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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Hungary 01: From Roman times to 1919

Roman legions - crusades - professions in the Middle Ages - Black Death persecutions - stake and debts canceled - protection - tolerant Turkish and Ottoman rule - "Christian" Hapsburg anti-Semitism - emancipation in 1867 - enlightenment Jews, Orthodox Jews - racist Zionism

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8, col.
                1091. Base of a column from the remains of a Gothic
                synagogue. Buda, 1461. Courtesy A. Scheiber, Jewish
                Theological Seminary of Hungary, Budapest.
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8, col. 1091. Base of a column from the remains of a Gothic synagogue.
Buda, 1461. Courtesy A. Scheiber, Jewish Theological Seminary of Hungary, Budapest.

from: Hungary; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 8

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<HUNGARY, state in S.E. Central Europe.

Middle Ages to the Ottoman Conquest.

[Roman legions - Middle Ages - crusades - Jews in "important communities"]

Archaeological evidence indicates the existence of Jews in Pannonia and Dacia, who came there in the wake of the Roman legions.

Jewish historical tradition, however, only mentions the Jews in Hungary from the second half of the 11th century, when Jews from Germany, Bohemia, and Moravia settled there. In 1092, at the council of Szabolcs, the Church prohibited marriages between Jews and Christians, work on Christian festivals, and the purchase of slaves. King Koloman protected the Jews in his territory at the end of the 11th century, when the remnants of the crusader armies attempted to attack them (see *Crusades).

Jews resided only in towns ruled by the bishops where important communities developed: in Buda (see *Budapest; 12th century), Pressburg (*Bratislava, Hung. Pozsony; first mentioned in 1251), Tyrnau (*Trnava, Hung. Nagyszombat), and *Esztergom (by the middle of the 11th century).

[Professions of the Middle Ages - criminal Church against the Jews - Black Death persecution of 1349]

During the 12th century the Jews of Hungary occupied important positions in economic life. The nobles felt it necessary to curb this development, and in the "Golden Bull" (1222) an article was included which prohibited the Jews from holding certain offices and from receiving titles of nobility. The legal status of the Jews was settled by King Bela IV in a privilege of 1251, which follows the pattern of similar documents in neighboring countries. As a result of the Church Council of Buda in 1279, Jews were forbidden to lease land and compelled to wear the Jewish *badge. In practice, these decrees were not applied strictly because of the king's objection.

During the reign of Louis the Great (1342-82), the hostile influence of the Church in Jewish affairs again predominated. The *Black Death led to the first expulsion of the Jews from Hungary in 1349. A general expulsion was authorized though they were subjected to restrictions.

[A special "judge of the Jews" since 1365 - Corvinus government 1458-1490]

In 1365 the king instituted the office of "judge of the Jews", chosen from among the magnates, who was in charge of affairs concerning Jewish property, the imposition and collection of taxes, representation of the Jews before the government, and the protection of their rights.

The reign of Matthias Corvinus (1458-90) marked a change in favor of the status of the Jews, despite his support of the towns, whose inhabitants, the overwhelming majority of whom were Germans, were inimical to the Jews as  dangerous rivals.

[Jews at stake and riots in 1494 - all "Christian" debts canceled by King Ladislas VI - direct protection since 1515 under Maximilian I - degrading oath 16th-19th century]

In 1494 there was a *blood libel in Tyrnau and 16 Jews were burned at the stake. In its wake, anti-Jewish riots broke out in the town; these were repeated at the beginning of the 16th century in Pressburg, Buda, and other towns. The economic situation of the Jews was also aggravated: King Ladislas VI (1490-1516) canceled all debts owing to the Jews. [[Probably criminal Church was the thriving anti-Semitic force]]. In 1515, however, the Jews were placed under the direct protection of Emperor Maximilian I (the pretender to the crown of Hungary).

During this period, a degrading form of Jewish *oath before the tribunals was introduced; it remained in force until the middle of the 19th century.

