Your Selected Item:
Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions

Jozsef Pogany

Jozsef Pogany (1886-1939), public official, revolutionary and politician, born as Jozsef Schwartz into a poor Jewish family in Budapest, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary). A member of the Social Democratic Party of Hungary, before and during WWI., he collaborated in the publication of the party's journals "Nepszava" ("People's Voice") and "Szocializmus". His play "Napoleon", was performed in Budapest. He edited the periodical "Tudas" ("Knowledge") and a series of publications known as the Library of Natural Sciences.

In the post-War revolution of 1918 he was a leading member of the soldier's council and was strongly opposed to the communists. When, however, the latter took over the government (1919), he joined them as one of the war commissars. After the downfall of the communist government, he emigrated to Vienna, Austria, and subsequently to Soviet Russia.

In 1921 he illegally went to the USA, taking up the name John Pepper. He propagated social and communist ideas and agitated workers to organize. Subsequently he became a member of the Workers Party of America. Pogany also organized social and communist activities in the Scandinavian states and in the Far-East. In 1930 he returned to the Soviet Union, where he served as secret emissary in several countries. In 1937, having fallen out of favor because of his Trotzkyite activities, he was arrested by the Soviets on July 29, 1937 in Moscow, Russia. Pogany was executed in 1938 or 1939.

Date of birth:
Date of death:
Place of birth:
Place of death:
Personality type:
ID Number:
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:
Related items:


Российская Федерация / Rossiyskaya Federatsiya - Russian Federation
A country in eastern Europe and northern Asia, until 1991 part of the Soviet Union.

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 172,000 out of 147,000,000 (0.1%). Russia is home to the seventh largest Jewish community in the world. In addition to Moscow and St. Petersburg, there are several dozen Jewish communities of more than 1,000 people. Main umbrella organizations:

Russian Jewish Congress
Phone: +7 (495) 780-49-78

Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Russia (Va’ad)
Phone: +7 095 230 6700
Fax: +7 095 238 1346



The Jews of Russia

1772 | Polish Today, Russian Tomorrow

Many believe there have always been Jews in Russia. However, the truth is that save a few traders wandering between country fairs throughout the Czarist Empire, no Jews at all lived there until 1772.
The reasons were mostly religious. While elsewhere in Europe the Catholic Church wished to maintain the Jewish entity in an inferior position as testament to the victory of Christianity of Judaism, the central religious establishment in Russia – the Russian Orthodox Church – strictly opposed the settlement of Jews, held to be responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. This sentiment can be found in the famous remark by Empress Elizaveta Petrovna: “I have no desire to profit by the haters of Christ.”
This was the situation until the year 1772, when Russia began to annex large parts of Poland, which were populated by multitudes of Jews. It was then that Empress Catherine the Great decided, mostly for financial reasons, to maintain the rights enjoyed by the Jews under the Kingdom of Poland. So it was that hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews found themselves living under Russian sovereignty, without having moved an inch.
Catherine promised “equality to all subjects, regardless of nationality or faith”, and to the Jews she granted rights in the “Charter of Towns”, which decreed that the municipalities of the empire would be run by autonomous administration, and the Jews could enjoy the right to vote for these institutions and be employed by them. However, these rights came with a hefty dose of alienation. Catherine also decreed Jews to be “foreigners” in Russia – enjoying the rights of foreigners but barred from the rights of native Orthodox Russians – and finally in 1791 invented the “Pale of Settlement” - a large but remote swath of land in the west of the empire. Jews enjoyed freedom of movement and toleration of their religion within this territory, but needed special permits to move elsewhere in Russian domains.

1797 | A Genius? You Must Be From Vilnius!

