70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel
Choma - the load-bearing wall; supporting newcomers for 60 years
By Sivan Erush - 2018-03-03
Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll
Choma, founded initially as an altruistic money lender celebrates its 60th anniversary this summer. The aim of the organization was to provide financial assistance to olim [newcomers] in the form of interest-free loans. As Illés Kaczér, Choma’s former secretary had written for the fifth anniversary in his Új Kelet report, it was apparent that the organization had initially difficulties gathering the donors needed for its operation: "The active segment of the Hungarian yishuv [residents] was facing hundreds of tasks piling up; it was cash poor and helpless. The ones who had money withdrew from the tribe's troubles, in order to not have to listen to the wailing of the new olim; they stuffed their ears with wax, like Odysseus, and closed their purses, together with their hearts."
A turning point came when Sochnut proclaimed that if the Hungarian yishuv is willing to donate, then Choma the public benefit organization can get as much money from the state as it has been able to raise. Then the movement slowly began to roll, mainly because the Israeli request for aid was met with open ears and hearts in London. Although only after some disagreements, the Jews of Hungarian descent in England eventually voted for a two-thousand-pound-sterling donation. With this start-up capital, Choma was founded in order to provide solid assistance for those seeking help, a few years later, thanks to the enthusiastic organizers, countless Hungarian b'nai b'rith members and the powerful support of HOH.
This is still happening today, although the funds have unfortunately decreased over the decades, but Choma is still trying to help the new olim, by way of their information portal shalom-olim.com that serves as a directory of available Hungarian-speaking experts in Israel to help the integration of newcomers. Choma has several Facebook groups and pages, provides daily news, and organizes monthly online forums with experts. Its financial potential permitting, it continues to provide interest-free loans and educational support, helping to better integrate the Hungarians living in Israel.
On the shalom-olim site, you can read several stories about those who received help from Choma. I would like to highlight Peter's story, because it is a good example that even an agile, successful new ole may have moments when a little support comes in handy.
"At the end of 2002, I was called into the army for three months. I did not know whether I would be a regular or a reserve. We were renting a flat, we had a car: we had many bills. It turned out I would be a regular, so I did not get my salary for three months at all. I got ca. 300 shekels as service pay, along with a small rent support, approx. 800 shekels, but my debt started to accumulate. We could not make a living from one salary. After three months I was discharged and totally broke. Fortunately, the Hungarian owner did not kick me out of the apartment. Then I turned to Choma. I wrote a letter to them asking for a 10,000 shekel loan. Back then that was a lot of money and I needed it. I was earning only 4000 shekels. Choma gave me the loan in 12 monthly installments. This was my first date with Choma. It was a great help.
By now you have been permanently discharged and you used Choma`s help again.
Yes, at 40, my reserve military service was completed, and I was about to enroll in an air conditioner repair course when I read Choma's ad on Facebook for a scholarship for higher education. Since my choice of training was not exactly higher education, I asked if they could still give me a scholarship and they said yes. The course cost 6000 shekels and I received 2000 from Choma. During the 10 months course we learned about the thermodynamics of the machines, about the different types – that otherwise similarly function. I'm grateful again for the solid support from Choma."
Choma, although at a much smaller scale than before, is still working with the conviction that even today the Israeli-Hungarian community is able to work together in order to donate and actively support those with a strong will to integrate. In order for Choma to remain a load-bearing wall on behalf of future arrivals, of course, new donations are needed.
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