What does it mean to be Jewish in the 21st century? At JCC Budapest, this question guides how we think and what we do. JCC Budapest is a vibrant community whose aim is to strengthen Jewish identity, help people find their roots, and celebrate the diversity of Jewish life.
This work is personal. I grew up in 1980s Hungary and never had the chance to explore my Judaism. Forgetting Judaism was how my family survived Communist rule — and we almost lost track of our roots. Almost.
Thanks to JDC and American philanthropists, my generation revived Hungarian Jewry before it was lost to history. In Jewish schools, summer camps, youth movements, and institutions, such as JCC Budapest, we rediscovered Judaism, making it our mission to ensure that Hungary has a lively, resilient Jewish future.
But JCC Budapest is more than just a place; it’s a passionate team of Jewish leaders who create community and bring programs to life. As JCC Director, I am so proud to lead this team of talented individuals, and introduce them to you here.
We invite you to be a part of our story. Together, we can write the next chapters of Hungarian Jewish history!
— Marcell Kenesei, JCC Director
Though Marcell learned about his Judaism only in his late teens, he’s been a leader in the community ever since and is an alumnus of the Lauder School and Camp Szarvas. He graduated as a political scientist at the ELTE University Faculty of Law, and later was a fellow at the Paideia Institute in Sweden. He took part in the establishment of the Israeli Cultural Institute in Budapest, worked as the Deputy Director of Centropa, and is a member of the Haver Foundation.
“By building on the past 25 years, I want to reimagine what the JCC can become and the potential it can still reach.”
Péter (Pepe) Berényi joined the team in 2005 and is now the Operational Director of JCC Budapest. Pepe has been a central and active member of the Budapest Jewish community for many years, coordinating important events and programs. He has been the main organizer of Judafest since its inception in 2008, and every Monday he leads an Israeli dance program for Hungarians with disabilities. He is the proud father of two, Hanna and Dani.
“Many people say that JCC Budapest is like an island, where people are free to develop their unique identities and opinions. For me, it is not just an island; it is also a second home.”
Peter joined the management team at the beginning of 2021. He is passionate about building a strong, vibrant Jewish community that is strong and vibrant. His main goal is to help provide a variety of programs where everyone can find what they are looking for. He deeply believes that by engaging people in activities connected to the Jewish religion and culture, by giving them a chance to make connections with each other, their identities can be strengthened.
“It’s really inspiring to be part of a team that works to help people discover their Jewish roots and lead them back to Judaism.”
Zsuzsa, (Fritzi), is a passionate educator who wants to strengthen the identity of young Jews. After stepping down as director of the JCC in 2020, Zsuzsa took up a new challenge: building the Jewish Knowledge Center. The center aims to support innovative community programs, a key goal it shares with the JCC.
“The most important task for our Jewish future is strengthening Jewish identity, so that it endures from one generation to the next”
Though her family lost touch with their Jewish roots after WWII, Jutka always knew about her heritage. Her passion for Judaism led her to Camp Szarvas, where she spent 10 years as a camp leader. As the JCC’s resource development manager, Jutka feels she has found a new branch of her Jewish family.
“The JCC team is motivated, creative, and hard-working. Together, we will achieve new heights.”
Dávid has been working in the Jewish community for more than 20 years. In 1990, he was a camper in the very first session of the Szarvas International Youth Camp and was there for his entire youth. Now he oversees various programs and partnerships in the JCC network.
“Jewish life is very important to me, so working for JCC Budapest was a clear and easy decision. Now it’s my home.”
Dóra joined the team in late 2020 and brings to JCC Budapest her background in advertising. As JCC’s Head of Communications, Dora is excited to “advertise” Jewish life to the Budapest community.
“Being Head of Communications is such a unique experience. I am the target group, the client, and the contractor in one. I just love it!”.
For Linda, working in the JCC is important because she can do something meaningful and significant for others that shapes and contributes to people’s lives. She enjoys that every day brings new challenges and that there is always a need for renewal.
“We are building a space, a community where people can feel at home. Ten years ago, this community welcomed me with open arms and smiling faces. Now I want people to receive the same warmth and acceptance that I felt when I joined the community.“
As a former art historian who specializes in contemporary photography, Zsofi brings a wealth of artistic expertise to JCC Budapest. Besides her work in the JCC coordinating various programs, she writes exhibition reviews and for many years also taught art history to adults. She is also a human rights activist and has been involved in organizing several such programs. In addition, Zsófi also helps the Haver Foundation and UCCU Foundation as a communications trainer. She has two wonderful little sons, who teach her something new about the world every day.
