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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 20, 2014 Boycotting government Holocaust commemorations, By Ruth Ellen Gruber BUDAPEST, Hungary (JTA)--It isn't every day that Jewish organizations reject funding for Holocaust commemorations. But that's what happened in Hungary this spring when Jewish groups refused nearly $1 million in special state grants to protest what they see as the government's whitewashing of Hungarian complicity in the Holocaust. "We wanted to send a very strong message to the government that we are interested in truthful, not symbolic, ' remembrance, and this is something money cannot buy," said Andras Heisler, the president of the Federation of Hungarian Jew- ish Communities, known as Mazsihisz. Now a group of Jewish communities and cultural organizations are uniting in an effort that organizers say is unprecedented for Jewish groups in Hungary. They banded together into a fund-raising alliance, called Memento70, that is using crowdsourcing and social media in a bid to raise money on their own for their now unfunded projects. The campaign went live in April, the 70th anniversary of the Nazi ghettoization of Hungarian Jews. The launch Hungary's Jews forge new path coincided with the official start of a special year of Holo- caust memorial observances organized by the state but boycotted by much of the organized Hungarian Jewish community. These are bold moves for a Hungarian Jewish com- munity that remains highly dependent upon government funding. But the activist stance reflects potentially broader changes for Hun- gary's Jewish community, which numbers as many as 100,000, most of whom are unaffiliated with the official communal bodies. Heisler took the helm of Mazsihisz in 2013 and has outlined an agenda aimed at making the umbrella group a more respected, pluralistic representative body that can credibly lobby for Jewish in- terests at a time of growing nationalism and open xeno- phobia and anti-Semitism. "We are not afraid," Heisler said. "On the contrary, the Jewish community is react- ing and finding itself. It feels alive." Mazsihisz is largely fi- nanced by the state's funding of religious organizations and Holocaust compensa- tion funds. The Memento70 boycott deals only with the Hungarian government's special Holocaust commemo- ration grants. In February, Mazsihisz had decided to boycott the government's Holocaust year events because of three specific issues that it said played down Hungarian in- volvement in the Holocaust. The umbrella group ob- jected to a planned memo- rial in Budapest to the 1944 German occupation that critics feel portrays Hungar- ians solely as victims of the Nazis. Mazsihisz was upset as well by the government's refusal to share plans for a new state-sponsored Holo- caust museum or to involve organized Jewry in develop- ing its exhibition. Also, the Jewish com- munity had demanded the resignation of the director of a government-sponsored research institute who in January had referred to the 1941 deportation to Nazi- controlled territory of thou- sands of Jews who sought refuge in Hungary as "a police action against aliens." The government has not acceded to the Jewish com- munity's demands despite almost daily protests at the downtown Budapest site where the monument to the German occupation is being built. Protestors have left Ho- locaust memorabilia, written messages and other material spread out on a wide strip of sidewalk across the street. Last week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban rejected a call by 30 Jewish U.S. members of Congress to reconsider constructing the monument "against the wishes of the Hungarian Jew- ish community." It "is not a Holocaust memorial," Orban said in a statement, but "a freedom- fighting people's memorial of the pain of having its liberty crushed." In general elections in April, Orban's center-right Fidesz party was re-elected, but one in five voters cast their ballots for the extreme right Jobbik party, notorious for its nationalist, anti-Roma policies and anti-Semitic rhetoric. In May, Fidesz won more than 51 percent of the vote in elections for the European Parliament, with Jobbik fin- ished second with nearly 15 percent. A recent Anti-Defa- mation League survey found that41 percentofHungarians hold anti-Semitic attitudes. Still, Heisler suggested, the greatest challenges he faces are not related to the national political situation. "My biggest problem is not Orban or Jobbik but reorganizing Mazsihisz and dealing with the weakness of the organization," he said, As the main Jewish um- brella group, Mazsihisz offi- cially represents the interests of Hungarian Jewry to the government and is respon- sible for the annual distri- bution of millions of dollars of government subventions and Holocaust compensation funds to Jewish organiza- tions. Critics have long accused the group of being undemo- cratic and unrepresentative, and called for a reform of its financial and administrative