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Andrei Oisteanu

Andrei Oisteanu (b. 1948),  historian of religions and mentalities, ethnologist, cultural anthropologist, literary critic and novelist, born in Bucharest, Romania. He graduated from the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, followed a course in Oriental studies at the University of Bucharest and a course in Jewish studies at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. Between 1997-1999, he received a research grant at the International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. 

A professor at the Department for Jewish Studies, at the University of Bucharest, Oisteanu is also a founding member and researcher at the Institute for History of Religions in Bucharest and the president of the Romanian Association for the History of Religions

He is the author of a volume of fiction - Cutia cu batrani ("The Box with Old People", Bucharest, 1995) and of several ethnology and cultural anthropology studies: The Garden Beyond. Zoosophia (Cluj, 1980), Motives and mitosymbolic meanings in traditional Romanian culture ( Bucharest, 1989), Mythos and logos, studies and essays on cultural anthropology, (Bucharest, 1997, 2nd edition - 1998), The Image of the Jew in Romanian Culture. A Study of Imagology in Central-East European Context (Bucharest, 2001, 2nd edition 2004, 3rd edition, Iasi, 2012).; Das Bild des Juden in der rumänischen Volkskultur ("The Image of the Jew in Romanian Popular Culture", Konstanz, 2002); Sexuality and Society: History, Religion and Literature (Iasi, 2018). 

Date of birth:
1948
ID Number:
20658739
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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Valery Oisteanu (aka Valeriu Oișteanu) (b. 1943), poet, art critic, essayist, photographer, born in Karaganda (Qaraǵandy), Kazakhstan (then part of the Soviet Union). He was raised and educated in Romania where he graduated from the Faculty of Industrial Chemistry of the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest. He started his literary career with Proteze (“Prostheses”), a volume of poetry published in 1970. In 1972 he immigrated to United States and settled in New York. In the United States he started writing in English. His style reflects the influence of the Dada and the Surrealist movements. In New York, Oisteanu took part in various events of poetry reading, that he called Jazzoetry, boasting a style that combined elements of Zen and Dada. As an art critic he contributed to several art magazines, including The Brooklyn Rail, NYArts and D’Art International. Oisteanu is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, a book of short fiction and a book of essays. His English poetry volumes include Do Not Defuse (1980), Passport to Eternal Life (1990), Temporary Immortality (1995), ZEN DADA (1999), Anarchy for a Rainy Day (2015), and Lighter Than Air (2015). Poeme din Exil (“Poems from Exile”), a volume of poetry in Romanian was published in Romania in 2000.

Valery Oisteanu is the brother of Andrei Oisteanu (b.1048), a historian of religions and mentalities, ethnologist, cultural anthropologist, literary critic and novelist.

Bucharest

Romanian: Bucuresti

Capital of Romania

The historic Jewish district of Bucharest used to be centered around the Choral Temple, and spread from Piata Unirii east towards Dristor. However, most of the Jewish buildings that stood there were destroyed during the 1980s in order to make way for the Bulevardul Unirii. As of 2015, there remain a handful of points of Jewish interest in Bucharest, serving the community of approximately 3,500. The Choral Temple, the Yeshua Tova Synagogue, and the Great Polish Synagogue, continue to hold services; the latter also hosts the city's Holocaust Museum. The Beit Hamidrash Synagogue, which dates back to the late 18th century, is abandoned and decaying, though the structure itself is still (barely) standing. Another abandoned synagogue whose building still stands is the Hevra Amuna (Temple of Faith).

The Jewish History Museum (Muzeul de Istorie a Evreilor din Romania) is located in what was once a synagogue called the Holy Union Temple. The synagogue building itself was constructed in 1836; it began serving as a Jewish history museum in 1978. Mozes Rosen, the chief rabbi of Romania from 1964 until his death in 1994, founded the museum and provided a number of items for its collection.

The State Jewish Theater, which is located in Bucharest, is the oldest uninterrupted Yiddish-language theater in the world. The theater features plays by Jewish playwrights, plays about Jewish topics, and Yiddish plays that run simultaneous Romanian translations through headphones. The theater is located next to the Lauder-Reut Jewish school, which has over 400 students enrolled in its kindergarten, elementary, and middle schools.

HISTORY

The Jewish community of Bucharest was formed both by Sephardic Jews who arrived from the south, chiefly from the Otooman Empire, and later by Ashkenazi Jews arriving from the north. A responsum by the rabbi of Solonika during the 16th century that mentions a Sephardic community is the first documented evidence confirming the presence of Jews in Budapest. The Jewish community began to grow and prosper; some were even the creditors of the ruling princes. This economic success, however, eventually came at a steep price (pun intended); when Prince Michael the Brave revolved against the Turks in November 1593, he ordered that his creditors be killed, among whom were a number of Jews.

Ahskenazi Jews began arriving and establishing their own community towards the middle of the 17th century, drawn there after fleeing the Khmielnitski Massacres taking place in Ukraine. Their numbers grew, and eventually the Ashkenazi community became larger than the Sephardic community. For tax purposes, the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities were organized into a single community by the state, and were forced to pay a fixed tax to the treasury. Meanwhile, the general population, afraid of economic competition, was intensely hostile towards the Jews. In 1793 residents of the suburb Razvan petitioned Prince Alexander Moruzi to expel the Jews who had recently settled in the area and to demolish the synagogue that they had built. Though the prince ordered that the synagogue be closed, he did not remove the Jews from Razvan and, in fact, issued a decree confirming his protection of them. In 1801 there were anti-Jewish riots following blood libel accusations, and 128 Jews were killed or wounded.

In 1819 Prince Alexandru Sutu officially acknowledged both the Sephardic ("Spanish") and Ashkenazi ("Polish") communities, allowing them to operate as separate entities. This continued until 1949 when the Communist regime once again forced the two communities to join together. By 1832 there were 10 Ashkenazi and one Sephardi synagogues in Bucharest. The Great Synagogue, which was Ashkenazi, was dedicated on Rosh Hashanah, 1847.

In spite of the impressive Great Synagogue, the Ashkenazi community of Bucharest had to deal with a number of fissures and tensions during the 19th century. There were tensions between those were born in Romania, and those who immigrated to Bucharest, who were not under the same system of taxation as the native Romanians. This led the immigrants within the Jewish community, who were considered "foreign subjects" to refuse to pay the tax levied on kosher meat. This was a problem, as this tax constituted the sole income of the community council. The authorities, who were drawn into the conflict, at first upheld the traditional rights of the Jewish communal organization. However, following repeated complaints from both sides, as well as constitutional changes that took place in Romania in 1832, the community was given a new constitution that greatly curtailed its autonomy. Instead of operating autonomously, it fell under the direct authority and close supervision of the municipality. Eventually, in 1851, the Prussian and Austrian subjects (about 300 families) were officially permitted to found a separate community.

The increasing influence of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), also led to tensions within the Ashkenazi community. It is important to note that this conflict also reflected the economics of the community; those in favor of the Haskalah and who wanted the community to undertake more progressive reforms tended to be from the upper classes, while those who were more traditional tended to be further down the socioeconomic ladder. At that time, the Bucharest Ashkenazi community was torn by strife between the Orthodox and progressive factions. The controversy began to center around a school with a modern curriculum that opened in 1852, as well as the proposal in 1857, led by Ya'akov Lobel, to build a Choral Temple, that would incorporate modern ideas and principles into its services. The appointment of Rabbi Meir Leib Malbim in 1858 as the chief rabbi did not help quell the disputes. Malbim was a fierce and uncompromising opponent of the Reform movement, and he quickly made enemies among Bucharest's Jewish elite. The conflicts between Malbim and those who were in favor of the Reform Movement came to a head in 1862, when Malbim was arrested. He was freed only after Sir Moses Montefiore intervened, and on the condition that he leave Romania. The Choral Synagogue was completed in 1867, and became the center for the modernists of the community.

Among the most prominent spiritual and religious leaders of the community before World War I were Antoine Levy and Moritz (Meir) Beck, who were rabbis of the Choir Temple Congregation from 1867 to 1869 and 1873 to 1923, respectively. Other outstanding figures within the Choir Temple community were Iuliu Barasch and Yitzchak Leib Weinberg. Yitzchak Esiik Taubes was the rabbi of the Orthodox Congregation from 1894 until 1921. The most prominent lay leader was Adolf Stern. Moscu Asher led the Sephardic community, and Rabbi Hayim Bejarano was a noted scholar and poet. Later, the lawyer and politician Wilhelm Filderman would become the president of the Union of Romanian Jews, and Rabbi Jacob Isaac Niemirower would be the country's first chief rabbi. Filderman, in fact, would in 1941 work successfully to annul the decree forcing Jews to wear an identifying badge.

