There are two ways of conceiving of Jews in Europe.
First, the lachrymose tale: Jews used to live there, the whole culture was wiped out by social catastrophes like the Holocaust and is now increasingly threatened by growing anti-Semitism and the far right.
Second, the new life story: “new” artists are emerging, “reclaiming” spaces of the cities that have been lost, a thriving community is reconstituting itself – a Jewish revival is at hand.
“But, revival from what?!”
Those were the words of introduction of our Hungarian host, Thomas Büchler, organizer of the Me 2 We Conference.
During three days, the ornamented buildings in the astoundingly beautiful city of Budapest became exploring grounds from which to uncover past, present and future layers of Jewish life.
According to Thomas, both of these narratives are wrong. The problem is a bigger one: having to do with the temporal status of the Jews in Europe – an issue that became more important in talks with Israeli and American participants. Their story is that Jews moved from Europe to Israel, or went to America, where they thrived.
Growing up with this narrative, most Israelis expressed their frustration at having little to no sensibility for the diaspora. It is not that they don’t care about it, they don’t even know we exist!
Even for me, as a Mexican jew, it is hard to conceive of Budapest or Vienna as communities alive in the present, something evolving, and changing. Never mind Latin America – we are not even on the map.
“I didn’t know there where still Jews in Hungary.”
The Jewish diaspora, outside of the United States (New York) appears, to many, as a “blast form the past”.