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GYULA YEHUDA LÁNG

 

THE MEMORIAL BOOK

OF

PÁPA JEWRY

 

In Memory of the Jewish Martyrs of Pápa and Surroundings

 

Translated by Rachel Ágnes Vázsonyi

 

 

The original Hungarian version was published in 1972 by the Memorial Committee of Papa Jews living in Israel

 

Interior view of the Synagogue, dedicated in 1848

 

[Page 4]

FOREWORD TO THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION

With a sense of accomplishment, we offer this translation of the Memorial Book of the Pápa Jewry by Gyula Yehuda Láng. This book gives a unique picture of the life of the Jews of Pápa through several generations. We felt that in order for our descendants to appreciate their historical, religious, and cultural heritage, the book should be translated from the original Hungarian into a language that the majority of future generations would be able to understand.

We express our appreciation to our translator, Rachel Ágnes Vázsonyi who, in addition to her language skills, is well acquainted with Hungarian history and literature, and with Jewish culture and tradition.

The translated text has undergone sequential proofreading coupled with editing by Veronika Kardosh, Stephen Breuer, and Sharolyn Buxbaum. This was followed by repeated checking and editing by Sharolyn Buxbaum and two of the undersigned (EB&AB), after which it was returned to Stephen Breuer in the UK where it received its final book-like format.

We have adopted a number of guidelines regarding the translation. Generally, we have transcribed the Hebrew texts using the modern, Sephardic pronunciation used in Israel, except for cases of direct citation of prayers, or sayings attributed to specific persons in specific cases, where the original Ashkenazi pronunciation used in Pápa is given. In many cases we chose not to explain historic figures, when a quick search in the Internet can fulfill this need. The only place in which we changed the original organisation was when we merged the two adjacent chapters, entitled “Art” (Müvészet, p. 85) and “The Art of Music” (Zene müvészet, p. 86) into one chapter entitled “Arts – Music – Sciences – Journalism”, while preserving their original content.

This edition does not include the list or martyrs as it already appears on the JewishGen website: Please check the glossary for the martyrs' list (p. 115) explaining the Hungarian expressions attached to some of the names.

We have not included the Hebrew section of the original edition in this version, as most of it appeared in somewhat modified form also in Hungarian which was translated to English. An exception is the story of Hashomer Hatzair in Pápa, which appeared only in Hebrew in the original book and it now appears in English.

We thank the many contributors from all over the world who supported the translation project. We were encouraged by the support and interest they expressed in our endeavour.

We hope this translation, which we will try to distribute worldwide to libraries and organizations, will contribute to the commemoration of the Holocaust, and particularly help in preserving the memory of the Jewish community of Pápa and its Martyrs.

Eli Breuer   Asher Buxbaum   Yehuda Krausz

Israel, August 2009

 

[Page 5]

FOREWORD

In December, 1945, only a few months after my return from deportation, I participated in the congress of the Hungarian Zionist Association in Budapest, representing the Pécs community. In my speech about monuments, I expressed my view that instead of the erection of many monuments, a department should be established at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in memory of the martyrs from Hungary, Each and every Jewish community should be commemorated, together with its history. Subsequently, part of this job was undertaken by Yad Vashem. The Jews remaining in Hungary erected one monument after the other, spending large sums of money on the project. As for me personally, I dedicated thirty one monuments, from Nagykanizsa to Abaújszántó, from Kaposvár to Tállya.

Now I have been asked to write the foreword by the author of the memorial book about the martyrs of my hometown.

Pápa, my birthplace, my parents' home, the scene of my childhood experiences. I had but one grave there, that of my maternal grandmother; I went to visit it several times a year. As a “walking miracle”[1] from Auschwitz, I have experienced all the trials of life. On thousands of occasions I stood at the open grave sharing the grief of the mourners and now I am looking for comfort and strength! I have never felt as weak as now, writing these lines. I must remember the Jews of Pápa! Unfortunately, I have an excellent memory! Should I write about my teachers – about the “little” Mr. Baum, who was always a great man in my eyes, teaching me the Hebrew letters when I was barely four? About Mr. Paneth, who introduced me to the pearls of the Talmud? About my religious education teacher Mr. Marton, who represented a magnificent combination of religious and secular knowledge? About my teachers at the elementary school of the Jewish community? About Elemér Bruder? About Jakab Willner, who shared with me the hell of Magdeburg? About our kind-hearted principal “Uncle” Buxbaum? [In Hungary the male teacher in elementary school used to be addressed as “Uncle” (Bácsi) the translator.] Their names are included in this book, and live forever in my memory. Shall I commemorate our famous rabbi, Sámuel Gottlieb? He noted the fact that I was preparing for the entrance examination of the Rabbinical Seminary's grammar school; sometimes he even “interrogated” me. Shall I write about the temple? In November 1945, I was struck numb by the terrible sight: burnt out walls, missing roof, devastation…I had the feeling that:

“The temple yard is filled with memories:
Many yesterdays gone by, many distances covered,
A part of your life, a part of yourself”.
[2]

On my visits to Pápa, I could never go near the temple again, just as I was unable to visit my parents' former apartment.

