Search
Print
Share
Your Selected Item:
1 \ 7
Removed
Added
Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions

The Jewish Community of Mukacheve

Mukacheve

Hungarian: Munkacs; Czech: Mukacevo; Yiddish: Munkatch

A city in western Ukraine.

Mukacheve is located by the Latorica River, in the Zakarpattia Oblast (province). Until World War I (1914-1918) it was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Between the two World Wars Mukacheve was part of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. After World War II (1939-1945) Mukacheve became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic; since 1991 it has been part of independent Ukraine.

In 2014 a memorial consisting of the remains of broken tombstones, as well as a menorah, was erected where Mukacheve’s Jewish cemetery was once located. Until then the site had been used first as a parking lot, and then as a vacant lot.

HISTORY

Documents indicate that the Jewish community of Mukacheve was founded during the second half of the 17th century, though there is also evidence indicating that individual Jews were living in the surrounding area beforehand. Jewish sources refer to "Minkatchov, a town situated on the banks of the Latartza River and of springs." After the community’s founding, the Jewish population rapidly increased, and Mukacheve became one of the largest communities in Hungary. Interestingly, the Jewish community of Mukacheve eventually became well-known for commitments to two opposing ideologies. On the one hand, Mukacheve became known for its extreme conservatism and commitment to the Hasidic movement, while also becoming known for its Zionism and advocacy of modern Jewish education.

The Jewish population grew, and was continuously augmented by new arrivals from Galicia. In 1741 there were 80 Jewish families living in Mukacheve; the Jewish population doubled by 1815. In 1830 there were 202 Jews living in Mukacheve, and in 1842 there were 301.

In the beginning, Mukacheve’s Jews worked in commerce and acted as brokers in the trade between Galicia and Hungary. Other Jews worked as farmers and craftsmen. As the community grew, its members became more involved in local and national politics; during the Hungarian revolt against the Austrians (1848-1849) 247 Jews from Mukacheve joined the local guard. Additionally, the Jews of Mukacheve worked on developing community institutions; a large yeshiva was established in 1851, and a Hebrew press was founded in 1871. Two additional synagogues were built in 1895 and 1903.

Prominent rabbis who served the community included Tzevi Shapira, who succeeded his father in 1893; Solomon Shapira, Rabbi Tzevi’s grandson; and Chaim Eleazar Shapira, who began his tenure in 1913 and became known as the leading opponent of Zionism in the Hasidic world. After Rabbi Chaim’s death in 1937 he was succeeded by his son-in-law, Baruch Rabinowitz, who would ultimately serve as a rabbi in the Israeli city of Holon.

In 1891 the community numbered 5,049 (47.9% of the total population). In 1910 Mukacheve’s Jewish population was 7,675 (44% of the total). The Jews of Mukacheve numbered 10,012 in 1921 (48% of the total); and 11,241 (43% of the total) in 1930; during the latter census, 88% of the Jews in Mukacheve registered their nationality as Jewish.

INTERWAR PERIOD

Between the two World Wars Jews participated actively in the administration and political life of Mukacheve. In spite of Mukacheve’s heavy Hasidic presence and influence, the Zionist party of Czechoslovakia found many local supporters. Local students, as well as those from the surrounding area, flocked to the first Hebrew elementary school, which was founded in 1920 by the Organization of Hebrew Schools in Subcarpathian Ruthenia. A Hebrew high school was established in 1925 and, beginning in 1929, was led by Chaim Kugel, who became a member of the Czechoslovakian parliament in 1935; Kugel was later succeeded by Eliahu Rubin.

Hebrew was not the only prominent language in Mukacheve during the interwar period. Four Yiddish newspapers were published in Mukacheve during this time, attesting to the prominence and importance of the Yiddish language.

On the eve of World War II there were about 30 synagogues in Mukacheve, many of which were Hasidic.

Mukacheve reverted to Hungarian rule in 1938, ushering in a period of discrimination and violence against the region’s Jews that would peak during the Holocaust.

THE HOLOCAUST

Beginning in 1940, many of Mukacheve’s young Jewish men were drafted into work battalions and sent to the Russian front. Then, in July and August, 1941, Jewish families who did not have Hungarian citizenship were expelled to Galicia.

The Germans occupied Hungary in March of 1944. Shortly thereafter, the Jews of Mukacheve were forced into a ghetto that spanned a few streets. Sanitary conditions were extremely poor, and food was in short supply. Those who were able to work were conscripted for forced labor. Deportations to Auschwitz began during the second half of May, 1944. By the end of the month there were no Jews left in Mukacheve.

POSTWAR

After the war approximately 2,500 Jews returned to the city. However, after the Soviet annexation many left, mostly for Czechoslovakia and the newly-created State of Israel.

Jewish life in Mukacheve proved to be difficult under Soviet rule. The synagogues were confiscated; the last remaining synagogue building was converted into a warehouse in 1959. Some Jews were imprisoned for practicing kosher slaughter.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 Jews were living in Mukacheve in the late 1960s.By the 1990s, however, almost all of the city’s remaining Jews emigrated to Israel and the west.

Place Type:
City
ID Number:
117279
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:
Pikler, I. Gyula (1864-1952), statistician and economist, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire, now Mukachevo, Ukraine). He received the degree of M.D. at the University of Vienna, Austria, and served as health officer in Hungary, contributing to medical journals of several countries. From 1897 on he was in charge of the mortality statistics of Budapest; subsequently he became vice-director of the statistical bureau of Budapest. From 1919 to 1924 he was director of the Hungarian real estate assessment bureau.
Upon retirement he lectured throughout Europe on the theory of the revenue from land. He published several works in Hungarian on the taxation of real estate and on Hungarian land reform.
Kahane, Isaak (Yitzhak Ze'ev) (1904-1963), rabbinic scholar, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary, now Mukacevo in Ukraine). He studied at yeshivot in his hometown, where he was ordained as a rabbi, but continued his studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) and the University of Prague, Czech Republic. He served as rabbi of Pohorelice (Pohrlitz), Moravia, Czech Republic (then part of Czechoslovakia), until his emigration to Palestine in 1939.

In Jerusalem he was associated with Mosad ha-Rav Kook and several other religious research institutions. During the last years of his life, he taught rabbinic literature at Bar Ilan University.

Kahane's major field of research was rabbinic response literature. He conducted studies in which he analyzed specific topics and discussed the manner in which they had be dealt with in rabbinic responsa. He often abstracted material of historical or linguistic interest from them.

Among his works are "Shemittat Kesafim" (1945) on the cancellation of debts in the sabbatical year, "Le-Takkanat Agunot" (1946) on the agunah ("deserted wife") problem, "Sefer ha-Agunot" (1954), a large collection of source material on the agunah question, and "Teshuvot, Pesakim u-Minhagim" (1957-62) which consists of responsa, rulings, and customs of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, all of which were arranged and annotated systematically. His contributions to Hebrew scholarly periodicals and publications included: "Military Service in Rabbinic Responsa" (1948), "Changes in the Value of Currency in Jewish Law" (1949); "Medicine in Post-Talmudic Halakhic Literature"(1950) and "Synagogue Art in Halakhic Literature" (1955). He also wrote a history of the Jews of Moravia, which included a monograph on the Jewish community of Nikolsburg.
Weiss, Yosef Meir (Joseph Meir) (Spinker Rebbe, aka Imrei Yosef after his major work) (1838-1909), rabbi and author, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire, now Mukachevo, in Ukraine), where his father, Samuel Zevi, was head of a yeshivah. He studied under his uncle, Yizhak Izak Weiss, in the small town of Svalyava (now in the Ukraine); later at the yeshivah of Meir Eisenstadt and his son in Ungvar (Uzhorod, Ukraine); and subsequently in the yeshivah of Shmelkel Klein in Nagyszollos (Vinogradov). After his marriage he was head of a yeshivah in Borsa (now in Romania). On the death of his wife he returned to his parents' home in Munkacs. After his remarriage he stayed with his father-in-law.

Later he became an adherent of his uncle, the Hasidic rabbi, Isaac Izak Eichenstein of Zydaczow, whom he regarded as his teacher in Kabbalah and with whom he remained for a period. The Eichenstein dynasty of hasidic rabbis held their court at Zydaczow, founded by Tsevi Hirsch Eichenstein (died 1831). After Isaac Izac Eichenstein's death, many considered Weiss his successor and he had many disciples. He went on to found the dynasty of Spinka (Sapanta, in Romania) which combines the characteristics of the schools of Zydaczow and Zanz.

He was the subject of many legends. Weiss wrote a work on the Pentateuch. He also published “Likkutei Torah ve-ha-Shas” of his teacher and uncle, Yizhak Izak of Zydaczov.
Rabbi

Born in Munkacs, he studied and was ordained there. He then studied at the Breslau Rabbinical Seminary and the University of Prague. Kahane then became rabbi of Pohorelice, remaining until he left for Palestine in 1939. There he engaged in research and in his latter years taught rabbinic literature at Bar-Ilan University. Kahane's main researches were in responsa literature on which he wrote extensively including a three-volume work on Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg.
Amos Rubin in front of the Straus Home where he was hidden during world War II. Munkach 1998.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
Rachel Balkanyi, Munkach, Czechoslovakia 1930
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
One Year Old Toddler Amos Rubin in the Backyard of his Home. Munkach, Czechoslovakia 1933
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
The boy Amos Rubin with Fifi the dog in the backyard of the Straus family, who hid him and saved his life during the Nazi occupation.
Munkach, Hungary 1944.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
Eliyahu and Rachel Rubin with son Amos
and neighbors' children.
Munkach, Czechoslovakia 1935/36.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
Yearbook of the Hebrew Gymnasium in Munkach,
edited by Ing. Eliyahu Rubin, headmaster of the school.
Czechoslovakia 1938/39
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
Margit and Josef Straus with Russian Soldiers
at the end of WWII, Munkach, Hungary 1945.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
Weiss, Yosef Meir (Joseph Meir) (Spinker Rebbe, aka Imrei Yosef after his major work) (1838-1909), rabbi and author, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire, now Mukachevo, in Ukraine), where his father, Samuel Zevi, was head of a yeshivah. He studied under his uncle, Yizhak Izak Weiss, in the small town of Svalyava (now in the Ukraine); later at the yeshivah of Meir Eisenstadt and his son in Ungvar (Uzhorod, Ukraine); and subsequently in the yeshivah of Shmelkel Klein in Nagyszollos (Vinogradov). After his marriage he was head of a yeshivah in Borsa (now in Romania). On the death of his wife he returned to his parents' home in Munkacs. After his remarriage he stayed with his father-in-law.

Later he became an adherent of his uncle, the Hasidic rabbi, Isaac Izak Eichenstein of Zydaczow, whom he regarded as his teacher in Kabbalah and with whom he remained for a period. The Eichenstein dynasty of hasidic rabbis held their court at Zydaczow, founded by Tsevi Hirsch Eichenstein (died 1831). After Isaac Izac Eichenstein's death, many considered Weiss his successor and he had many disciples. He went on to found the dynasty of Spinka (Sapanta, in Romania) which combines the characteristics of the schools of Zydaczow and Zanz.

He was the subject of many legends. Weiss wrote a work on the Pentateuch. He also published “Likkutei Torah ve-ha-Shas” of his teacher and uncle, Yizhak Izak of Zydaczov.
Kahane, Isaak (Yitzhak Ze'ev) (1904-1963), rabbinic scholar, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary, now Mukacevo in Ukraine). He studied at yeshivot in his hometown, where he was ordained as a rabbi, but continued his studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) and the University of Prague, Czech Republic. He served as rabbi of Pohorelice (Pohrlitz), Moravia, Czech Republic (then part of Czechoslovakia), until his emigration to Palestine in 1939.

In Jerusalem he was associated with Mosad ha-Rav Kook and several other religious research institutions. During the last years of his life, he taught rabbinic literature at Bar Ilan University.

Kahane's major field of research was rabbinic response literature. He conducted studies in which he analyzed specific topics and discussed the manner in which they had be dealt with in rabbinic responsa. He often abstracted material of historical or linguistic interest from them.

Among his works are "Shemittat Kesafim" (1945) on the cancellation of debts in the sabbatical year, "Le-Takkanat Agunot" (1946) on the agunah ("deserted wife") problem, "Sefer ha-Agunot" (1954), a large collection of source material on the agunah question, and "Teshuvot, Pesakim u-Minhagim" (1957-62) which consists of responsa, rulings, and customs of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, all of which were arranged and annotated systematically. His contributions to Hebrew scholarly periodicals and publications included: "Military Service in Rabbinic Responsa" (1948), "Changes in the Value of Currency in Jewish Law" (1949); "Medicine in Post-Talmudic Halakhic Literature"(1950) and "Synagogue Art in Halakhic Literature" (1955). He also wrote a history of the Jews of Moravia, which included a monograph on the Jewish community of Nikolsburg.
Pikler, I. Gyula (1864-1952), statistician and economist, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire, now Mukachevo, Ukraine). He received the degree of M.D. at the University of Vienna, Austria, and served as health officer in Hungary, contributing to medical journals of several countries. From 1897 on he was in charge of the mortality statistics of Budapest; subsequently he became vice-director of the statistical bureau of Budapest. From 1919 to 1924 he was director of the Hungarian real estate assessment bureau.
Upon retirement he lectured throughout Europe on the theory of the revenue from land. He published several works in Hungarian on the taxation of real estate and on Hungarian land reform.
Rabbi

Born in Munkacs, he studied and was ordained there. He then studied at the Breslau Rabbinical Seminary and the University of Prague. Kahane then became rabbi of Pohorelice, remaining until he left for Palestine in 1939. There he engaged in research and in his latter years taught rabbinic literature at Bar-Ilan University. Kahane's main researches were in responsa literature on which he wrote extensively including a three-volume work on Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg.