One of the most fascinating chapters in the history of Jews in Russia concerns the ethos of scholarship of Lithuanian Jews, despite the fact that most of those known as “Litvaks” lived in areas outside of modern-day Lithuania.
The moniker “Litvaks” came to stand for the spiritual identity of this stream, which developed as a counter-revolution to the Hasidic movement. Litvaks prized scholarship, rationalism and above all a rejection of Hasidism, which was spreading through Eastern Europe like wildfire at the time.
The ethos of the scholar, who devotes his days and nights to the fine points of the debates between Abai and Rabba, dedicating his life to the hair-splitting of the Talmud, was a role model and an embodiment of the creative force born from the merger of faith and reason. Furthermore, being a Litvak scholar made one part of the community elite, opening the doors to a possible match with the daughter of someone rich and well-born, thus securing one's financial existence for life.
The founding father of the Litvak tradition was Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Shlomo Zalman (the Gr”a) of Vilnius, or Vilna as Jews called it, better known as The Gaon of Vilna (1720-1779). Although he served in no official capacity and was rarely seen in public, the Gaon enjoyed extraordinary admiration within his lifetime. His authority stemmed from his personality and intellectual prowess. The Gaon of Vilna had many pupils, the most famous of whom was Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, who founded the famous yeshiva named after his hometown. Many years later that institute of learning would boast a graduate named Chaim Nachman Bialik, the national poet of Israel.

1801 | There Is No Despair

Against the model of the rationalist Litvak scholar stood the common-man's Hasidic model, which focused on his emotional life and religious experience and offered more to hardworking, hard-living Jews.
The struggle between these two schools, known as the Hasidim-Misnagdim dispute (Misnagdim is the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew word Mitnagdim = “opponents”), was replete with boycotts, ostracism and Jews informing on each other to the Gentile authorities. The most famous such case is that of the founder of the Chabad/Liubavitch group, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, who was thrown in a Russian jail in 1801 due to information from Misnagdim informants.
Several famous Hasidic dynasties operated within the Pale of Settlement, among them those of Chernobyl, Slonim, Beslov, Ger and of course Chabad. Each Hasidic court was headed by an Admor – A Hebrew acronym for “Our Master, Teacher and Rabbi” - a man shrouded in mystery and the aura of holiness. The Admor was reputed to have magical abilities and a direct line of contact with higher beings. Multitudes of followers (“Hasidim”) thronged to him for guidance on every matter under the sun – from fertility problems to financial difficulties and match-making. The Hasidim had (and still have) distinct dress and social codes. They would gather in the “Shtibel” - a place that serves as house of worship, of study, and a gathering place for Sabbath and holiday meals. At times a Hasid would make a pilgrimage to his Admor's court, even if it was thousands of miles away. The highlight of the Hasid's week is the “Tisch” meal (tisch means “table” in Yiddish), which is held on Friday night, during which the Hasidim gather around their Rebbe and lose themselves in ecstatic songs that drove them to spiritual elation.
According to the basic views of Hasidism, joy is the root of the soul. This view is expressed in the famous saying by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, that “There is no despair in the world at all.” Other key concepts of Hasidism are love of one's fellow man, abolition of classes and removal of barriers. These humane principles are beautifully captured in a prayer composed by the Admor Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk:
“Furthermore, give to our hearts to each see our friends' advantages and not their shortcomings, that we may each speak to each other honestly and pleasingly to you, and let no hate arise in our hearts from one to another, Heaven forbid, and strengthen our love for you, for it is known that all is to please you, Amen so be thy will.”

1804 | Improving The Jew

13 years after the Jews of France were granted equality, Russia passed the “Edicts of 1804”, whose stated goal was to “improve the Jews” and integrate them into the economic and social fabric of the Czarist Empire.
Like many other episodes in Jewish history, the attempt to “correct the situation of the Jews” was attended by purist justifications and religious condescension meant to legitimize the hostility directed at them. While the edicts reflected the liberal approach of the early reign of Czar Alexander I, allowing Jews to attend any Russian institute of higher learning, at the same time Jews were required to “purify their religion of the fanaticism and prejudices which are so detrimental to their happiness”, seeing as “under no regime has [the Jew] reached proper education, and has hitherto maintained an Asiatic idleness alongside a revolting lack of cleanliness.” And yet, the Edicts of 1804 state that the nature of the Jews stems from their financial insecurity, due to which they are forced “to consent to any demand, if only it should benefit them in any way”.
Despite the fact that the Edicts of 1804 were tainted with anti-Semitism, eventually they benefited the Jews. The “Pale of Settlement” was redefined and expanded, with new territories added to it; Jews who chose to engage in farming were awarded land and tax relief; and rich Jews who opened workshops received orders from the state.