What happened to the people of Pápa, what happened to us? From one day to another we became slaves, beggars stripped of our dignity. Our most beautiful ideals were mocked by the hangman's snigger. The beast in Man was awakened to prevent the divine message of love from reaching Man. They did not want to acknowledge that loving God means loving Man – and loving Man means loving the same divine face in all the people. They did not want to admit that the pseudo-science based on racial instincts was a mockery of the unity of the human race created in the divine image.

This book commemorates the faithful and unbeliever alike, observants and non-observants sharing the same faith. They had to die because they belonged to the mother of all monotheistic teachings sanctified by the blood of martyrs – to Judaism. Through its followers, this teaching preached morality to all mankind, and with the help of its prophets dreamt about the time when all people would live in love, peace and understanding. Our beloved ones suffered. Their pain was not the fear of death, but the unprecedented humiliation of being outcast from divine and human rights. Our martyrs were not afraid of death, they rather longed for the end of their suffering. Before they came to that point, mothers' souls died many times for not knowing what happened to their children.

I do not want to speak about the suffering or the horrors. Since 1944, we have been sobbing over all our pains, all our tears have been shed. I would rather think of the sacred work that used to be carried out in Pápa, as you can find it in the book.

Tradition and progress characterized this Athens of the Transdanubia. “To bow in front of the unshakable order of the ethical world, to give in to the word of the law, which calls on the finite, frail man to surrender to his Infinite, Almighty Creator”.[3]

This book commemorates the Jews of Pápa, their history and spirit in a dignified manner. Every chapter, each and every word is permeated with love, faith and loyalty. Its author Gyula Láng, our Uncle Gyula, [4]מוצל מאש, also escaped from fire and [5]זרע קדש מבצתה, carried out a sacred job. Gratitude is owed to him for his valuable work. This work, the most beautiful monument to our Martyrs, was accomplished in Israel…

The Book commemorates the 200-year history of our hometown, its special, pleasant and charming customs and traditions, together with the martyrs who lived in this spirit. We think of them with reverence, believing that

“There are stars whose light still shine on earth, when they are already not in their former place. There are people whose memory still shines when they are not among us any more”.[6]

We acknowledge this important spiritual heritage with love and believe that only man can be killed because

“Though you are touched by the wind of fading
Your rich scent, your better self,
The spirit will live”.
[7]

  Dr. Henry Emmery Kraus
Chief Rabbi from Los Angeles, USA


  1. L. Kubovitsky Return
  2. Noémi Munkács Return
  3. Dr. Ármin Perls Return
  4. Zechariah 3:2 Return
  5. Yeshayahu 6:13 Return
  6. Channa Szenes Return
  7. János Arany Return

 

[Page 7]

THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN PÁPA

PAPA (Hung. Pápa), town in N.W. Hungary. A few families first settled in Pápa under the protection of the Esterházy family; by 1714 the first synagogue was built. At that time the tax collector of the city was a Jew. A new synagogue was built in 1743. In 1748 Count F. Esterházy authorized Jews to settle in Papa and organize a community .A Bikkur Holim sociely was founded in 1770. The first Jewish private school was opened in 1812, and the community school, founded in 1826, had 504 pupils in 1841. In 1899 the first junior high school was founded. The synagogue erected in 1846 was an important step toward the introduction of Reform: space was left for an organ although none was installed; the bimah was set in front of the Ark and not in the centre of the synagogue. After the religious schism in Hungarian Jewry in 1869 the Neologists (see Neology) left the community, but returned five years later. During the Tiszaeszlár blood libel case (1882) anti-Jewish riots broke out in Pápa but they were suppressed by the authorities.

The first rabbi of the community was Bernard Isaac, followed by Selig Bettelheim. The Orthodox rabbi Paul (Feiwel) Horwitz initiated the meeting of rabbis in Paks in 1844. Leopold Loew (1846-50) was the first rabbi to introduce Reform. Moritz Klein, rabbi from 1876 to l880, translated part of Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed into Hungarian. He was followed by Solomon Breuer (1880-83) .The last rabbi was J. Haberfeld, who perished with his congregation in the Holocaust.

The anti-Jewish laws of 1938-39 caused great hardship in the community, and from 1940 the young Jewish men were sent to forced labour battalions, at first within Hungary, but later to the Russian front (1942) .The Jewish population in Papa increased from 452 in 1787 to 2645 in 1840 (19.6% of the total population), and 3,550 in 1880 (24.2%). After the beginning of the 20th century a gradual decline began. There were 3,076 Jews in 1910 (15.3%), 2,991 in 1920, 2.613 in 1941 (11%) and 2,565 in 1944. After the German occupation on March 19, 1944, the Jews were confined in a ghetto on May 24 and from there moved to a concentration camp which was set up in a factory in the town. On July 4 and 5 2,565 Jews of the city plus 300 from the vicinity were deported to Auschwitz~ from which less than 10% returned. In 1946 there were 470 Jews in the town (2% of the population) and by 1970 the number had fallen to 40.