Yossele Josef Rosenblatt (1882-1933) , cantor, born in Belaya Tserkov, Ukraine, son of a cantor, a Ruzhiner Chassid who frequented the court of the Sadagora Rabbi. Yossele Rosenblatt began to appear with his father when he was nine years old. His first appointment as cantor was in Munkacs, Hungary when he was 18 years old. A year later he moved to Pressburg, Hungary (now Bratislava, Slovakia) where he stayed for five years and during which time he composed 150 recitatives and choral pieces. Yossele Rosenblatt spent the following five years in Hamburg, Germany, moving to New York in 1912. He became cantor in New York and his reputation spread quickly. His refusal to sing and record the role of Eleazar in Halevi’s opera “La Juive” – for religious reasons – caused a storm. In 1925, after making a dubious investment in Yiddish newspaper venture, Rosenblatt was forced to declare bankruptcy. He retired as a cantor but continued to perform in concerts. In 1933 he came to Eretz Israel to participate in a movie production. After filming a scene at the Dead Sea, he suffered a stroke and died, aged fifty-one. Rosenblatt, considered the greatest cantor of his generation was buried on the Mount Olives, Jerusalem.

Ludovic Bruckstein (Joseph-Leib Arye Bruckstein) (1920-1988), playwright and novelist, born in Mukachevo, Czechoslovakia (now in Ukraine). Bruckstein was the great-grandson of Chaim-Josef Bruckstein, one of the first Hassidim, a follower of the Baal Shem Tov, and author of a book called “Tosafot Haim”. When he was four years of age, his family moved to Sighet, in Romania. Sighet, as part of Northern Transylvania region, was ruled by Hungary between 1940 to 1944. In May 1944, his entire family was deported to Auschwitz Nazi death camp. Ludovic was then transferred to Bergen-Belzen Nazi concentration camp, and then to forced-labor camps in Hildesheim, Hanover, Gross-Rosen, Wolfsberg, and Wüstegiersdorf. He was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945. Of his family, only Ludovic and his younger brother Israel survived the Holocaust.

Before WW2 he graduated from the Commercial High School in Sighet. After the war he studied in Cluj and in Bucharest. He returned to Sighet and served as teacher and ten as principal of the local elementary school of art.

He started his literary career in 1945 writing in Romanian, Hungarian, and Yiddish. His stories were published in Viaţa Românească literary magazine. His plays, in Romanian and Yiddish, were inspired by the trauma of the Holocaust or by Hasidic legends. Several of these plays were staged by the Jewish State Theater in Bucharest (TES): Familia Grinvald (“The Grinvald Family”, 1953), Generaţia din pustiu (“The Desert Generation”, 1956), and Un proces neterminat (“An Unfinished Trial”, 1962). From 1950 till 1967 he wrote about twenty plays performed in many theaters in Romania, Soviet Union, and Poland.

In 1972 he immigrated to Israel. He continued writing in Romanian, mainly short stories, but some of his work was also published in Hebrew. Bruckstein was one of the founders of the Association of Israeli Writers in the Romanian Language. He was a member of the Yiddish and Hebrew Writers’ Union too.

His works include Schimbul de noapte (“Night shift”, 1948) - a play in Yiddish about the Sonderkommando uprising in Auschwitz, Întoarcerea lui Cristofor Columb ("The Return of Christopher Columbus", 1957), Poate chiar fericire ("Maybe Even Happiness", 1985), Destinul lui Iaacov Maghid ("The Fate of Yaakov Magid", 1975), The Murmur of Water (1987). One of his last two short stories he wrote during his last months of life were published as Trap and deals with the fate of a young Jew who survives the deportations of the Jews of Sighet to Nazi death camps by hiding in the woods only to be arrested by the Soviets and sent to Siberia.

Starting from 2005, Bruckstein’s entire prose work was translated into Hebrew by the writer Yotam Reuveni.

Khust
 

Czech: Chust

A town in Subcarpathian Ruthenia (Transcarpathian Oblast), Ukraine.

Between the two world wars in Czechoslovakia.

The Jewish community established in the middle of the 18th century numbered 14 families in 1792. Jacob of Zhidachov was appointed as the first rabbi in 1812. In the mid-19th century, the community became one of the largest and most important in northern Hungary, mainly through the authority of the orthodox leader, Moses Schick, rabbi of Khust from 1861 to 1879. Most of the orthodox rabbis in Hungary were trained in his yeshivah, which had some 400 students. His successors, Amram Blum, and Moses Grunwald (1893-1912), prevented the development of chasidism in the community.

Under Czechoslovakian rule (1920-38), Khust had an active Jewish party in 1923. The rabbi of the town from 1921 to 1933 was Joseph Duschinsky, later rabbi of the separatist orthodox community of Jerusalem. The number of Jews living in the town was 3,391 in 1921 and 4,821 in 1930; in that same year 11,276 Jews (15.8% of the total population) lived in the Khust district.

The Jews of Khust were among the first to suffer when the area came under Hungarian rule in 1938. Jewish men of military service age were forced into the labor battalions. In 1942 there were approximately 100-130 yeshivah students in Khust. About 10,000 Jews from the town and district were concentrated in a ghetto in the spring of 1944, and from there deported to the Nazi death camps. In April 1944 the town was declared Judenrein. After World War II the community was revived.

In the late 1960s the authorities permitted a synagogue to open in Khust, the only one in the district, and the community had a shochet. At the time the number of Jewish families in the town was estimated at 400.

Selish

Hungarian: Nagy-Szölös; Slovak: Velky Sevlus; Russian: Vinogradov; Ukrainian: Vynohradiv

A town in Zakarpatskaja Oblast in western Ukraine. Between the world wars years Selish was part of Czechoslovakia, until the end of World War I part of Hungary within the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Selish is situated on the right bank of the Tisza river. The name means vineyard and the area was a wine making district. The town serves as a center for the surrounding agricultural region but also has furniture factories and brick-yards. The town was part of a variety of jurisdictions in the 2oth century.  During the period of Hungarian rule until 1918, the city served as the capital of the Ugocsa district. In 1919 the city was annexed by the new Republic of Czechoslovakia. During the war years, 1939-45 it returned to Hungarian rule. In June, 1945 the area was annexed by the Soviet Union and since 1947 the town has been called Vinogradov.

 

History

According to Hungarian historical sources, some Jewish families lived in the town already in the 17th century.  As a result of the Chmielnicki pogroms in 1648, Jew fled Poland and the Ukraine and found refuge in the villages and estates of the baronial families Perenyi, Acel and Fogarasi.

Still, life was not peaceful and at the end of the 17th century fighters of the Hungarian uprising under the leadership of Ferenc (Franz) Rakoczi II, organized pogroms against the Jews. Despite the law forbidding the Jews to settle in Hungarian towns, Jews came to Selish from nearby villages, most of them from Rackowic. After the death of the Austrian Emperor Josef II, whose "Edict of Tolerance" issued in 1782 granted certain privileges and freedom of worship to the Jews, there were attempts to banish Jews from the cities. However, these efforts failed and the Jews remained in Selish.

Jewish Religious Life

Jewish life was vibrant. The first rabbi of the community, Rabbi Yair Katz, was appointed in 1745 and died in 1780. Around 1785-1786, Rabbi Baruch, the father of the famous Rabbi Zalman Schneur, the author of the Tanya and first Chabad rabbi, came to live in Selish until his death in 1792. Rabbi Hacohen Heller (1794-1802), the author of the Kontras Hasefekot ("Book of Questions") about "Hoshen Mishpat" officiated after Rabbi Katz and then Rabbi Chaim Meyer Zev Hacohen Zelenfreund was rabbi during the years 1820-1832. Rabbi Falk, Rabbi Eleazer Lipman Stein and Rabbi Chaim Moshe Hacohen served in the following years. The rabbi who had the greatest influence in shaping the religious structure of the community was Rabbi Shmuel (Shmelke) Klein, the founder of the yeshiva and the author of Tzror HaChaim ("Eternal Life").  He died in 1874 and his son, Rabbi Pinchas Chaim Klein succeeded him.

The Jews of Selish opposed the Reform Movement which was spreading among the Jews of Hungary. Israel Roiz, head of the Jewish community, left the congress of Jewish communities which convened in Budapest in 1868-1869 because it was conducted in the Reform spirit. At the end of the 19th century the yeshiva in Selish was among the 31 yeshivot recognized by the authorities as preparatory schools for rabbis. The students were also obligated to study secular objects at the secondary school level.

The Jews of Selish and the surrounding area supported the Jewish community in Eretz Israel and played a part in the founding of the kollel (talmudic academy) named "Munkacs". Rabbi Pinchas Chaim Klein was chosen as a vice-president of the kollel. After his death in 1923, Rabbi Joseph Nehemia Kornizer was his successor in Selish. In 1925 when Rabbi Kornizer was called to serve in the rabbinate in Krakow, Rabbi Shlomo Israel Klein, the son of Rabbi PinchasChaim served as rabbi, the last rabbi in Selish.

There were a variety of synagogues, batei midrash and Jewish institutions. The central synagogue was the large synagogue built in 1904 on Kiraly street. The Beit Midrash was founded by Abraham Klein. With the increase in the number of congregants who prayed according to the Sephardi custom, the Ashkenazi version was replaced by the Sephardi one.  They continued to pray according to the Ashkenazi tradition in the large synagogue and in the Beit Midrash "Mahzikei Torah" where Rabbi Shmelke prayed. There was also a Hassidic Talmud study house, mikvaot (ritual baths), and organized "Mishnah" study groups  In addition, there was also the prayer-house of the Admor Rabbi Israel Menachem Ehrlich and a few other private places of prayer.

The community offices, the mikvaot, the ritual slaughter house, the synagogue, the homes of the rabbi and judge, the shochet and shamash were all located in the courtyard of the Great Synagogue, the "Schulhof.

The members of the burial society also visited the sick and provided medicines and firewood for the needy.  In the local government hospital that was expanded in 1935 there was a kosher kitchen under the supervision of the burial society. Additional organizations active in Selish were the committee for "Hospitality for Visitors", “Psalms Society”, "Seekers of Justice Society “, womens' organizations and  "Tiferes Bonim“. During the First World War, the community organized a kitchen to provide meals for Jewish soldier prisoners from Russia and Jewish refugees from Galicia.

The Chasidic rabbis (admorim) in the city were Rabbi Israel Mendel Ehrlich; Rabbi Chaim Meyer Yechiel Horowitz; the Rabbi of "Rzeszow". Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Weiss, the Admor of Spinka and the author of the Chekel Yitzchak ("Field of Yitzhak") came  to Selish from Munkacs, organized a yeshiva and a magnificent synagogue. Many hassidim from the whole country came to his court. Until the end of World War I, there were only private teachers in the city. Rabbi Moshe Zeev Katz, who taught Talmud, Rashi and other commentaries, also taught Jewish religious studies in the government schools. A Talmud Torah with five classes was started after the war through the initiative of Moshe Schwartz, Rabbi Shmelke Klein, Tzvi Markowitz, Yehuda Hollander and others. Some of them also founded a school for girls called "Beth Yaacov". The Hassidim had a separate Talmud Torah.

During the period of Czech rule, when the Jews were granted minority rights, Yair Richter and Shlomo Yaacov Gilad taught Judaic studies to Jewish students in the government schools. There were also yeshivot administered by Rabbi Shlomo Israel Klein; the rabbinical judge Jonathan Benjamin, the author of the "Soul of Yonatan" and Rabbi Shmuel Greenwald. Taking advantage of the minority rights legislation, some Hebrew schools were founded. In 1922 a Hebrew school was organized in Selish and during the first year there were 150 pupils. Some of the young people continued their education at the commercial high school or in the trade schools. Some studied at the Hebrew Gymnazia in Munkacs. Many studied in the local yeshivot or in the large yeshivot in Slovakia and Hungary.

Economic Life

Most of the early Jewish settlers were inn-keepers, petty merchants, butchers and craftsmen. Most of them were poor and the Tolerance Tax introduced by the Empress Maria Theresia made their economic position even more difficult. Relief came with the introduction of a more tolerant policy by the Emperor Joseph II when the Jews could enter new fields of employment. The Jews specialized in the production and export of wine, especially to Galicia. The area was an important wine district.  During the grape harvest, many admorim (Hassidic rabbis) came to the city.  

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century there was a substantial improvement in the economic situation of the town's Jews. Some purchased large tracts of land, among them A. Klein, the head of the community, and the founder and director of the Ugocsa Bank. During the 1920s, the Joint Distribution Committee organized a credit bank. Some Jews owned flour mills, factories, textile stores and printing houses. They were also wholesale grain merchants, directors of financial institutions and building contractors. Most of the doctors, the district veterinarian, lawyers and the owner of the first movie house were Jews. Some  Jews were wealthy and  gained  positions of influence in the town.  But there were also workers, coachman and many needy families.

Political Life

The Jews of Selish made efforts to be part of the Hungarian society and in 1848, during the Hungarian Revolution, four Jews fought on their side. After the emancipation of the Hungarian Jews in 1867, many Jews filled important positions. In 1910 the Jewish population was 2,237 (28.6%) in a town of 7,811 inhabitants. Many Jewish refugees arrived from Galicia during World War I including hasidim and their leaders. During the period when the town was part of Czechoslovakia, Noah Jacob Deutsch was the editor and publisher of the Hungarian newspaper "Ugocsa". He was also chairman of the Jewish National Party in the years 1920-1922. In the municipal elections of 1921, eleven representatives of the Jewish Party were elected to the council that contained 36 members. Eliahu Weiss was elected deputy mayor.

Zionism

Zionist activity in the town began with the founding of the “Lovers of Zion" society by Moshe Gutman in 1913.  When World War I broke out in 1914, most of its members were drafted into the army. After the war, Zionist activity was renewed. An organization called "Unity" included Zionists from all parties. Public lectures were sponsored and money collected for the Jewish National Fund. A branch of the WIZO and a youth group for girls called "Miriam" were active. In June, "Unity" split up and branches of the Mizrachi and Revisionist parties were formed. In 1918, Moshe Gutman was elected a member of the Zionist executive board of Hungary. After the war he organized Zionist groups in the region, joined the Mizrachi and was its delegate to the 12th Zionist congress, which took place in Karlsbad. In 1926, 244 shkalim were purchased by the community for the fifteenth Zionist Congress. In 1937, 151 Jews from Selish attended the 20th Zionist Congress. Another active Zionist was Meshullam Fish Weiss. Yitschak Bloch was assistant to the leader of the Beitar in Czechoslovakia. In later years he served as the secretary of the Tel-Chai fund in London. The sports club Maccabi supported a football team.
There were branches of many youth movements: Hashomer Kadima, Hashomer Hatzair, Beitar, Hechalutz and youth movement of Hamizrachi. The youth movements sent their members to training farms and factories as a preparation for aliya.  Selish had a number of such hachshara (preparation for aliyah) programs, and some immigrated to Eretz Israel in small groups or as individuals during the years 1930-1939. During that period about five or six large families also immigrated to Eretz Israel.
 