Between the two World Wars the Bucharest community grew in both numbers and importance. The Jewish population of the city, which had become the capital of Greater Romania and attracted immigrants from all parts of the country, increased from 44,000 in 1912 to 74,480 (12% of the total population) in 1930 and 95,072 in 1940. Most Jews worked as artisans, merchants, clerks, and bankers. Others were active in professions such as medicine and law. Several ironworks and foundries were established by the end of the 19th century. Major Jewish business leaders at that time included Leon Abramovici, Sigmund Prager, and Adolph Solomon.

There were a number of Jewish schools in Bucharest, particularly at the turn of the 20th century. Among the most influential was the abovementioned school established in 1852 by Yisrael Pick and Naftali Popper. These founders sought to imbue their school with the Haskalah principles that they believed in, and the school became extremely influential on Jewish education in Romania. There were also vocational institutions serving Jewish workers, including the Ciocanul (Hammer) school which trained Jewish craft workers.

Communal institutions included over 40 synagogues, two cemeteries, 19 schools, a library and museum, two hospitals, a clinic, two homes for the elderly, and two orphanages. There was also a B'nai B'rith, as long as a number of social and cultural organizations serving the community. A number of newspapers also served the community; the first Jewish newspaper, "Israelitul roman," was founded in 1855 and written in Romanian and French. Other publications included "Fraternitatea," "Revista Israelita," "Egalitatea," and "Curierul Israelit." Yiddish and Hebrew language publications included "Et LeDaber," "HaYoetz," and the Zionist newspapers "Mantuirea" and "Hasmonaea." A Yiddish theater was established in the late 1870s, and reached its peak during the interwar period. This theater would later be banned under Ion Antonescu.

Anti-Semitism continued to be a problem for the Jews of Bucharest. In 1866 the visit of Adolph Cremieux, a French lawyer who advocated for the political emancipation of the Jews, resulted in Jewish synagogues and shops being vandalized. The rise of prominence of nationalist leader Alexandru C. Cuza spurred the development of a number of anti-Semitic organizations, many of which were centered at Bucharest University.

In September 1940, with the rise of the Antonescu-Iron Guard coalition, Bucharest became one of the new regime's main centers of the anti-Jewish activities. This culminated in a pogrom during the rebellion of the Legionary Movement; 120 Jews were killed, thousands were arrested and tortured, synagogues were desecrated, and Jewish homes, shops, and community buildings were looted and destroyed.

Until the end of the Antonescu regime in August 1944, the Jews of Bucharest were subjected anti-Semitic legislation and persecution. Jews were legally downgraded to second-class citizens. They could no longer access state-funded education or health care, and their property was confiscated. These restrictions had major economic effects on the community: in 1942 only 27.2% of the city's Jewish population of about 100,000 were registered as employed, compared with 54.3% of the non-Jewish population. In September 1942 several hundred Jews were deported to Transnistria, where many eventually perished. Thousands of other Jews, particularly the young, were required to work as forced laborers.

The lack of access to education, combined with the growing poverty of the Jewish community, spurred the need for the community to greatly expand their own educational and social welfare activities. In 1943 the Jewish community ran 27 schools and 21 soup kitchens. Bucharest became the center of relief activities for Romanian Jews.

The Jews of Bucharest were saved after Antonescu was deposed on August 23, 1944 and German forces were not able to entering the city. Though Adolf Eichmann had begun making preparations to deport Romania's Jews, the fierce opposition on the part of the Romanian army, coupled with the entry of the Soviet Army on August 30, 1944, prevented any of these plans from being carried out.

After World War II, large numbers of Jewish refugees and concentration camp survivors began arriving in the city; by 1947 the Jewish population had grown to 150,000. The Communist regime, which came to power in 1947, gradually closed all Jewish national, cultural, and social institutions in Bucharest. The welfare institutions were nationalized and the schools were absorbed into the general educational network. A state Yiddish school was opened in 1949, but closed a few years later. A State Yiddish Theater was founded in 1948 and a Yiddish drama school was established in 1957. Two Jewish newspapers, the Romanian "Unirea," followed later by "Viata Novua" and the Yiddish "Ikuf Bleter" were published. Of the 44,202 Jews (3.6% of the total population) registered in the city in the 1956 census, 4,425 of them declared Yiddish to be their mother tongue. In spite of the difficulties in living under a Communist regime, Rabbi Mozes Rosen was able to successfully navigate the opaque policies of the Romanian government, allowing Bucharest to continue to serve as the center of Jewish communal and cultural life.

The rise of Nicolae Ceausescu, who was the dictator of Romania between 1965 and 1989, prompted mass emigrations to Israel. In 1969 it was estimated that there were 50,000 Jews living in Bucharest; by the turn of the 21st century there were only about 4,000.

Budapest

The capital of Hungary, became a city in 1872, following the union of the historic towns of Buda, Obuda, and Pest.

CONTEMPORARY BUDAPEST

Approximately 80,000 to 100,000 Jews live in Hungary, making it central Europe's largest Jewish community. More than 80% of Hungarian Jews live in the capital city of Budapest. Smaller Jewish communities can be found in the neighboring areas of Debrecen, Miskolc, Szeged and Nyiregyhaza. Of the ten thousand Holocaust survivors living in Hungary, the vast majority live in Budapest. Since 2013, hundreds of Jews have left Hungary due to a rise in anti-Semitism, many of whom then settled in Vienna. The traditional Jewish Quarter of Budapest is located in District VII. Within it are several Jewish historical sites, stores and kosher restaurants.

Following the collapse of communism in 1989, several Jewish organizations were reopened. The largest organization serving the Jewish community of Budapest is MAZSIHISZ, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary. A variety of social services are provided by the Joint Distribution Committee, as well as the Lauder Foundation. Healthcare and medical services are provided by the Charity Jewish Hospital and Nursing Facility and two centers for elderly care. The city's many religious institutions include a historic mikvah (ritual bath) and a variety of kosher restaurants. Budapest also has over ten kosher butcher shops, bakeries, and even a matza factory.

Each year Budapest hosts several Jewish social and cultural events. The Jewish Summer Festival puts on a variety of shows including concerts, dance performances, and films. The Jewish community has also established many social and educational programs for children and young adults. The most popular organizations are B'nei Brith, WIZO, UJS, Bnei Akiva, and the Maccabi athletic club. Each summer, an estimated 1,500 campers from more than twenty countries attend Camp Szarvas.

Since the fall of communism, there has been a revival of Jewish religious life in Budapest. As of the beginning of the 21st century, there are as many as twenty synagogues throughout the city, representing a variety of movements including Orthodox, Chabad Lubavitch, Neolog (similar to the Conservative Movement) and Liberal. There are also synagogues located in the provincial cities of Miskolc and Debrecen. In 2003, Slomo Koves became the first Orthodox rabbi to be ordained in Hungary since the Holocaust.

Budapest boasts many Jewish kindergartens, elementary schools, and high schools. The three Jewish high schools are Lauder Javne, Wesselenyi, and Anna Frank. Lauder Javne is located on a five-acre campus and was opened in 1990. It is non-denominational and is sponsored by the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. The Budapest University of Jewish Studies was established in 1877 as a Neolog Rabbinical seminary. Jewish studies programs are offered at several universities including Eotvos Lorand University, the largest school of higher education in Hungary, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the Central European University which was established by Hungarian-born George Soros. Jewish educational programming is also offered at the Beth Peretz Jewish Education Centre Foundation, the American Foundation School, and the Hillel Jewish Educational and Youth Center.

The capital city of Budapest is rich with culture and history, and is home to several buildings, monuments, and cultural centers, including several points of Jewish interest. One such place is the Holocaust Memorial Center, which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust during World War II. The Center is situated outside the traditional Jewish quarter and is housed by the Pava Synagogue where it has been since 2004. In 2005, the institution was awarded the Nivo Prize of Architecture for the restoration and rehabilitation of a historic monument.

The city's Jewish Museum is the second-largest in all of Europe. It operates under the auspices of the Alliance of Jewish Communities in Hungary. In 1942, two employees hid valuable museum artifacts in the cellar of Budapest's National Museum. During the German occupation, the building served as an escape passage as its gate was situated outside the borders of the ghetto. Additionally, Theodor Herzl was born in the building which once stood at the present site of the museum.

