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.

Read more at JNS

More about: Holocaust, Hungarian Jewry, Jewish food

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy