“End Jew Hatred” Coordinator Shares Story of Overcoming Antisemitic Roots at Jewish National Fund-USA’s Breakfast for Israel in Chicago

By: Rochelle Newman Rubinoff


On Tuesday, May 3, nearly 200 philanthropists from Chicago and the surrounding communities joined Jewish National Fund-USA for the first time in two years at its signature event, Breakfast for Israel, to kick off the week of Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.


Co-chaired by Jayme & Sam Besser, Jonina Lerner, and Matt Greenberg, the event was held at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, Illinois. Guests were brought up to date about the important work and extensive projects that Jewish National Fund-USA is spearheading to improve the quality of life for Israelis throughout the land of Israel. 


The event’s keynote speaker was Virág Gulyás, a strong advocate for Israel and the Jewish people. Gulyás is the New York City coordinator for End Jew Hatred, the grassroots movement dedicated to ensuring Jewish liberation from centuries of persecution and achieving justice for the Jewish people through peaceful direct action.


Virág Gulyás



In addition, Gulyás is a former diplomat to the EU, communications consultant, and journalist. As a loud pro-Israel voice, a Hungarian, and a non-Jewish Zionist, Gulyás has created a movement that aims to change the stereotypes about Israel and the Jewish people one day at a time. She regularly writes and speaks about her journey and is well-known for her blog, The Almost Jewish.


“Overwhelmingly, Breakfast for Israel attendees were thrilled to be together again as a community in celebration of Israel,” said Marlene Copeland Dodinval, Jewish National Fund-USA’s Executive Director in Chicago. “People found Gulyás’ experiences and perspective inspiring. With rising antisemitism, she showed us that Jews need to be proud, stand up for themselves, and work to build allies inside and outside our community.” 


Gulyás shared the story of her incredible journey growing up surrounded by antisemitism in Hungary to becoming one of the most prominent allies to the Jewish community and Israel.


“It was not something that I realized overnight, but eventually I had thought to myself that the only thing I knew about Jewish people were the common stereotypes that you hear.”


But Gulyás said that the more she learned about the world, the more she was forced to look at her own prejudices and rethink them.


While living in Brussels, Gulyás began dating an Israeli man. She went with him to Israel; once, twice and eventually many times. “I thought, okay, these people are super nice and these Jews are maybe not that horrible,” Gulyás said. “I went back about twenty times and every time, I just wanted to understand more. I think the first real change came after my third time in Israel, when I started to talk with people from the Israel Defense Forces and then I encountered non-Jewish people in Jerusalem, and I asked them how they felt about living in Israel. They all said they have a good life, but they have a principle not to engage with Jews. I actually made a video about it that went viral.”


Gulyás was so astonished by the antisemitism she was seeing throughout the world that she ultimately went back to school and received a second master’s degree, this time in Jewish Studies from Touro College. Describing herself as a common-sense activist, Gulyás said, “I feel that I can act as a bridge between the communities. I now know and understand both sides very well. I hope that my story might serve as a glimpse of hope, that change really is possible. Especially if you have the patience to work with people.”


Event co-chairs and sponsors were also treated to an exclusive cocktail reception and Meet & Greet with Gulyás, hosted by Susan & Marc Sacks.


For more information about Jewish National Fund-USA or future events in Chicago, contact Marlene Copeland Dodinval at 847-656-8880 x766 or mdodinval@jnf.org.


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