“A crisis of this magnitude has not been seen in Eastern Europe since World War II,” said Rabbi Shlomó Köves, chief rabbi of EMIH-The Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities.
More than 600 Ukrainian refugees will be given long-term accommodations at a newly opened kosher camp on the south shore of Hungary’s Lake Balaton, thanks a joint effort by the Orthodox EMIH-The Association of Hungarian Jewish Communities and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine.
With assistance from the Hungarian government, the two Jewish organizations renovated several buildings at the expansive lakeside resort, which is no longer in use.
In April, Federation and EMIH approached the Hungarian government with a request to help set up a camp for several hundred Ukrainian Jews who required kosher food. These organizations saw a need to create both a long-term residence and a temporary living space, particularly for families whose male members were left behind in Ukraine.
Since many refugee shelters that were set up during the first weeks of the war had already closed down, there was an urgent need for accommodations for refugees who wished to return home after the war—namely, many religious leaders from more than 100 Ukrainian Jewish communities.
“A crisis of this magnitude has not been seen in Eastern Europe since the Second World War,” said Rabbi Shlomó Köves, chief rabbi of EMIH. “During times like this we, the Jewish community of Hungary, consider it our special and sacred duty to reach out and offer whatever assistance is necessary to meet the existential and spiritual needs of our fellow Jews from across the border.”
The Hungarian government provided the resort at Balatonőszöd, but it could only house 250 people who live there now. And so the two organizations, both affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, set up “Machne Chabad.”
Together, they are renovating the existing but long-disused site, with plans to expand accommodations for 644 people, adding several communal areas, including a kosher kitchen that will cater up to 1,000 people, as well as classrooms for children to continue their studies.
Rabbi Meir Stambler, leader of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, says he is appealing to American and Western European donors for contributions to help renovate the camp. “Until a few months ago, our Ukrainian brothers and sisters lived a perfectly normal life, safe in the present and with plans for the future; with homes, families, jobs and education. All of that fell to pieces in just one day, with people losing their homes, their loved ones and their safety.”