One of the most significant Jewish cultural sites in Budapest is the Emanuel Holocaust 'Tree of Life' Memorial sculpture in Raoul Wallenberg Park. Engraved on the thirty thousand leaves are the names of Jews who were killed or had disappeared during the Holocaust.

Two other important sites which memorialize the victims of the Holocaust and the events of World War II are the statue of Raoul Wallenberg and the Shoes on the Danube Embankment. Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who saved many Jewish lives by helping them escape deportation. The Shoes on the Danube Embankment is a memorial comprised of sixty pairs of metal shoes set in concrete. Created in 2005, it commemorates the Hungarian Jewish victims killed by militiamen of Arrow Cross, the pro-German national socialist party which was active in Hungary between 1944 and 1945.

In addition to cultural centers and memorials, Budapest contains a number of Jewish landmarks. Located in the heart of Budapest is the King's Hotel –one of the first private Jewish three-star hotels in Budapest. While the hotel has been renovated and modernized, the building itself is more than one hundred years old.

Northern Budapest contains the Medieval Jewish Chapel, a small Sephardic house of prayer which had been rebuilt from ruins in the 18th century. During the 1686 siege of Budapest many of the city's Jewish buildings were completely destroyed. The chapel's original function was not revealed until an excavation in the 1960s when the synagogue's keystone and tombstones engraved in Hebrew were unearthed. Another historic religious site is the Dohany Street Synagogue. Inaugurated in 1659, the synagogue is designed in a Moorish style and is the second-largest synagogue in the world.

Still serving the Jewish community of Budapest is the Kozma Street Cemetery. It is the largest Jewish cemetery in Budapest, and among the largest in Europe. Its unique monuments and mausoleums have drawn many visitors since it opened in 1891.

There are three major publications which serve the Jewish community of Budapest and Hungary. The biweekly Uj Elet (New Life) is the official journal of MAZSIHISZ; the Szombat (Saturday) provides news and information about Jewish life in Hungary as well international issues, and the Mult es Jovo (Past and Future) is a cultural and intellectual journal.


HISTORY

BUDA (also known as Ofen, Oven, Boden, Bodro)
The first Jewish settlers came to Buda from Germany and various Slavic countries during the second half of the 12th century. In 1279 they were isolated in a ghetto, and forced to wear a red badge. Over the course of the 14th century, the Jewish community was expelled twice: first in 1349 following anti-Semitic allegations that arose after the Black Death had swept through the region, and again in 1360 as a result of hostility from the church. In 1364 Jews were permitted to return, though with some restrictions imposed on them. After the establishment of Buda as the royal residence in the late 14th century, its Jewish community became prominent within the larger Hungarian Jewish community. During the 15th century, the Jewish community was recognized as an autonomous government, and the community leader of Buda became the leader of Hungarian Jewry at large. At this time, the Jews of Buda were mainly engaged in commerce and in exports to the German lands and Bohemia.

In 1526 the Turks captured Buda. The majority of the Jews, about 2,000 people, were expelled to the Ottoman Empire, while a minority escaped to communities in western Hungary which had not fallen to the Turks. Jews were able to resettle Buda in 1541 and despite the heavy taxes, the community grew and became the wealthiest and most important in Hungary. Jews occupied influential positions in the management of the treasury and were generally employed in commerce and finance. By 1660 the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities numbered about 1,000 Jews.

In 1686, the Austrians and their allies conducted a siege of Buda and subsequently defeated the Turks and conquered the town. The Jewish population had sided with the Turks and nearly half of them perished over the course of the fighting and its aftermath. The Jewish Quarter was ransacked, and the Torah scrolls were set on fire. Half of the remaining Jews, approximately 250 people, were taken as prisoners and exiled. These events are mentioned in Megilat Ofen, by Yitzhak ben Zalman Schulhof.

The new Austrian administration, in response to church demands, placed restrictions upon the Jews and the Jewish community was consequently subject to more restrictions and expulsions. The Jews of Buda were exiled in 1746 by Empress Maria Theresa, and were permitted to return in 1783, when Emperor Josef II allowed the Jews to reenter and settle in Hungarian towns. The community did not regain its former stature and prominence until the second half of the 19th century, at which time there were 7,000 Jewish families living in Buda.

During these turbulent times, Buda saw the formation of a number of Jewish institutions and the rise of several prominent figures. The latter half of the 18th century saw the establishment of a Hevra Kadisha. By 1869 four synagogues had been built, and were joined by two more at the end of the 19th century. The first known rabbi of the community was Akiva Ben Menahem Hacohen, also called "Nasi," who led the community during the 15th century. In the second half of the 17th century, during the lifetime of Rabbi Ephraim Ben Yaakov Hacohen, Buda was a focal point of the messianic movement of Shabbetai Zvi in Hungary. Moshe Kunitzer, a pioneer of the Haskalah movement in Hungary, was the chief rabbi from1828 until 1837.

OBUDA (also known as Alt-Ofen in German, and Oven Yashan, Old Buda, in Hebrew)
The Jewish community in Obuda vanished after the Turkish conquest in 1526 and was not resettled until 1712, under the leadership of Yaakov Lob. After the return of the Jewish community, by 1727 there were 24 Jewish families living in Obuda under the protection of the counts of Zichy. In a document recognized by the royal court in 1766, the Jews were granted freedom of religion, trading rights relating to the payment of special taxes, and permission to live anywhere in the town. This was a privilege granted in Obuda only.

The Jews of Obuda practiced agriculture, commerce and various trades. Textile factories established by the Jews of Obuda, among them the Goldberger Company, enjoyed favorable reputations throughout Hungary.

The first synagogue was built in 1738, a Hevra Kadisha was founded in 1770, and a Jewish hospital was established in 1772. In 1820 The old synagogue of Obuda underwent significant renovations. That same year, The Great Synagogue on Lajos Street was consecrated, and became one of the most well-known synagogues in the Habsburg Empire. Additionally,during the year 1820 an ultimately short-lived school was built at the demand of Emperor Josef II; since, however, Jewish parents did not want Christian teachers educating their children, the school was consequently closed. However, in spite of these impressive community projects, by the middle of the 19th century many Jewish families were moving to Pest.

PEST
Jews are first mentioned as living in Pest in 1406, and in 1504 there is mention of several Jewish home and landowners. Yet after the Austrian conquest in 1686 Jewish settlement in Pest ended. Although some sources mention a sporadic Jewish presence in Pest, it was not until 1746, when Jews expelled from Buda were looking for alternate places to live, that Jews once again began living in Pest in significant numbers. This community, however, was officially recognized only in 1783, when Emperor Josef II began allowing Jews into Hungarian towns, though they had to pay a special "tolerance tax" to the town. The first synagogue was opened in 1787 in Kiraly Street and later several more synagogues were built, including a Sephardi synagogue. The Great Synagogue on Dohany Street, which remains one of the largest in Europe, was built later, in 1859.

After the emperor’s death in 1790, limitations on Jewish settlement were re-imposed, and only a few Jews chosen by the town’s authorities were permitted to remain in Pest. The rest moved into the Erzsebetvaros Quarter, which maintained a large Jewish population until the Holocaust. During this period, the Jews set up factories and were engaged in commerce and trade.

In spite of the reimposition of restrictions on the Jewish community, they nonetheless were able to open the first Jewish school in Pest, in 1814. This school taught both religious and secular subjects in German. Additionally, there were several private Jewish schools. In later years, a girls’ school was opened in 1814 and a Jewish Teachers' training college was opened in 1859. The Orthodox community opened its first school in 1873.

The restrictions imposed after the death of Emperor Josef II were repealed in 1840. During the Hungarian National Revolution of 1848-1849, also known as the Revolution of Liberty against the Habsburg rule, many of the Jews from Pest volunteered to fight, and the community contributed considerable sums of money to the revolution. When the revolution failed, however, heavy taxes were imposed upon the Jews of Pest because of their participation. In 1867, following the formation of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, the new Hungarian government granted equal rights to the Jews of Hungary. This prompted a fruitful period of community-building; that same year the Jewish community of Pest opened an orphanage for girls, the first of its kind in Hungary, followed by a second orphanage for boys in 1869. In later years, several hospitals and welfare institutions for the elderly and sick were opened, as well as a home for the deaf and dumb, which was inaugurated in 1876.
Judaism was officially recognized as one of the accepted religions of Hungary in 1895.

