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December 11, 2009
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 11, 2009 1 Budapest stories from the Wandering Jew PAGE 19A By Ben Harris BUDAPEST (JTA)--This is my third time here, and each time I've stayed at the King's Hotel. It's in the Jewish quarter, just down the street from the massive Dohany Synagogue, the largest in Eastern Europe, convenient to much of what I plan to do here and, well, what can I say, I'm a creature of habit. But every time I mention where I'm staying to anyone Jewish and under 35, the eyes start to roll. On a recent Friday morn- ing, I take part in a string of meetings. The result: a snapshot of Jewish Budapest. Filling the gaps The offices of the Haver Foundation occupy one room of an apartment on the third floor of a building around the corner from my hotel (cofivenient, see?). There I meet Mircea Cernov, the Romanian-born director, just before noon. With Cernov as its only full-time employee, Haver uses a network of some 30 volunteer educators to bring Holocaust and Judaic studies to Hungarian public school students. The entire operation, which reaches 4,000,to 5,000 students an- nually-only about I percent of high school students in Hungary--survives on an annual budget of $100,000. "Generally speaking, Hun- garian society beck/me very intolerant, I would say, or a bit Ben Harris Mircea Cernov is the direc- tor of the Haver Foundation, which teaches the Holocaust in Hungarian public schools. aggressive," Cernov tells me. "Everything is very polarized. There is no dialogue. I think that is the most problematic thing at all levels of society, from the top political elite to the level of civil society." Haver provides its services for free, pushing a curriculum that deals not only with the Holocaust and Judaism--top - ics Cernov says are scarcely addressed in Hungarian pub- lic education--but critical thinking skills as weil. Cernov says the Hungarian authorities recognize the gaps in the education they provide their students, particularly on the Holocaust issue, and don't have much of a clue as to how to rectify it. Requests for Haver's services have jumped 50 percent this year. "We solved them a prob- lem," he said. The preservationists For several years Alexan- dra Kowalski, a French-born lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Social An- thropology at the Central European University here, has been studying historical preservation. Recently she has turned her attention to efforts to protect important proper- ties in the Jewish quarter from destruction by developers. This is a complex story, rich in political intrigue--govern- ment ministries opposed by the local municipal districts opposed by a ragtag group of intellectuals and writers opposed by a group of largely foreign investors. Kowalski is able to give me a decent primer on the creation of Ovas!, a group formed in 2004 to fight efforts by the then-mayor of Budapest's 7th district, which includes the Jewish quarter, to sell off historically significant properties to developers. The mayor, Gyorgy Hunvald, was arrested in February on sus- picion of financial fraud and shady real estate dealsl The buildings in question, Kowalski says, are vital to Jewish memory in Budapest,- but landmark preservation laws in Hungary aren't strong enough to protect them. The kicker is that many of the developers are Israeli and are believed to control significant chunks of the Budapest real estate market. Ben Harris Andros Borgula and Edina Schon of Budapest's Golem Theatre say the group gets almost all its funding from abroad. Kowalski takes me on a brief tour of the area. Just a few doors down from where we had a cup of tea is an old building draped in construc- tion netting. A huge banner ,announcing the arrival of one of the new development projects, Herzl Passage, hangs from the roof. For the moment, construction has been halted--a victory, if a temporary one, for the preservationists. "It's a memory of historic Budapest at the turn of this century," Kowalski aid. "This area lost 40 percent of its patrimony." The Golem Theatre One of a small number of Jewish theater groups in Bu- dapest, The Golem Theat:re shares an office with the Haver Foundation. I meet with its artistic director, Andras Borgula, and Edina Schon, the producer. The company performs mainly Israeli works, includ- ing Etgar Keret, translated into Hungarian by Borgula. In December they will be performing with Hungary's National Theater, by far Golem's biggest show to date. "It's very, very big," Bor- gula says. But the most interest- ing part for me was to hear their thoughts on the Jew- ish communal structures in Budapest. Complaints about the way Jewish communities operate in Europe are quite common from young people, as they are in the United States and elsewhere. But in Hungary, the re- sentment seems to run deeper; and young Jewish groups, of which there are an impressive number, have more or less written them off. Despite the financial support it theoretically could win from the com- munity leadership, Gotem gets nearly all of its funding from other sources--grants, Jewish organizations, state funding and ticket sales. Borgula tells me that even if the community offered him an unrestricted pot of money to do a performance, he would likely decline. "They're a kind of mafia," he says. This article was adapted from Ben Harris' blog: blogs. jta.org/wanderingjew. Hadassah