Great Hungarian communities in the USA: New York City

Although we do not know the exact number, there are certainly a lot of Hungarians living in New York City either legally or illegally. The city is like a melting pot, with many many different people. When someone is immigrating into the US their first stop is usually New York. Some move on from there but many stay. 

There was not one but two Hungarian quarters in New York referred to as Little Hungary. The original one centred around today’s East Village, where 2nd Avenue was dubbed the Hungarian Broadway. For a while, almost every house on the part of Second Avenue between Houston and East 10th streets had either Hungarians or Bohemians living in them. Later they relocated to Yorkville, where the 79th street east of Lexington Avenue became the new hungarian broadway, also known as “Goulash Boulevard.”

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Since there is no longer a whole Hungarian quarter, there is really no huge concentration of Hungarians in one place. There may be about a hundred thousand Hungarians living in New York City or the area, but that still means that they could be hours away from each other. Still, some organisations try to bring them together from time to time.  The Hungarian House, for example, is a place that helps the local Hungarian Americans maintain their hungarian identity and cultivate hungarian culture and language. 

There are some other organisations and communities in New York that every Hungarian should check out. Let us start with the 10 Thousand Steps Hungarian Bookstore that not only offers books in English and Hungarian, but they also host many events and workshops, teaching kids and adults music, drawing, creating writing, literature, languages and other things. If you are interested in language learning, check out the American Hungarian Library and Historical Society too. They are located in the Hungarian House and are the centre of literary, cultural and social life for the Hungarian Americans in the area. They offer meet-the-author events, book launches, academic lectures and concerts just to name a few. They also have Hungarian language courses for those who want to learn from native speakers. Their 6,000 volume book collection makes language learning even more interesting. 

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Many Hungarians face a difficult situation when they try to teach their children what it means to be Hungarian. You can teach them the language when they are little, tell them our stories, have them watch some Hungarian cartoons, celebrate our holidays, but it is hard to do everything on your own. Hungarian is not a language you can only speak at home, with your family. Children can easily learn new languages when they are little, but they need many different situations where they can actively use it. They need more people who speak to them in Hungarian, not just their mom or dad.

Luckily, there are some communities in New York City that are especially built with this in mind, giving a place for Hungarian children where they can exercise their language skills. The Arany János Hungarian School of New York is open every Saturday from 9:30 to 12:30 and they organize events for different age groups. There is a mommy-and-me playgroup called Bóbita for babies and toddlers, where children and their caregivers spend an hour singing Hungarian nursery rhymes, children’s songs and play games. The children ages 3 to 6 can have 3-hour-long classes with certified teachers, where they learn communication skills, Hungarian culture and traditions. Ages 6 and up learn reading and writing in Hungarian, as well as basic historical and geographical knowledge of Hungary.

There was a time when you could go into Little Hungary, hear the Hungarian language spoken on the streets, eat Hungarian foods, buy trinkets from small Hungarian stores. Nowadays the Hungarians are scattered in New York, but the Hungarian House and all the organisations mentioned earlier still give a place to meet people, attend events together, speak our language and exercise our traditions.