Hungary’s Annual Cholent Festival

Sept. 23 2021

On August 29, a Hungarian Jewish organization held its sixth annual cholent festival in Budapest, named for the slow-cooked stew that is traditionally placed in an oven or on a stove on Friday, to be served for the afternoon meal the next day without violating restrictions on cooking on Shabbat. Last year, the celebration—which attracts both Jews and non-Jews—had been canceled due to the pandemic. Eliana Rudee reports:

According to a 1941 census, Hungary had a Jewish population of 825,000, less than 6 percent of the total population. Nearly two-thirds—as many as 568,000—perished during the years of World War II and the Holocaust, the majority in the final year of the war, one of the last major European Jewish populations to be rounded up by Nazi Germans.

Between December 1944 and the end of January 1945, the fascist Arrow Cross Party installed in Hungary at the time took as many as 20,000 Jews from the ghetto in Budapest, shot them along the banks of the Danube and threw their bodies into the river. A monument called “Shoes on the Danube Bank” pays homage to the victims.

The Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Eliezer Nogradi, who invited Jewish festivalgoers to wrap tefillin, estimated that 30-to-40 percent of the festival participants were Jewish. The non-Jews among the crowd have nevertheless shown “respect and interest,” he [stated]. The Jews, [according to Nogradi], are still “careful about being Jewish outside, some are even scared to tell their children [that they are Jews], . . . after the Holocaust and Communism.”

By midday, more than half of the 6,000 portions of kosher cholent were sold. The festival offered hundreds of pounds and several varieties of it—vegan, Hungarian, Israeli, Tunisian. The festival also featured live performances by the ḥasidic rapper Nissim Black, an American who made aliyah, and the English singer/songwriter Alex Clare, who also lives in Israel.

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More about: Holocaust, Hungarian Jewry, Jewish food

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship