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Jewish Families from Erdőbénye, Hungary

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This project seeks the names of all Jewish families from the town of Erdőbénye in Hungary. Please contribute your own family information. The picture next to this entry is of part of the old Jewish complex.

As of 2014, when last I visited, it was in disrepair. Some of the buildings were completely gone. If you have more recent information, please add it here. If you have photos, please feel free to add them as well.

Background Erdőbénye, also known as Benye, is in Northern Hungary, in the Zemplen district. Zemplen also includes the towns of Bodrogkerersztur, Mad, Satoraljuajhely, Tarcal, Tocaj, and Tolcsva. Two rivers meet here, the Tisza and the Bodrog.

Benye is in a valley surrounded by mountains and vineyards. It is part of the Tokaj wine region of Hungary, famous for white dessert wines. The Jewish community was an active part of the viticulture and wine trade of the region.

Benye was settled by Jews in the early 18th century, many of them from Galicia. Some of the Jews here at that time were farmers, artisans, scholars, and traders. They had a burial society, a philanthropic aid society, a school and a school of Jewish learning.

The leader of the Jewish community here at one time was Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, author of the “Tal Chaim.” Friedlander later took over the Liske Hasidic dynasty. At the turn of the 20th century, Benye had a full-time Jewish teacher, paid by the Hungarian government.

The Jewish population was 332 in 1880. Before World War II, the Jewish population was 153. In 1910, there were 31 Jewish congregations in the county, 28 of them Orthodox, 2 Neolog, one Status Quo Ante. By 1944, most had ceased to function.

The Holocaust In the late 1930s, several anti-Jewish laws were issued in Zemplen County, as elsewhere in Hungary. In Oct. 1939, Jewish businesses were ordered closed. The Jewish population surged in 1939, after Germany occupied Poland, and 1942, when Slovak Jews began to be deported. Thousands of Jewish refugees moved into Zemplen,

Germany occupied Hungary, beginning March 19, 1944, and Zemplen was in Gendarmerie District VIII, part of Zone I in the Nazi plan for extermination of the Jews. Jews lost their right to bear arms. Property was confiscated.

Jews in Zemplen County were among the first incarcerated,most in Satoraljaujhely. Benye’s Jews were rounded up in mid-April, 1944, and sent to a ghetto in Tokaj. They then were transferred to the ghetto in Satoraljaujhely, and finally to Auschwitz in late May 1944..

There are Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem for Jews who had lived in this tiny town, including family names Adler, Dick, Frid, Fuchs, Ginczler, Gondos, Gross, Grossman, Karfunkel, Laszlo, Moshkovitz, Rechnitz, Roth, Schoenstein, Shtern, Shulberger, Wasserman and Winkler. There are nearly 3 dozen Pages of Testimony on record for Jewish people who lived in Benye during the Shoah.

After the war, 10-12 survivors returned to Benye and repaired the synagogue. In 1949, the synagogue had 27 members. Most left the town shortly afterwards.

Benye Today There is a relatively well-kept Jewish cemetery in Benye, on Dozsa Gyorgy Street, established in the 18th century.The National Jewish community owns the cemetery. Some gravestones have Hebrew and Hungarian inscriptions. The cemetery was restored sometime around the year 2000, though it is again overgrown. There are few headstones near the entrance of the cemetery. Perhaps this cemetery, like so many others in eastern Europe, was vandalized and robbed of its headstones, which were repurposed as building materials.

Recently, the old mikveh was purchased by Gyorgy Godeny, who is renovating it to be a Jewish center. There is one Jewish family now living in Benye.

Gondos family Mor Goldmann moved to Benye in 1896, to become the Jewish schoolteacher in this town. The Hungarian government paid him and encouraged him to Hungarianize his name; he became Mor Gondos. His students were all Jewish. He taught secular subjects. Another member of the Benye Jewish community, Herman Planer, introduced Mor to his niece, Rosa Feuerlicht. Mor and Rosa were married in Benye, and had five children. Around 1910, Mor was promoted to principal of the Jewish school in a nearby town, and the family moved away from Benye. Mor died in 1931. His wife Rosa, his two daughters, one son-in-law, and four grandchildren died in the Holocaust: daughter Zelma Adler, her husband, Lajos, and their sons, Peter, Tamas, and Andras; and Mor and Rozsa's daughter Ilona Rechnitz, and her daughter Lidia. Mor's sons Bela, Zoltan, and Sandor survived the Holocaust. Sandor made aliyah to Israel. Zoltan moved to the U.S. before the Holocaust; Bela and his family moved to the United States afterwards.