 

[Page 8]

THE FIRST JEWISH SETTLERS IN PÁPA

According to Hungarian historical tradition, this Transdanubian settlement at the foot of the Bakony hills beside the river, Tapolca, was founded during the reign of Stephen I, the first king of Hungary. There is a legend about it: “King Stephen was travelling nearby together with his parents, and for the first time called his father, Prince Géza, “PAPA” at this place, so the happy parents decided to call it Pápa”.

According to another folk tradition, Abbot Astrik handed over the crown he brought from Rome at this place, uttering the following words: the Pope [Pápa in Hungarian – the translator] has sent the royal crown...

Many centuries passed by without a trace of Jews in Pápa.

The first mention is dated from the end of the 17th century: it is a document found in the Sopron municipal archives, containing the register of Jews who delivered brandy to Sopron in 1698 and paid duty on it to the municipal treasury. Among others, it says:

JAKOB HIRSCHEL VON PÁPA

“1 emer Brantwein – 1 Fl”. (Probably means 1 Fl duty paid for 1 emer of Branntwein (=brandy).

The Győr archives also contain a relic from Pápa. In a letter from December 14, 1714, regimental judge Lutzenkuchen informed the Municipal Court of Buda that the Jew Hirschel was not obligated to appear in front of the Municipal Court in the suit cited, because at the time the contract was made the above-mentioned Jew was an exciseman in Pápa under the authority of the landowner, the general Count Ferenc Eszterházy.

Thus the yellowed pages from the Győr archives testify that Jews lived in Papa already 258 years ago. Where, then, were the ancestors of those who carried out the ghettoization, driving the later descendants to their deaths?

A note dated from February 12, 1743, found in the Sopron archives, is also relevant:

Gábor Dávid, a Jew from Lakompak appeared in front of the Municipal Court of Sopron and stated that he had made a contract with Márton Hirschel of Pápa about acting as a middleman for the latter to obtain 50 lats [old measure weighing half an ounce – the translator] of silver in return for a fee of one groat after each lat of silver. After the delivery of silver, the customer refused to pay the agreed fee.

Hirschel Jew of Pápa said that he had bought the silver for the manufacture of knives, but the delivered silver was of inferior quality so he could not use it for the job. The court accepted the defence, declaring the business null and void.

This note in the Sopron archives proves that there were Jewish silversmiths living in Pápa 230 years ago.

However, there are records about other members of the Hirschel family as well.

In the Sopron archives there is a document from March 31, 1701, testifying to the fact that 100 Ft was paid for Viennese tobacco commissioner August Fortuna at the Sopron municipal court by Pápa exciseman Isac Hirschel.

Apparently, the Hirschels were the most prestigious Jewish family in Pápa because according to an official account, one of them was mentioned as follows: Mathias Hirschel, Telenialis vegticalis-exator, proudly mentioning that it was he who saved the town of Győr from famine by managing to deliver grain to the blockaded, besieged city. Another family member Nathan Mihály Hirschel graduated in medicine in Halle, in 1733.

Little by little, Jews started to move to Pápa. Following the long wars against the Turks, a century of national struggles (Bocskay, Rákóczi), and devastating plagues, not only the Great Hungarian Plain became depopulated, but Transdanubia was also in need of settlers and economic development. The estates of the landed aristocracy offered opportunities for Jews to settle and to integrate into the economy. This is how Jews first got to Pápa, to the Eszterházy estate. These Jews were under the authority of Count Eszterházy, while only two families belonged to the manor of another nobleman, that of Szántóházi.

Sámson Lőwy, for example, was mentioned among the first Pápa Jews. He was granted many favors on account of his brandy distillery on the estate, and it was he who brought the Pintschof and Krausz families there.

In 1736 the Hungarian Royal Governor's Council ordered a census of Jews. The report by Veszprém County from May 23 of that year included the following Jewish families in opido Pápa: Mattias Hussel, Abraham Hussel, Franciscus Moyses, Philipus Jacob, Mattias Hirschel, Joel Lőwel, Lőwel Hirschel, Josephus Remste, Philipus Marcus, Mathias Marcus, David Wolf. Out of eleven families, five were from Hungary, four moved here from Moravia, the rest from unknown places. In this period many Jewish families moved from Moravia to Hungary; that is how the Hirschel and Wolf families got to Pápa. According to an official report, they were the subjects of a Moravian noble family called Dichrichstein. These Moravian aristocrats obligated the Jews to continue paying taxes to them in return for their patronage even after their departure.

