Hungarian Americans Together Conference Held at Marymount University in Arlington, VA – May 19 – 21

Washington, DC – The tenth Hungarian Americans Together conference (HATOG X) was held in the Washington, DC area on May 19-21, 2017.  HATOG is generally held annually, in a different U.S. city, to provide a forum for Hungarian organizations that work to maintain Hungarian heritage and culture in their communities.

This year’s conference was organized by the American Hungarian Heritage House (AHHH), the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition), and The Hungary Initiatives Foundation. More than 60 representatives from 16 states and Hungary, attended the conference. With a real focus on attracting young up-and-coming leaders, approximately 70% of the participants were attending their first HATOG conference.

HATOG participants listen to the presentation of Mrs. Anna Smith Lacey, Executive Director of  the Hungary Initiatives Foundation at Marymount University in Arlington, VA

“The HATOG Conference Series has really taken on a special role in the community. It is an opportunity to strengthen regional networks of organizations, provide opportunities for professional development but also to bring everyone together to address community-wide challenges, which oftentimes mimic what we see as challenges in our own organizations,” explained Andrea Lauer Rice, President of the Coalition and longtime HATOG organizer, “In our day-to-day lives, we are always focused on the next event or that week’s challenge, but HATOG allows us to step away from all that, albeit briefly, to really look at the big picture with fellow leaders from across the US. At HATOG X, we focused on youth outreach, which was extremely beneficial in terms of bridging the generations and working together to understand each other’s challenges. I fully expect this approach to become part of all future HATOGs!”

Stefan and Erika Fedor, President of AHHH, and Andrea Lauer Rice, did the lion’s share of the work in preparing and managing this conference. Coalition interns, who are in DC as part of the Coalition Internship Program, also helped at every stage.

HATOG’s initial networking event was to participate in the Hungarian Charity Ball held on Friday, May 19 at Sheraton Premiere in Tysons Corner, VA. The proceeds of this event, organized by AHHH and the Hungarian Scouts of Washington, will support the Eszeny Bocskai Istvan Middle School, a Hungarian school in Ukraine and will help to establish Hungarian scholarship fund for Hungarian American students. 

The two-day HATOG conference was held at Marymount University in Arlington, VA.  The event began Saturday, with short presentations on each participating organization’s activities. Coalition President Emeritus Max Teleki and Coalition Chairman of the Board Agnes Virga presented an overview of the mission and programs of the Coalition.  Stefan Fedor’s introduction of AHHH followed during which he expressed his goal of cooperating with other organizations and providing opportunities to hold events at Marymount.

László Hámos, President of the Diaspora Council’s U.S. Section then reported on the council’s work in Budapest and at Regional Diaspora Meetings organized by the Embassy of Hungary. The Diaspora Council focuses on eight topic areas: nurturing Hungarian cultural heritage; Hungarian language teaching; Reconnect Hungary Birthright Program; Kőrösi Csoma Sandor Program; promoting Hungarian business and trade; world-map of Hungarians; advocacy of important issues; Memory Project Hungarian America Visual History Archive.

During Mr. Hamos’ presentation, he invited several participants involved in the various initiatives to update the conference. The first was Kathleen Horan, a 3rd generation Hungarian American, who described her experience of the ReConnect Hungary (Birthright) Program.  She emphasized its educational value and its ripple-effect in the greater Hungarian American community.

Gabe Rozsa, Executive Director of the Kossuth Foundation, then followed with a presentation on the history and current situation of the Kossuth House in Washington, DC.

Marymount University President, Dr. Matthew Shank and Vice President of University Advancement Joe Foster appeared briefly to welcome HATOG participants and said they were grateful for their partnership with the AHHH. 

After lunch, Endre Szentkiralyi made a presentation on the history of the Hungarian American community in the U.S., with a special focus on recently established Hungarian Scout Troops as indication of the survival of Hungarian communities in certain geographical areas.

His remarks were followed by Andrea Lauer Rice’s report on the present state of the Hungarian American community, and a summary of the results of the pre-conference survey of HATOG participants. She also described Dezso Farkas’ sociological research project, entitled ‘American-Hungarian or Hungarian-American? – The identity of the modern-day Hungarians in the U.S’.