The year 1867 also saw a new initiative from the Pest community: The Hungarian Jewish Congress. Its aim was to prompt a discussion of the schisms in the Jewish community, particularly between the Orthodox and the Neolog congregations. Following the first meeting of the congress in December 1868, the Orthodox appealed to the Hungarian government and in 1871 they were legally recognized as a distinct community. In 1889 Rabbi Koppel Reich was elected to be the head of the Hungarian Orthodox community; he later became a member of the upper house of the Hungarian parliament in 1927, when he was nearly 90 years old.

In 1877, the Rabbinical Seminary was opened in Budapest. Its aim was to integrate rabbinical studies with general education, and it became one of the world’s leading institutions for rabbinical training. Its founders and faculty members were well-known researchers and instructors. The seminar’s publications included journals such as the Magyar Zsido Szemle (Hungarian Jewish Review). In spite of opposition and boycotts from the Orthodox community, the seminary played a central role in shaping modern Hungarian Jewry.

BUDAPEST
In 1873, Buda and Pest were officially merged with Obuda, creating the city of Budapest. Concurrently, the second half of the 19th century was a period of economic and cultural prosperity for the Jewish community of Budapest. The beginning of the 20th entury saw Budapest become an important center for Jewish journalism. The weekly Magyar Israelita became the first Jewish newspaper in Hungarian. In the broader community, Jews also assumed an important role in the founding and editing of leading newspapers in Hungary, such as Nyugat (West). During the interwar period, non-Orthodox Jewish educational institutions included 15 schools with 3,600 students. Meanwhile, the Orthodox community had a population of approximately 10,000 and was establishing its own welfare and educational institutions.

1919-1921 was the period of The White Terror in Hungary. After the fall of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, the new regime of Admiral Miklos Horthy organized army gangs to suppress and destroy any lingering communist elements in the country. Because a number of the communist leaders were Jewish, Hungarian Jews became the main victims of this “purification." From the time Admiral Horthy entered Budapest on November 14, 1919, Jewish officials in the army and government service were dismissed, Jews were forbidden to trade in tobacco and wine, and scientific institutions were closed to them. In 1920, the Numerus Clausus law was imposed, which determined admission to universities on a national basis and effectively established a quota for the number of Jews permitted to enter Hungarian universities.

In spite of government-endorsed anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence, by 1935 there were 201,069 Jews living in Budapest making it one of the largest Jewish communities in the world.

BUDAPEST JEWS OF NOTE
• Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921), the founder of the Academy for the Study of Modern Islam. He was the secretary of the Budapest Neolog community from 1874 to 1904. Goldziher helped found the Jewish-Hungarian Literary Society which worked to spread Jewish culture by means of lectures and publications. Among the Society's publications was the first Jewish translation of the Bible into Hungarian. Goldziher also founded the Jewish-Hungarian museum. He was a teacher in the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest.

• Arminius Vambery (1832-1913), a famous traveler and researcher. He was instrumental in introducing Theodor Herzl to the Sultan of Turkey.

• Ferenc Molnar (1878-1931), an outstanding dramatist and novelist. Molnar is best known today as the author of the famous children’s book The Paul Street Boys, published in 1927.

• Lengyel Menyhert (1880-1974 ), a dramatist and scriptwriter. His credits include Ninotchka (1940) and To Be or Not to Be (1942), celebrated films for which he wrote the screenplays.

• Professor Alexander (Sandor) Scheiber ( 1913-1985) was the director of the Rabbinical Seminary during the 1950s. He published research on the history of Hungarian Jewry, and in his last years was actively involved in the consolidation of communal life in Budapest.

ZIONISM
Budapest was the birthplace of Theodor (Binyamin Ze'ev) Herzl (1860-1904), the father of modern Zionism. The writer and physicist Max Nordau (1849-1932), a founding member of the World Zionist Congress and author of the Basel Platform at the First Zionist Congress (1897), was also born in Budapest. It is not surprising, therefore, that Budapest was a hotbed of Zionist activity at the turn of the 20th century. In 1903 the student Zionist association Makkabea was established; its first group of pioneers immigrated to Palestine before the end of World War I.The Zionist press in Budapest began in 1905 with the publication of Zsido Neplap (Jewish Popular Paper), which closed down two years later. Magyar Zsido Szemle (Hungarian Jewish Review), another Zionist publication, began operating in 1911, the same year as the quarterly Mult es Jovo.

The Zionist activity in Budapest was strengthened by the arrival in the city in 1940 of Zionist leaders from Transylvania, among them Rudolf Kasztner (who would later play a controversial role during the Holocaust) and Erno Marton. The worsening situation of the Hungarian Jewry during the late 1930’s and during the Holocaust period led to a rise in the popularity of Zionism.

Another Budapest Zionist of note is Hanna Szenes (1921-1944), a native of Budapest who emigrated to Palestine. Szenes was a poetess and paratrooper in the Haganah an underground Jewish military organization in Palestine. During World War II, Szenes was sent on a mission to Hungary to help organize Jewish anti-Nazi resistance. Tragically, she was captured and executed by the Nazis.

Although Zionist organizations reemerged and were active after World War II, the Communist regime banned their activities after 1949, and a number of Zionist leaders were put on trial having been accused of “conspiracy”.

THE HOLOCAUST
Following the Discriminatory Laws of 1938-41, which limited Jewish participation in the economy and society, certain large institutions and factories were required to dismiss their Jewish employees. In 1940, Jews began to be drafted to be forced laborers, which meant that many families were left without any means of support. On November 20, 1940, Hungary signed a treaty with Italy and Japan, thereby officially joining the Axis Powers led by Nazi Germany. During the period that followed Hungary's entry into the war against the Soviet Union in 1941, until the occupation of Hungary by the German army on March 19th, 1944, more than 15,000 Jews from Budapest were killed during deportations and in forced labor camps.

In March 1944, Adolph Eichmann ordered that the Jewish communal organizations be dissolved, and replaced by a Jewish council, Zsido Tanacs. Jews were forced to wear the yellow badge. Freedom of movement was restricted and many buildings were seized. The licenses of Jewish lawyers and newspapers were suspended. On June 30, 1944, the Germans started to concentrate the Jews in certain parts of the city and plans were made to begin their deportation.

The anti-Semitic Arrow Cross Party, led by Ferenc Szalasi, came to power in October 1944. The new government immediately began carrying out attacks against the Jews, killing 600 people during the first days. Papers and certificates that could allow Jews to stay and work in the city were no longer valid. On October 20th 1944 Eichmann ordered that all men aged 16-60 were to be sent to dig fortifications against the approaching Soviet army. 50,000 men marched on that Death March. Three days later the women and children were forced to join the men. These Jews were later transferred by the Germans at the border station at Hegyeshalom. The remaining Jews were concentrated into two ghettos.

At the end of December 1944 there were about 70,000 people in the central ghetto in Budapest; tens of thousands of others found shelter in the international ghetto, where diplomats of neutral nations, such as Carl Lutz of Switzerland and Raoul Wallenberg of Sweden, were issuing protective papers for Jews. Zionist organizations also forged documents in order to save Jews. The number of protective certificates, legal and forged, issued in Budapest was around 100,000; meanwhile, approximately 2,748 Jews were hidden in monasteries and in church cellars. By the time the Soviet army entered and occupied the city on January 17th, 1945, 76,000 Jews were handed over to the Germans, a number which includes victims of deportation and death marches. At the end of World War II there were approximately 90,000 Jews in Budapest. Meanwhile, over 100,000 Jews from Budapest, a majority of the population, perished.

THE COMMUNIST REGIME
After the Holocaust, many survivors emigrated to Palestine. Others remained in Hungary, where a large number abandoned the Jewish tradition and identity, either due to their traumatic experiences during the war, or due to the influence of the atheist government in Hungary. In 1956, after the Hungarian anti-Soviet uprising, about 25,000 Jews left the city.

During the communist period, the Jewish community of Budapest was controlled by the Department of Religious Affairs within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Starting in1968, each of the 18 administrative districts of Budapest contained at least one synagogue, a rabbi, a Talmud Torah, and a lecture hall. Additionally, there was a Jewish high school in the capital, with a student population of about 140 and the Orthodox community founded a yeshiva with 40 students. The Rabbinical Seminary, which was reconstructed after the war and was the only institution of its kind in any communist country, continued to be active thanks to the support of the Neolog movement.

Uj Elet (New Life), was a biweekly newspaper published by the Budapest Jewish community which reflected the changing ways in which the Jews of Hungary understood their identity. Other Jewish communal services included a Jewish hospital, an old age home, a kosher restaurant, the availability of kosher meat, and a matza bakery.