Small Communities in the district served by Selish

In the area there were several small communities, some populated by Jews who lived there for many years before Jews were allowed to settle in the city. Many were in the wine trade and had small tracts of vineyards or were wine merchants. The rabbis of Selish provided these communities with a “dayan”(judge) and teacher.

Halmi had an  independent Jewish community. In 1865  the rabbi of the rabbinical court was Rabbi Mordechai  Halevi, the author of "Parshat Mordechai “ (The Commentaries of Mordechai) . Rabbi Eliahu Klein served the community for many years. There was also a yeshiva in the village. The Jews of Tur-Terebes joined the community of Halmi when it became independent.

The community in Turcz was independent even before World War I. The first rabbi was Rabbi Chaim Friedrich. His son, Yitzchak, served as rabbi after him, followed by Rabbi A. S. Yerucham Friedman, who headed a yeshiva there.

In Nagy-Tarna there was a small group of Jews and among them were rabbinical judges and teachers.

Except for the four communities mentioned above, which were annexed to Romania after the First World War, the rest of the communities in the area were annexed to Czechoslovakia. During this period the district developed economically.  Most of the Jews owned their own homes and small auxiliary farms and some Jews  even owned large tracts of land.

In Chepa the community numbered 250 Jews. There was a cemetery, a burial society, a Talmud Torah school, and a mishnaioth study group. A caretaker, shochet (ritual slaughterer) and treasurer were employed. The Jews of Csoma, Hetenyi and Gyula were part of the Chepa community. In  Velky-Palad there was a synagogue, a ritual bath and Talmud Torah.  A rabbi and shochet were  also employed.

The following small villages and townships contained usually only 100 to 200 Jews but maintained synagogues and ritual baths. In  Veroecze  the flour mill and stone quarries were  owned by Jews. Goedenyhaza had a Jewish school (cheder) and a Jew was elected to the local council. In Rakasz called Rakisova by the Jews, there was a cheder.  Shmuel Klein, the head of the community, was elected village judge. Several active Mizrachi members lived there and sold Shekelim (membership in the World Zionist Organization) to the wider Jewish public. In Fekete Ardo, the district notary and one of the doctors were Jewish. There was a cemetery and a shochet was employed. In Szaszfalu there was a burial society and a shochet and teacher were employed. The Jews of Nagykopany founded a synagogue that followed Ashkenazi tradition and another synagogue for Hassidim, ritual baths and a burial society. The shochet also served the Jews in the neighboring area. The Jewish youth were Zionist. In Kiskopany Joseph Glick, a wealthy Jew, built a Talmud study house and ritual baths. in the final days of the community they prayed in the neighboring town of Nagykopany. In Nagykonyjat, a shochet and a teacher were employed who arbitrated on matters of halacha. The Jews of Onok used the communal facilities of Konyjat.

The community of Fancsika supported a synagogue, a study- house and ritual baths. The Hassidim who settled in the village organized their own prayer-house according to the Sephardi tradition. The local shochet also served the village of Sasvar. Szirma, which had about 60 Jews maintained a synagogue and a minyan;  Matyfalva and Tisza- Ujhely.

In the villages Tekehaza, Zaricsa, Nagy Sarad, Kis-Sarad, Vlahovo, Ardo, Egres, Boekeny, Salank, Oroszi, Kisrakocz, there were small groups of Jews, but they maintained synagogues and ritual baths and in some cases even employed a shochet or judge.

The following communities contained only a few Jewish families and had no communal facilities: Hreblya, Akli, Fertoes Almas, Csongova, Verboecz, Chyz'a, Csorna, Kistarna, Koekenyesd, Peterfalva, Farkasfalva, Nevetlen Falu, C'orny-Potok, Batar, Tisza Keresztur, Karacsfalva, Forgolany, Tivadar-Falva, Homlovice, Novoselice, Rosztoka, Fakobuekk and Horbka. 

In 1938 there were 8,000 Jews living in Selish and the surrounding area.


The Holocaust

As a result of the Munich pact of September 1938, nearly a year before the outbreak of World War II, the Czechoslovak Republic was dismantled. After the Vienna Agreement (Nov 2, 1938), when part of Carpathian Russia was annexed to Hungary, the town of Selish remained in the autonomous Ukrainian Republic. The disruption of rail communications between Selish and the hinterland caused serious shortages.

The Hungarians invaded the area on March 15, 1939 and confiscated lands and invalidated commercial licenses of the Jews. The community organized a bureau for the protection of Jewish civil rights. The leading members were Moshe Gutman (Zionist) and Lipa Friedman (Hassid) and the secretary was Dr. Mordechai Nichomovitz. The bureau later became a branch of the Omzsa, a Jewish relief organization whose center was in Budapest. They organized occupational courses and opened a communal kitchen for the needy.

The men were drafted into Hungarian Work Battalions in 1941 for forced labor service on the Eastern Front. At that time there were 4,264 Jews in Selish. Jews without citizenship were sent to Kamenetz-Podolsky in Ukraine. Among the 18,000 Jews in the camp were several from Selish and its vicinity. Most of the Jews in the camp were murdered  by the Ukrainians on the orders of the German SS. 

From 1941 till 1944 the Jews in Selish and the area lived under difficult conditions and were subject to harassment. Nevertheless, Zionist activity continued under the guise of scouting.

On March 19, 1944 the Germans invaded Hungary. They organized a Judenrat (Jewish council). The members were Mendel Wuerzburger, Lipa Friedman, Moshe Gutman and others. On the last day of Passover in 1944 the Jews of Selish, and Jews of the Ugocsa and Halmi districts -  12,000 in all were rounded up and forced to move into the ghetto in the vicinity of the communal building in Selish. The wealthy Jews were taken to the synagogue where they were tortured in order to disclose the hiding places of their valuables. Jews from the surrounding area were brought to the ghetto and conditions were very cramped and difficult. The Hungarian Baron Sigmund Perenyi helped the Jews in the ghetto.

The liquidation of the ghetto and the deportations of the Jews to the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau started on the 15th of May 1944.

Moshe Gutman, the community leader chose to stay with his people and was among the first to be deported though he was offered a chance to escape to Budapest. Two additional groups of deportees were sent to Auschwitz and arrived there between the seventh and the thirteenth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan.  A few members of the "Ha'shomer Ha'zair" and some other Jews were able to hide and survive.

A local underground group was uncovered by the Germans. Its members were arrested and faced court-martial. Among them were eight Jews: Dr. Yacob Leizman, one of the organizers of the group, the Farkash couple, the Leibowitz couple, the Schwartz couple, Shmuel Weiss from Fekete-Ardo and three non-Jews were executed by firing squad on June 17, 1944.
 

Post War

In 1945, after the war, a public memorial service was held for Dr. Leizman and his comrades, the victims of Nazism. A monument was erected in their memory in the center of the town. Most of the surviving Jews who returned to the town after the war eventually left -  some emigrated to the United States, Europe and Australia. About 400 Jews emigrated to Israel, some illegally, during the period of the British Mandate.

In 1990 there was a private home in Selish where a group of Jews gathered to pray  but they had no Torah scroll.  Jews from Hungary, especially affiliated with Chabad come to pray at the cemetary on the anniversary of Rabbi Baruch’s (father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe) death (8 Tishrei). A local non Jewish resident takes care of the Jewish cemetery.

 

Hungary

Magyarország

A country in central Europe, member of the European Union (EU). 

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 47,000 out of 9,800,000 (0.4%).  Hungary has the largest Jewish population in central and eastern Europe. Most Jews live in Budapest, with a minority living in a number of other communities of them the largest are located in Debrecen, Szeged, and Miskolc. The umbrella organization of the Jewish communities:

Mazsihisz
Phone: 36 1 413 55 00
Email: info@mazsihisz.com
Website: www.mazsihisz.hu

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Hungary

1251 | In the Land of Hagar

In the second half of the 11th century, some Jews migrated from the regions of Bohemia and Moravia, in today's Czech Republic, and settled in a part of the Pannonia region located in what is now Hungary. Documents from the time show that the local church issued edicts prohibiting marriages between Christians and Jews, as well as employing Jews at festivals and fairs.
This attitude changed in 1251 when King Bela IV issued a bill of rights that regulated trade relations between Jews and Christians and protected the Jews from harassment by Christians. This royal act caused Jews from all over Europe to start immigrating to Hungary, “Land of Hagar”, as it was called in Rabbinical literature of the Middle Ages.
But not all was rosy in the land of goulash and blintzes. The reign of King Lajos I saw a rise in the influence of the Catholic Church, which was displeased with the rights given to the Jews, and in 1360 this king decreed that the Jews be expelled from his kingdom. Four years later the decree was annulled due to financial reasons, but many of those expelled never returned.

1526 | Three States for One People

In the 16th and 17th centuries the Hungarians, Turks and Habsburg emperors all fought over the coveted Hungarian real-estate. The people of Hungary – and the Jews among them – passed from hand to hand and from sovereign to sovereign like second-rate goods at a country fair.
The story begins with the Battle of Mohacs, which took place in 1526 and ended with a fateful defeat for the Hungarians at the hands of the Turks. Following this clash Hungary was divided into three parts: The southeastern part fell into Turkish control, the northwestern part under the rule of the Habsburgs, while the eastern part – the region of Transylvania, which remained under Turkish sovereignty (but not Turkish rule) – became an independent principality.
The Jews who lived under Turkish rule enjoyed relative freedom. The most significant community in this area lived in the city of Buda (later to become part of modern-day Budapest). This was a community of Jews from the west and east alike, and the blend of cultures enriched the Torah life of Buda Jews thanks to the fruitful mixture of the study techniques perfected by the sages of Spain and the Ashkenazi principles of 'pilpul' – the nuanced legalistic mechanism of Talmud study.
The economic situation of the Jews in the city, which sat on a major trade route, on the banks of the Danube, was likewise improved, and they traded in all goods – from hides and rugs to cattle and liquor.
The Jews living in the eastern part of the country – as explained, under Turkish sovereignty but not direct Turkish rule – enjoyed relative prosperity, influenced by the Calvinists of the Hungarian Reform Church, who were more tolerant than their Catholic predecessors were.
The state of the Jews who lived under the Habsburgs, however, went from bad to worse, and many of them were expelled from the Crown cities.

1781 | The Edict of Toleration

Many historians mark the day on which Emperor Joseph II issued the “Edict of Toleration” for the Jews as the day on which the walls of the ghetto came down, at least metaphorically, and Jews began to integrate into the European sphere. The edict, issued in the year 1781, abolished the residential restriction that had been placed on the Jews, granted them freedom of movement throughout the empire and allowed them to take part in commerce and the economy, to enroll in institutions of general studies and practice free professions.
At the same time, the edict prohibited the operation of synagogues, as well as the use of Yiddish and Hebrew in official documents. Jews lacking formal education were not allowed to marry until age 25, as a way to encourage education.
But despite the restrictions on religious freedom, many Jews immigrated to Hungary, mostly from the regions of Galicia (now southern Poland) and Moravia (now in the Czech Republic). In time, the Jewish community of Hungary would split into two opposite schools: most of the Jews arriving from Moravia were enamored with the ideas of progress and adopted the values of the Enlightenment, and within 100 years they produced many thinkers and intellectuals, among them Theodore (Binyamin Zeev) Herzl, many of whom left an indelible impression on European culture.
The Jews who came from Galicia, on the other hand, adhered to their traditional Judaism, and in time founded the Hasidic courts of Satmar, Munkacs and others.

1848 | Amen-cipation

The history of the Enlightenment and its attitude towards the Jews is complex and inconsistent. One the one hand, those upholding the values of equality, which are the very heart of the Enlightenment movement, could not exclude the Jews, lest they be accused of double standards. On the other, the ancient European aversion to the notion of the Jew as an equal among equals made it hard for the Europeans to put their ideals into practice.
Hungary was not unique in this regard. Between 1815-1840 the number of Jews in Hungary grew by approximately 80% due to accelerated immigration, stemming from the reforms of Joseph II and the Edict of Toleration. On the face of it, Jews integrated into Hungarian society and received equal treatment, but the excuses for Jew-hatred always found willing ears.
One of many examples can be found in the words of one of the leaders of the Liberal movement in the lower house of parliament regarding the production of alcohol, one of the main occupation of the Jews in that period: “Those who live in areas where every saloon is in the hands of the Jews know what danger they pose to the people […] as they constantly hold the white poison.”
Another expression of anti-Semitism which no “edict of toleration” could undo came in 1848, during the “Spring of Nations” revolution. Although Jews took an active part in the revolution, the Liberal-controlled National Assembly refused to grant them fully equal rights. Following this decision, which of course caused much disappointment, many Jews argued that this was proof that the integration into Hungarian life must be increased and Jewish national identity should be blurred.
Despite the hostile environment, in 1860 the steamroller of enlightenment overcame racism and almost all restrictions on the Jews were lifted. The revolution was completed in 1867, when the Jews were granted full equality.

1868 | The Triple thread

What does one do when one is told, one fine day, that he is free?
The ideas of Enlightenment and rationalism, which had spread through the Jewish communities in relatively short order, caused deep changes in them. While in the pre-modern era the community was the legal, political and social framework that shaped the life of the Jew, after emancipation it was left with only religious authority.
The “Problem of the Jews,” as Achad Ha'am (Asher Ginzberg) called it, was paradoxically expressed in their successful integration into European life. For now the Jewish community had to decide the greatest question of all: What shall the unique Jewish identity consist of, now that there was no ghetto? How to act when cultural and corporeal walls no longer separate Jew from Gentile?
In 1868 these questions were laid before the Jewish congress organized by the community of Pest (soon to become part of Budapest), one of the largest and most important communities in Hungary. Three major schools of thought faced off with each other at this congress: The Orthodox, who believed in religious conservatism, seclusion, and a minimum of religious reforms; the Neologists (reformists), who called to accept the social changes willingly, use the Hungarian language in sermons and open the synagogues to the winds of change blowing through the world; and the “Status Quo” group, which favored maintaining the existing arrangements.
The Neologists won the majority of the votes at the congress, representing the desire of most Hungarian Jews to integrate into general society. The other schools of thought refused to accept the result, and organized in separate communities. A Jew visiting a Hungarian city in those days could have prayed Shacharit at the Neologist temple, Mincha at an Orthodox shul, and Arvit at a synagogue affiliated with the “Status-Quo” group. Such sharp polarization among the members of a Jewish community was a phenomenon unique to Hungary, and scholars believe that the deep rift left such a lasting impression on the community that its impact continued to be felt until the community was destroyed in WW2.

