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Jewish Families from Miskolc, Hungary

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This project seeks to collect all Jewish families from the town of Miskolc in Hungary.

Jews at the Crossroads: Tradition And Accommodation During the Golden Age of the Hungarian Nobility, 1729-1878
 by Howard N. Lupovitch. Examines the social and political history of the Jews of Miskolc.

Miskolc Jewish Community JewishGen

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LUMINARIES FROM MISKOLC: Kehilalinka

  • Zsigmond Brody: Journalist, Poet, and Philanthropist
  • Salomon Klein: Pioneer Ophthalmologist
  • Sandor Ferenczi: The "Crown Prince" of Psychiatry
  • Edouard Remenyi: Violin Virtuoso
  • Simon Adler: Educator of the Deaf and Blind
  • Sigmund Maybaum: Rabbi and Scholar
  • Marcel Dick: Musician, Composer, and Teacher
  • Emeric Pressburger: Oscar-Winning Screenwriter
  • Ilona Marton: Prize-Winning Journalist
  • Deszo Gyarmati: Olympic Water-Polo Medalist

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Miskolc Rabbis

The first Rabbi of the congregation, Izrael Mandel, who served also as the Rabbi of the county, was followed by Asher Ansel Wiener. After his death in 1800, his son, Avraham Wiener Posselburg, was elected Chief Rabbi. When he died in 1832, the county rabbinate ceased to exist, and from the 1850s, the communities around Miskolc elected their own rabbis independently.

In 1836, the Miskolc congregation elected Mózes Fischmann chief rabbi. He filled this post until his death in 1875. During Fischmann's term, Mór Klein also served the Miskolc Community as Rabbi. He had studied in the Pressburg (Pozsony) and Prague Yeshivas and was widely acclaimed for his outstanding orations and scholastic works.

Mór Klein (father of Dr. Arnold Kis, principal Chief Rabbi of Buda) was later elected Chief Rabbi of Pápa and Nagybecskerek, while Miskolc's community elected the former Rabbi of Nádudvar, Mayer Rosenfeld Chief Rabbi in 1879. All spoke with the highest esteem and deep emotion about their unforgettable Chief Rabbi. His sons József, later the Rabbi of Csernovitz, and Miksa (who changed his surname to Révai), became a religious teacher in Budapest. His sons-in-law were Lipót Marmorstein, Rabbi at Szenice, SándorJordán, Rabbi at Szatmár, and Artúr Marmorstein, religious teacher in London.

After Rosenfeld's death, Sámuel Spitzer, Rabbi of Kiskunhalas, was invited by the Community. Dr. Spitzer, a man of humble origin, was a most talented and knowledgeable person. He obtained his secular education from private tutors and took a doctorate. The new, secular-educated Chief Rabbi, however, was not popular among the Community's traditionalist members. He consented to weddings to be held within the Temple only after an opening roof apparatus was installed to allow weddings to be held “under the open sky”.

Rabbi Spitzer was an austere and profoundly religious person whose vast Halachic knowledge earned high respect among members. In 1908, the third year of his service, he was invited to take the post of Chief Rabbi in Hamburg, which he readily accepted. During his activity in Germany, he was recognised as the second most influential German Orthodox rabbi behind Dr. Breuer, the Rabbi of Frankfurt. He published several important religious studies during these years. His demise in 1936 was mourned widely and in Miskolc, Chief Rabbi Austerlitz rendered homage to Dr. Spitzer's memory in his sermon on the 7th of Adar.

In 1898, Dr. Salomon Spira was elected Chief Rabbi. Dr.Spira was born in 1865 in Homonna and attended the Berlin Orthodox Seminars, later serving the Kula and Losonc communities as Chief Rabbi. In keeping with a new government regulation passed in 1896, his trial sermon was held in the Hungarian language. His excellent rhetorical talent and rich voice soon earned him great popularity. In 1923, on the 25th anniversary of his activity in Miskolc, Dr.Spira was widely celebrated not only by the Jewish Community, but also by the entire Miskolc society. He was already dying and unconscious, when, with other patients of the Ghetto hospital, he was added to an Auschwitz transport in 1944. From this transport, nobody has ever returned – so we cannot know what fate held for him.

In 1914, the year when the First World War began, the Miskolc community elected Samuel Austerlitz as Chief Rabbi. Born in Vienna, Austerlitz became a scholar of unchallengeable authority. He learnt in the Yeshiva of Zussman Sofer in Pacs, and as a young student interpreted the lectures of his master. He obtained his diploma in Pozsony (now Bratislava) and served as Chief Rabbi in Pápa and Somorja. In those times, your author was a student in Pozsony. I can testify that not only we, his students, but many “ordinary” inhabitants of Pozsony travelled to Somorja to listen to his brilliant orations. His Yeshiva in Miskolc earned nationwide acclaim. Austerlitz, the grand master of Temple orations, died of heart failure in 1939. His eulogy was published on his first Jahrzeit by Gyula Groszman, teacher of our public school, under the title Zichron Shmuel [The Memory of Shmuel].

