A certain gravestone, dating to the year 1782, shows evidence that Jewish life had existed in Jánosháza in previous years. This is further substantiated by the fact that Jánosháza was one of the central locations of Vas County's six districts where the Tolerance Tax, instituted in 1749 during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa was paid. Inasmuch as this tax was levied as self-taxation by Jewish agencies, hence it is a logical conclusion that a Jewish community already existed at that time.
The county census recorded the following data, according to the previously mentioned monography of Dr. Bernstein:
14 families totaling 66 people in 1789; 45 families, including the district, in 1795; 49 families, two widows, in all 216 people, including the district in 1799. The following data pertain to Jánosháza alone, without the district: 18 families in 1809; 19 in 1813; 24 in 1817; 20 each in 1818 and 1820, and 27 families in 1831.
They started organizing as a community in 1836. Until then, supposedly they were a branch community and probably belonged to the congregation of Rohonc. Yet, they had established already earlier their own Chevra Kadisha, as this had been the case also in other localities. The prime movers were Lévi Stern, Izrael Hauser, Mózes Goldberger, and Salamon Strausz. The founders have built a temple from their own funds.
The census of 1795 already mentions the name of Jechezkiél Léb Rabbinus in Jánosháza, with a yearly salary of 72 forints 48 krajcárs. The rabbi's last name was Stern and he was buried in Jánosháza. Around 1830, József Grünwald functioned as rabbi. He was involved in a dispute with the community concerning the ritual bath and in 1852, he left for Gálszécs. (According to other sources, he went to Tolcsva.) First, the Chatam Szofer in 1831, then the Ktav Szofer in 1850, both addressed him in the matter.
In 1852, Márk Reichenfeld followed him in the rabbinical seat and preached in this place for a lifetime, for 49 years. He died on November 10, 1900. During his tenure, the congregation gained strength, and the temple having become too small, in 1897, they erected a monumental building. Count Sándor Erdody donated the expansive land and bricks for the construction. The neo-baroque style synagogue is located in the center of the large court yard, surrounded by all requisites of the community life, including residences for the rabbi and shohet, Talmud Tora, school, mikvah, etc., A 25-year amortized loan covered the balance of the sum required for this expansion.
After the death of Rabbi Reichenfeld, the rabbinical post remained vacant for three years. Rabbi Abraham Weisz, former Rabbi of the Kosztel province in Moravia had been elected in 1904. He went on to become Rabbi of Nagytapolcsány in 1920. Rabbi József Rubinstein from Kecskemét, who followed him in 1923, shared the martyrdom of his congregants after 22 years of service. Numerous records, old documents, and reports had also been destroyed by the fascist ravage in 1944. Between 1847 and 1863, data were recorded in Hebrew; from 1863 to 1876, in German; after 1876, in Hungarian.
As farmers, renters, artisans and business people, the members of the community took active part in the economic life of the province, exercising a stimulating influence by bringing about feverish activities into the life of this underdeveloped, small dusty provincial town. Significant industrial plants were established. Jenö Sándor of the Stern family created a steam mill, while Imre Sándor built a brick factory. The scattered Jewish congregations of the twelve communities that made up the district community clung with love to the common institutions. As simple small-town shopkeepers, innkeepers or tradesmen, each person lived the life of an honest Jew. The community of Boba, an important railroad junction that had a Jewish station chief, belonged here. This locality was home to about enough Jews for a minyan, all living in peaceful harmony.
Earlier on, the Jánosháza community having already thought about education established a two-teacher school. Teachers at the school included Salamon Weisz, Simon Kemény, who died a hero in 1919, then, Mária Boros, and Adolf Löwinger.
It is important to mention separately the religious instruction at this school.
It is common knowledge that until the middle of the last century (XIXth)*, Jews lived mostly in scattered communities and small towns and villages because larger cities rigidly held off accepting them and people of other religions, all the way until the Law of 1840 was passed. Due to this dispersion and oppressive taxation, the Jewish population had little chance to pursue religious learning. Yeshivas functioned only in a few places, like Pozsony, Nagyszombat, Sopronkeresztur, Nagymárton, etc.,
These facts compelled Mordecháj Schlesinger, an observant Jew from Jánosháza, to establish a permanent yeshiva institution that was sponsored through yearly donations from a nationwide organized membership. Naturally, above all, the members of the Jánosháza community bore the brunt of feeding the bachurs who enrolled here from far away regions. They came from all corners of the country - Bereg, Ung, Ugocsa, the Lower Lands, and from the Western areas. The founder named the school, which functioned approximately for half a century,
"Ló Alman Jiszrael".