1844 – Shtetl, The Jewish Town

For hundreds of years, the shtetl – the Jewish town in Eastern Europe – was a sort of closed autonomous Jewish microcosm. Yiddish was the prevailing language, and the community institutions – the charity, the religious trust, the religious courts and the community council – ran the public life. Figures such as the gabbay (who collected payments for the synagogue and managed its funds), the shamash (the custodian of the synagogue and its upkeep), the butcher and others populated its alleys alongside the town idiot, the aguna (a woman whose husband has either disappeared without proof of death or is refusing to divorce her, leaving her unable to remarry) and the beit midrash loafer. The only contact between shtetl Jews and their gentile neighbors took place at country fairs and the Sunday market, usually held in the main square of the town.
The penetration of Enlightenment (and its Jewish variant, Haskala) and modernism into the Jewish town throughout the 19th century ate away at the traditional structure of the shtetl. Many young Jews removed themselves from the home, the family and the familiar surroundings. Some of them, including Abraham Mapu, Sh.Y. Abramowitz (known by his pseudonym “Mendele Mocher Sforim”) and Shalom Aleichem were to become the pioneers of the Haskala literature. In their descriptions, which ranged from nostalgia to biting satire, they painted the Jewish township and its characters, streets and institutions, at times castigating the town and at times painting it in rosy, yearning colors.
The traditional structure of the town was attacked not only from the inside, but from without as well. In 1827 Czar Nikolai I issued an edict requiring every Jewish community to supply a certain quota of young men, age 12-25, to the Russian army for a period of 25 years. When the community didn't meet its quote, the Czar sent men to lie in wait for the children and kidnap them away from their families and schools. These children were sent to distant location, where they were handed over to gentile farmers for reeducation until they reached the age of enlistment. The “Cantonists Edict”, as the Czar's decree was known, divided the community, which was forced again and again to decide which children shall suffer the horrible fate.
In 1835 the Czar's government issued laws forcing the Jews to wear special clothing, banning them from distributing “harmful” books in Yiddish and Hebrew and distinguishing between “useful” and “un-useful” Jews. Another nail in the coffin of the shtetl was driven in 1844, when the “kahal” system, which was the self-administration mechanism of the Jewish community for many years, was abolished.

1860 | Odessa – Non-Stop City

It is well known that language creates consciousness and consciousness creates reality. An example of this is the policy of Alexander II, who sought to reward “good Jews”, unlike his father Nikolai, who chose to punish “bad Jews”.
The Jews seized upon Alexander's reforms with great gusto. Figures such as Adolph Rothstein, the great financial wizard, the Polyakov Family, who covered the soil of the empire in railroad tracks, and Baron Joseph Gunzburg, who established a large banking network throughout Russia, are but a few prominent examples of Jews whose talent took great advantage of Alexander II's liberal policies.
The atmosphere of liberalism spread to the world of publishing as well, with Jewish periodicals popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, including “HaMagid” (1856), “HaMelitz” (1860) and “HaCarmel” (1860).
From the mid 19th century the city of Odessa, on the shore of the Black Sea, became a Jewish intellectual and literary hub. The cosmopolitan city was home to Greek merchants, Turkish barkeeps and Russian intellectuals, who all delighted in Odessa's air of freedom and libertine mores, of which the wits of the time joked that “Hell burns for a hundred miles around it.”
The combination of innovation, globalism and a lifestyle unencumbered by the weight of the past made the city a lodestone for Jews, who flocked to it in droves from all over the Pale of Settlement – Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and elsewhere as well. To illustrate: In 1841 there were 8,000 Jews living in Odessa, but in 1873 that number reached 51,837.
In the 1860s many intellectuals gathered in Odessa, among them Peretz Smolenskin, Alexander Zederbaum, Israel Aksenfeld, and Y.Y. Lerner. Years later other influential figures were active in Odessa, among them Mendele Mocher Sforim, Achad Ha'am and Chaim Nachman Bialik. In Odessa they could live unencumbered by religious restrictions, exchange views freely, make pilgrimage to an admired writer's court and carouse together, without feeling guilty for wasting time that should be spent studying Torah.
At that time some Jews, mostly the richest, began to settle outside the Pale of Settlement as well – in Moscow and St. Petersburg. This in addition to a small Jewish community living in central Russia, in the Caucasus Lands.

