Bennem élő eredet: A site bringing a new perspective on the life of Hungary’s rural Jewry

A promising community-building and identity-strengthening project was launched on January 1 under the title “Bennem élő eredet(“My ancestry, origin or heritage living within me”), reports Samuel Katzburg on

The new site brings readers some exciting, touching, inspiring, provocative, thought-provoking and at times tongue-in-cheek articles and videos about the past, present and future of rural Jews, about the heritage that lives within us.

The focus of the project is on rural Jewish communities, which are dealt with from a completely different perspective than the usual approach, which is typically based on devastation, the Holocaust. The lives and daily lives of the martyrs, survivors and their ancestors, what they achieved and the role they played in the micro-societies of the settlements, the stories of the rabbis, the unique customs of the communities, have been little discussed so far, and this is precisely what theBennem élő eredet team wants to change.

Today’s Hungarian Jewish community is clearly Budapest-centric, home to the headquarters of the three historic Jewish congregations, which together run dozens of synagogues, as well as daycare centers, kindergartens, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities. We often talk about the Jewish renaissance that followed the regime change, but most of us forget that most of our past, the pieces that build an important part of our identity, are rooted somewhere in the countryside. And when we talk about the countryside, the “Bennem élő eredet” site draws from historic Hungary.

The rural Jewish community is mostly represented by the martyr services held in late spring and early summer. One of the things that “Bennem élő eredet” wants to change is that we should not approach rural Jewish communities solely in terms of loss, because of course it is important to remember the perished and to widely disseminate the lessons of the Holocaust, but if we talk solely about the number of those deported or put into forced labor, it is precisely their memory that we are insulting. “Bennem élő eredet” attempts to talk about who these people were, how they lived, what they achieved, what their significance was in the fabric of each settlement.

The idea for the project came from Rabbi Slomó Köves and Róbert Wallenstein, a journalism and tourism professional.

Among the founding members of the community, we also find cultural historian and writer Viktor Cseh, genealogist Károly Vándor, and personal life coach Gábor Szőke-Visontai.

As well as providing innovative content, the team is preparing interactive, community-building programs that will bring audiences together in the aftermath of the pandemic, not only in the virtual space but also through festivals; exhibitions; and cultural, scientific and even commercial events. In addition, it will publish in English as well in an effort to bring the stories of Hungarian-speaking rural Jewry to as many foreigners as possible. They are also offering genealogy and Jewish-heritage tourism services.

The team has chosen a rather unorthodox region, the area around Lake Balaton, as the first location for their research. Although there was a thriving Jewish life on the shores of the „Hungarian sea,” this is not what most people associate with the region today, so the choice has led to many surprises.

You may read the rest of the article here.

Bennem élő eredet: Új nézőpontból mutatják be a vidéki zsidóság életét

A projekt fókuszában a vidéki zsidó közösségek állnak, melyekkel az eddig megszokott, jellemzően a pusztítás, a holokauszt oldaláról való megközelítéssel ellentétben, egy teljesen más szemlélet alapján foglalkozik.