joins Susan G. Komen for the Cure NEW YORK--Alarmed by the breast cancer epidemic in this country, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America is joining Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's largest breast cancer organization, and others in addl'essing the recent news on breast cancer screenings. In addition, Hadassah and Ko- men for the Cure have pledged to work together to address the global plight of breast cancer. Given that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast Cancer in her lifetime and that 40,000womenwill die of the disease in the U.S. alone this year, Hadassah is reaffirm- ing its commitment to breast health awareness, including regular breast self exams and both annual clinical exams and annual mammograms begin- ning at age 40. Hadassah is dedicated to educatingwomen about healthy life choices that prevent disease and promote wellness, includingscreenings and self examinations for the purposes of earlydetection. Hadassah's goal is to educate women of all ages about health and to empower women with knowledge to make appro- priate medical decisions for themselves and their families. Hadassah's breast health awareness program Check It Out, recommends the follow- ing Screening Guidelines for Breast Cancer Early Detection: Monthly self breast ex- amination to identify breast abnormalities and allow a woman to become familiar with her breasts so that she can tell her doctor about any changes Clinical breast examina- tion performed by a health Hadassah Hadassah National President Nancy Falchuk is flanked by Nancy Brinker (r), founder of Susan G. Komen For The Cure, and Komen official Jennifer Luray in Falchuk's New York office as they meet Nov. 20 to discuss the groups' partnership in the fight against breast cancer. care professional and recom- mended annually beginning at age 40 For women in their 20s and 30s at average risk of breast cancer who do not have v;mptoms, it is recommended that clinical breast examina- tions be performed by a health care professional at least every three years Mammograms annually starting at age 40 In addition, Hadassah rec- ommends that women talk to their health care professionals about individual risks and develop a screening plan. Hadassah National Presi- dent Nancy Falchuk says, "As the premier medical research institution in the Middle EasL Hadassah University Medical Center is actively involved in improving screening tech- niques, as well as working to find a cure for cancer via our pioneer human embry- onic stem cell and genetic research." Breast cancer is a global healthand"Global Diplomacy" issue that Hadassah women are taking the lead in. This leadership involves a contin- ued collaboration between the 300,000 strong Hadassah and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's largest pri- vate funder of breast cancer research and community programs. To date, Komen for the Cure has given grants to about 26 Hadassah "chapters for cancer awareness and walks totaling approximately $335,000. Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and Audrey Shimron, director of Hadassah office in Israel, recently met.at Abu Gosh, an Israeli Arab town 10 miles west of Jerusalem, where there is a Hadassah Health Clinic. The two committed to collaborate on potential activity in Israel in the comingyear, astidAmbas- sador Brinker and Hadassah president Falchuk in a recent meeting in Falchuk's New York office. "We committed not only to a strong coalition with another extraordinary orga- nization on events in Israel and the U.S.," Falchuk says, "but to working together and harnessing the power of women on the broader issue of health care diplomacy. Wherever and however we can partner to combat this global disease, a disease that touches women irrespective of their nationality, their religion, or their politics, I look forward to working even closer still with Ambassador Brinker and the incredible people at Susan G. Komen for the Cure." "The power of Hadassah to educate and mobilize Jewish women is critical in the efforts to end breast cancer forever," says Brinker. "Working to- gether in the U.S. and Israel, we can empower women to take charge of their health, which will significantly im- pact early detection and ulti- mately, lives saved." Responding to the new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concerning mam- mography screening, Susan G. Komen for the Cure chief scientific adviser and chair of Komen's Scientific Advisory Board. Eric P. Winer, M.D. is- sued the following statement: "Susan G. Komen for the Cure wants to eliminate any impediments to regular mammography screening for women age 40 and older. While there is no question that mammograms save lives for women over 50 and women 40-49, there is enough uncer- tainty about the age at which mammography should begin and the frequency of screen- ing that we would not want to see a change in policy for screening mammography at this time." Komen's current screening guidelines, as well as the full statement, can be found at www.komen.org. Both groups agree that knowledge is one of the most powerful tools a woman can have to protect herself against breast cancer. Hadassah is actively involved in educating women about breast health awareness. To find out more about Hadassah's Women's Health programs please con- tact 212-303-8136 or e-mail programming@hadassah.org or visit www.hadassah.org/ womenshealth.