1881 | Greasing the Wheels of the Revolution

The Jews' hopes to integrate into Russian society and be, as the revered Jewish poet Judah Leib Gordon put it, “A human being when you go out and a Jew in your own tent” was smashed against the rock of modern anti-Semitism, which reared its ugly head in 1880.
Dazzled by Czar Alexander II's reforms and their accelerated integration in the economic, cultural and academic life of the country, the Jews ignored the anti-Semitic coverage growing more and more prevalent in the Russian press and literature, consistently describing the Jewish “plot” to take over Russia and dispossess the simple farmer of his land.
Author Fyodor Mikhailovich Reshetnikov, for instance, described in his books how Jews buy young Russian men and women and abuse them like slaves. Not to be undone was Dostoyevsky, who in his masterpiece “The Brothers Karamazov” describes a Jew crucifying a four year-old against a wall and delighting in his dying.
Such descriptions and others trickled into the consciousness of the masses and farmers, who sought for someone to blame for their failure to compete in the free market, which appeared following the abolition of serfdom in 1861.
The pogroms of 1881, dubbed “Storms in the South”, left the Jews stricken with grief and astonishment. Great disappointment was caused by the silence of the Russian intellectuals, which at best kept their mouths shut, at worst encouraged the rioters, and at their most cynical regarded the Jews as “grease on the wheels of the revolution,” a metaphor common among Russian socialist revolutionaries. These reactions sharpened the bitter realization for many Jews that whether they joined the local national forces, assimilated or adopted socialist views, they would always be seen as unwanted foreigners and be treated with suspicion and violence.

1884 | Get Thee Out Of Thy Country

Nietzsche's statement that “Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the existence of suffering” may be pessimistic in sentiment, but is most apt to describe the lot of the Jews in Russia in the 1880s. The “Storms in the South” pogroms that broke out in 1881 and the anti-Semitic climate that grew even stronger in their wake with the passage of the “May Laws” and the “Numerus Clausus” laws limiting the number of Jews who could enroll in universities, led the Jews to realize that waiting for emancipation would only prolong their suffering.
From 1881 to the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 some two million Jews left the Pale of Settlement, mostly to the United States and some to Argentina, Britain, South Africa, Australia and the Land of Israel.
The myth of America as “Di goldene medina” (country of gold, in Yiddish) drew the migrants like magic. Reality was less romantic. Upon arrival in America the immigrants huddled in small neighborhoods and suffered from poverty and severe hygiene conditions, which only improved after a generation or two.
At the same time, anti-Semitism in Russia led to a revival of Jewish national sentiments, which manifested in the foundation of Hibat Zion in 1884 in the city of Katowice. One of the ideological leaders of the movement was Leon (Yehudah Leib) Pinsker, author of the manifesto “Auto-emancipation”.
To describe the relations between the Jews and the general society Pinsker used the image of the “jilted lover”: Like a lover courting his beloved only to be rejected again and again, so the Jew tries incessantly to win the love of the Russian, but in vain. The only solution, according to Pinsker, was to establish a national political framework in Israel, the land of our fathers.
The accepted verdict among scholars is that Hibat Zion failed as a movement, but succeeded as an idea. And indeed, the First Aliyah, organized under this movement, was the first of several waves that followed.

1897 | Jews Of The World, Unite!