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Andrei Oisteanu

Andrei Oisteanu (b. 1948),  historian of religions and mentalities, ethnologist, cultural anthropologist, literary critic and novelist, born in Bucharest, Romania. He graduated from the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, followed a course in Oriental studies at the University of Bucharest and a course in Jewish studies at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. Between 1997-1999, he received a research grant at the International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. 

A professor at the Department for Jewish Studies, at the University of Bucharest, Oisteanu is also a founding member and researcher at the Institute for History of Religions in Bucharest and the president of the Romanian Association for the History of Religions

He is the author of a volume of fiction - Cutia cu batrani ("The Box with Old People", Bucharest, 1995) and of several ethnology and cultural anthropology studies: The Garden Beyond. Zoosophia (Cluj, 1980), Motives and mitosymbolic meanings in traditional Romanian culture ( Bucharest, 1989), Mythos and logos, studies and essays on cultural anthropology, (Bucharest, 1997, 2nd edition - 1998), The Image of the Jew in Romanian Culture. A Study of Imagology in Central-East European Context (Bucharest, 2001, 2nd edition 2004, 3rd edition, Iasi, 2012).; Das Bild des Juden in der rumänischen Volkskultur ("The Image of the Jew in Romanian Popular Culture", Konstanz, 2002); Sexuality and Society: History, Religion and Literature (Iasi, 2018). 

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Budapest
Bucharest

Budapest

The capital of Hungary, became a city in 1872, following the union of the historic towns of Buda, Obuda, and Pest.

CONTEMPORARY BUDAPEST

Approximately 80,000 to 100,000 Jews live in Hungary, making it central Europe's largest Jewish community. More than 80% of Hungarian Jews live in the capital city of Budapest. Smaller Jewish communities can be found in the neighboring areas of Debrecen, Miskolc, Szeged and Nyiregyhaza. Of the ten thousand Holocaust survivors living in Hungary, the vast majority live in Budapest. Since 2013, hundreds of Jews have left Hungary due to a rise in anti-Semitism, many of whom then settled in Vienna. The traditional Jewish Quarter of Budapest is located in District VII. Within it are several Jewish historical sites, stores and kosher restaurants.

Following the collapse of communism in 1989, several Jewish organizations were reopened. The largest organization serving the Jewish community of Budapest is MAZSIHISZ, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary. A variety of social services are provided by the Joint Distribution Committee, as well as the Lauder Foundation. Healthcare and medical services are provided by the Charity Jewish Hospital and Nursing Facility and two centers for elderly care. The city's many religious institutions include a historic mikvah (ritual bath) and a variety of kosher restaurants. Budapest also has over ten kosher butcher shops, bakeries, and even a matza factory.

Each year Budapest hosts several Jewish social and cultural events. The Jewish Summer Festival puts on a variety of shows including concerts, dance performances, and films. The Jewish community has also established many social and educational programs for children and young adults. The most popular organizations are B'nei Brith, WIZO, UJS, Bnei Akiva, and the Maccabi athletic club. Each summer, an estimated 1,500 campers from more than twenty countries attend Camp Szarvas.

Since the fall of communism, there has been a revival of Jewish religious life in Budapest. As of the beginning of the 21st century, there are as many as twenty synagogues throughout the city, representing a variety of movements including Orthodox, Chabad Lubavitch, Neolog (similar to the Conservative Movement) and Liberal. There are also synagogues located in the provincial cities of Miskolc and Debrecen. In 2003, Slomo Koves became the first Orthodox rabbi to be ordained in Hungary since the Holocaust.

Budapest boasts many Jewish kindergartens, elementary schools, and high schools. The three Jewish high schools are Lauder Javne, Wesselenyi, and Anna Frank. Lauder Javne is located on a five-acre campus and was opened in 1990. It is non-denominational and is sponsored by the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. The Budapest University of Jewish Studies was established in 1877 as a Neolog Rabbinical seminary. Jewish studies programs are offered at several universities including Eotvos Lorand University, the largest school of higher education in Hungary, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the Central European University which was established by Hungarian-born George Soros. Jewish educational programming is also offered at the Beth Peretz Jewish Education Centre Foundation, the American Foundation School, and the Hillel Jewish Educational and Youth Center.

The capital city of Budapest is rich with culture and history, and is home to several buildings, monuments, and cultural centers, including several points of Jewish interest. One such place is the Holocaust Memorial Center, which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust during World War II. The Center is situated outside the traditional Jewish quarter and is housed by the Pava Synagogue where it has been since 2004. In 2005, the institution was awarded the Nivo Prize of Architecture for the restoration and rehabilitation of a historic monument.

The city's Jewish Museum is the second-largest in all of Europe. It operates under the auspices of the Alliance of Jewish Communities in Hungary. In 1942, two employees hid valuable museum artifacts in the cellar of Budapest's National Museum. During the German occupation, the building served as an escape passage as its gate was situated outside the borders of the ghetto. Additionally, Theodor Herzl was born in the building which once stood at the present site of the museum.

One of the most significant Jewish cultural sites in Budapest is the Emanuel Holocaust 'Tree of Life' Memorial sculpture in Raoul Wallenberg Park. Engraved on the thirty thousand leaves are the names of Jews who were killed or had disappeared during the Holocaust.

Two other important sites which memorialize the victims of the Holocaust and the events of World War II are the statue of Raoul Wallenberg and the Shoes on the Danube Embankment. Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who saved many Jewish lives by helping them escape deportation. The Shoes on the Danube Embankment is a memorial comprised of sixty pairs of metal shoes set in concrete. Created in 2005, it commemorates the Hungarian Jewish victims killed by militiamen of Arrow Cross, the pro-German national socialist party which was active in Hungary between 1944 and 1945.

In addition to cultural centers and memorials, Budapest contains a number of Jewish landmarks. Located in the heart of Budapest is the King's Hotel –one of the first private Jewish three-star hotels in Budapest. While the hotel has been renovated and modernized, the building itself is more than one hundred years old.

Northern Budapest contains the Medieval Jewish Chapel, a small Sephardic house of prayer which had been rebuilt from ruins in the 18th century. During the 1686 siege of Budapest many of the city's Jewish buildings were completely destroyed. The chapel's original function was not revealed until an excavation in the 1960s when the synagogue's keystone and tombstones engraved in Hebrew were unearthed. Another historic religious site is the Dohany Street Synagogue. Inaugurated in 1659, the synagogue is designed in a Moorish style and is the second-largest synagogue in the world.

Still serving the Jewish community of Budapest is the Kozma Street Cemetery. It is the largest Jewish cemetery in Budapest, and among the largest in Europe. Its unique monuments and mausoleums have drawn many visitors since it opened in 1891.

There are three major publications which serve the Jewish community of Budapest and Hungary. The biweekly Uj Elet (New Life) is the official journal of MAZSIHISZ; the Szombat (Saturday) provides news and information about Jewish life in Hungary as well international issues, and the Mult es Jovo (Past and Future) is a cultural and intellectual journal.


HISTORY

BUDA (also known as Ofen, Oven, Boden, Bodro)
The first Jewish settlers came to Buda from Germany and various Slavic countries during the second half of the 12th century. In 1279 they were isolated in a ghetto, and forced to wear a red badge. Over the course of the 14th century, the Jewish community was expelled twice: first in 1349 following anti-Semitic allegations that arose after the Black Death had swept through the region, and again in 1360 as a result of hostility from the church. In 1364 Jews were permitted to return, though with some restrictions imposed on them. After the establishment of Buda as the royal residence in the late 14th century, its Jewish community became prominent within the larger Hungarian Jewish community. During the 15th century, the Jewish community was recognized as an autonomous government, and the community leader of Buda became the leader of Hungarian Jewry at large. At this time, the Jews of Buda were mainly engaged in commerce and in exports to the German lands and Bohemia.

In 1526 the Turks captured Buda. The majority of the Jews, about 2,000 people, were expelled to the Ottoman Empire, while a minority escaped to communities in western Hungary which had not fallen to the Turks. Jews were able to resettle Buda in 1541 and despite the heavy taxes, the community grew and became the wealthiest and most important in Hungary. Jews occupied influential positions in the management of the treasury and were generally employed in commerce and finance. By 1660 the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities numbered about 1,000 Jews.

In 1686, the Austrians and their allies conducted a siege of Buda and subsequently defeated the Turks and conquered the town. The Jewish population had sided with the Turks and nearly half of them perished over the course of the fighting and its aftermath. The Jewish Quarter was ransacked, and the Torah scrolls were set on fire. Half of the remaining Jews, approximately 250 people, were taken as prisoners and exiled. These events are mentioned in Megilat Ofen, by Yitzhak ben Zalman Schulhof.

