About the Kertész István Foundation, its roots, its pursuits and its goals in short
From the almost 2000 jewish citizen, who were taken away in the second World War only 136 survived the genocide and were able to return to our town. One of them was István Kertész. He used to work as a decorator before he retired in 1970 .
He became a really important figure in the local struggle to maintain at least the fragments and the memories of the once blooming jewish community. At the late 70-s early 80-s there were almost absolutely none here to care about and look after things like the Jewish Cemetery. There weren’t even 10 religious jewish man in town anymore, so the „minjan” ceased to exist. In this sad period Mr. Kertész undertook the responsibility and job to maintain the cemetery. He renewed those stones, which had worn-out writing on them, he helped the relatives find the graves of their beloved. He became seriously ill in 1992 and he was hospitalized. He realised he wants to spend his money and the amount he gained from different donations to create a foundation, which will continue his work.
József Róth z'l (former chairman of the Jewish Community) and Béla Majdán historian also earned imperishable merit in the creation of the Foundation
On this picture you can see the moment, when the major of Balassagyarmat (Juhász Péter) gives a „Pro Urbe” award to Mr. Kertész. This is the highest award a citizen of Balassagyarmat can have. The photo was taken in the Jewish Hospital and Home at Amerika street in Budapest in 1996. From left to right: Árpád Tyekvicska (archivist), István Kertész , Zsolt Tőzsér (deputy of the mayor), Péter Juhász (mayor). The picture was taken by Béla Majdán .
The following people were the members of the original advisory board, acted on the will of the founder: Lajos Bakos, who was the deputy president of the East-European Bureau of the Jewish World Congress, József Róth , the head of the remaining jewish community in the town, Dr. György Németh , the contemporary major of Balassagyarmat, and Béla Majdán historian. The first chairman was József Róth till he died in 2003, when the recent "rosh-ha-kehila", Mr. József Bauer undertook the task.
It was also in the founding document, that the town’s all-time major will always be a member of the Foundation. The majors are listed here: 1990-1994: Dr. György Németh , 1994-2002 : Péter Juhász , 2002-2006-István Lombos, since 2006: Lajos Medvácz. (Note that the changes had no effect whatsoever on the continouity, and caused no problems or arguements, which leads us to the conclusion that this job is important to all of our municipality members and parties, all of them think and feel this is an universal value, we all should respect and defend, because it is the part of our towns rich religious and cultural past).
The Foundation is a non-profit organization, which is NOT serving as any kind of religious group or institute, its goal is to protect and guard this heritage, and its owner is the above mentioned advisory board.
The Foundation did everything it could to protect and look after the cemetery, which was nominated to be a national art relic in 1993. It currently has 3400 graves which are under documentation right now, around 2800 of them are already charted, and can be found on a map. Furthermore the Foundation also created a Museum to show the people the above mentioned rich heritage, and it holds classes for students and for adults about the jewish history and the horrors of World War II. It also had own publications too.
In 1994 the City Council helped to fix the roof which was flooding, then they helped again, when the interior of the Museum needed renovation in 1998. This action was aided also by MAZSIHISZ (Alliance of Hungarian Jewish Faith Communes).
In 1999 MAZSIHISZ and the Municipality of Balassagyarmat concluded an agreement for the common, regular support of the Foundation.
It was affirmed twice since, first by major Péter Juhász , later by major István Lombos in 2002, thus the financial needs of the Foundation were met, and it was able to carry on and concentrate on its work to the fullest.
We applied in different tenders, from which the most important one is the support of the National Civil Fund which we receive every year since 2003.
In 2000 a regional Jewish Museum was opened thanks to the followings:
- Municipality of Balassagyarmat
- MAZSÖK (Jewish Heritage of Hungary Public Endowment)
- East European Bureau of the Jewish World Congress
- Emanuel Foundation
- various civil persons who gave donations to the Foundation
Even since it was visited from all over the world, and hundreds of students were participating in the classes, which were held there. In the last ten years it became one of the most important and visited sights of the town.
The most important publication of the Foundation is the book called „The memories of the Jewish Community of Balassagyarmat”, which was supported by the National Cultural Heritage Department and the National Cultural Fund. By now all the 3400 graves in the cemetery are listed, documented, and almost all the graves already has an exact spot on the map. So if someone is looking for a relative we can find the stone in a few minutes.
We have organized several charity evenings for supporting and popularizing the Foundation. Some of these cultural events got publicity in the local and national media.
In 2008 a Circle of Friends has been set up to expand the number of our supporters.
Future plan of the Foundation in the collaboration with the local Jewish Community to chart and hopefully to restore the jewish cemeteries in the surrounding villages in Hungary and in Slovakia.
Translated by Majdán Béla Jr.