Dates sometimes have a life of their own. Thus, for example, the muse of history chose 1897 as the official date of birth for two parallel and highly influential Jewish schools of thought were born: The World Zionist Organization and the Bund Movement, the labor party of Russia's Jews.
While the first Zionist Congress convened in the glittering casino hall in Basel, the Bund, as befits a labor movement, was founded in an attic of a house on the outskirts of Vilnius. The Bund received its ideology from Marxist-Socialist sources, and as a result abhorred anything bourgeoisie, all religions and hierarchical social structures. The party called for the abolition of all holidays except for May Day, the holiday on which, the party leaders thundered, “the evil bourgeoisie with their arrogant, rapacious eyes shall shiver in fear.” The Bund opposed Zionism and called on Jews to establish “A social-democratic association of the Jewish proletariat, unfettered in its actions by regional boundaries.”
This should not be understood to mean that the members of the Bund renounced their Jewish identity. On the contrary: The Bund taught its members to be proud of who they were, to refuse to accept the pogroms and to actively react to any injustice and discrimination. The youngsters of the movement even called upon their brethren to take their fates into their own hands.
In the socialist climate spreading rapidly throughout Eastern Europe at the time, the Bund became highly successful, but in the test of history it was the parallel movement, Zionism, that held the winning hand.

1903 | None But Ourselves

In the same year that saw the distribution throughout Russia of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” - possibly the most prevalent anti-Semitic document in the world to this day – a young man was sent to report on the riots that had broken out in the city of Kishinev, later to be known as the “Kishinev Pogrom”. The horrors encountered by this man, poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, were transformed by his razor-sharp quill into one of the most devastating poems in the Hebrew language, “In The City Of Slaughter”. This poem is considered a scathing rebuke of Jewish society, and it wounded the souls of many readers. The dishonor of the Jews, who cowered in their hiding holes praying that evil should not reach them, while their mothers, wives and daughters were raped and murdered before their eyes, was exposed in clear, harsh words.
Bialik's words struck deep, and roused many of Russia's Jews to vengeance and a deep desire to do something, rather than wait in hiding for the killers to come. Many Jews took the realization to heart that a Jew must defend himself, or he was lost.
This was a true revolution of mind. The Jews, who until then were used to the status of a minority in need of another's protection, were forced to grow an awareness of brawn out of thin air. The poems of Bialik and the writings of Berdichevsky may have roused their souls, but the reticence of violence was burned deep in their collective consciousness. Most of them were drawn to the moderate, reserved approach of Achad Ha'am than to that of the tumultuous and combative Yosef Chaim Brener, and yet, many historians mark the Kishinev Pogrom as a watershed line; a formative moment when the collective psychic frequency switched from “None but Him [can save us]” to “None but ourselves.”

1917 | The Global International

Upon the end of WW1, in which tens of thousands of Jewish soldiers died on Mother Russia's altar, a new era began in the land of the Czars, which now became the land of the hammer and sickle. The monopoly on power, which for four hundred years resided exclusively in the hands of the legendary House of Romanov, devolved to the people. Equality became the highest value, and the simple working man was (supposedly) no longer anyone's exploited victim.
For four years civil war raged in Russia, claiming the lives of 15 million people, among them some 100,000 Ukrainian Jews slaughtered by the anti-Semitic White forces. However, the triumph of the revolution and the overthrow of the Czarist regime instantly released immense forces in Russia's large Jewish community.
No-one believed that change would be so swift, as a mere five years before the “Beilis Trial” was held – an infamous blood libel in which the authorities accused a Jew named Menachem Mendel Beilis of baking matza with the blood of Christians, sending anti-Semitism skyrocketing to new heights.
Most of the change happened on the national level. Representative and democratic Jewish communities organized throughout Russia, and attempts to establish an all-Russian Jewish representation began to take shape. The telegraph lines flooded the newsrooms with reports of the Balfour Declaration, promising a national home to the Jewish people, which was the product of efforts by a Jew born in the Pale of Settlement, Chaim Weizmann. All these increased the confidence of the national Jewish circles that their hour of victory was at hand.
And yet, as the Bolshevik revolution grew stronger, the national motivations subsided in favor of the universal ones. Drunk on equality, the Jews embraced the prophecy of Isiah, “For mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people,” and determined that this was a messianic hour of grace, a time to shed the national trappings and unite with the workers of the world, without regard to faith, nation or sex.
It is difficult to overstate the stamp placed by Jews on the face of Russia in the years following the revolution, whether as heads of government and of the Communist Party, as thinkers or as military leaders. In all these fields and many others the Jews played a central part, out of all proportion to their share of the population.
But was it indeed springtime for the People of Abraham? Let the annals of the Jews of the Soviet Union answer this question.

