Viktor Orbán and the Chabad kosher business

Two days ago, before I had access to the English translation of András Heisler’s speech, I called attention to a sentence I considered to be significant. He talked about forces that are trying to sow discord in the Hungarian Jewish community. The sentence I was alluding to was: “We are convinced that it is in the basic interest of both Hungary and the State of Israel not to divide the Hungarian Jewry of the Diaspora, not to alienate it but to help build our communities in order to continue living and to pass on our ancestors’ Hungarian and Jewish traditions.” In that post I briefly mentioned the cozy relationship between the Hungarian government and Slomó Köves, the founder of the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH).

First, before I delve more deeply into this relationship, a bit of history. Following the 1867 Compromise between the Crown and Hungary, the new Hungarian government worked with liberal-minded Jewish leaders to create a formal institutional framework in order to facilitate church-state relations. A congress was convened for that purpose. The 200 some delegates were supposed to exclude religious issues and concentrate only on organizational matters. After three months of deliberations, instead of creating a single unified Jewish congregation the community officially split into three branches: the Neolog (liberal), the Orthodox, and the Status Quo Ante, those traditionalists who wanted to remain independent from both groups. Within Orthodoxy some groups followed the Hasidic tradition, but after the Treaty of Trianon most of them ended up in Czechoslovakia or Romania. Slomó Köves’s Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation, allied with the Chabad movement, is an import from the United States.

Chabad is widespread, consisting of more than 3,600 institutions in over 1,000 cities, spanning more than 80 countries. The group actively seeks new adherents among unaffiliated Jews. Chabad was well prepared for the political changes in East-Central Europe, and in August 1989 a young couple, Baruch Oberlander and his wife Batsheva, were sent to Hungary in search of new converts. Both are children of Hungarian Holocaust survivors. I have no space here to go into the activities of Oberlander in Hungary, but one can safely say that he and his fellow religionists have been extremely active, with considerable help from the Orbán government.

Slomó Köves, who has been described by some as the head of the “political section” of the movement, is a convert himself. He was born Máté Köves, the child of a secular Jewish couple. Being interested in spiritual and religious matters, he got to know Rabbi Baruch Oberlander, who convinced him to drop out of the famed Radnóti Gymnasium and continue his education in Israel and later in the United States in yeshivas. He married an American girl, also from the Hasidic community, and the couple returned to Hungary. Oberlander, Köves, and several other Chabad rabbis have created a strong community with considerable influence. For example, in 2003, when the chief rabbi of Israel, the leader of the Chabad Rabbinic Council of Israel, and Baruch Oberlander ordained Köves, the ceremony was attended by President Ferenc Mádl, a Fidesz appointee; Gábor Demszky, mayor of Budapest; and several leaders of Mazsihisz. The event was heralded as the first Orthodox ordination since the Holocaust, which turned out to be inaccurate.

After 2010 the relationship between the Chabad group and the Hungarian government strengthened. In 2012 Köves was named chief rabbi of the Hungarian Army. The close relationship between Orbán and Köves was amply demonstrated during the recent Netanyahu visit to Budapest. “The prime minister gave an intimate dinner party for the members of the Israeli delegation on Tuesday where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his wife, Anikó Lévai, introduced Rabbi Slomó Köves to the Netanyahu couple. Sara Netanyahu was happy to learn about the significant work being done by Chabad in Hungary. She let him know that as a school psychologist she works in a Chabad school.” So, Köves was invited to a dinner to meet Netanyahu while no such invitation was extended to the president of Mazsihisz.

The Chabad community, partly because of the generous support of the government and partly because of the financial resources of Chabad Lubavitch, is thriving. As of now, ten rabbis are active in Hungary. As far as I can ascertain, they are all “imports.”

