Jews at the Crossroads

Jews at the Crossroads: Tradition and Accomodation during the Golden Age of the Hungarian Nobility

Howard N. Lupovitch
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 333
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    Jews at the Crossroads
    Book Description:

    Examines the social and political history of the Jews of Miskolc-the third largest Jewish community in Hungary-and presents the wider transformation of Jewish identity during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It explores the emergence of a moderate, accommodating form of traditional Judaism that combined elements of tradition and innovation, thereby creating an alternative to Orthodox and Neolog Judaism. This form of traditional Judaism reconciled the demands of religious tradition with the expectations of Magyarization and citizenship, thus allowing traditional Jews to be patriotic Magyars. By focusing on Hungary, this book seeks to correct a trend in modern Jewish historiography that views Habsburg Jewish History as an extension of German Jewish History, most notably with regard to emancipation and enlightenment. Rather than trying to fit Hungarian Jewry into a conventional Germano-centric taxonomy, this work places Hungarian Jews in the distinct contexts of the Habsburg Monarchy and the Danube Basin, positing a more seamless nexus between the eighteenth and nineteenth century. This nexus was rooted in a series of political experiments by Habsburg sovereigns and Hungarian noblemen that culminated in civic equality, and in the gradual expansion of traditional Judaism to meet the challenges of the age.

    eISBN: 978-615-5211-31-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. A Note on Sources: The Protocols of Miskolc
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xv-xxviii)
  7. Introduction Rethinking the Rhythms of Emancipation and Enlightenment
    (pp. 1-26)

    In March 1867, the Jewish community of Miskolc commemorated the centennial of its oldest institution, the Hevra Kadisha or Burial Society. On this occasion, the Burial Society was formally renamed the “Miskolc Hungarian Israelite Association for Benevolence and Progress.” The prologue to the Magyar-language statutes of this renamed organization included a dual commitment to religious tradition and Magyar patriotism: “Based on the principle that Judaism rests on study, worship, acts of loving kindness, the adherents of traditional observance reestablished this benevolent society… in the name of national and spiritual education, especially that of local school-age youth….” Among the aims of...

  8. Chapter 1 Eighteenth Century Pastoral: The Allures and Uncertainties of the Hungarian Frontier
    (pp. 27-55)

    In 1844, during his first visit to Miskolc, Sándor Petőfi, the Hungarian poet laureate and a hero of the Revolution of 1848, captured the character of Miskolc as a terminus for migrants in search of a new home: “I stand at a crossroads, where am I heading? Does this road lead me to the east, or am I going west?” Like Petőfi’s early odyssey, the Miskolc Jewish community began as a stopping point for Moravian and Polish Jews migrating to Hungary. Like Petőfi’s renown, moreover, Miskolc Jewry was relatively insignificant at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but emerged as...

  9. Chapter 2 Crown, Town, Magnate, and Jew: Corporate Politics in Borsod County
    (pp. 57-76)

    In June of 1793, a fire broke out at the home of Lőrincz Löbl, a Jew who had settled in Miskolc during the 1780s. It spread to the house of his neighbor, a member of the middle nobility. The nobleman asked the city magistrate to extract payment from Löbl for property damages. He also asked the city council to evict Löbl from Miskolc on the grounds that Löbl was an illegal alien. The magistrate ordered Löbl to pay damages in full but, despite the city council’s order to evict Löbl, upheld his right to reside in Miskolc. A key factor...

  10. Chapter 3 The Hevra Kadisha and the Rise of the Family Syndicate
    (pp. 77-104)

    A seemingly ordinary moment in the development of Miskolc Jewry took place in February, 1812, when the Hevra Kadisha, or Jewish Burial Society, elected its officers for the coming year:

    At this assembly at the home of [presiding officer] Moshe Katz Ráth, new trustees were elected at the behest of the members … Moses Katz Ráth as President of the Hevra Kadisha, Jacob Berger as first trustee, Gerson Klein as second trustee, Simcha the son of B. as third trustee. And, in addition, five men called alufim-deputies were elected: Wolf Brody as First Deputy, Aaron Ber [Lustig], Judah Lieberman, Naftali...

  11. Chapter 4 Jews in the Time of Cholera: The Epidemic of 1831 and its Aftermath
    (pp. 105-131)

    The year 1836 brought mixed developments in the legal status of Miskolc Jews. In March the county diet revived the town’s charter. The burghers of Miskolc regained most of the privileges that they had lost in the 1755 Grassalkovics Agreement, and obtained some new ones. The city council, no longer beholden to the landed estate, was given the authority over the judiciary, including the composition of the magistracy and the rules for electing judges. In April, the Borsod County Diet recognized the Jewish Artisans Guild, placing it on equal footing with Christian guilds.¹

    These two legislative acts appear contradictory and...