United States of America (USA)

A country in North America

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 5,700,000 out of 325,000,000 (1.7%). United States is the home of the second largest Jewish population in the world. 

Community life is organized in more than 2,000 organizations and 700 federations. Each of the main religious denominators – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist – has its own national association of synagogues and rabbis. 

American cities (greater area) with largest Jewish populations in 2018:

New York City, NY: 2,000,000
Los Angeles, CA: 662,000
Miami, FL: 555,000
Philadelphia, PA: 275,000
Chicago, IL: 294,000
Boston, MA: 250,000
San Francisco, CA: 304,000
Washington, DC & Baltimore, MY: 217,000

States with largest proportion of Jewish population in 2018 (Percentage of Total Population):

New York: 8.9
New Jersey: 5.8
Florida: 3.3
District of Columbia: 4.3
Massachusetts: 4.1
Maryland: 4
Connecticut: 3.3
California: 3.2
Pennsylvania: 2.3
Illinois: 2.3


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


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.


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.

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.

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.

• 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.

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”.

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.

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.


Russian: Москва (Moskva)

Capital of Russia since 1918. The political, economic, and commercial center of Russia.

Jews were forbidden to reside in Moscow until the end of the 18th century, although many Jewish merchants from Poland and Lithuania visited the town on business. A few Jews had arrived during the Russian-Polish war of the 17th century as prisoners. Among them were some who converted to Christianity and remained in the city. Peter Shafizov, one of the most important advisors to Czar Peter the Great was of Jewish origin.

The First Partition of Poland in 1772 brought a number of Jews to Moscow, particularly from Shklov, which was then an important commercial center in Belarus. In 1790, Moscow merchants requested that the presence and commercial activities of Jews in the city be prohibited; a royal decree forbidding Jewish merchants from settling in the inner districts of Russia was subsequently issued in 1791. However, they were still allowed to reside in Moscow temporarily in order to trade and Jewish merchants continued to play an important role in the trade between Moscow and the Southern and Western regions of Russia, as well as in the export of Moscow's goods. As a result, Russian industrialists in Moscow tended to support granting rights to the Jews of the city.

In 1828, certain classes of Jewish merchants were authorized to remain in Moscow on business for a period of one month only (in 1832 all classes of Jewish merchants were allowed to stay in the city for up to half a year), and could stay only in one inn, Glebovskoye Podvoriye. The inn was a charitable trust which had been handed over to the Moscow Town Council so that its income could be used for the maintenance of a municipal eye clinic. Because it was the only place that Jewish merchants could stay while they were in Moscow, they were forced to pay exorbitant prices to stay at the inn. With the ascension of Czar Alexander II in 1855, restrictions were eased; Jewish merchants of the first guild, university graduates, army veterans, and certain medical professionals were permitted to live anywhere in the city.

The first Jews to settle permanently in Moscow, who became the founders of the community, were cantonists (Jews who had been conscripted to the military as children) who had finished their military service, some of whom had married Jewish women from the Pale of Settlement. In 1858 there were 340 Jewish men and 104 Jewish women in the entire District of Moscow. From 1865 to 1889 Rabbi Chaim Berlin served as the chief rabbi of Moscow, and in 1869 the community invited Shlomo Minor, one of the outstanding students of the Vilna rabbinical seminary, to serve as the Kazyonny Ravvin (Government Appointed Rabbi).

In 1871, the Jewish population of Moscow was estimated at around 8,000. This number grew to about 12,000 in 1882 and 35,000 (over 3% of the total population) in 1890, just before the expulsion.