1882 | Same Solution, Opposite Reasons

Before a Hungarian Jew named Theodore (Binyamin Zeev) Herzl even began to think of the first draft for his book “The State of the Jews”, another Hungarian, Victor Istoczi, a Member of Parliament from a noble family, suggested the establishment a separate state for the Jews. Unlike Herzl, who developed the idea of the Jewish state out of concern for his people, Istoczi formulated the idea due to his fear of the Jews. In other words, they both thought of the idea for the same reason: Anti-Semitism.
Istoczi argued that Judaism is not just a religious community, but a social sect which shared blood, ancient tradition, common interests as well as religion turn into a tight-knit, closed unit. To him, the Jews were nothing but clever parasites planning to take over Hungary, and the internal division among them was but a nefarious plot: The task of the Orthodox was to preserve Judaism and its religious lifestyle, whereas the Neologists were to cunningly make their way into the front lines of Hungarian politics.
Istoczi's words found receptive ears and laid the foundation for the dual experience of the Jews of Hungary: On one hand, escalating anti-Semitism that peaked in the affair of “the girl from Tisza Eszlar”, a famous blood libel that took place in 1882, in which a shamash (synagogue attendant) and a Jewish shochet (ritual slaughterer) were accused of murdering a girl (a charge of which they were acquitted at trial and on appeal as well); on the other hand, an accelerated increase in the number of Jews who moved to the cities and integrated into the general fabric of life. The lesson was unmistakable: Hungarian society was unwilling to accept the Jews as they were. In order to integrate into it, they must renounce their social and religious uniqueness and adapt to the ways and customs of the non-Jewish population.

1886 | The Hungarian-Jewish International

One of the common responses to the non-acceptance of Jews in Hungarian society was that of assimilation. But in accordance with the famous observation by French philosopher Sartre, that “A Jew is one recognized as a Jew,” the fact that they had assimilated among the Hungarians didn't really help the Jews. The prevalent view was that the Jew was a foreign race in Europe and even if he really wanted, he could not become one with the Slavic races. “Judaism is a malignant infection everywhere,” a respectable Catholic journal declared in those days, “and it ruins the mores most particularly in the world of trade, degrades morality and turns corruption into a general fashion.”
One of the solutions for the catch-22 in which the Jews found themselves was to be found in a new ideology that began to spread in Europe at the end of the 19th century: Socialism.
Socialist thought stated that national and religious categories are a capitalist invention designed to obfuscate the gap between the classes. The Jews, who paid a heavy price for their ethnic identity, joined the movement in droves.
One of the main socialists in Hungary was Bela Kun, who was born in Transylvania in 1886. His father was a converted Jew and his mother a protestant. Kun belonged to a circle of well-known Jewish artists and writers, among whom were literary critic Gyorgi Lukacs, novelist Lajos Biro and others – all adherents of the communist ideology and key officials of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. In 1919 Kun was appointed Foreign Minister in the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic that was established after WW1.

1903 | Got a Shekel?

It is ironic that of all people, the visionary of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, was born in a country where the majority of Jews firmly rejected the Zionist idea, as most Hungarian Jews indeed did. The Orthodox community saw Zionism as a false messiah movement that could hasten the end of days, whereas the Neologist community supported assimilation and defined its members as “Hungarians of Mosaic Faith”, which is to say, Hungarian patriots like any other, who just happen to be Jews.
And yet, seven Hungarian Jews, arriving in Basel as self-appointed delegates, took part in the first Zionist Congress. The most notable among them were Janos Ronai, who in 1897 founded the first Zionist association in Hungary, and Shmuel Bettleheim, who founded the Zionist Organization of Hungary along with Ronai in 1903.
Over the years the Zionist movement grew stronger in Hungary. Indication of this can be found in the number of those who purchased the Eretz Israel Shekel, which rose from 500 to 1,200 people. (The Shekel was the annual dues collected by the Zionist Organization and which bestowed upon the purchaser the right to vote and be elected at Zionist congresses.) “The cream of the crop,” in the words of Dr. Hajim Weissburg, one of the founders, were the members of the Makkabea Club in 1903. The aim of the founders of the Makkabea Club was to provide the members of the Zionist Organization with Jewish and Zionist cultural values and to arouse Jewish awareness, self-respect and national pride among the Jews. Their activities followed those of student organizations and was characterized by communal meals, symbols, slogans, and even dueling when Jewish pride so required.

1910 | The “Big Bang” of Hungarian Jews

At the end of the 19th century, an era when Enlightenment and modernization reached a peak in western and central Europe, an enormous amount of intellect, ability and talent, that had been cooped up for hundreds of years in the yeshivas and batei midrash, exploded into the Hungarian atmosphere.
Hungarian Jews recorded immense achievements in all fields: From the great inventors Laszlo Biro and David Gestetner, through talented mathematicians such as Mano Beck and Miklos Schweitzer, through Nobel-winning chemists George Olah and Michael Polanyi.
More than any other field, Jews stood out in the world of journalism. Among the most influential media personalities in Hungary a special mention should be made of the writer Adolf Agai, who edited the popular satirical Borsszem Janko and publisher Sandor Braun, who invented new color printing formats, including the daily “Az Est”. Strong Jewish roots can also be found in the famous “press halls” of Budapest, which for the first time concentrated the entire journalism production chain - writing, editing, proofreading, printing, marketing and distribution – under one roof.
The field of literature and the humanities was another in which the Jews gained much success. One of these for example was the poet Jozsef Kis, who founded “A-Het”, a periodical which served as a home for Jewish poets and writers, including short story master Tomas Kobor. Upon the decline of A-Het it was replaced by the leading literary periodical “Nyugat”, which featured the works of Hungarian prose pioneer Sandor Brody and novelist and playwright Dezső Szomory Hungarian Jews and Hungarians of Jewish descent made a crucial contribution to the local theater and film as well, including actor Bernard Schwartz, better known as Hollywood star Tony Curtis, who was born in New York to Hungarian parents, and Casablanca director Mihaly Kertesz, who changed his named to Michael Curtiz when he immigrated to America.
Even in sports, considered a quintessentially “non-Jewish” activity, Jews stood out, winning almost 33% of all Olympic medals awarded to Hungarian athletes in the early 20th century.

1920 | The Jewish Laws

After WW1 Hungary lost some two thirds of its territory. Many Jewish Hungarians found themselves overnight living under the sovereignty of new states: Romania, Yugoslavia, Austria and others.
During the Great War (1914-1918) approximately 10,000 Jewish Hungarian soldiers fell in the killing fields, but the patriotism they showed didn't stop the anti-Semitic winds blowing through the streets of Hungary, intensified by the many Jewish refugees streaming from Galicia in search of shelter in the Hungarian lands.
Like many countries attempting to forge a national identity between the two world wars, Hungary too tried to establish a communist regime, but it lasted only 133 days, followed by the regime of Miklos Horthy, a conservative national war hero with anti-Semitic tendencies. The suppression of the communist regime was accompanied by pogroms against the “cosmopolitan” Jews, in which the “white terror” fascist gangs murdered some 3.000 Jews.
During the 1920's Hungary was home to a sort of “soft anti-Semitism”. On one hand, discriminatory quotas on Jewish enrollment in universities, which stood at only 5%. On the other – the Jews were awarded a certain representation in the Hungarian parliament.
At the end of the 1930s the Jews of Hungary, numbering some 450,000, lived under an anti-Jewish assault. It was a slippery slope: In 1938 parliament passed the first “Jewish Law”, which restricted their freedom of occupation in many fields and broadened the definition of “Jew” to those who had converted after 1919. A year later the Hungarian parliament passed “The Second Jewish Law” which expanded the definition of “Jew” even further, to include another 100,000 people who had converted before 1919, as well as their children.
These moves were the barbaric constitutional foundation for the annihilation of the Jews of Hungary during WW2.

1944 | Goods For Blood

The Jewish community of Hungary had the dubious honor of being among the few which the Nazi extermination machine left for the end of the war; but when it did happen, the annihilation was deadly, methodical and quick, even for the Nazis.
Unlike the Jews of Poland, many of whom believed the lies of the Nazi propaganda machine, the prevalent view among scholars is that the Jews of Hungary were indeed aware of the horrible atrocities of the Nazis, but until the last moment could not believe that such barbarity could take place in a civilized country like Hungary.
When the Nazis conquered Hungary, in March 1944, there were some 750,000 Jews living in it, of whom about 300,000 were refugees and displaced persons from the east. Over the course of two months about half a million Jews wearing yellow stars were concentrated in ghettos established by the Nazis in every Hungarian city, and in May 1944 they began to be transported en masse to Auschwitz. It is estimated that within a few weeks approximately 450,000 of Hungary's Jews were murdered in this fashion.
In October 1944 the Nazis deposed the Hungarian Regent Horthy and appointed anti-Semitic fascist Ferenc Szalasi, head of the Iron Cross Party, as Prime Minister. As soon as Szalasi took office, the authorities no longer protected the Jews of Budapest. Death ran wild in the streets of the city, and the Danube turned red with the blood the elderly, women and children who were shot in the back and dumped in the river.
One of the most controversial episodes in the Holocaust of Hungary's Jews has to do with Israel Kastner, Deputy Head of the Zionist Organization in the country and one of the founders of the “Aid and Rescue Committee of Budapest”. Kastner saved some 1,700 Jews thanks to a deal he signed with Adolf Eichmann, which can be summed up in three terrible words: “Goods for blood”.
In the 1950s the “Kastner Affair” exploded in Israel after the latter was accused by District Court Judge Binyamin Halevy of “selling his soul to the devil”. Three years later the Supreme court cleared Kastner's name, but he didn't live to see it: A few months earlier, on March 4th, 1957, Kastner was gunned down by three Jewish assassins in Tel Aviv.

2001 | From the establishment of Israel until today

After the Holocaust approximately 145,000 Jews remained in Hungary. During these years the Zionist movement operated at full steam, and many of Hungary's Jews moved to Israel. Among the most prominent were journalist-cum-Justice Minister Yosef (“Tommy”) Lapid, satirical writer Ephraim Kishon and Bank of Israel Governor Moshe Zanbar. The Jews remaining in Hungary mostly turned their backs on Jewish tradition, whether due to the trauma of the Holocaust or the influence of the atheist communist regime. In the late 1940s the Communist Party came to power in Hungary. Jewish educational institutions were closed down, and all Zionist activity was banned. Jews who were of a clear communist bent found key positions in the party. One of these was the dictator Matyas Rakosi, who ruled the country from 1949 to 1956.
During the Communist era the Jewish community in Budapest was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Religious Affairs at the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior. Since 1968 each of the city's 18 districts had at least one synagogue. The one on Dohany Street is considered the largest synagogue in Europe. The disintegration of the Communist regime and the democratic reforms in Hungary rejuvenated the Jewish community. About 20 new synagogues opened, as well as community and social institutions. But anti-Semitism has not abated in Hungary, and has reached new heights in the second decade of the 21st century, with the nationalist Jobbik party receiving approximately 16.5% of the vote in 2010, and over 20% in 2014. Among the anti-Semitic incidents recorded was the throwing of a dead pig on the statue of Raoul Wallenberg, famous for saving Jews during the Holocaust, and naming a square after Albert Wass, a notorious anti-Semite accused of murdering Jewish women in Transylvania.
As of the early 21st century the Jewish community of Budapest numbered approximately 80,000 people – the largest Jewish community in Central Europe, operating 23 synagogues and places of worship, two colleges, three elementary schools, three kindergartens, a hospital, two nursing homes and several cemeteries.

Slovakia

Slovenská republika - Slovak Republic
A country in central Europe, until 1993 part of Czechoslovakia, member of the European Union (EU).

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 2,600 out of 5,450,000. Main Jewish organization:

Ústredný zväz židovských náboženských obcí v Slovenskej republike - Federation of Jewish Communities in Slovakia
Panenská 4
811 03 Bratislava
Slovakia
Phone: 02-5441 2167
Fax: 02-5441 1106
Email: office@uzzno.sk
Website: http://www.uzzno.sk/

Ukraine

Україна / Ukrayina

A country in eastern Europe, until 1991 part of the Soviet Union.

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 50,000 out of 42,000,000 (0.1%). Main Jewish organizations:

Єврейська Конфедерація України - Jewish Confederation of Ukraine
Phone: 044 584 49 53
Email: jcu.org.ua@gmail.com
Website: http://jcu.org.ua/en

Ваад (Ассоциация еврейских организаций и общин) Украины (VAAD – Asssociation of Jewish Organizations & Communities of Ukraine)
Voloska St, 8/5
Kyiv, Kyivs’ka
Ukraine 04070
Phone/Fax: 38 (044) 248-36-70, 38 (044) 425-97-57/-58/-59/-60
Email: vaadua.office@gmail.com
Website: http://www.vaadua.org/

our Open Databases
Jewish Genealogy
Family Names
Jewish Communities
Visual Documentation
Jewish Music Center
Place
אA
אA
אA
Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions
The Jewish Community of Mukacheve

Mukacheve

Hungarian: Munkacs; Czech: Mukacevo; Yiddish: Munkatch

A city in western Ukraine.

Mukacheve is located by the Latorica River, in the Zakarpattia Oblast (province). Until World War I (1914-1918) it was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Between the two World Wars Mukacheve was part of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. After World War II (1939-1945) Mukacheve became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic; since 1991 it has been part of independent Ukraine.

In 2014 a memorial consisting of the remains of broken tombstones, as well as a menorah, was erected where Mukacheve’s Jewish cemetery was once located. Until then the site had been used first as a parking lot, and then as a vacant lot.

HISTORY

Documents indicate that the Jewish community of Mukacheve was founded during the second half of the 17th century, though there is also evidence indicating that individual Jews were living in the surrounding area beforehand. Jewish sources refer to "Minkatchov, a town situated on the banks of the Latartza River and of springs." After the community’s founding, the Jewish population rapidly increased, and Mukacheve became one of the largest communities in Hungary. Interestingly, the Jewish community of Mukacheve eventually became well-known for commitments to two opposing ideologies. On the one hand, Mukacheve became known for its extreme conservatism and commitment to the Hasidic movement, while also becoming known for its Zionism and advocacy of modern Jewish education.