The Jews of Pápa were the subjects of the Counts Eszterházy: they were tenants of the estates, leaseholders of the butcher's shop, the brewery, and measured out beverages…

 

[Page 10]

THE HUNGARIAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
OF 1848/49 AND PÁPA JEWS

March 15, 1848. This is the day when university students and the citizens of Pest achieved national independence and freedom. Although, as the poet wrote: “Crimson blood was not shed – fire was not blazing, except the sacred fire of enthusiasm in the hearts of the patriots”, nevertheless, measures had to be taken for the sake of future safety. Therefore, the National Guard was organized nationwide. On April 11, 1848 the creation of the National Guard was ordered by law. In May of that year, volunteers for the National Guard started to be registered in Pápa as well. The Town Council did not want to accept Pápa Jews, even though the Jewish community of Pápa was already a hundred years old. Since the Council knew that according to the law exceptions could not be made, they decided to appeal immediately to the Ministry, “in order to grant the town exemption from registering and conscripting Israelites among the gentile national guards, since there are some signs of antipathy appearing against Jews in town.”

Soon the Town Council appeared to be contradicting themselves. When László Csányi, government commissioner, ordered some units of the county's National Guard to the river Dráva to fight against the ethnic minorities that had rebelled, the Town Council of Pápa decided to draft Jews. Eventually, one quarter of the unit marching against the minorities was made up of Pápa Jews, 80 out of 318. On their homecoming after 6 weeks of absence, among others it was duly recorded that the self-sacrifice of the Israelite national guards, “their readiness to defend our homeland should be recorded for posterity to see.” Pápa chief rabbi Leopold (Lipót) Lőw was also among the drafted national guards, boosting the morale of his believers at the Sellye camp in July 1848. This sermon at the camp was published very soon under the title “Az Isten velünk vagyon”, God is with us, recommended to the Pápa national guards, to the highly respected brave comrades. He was accompanied by his loyal friend, Dr. Mór Feitel, and three teachers of the Jewish school: Ignác Blauer, Lipót Ehrenfeld and Manó Singer. On returning from the Dráva, Blauer volunteered for the army and took part in the war of independence from the battle of Schwechat until the surrender of the castle of Komárom, eventually reaching the rank of captain.

Apparently, the emergency caused the people of Papa to revise their views of the Jewish national guardsmen. When actions took the place of words, the service of Jews was accepted. Moreover, one of the captains in the National Guard demonstrated so much tolerance towards them that, out of consideration for their strict religious observance, he told them on a Friday, after maneuvres when the Jews were about to go home, to come on Saturday only if they wanted to.

When the Hungarian homeland was in danger, the volunteer National Guard was replaced by the conscript Hungarian Army, the Honvéd Hadsereg. Under the influence of a fiery speech by Lajos Kossuth, on July 11, the Parliament voted for the requested 20,000 recruits. Immediately 39 Jewish recruits volunteered in the town of Pápa, all of them young men aged 19-22. When they were sworn in, Leopold Lőw encouraged them to serve the homeland devotedly. On the basis of verified registers and archival data, the following Pápa Jews took part in the War of Independence:

Major József Neumann, Captain Bonyhád Lőwy, Field Rabbi Leopold Lőw, non-commissioned officer Benedek Róth. Rank and file: Lujzi Bonyhád, Jakab Brill, Miksa Deutsch, Sándor Engel, Jonás Fischer, József Fuchs, József Gold, Ignác Goldschmied, Mór Grünbaum, Jakab Haas, Miksa Hercog, Mihály Kohn, Jakab Rosenberg, David Schlesinger, Hermann Gross, Móric Grünbaum, József Herzog, Miksa Herzog, Ignác Klein, Károly Krausz, Ignác Lehner, Móric Lőwy, Móric Salzberger, Paul Schreiber.

The Jewish soldiers and officers from Pápa made a valuable and worthy contribution to the War of Independence.

 

[Page 12]

OUR RABBIS

We are going to light a memorial candle…Let the first flame be lit for servants of the Faith who devoted their life to a profound knowledge of the Torah, propagating the ideas of religion, ethics, and love. Their pious life served as a model for the congregation of believers. They both studied and taught.

In addition to rabbis active in Pápa, we are going to recall the activities of those connected to the local kehila of the town by birth or by education, on account of which they all deserve to be commemorated here. The first rabbi of the community mentioned in the register of Jews by the Governor's Council in 1745, was

IZSÁK BERNARDUS

According to the census there were 73 Jews living in Pápa then.

He was succeeded by

R. ZELIG BETTELHEIM

Among his successors we find

WOLF RAPPOPORT

in the 1800s. He was mentioned as the chief rabbi of Pápa in the responsa (Q&A) of his contemporary Yuda Asad. His son

EFRAYIM RAPPOPORT

worked as a dayan, and then went to Torna to serve as rabbi. In the 1830s the Paks rabbi

PINCHAS HOROVITZ

was chosen to be the chief rabbi. He was the first to give sermons in Hungarian. In this period, the conflict between progressive and conservative Jews was deepening. R. Horovitz made an attempt at conciliation and called for a rabbinical assembly, inviting rabbis from both sides.

