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“Sobrance” – Encyclopaedia
of Jewish communities, Slovakia
(Sobrance, Slovakia)

48°45' / 22°11'

Translation of the
“Sobrance” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia

Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 2003


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator and Translator

Martin Jacobs

 

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Slovakia: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Slovakia,
Edited by Yehoshua Robert Buchler and Ruth Shashak, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.


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[Pages 368-369]

Sobrance, Slovakia

(District town in the Uh region, in eastern Slovakia)

 

Year Number of
Residents
Jews %
1735 ---- 3 ----
1828 572 106 18.5
1869 1,033 272 36.3
1880 1,074 349 32.6
1919 1,134 256 22.5
1930 1,522 336 22.1
1941 1,552 395 25.5
1948 1,584 182 11.5

Sobrance lies on the trade route between Hungary and Poland. In 1344 it was part of the territory of Tibava[1] and market days were held there. After a time it belonged to Michalovce[1]. It was totally destroyed and abandoned during the Wars of the Hungarian Aristocracy in the 17th century, but was rebuilt in the 18th. It underwent development, and in the 19th century its population grew rapidly. The townspeople, mostly Slovaks with a few Ruthenians and Hungarians, Catholic by religion, earned their living from agriculture and trade.

In the period of the Czechoslovak Republic Sobrance was the district capital, a lively trade was carried out there, and many of the townspeople made their living from providing goods and services to those living in the surrounding areas. In March of 1939 Sobrance was annexed to Hungary. On the 23rd of November 1944 it was liberated by the Soviet army.

 

Some community history

According to local tradition some individual Jews lived in Sobrance at the end of the 17th century, apparently temporarily, as in the first Jewish census in 1727 no Jews at all were counted. In the 1730's Mordechai Josefovitch lived in the town, with his family, 3 people in all. He rented the local whiskey distillery and paid the authorities 50 florins in taxes. An additional family of three people settled there in 1746, and in the middle of the century several Jewish families from Galicia joined them. In the list of taxpayers of the Uh region from 1768 24 Jews (6 families) are listed for Sobrance, half of them adults, who earned their living as peddlers and visited the great markets in Užhorod, capital of the region. They also belonged to the Jewish community in Užhorod and to its rabbinate. At the end of the 18th century an independent community was established in Sobrance. In approximately 1780 a burial society (ḥevra qadisha) was founded in Sobrance and a Jewish cemetery was opened, as is witnessed by the tombstones from the end of the century found there.

The town underwent development from the beginning of the 19th century and both its general and Jewish population grew. Jews from adjacent settlements also belonged to the Sobrance community. In about 1810 a Jewish prayer house was established in Sobrance. The community employed a shoḥet [2], who also served as prayer leader and religious teacher. In the middle of the 19th century, with the rapid growth of the Jewish population, Sobrance became a rabbinical residence. Its first rabbi, David Leyb Eisenstaedter, son of the Maharam Ash of Užhorod[3], joined the conference of Orthodox Rabbis in Michlovce in 1865 and was among the signers of the halakhic decree promulgated against Reform with regard to the order of the prayers and the service. Jews from 34 settlements in the region were subject to the Sobrance rabbinate.

With the growth of the community and its consolidation, community institutions were established in Sobrance. Among them were a Talmud Torah and, from time to time, a yeshiva. At the time of the split among the Hungarian congregations in 1869 the Sobrance congregation joined the Organization of Orthodox Congregations. In the 80's the number of Jews in Sobrance reached its peak and the community was thriving. At that time Rabbi Tsvi Hirsh Weiss was the rabbi of the town and the judge of the religious court was Abraham Jakobovitch; after him (from 1891) Simha Friedman, author of “HaShemesh BiGvurotho” (“the sun in its might”) was rabbi in the community for about 40 years. He also headed the yeshiva, in which several dozen young men were studying at the time, with Yehuda Weiss assisting him as judge of the religious court. At the same time the Jews of Sobrance built a traditionalist synagogue and renovated and enlarged several of the congregation's buildings. Several charitable and mutual aid societies were active in Sobrance . The regulations of the community were updated in 1880. In the 80's the community opened an elementary school with four classes which was active until the First World War. The language of instruction was Hungarian.

To support themselves the majority of the Jews of Sobrance engaged in occupations connected with agriculture – small businesses, especially in cattle and agricultural products, trade, and working the land. Most of the Jewish farmers owned their own land.

In the First World War dozens of young men from the community served in the Austro-Hungarian army, and several of them fell in battle.