Miskolc Dayans

Rabbi Yosef Finkelstein, author of Tzafenat Pa'aneach [after Genesis 41:45], the son-in-law of Meir Avraham of Hejőcsaba, himself the author of Pri Tzadik [The Fruits of the Righteous]. His most active years were in the 1920s.

During the era of Wiener, Chief Rabbis in Miskolc were the noted Rabbi Yechezkel Moshe Fishman (Lifschitz), who wrote a Foreword to Pri Tzadik in 1830. The next Dayan was David Wiener, the son of Rabbi Abraham Wiener Posselburg. He took his position in 1876.

In 1872, the Community elected Yaakov Schück the son of Rabbi David Schück (Shick) as Dayan, who later became the Rabbi of Nádudvar. Rabbi Schück was the head of a large dynasty of rabbis. One of his sons, Menachem Schück served in Szikszó, another, Meir Schück served in Onód, while his son-in-law Zvi Prager served in Poprád, Asher Anshel Weisz served in Nagyfalu and Asher Anshel Jungreisz in Fehérgyarmat.

His successor was Avraham David Hoffmann, later invited to Yugoslavia as Chief Rabbi. After his departure, Yitzhak Aizik Stern, the grandson of the author of Sha'arei Tora, from Abaújszántó, and the brother-in-law of Gerson Rosenbaum, the Rabbi of Tállya, was elected Dayan of Miskolc. His son-in-law, Salamon Weiszmann, the Community's registrar, was a most popular individual in Miskolc.

After the departure of Rabbi Hoffmann, the next Dayan was David Eliyahu Herschkowitz, who later became the Rabbi of the Chevra SHAS [Society devoted to the learning of the Talmud].

From the early 1900s until his death in 1922 Yechiel Fürth, the eldest member of the popular Fürth family, served as Dayan. After his death, Moshe Nathan Blum, the son-in-law of Rosenbaum, the Rabbi of Kisvárda, was elected, but soon he was invited to serve as Rabbi in Nagyvárad. After he left, Shimon Neufeld and the son-in-law Tannenbaum, the Rabbi of Torna, the popular Rabbi of Diósgyőr, was elected Dayan of Miskolc. At that time, the Community established two dayan positions and elected Avraham Ahrenfeld, a most pleasant man, and the son-in-law of Renitz, a former Sephardic Rabbi, to the newly-established position.

The martyrs of Miskolc were escorted to their last journey by these two rabbis.

The first Rabbi of the Sephardic congregation was Mózes Vitriol. He was followed by József Reinitz of Mád. After Reinitz's death the great scholar, Chaim Yakov Gottlieb, the Rabbi of Borsa and Felsővisó and the author of Yagel Jákov was elected Chief Rabbi in 1926.

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Miskolc

Miskolc as a town of the Crown, was also among the municipalities that forbade Jews from taking up residence in the town. In fact, Jews could settle only in those villages where local landlords gave them permission to do so. According to historical records, the following locations were accessible for Jews around Miskolc from the late 18th century:

Abaúj-Torna county:

  • Szikszó –Perényi and Csáky estates
  • Méra – Fáy and Vitéz estates
  • Gönc – Csáky estate
  • Szántó – Bettenheim estate

Borsod county:

  • Csaba – Episcopate estate
  • Szentpéter – Szirmay estate
  • Kazinc – Radványi estate
  • Emőd – Erdődy estate

Zemplén county:

  • Szerencs, Zombor, Monok – Andrássy estate
  • Tállya, Sárospatak – Bettenheim estate
  • Mád, Bodrogkeresztúr – Erdődy estates
  • Tolcsva – Szirmay estate

Miskolc, founded by a steady stream of immigrants from Moravia from the 1720s on grew slowly during the eighteenth century. Until the 1820s, its only functioning communal institutions were the burial society, founded in 1767, and a seven-man executive committee appointed in 1769 to collect the Toleration Tax on behalf of the royal crown.

The community had no rabbi until the 1770s, and, until 1784, only a single school, which had been founded in 1734. A Josephinian Normalschule, established in 1784 and highly praised by Ferenc Kazinczy, superintendant of schools for the Habsburg government and a leading figure in the Magyar national revival, functioned for just three years.

The growing influence of nobles in Miskolc eliminated all restrictions on Jewish settlement by 1820. The Jewish population increased to 389 by 1828; to 1,096 by 1837; and to 2,937 by 1848. From 1848 to 1920 Jews constituted about 20 percent of the city’s total population. By 1869, there were 4,770 Jews in the town, and numbers rose to 5,117 by 1880; to 8,551 by 1900; and to 10,291 by 1910. The Jewish population remained at approximately 10,000 until 1944.