However, the rabbinical assembly of Paks on August 20-21, 1844, was attended by only 25 rabbis. Apart from Lőrinc Schwab from Pest, Schwerin Kohn from Baja, and Oppenheim from Temesvár, there were only rabbis from insignificant communities. The proposal presented by Horovitz might have prevented the schism of Hungarian Jewry… However, it was not accepted. They just decided to continue their discussions in Óbuda in the following year. Due to the unexpected death of Horovitz in 1845, the discussions were cancelled.

The chair of the rabbi in Pápa remained empty.

 

LIPÓT (LEOPOLD) LŐW

 

Nagykanizsa rabbi Lipót Lőw was elected the rabbi of Pápa in 1846, at the recommendation of Dr. Mór Feitel.

Lipót Lőw was born in 1811 in Černahora, Moravia. Despite his foreign (Moravian) roots, he spoke excellent Hungarian. He was one of the first rabbis in Hungary with an academic education and a highly respected authority in Hungarian public life, both in politics and scholarship.

The spirit of Enlightenment had already penetrated ghetto walls when Lipót Lőw, a fighter for reforms, moved over with a multitude of believers from the Salétrom Street Schul to the Zsidó Street (called Petőfi Street today) huge “hall temple”, marking the occasion with a patriotic sermon in Hungarian. The synagogue, built in the renaissance style of Florence, with two balconies, was constructed with the support of Pápa's patron Count Pál Eszterházy, who contributed 100,000 bricks to the project.

The synagogue was consecrated by the new rabbi. He recited verses from the psalms; however, the basic message to the Lord of Heavens uttered by the Pápa rabbi burst forth from a Hungarian soul, as follows: שבור זרוע רשע “Break the arm of the wicked” (Psalms 10:15), an allusion to Austrian oppression.

The fervent patriotic sermons of the famous rabbi were so influential that on Shabbat even the older students of the Protestant Theological Seminary used to go to the synagogue to listen to him. This is how Lőw was remembered by Károly Eötvös, the great defence lawyer of the Tiszaeszlár blood libel and a former Pápa student, who became later the “Vajda” [leader, governor]: “He used to teach Hebrew at the Protestant Seminary, and Hungarian language to old and young Jews.” (Magyar alakok by Károly Eötvös, 1904, pp. 4-9)

In addition to teaching Hungarian language to Jewish youth, as a good rabbi he also set up a modern yeshiva. Among others, he taught the father of Henrik Marcali, the great master of Hungarian historiography: he was called Mihály Morgenstern, and became the rabbi of Marcali. The young rabbinical student had come from the orthodox city of Pozsony/Pressburg [now Bratislava – Ed.] to Pápa, to learn from “the most liberal rabbi” of the age, thereby incurring the wrath of his father.

Lőw was a leading campaigner for Jewish emancipation. In April 1848 he met the writer Lajos Kuthy, a departmental head of Batthiány's Ministry, in the reception room of the Székesfehérvár County Hall. They talked about the issue of Jewish emancipation, which had been put off by the government up to that point. Lajos Kuthy, the son of a Protestant minister, listened to the rabbi with growing sympathy: apparently Lőw had nothing in common with those pitiful characters drawn by Kuthy in his antisemitic book entitled “Hazai rejtelmek“. He was amazed to see how Lőw, radiating dignity and greatness of mind, listed the demands of Hungarian Jewry: openly, firmly, with a captivating reasoning, and soberness befitting a Hungarian statesman.

There were signs of great historical events to happen. The National Guard was set up throughout the country at the fervent call of Lajos Kossuth. Lipót Lőw was among the mobilized national guards. At the Sellye camp, he boosted the morale of his believers with his sermon, which was immediately published under the title “God is with us“. In 1849 the Hungarian government fled to Debrecen and in its Declaration of Independence announced their secession from the Habsburg dynasty and the formation of an Independent Hungarian Republic.

On May 31, 1849, celebrating the Declaration of Independence, Lőw in his sermon spoke highly of the great day. In July of that year, General Artur Görgey [1818-1916, Hungarian army officer, who conducted the surrender after the defeat – the translator] asked Captain Vajda for the manuscript of the sermon.

After the defeat, Lipót Lőw, despite his sickness, was taken to Pest and held prisoner in Újépület from October 18 to December 15 by the judges of Haynau for his activitites as a field rabbi and for his thanksgiving service in honour of the Declaration of Independence. He barely escaped the gallows at the last moment.

After his release he did not return to Pápa; he became the chief rabbi of Szeged instead…

 

Dr. SALAMON BREUER (1850-1926)

The young scholar was chosen by the Münz community to be their rabbi. While serving there, he kept in lively intellectual contact with outstanding rabbis in Hungary, thereby drawing the attention of the Pápa community which invited the 26 year-old rabbi and elected him unanimously.

Dr. Lehmann, a rabbi and a popular novelist writing about Jews, introduced his young friend to Dr. Samson Raphael Hirsch, the chief rabbi of Frankfurt. Breuer became engaged to the young daughter of Hirsch, and came to Pápa with his wife to occupy the seat of the chief rabbi in 1876.