The governor of Moscow, Prince Paul Dmitriyevich Dolgorukov, was known for his liberal attitude towards the Jews and (after receiving bribes and gifts) the local administration was willing to overlook their occasionally illegal presence in the city (for example, in the cases of those who falsely claimed to be merchants and artisans). While anti-Jewish persecutions and decrees were gaining momentum throughout Russia after the ascension of Czar Alexander III, the attempts to expel the Jews from Moscow were delayed. This peace proved to be temporary when Prince Dolgorukov was removed from office, and Grand Prince Sergei Alexandrovich was appointed in his stead. One of his explicitly-stated goals in taking office was "to save Moscow from the Jews." Shortly thereafter, on March 28, 1891 (Passover Eve, 5651), Jews began to be expelled from the city.

The expulsion from Moscow came as a deep shock to Russian Jewry. Within a short period of time, approximately 20,000 Jews were expelled from Moscow. The poor were sent to the Pale of Settlement on criminal transports and generous rewards were offered for the capture of any Jews hiding in the city. A considerable number of those expelled arrived in Warsaw and Lodz, and began to rebuild their businesses. At the height of the expulsion period, the authorities closed down the new Choral Synagogue, which had just been built in 1891, as well as 9 of the 14 prayer houses. It was not until 1906 that permission was granted for the Choral Synagogue to be reopened.

In 1897 there were 8,095 Jews living in Moscow (0.8% of the total population. Additionally, there were 216 Karaites living in the city). In 1902 there were 9,339 Jews living in the city, with half of them declaring Yiddish as their mother tongue; the overwhelming majority of others declared it to be Russian. In 1893 Ya'akov (Iakov) Mazeh was elected as the rabbi of Moscow, and remained its spiritual leader until his death in 1923.

Increasing numbers of Jewish students arrived in Moscow during the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century in order to pursue higher education. In 1886 there were about 298 Jewish students in the city, and in 1911 there were about 700. Additionally, after the outbreak of World War I, streams of Jewish refugees began arriving from the German-occupied regions. They took part in the development of war industries, and some amassed large fortunes. In a short period of time, Moscow became a center of Jewish life and culture. Hebrew printing presses were set up and a large Lithuanian yeshivah was founded in the town of Bogorodsk, near Moscow. The Hebrew theater Habimah performed its first play in 1917 (its masterpiece, Sh. Ansky's "Ha-Dibuk," would premiere in January 1922). Authorization was given for the publication of a Hebrew weekly, "Ha-Am." The founding conference of the Organization for Hebrew Education and Culture, Tarbut, was held in Moscow in the spring of 1917. While these cultural activities continued through the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the new regime rapidly shut down most of the institutions of Hebrew culture in Moscow. The Habimah Theater was more fortunate; it continued to exist and was protected several prominent members of the Russian artistic and literary world, who defended it as a first-class artistic institution.

The headquarters of the Yevsektsiya, the Jewish section of the Soviet Communist Party, were located in Moscow, where they published their central newspaper, "Der Emes," from 1920 until 1938, as well as many other Yiddish newspapers and books. The Jewish state theater (known in Russia by its Russian initials, GOSET), directed by Solomon Mikhoels, was also located in Moscow. For a number of years, small circles of organized Zionists continued to exist in the city, which was the central location of the legal He-Chalutz as well as of Po'alei Zion. The Yiddish Theater moved from Petrograd to Moscow in 1920, and in 1925 it was reorganized as the Moscow State Yiddish Theater. In 1926 the Second Moscow University opened a department to prepare future teachers to teach at Jewish schools.

This cultural blossoming came to a halt during the 1930s. The last Jewish school was closed in 1936, while most Yiddish language educational and cultural institutions were closed in 1937 and 1938. The mass arrests from 1936=1938 also claimed a large number of Jews from Moscow, many of whom were party elites.

When Moscow became the capital of the Soviet Union in 1918, its Jewish population began rapidly increasing. In 1920 there were 28,000 Jews in the city, which had become severely depopulated as a result of the civil war. By 1923 that number had increased to 86,000, and by 1926 to 131,000 (6.5% of the total population). In 1940 the Jewish population was estimated at 400,000. In the census of 1959, 239,246 Jews (4.7% of the total population) were registered in the municipal area of Moscow; these numbers are thought to be a gross underestimate, and some opinions evaluate Moscow's Jewish population during that time as being as high as 500,000.