The new Austrian administration, in response to church demands, placed restrictions upon the Jews and the Jewish community was consequently subject to more restrictions and expulsions. The Jews of Buda were exiled in 1746 by Empress Maria Theresa, and were permitted to return in 1783, when Emperor Josef II allowed the Jews to reenter and settle in Hungarian towns. The community did not regain its former stature and prominence until the second half of the 19th century, at which time there were 7,000 Jewish families living in Buda.

During these turbulent times, Buda saw the formation of a number of Jewish institutions and the rise of several prominent figures. The latter half of the 18th century saw the establishment of a Hevra Kadisha. By 1869 four synagogues had been built, and were joined by two more at the end of the 19th century. The first known rabbi of the community was Akiva Ben Menahem Hacohen, also called "Nasi," who led the community during the 15th century. In the second half of the 17th century, during the lifetime of Rabbi Ephraim Ben Yaakov Hacohen, Buda was a focal point of the messianic movement of Shabbetai Zvi in Hungary. Moshe Kunitzer, a pioneer of the Haskalah movement in Hungary, was the chief rabbi from1828 until 1837.

OBUDA (also known as Alt-Ofen in German, and Oven Yashan, Old Buda, in Hebrew)
The Jewish community in Obuda vanished after the Turkish conquest in 1526 and was not resettled until 1712, under the leadership of Yaakov Lob. After the return of the Jewish community, by 1727 there were 24 Jewish families living in Obuda under the protection of the counts of Zichy. In a document recognized by the royal court in 1766, the Jews were granted freedom of religion, trading rights relating to the payment of special taxes, and permission to live anywhere in the town. This was a privilege granted in Obuda only.

The Jews of Obuda practiced agriculture, commerce and various trades. Textile factories established by the Jews of Obuda, among them the Goldberger Company, enjoyed favorable reputations throughout Hungary.

The first synagogue was built in 1738, a Hevra Kadisha was founded in 1770, and a Jewish hospital was established in 1772. In 1820 The old synagogue of Obuda underwent significant renovations. That same year, The Great Synagogue on Lajos Street was consecrated, and became one of the most well-known synagogues in the Habsburg Empire. Additionally,during the year 1820 an ultimately short-lived school was built at the demand of Emperor Josef II; since, however, Jewish parents did not want Christian teachers educating their children, the school was consequently closed. However, in spite of these impressive community projects, by the middle of the 19th century many Jewish families were moving to Pest.

PEST
Jews are first mentioned as living in Pest in 1406, and in 1504 there is mention of several Jewish home and landowners. Yet after the Austrian conquest in 1686 Jewish settlement in Pest ended. Although some sources mention a sporadic Jewish presence in Pest, it was not until 1746, when Jews expelled from Buda were looking for alternate places to live, that Jews once again began living in Pest in significant numbers. This community, however, was officially recognized only in 1783, when Emperor Josef II began allowing Jews into Hungarian towns, though they had to pay a special "tolerance tax" to the town. The first synagogue was opened in 1787 in Kiraly Street and later several more synagogues were built, including a Sephardi synagogue. The Great Synagogue on Dohany Street, which remains one of the largest in Europe, was built later, in 1859.

After the emperor’s death in 1790, limitations on Jewish settlement were re-imposed, and only a few Jews chosen by the town’s authorities were permitted to remain in Pest. The rest moved into the Erzsebetvaros Quarter, which maintained a large Jewish population until the Holocaust. During this period, the Jews set up factories and were engaged in commerce and trade.

In spite of the reimposition of restrictions on the Jewish community, they nonetheless were able to open the first Jewish school in Pest, in 1814. This school taught both religious and secular subjects in German. Additionally, there were several private Jewish schools. In later years, a girls’ school was opened in 1814 and a Jewish Teachers' training college was opened in 1859. The Orthodox community opened its first school in 1873.

The restrictions imposed after the death of Emperor Josef II were repealed in 1840. During the Hungarian National Revolution of 1848-1849, also known as the Revolution of Liberty against the Habsburg rule, many of the Jews from Pest volunteered to fight, and the community contributed considerable sums of money to the revolution. When the revolution failed, however, heavy taxes were imposed upon the Jews of Pest because of their participation. In 1867, following the formation of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, the new Hungarian government granted equal rights to the Jews of Hungary. This prompted a fruitful period of community-building; that same year the Jewish community of Pest opened an orphanage for girls, the first of its kind in Hungary, followed by a second orphanage for boys in 1869. In later years, several hospitals and welfare institutions for the elderly and sick were opened, as well as a home for the deaf and dumb, which was inaugurated in 1876.
Judaism was officially recognized as one of the accepted religions of Hungary in 1895.

The year 1867 also saw a new initiative from the Pest community: The Hungarian Jewish Congress. Its aim was to prompt a discussion of the schisms in the Jewish community, particularly between the Orthodox and the Neolog congregations. Following the first meeting of the congress in December 1868, the Orthodox appealed to the Hungarian government and in 1871 they were legally recognized as a distinct community. In 1889 Rabbi Koppel Reich was elected to be the head of the Hungarian Orthodox community; he later became a member of the upper house of the Hungarian parliament in 1927, when he was nearly 90 years old.

In 1877, the Rabbinical Seminary was opened in Budapest. Its aim was to integrate rabbinical studies with general education, and it became one of the world’s leading institutions for rabbinical training. Its founders and faculty members were well-known researchers and instructors. The seminar’s publications included journals such as the Magyar Zsido Szemle (Hungarian Jewish Review). In spite of opposition and boycotts from the Orthodox community, the seminary played a central role in shaping modern Hungarian Jewry.

BUDAPEST
In 1873, Buda and Pest were officially merged with Obuda, creating the city of Budapest. Concurrently, the second half of the 19th century was a period of economic and cultural prosperity for the Jewish community of Budapest. The beginning of the 20th entury saw Budapest become an important center for Jewish journalism. The weekly Magyar Israelita became the first Jewish newspaper in Hungarian. In the broader community, Jews also assumed an important role in the founding and editing of leading newspapers in Hungary, such as Nyugat (West). During the interwar period, non-Orthodox Jewish educational institutions included 15 schools with 3,600 students. Meanwhile, the Orthodox community had a population of approximately 10,000 and was establishing its own welfare and educational institutions.

1919-1921 was the period of The White Terror in Hungary. After the fall of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, the new regime of Admiral Miklos Horthy organized army gangs to suppress and destroy any lingering communist elements in the country. Because a number of the communist leaders were Jewish, Hungarian Jews became the main victims of this “purification." From the time Admiral Horthy entered Budapest on November 14, 1919, Jewish officials in the army and government service were dismissed, Jews were forbidden to trade in tobacco and wine, and scientific institutions were closed to them. In 1920, the Numerus Clausus law was imposed, which determined admission to universities on a national basis and effectively established a quota for the number of Jews permitted to enter Hungarian universities.

In spite of government-endorsed anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence, by 1935 there were 201,069 Jews living in Budapest making it one of the largest Jewish communities in the world.

BUDAPEST JEWS OF NOTE
• Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921), the founder of the Academy for the Study of Modern Islam. He was the secretary of the Budapest Neolog community from 1874 to 1904. Goldziher helped found the Jewish-Hungarian Literary Society which worked to spread Jewish culture by means of lectures and publications. Among the Society's publications was the first Jewish translation of the Bible into Hungarian. Goldziher also founded the Jewish-Hungarian museum. He was a teacher in the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest.

• Arminius Vambery (1832-1913), a famous traveler and researcher. He was instrumental in introducing Theodor Herzl to the Sultan of Turkey.

• Ferenc Molnar (1878-1931), an outstanding dramatist and novelist. Molnar is best known today as the author of the famous children’s book The Paul Street Boys, published in 1927.

• Lengyel Menyhert (1880-1974 ), a dramatist and scriptwriter. His credits include Ninotchka (1940) and To Be or Not to Be (1942), celebrated films for which he wrote the screenplays.

• Professor Alexander (Sandor) Scheiber ( 1913-1985) was the director of the Rabbinical Seminary during the 1950s. He published research on the history of Hungarian Jewry, and in his last years was actively involved in the consolidation of communal life in Budapest.