[Anti-Jewish measured under Louis II - tax rise for the war against the Turks]

During the reign of Louis II (1516-26) hatred of the Jews intensified as a result of the activities of Isaac of Kaschau, the director of the royal mint, and the apostate Imre (Emerich) Szerencsés (Latin: Fortunatus), the royal treasurer who devalued the currency and raised the taxes in order to provide funds for the war against the Turks.

[Community life in Hungary during 14th-15th century]

During the middle of the 14th century the most important Hungarian community was that of *Szekesfehérvar (Ger. Stuhlweissenburg), whose parnasim [[communal leaders]] also directed the general affairs of the Jews of the country. During the 15th century the community of Buda gained in importance (col. 1088)

as Jews expelled from other countries also settled there. Little information is available on the spiritual life of Hungarian Jewry during the Middle Ages. Apparently it was poor in comparison to that in neighboring countries because of the dispersion of the communities and the small number of their members. The first rabbi whose reputation spread beyond Hungary was *Isaac Tyrnau (late 14th-early 15th century); in the introduction to his Sefer ha-Minagim ("Book of Customs") he describes the poor condition of Torah study in Hungary.

Period of the Ottoman Conquest. [Turkish rule 1526, Ottoman rule 1541 "relatively satisfactory"]

The first, temporary Ottoman conquest of Buda in 1526 caused many of the Jewish inhabitants to join the retreating Turks. As a result of this movement, congregations of Hungarian Jews formed within the important communities of the Balkans. After central Hungary was incorporated within the Ottoman Empire in 1541, the Jewish status was relatively satisfactory. Jewish settlement in Buda was renewed, and Sephardim of Asia Minor and Balkan origin also settled there. During the 17th century Buda was one of the most important communities of the Ottoman Empire. This was largely due to the authority of its rabbi, *Ephraim b. Jacob ha-Kohen, author of Sha'ar Efrayim (1688).

["Christian" Hapsburg rule with growing anti-Semitism - Jews at stake in 1529 - expulsions - influx of Vienna Jews in 17th century - Reformation changing the law]

In the Hapsburg dominions of Hungary in this period hatred toward the Jews increased. In 1529, following a blood libel in Bazin, 30 Jews were burned at the stake and the others were expelled from the town. The Jews were also expelled from Pressburg, Oedenburg (*Sopron), and Tyrnau. However, the magnates of western Hungary accorded their protection to the Jews expelled from the towns. The Jews expelled from Vienna found refuge on the estate of Count Esterhazy in *Eisenstadt and six small neighboring towns in 1670. It was the oldest of the *Seven Communities" of *Burgenland, granted autonomy in a privilege issued in 1690.

In *Transylvania, under the rule of Gabriel Bethlen (1613-29), the status of the Jews was stabilized by a privilege granted in 1623. The favorable attitude toward the Jews there stemmed from *Reformation influences in Transylvania (see also Simon *Péchi).

18th to 19th Centuries (Until 1867). [Almost no Jews left - Hapsburg rule - anti-Semitism of the townsmen]

By the beginning of the 18th century, when most of Hungary came under Hapsburg rule, only a few remnants of the ancient Jewish settlement were to be found there.

[[Probably the Jews had left with the Ottoman army for Istanbul (Constantinople) where there was a big Jewish community under tolerant rule, see: *Constantinople / Istanbul]].

At this time, however, a movement of Jewish migration began, marking the formation of Hungarian Jewry of the modern ear. The census of 1735 enumerated 11,600 Jews (in reality, their numbers were far greater) of whom only a few were born in Hungary, while the majority had come from Moravia and the minority from Poland. Most of the Jews were peddlers and small tradesmen. Because of the hostility of the townsmen, most of them lived in the villages.

