Coming Together to Build Hungary’s Jewish Future
JDC's Mozaik Hub in Budapest, Hungary, is a coworking space that offers professional development and networking opportunities for young Jewish professionals.
October 6, 2021
When COVID-19 came to Budapest, Bence Tordai knew JDC’s Mozaik Hub — where he serves as manager — was poised to respond to the needs of Hungary’s Jewish community in a meaningful way.
Because the Hub had spent years nurturing grassroots initiatives and building connections with legacy institutions in the Hungarian capital, Tordai and his team — working in partnership with other local stakeholders — were able to quickly develop the 2020 Community Platform, a framework that brought together 38 organizations to assist the most vulnerable.
Judit Futó, a clinical psychologist and Community Platform member, used the tool as she worked to address mental health issues for Budapest’s Jews during the early days of the pandemic, when the city was plunged into social isolation, fear, and disrupted routines.
“It came at just the right time and showcased the power of unity and action,” she said. “Something had to be done, and everyone in our community contributed what they could do best. It was an honor, and a heartwarming experience, to collaborate in such a well-organized and attentive way that was so in line with Jewish values.”
For Tordai, Mozaik’s program manager and a member of the team since its launch in 2015, the crisis was proof that the hard work of running this community incubator — offering professional development, coworking space, and training on everything from volunteer management to strategic planning — had paid off.
“The pandemic showed us that a crisis can spark innovation and cooperation,” Tordai said. “This scale of collaboration was unprecedented in Hungary’s recent Jewish history.”
The Hub’s mission is to cultivate a network of Hungarian Jewish NGOs, ultimately increasing the capacity of new and existing initiatives and encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit in this Jewish community of 100-120,000, the largest in Central and Eastern Europe.
One key component of Mozaik’s strategy is to incubate what it refers to as “Hub-Ups,” local startups that address social issues as diverse as Holocaust education and fostering healthy child development. As Hub members, these emerging organizations have access to seminars, professional mentorship, and more.
“I’m so grateful for our involvement with JDC, and moving to Mozaik’s coworking space has allowed us to collaborate with other NGOs in our field,” said Sara Pazstor, CEO of Jamba Hungary, a “Hub-Up” social enterprise that connects people with disabilities to employment opportunities. “The coaching we receive also supports us as we work to establish a conscious, transparent, and interconnected strategy and stimulates our thinking in an inspiring way.”
Jamba is also a recipient of a JDC Tikkun in Action grant, which the organization provides to support Jewish social entrepreneurs around the world who want to have an impact on their wider community.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Mozaik also executed a 2020 move to a dynamic new space: the historic Rumbach Synagogue in the heart of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter.
The move itself is an example of the culture of collaboration that the Hub seeks to foster, said Mircea Cernov, JDC’s country director in Hungary — the Hungarian government provided financial support for the Rumbach renovation, and the Hub’s relocation was made possible by a strategic partnership between JDC and the local Hungarian Jewish federation, MAZSIHISZ.
“Rumbach is a symbol for a new model of community, a vision of Hungary’s Jewish future that draws on its rich, diverse past,” Cernov said. “In this historic space, Jewish tradition, culture, and 21st-century innovation are seamlessly integrated.”
For Tordai, the new space means Mozaik has the tools it needs to realize its goals of catalyzing a bright new chapter for Hungary’s Jews.
“The success of our work is mirrored in the success of the Hub’s member organizations,” said Tordai. “In this beautiful building, we have more opportunities to cooperate between different key players in the community. Moving forward, this will be so important as we plan for a post-COVID world.”