ZIONISM
Budapest was the birthplace of Theodor (Binyamin Ze'ev) Herzl (1860-1904), the father of modern Zionism. The writer and physicist Max Nordau (1849-1932), a founding member of the World Zionist Congress and author of the Basel Platform at the First Zionist Congress (1897), was also born in Budapest. It is not surprising, therefore, that Budapest was a hotbed of Zionist activity at the turn of the 20th century. In 1903 the student Zionist association Makkabea was established; its first group of pioneers immigrated to Palestine before the end of World War I.The Zionist press in Budapest began in 1905 with the publication of Zsido Neplap (Jewish Popular Paper), which closed down two years later. Magyar Zsido Szemle (Hungarian Jewish Review), another Zionist publication, began operating in 1911, the same year as the quarterly Mult es Jovo.

The Zionist activity in Budapest was strengthened by the arrival in the city in 1940 of Zionist leaders from Transylvania, among them Rudolf Kasztner (who would later play a controversial role during the Holocaust) and Erno Marton. The worsening situation of the Hungarian Jewry during the late 1930’s and during the Holocaust period led to a rise in the popularity of Zionism.

Another Budapest Zionist of note is Hanna Szenes (1921-1944), a native of Budapest who emigrated to Palestine. Szenes was a poetess and paratrooper in the Haganah an underground Jewish military organization in Palestine. During World War II, Szenes was sent on a mission to Hungary to help organize Jewish anti-Nazi resistance. Tragically, she was captured and executed by the Nazis.

Although Zionist organizations reemerged and were active after World War II, the Communist regime banned their activities after 1949, and a number of Zionist leaders were put on trial having been accused of “conspiracy”.

THE HOLOCAUST
Following the Discriminatory Laws of 1938-41, which limited Jewish participation in the economy and society, certain large institutions and factories were required to dismiss their Jewish employees. In 1940, Jews began to be drafted to be forced laborers, which meant that many families were left without any means of support. On November 20, 1940, Hungary signed a treaty with Italy and Japan, thereby officially joining the Axis Powers led by Nazi Germany. During the period that followed Hungary's entry into the war against the Soviet Union in 1941, until the occupation of Hungary by the German army on March 19th, 1944, more than 15,000 Jews from Budapest were killed during deportations and in forced labor camps.

In March 1944, Adolph Eichmann ordered that the Jewish communal organizations be dissolved, and replaced by a Jewish council, Zsido Tanacs. Jews were forced to wear the yellow badge. Freedom of movement was restricted and many buildings were seized. The licenses of Jewish lawyers and newspapers were suspended. On June 30, 1944, the Germans started to concentrate the Jews in certain parts of the city and plans were made to begin their deportation.

The anti-Semitic Arrow Cross Party, led by Ferenc Szalasi, came to power in October 1944. The new government immediately began carrying out attacks against the Jews, killing 600 people during the first days. Papers and certificates that could allow Jews to stay and work in the city were no longer valid. On October 20th 1944 Eichmann ordered that all men aged 16-60 were to be sent to dig fortifications against the approaching Soviet army. 50,000 men marched on that Death March. Three days later the women and children were forced to join the men. These Jews were later transferred by the Germans at the border station at Hegyeshalom. The remaining Jews were concentrated into two ghettos.

At the end of December 1944 there were about 70,000 people in the central ghetto in Budapest; tens of thousands of others found shelter in the international ghetto, where diplomats of neutral nations, such as Carl Lutz of Switzerland and Raoul Wallenberg of Sweden, were issuing protective papers for Jews. Zionist organizations also forged documents in order to save Jews. The number of protective certificates, legal and forged, issued in Budapest was around 100,000; meanwhile, approximately 2,748 Jews were hidden in monasteries and in church cellars. By the time the Soviet army entered and occupied the city on January 17th, 1945, 76,000 Jews were handed over to the Germans, a number which includes victims of deportation and death marches. At the end of World War II there were approximately 90,000 Jews in Budapest. Meanwhile, over 100,000 Jews from Budapest, a majority of the population, perished.

THE COMMUNIST REGIME
After the Holocaust, many survivors emigrated to Palestine. Others remained in Hungary, where a large number abandoned the Jewish tradition and identity, either due to their traumatic experiences during the war, or due to the influence of the atheist government in Hungary. In 1956, after the Hungarian anti-Soviet uprising, about 25,000 Jews left the city.

During the communist period, the Jewish community of Budapest was controlled by the Department of Religious Affairs within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Starting in1968, each of the 18 administrative districts of Budapest contained at least one synagogue, a rabbi, a Talmud Torah, and a lecture hall. Additionally, there was a Jewish high school in the capital, with a student population of about 140 and the Orthodox community founded a yeshiva with 40 students. The Rabbinical Seminary, which was reconstructed after the war and was the only institution of its kind in any communist country, continued to be active thanks to the support of the Neolog movement.

Uj Elet (New Life), was a biweekly newspaper published by the Budapest Jewish community which reflected the changing ways in which the Jews of Hungary understood their identity. Other Jewish communal services included a Jewish hospital, an old age home, a kosher restaurant, the availability of kosher meat, and a matza bakery.

Bucharest

Romanian: Bucuresti

Capital of Romania

The historic Jewish district of Bucharest used to be centered around the Choral Temple, and spread from Piata Unirii east towards Dristor. However, most of the Jewish buildings that stood there were destroyed during the 1980s in order to make way for the Bulevardul Unirii. As of 2015, there remain a handful of points of Jewish interest in Bucharest, serving the community of approximately 3,500. The Choral Temple, the Yeshua Tova Synagogue, and the Great Polish Synagogue, continue to hold services; the latter also hosts the city's Holocaust Museum. The Beit Hamidrash Synagogue, which dates back to the late 18th century, is abandoned and decaying, though the structure itself is still (barely) standing. Another abandoned synagogue whose building still stands is the Hevra Amuna (Temple of Faith).

The Jewish History Museum (Muzeul de Istorie a Evreilor din Romania) is located in what was once a synagogue called the Holy Union Temple. The synagogue building itself was constructed in 1836; it began serving as a Jewish history museum in 1978. Mozes Rosen, the chief rabbi of Romania from 1964 until his death in 1994, founded the museum and provided a number of items for its collection.

The State Jewish Theater, which is located in Bucharest, is the oldest uninterrupted Yiddish-language theater in the world. The theater features plays by Jewish playwrights, plays about Jewish topics, and Yiddish plays that run simultaneous Romanian translations through headphones. The theater is located next to the Lauder-Reut Jewish school, which has over 400 students enrolled in its kindergarten, elementary, and middle schools.

HISTORY

The Jewish community of Bucharest was formed both by Sephardic Jews who arrived from the south, chiefly from the Otooman Empire, and later by Ashkenazi Jews arriving from the north. A responsum by the rabbi of Solonika during the 16th century that mentions a Sephardic community is the first documented evidence confirming the presence of Jews in Budapest. The Jewish community began to grow and prosper; some were even the creditors of the ruling princes. This economic success, however, eventually came at a steep price (pun intended); when Prince Michael the Brave revolved against the Turks in November 1593, he ordered that his creditors be killed, among whom were a number of Jews.

Ahskenazi Jews began arriving and establishing their own community towards the middle of the 17th century, drawn there after fleeing the Khmielnitski Massacres taking place in Ukraine. Their numbers grew, and eventually the Ashkenazi community became larger than the Sephardic community. For tax purposes, the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities were organized into a single community by the state, and were forced to pay a fixed tax to the treasury. Meanwhile, the general population, afraid of economic competition, was intensely hostile towards the Jews. In 1793 residents of the suburb Razvan petitioned Prince Alexander Moruzi to expel the Jews who had recently settled in the area and to demolish the synagogue that they had built. Though the prince ordered that the synagogue be closed, he did not remove the Jews from Razvan and, in fact, issued a decree confirming his protection of them. In 1801 there were anti-Jewish riots following blood libel accusations, and 128 Jews were killed or wounded.

In 1819 Prince Alexandru Sutu officially acknowledged both the Sephardic ("Spanish") and Ashkenazi ("Polish") communities, allowing them to operate as separate entities. This continued until 1949 when the Communist regime once again forced the two communities to join together. By 1832 there were 10 Ashkenazi and one Sephardi synagogues in Bucharest. The Great Synagogue, which was Ashkenazi, was dedicated on Rosh Hashanah, 1847.

