New horizons

A. General considerations

The concept of the Hungarian Shofar Association named New horizons can be viewed as an attempt to form a new overall strategy of 21st century for the European Jewry, with the purpose of sharing information . We are suggesting a brand new approach that could work in a coherent system in trying to reduce or reverse negative tendencies, empowering and speeding the positive ones up while preserving the delicate balance of existing structures, giving free space to organic developments to thrive.

The essence of the problems is the following:

1. Conducting a Jewish life has ceased to be attractive in the Diaspora; many have been distanced from Jewish traditions.

2. Traditional Jewish life has been pushed into the margins, to the intimate sphere of flats and small communities, for the non-Jewish majority it became an unknown, mysterious phenomenon. We are convinced that ignorance breeds prejudice.

3. Jewish communities work and function separately, the passing on information is accidental, and possibilities for cooperation are limited.

4. The state of Israel is judged by its role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the mass media portray Israel as a permanent battleground, and the public opinion is not informed about Israel as a multicolored, democratic state full of contradictions.

Our concept can be summarized as the following:

1. We are offering a common starting point for various Jewish branches and institutions in order to publicize their activities. In addition, we will present possible meeting points visible and desirable for Jews that do not feel belonging to a community and thus encourage proud Jewish identity and the springing of the communities.

2. We are offering a concise set of information about Judaism accessible for non-Jews as well, itemizing the reports of the mass media in order to influence positively the image of Jewry in the Diaspora. Instead of fighting against prejudices, which we consider a task for Sisyphus, we will divide, atomize and so neutralize preconceived opinions.

3. We are offering a chance to various Jewish branches and institutions for a common representation without creating an umbrella organization, while preserving their integrity. We will speed up the streaming of the information, encourage openness, and thus create a fertile ground for using the existing resources more efficiently, as well as the formation of spontaneous cooperation, springing of common denominators.

4. We are offering a shift in the presentation of the state of Israel stressing everyday existence over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, livening up the war coverage with broadcasts on cultural events and day-to-day existence of the Israeli democracy. We offer a stance that helps to identify and sympathize with the state of Israel and its citizens.

Summary:

We are planning to open up new communication channels for different branches of Judaism, for various groups and for the Jewish population, with its family-related and cultural ties and for the non-Jewish majority, too. Such channels would ecxelerate the stream of information, present Jewish tradition, history and everyday life, a world of many layers and complexities in an open, straightforward and humane manner. We would like to break down the wall of simplified stereotypes about Jews and Judaism. Our initiation will strengthen the identification with Judaism among the younger generations, widen the circle of supporters and reduce as well as divide the influence of stereotypical thinking.

Why have we chosen the symbol of the shofar? The shofar is an ancient musical instrument. According to the tradition, Abraham made the first horn from the ram's horn that he sacrificed instead of Isaac. The shofar sounded during the Exodus, during the announcing of the Ten Commandments, the fall of the walls of Jericho and for the Jewish, the sound of the shofar will signal the coming of redemption, too. This ritual musical instrument has a very special place in the course of Jewish liturgy. The shofar sounded from ancient times to summon our people. It is time to listen to the sound of calling now as well.

B. Feasibility. Action Plan

We are to test the practical values of the concept New horizons in Hungary, a home of one of the biggest Jewish communities in Europe. Our choice is explained by the following:

? In Hungary, the years of intensive assimilation, along with the institutionalized anti-Semitism for a quarter of a century, the tragedy of the Holocaust, four decades of communist dictatorship followed by a controversial Jewish revival are shaping the present socio-political situation. All these factors are summed up as a unique and complex challenge for those who want to shape the future of Hungarian Jewry.

? The realization of our project in such a complex socio context can provide important morals for every European Jewish community.

? Hungary is our homeland, our past and local knowledge connects us with the country.

The Action Plan aims at outlining three New Horizons.

1. to shape Jewish identities of the 21st C. If we decided to find a common ground, a common denominator we have to define, first where we have come from and where we are heading. For such reasons we put emphasize on the research of the history of Hungarian Jewry and on outlining common strategies for integration that fits the 21st century. Such well-defined identities would reveal several connecting points that are not widely known and for many Jews that will provide suitable reasons to return to their communities.

2. to introduce the life of contemporary Jewry in a rounded but digestible way. Talking from a common ground, it will be clear for everybody that Judaism is not a monolithic abstract system but practically a group of people with different worldviews and cultural backgrounds, attached to its host countries with infinite number of ties, connected by the shared thousands year old Jewish tradition. This argument can divide simplified, stereotypical opinions and so they loose their appeal.

3. to sketch a differentiated picture on Israel Day after day we will present the everyday life, problems and achievements, doubts and contradictions of the Israeli society, showing the emotions and ideas of people living there. The listeners obviously can identify with particular person's lot in life and social phenomena better, than with abstract political processes.

Our action plan is being realized by initiating the following projects and pulling together a number of positive initiations that we are going to coordinate.

1. Launching a Hungarian language Jewish radio station Our association has set up a radio station named "Radio Zs" as a pilot project that broadcasts 24 hours a day within the Hungarian on the network Hungarian Internet World Radio. "Radio Zs" is a non-profit, grassroots project open to each Jewish organization in Hungary and provides on-air time for them indiscriminately. The broadcasts of "Radio Zs" have been transmitted since October, with the help of an internet program that can be downloaded free from our site as well, under the address: sofar.hu. The broadcasting is getting richer week by week, several religious institutions, organizations and schools provide broadcasts of their own. Our correspondences from Israel give live reportage and recommend cultural events. On the other hand, portraits of significant personalities, interviews of current affairs and from the archives, historical series, broadcasts of forums on religious issues and various debates, literary themes are being produced and broadcasted. By January, we are introducing a new Broadcasting Timetable that devotes half of the time to the broadcasts of the various Jewish organizations, institutions and communities while the other half of the broadcast contains the works of the radio staff on cultural and historical coverage. Our long-term objective is to launch the broadcast on radio wavelength as well as from satellite transmission as soon as possible.

2. Setting up integrated Jewish News' internet site Our association has also set up an internet portal named Sofar as a pilot project in order to document and present the life of Hungarian Jewry in a many-sided, colorful and lucid way. The site contains practical information; our most popular service is a combined timetable in which apart from the synagogue's perpetual calendar we have made available the list of events of all Hungarian Jewish communities, institutes, organizations at one place, with automatic updates. Along this the site offers an archive of historical documents, texts, vocal and video archives, photo gallery, Israeli web cameras, daily newsreel, and updated Israeli coverage. Our objective is to make our site an attractive starting point with links to all the Jewish sites. Our aim is to build and maintain a professional site after accessing the experiences of the presently running site.

3. Education In order to achieve the aforementioned aims of New Horizons we find it indispensable to deliver our message to the non-Jewish youth in a personal manner. We are planning to utilize for this purpose the experiences of similar and successful initiations.

Budapest, 29 December 2003

Attila Seres
President of Hungarian Shofar Association