The Jewish population grew, and was continuously augmented by new arrivals from Galicia. In 1741 there were 80 Jewish families living in Mukacheve; the Jewish population doubled by 1815. In 1830 there were 202 Jews living in Mukacheve, and in 1842 there were 301.

In the beginning, Mukacheve’s Jews worked in commerce and acted as brokers in the trade between Galicia and Hungary. Other Jews worked as farmers and craftsmen. As the community grew, its members became more involved in local and national politics; during the Hungarian revolt against the Austrians (1848-1849) 247 Jews from Mukacheve joined the local guard. Additionally, the Jews of Mukacheve worked on developing community institutions; a large yeshiva was established in 1851, and a Hebrew press was founded in 1871. Two additional synagogues were built in 1895 and 1903.

Prominent rabbis who served the community included Tzevi Shapira, who succeeded his father in 1893; Solomon Shapira, Rabbi Tzevi’s grandson; and Chaim Eleazar Shapira, who began his tenure in 1913 and became known as the leading opponent of Zionism in the Hasidic world. After Rabbi Chaim’s death in 1937 he was succeeded by his son-in-law, Baruch Rabinowitz, who would ultimately serve as a rabbi in the Israeli city of Holon.

In 1891 the community numbered 5,049 (47.9% of the total population). In 1910 Mukacheve’s Jewish population was 7,675 (44% of the total). The Jews of Mukacheve numbered 10,012 in 1921 (48% of the total); and 11,241 (43% of the total) in 1930; during the latter census, 88% of the Jews in Mukacheve registered their nationality as Jewish.

INTERWAR PERIOD

Between the two World Wars Jews participated actively in the administration and political life of Mukacheve. In spite of Mukacheve’s heavy Hasidic presence and influence, the Zionist party of Czechoslovakia found many local supporters. Local students, as well as those from the surrounding area, flocked to the first Hebrew elementary school, which was founded in 1920 by the Organization of Hebrew Schools in Subcarpathian Ruthenia. A Hebrew high school was established in 1925 and, beginning in 1929, was led by Chaim Kugel, who became a member of the Czechoslovakian parliament in 1935; Kugel was later succeeded by Eliahu Rubin.

Hebrew was not the only prominent language in Mukacheve during the interwar period. Four Yiddish newspapers were published in Mukacheve during this time, attesting to the prominence and importance of the Yiddish language.

On the eve of World War II there were about 30 synagogues in Mukacheve, many of which were Hasidic.

Mukacheve reverted to Hungarian rule in 1938, ushering in a period of discrimination and violence against the region’s Jews that would peak during the Holocaust.

THE HOLOCAUST

Beginning in 1940, many of Mukacheve’s young Jewish men were drafted into work battalions and sent to the Russian front. Then, in July and August, 1941, Jewish families who did not have Hungarian citizenship were expelled to Galicia.

The Germans occupied Hungary in March of 1944. Shortly thereafter, the Jews of Mukacheve were forced into a ghetto that spanned a few streets. Sanitary conditions were extremely poor, and food was in short supply. Those who were able to work were conscripted for forced labor. Deportations to Auschwitz began during the second half of May, 1944. By the end of the month there were no Jews left in Mukacheve.

POSTWAR

After the war approximately 2,500 Jews returned to the city. However, after the Soviet annexation many left, mostly for Czechoslovakia and the newly-created State of Israel.

Jewish life in Mukacheve proved to be difficult under Soviet rule. The synagogues were confiscated; the last remaining synagogue building was converted into a warehouse in 1959. Some Jews were imprisoned for practicing kosher slaughter.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 Jews were living in Mukacheve in the late 1960s.By the 1990s, however, almost all of the city’s remaining Jews emigrated to Israel and the west.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Ukraine
Slovakia
Hungary
Selish
Khust

Ukraine

Україна / Ukrayina

A country in eastern Europe, until 1991 part of the Soviet Union.

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 50,000 out of 42,000,000 (0.1%). Main Jewish organizations:

Єврейська Конфедерація України - Jewish Confederation of Ukraine
Phone: 044 584 49 53
Email: jcu.org.ua@gmail.com
Website: http://jcu.org.ua/en

Ваад (Ассоциация еврейских организаций и общин) Украины (VAAD – Asssociation of Jewish Organizations & Communities of Ukraine)
Voloska St, 8/5
Kyiv, Kyivs’ka
Ukraine 04070
Phone/Fax: 38 (044) 248-36-70, 38 (044) 425-97-57/-58/-59/-60
Email: vaadua.office@gmail.com
Website: http://www.vaadua.org/

Slovakia

Slovenská republika - Slovak Republic
A country in central Europe, until 1993 part of Czechoslovakia, member of the European Union (EU).

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 2,600 out of 5,450,000. Main Jewish organization:

Ústredný zväz židovských náboženských obcí v Slovenskej republike - Federation of Jewish Communities in Slovakia
Panenská 4
811 03 Bratislava
Slovakia
Phone: 02-5441 2167
Fax: 02-5441 1106
Email: office@uzzno.sk
Website: http://www.uzzno.sk/

Hungary

Magyarország

A country in central Europe, member of the European Union (EU). 

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 47,000 out of 9,800,000 (0.4%).  Hungary has the largest Jewish population in central and eastern Europe. Most Jews live in Budapest, with a minority living in a number of other communities of them the largest are located in Debrecen, Szeged, and Miskolc. The umbrella organization of the Jewish communities:

Mazsihisz
Phone: 36 1 413 55 00
Email: info@mazsihisz.com
Website: www.mazsihisz.hu

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Hungary

1251 | In the Land of Hagar

In the second half of the 11th century, some Jews migrated from the regions of Bohemia and Moravia, in today's Czech Republic, and settled in a part of the Pannonia region located in what is now Hungary. Documents from the time show that the local church issued edicts prohibiting marriages between Christians and Jews, as well as employing Jews at festivals and fairs.
This attitude changed in 1251 when King Bela IV issued a bill of rights that regulated trade relations between Jews and Christians and protected the Jews from harassment by Christians. This royal act caused Jews from all over Europe to start immigrating to Hungary, “Land of Hagar”, as it was called in Rabbinical literature of the Middle Ages.
But not all was rosy in the land of goulash and blintzes. The reign of King Lajos I saw a rise in the influence of the Catholic Church, which was displeased with the rights given to the Jews, and in 1360 this king decreed that the Jews be expelled from his kingdom. Four years later the decree was annulled due to financial reasons, but many of those expelled never returned.

1526 | Three States for One People

In the 16th and 17th centuries the Hungarians, Turks and Habsburg emperors all fought over the coveted Hungarian real-estate. The people of Hungary – and the Jews among them – passed from hand to hand and from sovereign to sovereign like second-rate goods at a country fair.
The story begins with the Battle of Mohacs, which took place in 1526 and ended with a fateful defeat for the Hungarians at the hands of the Turks. Following this clash Hungary was divided into three parts: The southeastern part fell into Turkish control, the northwestern part under the rule of the Habsburgs, while the eastern part – the region of Transylvania, which remained under Turkish sovereignty (but not Turkish rule) – became an independent principality.
The Jews who lived under Turkish rule enjoyed relative freedom. The most significant community in this area lived in the city of Buda (later to become part of modern-day Budapest). This was a community of Jews from the west and east alike, and the blend of cultures enriched the Torah life of Buda Jews thanks to the fruitful mixture of the study techniques perfected by the sages of Spain and the Ashkenazi principles of 'pilpul' – the nuanced legalistic mechanism of Talmud study.
The economic situation of the Jews in the city, which sat on a major trade route, on the banks of the Danube, was likewise improved, and they traded in all goods – from hides and rugs to cattle and liquor.
The Jews living in the eastern part of the country – as explained, under Turkish sovereignty but not direct Turkish rule – enjoyed relative prosperity, influenced by the Calvinists of the Hungarian Reform Church, who were more tolerant than their Catholic predecessors were.
The state of the Jews who lived under the Habsburgs, however, went from bad to worse, and many of them were expelled from the Crown cities.

1781 | The Edict of Toleration

Many historians mark the day on which Emperor Joseph II issued the “Edict of Toleration” for the Jews as the day on which the walls of the ghetto came down, at least metaphorically, and Jews began to integrate into the European sphere. The edict, issued in the year 1781, abolished the residential restriction that had been placed on the Jews, granted them freedom of movement throughout the empire and allowed them to take part in commerce and the economy, to enroll in institutions of general studies and practice free professions.
At the same time, the edict prohibited the operation of synagogues, as well as the use of Yiddish and Hebrew in official documents. Jews lacking formal education were not allowed to marry until age 25, as a way to encourage education.
But despite the restrictions on religious freedom, many Jews immigrated to Hungary, mostly from the regions of Galicia (now southern Poland) and Moravia (now in the Czech Republic). In time, the Jewish community of Hungary would split into two opposite schools: most of the Jews arriving from Moravia were enamored with the ideas of progress and adopted the values of the Enlightenment, and within 100 years they produced many thinkers and intellectuals, among them Theodore (Binyamin Zeev) Herzl, many of whom left an indelible impression on European culture.
The Jews who came from Galicia, on the other hand, adhered to their traditional Judaism, and in time founded the Hasidic courts of Satmar, Munkacs and others.

1848 | Amen-cipation

The history of the Enlightenment and its attitude towards the Jews is complex and inconsistent. One the one hand, those upholding the values of equality, which are the very heart of the Enlightenment movement, could not exclude the Jews, lest they be accused of double standards. On the other, the ancient European aversion to the notion of the Jew as an equal among equals made it hard for the Europeans to put their ideals into practice.
Hungary was not unique in this regard. Between 1815-1840 the number of Jews in Hungary grew by approximately 80% due to accelerated immigration, stemming from the reforms of Joseph II and the Edict of Toleration. On the face of it, Jews integrated into Hungarian society and received equal treatment, but the excuses for Jew-hatred always found willing ears.
One of many examples can be found in the words of one of the leaders of the Liberal movement in the lower house of parliament regarding the production of alcohol, one of the main occupation of the Jews in that period: “Those who live in areas where every saloon is in the hands of the Jews know what danger they pose to the people […] as they constantly hold the white poison.”
Another expression of anti-Semitism which no “edict of toleration” could undo came in 1848, during the “Spring of Nations” revolution. Although Jews took an active part in the revolution, the Liberal-controlled National Assembly refused to grant them fully equal rights. Following this decision, which of course caused much disappointment, many Jews argued that this was proof that the integration into Hungarian life must be increased and Jewish national identity should be blurred.
Despite the hostile environment, in 1860 the steamroller of enlightenment overcame racism and almost all restrictions on the Jews were lifted. The revolution was completed in 1867, when the Jews were granted full equality.

1868 | The Triple thread

What does one do when one is told, one fine day, that he is free?
The ideas of Enlightenment and rationalism, which had spread through the Jewish communities in relatively short order, caused deep changes in them. While in the pre-modern era the community was the legal, political and social framework that shaped the life of the Jew, after emancipation it was left with only religious authority.
The “Problem of the Jews,” as Achad Ha'am (Asher Ginzberg) called it, was paradoxically expressed in their successful integration into European life. For now the Jewish community had to decide the greatest question of all: What shall the unique Jewish identity consist of, now that there was no ghetto? How to act when cultural and corporeal walls no longer separate Jew from Gentile?
In 1868 these questions were laid before the Jewish congress organized by the community of Pest (soon to become part of Budapest), one of the largest and most important communities in Hungary. Three major schools of thought faced off with each other at this congress: The Orthodox, who believed in religious conservatism, seclusion, and a minimum of religious reforms; the Neologists (reformists), who called to accept the social changes willingly, use the Hungarian language in sermons and open the synagogues to the winds of change blowing through the world; and the “Status Quo” group, which favored maintaining the existing arrangements.
The Neologists won the majority of the votes at the congress, representing the desire of most Hungarian Jews to integrate into general society. The other schools of thought refused to accept the result, and organized in separate communities. A Jew visiting a Hungarian city in those days could have prayed Shacharit at the Neologist temple, Mincha at an Orthodox shul, and Arvit at a synagogue affiliated with the “Status-Quo” group. Such sharp polarization among the members of a Jewish community was a phenomenon unique to Hungary, and scholars believe that the deep rift left such a lasting impression on the community that its impact continued to be felt until the community was destroyed in WW2.

1882 | Same Solution, Opposite Reasons

Before a Hungarian Jew named Theodore (Binyamin Zeev) Herzl even began to think of the first draft for his book “The State of the Jews”, another Hungarian, Victor Istoczi, a Member of Parliament from a noble family, suggested the establishment a separate state for the Jews. Unlike Herzl, who developed the idea of the Jewish state out of concern for his people, Istoczi formulated the idea due to his fear of the Jews. In other words, they both thought of the idea for the same reason: Anti-Semitism.
Istoczi argued that Judaism is not just a religious community, but a social sect which shared blood, ancient tradition, common interests as well as religion turn into a tight-knit, closed unit. To him, the Jews were nothing but clever parasites planning to take over Hungary, and the internal division among them was but a nefarious plot: The task of the Orthodox was to preserve Judaism and its religious lifestyle, whereas the Neologists were to cunningly make their way into the front lines of Hungarian politics.
Istoczi's words found receptive ears and laid the foundation for the dual experience of the Jews of Hungary: On one hand, escalating anti-Semitism that peaked in the affair of “the girl from Tisza Eszlar”, a famous blood libel that took place in 1882, in which a shamash (synagogue attendant) and a Jewish shochet (ritual slaughterer) were accused of murdering a girl (a charge of which they were acquitted at trial and on appeal as well); on the other hand, an accelerated increase in the number of Jews who moved to the cities and integrated into the general fabric of life. The lesson was unmistakable: Hungarian society was unwilling to accept the Jews as they were. In order to integrate into it, they must renounce their social and religious uniqueness and adapt to the ways and customs of the non-Jewish population.