In spite of the impressive Great Synagogue, the Ashkenazi community of Bucharest had to deal with a number of fissures and tensions during the 19th century. There were tensions between those were born in Romania, and those who immigrated to Bucharest, who were not under the same system of taxation as the native Romanians. This led the immigrants within the Jewish community, who were considered "foreign subjects" to refuse to pay the tax levied on kosher meat. This was a problem, as this tax constituted the sole income of the community council. The authorities, who were drawn into the conflict, at first upheld the traditional rights of the Jewish communal organization. However, following repeated complaints from both sides, as well as constitutional changes that took place in Romania in 1832, the community was given a new constitution that greatly curtailed its autonomy. Instead of operating autonomously, it fell under the direct authority and close supervision of the municipality. Eventually, in 1851, the Prussian and Austrian subjects (about 300 families) were officially permitted to found a separate community.

The increasing influence of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), also led to tensions within the Ashkenazi community. It is important to note that this conflict also reflected the economics of the community; those in favor of the Haskalah and who wanted the community to undertake more progressive reforms tended to be from the upper classes, while those who were more traditional tended to be further down the socioeconomic ladder. At that time, the Bucharest Ashkenazi community was torn by strife between the Orthodox and progressive factions. The controversy began to center around a school with a modern curriculum that opened in 1852, as well as the proposal in 1857, led by Ya'akov Lobel, to build a Choral Temple, that would incorporate modern ideas and principles into its services. The appointment of Rabbi Meir Leib Malbim in 1858 as the chief rabbi did not help quell the disputes. Malbim was a fierce and uncompromising opponent of the Reform movement, and he quickly made enemies among Bucharest's Jewish elite. The conflicts between Malbim and those who were in favor of the Reform Movement came to a head in 1862, when Malbim was arrested. He was freed only after Sir Moses Montefiore intervened, and on the condition that he leave Romania. The Choral Synagogue was completed in 1867, and became the center for the modernists of the community.

Among the most prominent spiritual and religious leaders of the community before World War I were Antoine Levy and Moritz (Meir) Beck, who were rabbis of the Choir Temple Congregation from 1867 to 1869 and 1873 to 1923, respectively. Other outstanding figures within the Choir Temple community were Iuliu Barasch and Yitzchak Leib Weinberg. Yitzchak Esiik Taubes was the rabbi of the Orthodox Congregation from 1894 until 1921. The most prominent lay leader was Adolf Stern. Moscu Asher led the Sephardic community, and Rabbi Hayim Bejarano was a noted scholar and poet. Later, the lawyer and politician Wilhelm Filderman would become the president of the Union of Romanian Jews, and Rabbi Jacob Isaac Niemirower would be the country's first chief rabbi. Filderman, in fact, would in 1941 work successfully to annul the decree forcing Jews to wear an identifying badge.

Between the two World Wars the Bucharest community grew in both numbers and importance. The Jewish population of the city, which had become the capital of Greater Romania and attracted immigrants from all parts of the country, increased from 44,000 in 1912 to 74,480 (12% of the total population) in 1930 and 95,072 in 1940. Most Jews worked as artisans, merchants, clerks, and bankers. Others were active in professions such as medicine and law. Several ironworks and foundries were established by the end of the 19th century. Major Jewish business leaders at that time included Leon Abramovici, Sigmund Prager, and Adolph Solomon.

There were a number of Jewish schools in Bucharest, particularly at the turn of the 20th century. Among the most influential was the abovementioned school established in 1852 by Yisrael Pick and Naftali Popper. These founders sought to imbue their school with the Haskalah principles that they believed in, and the school became extremely influential on Jewish education in Romania. There were also vocational institutions serving Jewish workers, including the Ciocanul (Hammer) school which trained Jewish craft workers.

Communal institutions included over 40 synagogues, two cemeteries, 19 schools, a library and museum, two hospitals, a clinic, two homes for the elderly, and two orphanages. There was also a B'nai B'rith, as long as a number of social and cultural organizations serving the community. A number of newspapers also served the community; the first Jewish newspaper, "Israelitul roman," was founded in 1855 and written in Romanian and French. Other publications included "Fraternitatea," "Revista Israelita," "Egalitatea," and "Curierul Israelit." Yiddish and Hebrew language publications included "Et LeDaber," "HaYoetz," and the Zionist newspapers "Mantuirea" and "Hasmonaea." A Yiddish theater was established in the late 1870s, and reached its peak during the interwar period. This theater would later be banned under Ion Antonescu.

Anti-Semitism continued to be a problem for the Jews of Bucharest. In 1866 the visit of Adolph Cremieux, a French lawyer who advocated for the political emancipation of the Jews, resulted in Jewish synagogues and shops being vandalized. The rise of prominence of nationalist leader Alexandru C. Cuza spurred the development of a number of anti-Semitic organizations, many of which were centered at Bucharest University.

In September 1940, with the rise of the Antonescu-Iron Guard coalition, Bucharest became one of the new regime's main centers of the anti-Jewish activities. This culminated in a pogrom during the rebellion of the Legionary Movement; 120 Jews were killed, thousands were arrested and tortured, synagogues were desecrated, and Jewish homes, shops, and community buildings were looted and destroyed.

Until the end of the Antonescu regime in August 1944, the Jews of Bucharest were subjected anti-Semitic legislation and persecution. Jews were legally downgraded to second-class citizens. They could no longer access state-funded education or health care, and their property was confiscated. These restrictions had major economic effects on the community: in 1942 only 27.2% of the city's Jewish population of about 100,000 were registered as employed, compared with 54.3% of the non-Jewish population. In September 1942 several hundred Jews were deported to Transnistria, where many eventually perished. Thousands of other Jews, particularly the young, were required to work as forced laborers.

The lack of access to education, combined with the growing poverty of the Jewish community, spurred the need for the community to greatly expand their own educational and social welfare activities. In 1943 the Jewish community ran 27 schools and 21 soup kitchens. Bucharest became the center of relief activities for Romanian Jews.

The Jews of Bucharest were saved after Antonescu was deposed on August 23, 1944 and German forces were not able to entering the city. Though Adolf Eichmann had begun making preparations to deport Romania's Jews, the fierce opposition on the part of the Romanian army, coupled with the entry of the Soviet Army on August 30, 1944, prevented any of these plans from being carried out.

After World War II, large numbers of Jewish refugees and concentration camp survivors began arriving in the city; by 1947 the Jewish population had grown to 150,000. The Communist regime, which came to power in 1947, gradually closed all Jewish national, cultural, and social institutions in Bucharest. The welfare institutions were nationalized and the schools were absorbed into the general educational network. A state Yiddish school was opened in 1949, but closed a few years later. A State Yiddish Theater was founded in 1948 and a Yiddish drama school was established in 1957. Two Jewish newspapers, the Romanian "Unirea," followed later by "Viata Novua" and the Yiddish "Ikuf Bleter" were published. Of the 44,202 Jews (3.6% of the total population) registered in the city in the 1956 census, 4,425 of them declared Yiddish to be their mother tongue. In spite of the difficulties in living under a Communist regime, Rabbi Mozes Rosen was able to successfully navigate the opaque policies of the Romanian government, allowing Bucharest to continue to serve as the center of Jewish communal and cultural life.

The rise of Nicolae Ceausescu, who was the dictator of Romania between 1965 and 1989, prompted mass emigrations to Israel. In 1969 it was estimated that there were 50,000 Jews living in Bucharest; by the turn of the 21st century there were only about 4,000.
Valery Oisteanu

Valery Oisteanu (aka Valeriu Oișteanu) (b. 1943), poet, art critic, essayist, photographer, born in Karaganda (Qaraǵandy), Kazakhstan (then part of the Soviet Union). He was raised and educated in Romania where he graduated from the Faculty of Industrial Chemistry of the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest. He started his literary career with Proteze (“Prostheses”), a volume of poetry published in 1970. In 1972 he immigrated to United States and settled in New York. In the United States he started writing in English. His style reflects the influence of the Dada and the Surrealist movements. In New York, Oisteanu took part in various events of poetry reading, that he called Jazzoetry, boasting a style that combined elements of Zen and Dada. As an art critic he contributed to several art magazines, including The Brooklyn Rail, NYArts and D’Art International. Oisteanu is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, a book of short fiction and a book of essays. His English poetry volumes include Do Not Defuse (1980), Passport to Eternal Life (1990), Temporary Immortality (1995), ZEN DADA (1999), Anarchy for a Rainy Day (2015), and Lighter Than Air (2015). Poeme din Exil (“Poems from Exile”), a volume of poetry in Romanian was published in Romania in 2000.

Valery Oisteanu is the brother of Andrei Oisteanu (b.1048), a historian of religions and mentalities, ethnologist, cultural anthropologist, literary critic and novelist.