It looks as if Slomó Köves’s Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation (EMIH) and the Hungarian government also have joint business interests. At the beginning of July the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, David Lau, was visiting Hungary. He came to witness the publication of a new Hungarian translation of the Talmud, a Chabad project, but he also attended the opening of Europe’s largest kosher slaughterhouse for geese. Both the slaughterhouse and the Quality Poultry Kft, the firm running it, are owned by EMIH. The keynote speaker was Sándor Fazekas, minister of agriculture. This immediately aroused my suspicion that the Hungarian government was involved one way or another in this business venture. And indeed this is the case. According to the local paper, the project is ambitious. The present structure will employ about 100 people, but there are plans to expand its capacity and eventually will employ 260 people. Daily 2,400 geese will be processed there. In his speech Fazekas emphasized that foodstuff made from water birds has a centuries-old tradition in Hungary. It is a “Hungaricum.” He added that the goals of Quality Poultry are “in line with the government’s agricultural policy.” Therefore, the Magyar Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) gave a 1.75 billion forint loan for the construction of the slaughterhouse. There was also a government subsidy, the size of which was not disclosed. Later, when the company’s slaughterhouse is enlarged, the government will cover 15% of the cost.

At the opening of the kosher slaughterhouse. From left to right: Baruch Oberlander, David Lau, Sándor Fazekas, and Slomó Köves

It looks as if the Chabad people convinced the Orbán government that kosher slaughtering and processing is a good business. I’m sure they are right. Goose liver is exceedingly expensive. Kosher goose liver even more so. According to an article from 2013, “Hungary is one of the main sources of goose liver to Israel” right now.

The Hungarian government got so excited about kosher food in general that “an international logistical center” is being created by two state companies. Kosher products would arrive in Hungary from all over the world and from there they would be shipped to the USA, Europe, and Israel. Agro Rehab Kft., one of the companies, is planning to grow kosher broccoli and cauliflower. (In case you’re wondering, vegetables are considered to be kosher except for these two, because bugs might be hiding in them.) The government considers this investment to be of particular importance to the national economy, and therefore Agro Rehab received 3 billion forints from the government for the expansion of its business activities.

Mainstream Jewish groups and secular Jews are not this government’s favorites. By and large, they are not supporters of the Orbán regime, as Viktor Orbán knows only too well. On the other hand, this small group of fundamentalists is politically harmless, in addition to being potentially good business partners. Altogether a good deal.

July 21, 2017
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Member
Steatosis, a Hungaricum It is not goose “processing,” it is goose slaughter. And the reason goose liver is in such demand is because Hungary is one of the few countries in the EU that still allows force-feeding of geese in order to produce the liver disease called “foie gras” — otherwise known as “fatty liver” or steatosis. Force feeding is painful and frightening. Fatty liver is a painful pathology. Kosher slaughter — which is particularly cruel within the cruel practice of animal butchery, not even allowing any mesure to make the victim unconscious, requiring it instead to bleed to death because of some biblical superstition — is “justified” as based on considerations of health and cleanliness. Well geese with fatty liver are anything but healthy. Shame on these money-minded religious zealots. I am of the secular community of Jews of Hungarian origin. If all there were left in the world were the various bigoted orthodox sects, I would stop considering myself a Jew. I am for ending all animal slaughter, starting with the most inhumane forms of slaughter. (There are even worse forms than kosher and halal slaughter: Some Chinese torture and boil dogs alive because they find it tastes… Read more »
old 1956
Guest

this lecture was ugly.
some of us like foie gras.
Sorry.

gandolf
Guest

Sorry, it’s not because something tastes good that it means that it is also morally acceptable. Force feeding is an ugly relic from times when human beings didn’t care about the pain which other creatures can feel.

wrfree
Guest

Re: feeling the pain of others

I don’t know. Perhaps empathy in our civilization is one of those characteristics on its way out. Getting brutal out there. The center will not hold. And Jerusalem once again is a cauldron of rage.

It’s deep trouble when the religious institutions ostensibly to forge a sort of commiseration in societies relenquish that responsibility and pursue more practical kinds of things like economics and more economics. And gelt simply looks the god worshipped today.

Member

I’ve never tried foie gras.
But Chabad can it be?

Miki
Guest

Yeah, force-feeding is terrible. I saw it being done by my grandmother when I was a child.
It is also true that the liver of the force-fed goose or duck is not healthy. It taste good though, together with schmaltz.