[Maria Theresa: rising "tolerance tax" since 1744 - Jews in royal cities since Joseph II since 1783]

During the reign of *Maria Theresa (1740-80) the situation of the Jews deteriorated. In 1744 an annual "tolerance tax" of 20,000 guilders was levied on them. It was gradually increased, until it amounted to an annual sum of 160,000 guilders at the beginning of the 19th century. The reign of *Joseph II brought some improvements. In 1783 Jews were authorized to settle in the royal cities. There were 81,000 Jews in Hungary in 1787.

[[Napoleon times, Napoleon reforms and reverse anti revolutionary movement after 1815 are not mentioned in this article]].

[Reforms and revolution of 1848-1849 - almost emancipation in 1859-1860 - emancipation in 1867]

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8,
                  col. 1097. Nineteenth-century painting of a Hungarian
                  Jewish peddler, artist unknown. Courtesy Israel Museum
                  Archives, Jerusalem.
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8, col. 1097. Nineteenth-century painting of a
Hungarian Jewish peddler, artist unknown. Courtesy Israel Museum Archives, Jerusalem.

During the "period of reform" in Hungary in the 1830s and 1840s, the Jewish question was discussed in the legislative institutions, in literature, and in the periodicals and press. In general there was a marked tendency in favor of granting civic rights to the Jews, but on the whole society took a critical view of the Jews and assumed an attitude of reservation toward them, demanding religious and social reforms (see *Emancipation).

The suppression of the revolution of 1848-49 also affected the status of the Jews. Because many of them were active in the revolution, the (col. 1089)

Austrian military government imposed a collective fine of 2,300,000 guilders on the communities; it was later reduced to 1,000,000 (in 1856, the sum was reimbursed in the form of a fund for educational and relief institutions). During the 1850s, the Jews were still subjected to judicial and economic restrictions (the Jewish oath; the need for a marriage permit; the prohibition on acquiring real estate; and others).

Most of the restrictions were abolished in 1859-60; the Jews were authorized to engage in all professions and to settle in all localities. The first political leaders of the new Hungary, including Count Gyula Andrássy, Ferencz *Deák, and Kálmán *Tisza, expressed their approval in the granting of civic and political equality to the Jews, and after the Compromise with Austria, the bill on Jewish emancipation was passed in Parliament without considerable opposition (Dec. 20, 1867).


During the same period there was a rapid growth of the Jewish population of Hungary, due both to natural increase and immigration from neighboring regions, especially Galicia. The number of Jews had risen to 340,000 by 1850, and in the first population census held in modern Hungary (1869), 542,000 Jews were enumerated.

The Emancipation Period, 1867-1914.

During this period Hungarian Jewry consolidated from the political, economic, and cultural aspects and succeeded in establishing a strong position in the life of the country. Jews played a considerable role in the development of the capitalistic economy of Hungary, and from the 1880s large numbers entered the liberal professions, and also contributed to literary life, in particular in journalism. In economic activity Jews in Hungary were especially prominent from the mid-19th century in the marketing and the export of agricultural produce.


Emancipation offered a wide scope for Jewish economic initiative in the establishment of banks and other financial enterprises. Jewish capital contributed significantly to the financing of heavy industry at the close of the 19th century. The role of the Jews in agriculture was also considerable, as owners of estates and in particular as contractors in agricultural management and marketing. (col. 1090) [[...]]

[Political anti-Semitism since 1870s - growing anti-Semitism since the 1880s - blood libel in 1882]

From the mid-1870s political anti-Semitism emerged as an ideological trend, subsequently to become a political force, led by a member of Parliament, Gyözö Istóczy. The driving forces behind it were the resentment felt by those classes which were dispossessed by the capitalistic economy and the effects of recent social changes. Thus the main bearers of anti-Semitism were the gentry. German examples also played some part in Hungarian anti-Semitism.