1886 | The Hungarian-Jewish International

One of the common responses to the non-acceptance of Jews in Hungarian society was that of assimilation. But in accordance with the famous observation by French philosopher Sartre, that “A Jew is one recognized as a Jew,” the fact that they had assimilated among the Hungarians didn't really help the Jews. The prevalent view was that the Jew was a foreign race in Europe and even if he really wanted, he could not become one with the Slavic races. “Judaism is a malignant infection everywhere,” a respectable Catholic journal declared in those days, “and it ruins the mores most particularly in the world of trade, degrades morality and turns corruption into a general fashion.”
One of the solutions for the catch-22 in which the Jews found themselves was to be found in a new ideology that began to spread in Europe at the end of the 19th century: Socialism.
Socialist thought stated that national and religious categories are a capitalist invention designed to obfuscate the gap between the classes. The Jews, who paid a heavy price for their ethnic identity, joined the movement in droves.
One of the main socialists in Hungary was Bela Kun, who was born in Transylvania in 1886. His father was a converted Jew and his mother a protestant. Kun belonged to a circle of well-known Jewish artists and writers, among whom were literary critic Gyorgi Lukacs, novelist Lajos Biro and others – all adherents of the communist ideology and key officials of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. In 1919 Kun was appointed Foreign Minister in the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic that was established after WW1.

1903 | Got a Shekel?

It is ironic that of all people, the visionary of Zionism, Theodore Herzl, was born in a country where the majority of Jews firmly rejected the Zionist idea, as most Hungarian Jews indeed did. The Orthodox community saw Zionism as a false messiah movement that could hasten the end of days, whereas the Neologist community supported assimilation and defined its members as “Hungarians of Mosaic Faith”, which is to say, Hungarian patriots like any other, who just happen to be Jews.
And yet, seven Hungarian Jews, arriving in Basel as self-appointed delegates, took part in the first Zionist Congress. The most notable among them were Janos Ronai, who in 1897 founded the first Zionist association in Hungary, and Shmuel Bettleheim, who founded the Zionist Organization of Hungary along with Ronai in 1903.
Over the years the Zionist movement grew stronger in Hungary. Indication of this can be found in the number of those who purchased the Eretz Israel Shekel, which rose from 500 to 1,200 people. (The Shekel was the annual dues collected by the Zionist Organization and which bestowed upon the purchaser the right to vote and be elected at Zionist congresses.) “The cream of the crop,” in the words of Dr. Hajim Weissburg, one of the founders, were the members of the Makkabea Club in 1903. The aim of the founders of the Makkabea Club was to provide the members of the Zionist Organization with Jewish and Zionist cultural values and to arouse Jewish awareness, self-respect and national pride among the Jews. Their activities followed those of student organizations and was characterized by communal meals, symbols, slogans, and even dueling when Jewish pride so required.

1910 | The “Big Bang” of Hungarian Jews

At the end of the 19th century, an era when Enlightenment and modernization reached a peak in western and central Europe, an enormous amount of intellect, ability and talent, that had been cooped up for hundreds of years in the yeshivas and batei midrash, exploded into the Hungarian atmosphere.
Hungarian Jews recorded immense achievements in all fields: From the great inventors Laszlo Biro and David Gestetner, through talented mathematicians such as Mano Beck and Miklos Schweitzer, through Nobel-winning chemists George Olah and Michael Polanyi.
More than any other field, Jews stood out in the world of journalism. Among the most influential media personalities in Hungary a special mention should be made of the writer Adolf Agai, who edited the popular satirical Borsszem Janko and publisher Sandor Braun, who invented new color printing formats, including the daily “Az Est”. Strong Jewish roots can also be found in the famous “press halls” of Budapest, which for the first time concentrated the entire journalism production chain - writing, editing, proofreading, printing, marketing and distribution – under one roof.
The field of literature and the humanities was another in which the Jews gained much success. One of these for example was the poet Jozsef Kis, who founded “A-Het”, a periodical which served as a home for Jewish poets and writers, including short story master Tomas Kobor. Upon the decline of A-Het it was replaced by the leading literary periodical “Nyugat”, which featured the works of Hungarian prose pioneer Sandor Brody and novelist and playwright Dezső Szomory Hungarian Jews and Hungarians of Jewish descent made a crucial contribution to the local theater and film as well, including actor Bernard Schwartz, better known as Hollywood star Tony Curtis, who was born in New York to Hungarian parents, and Casablanca director Mihaly Kertesz, who changed his named to Michael Curtiz when he immigrated to America.
Even in sports, considered a quintessentially “non-Jewish” activity, Jews stood out, winning almost 33% of all Olympic medals awarded to Hungarian athletes in the early 20th century.

1920 | The Jewish Laws

After WW1 Hungary lost some two thirds of its territory. Many Jewish Hungarians found themselves overnight living under the sovereignty of new states: Romania, Yugoslavia, Austria and others.
During the Great War (1914-1918) approximately 10,000 Jewish Hungarian soldiers fell in the killing fields, but the patriotism they showed didn't stop the anti-Semitic winds blowing through the streets of Hungary, intensified by the many Jewish refugees streaming from Galicia in search of shelter in the Hungarian lands.
Like many countries attempting to forge a national identity between the two world wars, Hungary too tried to establish a communist regime, but it lasted only 133 days, followed by the regime of Miklos Horthy, a conservative national war hero with anti-Semitic tendencies. The suppression of the communist regime was accompanied by pogroms against the “cosmopolitan” Jews, in which the “white terror” fascist gangs murdered some 3.000 Jews.
During the 1920's Hungary was home to a sort of “soft anti-Semitism”. On one hand, discriminatory quotas on Jewish enrollment in universities, which stood at only 5%. On the other – the Jews were awarded a certain representation in the Hungarian parliament.
At the end of the 1930s the Jews of Hungary, numbering some 450,000, lived under an anti-Jewish assault. It was a slippery slope: In 1938 parliament passed the first “Jewish Law”, which restricted their freedom of occupation in many fields and broadened the definition of “Jew” to those who had converted after 1919. A year later the Hungarian parliament passed “The Second Jewish Law” which expanded the definition of “Jew” even further, to include another 100,000 people who had converted before 1919, as well as their children.
These moves were the barbaric constitutional foundation for the annihilation of the Jews of Hungary during WW2.

1944 | Goods For Blood

The Jewish community of Hungary had the dubious honor of being among the few which the Nazi extermination machine left for the end of the war; but when it did happen, the annihilation was deadly, methodical and quick, even for the Nazis.
Unlike the Jews of Poland, many of whom believed the lies of the Nazi propaganda machine, the prevalent view among scholars is that the Jews of Hungary were indeed aware of the horrible atrocities of the Nazis, but until the last moment could not believe that such barbarity could take place in a civilized country like Hungary.
When the Nazis conquered Hungary, in March 1944, there were some 750,000 Jews living in it, of whom about 300,000 were refugees and displaced persons from the east. Over the course of two months about half a million Jews wearing yellow stars were concentrated in ghettos established by the Nazis in every Hungarian city, and in May 1944 they began to be transported en masse to Auschwitz. It is estimated that within a few weeks approximately 450,000 of Hungary's Jews were murdered in this fashion.
In October 1944 the Nazis deposed the Hungarian Regent Horthy and appointed anti-Semitic fascist Ferenc Szalasi, head of the Iron Cross Party, as Prime Minister. As soon as Szalasi took office, the authorities no longer protected the Jews of Budapest. Death ran wild in the streets of the city, and the Danube turned red with the blood the elderly, women and children who were shot in the back and dumped in the river.
One of the most controversial episodes in the Holocaust of Hungary's Jews has to do with Israel Kastner, Deputy Head of the Zionist Organization in the country and one of the founders of the “Aid and Rescue Committee of Budapest”. Kastner saved some 1,700 Jews thanks to a deal he signed with Adolf Eichmann, which can be summed up in three terrible words: “Goods for blood”.
In the 1950s the “Kastner Affair” exploded in Israel after the latter was accused by District Court Judge Binyamin Halevy of “selling his soul to the devil”. Three years later the Supreme court cleared Kastner's name, but he didn't live to see it: A few months earlier, on March 4th, 1957, Kastner was gunned down by three Jewish assassins in Tel Aviv.

2001 | From the establishment of Israel until today

After the Holocaust approximately 145,000 Jews remained in Hungary. During these years the Zionist movement operated at full steam, and many of Hungary's Jews moved to Israel. Among the most prominent were journalist-cum-Justice Minister Yosef (“Tommy”) Lapid, satirical writer Ephraim Kishon and Bank of Israel Governor Moshe Zanbar. The Jews remaining in Hungary mostly turned their backs on Jewish tradition, whether due to the trauma of the Holocaust or the influence of the atheist communist regime. In the late 1940s the Communist Party came to power in Hungary. Jewish educational institutions were closed down, and all Zionist activity was banned. Jews who were of a clear communist bent found key positions in the party. One of these was the dictator Matyas Rakosi, who ruled the country from 1949 to 1956.
During the Communist era the Jewish community in Budapest was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Religious Affairs at the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior. Since 1968 each of the city's 18 districts had at least one synagogue. The one on Dohany Street is considered the largest synagogue in Europe. The disintegration of the Communist regime and the democratic reforms in Hungary rejuvenated the Jewish community. About 20 new synagogues opened, as well as community and social institutions. But anti-Semitism has not abated in Hungary, and has reached new heights in the second decade of the 21st century, with the nationalist Jobbik party receiving approximately 16.5% of the vote in 2010, and over 20% in 2014. Among the anti-Semitic incidents recorded was the throwing of a dead pig on the statue of Raoul Wallenberg, famous for saving Jews during the Holocaust, and naming a square after Albert Wass, a notorious anti-Semite accused of murdering Jewish women in Transylvania.
As of the early 21st century the Jewish community of Budapest numbered approximately 80,000 people – the largest Jewish community in Central Europe, operating 23 synagogues and places of worship, two colleges, three elementary schools, three kindergartens, a hospital, two nursing homes and several cemeteries.

Selish

Hungarian: Nagy-Szölös; Slovak: Velky Sevlus; Russian: Vinogradov; Ukrainian: Vynohradiv

A town in Zakarpatskaja Oblast in western Ukraine. Between the world wars years Selish was part of Czechoslovakia, until the end of World War I part of Hungary within the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Selish is situated on the right bank of the Tisza river. The name means vineyard and the area was a wine making district. The town serves as a center for the surrounding agricultural region but also has furniture factories and brick-yards. The town was part of a variety of jurisdictions in the 2oth century.  During the period of Hungarian rule until 1918, the city served as the capital of the Ugocsa district. In 1919 the city was annexed by the new Republic of Czechoslovakia. During the war years, 1939-45 it returned to Hungarian rule. In June, 1945 the area was annexed by the Soviet Union and since 1947 the town has been called Vinogradov.

 

History

According to Hungarian historical sources, some Jewish families lived in the town already in the 17th century.  As a result of the Chmielnicki pogroms in 1648, Jew fled Poland and the Ukraine and found refuge in the villages and estates of the baronial families Perenyi, Acel and Fogarasi.

Still, life was not peaceful and at the end of the 17th century fighters of the Hungarian uprising under the leadership of Ferenc (Franz) Rakoczi II, organized pogroms against the Jews. Despite the law forbidding the Jews to settle in Hungarian towns, Jews came to Selish from nearby villages, most of them from Rackowic. After the death of the Austrian Emperor Josef II, whose "Edict of Tolerance" issued in 1782 granted certain privileges and freedom of worship to the Jews, there were attempts to banish Jews from the cities. However, these efforts failed and the Jews remained in Selish.

Jewish Religious Life

Jewish life was vibrant. The first rabbi of the community, Rabbi Yair Katz, was appointed in 1745 and died in 1780. Around 1785-1786, Rabbi Baruch, the father of the famous Rabbi Zalman Schneur, the author of the Tanya and first Chabad rabbi, came to live in Selish until his death in 1792. Rabbi Hacohen Heller (1794-1802), the author of the Kontras Hasefekot ("Book of Questions") about "Hoshen Mishpat" officiated after Rabbi Katz and then Rabbi Chaim Meyer Zev Hacohen Zelenfreund was rabbi during the years 1820-1832. Rabbi Falk, Rabbi Eleazer Lipman Stein and Rabbi Chaim Moshe Hacohen served in the following years. The rabbi who had the greatest influence in shaping the religious structure of the community was Rabbi Shmuel (Shmelke) Klein, the founder of the yeshiva and the author of Tzror HaChaim ("Eternal Life").  He died in 1874 and his son, Rabbi Pinchas Chaim Klein succeeded him.

The Jews of Selish opposed the Reform Movement which was spreading among the Jews of Hungary. Israel Roiz, head of the Jewish community, left the congress of Jewish communities which convened in Budapest in 1868-1869 because it was conducted in the Reform spirit. At the end of the 19th century the yeshiva in Selish was among the 31 yeshivot recognized by the authorities as preparatory schools for rabbis. The students were also obligated to study secular objects at the secondary school level.

The Jews of Selish and the surrounding area supported the Jewish community in Eretz Israel and played a part in the founding of the kollel (talmudic academy) named "Munkacs". Rabbi Pinchas Chaim Klein was chosen as a vice-president of the kollel. After his death in 1923, Rabbi Joseph Nehemia Kornizer was his successor in Selish. In 1925 when Rabbi Kornizer was called to serve in the rabbinate in Krakow, Rabbi Shlomo Israel Klein, the son of Rabbi PinchasChaim served as rabbi, the last rabbi in Selish.

There were a variety of synagogues, batei midrash and Jewish institutions. The central synagogue was the large synagogue built in 1904 on Kiraly street. The Beit Midrash was founded by Abraham Klein. With the increase in the number of congregants who prayed according to the Sephardi custom, the Ashkenazi version was replaced by the Sephardi one.  They continued to pray according to the Ashkenazi tradition in the large synagogue and in the Beit Midrash "Mahzikei Torah" where Rabbi Shmelke prayed. There was also a Hassidic Talmud study house, mikvaot (ritual baths), and organized "Mishnah" study groups  In addition, there was also the prayer-house of the Admor Rabbi Israel Menachem Ehrlich and a few other private places of prayer.

The community offices, the mikvaot, the ritual slaughter house, the synagogue, the homes of the rabbi and judge, the shochet and shamash were all located in the courtyard of the Great Synagogue, the "Schulhof.

