Virag Gulyas spent the first years of his life in Soviet-occupied Hungary. It was fed a constant diet of propaganda portraying Israel and the Jews as evil. She believed it. Today, non-Jewish Gulyas is a pro-Israel activist and NYC coordinator for End Jew Hatred. Appearing virtually due to her exposure to Covid, she brought her inspirational message to Southern New Jersey JNF’s Spirit of Israel brunch. The event took place on May 22 in Cong. Beth El in Voorhees. Gulyas, the keynote speaker, was introduced by event committee member Marsha Feldman Raab.
Gulyas told the audience that all people are products of their environment and it took years for his views on Israel and the Jews to change. Today, she dedicates her life to ending the dehumanization of Jews and the delegitimization of Israel. She said that hatred of Jews is not acceptable. “My daily business is that history doesn’t repeat itself,” she said.
Gulyas, who has lost friends and received death threats for his pro-Israel activities, said it is important to confront those who are anti-Israel, but to do it in the right way. The goal is to “plant the seed” in those who may agree that Israel has a right to exist and that Jews should not be killed. If, however, those who call themselves pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel cannot agree on these basic principles, then they really are anti-Semites whose minds are not likely to change their minds.
“Silence is conformity,” said Gulyas, who spoke out against “cancel culture.” She decried those who do not want to hear ideas and change their views.
Gulyas spoke about the rise of anti-Semitism saying, “We all have to be the light.” She encouraged people to engage in simple acts, such as inviting others to a Shabbat dinner. “You have no idea how much small gestures can change people.”
“Thank you for being part of the fight against hatred of Jews. Thank you for being the light for the next generation,” Gulyas said.
At the event, Judith Galler, president of the JNF of Southern New Jersey, spoke of her confidence and pride in Israel. She said that we are part of Israel and Israel is part of us. She mentioned the important role the JNF is playing, including the planting of 260 million trees, the development of the Negev and Galil, and many other achievements.
“Thanks to you, we are forging a new legacy…building the future of our people,” Galler said. She said the support of those present is crucial for the continued growth of JNF and Israel.
Event co-chairs Leonard Wizmur and Mark Kramer also thanked those in attendance for their support of JNF.