But then how much healthier is the chicken meat these days? Bombarded with growth hormone and all kinds of artificial feedstuff, many containing animal products, the chicken grow up in three months instead of a year and cleverly slaughtered just before it would die on its own. Many don’t even need to be slaughtered, they die during transportation to the slaughterhouse, especially during winter, when they are transported in cages, on a deck of a highway truck.
And this is not kosher chicken, this is what you eat in North America and Europe.
Bon appetite!

Guest

OK, let’s stay OT:

One of the best aspects of living in a village in Hungary is that we have neighbours from whom we get fresh produce – the hens are slaughtered (humanely …) after they’ve had one or two years of a happy life (“free range” of course). My wife makes a wondeful soup from them and my family and friends in Germany tell us that the eggs we bring them are the best they’ve ever tasted!
And we also get fantastic vegetables because we regularly bring second hand clothes from our friends in Germany to Hungary and this is their way of “paying” for them …

exTor
Guest

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Why would you put your characterization [“lecture was ugly”] in the past tense? Does that mean that you no longer consider the lecture ‘ugly’? Why is the only capital letter in your breviarium the one that fronts ‘sorry’?

I presume that it was merely a semantic mistake to not use the present tense, that you still consider the “lecture [to be] ugly”, that you still take your ‘foie’ very ‘gras’. So, what is it that hits your love of liverwurst right in the gut, old 1956, Stevan Harnad’s Jewish linking or his Orbán linking?

MAGYARKOZÓ

Jean P.
Guest

ExTor you can do better than nitpicking.

exTor
Guest

You’re right, Jean P. I guess that I was in a bad mood, evoked by the reply of old 1956, so I decided to take him [presumed] apart. Besides, it was a good way to learn him some English.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

Then you should have written:
“Teach him some English” imho … 🙂

exTor
Guest

You may want to get a North American
to explain what I writ to you, wolfi.

MAGYARKOZÓ

petofi
Guest

“ExTor you can do better…”

No he can’t–he was a chicken in a previous life.

exTor
Guest

That was a foul petőfi.

MAGYARKOZÓ

aida
Guest
Professor Harnard puts the production of foie gras on a par with the outrageous cruelty involved in ritual animal slaughter. I need no persuasion that suffering inflicted by humans on animals, often deliberate and at best unnecessary is scandalous. Nothing like enough is being done to combat it. All sorts of reasons are offered. Freedom of human beings to do as they like, the need to respect the odious customs of religious groups, the need for cheap meat to feed an ever increasing population where it becomes ever more difficult to find occupation and shelter for many of them, the need of many to watch savage entertainment such as bull, dog, cock etc fighting…… As a child I watched the manual force feeding of geese by local peasant women in Hungary. The process was clearly uncomfortable for the geese, but they walked or later waddled away apparently happy and certainly and by definition well fed. In the scale of things this part of the process at any rate did not seem all that outrageous. I understand from what the professor wrote that the fatty liver is itself painful. I will accept this even without the evidence although I never saw… Read more »
exTor
Guest

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Well aida, I reread your final sentence/paragraph numerous times and I still dont get it. To me, its essence is: “does … feeding the privileged [foie gras] … make those who oppose [forcefeeding feel vindicated] in getting the practice banned [because the superrich] might not … deserve [it].”

My head’s still spinning from what you writ. I mayn’t be thinking strate.

MAGYARKOZÓ

aida
Guest

Sorry to confuse. The point is that if this particular “cruel” practice resulted in food or entertainment for the not so privileged the success of those trying to outlaw it might considerably less. The ambition to produce cheap and very plentiful chicken for example comes at the expense of cruelty that I believe is both individually greater and is on a vastly larger scale. In other words the wealth and status of the end user is a serious determining factor in how successful the war on foie gras has become and how unsuccessful the attempts to regulate factory chicken production. Is this easier to follow?

exTor
Guest

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First of all, you have quote marks around ‘cruel’, which could mean that you’re quoting the word or it could mean that you’re highlighting the word or it could mean that you’re nuancing the word. Or all three.

Notwithstanding my lack of clarity as to how you personally feel about the practice of forcefeeding geese to produce foie gras, I believe that it is your opinion that, because the consumption of foie gras is popularly perceived to be a bourgeois practice, it was easier to outlaw forcefeeding.

