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April 12, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 12, 2013 " PAGE 15A Pact of pariahs forming between Iran and Hungary's Jobbik By Cnaan Liphshiz BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA)--The potholed streets leading to Tiszavasvarrs rusty train station offer no clue that this sleepy town of 12,000 in eastern Hungary is considered the "capital of Jobbik," the country's ultranationalist, anti-Jewish party whose name means "better." The first sign appears near the office of the mayor, Erik Fulop, the first of five Jobbik politicians elected to run a Hungarian municipality. Shortly after taking office in 2010, Fulop set up a twin- ning arrangement between Tiszavasvari and the Iranian city of Ardabil, and a sign in Hungarian and Farsi near the office-celebrates those ties. Observers say the an- nouncement of the twinning arrangement was the first international event held in Hungary under Jobbik's aus- pices and a mark of a growing partnership aimed at breaking through the isolation that both the party and the Ira- nian governmentare laboring under--Iran for its suspected nuclear weapons program and support for terrorism, Jobbik for its hyper-nationalism and anti-Semitism. Tiszavasvari's official web- site states that "the embargo on Iran is merely a way for world powers to monopolize trade with Iran," and ex- presses hope that the town "may lead the way to reversing this process." Jobbik's leader, Gabor Vona, has hosted a number of Iranian delegations there since the start of the twinning arrangement. "The Persian people and their leaders are considered pariahs in the eyes of the West, which serves Israeli interests," said Marton Gyongyosi, Job- bik's foreign policy chief, at a pro-Iran demonstration Dr. Aft Hossein Jarhomi, right, founder of the Hungarian Iranian Business Group and Iran native, during a meeting of Jobbik Chairman Gabor Vona, third from right, and Iranians in the Hungarian town of Tiszavasvari, Janaury 2011. organized by the party in December at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. "This is why .we have solidaritywith the peace- ful nation of Iran and turn to her with an open heart." Jobbik's meteoric rise since its founding in 2003 has long been asource of consternation to Hungary's Jewish commu- nal leaders, some of whom fear its growth is a driving factor behind Jewish emigration from the central European country. Currently the third largest faction in parliament, Jobbik has increased its share of the popular vote nearly eightfold in the four years prior to 2010 and currently holds 47 of 386 parliamentary seats. Less well known is the par- ty's intensifying partnership with Iran. Following Fulop's decision to twin with Ardabii, another Jobbik mayor, Juhasz Oszkar of Gyogyospata, also twinned with an Iranian municipality. Top Jobbik fig- ures joined Hungarian busi- nessmen on a trip to Iran to help deepen commercial ties between the countries. And Jobbik is one of only two paties represented in parlia- menrs Hungarian-Iranian Friendship Committee. ,'It is anti-Semitism that binds the Hungarian ultra- nationalists with the ayatol- lahs of Tehran in a nexus of hate," Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti- Defamation League, wrote in 2011. "That is all they have in common." In truth, Jobbik's affin- ity toward Iran goes much deeper. The party is intensely opposed to globalization and the unification of Europe, lacks for international part- ners due to its radical rhetoric and sees in Iran not only one of the few governments will- ing to engage with it, but one with a shared commitment to resisting Western hegemony. Jobbik officials did not reply to repeated requests for an interview, but party sources did speak to investigative journalist Ferenc Szlazsan- szky, who believes the party is determined to nurture relations with any country capable of helping ungary end its "enslavement" by the European Union and the United States. According to Szlazsanszky, a Writer with the Hungarian weekly Hetek, the "driving force" behind Jobbik's pro- Iranian stance is Gyongyosi, the foreign policy chief, who drew a volley of international criticism in November when he called for the registration of Hungarian Jews, citing their potential as asecurity risk. He said later he was referring to Hungarian Israelis. The son of a diplomat, Gyongyosi lived as a boy in several Muslim countries, and his ties in the East were a major factor in shaping the party's pro-Muslim stance, Szlazsanszky wrote in No- vember. "It