Two professional development sessions followed for which participants were divided into two groups. The first group talked about Strategic Planning – Fact-finding Interview with Community Representatives’ led by Barbara Sahli of Chroma Design and Communications.  The second half of participants were split into two “youth leader” break out groups, who discussed the following questions: Where do you see the community in 20 years?; Out-of-the-box Ideas on Sharing Heritage; If you were Supreme Leader of the Hungarian American community, what would you do?; How have you successfully engaged the youth in the Hungarian American community? How would you like to improve? Advice? These group discussions were led by Faye Gillespie with each group leader presenting their findings to all conference participants.

After the presentations of all break-out groups, Melissa Katkó Pepin, Executive Director of the Hungarian American Foundation (New Brunswick, NJ) gave an update on the work of the Foundation and talked about her goal of maintaining founder August J. Molnar’s legacy while also modernizing the foundation for future generations. Ildikó Nagy then spoke about the challenges of maintaining the building of the Hungarian House in New York and expressed a need for a best practices workshop for Hungarian community centers in other cities.

The program continued with Andrea Lauer Rice’s report on the Memory Project, launched in 2015 by Andrea and Réka Pigniczky, Coalition member and award-winning documentary filmmaker. The Memory Project: Hungarian American Visual History Archive has more than 100 video interviews with Hungarian-Americans who immigrated to the United States in WWII (as Displaced Persons) or in 1956. After showing a brief trailer of the project she discussed next steps to build an internship program to train young people across the US to conduct these interviews within their own communities. She also mentioned they were looking into the possibility of taking the entire project global. 

Anna Smith Lacey, Executive Director of the Hungary Initiatives Foundation, concluded the day’s presentations.  She explained the most important criteria HIF considers when deciding on project grants, and gave practical advice for organizations on how to apply.

In the evening, participants attended dinner and a Hungarian wine-tasting at Marymount University’s Reinsch Library Board Room and Reception area. Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi, and HIF Board Member Dr. Tamás Fellegi, who were on campus for the day’s commencement ceremonies, dropped by the dinner to mingle with participants.

On Sunday morning, Elizabeth (Dyar) Stiff, Co-Founder of Native Collaboration, held a social media outreach and strategy workshop for participants. She provided a brief overview of various forms of social media platforms and led an exercise on how to develop a strategic communication plan.

Next, Anna Voloshin, Senior Director of Development at The McCain Institute for International Leadership, held a professional development session on fundraising and grant writing. She led an interactive discussion on the basic tenets of successful fundraising events and strategies, while asking for participants to share their own personal examples.

After lunch, Csilla Grauzer, President, Minnesota Hungarians and VP of the Coalition joined Melissa Katko Pepkin, AHF, to share stories about non-traditional funding vehicles that had been successful in their own communities. They provided practical advice on where to access lists of potential grants and how to reach outside of the Hungarian community for support.

Grauzer, who has attended several HATOG Conferences in the past, addressed the focus on youth outreach at this year’s event. “Bringing younger and older Hungarian community members together to talk, share ideas, skills and knowledge allows both groups to understand more about each other and the needs of the community. The HATOG atmosphere encourages everyone involved to learn new skills, think creatively and make new relationships. Joining forces as equal partners gives young people real ownership and power in planning and decision-making and encourages them into leadership roles.”

Andrea Lauer Rice closed the conference by highlighting ways to keep the lines of communication open for this group and how to continue working together to solve community challenges. She also mentioned that the Coalition would likely be looking to organize the next HATOG XI somewhere on the West Coast.

Among the participants, enthusiasm was high. Piros Pazaurek, HungarianHub in Daytona Beach attended her first HATOG, said “It was an honor to participate and experience a long weekend in the incredible atmosphere of Washington D.C. During the HATOG conference with Hungarians from all across the United States, we had the chance to share best practices and learned a lot about fundraising events and what other communities are doing. Overall this event was very beneficial to myself and to the HungarianHub as well.”

The organizers will post a report on HATOG X with the presentations in the near future.

