Reading Response Essay

Submitted By bcohens
Words: 761
Pages: 4

On the subject of Hungarian Jewish life, particularly in the 18th and 19th century, both Mary Gluck and Howard N. Lupovitch write unique accounts of the changes in social, political and religious life. Furthermore, they both give informative perspectives on the balance between Hungarian and Jewish identity that many Hungarian Jews experienced. In “The Budapest Flaneur: Urban Modernity, Popular Culture and the “Jewish Question” in Fin-de Siecle Hungary” the author discusses Hungarian-Jewish journalist Adolf Agai’s satirical work and how it pertains to the historical experience of Hungarian Jews during this period. Gluck begins by expressing that in her opinion, culture is symbolic and not empirical meaning that it is vital to truly understanding history, but can not offer any hard facts for interpretation. Through this lense, Gluck examines the idea of the “invisible Jew” in Hungary. Gluck argues that while Jew were undoubtedly played a huge, very tangible role in Hungarian economy and society, they nor the other members of the society around them saw themselves as “a distinct religious, ethnic, or national entity” thus making them “invisible”. This argument seemed to have both positive and negative implications for Jews. While being seen as somewhat fully assimilated members of Hungarian society meant that Jews in the area could prosper without the fear of the intense oppression experienced in other areas of Eastern Europe, it also meant that when Jews were distinguished as Jews, they were seen as “unreadable” and therefore a possible threat. This is displayed in the example Gluck gives of the altercation between the Jew and the Hungarian soldier. Gluck goes on to examine the “Jewish Question” that was still ever present in Hungary.
When polled, some Hungarians seemed to believe that the only answer to this question was for Jews to complete erase their “Jewishness” and fully assimilate in every way possible. While this seemed to be a feasible outlook on the situation when examining the assimilation trend among Hungarian Jews, Gluck points out that some, such as journalist Agai, took a different approach to the issue. Agai created satirical characters coupled with stories that reflected traditional Jewish stereotypes upon characters. These stereotypes, however seemed to be a somewhat accurate expression of the turmoil Jews faced when it came to coupling their Jewish identity with their Hungarian identity. Through stories such as the business owner, wealthy landowner, moneylender and journalist (which was an alter ego of himself), Agai used humor to discuss serious topics. While Gluck examines popular writing as an indication of the complexity of the “Jewish Question” in Hungary, Howard M. Lupovitch in Jews at the Crossroads provides a much more empirical examination of the issues facing Jews in Hungary. Particularly, Lupovitch examines the experience of Jews in the Miskolc area versus the rest of Hungary. He argues that in Miskolc, Jews developed a somewhat ideal balance of Jewish and Hungarian identity. This is in…