“The JCC is the most unique cultural institution in Budapest. It manages to be both a home for Jewish people, and an open, inclusive place for people of other backgrounds.”
As a proud member of Hungary’s “new generation” of Jews, Niki grew up surrounded by Jewish programs that affirmed her identity. She brings this enthusiasm and pride to her work as JCC’s program coordinator. Outside of the JCC, Niki teaches Jewish Studies at Lauder Javne Jewish School and is part of the international educational team of Camp Szarvas. Niki is finishing her university studies at the Eötvös Lóránd University.
“I feel lucky to be able to work for Bálint Ház. It’s a place where people really know each other, creativity is encouraged, and teamwork and innovation are a top priority.”
Ádam grew up in a secular family, and first became involved in the Jewish community at age 11. Since then, he has participated in various movements and organizations, and has made many lasting memories and friendships from these experiences. Though he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, Adam has always been interested in social activism, and JCC Budapest offers him a place to fulfill this interest.
“Working at the JCC Budapest feels like a big group project where leaders, organizers, and participants are part of the same team. Everyone contributes and everyone benefits. We all learn and have a great time!”
Juci has been an active member of the Jewish community since the age of 15. She is an alumna of Camp Szarvas and the Hanoar Hatzioni youth movement, where she also worked for many years. She started working with the JCC in 2015 when she pitched an idea for a youth program called “Experience it!”. In 2019 she shifted to organizing programs for adults.
She is currently involved in many different projects and also teaches in the Lauder Javne Jewish School in Budapest. Juci graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary of Budapest, where she received her diploma in Jewish Studies, and is now completing her second degree at Oranim Academic College.
“I am happy to work at the Bálint House because as a child and teenager I received a lot from this community and I try to give back through my work.”
Barbi is a longstanding member of the JCC team and is dedicated to developing programs that excite and educate young Jews. For the past 16 years, together with Pepe, Barbi has led a weekly Israeli dance class for Hungarians with disabilities. She also takes part in organizing the Family Camp, held at Camp Szarvas.
“I love working in this creative atmosphere. It’s motivating to see so many visitors attend JCC Budapest programs as if they were at a get-together with friends.”
Ilona joined the team in 2018 and before that worked at a multinational corporation. With a degree in computer programming, Ilona brings to her role a robust technical expertise.
“I love coming into work every day. My colleagues, the community members — they’re like my second family.”
Nati is also a long-standing member of the JCC team, and is responsible for all things logistics. Nati graduated from the Lauder Javne Jewish School in Budapest and has a degree in Social Work and Cultural Management from the Jewish Theological Seminary of Budapest.
“JCC is my home, and I am proud that we constantly find new goals and develop exciting and new programs”.
Rita organizes meaningful, fun, and communal programs for JCC’s senior members. She is excited to provide elderly Jews — many of them Holocaust survivors — with a place where they feel at home. Rita received her degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminary of Budapest and Milton Friedman University of Budapest in Social Work and Adult Education.
“Our goal is for everyone to consider the JCC their second home, especially the elderly, who battle loneliness and isolation. Seeing how much joy we can bring to people’s lives, well, that is worth working for.”
Before she joined JCC in 2017, Zsuzsa was a longtime member of our community. She loves that her work not only consists of numbers and paperwork, but face-to-face involvement with program leaders. Zsuzsa is the proud mother of two adult children and two grandchildren, “the apple of her eye.”
“It feels really good to work with a team whose enthusiasm and generosity fuels a cause that is so personal to me.”
Janos brings a diverse array of professional experience to JCC. In addition to his time in the corporate world, Janos has worked as a pilot, and co-owns a family furniture business. János is happy because he feels he has joined a community that has a value system similar to his own.
“By building JCC’s technical infrastructure, I have been able, in my own way, to build Budapest’s Jewish infrastructure as well.”
As a child, Attila visited Camp Szarvas every year and later became a counselor. Thanks to his experience, JCC Budapest is a deeply familiar place; he wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.
“Working at JCC Budapest, I feel like I’m giving back a little of what I got from the community.”
Since he was in kindergarten, Miksa (Misu) has been a passionate member of the Jewish community. He studied at the Lauder Javne School, where he threw himself into Jewish life and culture. Today, he co-leads the Hashomer Hatzair youth group, and strives to build a community where everyone dares to be themselves.
“Building Jewish community has always been an important part of my life. That’s why I love working with the JCC Budapest team now; they are the most community-oriented institution.”