In 1902, following distinguished predecessors, renowned Talmud scholar Rabbi Menachem Sámuel took over the leadership of the Yeshiva. Several of his students became religious leaders of great quality.
This well-organized community functioned all the while following the orthodox directives. Some of the local founding families continued their lives in Jánosháza. The Zollners, Salzbergers, Reisingers, Sterns (Sándors), Hoffmanns, Löwingers, Reiners, and Federers were families that took part in the leadership of the community.
Hanna (Anikó) Szenes, our parachutist martyr was from Jánosháza on her mother's side. Her mother, Mrs. Béla Szenes, a Salzberger girl from Jánosháza who also became a young widow, continued to manage the large produce store despite her gender. Dávid Gestetner, the revolutionary inventor in the field of business machines, who lived in London, also hailed from Jánosháza, as did Samu Stern, the president of the large Jewish community of Budapest, and his brother-in-law, member of the Zollner family, chief executive officer of the Budapest based Fabank. Jenö Káldi, owner of the Blue-Taxi enterprise came from one of the district villages. He allocated increasingly larger sums of money every year to be distributed before High Holidays among the poor members of the congregation. Reb Avraham Hoffmann, a Talmud scholar and pelt merchant by profession whose wittiness was acknowledged by all, was a staunch member of the congregation. A resident and healer of the sick for 50 years, Dr. Gyula Götzl, son-in-law of the Zollners, died at age 84 on the day of ghettoization. Jakab Féderer, who lived here for 90 years, was a living legend and had an inexhaustible supply of community anecdotes. Reb Naftali Reiner, son-in-law of the earlier mentioned Reb Hoffmann, was the temple's gabbay and president of the Chevra for three decades, until deportation. He was originally from Sopronkeresztur and in contrast to how knowledgeable he was in the Gemara, he never mastered the Hungarian language.
Ignác Kohn, president of the community for many-many years, was a quiet gentleman in demeanor. His brother, Arnold, was the leader of the Cohenite chorus and managed the clothing charity for poor children.
Smuél Blasz, a well-liked and exemplary Jewish educator blessed with an excellent voice was the cantor of the congregation. Later, he relocated to Eger, where the fate of the Jewish martyrs caught up with him. Jiszrael Chaim Weisz, whose six sons made up his chorus, followed him. He was unmatched in his wholehearted charity work.
We cannot forget the ordeals the Jews of the community of Jánosháza had suffered.
During World War One, 132 Jewish men were in arms from this rather small community. Of those, 11 died on the battlefield. Both, the men in arms and their family members at home felt gravely the hardships of the times. However, that has not been sufficient! During the revolutionary disturbances following the war, the mob saw it fit to rob and maraud the Jews. This pogrom had two brave Jewish victims: a teacher, Simon Kemény, decorated veteran who fought through the war, and Mrs. Ignác Féderer. Finally, not the authorities, but rather the organized local Jews put an end to the abominable unruliness.
During the two World Wars, the community had already been in decline. Major crossroads sidestepped Jánosháza, and traffic took a different direction. Trade days were confined mostly to the Wednesday weekly fair, leaving the rest of the weekdays quasi dead. All this had been topped by the lack of merchandise due to World War II, then later, the revocation of business permits, and the merciless inductions into the labor force battalions. The situation of the Jews after the German invasion turned into a catastrophe. Ghettoization started under inhuman conditions, and the Jews from Cell were squeezed in Janosháza as well. From the community of Jánosháza, 335 members died as martyrs in the flames of Auschwitz for the name of the Eternal One, including Chief Rabbi József Rubinstein.
Dr. Béla Bernstein's work about the history of the Jews of Jánosháza served as resource. Further resources were: Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (Hungarian Jewish Encyclopedia); the Memoirs of School Director József Blasz; valuable documents and notes provided by Jehuda Sámuel and Rabbi Michael Löwinger.
Thank you to all for the efforts.
* To facilitate understanding, this translator added the parentheses, as in the original Hungarian text, published in 1974, "last century" referred to the XIXth century. Return
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