is unacceptable that the once flourishing trade between Iran and Hungary sank to almost zero; this is what Jobbik intends to change," Gyongyosi said in a recent interview in Barikad!, a Jobbik-affiliated weekly. "For Iran, Hungary is the West and for Hungary Iron is the gate to the East." Jobbik's general antago- nism toward Israel has blos- somed in recent months into a fully fledged campaign. Gyongyosi has announced a national tour of lectures on the "Zionist threat to world peace." In parallel, anti-J.ewish or anti-Israel irticles now take up more than 30 percent of the content on the party's English-language website. "It is no coincidence that Jobbik is intensifying its anti- Israel propaganda the more it tightens its ties with Iran," said Joel Rubinfeld, co-chair- man of the Brussels-based European Jewish Parliament, who recently returned from a round of talks in Hungary. "The time correlation is one of the ways in which we see the Iranian fingerprint on Jobbik." One of the few people with insider knowledge of the Jobbik-Iran axis is Aft Hossein Jahromi, an Iranian- Jobbik Chairman Gabor Vona, left, receiving a gift from a visiting Iranian businessman in the Hungarian town of Tiszavasvari, January 2011. born dentist, founder of the made it an outcast even in Hungarian Iranian Business Europe's extreme right," said Group and a personal friend Attila Ara-Kovacs, a philoso- of Gyongyosi. pher, journalist and former In 2011, Jahromi helped secretary of the Alliance of organize an economic mis- sion to Iran in cooperation with the Iranian embassy. The trip was aimed at reversing a 90 percent drop in trade be- tw.een the two countries, from $400 million to $40 million since 2000, Jahromi said. The period in question coincided with the tightening of inter- national sanctions against the Islamic Republic in an effort to curb its suspected nuclear weapons program. - 'Tmnotaboutthepolitics.I just want to create more busi- ness," Jahromi told JTA in an interview at the Persian res- taurant he owns in Budapest. "If Jobbik enters government next year, I think things may improve because Jobbikwants what's good for Hungary, not for the EU." As with Iran's alliances with other rogue regimes, like Syria and Venezuela, the country's partnership with Jobbik may be one of simple convenience. Neither has many friends from which to choose. "Jobbik's fanaticism has Free Democrats-Hungarian Liberal Party. "Jobbik's terri- torial claims rule out alliances with like-minded movements in neighboring countries. And the extreme right in Western Europe wouldn't touch them. So Iran is all Jobbik has left." Others see the partnership as based not on a common enemy but a shared interest-- the refusal to be subordinate to the interests of Europe and the United States. Like most European far-right parties, Job- bik's primary electoral appeal is to voters frightened by the encroachment of the European superstate and the possible diminution of local identifies. "Iranians and Hungarians are joined not by circum- stances nor by anti-Israel sentiment, but by the re- fusal to be ruled and ruined by the European Union, which has ravaged Spain and Greece," Jahromi said. "Hun- garians refuse to be next. But it's easier for the European media to focus on the anti- Israel bit." Seeking Kin: A towed car hooks up cousins again By Hillel Kuttler side came to the wedding," fourth and seventh children, er's family more than his The Seeking Kin (olumn aims to help reunite long-lost relatives and friends. BALTIMORE (JTA)- Some people search the world for those they knew before time and circumstance intruded. David Scherr was sitting at his desk at a Baltimore auto repair shop when the lost walked through the door. The amiable Scherr was working in the front office of K&S Associates when a tan Volvo station wagon was towed in this winter with electrical problems. Over the course of several days, Scherr regularly updated the vehicle's owner on the progress of the repair. But only after Bruce King arrived to retrieve his car and fiddled with a display of busi- ness cards on the counter did he comprehend the surname of the personwithwhom he'd spoken by phone. Scherr and King soon realized that they were re- lated through King's wife, Debbie: Scherr's paternal grandfather, Solomon, was the brother of Debbie King's mother, Ann. But the family had grown apart, and the last time Debbie King saw Scherr likely was athis bar mitzvah in 1983. "He said that when he got married, no one from our Scherr said of Bruce King. "It's 30ears later, he's moved on, but you