Tuesday, June 5, 2018

One Step Toward Jerusalem: Oral Histories of Orthodox Jews in Stalinist Hungary (Modern Jewish History) Paperback – February 8, 2018 by Sándor Bacskai (Author), Eva Maria Thury (Translator) (Syracuse University Press )

Jewish survivors and emigres will be enamored with this rare and unique book. Orthodox Jews too will value the work and appreciate the tenacity with which orthodoxy survived and adapted to these difficult post-war circumstances. Readers interested in Hungarian or Eastern European Jewry, Jewish memoirs and auto-biographies will also agree on the quality and importance of this work. 

Everyone has a story to tell, so they say – but members of minorities often have the most compelling ones. And if one is a citizen of a small state repeatedly convulsed by history, such as Hungary – and of a minority often discriminated against within it – and of a minority group within your minority religion – the stories can be unrelentingly compelling. Eva Maria Thury’s seamless translations make the stories recorded by Sándor Bacskai come to vivid life in the reader’s imagination.

Originally published in 1997, Bacskai's powerful ethnography portrays the political, religious, and individual forces that came to bear on the Orthodox Jewish tradition as it struggled for survival in the aftermath of the Holocaust in Hungary. Jews who returned to their homes eagerly reestablished their close-knit community lives. However, they were greeted with hostility and faced daily prejudice. Following the fall of Hungarian democracy, the number of Orthodox Jewish congregations dramatically decreased. Those who remained struggled to combat antisemitism and antizionism. It is these individuals, the bearers of the Orthodox Jewish tradition, whom Bacskai celebrates and gives voice to in One Step toward Jerusalem. Through detailed interviews and intimate profiles, Bacskai narrates the individual stories of survival and the collective story of Jews struggling to maintain a community despite significant resistance.

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