A large congregation and a huge synagogue with two galleries welcomed him in town. On the one hand, it was a sacred community of excellent Talmud scholars; on the other, reform ideas were on the rise. The pious respected his personality; they knew he would lead his community in the spirit of the Torah. He started his activities by setting up a yeshiva, which brought him nationwide fame. In line with modern thinking, he also decided to start a Jewish secondary school for modern languages and sciences. When it was opened in Pápa in 1878, it was the first modern Jewish school in the country. It had 47 students in its first and last year, since, unfortunately, it closed for lack of funding.

He was an excellent speaker, exerting a profound influence on his audience of believers by his fervent words, imbued with warmth and affection. His achievements were great; the whole community came literally under his spell. They could see for themselves that on the pulpit they were facing a dedicated fighter for the sacred idea of the Torah, permeated by its justice, a man who was not afraid of anything in his pious work, standing up for his principles against all. His opponents considered his activities to be a threat to the unity of the community but noting the unselfish zeal of this strong personality, they surrendered.

When his father-in-law died, the Frankfurt community chose the Pápa rabbi. This honour could not be refused, so to the sorrow of his followers he left Pápa…

 

MOSHE ARYE ROTH

Eperjes rabbi M. A. Roth was elected to occupy the rabbinical seat that had become vacant. A highly educated rabbi, blessed with a noble, charitable heart, a wide intellectual horizon and experience, he instinctively realized the need for a school where Jewish students could deepen their religious and secular education after the elementary level. So, in addition to maintaining the yeshiva, he set up a school called Etz Chayim in 1893, where boys learnt Talmud in the morning and secular subjects in the afternoon, according to a prescribed curriculum. At the end of the academic year, the students took private examinations at the public junior high school.

 

Chief Rabbi Moshe Arye Roth

 

Beyond his intensive and blessed local activities, he earned himself nationwide fame by joining the Zionist movement. He appeared at the Zionist Congress, where Herzl showed great sympathy towards him, as is noted in Herzl's memoirs. This led to a series of attacks on him, and on his return home he explained his views and did all he could to dispel misunderstandings in a book on the Zionist idea from an orthodox angle. In this book, published under the title “Der Zionismus vom Standpunkte der jüdischen Ortodoxie“, he opposed those who refused cooperation with the allegedly non-religious elements, referring to the most highly respected rabbinical authorities abroad in his support. He wrote about his impressions of the Congress, where he had met brothers from all corners of the diaspora. He spoke with enthusiasm especially about those elements of non-religious background who found their way back to Judaism through the movement of Jewish “renaissance”. “I had the most intense feeling of joy and jubilation resonating in me when one of the delegates first spoke to me in Hebrew in the Congress hall, giving me the opportunity to answer him in Hebrew. Nevertheless, I was filled with pain realizing the scattered condition of Jewry, when the delegates had to speak different languages. The bond of a national tongue uniting nations had been lost for us. When we meet our brothers, we do not understand one another. On the other hand, when I saw Talmud scholars, sages of the Torah in the Congress hall, I felt that Israel was not a deserted widow after all.”

Great courage was needed for an orthodox rabbi in Hungary to raise the banner of an idea that was a novelty and accordingly, met with suspicion everywhere. However, Chief Rabbi Roth was a man of principles. Before starting to work as a rabbi, Roth was a landowner, refusing to accept the hetter from the Tzaddik of Sanz concerning work on Shabbat. On a visit to him, the Tzaddik asked him: “Sind Sie das der Jüd, der von mein Heter keinen Gebrauch macht?” When he replied yes, he was seated at the place of honour and the chassidim were amazed to see what great respect the Tzaddik was paying to this datsch in a top hat.

The rabbis, referred to by Herzl as Protest Rabbiner, came not only from reform circles; after the publication of the pamphlet by the Pápa rabbi, a whole series of protests was launched by the Hungarian orthodox rabbis against Zionism propagated by the visionary Rav Roth. They criticized R. Roth also for the chutzpah to write that he was sorry that the Rambam did not include the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisrael in the 613 commandments. The offensive was directed by Joshua Silberstein, the rabbi of Vác; in the homiletical periodical Tel-Talpiot he called on orthodox rabbis to make a stand against Zionism. 129 rabbis joined the protest drafted by the Hunsdorf, Huszt and Vác rabbis.

 

The gravestone of
Chief Rabbi Moshe Arye Roth

 

However, Dr. Roth did not despair. In order to counter the campaign, he published a manifesto under the title kol-kore, asking the public to support the Mizrachi movement. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. Only one rabbi had the courage to join the movement openly: it was the rabbi of Kolozsvár/Cluj, Moshe Glasner.

In 1903, the Congress of the Mizrachi movement was founded in Pozsony/Bratislava, at the call of chief rabbi Roth. The executive committee included chief rabbi M. A. Roth, Samu Bettelheim, András Rónai, and Béla Österreicher…

Apparently he took the constant attacks too much to heart (even his students were alienated from him), so in the end he had to follow medical advice and give up attending to the sacred cause in which he had invested all his strength. He died of heart disease on Marcheshvan 24, 5666.