could see that it really affected him." Interviews with Scherr and Debbie King, along with Scherr's father, Norman, yielded several perspectives to explain the drift: the passing of the elders who'd been the glue adhering the tree's branches; the passage of time,and several intermarriages that eventually eliminated large gatherings for Jewish holidays and events. No defining moment or rift had occurred, King said, and she held no animosity toward the others. Whatever the cause, she said, all the cousins should gather again and bring their children into the fold. King said she'd offer to organize at least the first get-together, perhaps at a popular breakfast spot in Pikesville, Baltimore's heavily Jewish neighborhood. "I'd sure like to see these guys again," she said. A gath- ering would be "like starting over. You're starting blank. You can make new memories if you'd like." The family's patriarch and matriarch, Louis and Sarah Scherr, left Ukraine or Russia in the early 20th century and settled in Baltimore. Solo- mon (David's grandfather and Norman's father) and Ann (Debbie's mother) were the respectively, in a household of six boys and two girls. Norman Scherr, 73, re- membered his grandmother possessing "the prettiest blue eyes you've ever soon." His grandfather worked as a clothes cutter and as a hobby raised pigeons. "He'd cook 'em and eat 'em," Norman Scherr re- called. The Scherrs lived in the Pat- terson park neighborhood of Baltimore. Solomon dropped out of school in fourth grade to take a job to help support the family and later worked in the bakery owned by his wife's parents. Solomon raised his family in Patterson Park, too, before moving to the Lower Park Heights neighborhood .that's adjacent to Pimlico Race Course, where the famed Preakness horse race is run each May. "My dad ws overseas the first five years of my life, fighting in the Pacific" during World War II, Norman Scherr said. He added that his early years in Patterson Park were not pleasant because some non-Jewish friends would not invite him to their house. "Those were tough times. If you were Jewish, you were in trouble," Scherr said. "They were not that nice to me, let's put it that way." He remembers his moth- father's. Lena and Sam Blitz had eight children, too, but in reverse: six girls and two boys. The couple owned a bak- ery downtown on Lombard Street in what was then "a very Jewish neighborhood" near Little Italy, he said. "The big shul down there was the Lloyd Street Synagogue," he said. "They all went there." Debbie King, 54, recalls abundant gatherings that brought together the Scherr clan: seders, lunches and dinners after synagogue services; Purim and Hanuk- kah celebrations; and just stopping by for a slice of cake and to shmooze. "It was nice," said King, a preschool teacher who grew up in Liberty Heights, a Jewish neighborhood made famous in Barry Levinson's 1999 film of the same name. "My Aunt Adele would throw parties, and we'd have barbe- cues, especially when they got the pool [installed]." King was gleeful while opening family photographs of David Scherr's bar mitzvah that "Seeking Kin" emailed her to solicit assistance in identifying attendees. "Oh, my gosh -what hair!" she remarked of a shot of herself. When her husband had called from the auto shop and surprised her by put- Courtesy David Scherr Debbie King - shown in the back row with her husband, Bruce, and her parents, Ann and Herbert Blumberg, at David Scherr's 1983 bar mitzvah - hopes to soon see her long-lost cousins still living nearby in'Baltimore. ting Scherr on the phone, karma," she said. King said she enjoyed the She said the Kings' previ- conwrsation.Itbroughtback ous mechanic had ripped memories of Scherr's father, them off. Now, though, "I whopossessedawickedsense have a place to go where we of humor, feel comfortable." Now, though, "if [Norman Please email Hillel Kuttler Scherr] walked down the if you would like "Seeking street, Iwouldn'tknowhim," Kin" to write about your she said. "But it is family, search for long-lostrelatives Norman knew my mom really and friends. Please include well. There is a connection." the principal facts and your King has not seen David contact information in a or his dad yet, but hopes to briefemail. "Seeking Kin'is soon. At minimum, she said, sponsoredbyBrynaShuchat the family has found a new and Joshua Landes and fam- mechanic, ily in loving memory of their "It's kind of meant to be mother and grandmother, that we went to the [repair] Miriam Shuchat, a lifelong shop. It must have been uniter of the Jewish people.