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Orban seeks to reassure rabbis over antisemitism

Meeting comes in wake of diplomatic tension between Israel and Hungary over Orban's praise for wartime antisemitic leader

    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has met a delegation of senior rabbis in an effort allay concerns about growing antisemitism in the country.

    Two weeks ago, at a political convention, Mr Orban praised Hungary’s antisemitic wartime leader. He said: “The fact that history did not bury us after the First World War is due to some exceptional statesmen like Miklos Horthy.”

    The statement sparked an outcry from Jewish leaders, and prompted Israel’s ambassador in Budapest to request clarifications from the Hungarian government ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mr Orban in eight days’ time.

    On Thursday, meanwhile, the country’s Jewish umbrella group called on Mr Orban to halt a government campaign against Jewish-American billionaire George Soros, saying it was provoking more antisemitism.

    András Heisler, president of the Federation of the Hungarian Jewish Communities, or Mazsihisz, demanded a stop to the government campaign, which last week included billboards posted nationwide showing a grinning Mr Soros and the words “Let’s not allow Soros to have the last laugh.”

    On Thursday, however, Mr Orban told a delegation including Israel’s Chief Rabbi, David Lau; General Director of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe and European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin; and Hungarian rabbis Baruch Oberlander and Shlomo Kovesh that his government was committed to freedom of religion and to the eradication of antisemitism.

    “The Prime Minister of Hungary Mr. Viktor Orbán and his deputy, Mr. Zsolt Semjén, are well aware of the challenges they face in their fight against antisemitism, but we were deeply impressed by their commitment and the unconditional support they offer for the continuation of Jewish religious life in the country,” said Rabbi Margolin.

    The rabbinical delegation also inaugurated a new kosher slaughterhouse in Hungary.

    “In times like these, when the Belgian parliament passes a law banning kosher slaughter and other countries are undermining freedom of religion all over Europe, we were happy to inaugurate a new kosher slaughterhouse and to witness the help of the government to the Hungarian religious Jewish community,” said Chief Rabbi Lau and Rabbi Margolin.

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