in post-socialist Budapest, I distinguish seven ways Jews live and express their identity. The concept for my distinction is the relationship Jews have with the tradition (from acceptance to rejection). On this basis I can list: 1. Families who continued the everyday Orthodox tradition after the Holocaust, during Communism and till present. 2.
Jews taking part in the new Hassidic movements, such as Lubavitch’s rabbis who returned after 1989 from Israel and the USA, spreading the Hassidic-Jewish tradition in Budapest amongst young Jews and founding many Jewish organisations.3. Jews symbolically following the festive aspects from the tradition (for example Pesach, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah). 4. The baal tsuva-Jews. Young Jews, raised under Communism without knowledge of their Jewish origins and without any Jewish education but who became aware of these during the 1989 changes and subsequently returning en masse to the Jewish tradition (according to a survey from 1999, they form 13 % of Jews in Hungary).
5. Jews taking part in (mainly secular) cultural, intellectual and political Jewish organisations.6. The teenagers of today, coming from families mentioned under point 3, form a group indifferent to Jewish tradition and identity. 7. The assimilated Jews who can be distinguished in different groups in accordance with the strategy used for their assimilation.
Obviously, the different groups can interfere and mingle with each other. The purpose of my paper is to analyse the different groups based on their taking part in the celebration of Hanukkah.I have chosen this celebration since Hanukkah (the festive day against anti-semitism) is not strictly a religious celebration but mainly a social, cultural and even political event which is not only celebrated in close family and/or synagogue circle but also in public, open to be witnessed by outsider non-Jews. I will reflect my questions on the identity of the seven groups throughout the celebration of Hanukkah: 1. How do the relationships and interactions between the seven groups manifest themselves throughout their different celebration of Hanukkah ?2. What kind of representation are they using within the framework of Hanukkah, including towards who, to express their identity? 3. How do they experience the questions of Israel, diaspora and anti-semitism during the different moments in the 8 days of Hanukkah.
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