The following organizations and their representatives attended the conference:
Emese Asztalos – Putnam Memorial Presbyterian Church – A Hungarian Community, Daytona Beach, FL

Anne Bader – Hungarian American Coalition, Washington, DC

Alice Balla Tomasino – Hungarian Club of Colorado; HUNGARICUS Hungarian-American Cultural
Society, Denver, CO

Akos Balogh – Boston, MA

Tibor Baki – Hungarian Scouts of Cleveland, OH

Noemi Banhidi – Hungarian American Coalition, Washington, DC

Timea Boross – Midlands Hungarians, Columbia, SC

Viktoria Butala – Makvirag Ovoda, Orlando, FL

Lorand Csibi – Hungarian Media Foundation (Bocskai Radio), Cleveland, OH

Miklos Czaun – US West Coast Club of Hungarian Scientists, Los Angeles, CA

Erika Fedor – American Hungarian Heritage House, Washington, DC

Stefan Fedor – American Hungarian Heritage House, Washington, DC

Eszter Gagnon – Triangle Magyar Klub, Charlotte, NC

Faye Gillespie – Hungarian Society of Massachusetts, Boston, MA

Csaba Gondola – Tom Lantos Fellow, Washington, DC

Csilla Grauzer – Minnesota Hungarians, Minneapolis, MN

Peter Gyombolai – Embassy of Hungary, Washington, DC

Laszlo Hamos – Hungarian Human Rights Foundation, New York, NY

Anna Hargitai – Hungarian Scouts of Washington, Washington, DC

Istvan Hargitai – Hungarian Scouts of Washington, American Hungarian Heritage House; Washington, DC

Krisztina Hargitai – Hungarian Scouts of Washington, American Hungarian Heritage House; Washington, DC

Monika Harmund – HungarianHub, Daytona Beach, FL

Kathleen Horan – Reconnect Hungary, New York, NY

Kinga Hydras – Hungarian Academy / DC Magyar Iskola, Washington, DC

Zsuzsanna Igyarto – Metroplex Magyar Cultural Circle, Dallas, TX

Botond Igyarto – Metroplex Magyar Cultural Circle, Dallas, TX

Ildiko Juhasz – Hungarian Society of Massachusetts, Boston, MA

Eva K. Balogh – World Club New England Chapter, Boston, MA

Melissa Katkó Pepin – American Hungarian Foundation, New Brunswick, NJ

Erika Klatyik – Global Friendship Foundation/Magyar Fesztival, Sarasota, FL

Fanni Lakatos – Hungarian Club of Chicago, IL

Edith Lauer – Hungarian American Coalition, Cleveland, OH

John Lauer – Hungarian American Coalition, Cleveland, OH

Andrea Lauer Rice – Hungarian American Coalition, Atlanta, GA

Christoph Ludwig – Hungarian Cultural Institute Chicago, IL

Judit Ludwig-Janosy – Hungarian Cultural Institute Chicago, IL

Eva Lukonits – Intern, Hungarian American Coalition, Washington, DC

Zita Merenyi-Bolla – Hungary Initiatives Foundation, Washington, DC

Borbala Mezo – Hungarian Scouts of Hollywood, CA

Zsolt Molnar – Bocskai Radio, Cleveland, OH

Luca Morocz – Intern, Hungarian American Coalition, Washington, DC

Adrienne Myslenczki – Hungarian Scouts of Washington, AHHH, Washington, DC

Ildiko Nagy – Hungarian House, New York, NY

Krisztina Osvat – Embassy of Hungary, Washington, DC

Zsofia Parragh – Calasanctius Training Program, Washington, DC

Piros Pazaurek – HungarianHub, Daytona Beach, FL

Eszter Pigniczky – Hungarian Scouts of Cleveland, OH

Mariann Polgar-Turcsanyi – Bela Bartok Hungarian Kindergarten and School (Boskola), Boston, MA

Viktor Polya – Calasanctius Training Program, Buffalo, NY

Anna Powless – Hungarian American Club of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

Gabor Rozsa – Kossuth Foundation of the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America, Washington, DC

Anna Smith Lacey – Hungary Initiatives Foundation, Washington, DC

Elizabeth Szabo Vos – Magyar Marketing, Evansville, IN

Csilla Szekely – United Magyar House, Los Angeles, CA

Janos Szekeres – Hungarian American Coalition, Washington, DC

Zsolt Szekeres – Hungarian American Coalition, Washington, DC

Endre Szentkiralyi – Cleveland United Hungarian Societies, Cleveland, OH

Zsuzsanna Szikora – Talpra Magyar Sport Kupa, Orlando, FL

Noemi Szilagyi – Hungarian Christian Society; Hungarian Scouts, Sarasota, FL

Maximilian Teleki – Hungarian American Coalition, Washington, DC

Judit Trunkos – Midlands Hungarians, Columbia, SC

Agnes Virga –Hungarian Society of Massachusetts, Boston, MA

Eszter Volner – Korosi Csoma Sandor Program intern, Washington, DC

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