You make a good point about chickens, namely that factory farming is not outlawed because chickens are consumed by everyone, not just by the rich. Whether factory farming comes at the “expense of [chickens]” is debatable, for the two practices are not the same in terms of ‘cruelty’.

I’d be more willing to accept forcefeeding as cruel, although I can see your point about factory farming with respect to chickens (and especially cows).

Everybody hates the rich. Let them not eat foie gras!

MAGYARKOZÓ

aid
Guest

Thank you for taking the time to appreciate my point.
My point is not about what we should eat. Each person is to decide.
You got the point that proportionality in the context of animal cruelty is a factor. Both in appreciating the comparative level of cruelty and the numbers. How many geese versus how many chicken etc? Geese may be in the category of “cruelty light” with easy target “rich” consumers whilst chicken are in “cruelty hard” with tough target average or poor consumers, but in huge numbers.

In other words I would not worry too much about eating goose liver whilst we all stuff ourselves on cheap chicken, provided you have the money to enjoy it.

Member

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Member
Miki
Guest

“Mainstream Jewish groups and secular Jews are not this government’s favorites. By and large, they are not supporters of the Orbán regime…”

Then, why are you so surprised they don’t invite you to the gravy train?

ambator
Member
Perhaps it won’t be without some use to look at the nature of the Lubavich sect. The name is coming from a Ukrainian village, where generations of hassidic rabbis shepherded a small, conservative community. When the last of this dynasty has moved his flock to the USA, this latter day saint of the dynasty, rabbi Schneerson has decided to take advantage of the strong social support of New York and start acquiring large numbers of followers. As a result, the Lubavich, one of the only two proselytizing Jewish sects, grew to a large international denomination. Rabbi Schneerson has passed in 1994, but his movement is stronger than ever and is operating thousands of educational and religious centers around the world. How are they able to do this, you may ask. Well, the Lubavich are based on economics. Wherever a new center is to be established, the head office provides financing to the enterprising, often young devote, for sixteen months for it to succeed. After that they are either self-financing, or they fail. With such carnivorous demands over their head they have no choice, but first ingratiate themselves to local government, then set out to cannibalise the local Jewish communities. I… Read more »
Linda Vadász
Guest

Having lived in Hungary for almost twenty years before moving back to the US, my husband and I had many experiences with rabbis in Budapest, from the great sage whom I hold dear to my heart, Rabbi József Schweitzer of blesséd memory; to Rabbi Baruch Oberlander; to Rabbi Katalin Kelemen.
I will confine my remarks here to Rabbi Kelemen, the first female rabbi in Hungary and head of Szim Shalom, a liberal congregation, not recognized by Mazsihiz nor by the Orbán government. I draw your attention to their website, http://www.sim-shalom.org/, and suggest that you read the annual report for 2016, which you will find under the History tab.

exTor
Guest

Difficult to be a liberal in Hungary, it seems, based on the 2016 report. If Éva categorizes as liberal Neolog, with which Szim Salom [English: Sim Shalom] is reportedly experiencing contention, does that then presume that Szim Salom is even more liberal? Sure sounds like it.

The fact that the European Court for Human Rights only partially ruled in favor of Szim Salom suggests that the ECHR does not fully recognize Szim Salom as a separate religious entity.

I presume that the Fidesz regime cut off funding to some religious bodies because those religious bodies did not possess enough bodies, eg: not worth the voter expense, and (perhaps more importantly) Fidesz wanted those unfavored religious bodies to come to it cap-in-hand.

http://hungarianspectrum.org/2017/07/02/a-few-gems-from-viktor-orbans-strong-and-proud-hungary/#comment-134852

Referring to my above comment, wherein I talk about my use of ‘nigger’, it seems (as stated) that Mazsihisz (as Fidesz’s ‘house nigger’) is bankrolled, while those unfavored [eg: Szim Salom] have to scrounge for money and places to pray, the Godist version of couch surfing. It seems that God did not let Szim Salom down, not totally at least, because Szim Salom can now hold services at the JCC [Bálint Ház] for the interim.

MAGYARKOZÓ

exTor
Guest

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Annoyingly, 3 comments seem to have been sent, however (as once before) there’s no sign of them. I’ll wait awhile before I resend copies of them.