  12. Chapter 5 The Kehilla and the Business of Religion
    (pp. 133-160)

    Thus Wolf Brody, in his capacity as president of the Kehilla (recognized Jewish community) enumerated the central challenge facing the Miskolc Jewish community during the 1830s: regulating Jewish immigration, particularly from Galicia, in accordance with the county nobility’s expectations; while meeting the needs of a rapidly growing constituency that nearly tripled during the 1830s. In one sense, meeting these challenges promised conflicting results. By hiring a rabbi, building a new synagogue, and improving communal schools Miskolc would became a more attractive destination for Jewish migrants, thereby attracting the same would-be settlers that county officials wanted to discourage from settling.


  13. Chapter 6 Education Reform and Religious Identity
    (pp. 161-188)

    Wolf Brody died in the summer of 1841. News of his death reverberated beyond Miskolc. The Allgemeine Zeutung des Judenthums printed his obituary on June 30, 1842, the first anniversary of his death, while reporting a communal memorial service:

    Recently, a man named Wolf Brody died. He lived for a long stretch of time in Miskolc and acquired a considerable fortune through diligence and hard work. Through his conduct and readiness to assist one and all, he won the admiration not only of his own community but of the entire region. This upright man died last year, to the sorrow...

  14. Chapter 7 Széchenyi’s Soup at Szemere’s Table: Miskolc Jewry and the Era of Reform, 1836–1848
    (pp. 189-216)

    An often overlooked aspect of the path to Jewish emancipation in Hungary is the fact that the architects of the two edicts of emancipation—László Palóczy and Bertalan Szemere in 1849, and Baron Joseph Eötvös in 1867—lived in Miskolc while they formulated their view of Jewish emancipation. This was more than mere coincidence. By the mid 1830s and increasingly thereafter, conditions in Miskolc vitiated much of Palóczy’s, Eötvös’, and Szemere’s concern regarding the potential danger of Jewish emancipation.

    This concern, the focal point in the debate over Jewish emancipation in Hungary, was expressed poignantly in 1844 by István Széchenyi,...

  15. Chapter 8 Revolution by Proxy: Jews in the Hinterland, 1848–1850
    (pp. 217-232)

    The outbreak of revolution in March 1848 prompted varied responses from the city of Miskolc and Miskolc Jewry. In late March, the city of Miskolc petitioned Habsburg monarch Ferdinand to grant Miskolc the status of a royal free city, a status that the city elders had coveted for decades. In contrast, the leaders of the Miskolc Kehilla made clear their support for the Hungarian cause: “We, the elected officers authorize in the name of the entire community that, in the event of unrest or conscription, we will do that which is expected of Miskolc Israelites in political matters by the...

  16. Chapter 9 Coming of age, 1851–1878
    (pp. 233-260)

    In March 1854, the Habsburg Government enacted Law XXIII. This law dissolved the Borsod County Kehilla, deemed by the Habsburg government to be a focal point of revolutionary activity among Jews, and limited the jurisdiction of communal leaders to three aspects of communal life: religious rituals, education, and philanthropy (Cultus, Shulen, and Cassa). Each of these committees had to report to the district commissioner’s office four times a year, and the members of the committees had to be approved and were subject to immediate and arbitrary dismissal by the commissioner’s office. For Miskolc Jews, this ostensibly meant a retreat from...

  17. Conclusion 1878 and Beyond: Two Chambers of One Heart
    (pp. 261-268)

    On July 1, 1878 the Jewish community of Miskolc affiliated with Hungarian Orthodoxy, renaming itself the “Miskolc Orthodox Israelite Community” (A Miskolczy (sic) Orthodox Izraelita Hitközség): “The Orthodox Israelites living in vicinity of Miskolc establish a uniform, indivisible autonomous Israelite Orthodox community with the aim of supporting all communal institutions… this community shall employ and pay those functionaries deemed necessary for the Israelite community by the religious laws of the abridged version of the Shulchan Aruch.” This decision was hailed by the Orthodox movement as major triumph. After nearly a decade of vacillating between Orthodox, Neolog, and non-affiliation, Miskolc, the...

  18. Appendix “Divrei Shalom Ve-Emet [Words of Peace and Truth]”: A Call for Unity by Rabbi Moses Ezekiel Fischmann of Miskolc
    (pp. 269-272)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 273-298)
  20. Index
    (pp. 299-303)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 304-304)