Hungary signs special agreement with Orthodox Jewish group

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Deputy prime minister in charge of Hungarian communities abroad, church policy and national and ethnic minorities, Zsolt Semjen, centre, and Chief Rabbi of the Unified Israelite Congregation of Hungary (EMIH) Slomo Koves, right, attend a recepetion after signing a comprehensive agreement at the Castle District premises of the Prime Minister's Office, in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. By signing the agreement, the Hungarian state acknowledges the historical traditions of the Jewish community and "EMIH's service to the renaissance of Hungary's Jewish community", Semjen said at the signing ceremony. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP)

BUDAPEST – The Hungarian government has signed a special agreement with an Orthodox Jewish group, granting them a status in the country enjoyed only by a small number of churches.

The accord, for example, provides the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation’s institutions, such as schools, the same financing given to similar state institutions.

A controversial law introduced in 2012 by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government tied the recognition of churches to parliamentary approval, and slashed the number of officially recognized churches from around 370 to 32.

Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen said Monday’s agreement recognized the 15-year-old congregation’s work for the renaissance of Hungary’s Jewish community.

EMIH, the group’s Hungarian acronym, becomes the third Jewish religious organization to sign a special agreement with the government.