 

The Jews between the two World Wars

After the First World War Hermann Wiesner was chosen leader of the community, and after him Jacob Scheinberger[4] and Eliezer Lipkovitch were appointed to that position. Simha Friedman continued in the rabbinate until his death in 1926. After him Ben-Tsion Halprin was rabbi. Moshe Fried was the rabbinical judge. In 1922 the community numbered 350 persons, 60 heads of family paying the community tax, and the yearly budget was 65,000 crowns. In 1928 54 tax-paying heads of families were left in Sobrance and the yearly budget was 40.000 crowns. The community had two synagogues, a cemetery, a community house, a ritual bath, a slaughter house and butcher shops. A burial society was active there, an Organization of Jewish Women, a society for visiting the sick, and other charitable societies. The community did not maintain a school. Jewish children studied in a Slovak state school and in their spare time they studied religion in the Talmud Torah.

In the 1930 census 240 persons (out of 336) in Sobrance declared themselves Jewish by nationality. The rest defined themselves as Slovaks and Hungarians. After the war a Zionist organization and a branch of the Jewish National party were established in the town. In the 1928 elections to the local council it got 105 votes and was the second party in size in the town, with two seats on the council. Its representative, Dr. Eugen Preiss, was chosen head of the council. HaMizrahi was the large Zionist party in Sobrance. In elections to the 18th Zionist conference in 1933 it won 95% of the vote. The youth movements Bne Akiva and Tseire Agudat Yisrael were also active in the town.

In those days the Jews made their living, as before, in business, trade, and agriculture. Among the Jews there were also a physician, three lawyers (out of four in the town), and several farmers. The majority of the businesses in Sobrance – 28 shops and 11 workshops – were owned by Jews, and so also the flour-mill and the Commerce Bank founded after the war.

The licenses which the Chamber of Commerce issued in 1921 show the proportion of Jews in the business sector:

Type of Business Number
of
Businesses
Jewish
Owned
Groceries and general Stores 10 8
Taverns 6 6
Textiles and clothing 6 5
Wood and building materials 2 2
Iron products and household utensils 2 2
Alcoholic beverage 2 2
Miscellaneous 6 3

 

The Holocaust

Under Hungarian occupation the Jews were persecuted by the government and were gradually forced out of the economy. Businesses which they owned were confiscated or closed. In the years 1940 – 1941 dozens of Sobrance Jews were recruited into the “labor camps”. Many of those who were sent for forced labor or to the eastern front perished. In July of 1941 the Hungarian police seized Jews who lacked Hungarian citizenship, and several of these families were deported to occupied Ukraine, where they were murdered.

When Hungary was occupied by the Germans on March 19, 1944 321 Jews were left in Sobrance, with 35 heads of family who paid the community tax. Adolf Rosenfeld was the head of the community. On April 16, 1944 the Hungarian police began to round up the Jews, placing them in the synagogue and near-by buildings. Soon after that Jews from near-by settlements were also brought there. They were all held under strict surveillance. Hungarian officers took the prisoners' money and their valuables. After about a week, on the 22nd of the month, the Jews of Sobrance and the surrounding area were brought to a temporary ghetto set up in the Jewish brick factory in Užhorod. Most were sent away in the transport that left Užhorod for Auschwitz on May 17, 1944.

Several of the Jews of Sobrance fought in the Second World War in units of the Czechoslovak army in the Soviet Union, and others joined the partisans at the time of the Slovak rebellion.

 

After the War

After the liberation about 200 Jewish survivors of the camps and the labor brigades, some of them from near-by settlements, gathered in Sobrance. Life started again in the community under the leadership of Dr. Hershkovitch. Some of the buildings of the congregation were cleaned and repaired. In place of the synagogue, which had been destroyed by the Germans during the war, a new prayer house was built. The Zionist Organization renewed its activity, and in 1947 the Jews of Sobrance contributed 10,000 crowns to the fund for the planting of a “forest of the Czechoslovak martyrs” on the hills of Jerusalem.

In 1949 most of the Jews of Sobrance emigrated to Israel. After emigration ceased in 1950 65 Jews were left in the town, who kept the community going until the 60's. Today there are no Jews in Sobrance. The cemetery is abandoned and neglected.

 

Translator's notes
  1. Tibava and Michalovce are nearby towns. Return
  2. Ritual slaughterer (animals must be slaughtered in a special way for their meat to be kosher). Return
  3. “Rabbi Meir Eisenstaedter (1780-1852) - or Meir Ash - known as the Maharam Ash (Hebrew for “Our Teacher, the Rabbi, Meir of Eisenstadt”) was one of the greatest Talmudists of the nineteenth century. He is best known as author of “Imre Esh” (Words of Fire) - the collection of his responsa published by his son in 1864. He studied under “the Chatam Sofer”, Rabbi Moses Sofer, in Mattersdorf, and was Rabbi of Ungvar.” -- Wikipedia. (“Ungvar” is the Hungarian name of Užhorod.) Return
  4. or Schoenberger Return
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