During World War II, from 1943, Moscow was the headquarters of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, which gathered together major well-known Soviet Jewish figures in order to assist the Soviet Union in its war effort against Nazi Germany and to mobilize world Jewish opinion and aid for this cause. It published a newspaper, "Eynikayt." The Anti-Fascist Committee attempted to continue its activities after the war, but was brutally suppressed in the years following the war. In 1950 the state security apparatus invented the Stalin Automobile Plant of Moscow (ZIS) Affair, accusing 48 people (42 of whom were Jews) of organizing a Jewish national sabotage group at the plant, led by the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. All ten people who were executed were Jews. Indeed, Moscow's Jews were particularly affected by Stalin's anti-Semitic campaigns after the war. Many of Moscow's Jews were fired from their jobs, arrested, and even executed after being falsely accused of various plots against Stalin and the state.

When Golda Meir, the first diplomatic representative of the State of Israel, arrived in Moscow on September 1948, a spontaneous mass demonstration of Jews in her honor took place on the High Holidays near and around the Moscow Choral Synagogue, angering Soviet officials. Later, the Israel delegation to the Youth Festival, held in Moscow in 1957, was the first opportunity that Jewish youth from Israel and the USSR had to form personal connections.

By 1970, there were three functioning synagogues in Moscow, the most historically significant of which was the Moscow Choral Synagogue (one of the three would be closed down by the authorities in 1972). In the 1950s and 1960s, The Moscow Choral Synagogue was allowed to issue a Jewish calendar and to send it to other synagogues in the USSR. In 1956 the synagogue's rabbi, Rabbi Solomon Schliefer ,was granted permission to print a prayer book from older prayer books. He named it "Siddur Ha-Shalom" ("The Prayer Book of Peace") and deleted all references to wars and victories (for example, the prayers said on Chanukkah and Purim). He is said to have printed 3,000 copies, but it was rarely seen in other synagogues in the Soviet Union. In 1957, Rabbi Schliefer was given permission by the authorities to open a yeshiva on the premesis of The Great Synagogue. He called it "Kol Ya'akov" ("The Voice of Jacob") and for several years a small number of young and middle-aged Jewish men, mostly from Georgia, were trained there. Nearly all the men learning there trained to be shochatim (ritual slaughterers), and the number of ordained rabbis did not exceed 1 or 2. By 1963 37 students had passed through the yeshiva; 25 of them had been trained as shochatim. In 1965 there was only 1 student studying there. Beginning in 1961, a barrier was erected in the Moscow Choral Synagogue to separate foreign visitors, including Israeli diplomats, from the local congregation and the synagogue's officers were responsible for strictly enforcing the segregation. In 1962, matzah-baking and distribution was restricted in Moscow, as well as in most other areas of the Soviet Union.

Yiddish folklore concerts took place relatively frequently in the city and drew large crowds. A semi-professional theater troupe was established, led by the actor Benjamin Schwartzer, and mainly performed Sholom Aleichem plays in provincial cities. In 1961 the Yiddish journal "Sovietish Heymland," edited by an officially appointed editor, the poet Aaron Vergelis, began to appear as an "organ of the Soviet Writers' Union."The Moscow Jewish Tramatic Ensemble was created in 1962 (which would be renamed the Shalom Jewish Dramatic Theater Studio).

The Six Day War and the subsequent rupture of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Israel put an end to cultural contacts between the two countries. But many of Moscow's Jews, particularly the younger generation, began demonstrating their feelings of Jewish nationalism more openly. Simchat Torah at the Moscow Choral Synagogue became a time for thousands of Jews to come together and sing Yiddish and Hebrew songs. These Jews began studying Hebrew in small, secret groups and publishing samizdat (underground publications). Jews organized groups to study Judaism and Jewish history, and held Jewish song contests. They also demonstrated and signed petitions against the refusal to grant them exit permits to Israel. A number of these activists ("refuseniks") were arrested for their activities, including Ida Nudel, Yosef Begun, and Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky.