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JPR’s on-going research about contemporary European Jewry was featured in an American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) seminar in Budapest.
The JDC, the leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organisation headquartered in the United States, has been actively involved in helping to rebuild Jewish community life in former communist countries since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Despite many successes, huge challenges remain, as communities continue to struggle with how to renew themselves following the devastating consequences of Nazism and Communism.
The challenges in Hungary are typical: whilst the Hungarian Jewish population is the fourth largest in Europe, few Hungarian Jews are involved in communal life, most are secular, and for many, their connections with Judaism are rather weak, based largely on having some Jewish ancestry through their parents or grandparents. Add to that the rising nationalist fervour in Hungary which in often tinged with antisemitic sentiment, and the country provides a comparatively barren environment for Jewish life to thrive.
JDC’s Hungarian staff were joined at the seminar by other colleagues from across Europe, in addition to teams from Israel and the United States, in order to develop their thinking about Jewish community development in this context. JPR was invited to bring some empiricism to the proceedings, and Dr Jonathan Boyd presented some of the latest data on European Jewish demography, antisemitism and migration, whilst exploring new thinking on Jewish education. He also ran a session on the relationship between research and policy, presenting several case studies of research initiatives that have achieved impact.