The members of the burial society also visited the sick and provided medicines and firewood for the needy.  In the local government hospital that was expanded in 1935 there was a kosher kitchen under the supervision of the burial society. Additional organizations active in Selish were the committee for "Hospitality for Visitors", “Psalms Society”, "Seekers of Justice Society “, womens' organizations and  "Tiferes Bonim“. During the First World War, the community organized a kitchen to provide meals for Jewish soldier prisoners from Russia and Jewish refugees from Galicia.

The Chasidic rabbis (admorim) in the city were Rabbi Israel Mendel Ehrlich; Rabbi Chaim Meyer Yechiel Horowitz; the Rabbi of "Rzeszow". Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Weiss, the Admor of Spinka and the author of the Chekel Yitzchak ("Field of Yitzhak") came  to Selish from Munkacs, organized a yeshiva and a magnificent synagogue. Many hassidim from the whole country came to his court. Until the end of World War I, there were only private teachers in the city. Rabbi Moshe Zeev Katz, who taught Talmud, Rashi and other commentaries, also taught Jewish religious studies in the government schools. A Talmud Torah with five classes was started after the war through the initiative of Moshe Schwartz, Rabbi Shmelke Klein, Tzvi Markowitz, Yehuda Hollander and others. Some of them also founded a school for girls called "Beth Yaacov". The Hassidim had a separate Talmud Torah.

During the period of Czech rule, when the Jews were granted minority rights, Yair Richter and Shlomo Yaacov Gilad taught Judaic studies to Jewish students in the government schools. There were also yeshivot administered by Rabbi Shlomo Israel Klein; the rabbinical judge Jonathan Benjamin, the author of the "Soul of Yonatan" and Rabbi Shmuel Greenwald. Taking advantage of the minority rights legislation, some Hebrew schools were founded. In 1922 a Hebrew school was organized in Selish and during the first year there were 150 pupils. Some of the young people continued their education at the commercial high school or in the trade schools. Some studied at the Hebrew Gymnazia in Munkacs. Many studied in the local yeshivot or in the large yeshivot in Slovakia and Hungary.

Economic Life

Most of the early Jewish settlers were inn-keepers, petty merchants, butchers and craftsmen. Most of them were poor and the Tolerance Tax introduced by the Empress Maria Theresia made their economic position even more difficult. Relief came with the introduction of a more tolerant policy by the Emperor Joseph II when the Jews could enter new fields of employment. The Jews specialized in the production and export of wine, especially to Galicia. The area was an important wine district.  During the grape harvest, many admorim (Hassidic rabbis) came to the city.  

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century there was a substantial improvement in the economic situation of the town's Jews. Some purchased large tracts of land, among them A. Klein, the head of the community, and the founder and director of the Ugocsa Bank. During the 1920s, the Joint Distribution Committee organized a credit bank. Some Jews owned flour mills, factories, textile stores and printing houses. They were also wholesale grain merchants, directors of financial institutions and building contractors. Most of the doctors, the district veterinarian, lawyers and the owner of the first movie house were Jews. Some  Jews were wealthy and  gained  positions of influence in the town.  But there were also workers, coachman and many needy families.

Political Life

The Jews of Selish made efforts to be part of the Hungarian society and in 1848, during the Hungarian Revolution, four Jews fought on their side. After the emancipation of the Hungarian Jews in 1867, many Jews filled important positions. In 1910 the Jewish population was 2,237 (28.6%) in a town of 7,811 inhabitants. Many Jewish refugees arrived from Galicia during World War I including hasidim and their leaders. During the period when the town was part of Czechoslovakia, Noah Jacob Deutsch was the editor and publisher of the Hungarian newspaper "Ugocsa". He was also chairman of the Jewish National Party in the years 1920-1922. In the municipal elections of 1921, eleven representatives of the Jewish Party were elected to the council that contained 36 members. Eliahu Weiss was elected deputy mayor.

Zionism

Zionist activity in the town began with the founding of the “Lovers of Zion" society by Moshe Gutman in 1913.  When World War I broke out in 1914, most of its members were drafted into the army. After the war, Zionist activity was renewed. An organization called "Unity" included Zionists from all parties. Public lectures were sponsored and money collected for the Jewish National Fund. A branch of the WIZO and a youth group for girls called "Miriam" were active. In June, "Unity" split up and branches of the Mizrachi and Revisionist parties were formed. In 1918, Moshe Gutman was elected a member of the Zionist executive board of Hungary. After the war he organized Zionist groups in the region, joined the Mizrachi and was its delegate to the 12th Zionist congress, which took place in Karlsbad. In 1926, 244 shkalim were purchased by the community for the fifteenth Zionist Congress. In 1937, 151 Jews from Selish attended the 20th Zionist Congress. Another active Zionist was Meshullam Fish Weiss. Yitschak Bloch was assistant to the leader of the Beitar in Czechoslovakia. In later years he served as the secretary of the Tel-Chai fund in London. The sports club Maccabi supported a football team.
There were branches of many youth movements: Hashomer Kadima, Hashomer Hatzair, Beitar, Hechalutz and youth movement of Hamizrachi. The youth movements sent their members to training farms and factories as a preparation for aliya.  Selish had a number of such hachshara (preparation for aliyah) programs, and some immigrated to Eretz Israel in small groups or as individuals during the years 1930-1939. During that period about five or six large families also immigrated to Eretz Israel.
 

Small Communities in the district served by Selish

In the area there were several small communities, some populated by Jews who lived there for many years before Jews were allowed to settle in the city. Many were in the wine trade and had small tracts of vineyards or were wine merchants. The rabbis of Selish provided these communities with a “dayan”(judge) and teacher.

Halmi had an  independent Jewish community. In 1865  the rabbi of the rabbinical court was Rabbi Mordechai  Halevi, the author of "Parshat Mordechai “ (The Commentaries of Mordechai) . Rabbi Eliahu Klein served the community for many years. There was also a yeshiva in the village. The Jews of Tur-Terebes joined the community of Halmi when it became independent.

The community in Turcz was independent even before World War I. The first rabbi was Rabbi Chaim Friedrich. His son, Yitzchak, served as rabbi after him, followed by Rabbi A. S. Yerucham Friedman, who headed a yeshiva there.

In Nagy-Tarna there was a small group of Jews and among them were rabbinical judges and teachers.

Except for the four communities mentioned above, which were annexed to Romania after the First World War, the rest of the communities in the area were annexed to Czechoslovakia. During this period the district developed economically.  Most of the Jews owned their own homes and small auxiliary farms and some Jews  even owned large tracts of land.

In Chepa the community numbered 250 Jews. There was a cemetery, a burial society, a Talmud Torah school, and a mishnaioth study group. A caretaker, shochet (ritual slaughterer) and treasurer were employed. The Jews of Csoma, Hetenyi and Gyula were part of the Chepa community. In  Velky-Palad there was a synagogue, a ritual bath and Talmud Torah.  A rabbi and shochet were  also employed.

The following small villages and townships contained usually only 100 to 200 Jews but maintained synagogues and ritual baths. In  Veroecze  the flour mill and stone quarries were  owned by Jews. Goedenyhaza had a Jewish school (cheder) and a Jew was elected to the local council. In Rakasz called Rakisova by the Jews, there was a cheder.  Shmuel Klein, the head of the community, was elected village judge. Several active Mizrachi members lived there and sold Shekelim (membership in the World Zionist Organization) to the wider Jewish public. In Fekete Ardo, the district notary and one of the doctors were Jewish. There was a cemetery and a shochet was employed. In Szaszfalu there was a burial society and a shochet and teacher were employed. The Jews of Nagykopany founded a synagogue that followed Ashkenazi tradition and another synagogue for Hassidim, ritual baths and a burial society. The shochet also served the Jews in the neighboring area. The Jewish youth were Zionist. In Kiskopany Joseph Glick, a wealthy Jew, built a Talmud study house and ritual baths. in the final days of the community they prayed in the neighboring town of Nagykopany. In Nagykonyjat, a shochet and a teacher were employed who arbitrated on matters of halacha. The Jews of Onok used the communal facilities of Konyjat.

The community of Fancsika supported a synagogue, a study- house and ritual baths. The Hassidim who settled in the village organized their own prayer-house according to the Sephardi tradition. The local shochet also served the village of Sasvar. Szirma, which had about 60 Jews maintained a synagogue and a minyan;  Matyfalva and Tisza- Ujhely.

In the villages Tekehaza, Zaricsa, Nagy Sarad, Kis-Sarad, Vlahovo, Ardo, Egres, Boekeny, Salank, Oroszi, Kisrakocz, there were small groups of Jews, but they maintained synagogues and ritual baths and in some cases even employed a shochet or judge.

The following communities contained only a few Jewish families and had no communal facilities: Hreblya, Akli, Fertoes Almas, Csongova, Verboecz, Chyz'a, Csorna, Kistarna, Koekenyesd, Peterfalva, Farkasfalva, Nevetlen Falu, C'orny-Potok, Batar, Tisza Keresztur, Karacsfalva, Forgolany, Tivadar-Falva, Homlovice, Novoselice, Rosztoka, Fakobuekk and Horbka. 

In 1938 there were 8,000 Jews living in Selish and the surrounding area.


The Holocaust

As a result of the Munich pact of September 1938, nearly a year before the outbreak of World War II, the Czechoslovak Republic was dismantled. After the Vienna Agreement (Nov 2, 1938), when part of Carpathian Russia was annexed to Hungary, the town of Selish remained in the autonomous Ukrainian Republic. The disruption of rail communications between Selish and the hinterland caused serious shortages.

The Hungarians invaded the area on March 15, 1939 and confiscated lands and invalidated commercial licenses of the Jews. The community organized a bureau for the protection of Jewish civil rights. The leading members were Moshe Gutman (Zionist) and Lipa Friedman (Hassid) and the secretary was Dr. Mordechai Nichomovitz. The bureau later became a branch of the Omzsa, a Jewish relief organization whose center was in Budapest. They organized occupational courses and opened a communal kitchen for the needy.

The men were drafted into Hungarian Work Battalions in 1941 for forced labor service on the Eastern Front. At that time there were 4,264 Jews in Selish. Jews without citizenship were sent to Kamenetz-Podolsky in Ukraine. Among the 18,000 Jews in the camp were several from Selish and its vicinity. Most of the Jews in the camp were murdered  by the Ukrainians on the orders of the German SS. 

From 1941 till 1944 the Jews in Selish and the area lived under difficult conditions and were subject to harassment. Nevertheless, Zionist activity continued under the guise of scouting.

On March 19, 1944 the Germans invaded Hungary. They organized a Judenrat (Jewish council). The members were Mendel Wuerzburger, Lipa Friedman, Moshe Gutman and others. On the last day of Passover in 1944 the Jews of Selish, and Jews of the Ugocsa and Halmi districts -  12,000 in all were rounded up and forced to move into the ghetto in the vicinity of the communal building in Selish. The wealthy Jews were taken to the synagogue where they were tortured in order to disclose the hiding places of their valuables. Jews from the surrounding area were brought to the ghetto and conditions were very cramped and difficult. The Hungarian Baron Sigmund Perenyi helped the Jews in the ghetto.

The liquidation of the ghetto and the deportations of the Jews to the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau started on the 15th of May 1944.

Moshe Gutman, the community leader chose to stay with his people and was among the first to be deported though he was offered a chance to escape to Budapest. Two additional groups of deportees were sent to Auschwitz and arrived there between the seventh and the thirteenth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan.  A few members of the "Ha'shomer Ha'zair" and some other Jews were able to hide and survive.

A local underground group was uncovered by the Germans. Its members were arrested and faced court-martial. Among them were eight Jews: Dr. Yacob Leizman, one of the organizers of the group, the Farkash couple, the Leibowitz couple, the Schwartz couple, Shmuel Weiss from Fekete-Ardo and three non-Jews were executed by firing squad on June 17, 1944.
 

Post War

In 1945, after the war, a public memorial service was held for Dr. Leizman and his comrades, the victims of Nazism. A monument was erected in their memory in the center of the town. Most of the surviving Jews who returned to the town after the war eventually left -  some emigrated to the United States, Europe and Australia. About 400 Jews emigrated to Israel, some illegally, during the period of the British Mandate.

In 1990 there was a private home in Selish where a group of Jews gathered to pray  but they had no Torah scroll.  Jews from Hungary, especially affiliated with Chabad come to pray at the cemetary on the anniversary of Rabbi Baruch’s (father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe) death (8 Tishrei). A local non Jewish resident takes care of the Jewish cemetery.

 

Khust
 

Czech: Chust

A town in Subcarpathian Ruthenia (Transcarpathian Oblast), Ukraine.

Between the two world wars in Czechoslovakia.

The Jewish community established in the middle of the 18th century numbered 14 families in 1792. Jacob of Zhidachov was appointed as the first rabbi in 1812. In the mid-19th century, the community became one of the largest and most important in northern Hungary, mainly through the authority of the orthodox leader, Moses Schick, rabbi of Khust from 1861 to 1879. Most of the orthodox rabbis in Hungary were trained in his yeshivah, which had some 400 students. His successors, Amram Blum, and Moses Grunwald (1893-1912), prevented the development of chasidism in the community.

Under Czechoslovakian rule (1920-38), Khust had an active Jewish party in 1923. The rabbi of the town from 1921 to 1933 was Joseph Duschinsky, later rabbi of the separatist orthodox community of Jerusalem. The number of Jews living in the town was 3,391 in 1921 and 4,821 in 1930; in that same year 11,276 Jews (15.8% of the total population) lived in the Khust district.

The Jews of Khust were among the first to suffer when the area came under Hungarian rule in 1938. Jewish men of military service age were forced into the labor battalions. In 1942 there were approximately 100-130 yeshivah students in Khust. About 10,000 Jews from the town and district were concentrated in a ghetto in the spring of 1944, and from there deported to the Nazi death camps. In April 1944 the town was declared Judenrein. After World War II the community was revived.

In the late 1960s the authorities permitted a synagogue to open in Khust, the only one in the district, and the community had a shochet. At the time the number of Jewish families in the town was estimated at 400.