At the beginning of the 1880s anti-Jewish propaganda intensified [[the Jews were blamed of the murder of the czar]] and reached a climax with the blood libel of *Tiszaeszlar in 1882, which aroused much emotion and was the cause of severe anti-Jewish disturbances in several towns. The acquittal of the accused and the (col. 1090)

condemnation of the libel by many gentile leaders did not calm feelings. In 1884 an anti-Semitic faction of 17 members of parliament was organized but it did not wield much influence there, owing to internal dissension. Jewish defense against anti-Semitism took the form of apologetic and polemic literature. In face of the emphatic attitude of the government and the main political parties against anti-Semitism, it was deemed unnecessary to initiate any organized action. (col. 1091)

[Jewish religion officially recognized in 1895]

In 1895 the Jewish religion was officially recognized as one of the religions accepted in the state, and accorded rights enjoyed by the Catholic and Protestant religions. The law was enacted despite vigorous objection from the Catholic Church and its allies the magnates, who succeeded in delaying its ratification on three occasions. (col. 1090) [[...]]

[Strong anti-Semitic Catholic People's Party since 1900 - criminal Church and clerical anti-Semitism - anti-Semitic nationalism]

At the turn of the century the Catholic People's Party became the main bearer of anti-Semitism. It regarded it as its main task to combat alleged anti-Christian and destructive ideas, especially Liberalism and Socialism, which according to clerical presentation was closely associated with the Jews. Jewish intellectuals and their allegedly harmful influence were a particular target for unrestricted attack.

Jewish reaction to clerical anti-Semitism was stronger, more pronounced and more courageous than to the anti-Semitism in the 1880s, which seemed to be less menacing. Many of the tenets of anti-Semitism in this era became cornerstones of the anti-Jewish ideology in the inter-war period. Anti-Semitism was also widespread among the national minorities, especially the Slovaks, principally kindled because the Jews tended to identify themselves with the nationalist policy of the Magyars. (col. 1091) [[...]]

Internal Life during the 19th Century.

[Languages Yiddish and Hungarian - Jews in three regions - nationalism provoking struggle]

In origin, spoken language, and cultural tradition and customs, Hungarian Jewry was divided into three sections: the Jews of the north-western districts (Oberland) of Austrian and Moravian origin, who spoke German or a western dialect of Yiddish; the Jews of the northeastern districts (Unterland) mostly of (col. 1091)

Galician origin, who spoke an eastern dialect of Yiddish; and the Jews of central Hungary, the overwhelming majority of whom spoke Hungarian. [[...]] The threefold split left its imprint on the internal organization and life of Hungarian Jewry until the Holocaust. [[...]] In the classification of the inhabitants according to nationality, the overwhelming majority of the Jews in Hungary declared themselves members of the Hungarian nation; Jewish nationality was not officially recognized and the Jews thus became a party in the struggle between the ruling Magyar nation and the national minorities of Hungary. (col. 1092) [[...]]

[Split between reformists and Orthodox Jews]

The internal life of the Jews of Hungary during the 19th century was marked by polemics between the Orthodox on the one hand and those advocating modern culture, integration, and *assimilation on the other.

At the beginning of the century, a strict Orthodox trend was established in Hungary under the leadership of Moses *Sofer of Pressburg. This town became a spiritual center for the Orthodox Jews of Hungary, and its yeshivah [[religious Torah school]] the most important in central Europe; it exerted much influence over the Hungarian communities and even beyond them.

From the 1830s, Haskalah [[enlightenment]] made its appearance in Hungary, and the movement of religious *Reform, whose leading spokesmen there were Aaron *Chorin and Leopold *Loew, spread to several communities. Extreme Reform did not strike roots in Hungary, but the wish to introduce reforms in education and religious life made progress and aroused violent opposition from the Orthodox. The polemics between the Orthodox and the reformers (who in Hungary were referred to as Neologists; see *Neology) gained in intensity to become a central issue at the General Jewish Congress convened by the government in 1868.

