To my knowledge only one Hungarian Unitarian minister led a congregation in the US after World War II: Alexander Szent-Ivanyi, or Szentiványi Sándor, who for a time was deputy bishop of the Unitarian Church of Hungary, in Budapest. (To have equal political prestige with the dominant Catholic Church, protestant groups maintained a so-called episcopal structure, though unlike their Catholic peers, protestant bishops are elected for specified terms of office.)
Szent-Ivanyi earned himself much goodwill in the United States with his work saving Jews from deportation during Hungary's tragic days. But he joined the UU and his congregation was strictly anglo, in Lancaster, Massachusetts.
In the 1960's a couple of American Hungarian students, one of them the present writer (the other is Dr. Andrew Ludanyi, of Ohio Northern University) organized a Hungarian correspondence club from Louisiana State University, which eventually grew into what is now the Magyar Baráti Közösség (MBK, or Hungarian Communion of Friends), a charitable-educational-religious society based on Unitarian principles. Szent-Ivanyi "Sándor bácsi" (Uncle Alex) joined the society, became kind of an advisor-mentor for the group, and remained a faithful member until his death. From him we learned about Hungarian as well as American Unitarianism, and he was instrumental in introducing us to the UU in one of their official publications. That, in turn won us IRS approval.
We'll make no secret of it: the chief raison d'être of the society in the beginning was preserving our Hungarian identity and our ties to Old Hungary - that is, including the Hungarian communities that, through fortunes of war, had become collective subjects of Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia or the Soviet Union. We chose an essentially religious approach, since, while focusing primarily on culture, we were convinced that cultural values were of religious significance. (Those who insist on a "literal" interpretation of the Bible will disagree, but in doing so they are being less than honest with themselves.)
Why Unitarianism appealed to us is easily explained. Its Hungarian origins played a role: the Unitarian Church is the only church born on Hungarian soil, and the only one whose theologians have been free to do some independent thinking, instead of borrowing every idea from western Europe, primarily from the Swiss and the Germans, as other "mainline" Hungarian protestant groups had done. Unitarians alone preached freedom, reason and tolerance - rare virtues in Hungarian society, but all congruent with American values. And their basic theology was very simple: Egy az Isten (God is One) is an easily grasped symbol. This symbol is anti-trinitarian, but while that was a very important issue in the era of the Reformation, it is not the most important consideration today.
One could say that Hungarian Unitarianism has set aside the dogmatic elements of Christianity and reduced their complexity to a theology and an ethical code that can serve as a common denominator for adherents of various churches, and even for the "unchurched", to use the received jargon. In other words, it could appeal to a religiously multicultural grouping.
The MBK did not itself become a church, which has never been its intention. We did hope to establish local groups, but in general the attempt was a failure. The MBK of the Hungarian diaspora has been meeting yearly for nearly 40 years, for a week-long summer camp - but as the years rolled on, there was less and less talk of religion and ethics, the three weekly services were reduced to two, and are about to be eliminated. The membership's main interest is political, as it was in the bad old days of Communism; as for the rest, it's all fellowship and fun. That is itself a good thing, language practice, if nothing else.
I am disappointed, but not bitter; in retrospect it is clear that we set ourselves an impossible task. In the end I stand alone with my convictions: by choice a true unitárius ['oonee‚tahrioosh], free, and, I should hope, reasonable and tolerant.
For all that, I intend to pursue the original aims of the MBK, by other means.