Ludovic Bruckstein
Yossele Rosenblatt
Kahane, Yitshak Zeev
Weiss, Yosef Meir
Kahane, Isaak (Yitzhak Ze'ev)
Pikler, I. Gyula

Ludovic Bruckstein (Joseph-Leib Arye Bruckstein) (1920-1988), playwright and novelist, born in Mukachevo, Czechoslovakia (now in Ukraine). Bruckstein was the great-grandson of Chaim-Josef Bruckstein, one of the first Hassidim, a follower of the Baal Shem Tov, and author of a book called “Tosafot Haim”. When he was four years of age, his family moved to Sighet, in Romania. Sighet, as part of Northern Transylvania region, was ruled by Hungary between 1940 to 1944. In May 1944, his entire family was deported to Auschwitz Nazi death camp. Ludovic was then transferred to Bergen-Belzen Nazi concentration camp, and then to forced-labor camps in Hildesheim, Hanover, Gross-Rosen, Wolfsberg, and Wüstegiersdorf. He was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945. Of his family, only Ludovic and his younger brother Israel survived the Holocaust.

Before WW2 he graduated from the Commercial High School in Sighet. After the war he studied in Cluj and in Bucharest. He returned to Sighet and served as teacher and ten as principal of the local elementary school of art.

He started his literary career in 1945 writing in Romanian, Hungarian, and Yiddish. His stories were published in Viaţa Românească literary magazine. His plays, in Romanian and Yiddish, were inspired by the trauma of the Holocaust or by Hasidic legends. Several of these plays were staged by the Jewish State Theater in Bucharest (TES): Familia Grinvald (“The Grinvald Family”, 1953), Generaţia din pustiu (“The Desert Generation”, 1956), and Un proces neterminat (“An Unfinished Trial”, 1962). From 1950 till 1967 he wrote about twenty plays performed in many theaters in Romania, Soviet Union, and Poland.

In 1972 he immigrated to Israel. He continued writing in Romanian, mainly short stories, but some of his work was also published in Hebrew. Bruckstein was one of the founders of the Association of Israeli Writers in the Romanian Language. He was a member of the Yiddish and Hebrew Writers’ Union too.

His works include Schimbul de noapte (“Night shift”, 1948) - a play in Yiddish about the Sonderkommando uprising in Auschwitz, Întoarcerea lui Cristofor Columb ("The Return of Christopher Columbus", 1957), Poate chiar fericire ("Maybe Even Happiness", 1985), Destinul lui Iaacov Maghid ("The Fate of Yaakov Magid", 1975), The Murmur of Water (1987). One of his last two short stories he wrote during his last months of life were published as Trap and deals with the fate of a young Jew who survives the deportations of the Jews of Sighet to Nazi death camps by hiding in the woods only to be arrested by the Soviets and sent to Siberia.

Starting from 2005, Bruckstein’s entire prose work was translated into Hebrew by the writer Yotam Reuveni.

Yossele Josef Rosenblatt (1882-1933) , cantor, born in Belaya Tserkov, Ukraine, son of a cantor, a Ruzhiner Chassid who frequented the court of the Sadagora Rabbi. Yossele Rosenblatt began to appear with his father when he was nine years old. His first appointment as cantor was in Munkacs, Hungary when he was 18 years old. A year later he moved to Pressburg, Hungary (now Bratislava, Slovakia) where he stayed for five years and during which time he composed 150 recitatives and choral pieces. Yossele Rosenblatt spent the following five years in Hamburg, Germany, moving to New York in 1912. He became cantor in New York and his reputation spread quickly. His refusal to sing and record the role of Eleazar in Halevi’s opera “La Juive” – for religious reasons – caused a storm. In 1925, after making a dubious investment in Yiddish newspaper venture, Rosenblatt was forced to declare bankruptcy. He retired as a cantor but continued to perform in concerts. In 1933 he came to Eretz Israel to participate in a movie production. After filming a scene at the Dead Sea, he suffered a stroke and died, aged fifty-one. Rosenblatt, considered the greatest cantor of his generation was buried on the Mount Olives, Jerusalem.

Rabbi

Born in Munkacs, he studied and was ordained there. He then studied at the Breslau Rabbinical Seminary and the University of Prague. Kahane then became rabbi of Pohorelice, remaining until he left for Palestine in 1939. There he engaged in research and in his latter years taught rabbinic literature at Bar-Ilan University. Kahane's main researches were in responsa literature on which he wrote extensively including a three-volume work on Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg.
Weiss, Yosef Meir (Joseph Meir) (Spinker Rebbe, aka Imrei Yosef after his major work) (1838-1909), rabbi and author, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire, now Mukachevo, in Ukraine), where his father, Samuel Zevi, was head of a yeshivah. He studied under his uncle, Yizhak Izak Weiss, in the small town of Svalyava (now in the Ukraine); later at the yeshivah of Meir Eisenstadt and his son in Ungvar (Uzhorod, Ukraine); and subsequently in the yeshivah of Shmelkel Klein in Nagyszollos (Vinogradov). After his marriage he was head of a yeshivah in Borsa (now in Romania). On the death of his wife he returned to his parents' home in Munkacs. After his remarriage he stayed with his father-in-law.

Later he became an adherent of his uncle, the Hasidic rabbi, Isaac Izak Eichenstein of Zydaczow, whom he regarded as his teacher in Kabbalah and with whom he remained for a period. The Eichenstein dynasty of hasidic rabbis held their court at Zydaczow, founded by Tsevi Hirsch Eichenstein (died 1831). After Isaac Izac Eichenstein's death, many considered Weiss his successor and he had many disciples. He went on to found the dynasty of Spinka (Sapanta, in Romania) which combines the characteristics of the schools of Zydaczow and Zanz.

He was the subject of many legends. Weiss wrote a work on the Pentateuch. He also published “Likkutei Torah ve-ha-Shas” of his teacher and uncle, Yizhak Izak of Zydaczov.
Kahane, Isaak (Yitzhak Ze'ev) (1904-1963), rabbinic scholar, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary, now Mukacevo in Ukraine). He studied at yeshivot in his hometown, where he was ordained as a rabbi, but continued his studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) and the University of Prague, Czech Republic. He served as rabbi of Pohorelice (Pohrlitz), Moravia, Czech Republic (then part of Czechoslovakia), until his emigration to Palestine in 1939.

In Jerusalem he was associated with Mosad ha-Rav Kook and several other religious research institutions. During the last years of his life, he taught rabbinic literature at Bar Ilan University.

Kahane's major field of research was rabbinic response literature. He conducted studies in which he analyzed specific topics and discussed the manner in which they had be dealt with in rabbinic responsa. He often abstracted material of historical or linguistic interest from them.

Among his works are "Shemittat Kesafim" (1945) on the cancellation of debts in the sabbatical year, "Le-Takkanat Agunot" (1946) on the agunah ("deserted wife") problem, "Sefer ha-Agunot" (1954), a large collection of source material on the agunah question, and "Teshuvot, Pesakim u-Minhagim" (1957-62) which consists of responsa, rulings, and customs of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, all of which were arranged and annotated systematically. His contributions to Hebrew scholarly periodicals and publications included: "Military Service in Rabbinic Responsa" (1948), "Changes in the Value of Currency in Jewish Law" (1949); "Medicine in Post-Talmudic Halakhic Literature"(1950) and "Synagogue Art in Halakhic Literature" (1955). He also wrote a history of the Jews of Moravia, which included a monograph on the Jewish community of Nikolsburg.
Pikler, I. Gyula (1864-1952), statistician and economist, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire, now Mukachevo, Ukraine). He received the degree of M.D. at the University of Vienna, Austria, and served as health officer in Hungary, contributing to medical journals of several countries. From 1897 on he was in charge of the mortality statistics of Budapest; subsequently he became vice-director of the statistical bureau of Budapest. From 1919 to 1924 he was director of the Hungarian real estate assessment bureau.
Upon retirement he lectured throughout Europe on the theory of the revenue from land. He published several works in Hungarian on the taxation of real estate and on Hungarian land reform.
Yossele Rosenblatt

Yossele Josef Rosenblatt (1882-1933) , cantor, born in Belaya Tserkov, Ukraine, son of a cantor, a Ruzhiner Chassid who frequented the court of the Sadagora Rabbi. Yossele Rosenblatt began to appear with his father when he was nine years old. His first appointment as cantor was in Munkacs, Hungary when he was 18 years old. A year later he moved to Pressburg, Hungary (now Bratislava, Slovakia) where he stayed for five years and during which time he composed 150 recitatives and choral pieces. Yossele Rosenblatt spent the following five years in Hamburg, Germany, moving to New York in 1912. He became cantor in New York and his reputation spread quickly. His refusal to sing and record the role of Eleazar in Halevi’s opera “La Juive” – for religious reasons – caused a storm. In 1925, after making a dubious investment in Yiddish newspaper venture, Rosenblatt was forced to declare bankruptcy. He retired as a cantor but continued to perform in concerts. In 1933 he came to Eretz Israel to participate in a movie production. After filming a scene at the Dead Sea, he suffered a stroke and died, aged fifty-one. Rosenblatt, considered the greatest cantor of his generation was buried on the Mount Olives, Jerusalem.

Margit and Josef Straus with Russian Soldiers at the end of WWII, Munkach 1945
Yearbook of the Hebrew Gymnasium in Munkach, Czechoslovakia 1938/39
Eliyahu and Rachel Rubin with Son Amos and Neighbors' children. Munkach 1935/36
The boy Amos Rubin in the backyard of the Straus family, Munkach, Hungary 1944
One Year Old Toddler Amos Rubin in the Backyard of his Home. Munkach 1933
Rachel Balkanyi, Munkach, Czechoslovakia 1930
Amos Rubin in front of the Straus Home where he was hidden during W. W.II. Munkach 1998.
Margit and Josef Straus with Russian Soldiers
at the end of WWII, Munkach, Hungary 1945.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
Yearbook of the Hebrew Gymnasium in Munkach,
edited by Ing. Eliyahu Rubin, headmaster of the school.
Czechoslovakia 1938/39
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
Eliyahu and Rachel Rubin with son Amos
and neighbors' children.
Munkach, Czechoslovakia 1935/36.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
The boy Amos Rubin with Fifi the dog in the backyard of the Straus family, who hid him and saved his life during the Nazi occupation.
Munkach, Hungary 1944.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
One Year Old Toddler Amos Rubin in the Backyard of his Home. Munkach, Czechoslovakia 1933
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
Rachel Balkanyi, Munkach, Czechoslovakia 1930
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
Amos Rubin in front of the Straus Home where he was hidden during world War II. Munkach 1998.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
Courtesy of Amos Rubin, Israel)
Kahane, Yitshak Zeev
Weiss, Yosef Meir
Kahane, Isaak (Yitzhak Ze'ev)
Pikler, I. Gyula
Rabbi

Born in Munkacs, he studied and was ordained there. He then studied at the Breslau Rabbinical Seminary and the University of Prague. Kahane then became rabbi of Pohorelice, remaining until he left for Palestine in 1939. There he engaged in research and in his latter years taught rabbinic literature at Bar-Ilan University. Kahane's main researches were in responsa literature on which he wrote extensively including a three-volume work on Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg.
Weiss, Yosef Meir (Joseph Meir) (Spinker Rebbe, aka Imrei Yosef after his major work) (1838-1909), rabbi and author, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire, now Mukachevo, in Ukraine), where his father, Samuel Zevi, was head of a yeshivah. He studied under his uncle, Yizhak Izak Weiss, in the small town of Svalyava (now in the Ukraine); later at the yeshivah of Meir Eisenstadt and his son in Ungvar (Uzhorod, Ukraine); and subsequently in the yeshivah of Shmelkel Klein in Nagyszollos (Vinogradov). After his marriage he was head of a yeshivah in Borsa (now in Romania). On the death of his wife he returned to his parents' home in Munkacs. After his remarriage he stayed with his father-in-law.

Later he became an adherent of his uncle, the Hasidic rabbi, Isaac Izak Eichenstein of Zydaczow, whom he regarded as his teacher in Kabbalah and with whom he remained for a period. The Eichenstein dynasty of hasidic rabbis held their court at Zydaczow, founded by Tsevi Hirsch Eichenstein (died 1831). After Isaac Izac Eichenstein's death, many considered Weiss his successor and he had many disciples. He went on to found the dynasty of Spinka (Sapanta, in Romania) which combines the characteristics of the schools of Zydaczow and Zanz.

He was the subject of many legends. Weiss wrote a work on the Pentateuch. He also published “Likkutei Torah ve-ha-Shas” of his teacher and uncle, Yizhak Izak of Zydaczov.
Kahane, Isaak (Yitzhak Ze'ev) (1904-1963), rabbinic scholar, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary, now Mukacevo in Ukraine). He studied at yeshivot in his hometown, where he was ordained as a rabbi, but continued his studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) and the University of Prague, Czech Republic. He served as rabbi of Pohorelice (Pohrlitz), Moravia, Czech Republic (then part of Czechoslovakia), until his emigration to Palestine in 1939.

In Jerusalem he was associated with Mosad ha-Rav Kook and several other religious research institutions. During the last years of his life, he taught rabbinic literature at Bar Ilan University.

Kahane's major field of research was rabbinic response literature. He conducted studies in which he analyzed specific topics and discussed the manner in which they had be dealt with in rabbinic responsa. He often abstracted material of historical or linguistic interest from them.

Among his works are "Shemittat Kesafim" (1945) on the cancellation of debts in the sabbatical year, "Le-Takkanat Agunot" (1946) on the agunah ("deserted wife") problem, "Sefer ha-Agunot" (1954), a large collection of source material on the agunah question, and "Teshuvot, Pesakim u-Minhagim" (1957-62) which consists of responsa, rulings, and customs of Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, all of which were arranged and annotated systematically. His contributions to Hebrew scholarly periodicals and publications included: "Military Service in Rabbinic Responsa" (1948), "Changes in the Value of Currency in Jewish Law" (1949); "Medicine in Post-Talmudic Halakhic Literature"(1950) and "Synagogue Art in Halakhic Literature" (1955). He also wrote a history of the Jews of Moravia, which included a monograph on the Jewish community of Nikolsburg.
Pikler, I. Gyula (1864-1952), statistician and economist, born in Munkacs, Hungary (then part of the Austrian Empire, now Mukachevo, Ukraine). He received the degree of M.D. at the University of Vienna, Austria, and served as health officer in Hungary, contributing to medical journals of several countries. From 1897 on he was in charge of the mortality statistics of Budapest; subsequently he became vice-director of the statistical bureau of Budapest. From 1919 to 1924 he was director of the Hungarian real estate assessment bureau.
Upon retirement he lectured throughout Europe on the theory of the revenue from land. He published several works in Hungarian on the taxation of real estate and on Hungarian land reform.