[Autonomy of the Jewish community - Orthodox opposition]

The Congress was called in order to define the basis for autonomous organization of the Jewish community. It was attended by 220 delegates (126 Neologists, and 94 Orthodox). The conflict between the factions was aggravated when the majority refused to accept the demands of the Orthodox on the validity of the laws of the Shulhan (Shulḥan) Arukh in the regulations of the communities. A section of the Orthodox opposition left the Congress, which continued with its task and established regulations for the organization of the communities and Jewish education. The organizational structure was to be based on the existence of local communities, on regional unions of communities, and on a central office which was to be responsible for relations between the authorities and the communities.

The Orthodox did not accept these regulations, and particularly opposed those concerning the existence of a single community in every place. They appealed to Parliament to exempt them from the authority of these regulations. Parliament consented to their demands (1870) and the Orthodox began to organize themselves within separate communities. There were also communities which did not join any side and retained their pre-Congress status (the *status quo communities). (col. 1092) [[...]]

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8,
                  col. 1100. First edition of "Die Palme", a
                  German-language Jewish weekly published in Pest, Sept.
                  23, 1871. Courtesy Internatinale Zeitungsmuseum,
                  Aachen, Germany.
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8, col. 1100. First edition of "Die Palme", a German-language
Jewish weekly published in Pest, Sept. 23, 1871. Courtesy Internatinale Zeitungsmuseum, Aachen, Germany.

[The school of Moses Sofer - Orthodox Hasidim]

Moses Sofer and his school decisively influenced the development of Orthodox Jewry in western and central Hungary. Torah study became widespread among large sections of Orthodox Jewry, and yeshivot [[religious Torah schools]] were established in every large community. The most renowned of these, besides that of Pressburg, were those of *Galanta, Eisenstadt, *Papa, Huszt (*Khust), and Szatmar (*Satu-Mare). During the 19th century the Hungarian rabbinate was of a high standard and produced halakhists, authors of religious works, and community leaders, such as Sofer's son Abraham Samuel Benjamin *Sofer and grandson Simhah (Simḥah) Bunem *Sofer, Moses Schick, and Judah Aszód (1794-1866) in Szerdahely (Mercurea), Aaron David Deutsch (1812-78) in Balassagyarmat, Solomon *Ganzfried, and (col. 1092)

others. Torah literature underwent a considerable development, and a place of importance was held by learned periodicals in this sphere.

*Hasidism (Ḥasidism) spread in the northeastern regions of Hungary, where it did not encounter violent opposition from the rabbis. Isaac Taub is regarded as having introduced Hasidism (Ḥasidism) into Hungary; after his death the Hasidim (Ḥasidim) there gathered around Moses *Teitelbaum in Satoraljaujhely. He founded a hasidic- (ḥasidic)-rabbinical dynasty which was active in the Maramarossziget (Sighet) and its surroundings. Another center of Hasidim (Ḥasidim) was Munkacs (*Mukachevo), in Carpathian Russia, where Isaac Elimelech *Shapira settled. In addition, the dynasties of the zaddikim (ẓaddikim) [[ultra-Orthodox Jews]] of *Belz, Zanz, and *Vizhnitz had considerable influence in Hungary. Hasidism (Ḥasidism) left its imprint on the Jews of the northeastern regions, and differences in customs and way of life arose between the Hasidim (Ḥasidim) in Hungary and the section influenced by Pressburg and its school.

[Assimilation movement]

From the close of the 19th century, assimilation became widespread within Hungarian Jewry and there was an increase in apostasy especially among the upper classes. Mixed marriage became a common occurrence, particularly in the capital [[of Budapest]].

[Racist Zionists - racist Theodor Herzl from Budapest]

Attachment to Erez Israel (Ereẓ Israel) [[Land of Israel]] was already ingrained within Hungarian Jewry from the period of Sofer, upon whose recommendation some of his distinguished disciples had emigrated to Erez Israel [[Ereẓ Israel]] where they ranked among the leaders of the Ashkenazi yishuv [[Jews in Palestine before Herzl Israel foundation, before 1948]] during the middle of the 19th century.