MAGYARKOZÓ

petofi
Guest

re: animal cruelty

There are many forms. How about those ‘political correctivists’ who fish and release the catch? Why tear up the fish’s mouth? Give it up, I say.

Another thing: we are now reading of shark attacks; dolphin and whale beachings and the like. Perhaps the animals are getting fed up with humans despoiling the planet…

There could be a dire revenge on the way: if the animal world comes to align itself, what would man do against an attack of killer bees, mosquitoes, and fire ants? Now add viruses to that..

wrfree
Guest

A few weeks ago there was a story here on some youths setting fire to a dog. If you hear rabid barking dogs howling in the dead of night it will be the canines bringing in a ‘dog eat dog’ world. Unconditional love also has its limits.

exTor
Guest

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Now if we could only get Agro Rehab Kft. to start making Montreal-style bagels in sufficient quantities to supply all of Budapest, I’d be happy.

Bagels are seemingly an unknown entity in Hungary, at least my local [Csepel) Teszkó does not carry anything like bagels. Hungarians seem to prefer what I mockingly call ‘cloud bread’ [felhőkenyér], which has no oomph to it. My preference is rye or even the heavy German breads.

I cant find peanutbutter here either, but that’s another story.

MAGYARKOZÓ

az angol beteg
Guest

I think the English would challenge the felhőkenyér title but as we’re leaving the EU now I guess we’ll have to accept that you’ve stolen our trade mark.

exTor
Guest

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https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170714-opposing-zionism-is-not-racism-rules-scottish-court

A court ruling for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Sign says ‘Antisemitism is a crime, AntiZionism is a duty’.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Ex_Hu_Can
Guest

OT, a question for exTor if I may, not sure if private conversation would be allowed.
I read in one of your posting that you moved to Csepel from Toronto and I would like to discuss your experience as I am also toying with the idea of moving back in a few years.

az angol beteg
Guest

I’m confused by AntiZionists. Do they also deface pictures of Bob Marley?

Krisztina Bacsó
Guest

The main issue is not the goose liver. http://www.chabad-mafia.com/

az angol beteg
Guest

Come on people, get serious. All organised religion is just a business governed by the principles of money and power. There is no God. There is no justification for anything done in the name of religion.

When we stop dropping bombs on baby human beings then you can begin bothering me about cruelty to geese etc.

In the meantime I’ll continue to eat what I like.

Observer
Guest

And watch the great George Carlin piece on religion. Absolutely hilarious!!

az angol beteg
Guest
In 2015 a few days before we opened a non-kosher Jewish Deli here in the English provinces I received a call from our local Chabad rabbi who asked if we’d be willing to become 100% kosher. We had a long chat, I’d never spoken with a rabbi before. I explained that we couldn’t survive commercially targeting the 30 or so kosher keeping Jews in our home town and that the price of kosher ingredients and the need for a kosher certificate would almost double our prices meaning that fellow goys wouldn’t eat our food either. Of course I realised that he was only looking to make a quick buck but I hadn’t realised quite how unscrupulous his organisation is. One of our first customers was a moslem who wandered in and asked if we had any kosher meat. We did have a rather lovely kosher beef paprika salami from the zsidó hentes bácsi in the VII district, not because we wanted to stock kosher ingredients but because beef salami isn’t widely available here in the UK. He happily sat down and ate a Montreal style kosher beef salami sandwich, thick slices fried in schmaltz, slathered with mustard and served on… Read more »
exTor
Guest

Religion CAN BE evil, angol. I’m an atheist and not even I would say it quite the way you put it. Too absolute. You need to finesse your viewpoint. The rabbi was just angling for a shakedown. Did he get anything?

Let me get this straight. You’re a nonJewish Brit, perhaps even by birth, who opened a ‘Jewish deli’ in the Brit boonies. Do you identify your deli as ‘Jewish’? If so, did the rabbi lay a ‘cultural-appropriation’ trip on you? In other words, did he say that a nonJew should not operate a ‘Jewish’ deli?

Is it a hindrance to have a business identified as ‘Jewish’ (even if you yourself are not Jewish) in an area with a number of Muslim residents?

Still waiting to learn where I can find Montreal-style bagels in Budapest.

MAGYARKOZÓ

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