His memoirs, informal and interesting as they are, reveal the spiritual events of a beautiful life, with the faith and sincerity that filled the soul of Chief Rabbi Roth.

 

SAMUEL GOTTLIEB

The death of Moshe Arye Roth was followed by an interval of two decades in which they were unable to find a suitable rabbi deserving of the rabbinical seat of Pápa. In the meantime dayanim fulfilled rabbinical tasks as well; Moshe Link, the former rabbi of Nemesszalók and R. Mihály Pressburger, both members of the rabbinical court, performed that role.

 

Chief Rabbi Samuel Gottlieb

 

Following prolonged quarrels in the community, Tolcsva chief rabbi SAMUEL GOTTLIEB occupied the seat of the chief rabbi at Pápa in 1927. He was a scholar and an excellent speaker, first serving as a rabbi at Sebeskellemes, where he published his halachic work. His other writings remained unpublished.

The chassidim, who were in the minority at the time Gottlieb was elected, invited the former rabbi of Bánfihunyad, Jakab Grünwald to Pápa, and formed a separate congregation. The separation and the disputes embittered the life of the holy rabbi (Gottlieb) to such an extent that after barely two years of service, he returned his noble soul to the Lord. After his death in 1931, his son-in-law, Jakab Haberfeld was elected. He came to Pápa from a Viennese orthodox community, and was the son of the Nagytapolcsány rosh bet-din. He served in Pápa until the Shoah.

He shared the fate of the Auschwitz martyrs, together with his family and community.

 

RABBIS WITH ROOTS IN PÁPA

Let us remember those rabbis and famous rabbinical scholars that came from Pápa:

JOSHUA BUXBAUM

was the son of Reb Yosef Buxbaum, the shochet and baal t'filah of Pápa. A tzaddik leading a holy life, he was the famous rabbi of Galánta, and head of the Galánta yeshiva, which was well-known all over the country. His great host of students gather each year in Israel for his azkarah, to remember their great Rabbi who perished, together with his family and community, in Auschwitz. His memory was commemorated by the book Pene Yoshua, published by his students.

MOSHE ECKSTEIN

the rabbi of Vágszered was also a native of our town. He was the son of R. Hermann Eckstein, who was the member of a rabbinical court. He was born in 1891, attended elementary and junior high school in his hometown. He started his religious studies at the Tapolcsány yeshiva, then he continued at the Orthodox Rabbinical Seminary of Pozsony/Pressburg where he was an excellent student, and an outstandingly brilliant speaker. The Talmud scholars and the householders of Pressburg were delighted by his speeches. He was elected to be the rabbi of the long-established community in Vágszereda, where he headed a large yeshiva. When the Upper Province (Felvidék) was reannexed to Hungary, he became the chairman of the National Organization of Slovakian Communities. He perished as a martyr at Majdanek. His only surviving daughter is married to Mayor Weinberger of Bne-Brak.

REB ORE PRESSBURGER

served in Pápa as the rabbi of the Shiur Chevra for a long time and was a prominent speaker. Later on he was elected by the Bonyhád Orthodox community to be their rabbi.

REB LEML SPITZER

was the teacher and the preacher of the Etz Chayim Association at Pápa, elected by the Szepesváralja community to be their rabbi.

Dr. ISAAC PAP PFEIFFER

the chief rabbi of Monor, was also from Pápa. He was a rabbi, a poet, and a leading member of Maccabee, first serving at Sümeg, then at Pécs. He was the son of the principal Mór Pfeiffer. In accordance with his father's wish, he did not accept the post of the chief rabbi of Sweden that had been offered to him, since Stockholm did not agree to his conditions concerning ritual practices. He was an excellent translator of the Bible. His name was well known throughout the country because of his numerous articles, such as Lélekláng, Találkozás az Úrral, etc. The Zionist speeches of the young rabbinical student left their mark on the soul of his young listeners at Pápa.

Dr. ERNŐ DISHON

chief rabbi, the son of Hermann Deutsch from Bástya Street, also brought honour to Pápa. He was born in 1886 in Pápa. His mother was the daughter of Jakob Chayim Schwarcz, the rabbi of nearby Adásztevel and the sister of Dr. Adolf Schwarcz, a world-famous scholar and the Rector of the Rabbinical Seminary in Vienna. He studied and received a smichah in the seminary under the auspices of his uncle. He was elected rabbi of Karánsebes, then Brassó. During the First World War he served as a field rabbi. His blessed and selfless work for the cause of Jewish refugees is legendary. He was an ardent Zionist. He wrote several studies about modern Hebrew literature, which were published. At an advanced age, he moved to his children in Israel. He ended his blessed life in Jerusalem.

Chief rabbi JAKOB MOSHE DEUTSCH

was born in Magyargencs, near Pápa. His father had a grocery store there. He studied in Pápa. Already at a young age he showed inexhaustable industry. His teachers in the Pozsony/Pressburg yeshiva spoke highly of his prospects.