During the *Hibbat (Ḥibbat) Zion period, Josef *Natonek was active in Hungary, and some believe that this activity influenced [[racist]] Theodor *Herzl, who was born in Budapest and spent his childhood and youth in Hungary. The nationalist ideal and political Zionism, however, only seriously attracted a limited circle of the academic youth, the intellectuals, and a minority of Orthodox Jewry, while assimilationist circles and the overwhelming majority of the Orthodox were sharply and firmly opposed to them. The Kolel Ungarn (Hungarian Community) in Jerusalem (see *Halukkah (Ḥalukkah)) was a center of extremist opposition to Zionism in Erez Israel (Ereẓ Israel) [[Land of Israel]], and the *Neurei Karta faction later developed from it. (col. 1095)

[[The racist Herzl fantasy of a "Jewish State" combined with nationalism = Zionism
The racist Theodor Herzl wrote a fantasy booklet "The Jewish State", published in 1896 with the description of a new "Israel", and the Arabs could be driven away as the natives in the "USA", the Arabs would be the slaves of the Jews, and perhaps gold could be found in Palestine and the gold mines would be in Jewish hands as in South Africa. This racist fantasy of Theodor Herzl was normal for it's time, because racism was also accepted at the universities which also were racist and had racist structures. The Herzl fantasy of a "Jewish State" combined with the Moses fantasy of a "Greater Israel" with the borderlines from the Nile to the Euphrates according to 1st Mose chapter 15 phrase 18 (see the Bible). Since this time there was Arab opposition against this stupid fantasy of a racist "Jewish State", and since 1948 there is the Middle East conflict as an eternal war trap. Herzl lead the Jews into an eternal war. The main fault that to be Jewish is a religion and not a nation was not seen by the racist Zionists. And the main culprit of anti-Semitism - the criminal anti-Semitic Church which has not changed it's stupid "New Testament" until today - was not seen by the racist Zionists either...]]

[Numbers of 1910]

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8,
                  col. 1105. Drawing of the Jewish quarter of Mármoros
                  Sziget, from J. Pennell, "The Jews at Home",
                  London 1892
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8, col. 1105. Drawing of the Jewish quarter
of Mármoros Sziget, from J. Pennell, "The Jews at Home", London 1892

Before World War I [[1910?]] 55-60% of the total number of merchants were Jews, approximately 13% of the independent craftsmen, 13% of owners of large and medium-sized estates, and 45% of the contractors. Of those professionally engaged in literature and the arts, 26% were Jews (of the journalists, 42%), in law, 45%, and in medicine, 49%. On the other hand, only a small number of Jews were employed in public administration.

The Jewish population numbered 910,000 in 1910. The identification of the Jews with the Magyar element in the Hungarian kingdom was an important factor in determining the general political attitude toward them. (col. 1090) [[...]]

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8,
                  col. 1093-1094. Map of Hungery in 1910 with the
                  numbers of Jews according to the counting of 1910
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8, col. 1093-1094. Map of Hungery in 1910
with the numbers of Jews according to the counting of 1910


During World War I the Jews suffered losses in life (about 10,000 Jews fell on the battlefield) and property. At the same time, anti-Jewish feeling was strong having increased because of the presence of numerous Jewish refugees from Galicia, which had been occupied by the Russians, and through the activities of Jews in the war economy. (col. 1091)

[[At the end in 1917-1918 Communists were coming up, the "Red Light" was coming from Moscow step by step to Central Europe. Hungary had to accept the Trianon treaty and was cut from all sides and many Hungarians were under foreign law from CSSR, Ukraine, Romania, Yugoslavia, and little Austria. By this there were migrations and hunger in Hungary because many did not want to accept another nationality]].

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Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary,
                          vol. 8, col. 1088
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8, col. 1088
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary,
                          vol. 8, col. 1089-1090
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8, col. 1089-1090
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary,
                          vol. 8, col. 1091-1092
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8, col. 1091-1092
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary,
                          vol. 8, col. 1095-1096
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Hungary, vol. 8, col. 1095-1096

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