operations. "The level of mistrust of Mazsihisz is high," Heisler said. "We have to change this." Heisler said a recent op- erational review showed large-scale flaws in in the management of the organiza- tion, which employs nearly 1,000 people, and an economic audit revealed "very serious problems." He acknowledged, too, that he faced opposition in his hopes to "open the umbrella wider" to allow Hungary's small Reform Jewish congre- gations, which are not recog- nized by Mazsihisz, to join. "Mazsihisz is a big orga- nization with huge infra- structure," he said. "If these changes can't be made, we are on a slippery slope." Most of Memento70's 35 member groups are Jew- ish community or cultural groups that come under the Mazsihisz umbrella. They in- clude most of the mainstream Jewish organizations that had won the government's Holocaust commemoration grants. The Memento70 campaign is raising money for projects including the construction of Holocaust memorials, clean- ing up Jewish cemeteries, book publications, educa- tional initiatives, and com- memorative performances, exhibitions and concerts. By early June, Memento70 had amassed more than 3,600 Facebook followers but had collected only $38,400 from 374 donors -- just 4 percent of its $957,500 target. Many of the donations, Memento70 spokeswoman Antonia Szenthe noted, had come from donors with lim- ited meanswho simplywanted to show support. "A poor Roma community in a village got together and sent us the equivalent of $25," she said. "It's not much money, but it really meant something." While the campaign is still far short of its fundraising goals, Szenthe cast the effort in a positive light. "There has never before been a fundraising alliance like this," she said. "It is a very new thing. Fundraising as such has never happened here. Begging, yes. But not fundraising." Bitcoin makes aliyah: Cryptocurrency finds Israeli fans By Ben Sales TEL AVIV (JTA)--Blocks away from the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and the headquarters of two major banks, in the corner of the lobby of a boutique hotel, Nimrod Gruber sticks his hand into an ATM. A few seconds later, a QR code prints out. Gruber takes the slip of paper and walks away, no cash in hand. He's not worried. He owns the ATM, and there's nothing like it in the Middle East. It identifies users by scanning their palms, and instead of dispensing dol- lars, euros or shekels, it dispenses Bitcoin. "It shows up in your account in 30 seconds, a minute," he said. Bitcoin, a digital currency invented in 2008, has spread across the world, and made a hefty profit for its holders, without printing a single bill. As Bitcoin has gained value over the years, an ecosystem of startups and organizations has taken shape in Tel Aviv to promote its use in Israel's tech scene. "Here we adopt new tech- nology earlier than other places," said Gruber, 28, a former model who became involved in Bitcoin technol- ogy during a stint living in New York City. "It makes sense that this would be a Bitcoin center. We're at the heart of the high-tech area and the Tel Aviv financial district." Called a "cryptocurren- cy" because it is secured by encrypted data, Bitcoin it- self could be best described as cryptic. Its reputed inventor, who goes by the name Satoshi Nakamoto, has communicated only by email. Unlike mainstream currencies, Bitcoin isn't backed by a government or central bank and has no physical form. Instead, it exists in com- puter code, and its value is determined purely through supply and demand in online exchanges where Bitcoin holders buy and sell it for other currencies. People can "mine" new Bitcoins by performing complex calcu- lations on their computers. Bitcoin has encountered a host of issues in its develop- ment, from the question of government regulation to use for illegal activities to a volatile growth pattern. According to a digital cur- rency tracker, one Bitcoin was worth about $100 a year ago and had spiked to nearly $1,000 by last November. Three weeks later, though, its value dropped to about $600 after China banned its use. It's worth roughly $630 now, with $8 billion of total Bitcoins on the market. The ups and downs haven't deterred Israeli Bitcoin be- lievers, who expect growth ahead and say the currency will stabilize as more people adopt it. Dozens of startups have proliferated around Bitcoin use in Israel, and more than 120 Israeli busi- nesses, from restaurants to real estate firms, accept Bitcoin as payment. "I hope we can make Israel a lab for Bitcoin," said Ayal Yona Segev, an "ambas- sador" at Bitcoin Embassy, which provides guidance and acts as a meeting spot for Israeli Bitcoin entre- preneurs a few blocks from Gruber's ATM. "We have the flexibility to become a place where we test and develop everything." The ATM in the hotel hooks up to an online ex- change. Users can log in to their accounts and either deposit cash to buy Bitcoin or sell Bitcoin and receive cash. Similar ATMs already exist in the United