According to the census of 1848, the three most common occupations for Jews were in commerce, tavernkeeping, and artisanry. Jewish artisans first organized in 1813 and were recognized as an official guild by the royal crown and the county diet in 1836. Jews were among the city’s leading commercial and industrial entrepreneurs. Joseph Lichtenstein, for example, was a cofounder in 1845 of the first credit bank in Miskolc.

The first synagogue, built in 1786, was restored after being damaged in a fire in 1843. In 1861, construction began on a new, larger synagogue on Kazinczy Street, which was completed in 1863 and was followed by the Paloczy Street synagogue in 1901. By 1880, Miskolc had three yeshivas and three Talmud Torah schools. In 1895, some 800 Jewish students studied at these schools, and an additional 800 were enrolled in vocational programs.

Although religiously traditional, Miskolc Jews introduced certain innovations associated with Reform Judaism as early as the 1830s (notably, they allowed weddings to be performed in the synagogue as opposed to the traditional custom of outdoor ceremonies).

The completion of the Kazinczy Street synagogue in 1863 precipitated a conflict between Ezekiel Mozes Fischman, chief rabbi of Miskolc, and Hillel Lichtenstein, the ultra-Orthodox rabbi of Szikszó. At the end of the 1860s, the community wavered over whether to affiliate as Orthodox or Neolog. After the leadership chose to affiliate with Orthodoxy in 1869, the members of the Kazinczy synagogue became Neolog in 1870. In 1875, the two communities were reunited as a single Orthodox community. A decade later, a small contingent organized a Status Quo congregation, and Hasidic Jews organized a separate congregation after rejecting innovations with respect to marriage ceremonies.

The Miskolc rabbinate was consistently moderate in its traditional outlook.

Yechezkel Moshe Fischman'" (1836–1875), Moritz Rosenfeld (1878–1908), and Salomon Spira (or Shapira; 1898–1944) brokered compromises between traditional and progressive positions.

Noted individuals from Miskolc included

  • Pinḥas Heilprin, a maskil who immigrated from Galicia in 1843 and was among the most outspoken critics of Samuel Holdheim’s radical reform; his son Mihály Heilprin, who composed Hungarian poetry in 1848 and was active in the revolutions of 1848–1849;
  • Abraham Hochmuth, whose statewide program of education reform during the 1850s was based on changes he had introduced in Miskolc during the 1840s;
  • Mihaly Popper, a leading voice of moderation and compromise at the General Jewish Congress of Hungary of 1868–1869;
  • Samuel Austerlitz, one of the first Hungarian rabbis to become an ardent Zionist;
  • Lajos Hatvany-Deutsch, who often alluded to Miskolc in his semiautobiographical novels.

Miskolc Jewry was known for its communal institutions and organizations. The Jewish Artisans Guild, founded in 1836, later became the Miskolc Israelite Artisans Association. Emperor Franz Joseph personally acknowledged the Jewish Women’s Association, founded in 1847, during his visit to Miskolc in 1880. The Teachers Training Institute, founded in 1846, and Erzsébet Gymnasium for girls, founded in 1901, were among the leading educational institutions of their kind in Central Europe.

During the interwar period, Jews in Miskolc faced rising antisemitism, spearheaded by Lörincz Sim, a local police officer. A period of economic decline began in 1923, but Jews remained prominent in commerce, medicine, and law. The numerus clausus of 1919 temporarily reduced the number of Jewish students in the local public schools. In 1925, there were 2,571 Jewish students in Miskolc schools, but by 1944 the number had fallen to 1,588. The protection of the Hungarian minister of education partially rectified the situation. The number of Jewish students in local gymnasia then increased from a low of 23 in 1923 to 283 by 1939. After 1928, the Teachers Training Institute taught Hebrew as a recognized language.

On 20 June 1942, all men age 60 and under were taken into forced labor, mostly at the Hatvan labor camp. Jewish war veterans, some of whom displayed national colors, became officers in the camp. The postwar Jewish population of Miskolc has never exceeded 400.

Suggested Reading

  • István Dobrossy, ed., Miskolc Története, vol. 3 (Miskolc, 1998–2003);
  • Nathaniel Katzburg, Pinkas ha-Kehilot: Hungaryah (Jerusalem, 1976), pp. 359–365; Aron Moskovits, Jewish Education in Hungary, 1848–1948 (New York, 1964), pp. 4, 79, 235–238, 288;
  • Shlomo Paszternák, Miskolc és környéke mártirkönyv (Bene Berak, 1970);
  • Péter Ujvári, ed., Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929; rpt. Budapest, 2000), pp. 606–608.

Source: Howard Lupovitch for Yivo