First, he was elected rabbi of Nemesszalók near Pápa, and then he became the rabbi of Pásztó, where he set up a yeshiva. After the death of rabbi Jungreisz, the Abaújszántó community chose R. Deutsch to occupy their vacant rabbinical seat. He enlarged the yeshiva, which was different from other provincial yeshivas: sons of well-to-do parents were sent here even from far-away places. He pointed out proudly that among his students there was the son of one of their teachers, which was unusual then. He made great efforts to raise the intellectual and ethical standards for members of the community.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, he may have been the only orthodox rabbi who considered physical education necessary for Jewish youth. Yeshiva students of Abaújszántó could study half a day and train for agricultural labour half a day on one of the nearby Jewish estates. In 1944 he was sent to the Kassa/Kosice ghetto and was rescued from there. However, he did not have the chance to enjoy his freedom for long: in 1945, he passed away in Switzerland. Almost a quarter of a century later, his remains were brought to Israel and put to rest in the hallowed ground of Jerusalem, together with his wife

Chief Rabbi Dr. HENRY E. IMRE KRAUS,

a native of our town, occupies an eminent place among rabbis abroad who came from Hungary. He started his studies at Pápa, continued at the Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest, where he received his smichah in 1940. Two years before becoming a rabbi, he had already received a doctorate at the faculty of humanities of the University of Budapest.

While he was still a rabbinical student, the Siklós community elected him to be their rabbi. He served there as the chief rabbi of three and a half districts in Baranya County until the deportation. He went through the death-camps: Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Magdeburg, and Flossenburg were the stations of his sufferings. In 1945 he was liberated by the American army. He returned to Hungary where he was elected to be the chief rabbi of Kaposvár, town and district both. His excellent qualities were recognized when he was chosen for the five-member Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Seminary and for the Executive Board of the National Bureau of Hungarian Israelites.

In 1956, he left the country and immigrated to the USA. First, he was chosen to be the rabbi of the Beth Torah community of Gardena, Los Angeles; then, in 1969, he was invited by the large community of Temple Beth Ami Covina, which had one of the most beautiful synagogues in California, in addition to splendid community buildings. After three years of zealous and dedicated service he was offered life-tenure, which is a rare honour in the USA. In 1960 he earned an M.A. in Hebrew Literature: it was the first time at that university that someone could earn such a degree after barely 3 years of learning English.

He was elected to be the Vice President for the Association of American Conservative Rabbis in the Western States, in recognition of his intensive work in the field of religious life.

His devotion to Israel was reflected not only in his Friday night sermons, but also in organizing a large group of his congregants for a pilgrimage to Israel, and accompanying them as their guide.

DR. SAMUEL KRAUSZ, professor

He was one of the most significant scholars whose life-work belongs to universal Jewish scholarship. A native of the village Ukk near Pápa, he was connected to Pápa by the years of his religious studies.

He attended the Pápa Yeshiva under the leadership of Rabbi Salamon Breuer. As a result, he had a solid basis in Talmud and Hebrew when he went to the Rabbinical Seminary. In 1893 he became the Hebrew teacher of the National Israelite Teacher Training College (Országos Izraelita Tanítóképző). In 1905, he started teaching at the Rabbinical Seminary of Vienna, where he became the principal in 1936, succeeding Rector Adolf Schwarcz of Pápa. He worked here until the Anschluss. He managed to escape from the hell of hatred and got to Cambridge. In 1948 he passed away.

He did pioneering work in publishing his Griechische und Lateinische Lehrwörter, an etymological dictionary of words of Greek and Latin origin in the Talmud and in the Midrash.

The Talmudische Archeologie, another often-quoted major work by him, offers an inside view into Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael and Babylon. Anyone wishing to become familiar with the Talmudic period in terms of attire, family life, agriculture, industry, commercial life, entertainment, schools and studies, can find all this in Krausz's book.

He had strong ties to Eretz Yisrael. He first came on a visit in 1905, and in 1933 he gave a lecture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a guest lecturer.

His last book, Synagogale Altertümer, is interspersed with nostalgic childhood reminiscences.

RABBI Dr. ANDOR KLEIN

Although he was not a native of Pápa, he was connected to the town through his grandparents who lived there, and for most of his schooling. When it was time to get married, he also took his young wife from here to Abony where he served as a rabbi. However, their happiness did not last for long: the beloved spouse, Bözsi Schossberger from Pápa, died soon and was laid to rest in the Pápa cemetery.

Because of the prevailing anticlerical attitude of the Rákosi period, he left Abony for the USA, where after a few months, he was offered a rabbinical post at the Temple Bnei Yisrael in Kearny, New Jersey. He served here devotedly until his death on July 8, 1967.

Several of his philosophical and theological writings were published, and he was awarded an M.A. from Yale University. He was an active member of the World Jewish Congress. During the massive wave of refugees in 1956, he became the rabbi of Jewish refugees from Hungary in the USA.

He was very popular. At his funeral, the town's mayor also spoke highly of him.

Paying tribute to his memory, we commemorate the grandson of Uncle Franck from Pápa as well.

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