Dr. Katalin Pécsi-Pollner reports from the Esther’s House Association for Jewish Culture and Feminist Values in Hungary.
Checking School Books
Against a background of increasing anti-Semitism and Holocaust revisionism in Hungary, Esthers House has an important role to play in monitoring new Hungarian schoolbooks for 5th to 12th grade students. At the request of the government, their experts read and discuss new text books about History, Literature and Ethics from the viewpoint of Jewish culture and the Holocaust. The authors and editors of these books try to follow our advice. This is an important opportunity to influence the image of Jews and the representation of the Jewish culture in these school books, as well as ensuring that the tragedy of the Holocaust is accurately taught to the next generation in Hungary.
Esther’s House has published a series of memoirs by Jewish women, together with the Novella Book Publishing Company. Entitled “Jewish Women Speak Out”, these books are designed to break the silence that has concealed women’s stories over generations. They have so far published five memoirs written by and about Jewish women, which are available online free of charge in three languages (Hungarian, English and German) at http://esthersbooks.com
Following on from their involvement in the National Democratic Institute project, they have been involved in developing projects together with women from different minorities including the Roma people. Their next project will be making a video about Roma, Jewish and refugee women who have succeeded in change their fate and making their lives better.
Leadership Training Event
In March 2018, Esther’s House ran a training program funded by ICJW’s Isabelle G. Brown Memorial Fund for Volunteer Training and Leadership Development on the topic of Jewish identity and diversity. The 76 participants included members of Esthers House Association, university students studying Jewish Studies, and other people who were interested in Jewish topics or active in the Hungarian Jewish community.
They discussed the challenges of being a Jewish woman today, the role of Jewish women as pioneers, such as Regina Jonas, the first woman ordained as a Rabbi in 1935, and women in leadership positions. They also discussed dialogues between the generations of Holocaust survivors and their children and grandchildren, which is a major topic in the Hungarian Jewish community. The speakers were successful female community leaders and professionals and academics conducting research on Jewish Studies topics at local academic institutions. The two-day program included a number of new experiences for the participants, including interactive methods of teaching about Judaism, personal stories from Jewish converts and LMBTQ individuals, and co-operation with Muslims through the involvement of the Salaam–Shalom intercultural group.
Esther’s House president Katalin Pecsi-Pollner Ph.D reports that the program was successful, with a strong and diverse attendance and good co-operation with other Jewish organizations. They hope to follow up with another conference later in the year