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“But Where Is Kohn?” Modern-Day History of the Hungarian Jews in the View of a Jewish Community’s Humor in Budapest

Richard Papp

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The topic of my study is the identity, cultural memory and humor in the Bethlen Square Synagogue community in Budapest. I conducted my research among the regular participants in the daily rituals at synagogue. I have dealt in depth with the meaning of the jokes, humorous stories, the humor in the conversations and situations of the community.  The example of jokes of my research connected to cultural-memory as well: the humor of the community structures the modern day Hungarian Jewish history into well separated periods.

The “golden age” points to the possibility of harmonious coexistence, at the same time to the criticism of “total” assimilation strategy.

Experience of the years following the Trianon Treaty, reinforces this criticism. Silence of humor about the time of the Holocaust, as well as the jokes referring to the following years, point to the survival of traumas and the conservation of tension between majority and minority.

Most of the jokes speak about the years of communism with complexity of political standings, as well as of the political-social “outsider” status of the Jews.

  I could not find jokes about the years that followed the 1990-s political system-change. At Bethlen Square, when they mention it, they tell the ones    about the age of the traumas, as they connected that period to the events of recent past and present during the interviews I conducted.