States, Canada and Europe. Gruber hopes the ATM will be one of many in Israel. He jokes about placing one in the middle of the divider between men and women at the Western Wall. Another Israeli startup, Colored Coins, allows users the opportunity to trade other currencies online using the Bitcoin code. BitcoinBox offers Bitcoin holders insurance for their "digitalwallets." Coin Com- merce offers businesses a service to accept Bitcoin as payment. "We have a good com- munity here," said Aaron Aguillard, founder and CEO of Coin Commerce. "What Coin Commerce is trying to do is set up Tel Aviv for the tourist season so people can buy Bitcoin and travel around Israel, and book hotels and use Bitcoin on the beach." Israeli Bitcoin entrepre- neurs see the currency as a practical tool as well as an ideological dimension to their work. Segev's of- fice sells Bitcoin-themed T-shirts and bumper stick- ers, one of which writes out Nakamoto's name in a style of chant traditionally used to celebrate the Hasidic sage Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Segev says that in addi- tion to Bitcoin's startup nature, it appeals to Israe- lis who took to the streets three years ago in massive numbers to protest income inequality. He calls it an alternative for people who are mistrustful of their banks and tired of high credit card fees. "It will make people aware of the current situation" in Israeli banking, Segev said. Students From page 1A ported the following in Mon- day's online news: A branch of the 'Islamic State in Iraq and Syria' terror group has claimed responsi- bility for the disappearance of three Israeli teens in the West Bank on Thursday night, Israeli media reported. The terror group has gained prominence in recent days for capturing large swaths of western Iraq after three years of fighting in the Syrian civil war. ISIS has developed a repu- tation for particular brutality including beheadings, mass murder and crucifixions. On Friday, Reuter's Jeru- salem bJreau fielded a call from 'Dawlat al-Islam,' an ISIS branch operating in Hebron. The caller claimed responsibility for the kidnap- pings and said the incidentwas in retaliation for the killing of three of its members, Fox News contributor Lisa Daftari reported on her blog. Israeli Army forces are currently conducting a wide- spread operation in order to lo- "This is an alternative that will make service provid- ers-banks, the state, insur- ance companies--compete for customers." Bitcoin's regulatory sta- tus remains unclear. The Internal Revenue Service in the United States taxes Bit- coin profits as a capital gain, but Israel only taxes income made from Bitcoin once it is transferred into shekels. In February, the Bank of Israel issued a warning regard- ing Bitcoin, noting that it isn't backed by any state, is unsupervised, and could be susceptible to manipulation and criminal use. But Avi Nov, an Israeli international tax law expert, says the legal concerns will fade as Bitcoin expands and that regular currencies also carry risk. "The risks are greater in the regular world than in the digital world," he said, adding that "nobody knows if tomorrow a state or a bank will fail." cate the missing individuals. Two of the boys are 16years old and attend the Mekor Chaim Yeshiva High School in the area. The third teen is 19. Security officials believe that a torched car found by Palestinian police in the vicin- ity of Hebron on Friday was likely used in the presumed kidnapping of the students, the Times of Israel reported. The three got on a hitch at about 22:30 Thursday night near the Israeli village of Alon Shvut, according to Israel Radio. One of the youths man- aged to send an alert to the local security hotline before his cellphone went dead. One of the boys holds American citizenship, and the government has alerted the U.S. Embassy. Terror group Hamas is call- ing the trio "Israeli soldiers" and Hamas and Islamic Jihad have called for kidnapping Israelis as bargaining chips to gain the release of Palestinian convicts. A Hamas spokesman re- joiced in the news, saying, "the Hebron operation is a great success for the [Pal- estinian] resistance in the West Bank." The Palestinian Authority, which recently inked a government unity agreement with the terror group, has of yet not made a statement. The Israelis, however, say that they hold the PA respon- sible for the safety of the boys. "Israel holds the Palestin- ian Authority responsible for the well-being of the three missing teenagers," Aaron Sagui, the spokesman of the Israeli Embassy in Washing- ton told The Algemeiner. Israeli Prime Minister Ne- tanyahu called the families of the teens, in order to comfort them and tell them that the government and security forces were doing everything possible to find and rescue their children. Both of Israel's chief rab- bis have called on the public to pray for the safety of the boys, and to lep them in mind when lighting Sabbath candles. The rabbis advised reading Psalms 121 and 130, for the teens's sakes.