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[Page 22]

The Story of the Community of Satmar
from its Founding Until the Holocaust

And a short section about the post- Holocaust Community.

All that is written henceforth, I researched and collected from sources such as

  1. “The Jewish Hungarian Lexicon” by Peter Oevary, Budapest
  2. “The Way of the Jews of Satmar” edited by Dr. Moshe Aryeh Stern z”l in Satmar
  3. Sections from “The Lexicon of the Jewish Communities” in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
  4. Research conducted by the Editor of the Book, memories and personal knowledge.

The Editor takes no responsibility for inaccuracies.

 

Names of the City

In Rumanian Satu Mare, Hungarian Satamar- Nemethy, in popular parlance Sakmer, among the Jews Satmar or Sakmer.

For hundreds of years the Capitol of the District of Satmar was the city of Kraly. At the start of the 20th century Satmar became the capital.

The city of Satmar spreads itself on the banks of the River Samosh. The city was established in the beginning of the 12th century.

After 500 years, the city incorporated the town of Nemethy. Residents of Nemethy were ethnic Hungarians, although Schwabians founded the town.

From my research I discovered that Jews lived in Satmar for over 300 years.

The Jewish population increased each year. In 1940 when the city went from Rumanian to Hungarian Rule one quarter of the residents were Jews.

 

The First Jews of Satmar

At the end of the 16th century two Jewish families lived in the city—the Yudkovitzes and the Abramovitzes.

By the start of the 17th century, the Jewish population had increased but there weren't enough Jews for a minyan.

In those days in Satmar, the jealous anti-Semitic non-Jews only allowed Jews into the city for brief periods of time.

The Jews worked as candlestick makers, button manufacturers, jewelers, watchmakers, hatmakers, brewers, tanners, and manufacturers of cleaning materials. The residents of the city feared competition from the Jews and tried to prevent them from plying their trades, therefore they could only enter the city during the daylight hours, before nightfall the Jews had to leave. The small number of Jews who were Masters of their crafts could remain for lengthy periods.

Craftsmen came from Kraly, which was the District Capitol but they also came from other locations. By the first quarter of the 19th century there was a minyan of Jews in Satmar.

Slowly the Community developed, until the mayor appointed Yosef Lichtman z”l to be their Leader.

The Jews got kosher meat from the city of Kraly where there was a large Jewish Community under the patronage of the Graf Kraly and from neighboring settlements.

After the end of the War of Independence in the 50th year the Jews were given the right to establish themselves as an organized legal Community and keep their own records and protocols, but their existence was barely tolerated.

In those days Yosef Lichtman z”l left his position as the Judge of the Jews, and Abraham Steinberger z”l was appointed to take his place. By this time the Community had an established Hevra Kadisha but because the Jews didn't receive official permission to open a cemetery they buried their dead in Krali, in Batiz, and in other places.

 

The First Synagogue in Satmar

Once the Jewish population grew the Jews wanted to organize a synagogue. Temporarily they prayed in a building they rented from a non-Jew. (according to R. Yitchak Schwartz who lives in Jerusalem, his grandfather R. Zusha Schwartz ZL opened the first Beis Medrash in the city on Eshkol Street.

By 1863 the city already had a kosher mikvah.

Within a short time the Jews embarked on plans to build a large and elegant synagogue on a lot that was purchased from the Baron Vetshi z”l on Vardomb Street.

[Page 23]

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sat023a.jpg
The residence of the Rabbis of Satmar (Vardromb Street)

 

sat023b.jpg
Satmar Mikva (Vardomb Street)

 

The Synagogue was modeled after the large Orthodox Synagogue in Grossvardein. The Synagogue is still in use today on Shabbos and holidays. On weekdays there are prayers in the Shaare Torah Bais Medrash nearby. The Large Synagogue has 503 seats for men and 498 seats for women.

In the early 1880s the Synagogue operated in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Central Orthodox Office in Budapest and the Hungarian Ministry of Religion. One of the main tenets was that the Synagogue should follow the Ashkenazi Prayer Rite. Those who desired to pray Nusach Sefard were free to establish a Hassidic Beis Medrash at their own cost without being able to demand funding from the Community coffers. Members of that congregation would still be liable to pay dues to the Community. In those years the number of Hassidic Synagogues in the city increased.

The Satmar Community had grown to the point where it was now one of the largest Communities in Hungary. Along with that it's institutions expanded, including the Hevra Kadisha, the Talmud Torah, kindergartens with hundreds of students. The number of synagogues increased including the elegant Bais Medrash of Hevra Machzekei HaTorah on Bam Street and the Hevra Mishnayos Synagogue on Tompa Street. During this period a Hassidic congregation was established on Bathory Karoly Street and along with 27 other smaller shuls.

[Page 24]

The Chief Rabbis, Communal Leaders, Assistants and Gabays

The Chief Rabbis of the Community were:

The first Chief Rabbi Binyamin Zeev Mandelbaum ztl 1842-1897

The second Rabbi of the Community was Rabbi Yehuda Greenwald ztl (1898-1920)

The third rabbi was Rabbi Eliezer Dovid Greenwald ztl 1921-1928

The fourth rabbi was Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum ztz”l 1934-1944

From 1870-1890 the Heads of the Community were:

Avraham Steinberger z”l (elected seven times) Adolph Spiegel z”l (elected three times) From the late 19th century until the First World War, Yehezkel Freund (elected four times) and Yehiel Frankel z”l (elected three times) served as Heads of the Community.

What follows is a list of the Heads of the Community until the destruction:

Yosef Lichtman z”l, Avraham Steinberger z”l, Eliyahu Markovitz z”l, Shmuel Blum z”l, Herman Teitelbaum z”l, Leopold Benedikt z”l, Moshe Krantztor z”l, Avraham Freund z”l, Avrahman Spiegel z”l, Yehezkel Tzvi Freund z”l, Yehiel Frankel z”l, Shmuel Shpatali z”l, Meir Markovitz z”l, Menahem Yonap z”l, Mosher Meir Reiter z”l, Yeshayahu Meir Czengeri z”l, Haim Freund z”l, Shevach Gutah z”l, David Yehoshua Gross z”l, Shmuel Rosenberg z”l, Alexander Freund z”l.

Deputy Heads of the Community were:

Herman Rosenfeld z”l, Dr.Yosef Meir z”l, Albert Schwartz z”l, Shmuel Meir Czengeri z”l, Simcha Reiter z”l, Menachem Yonap z”l, Haim Freund z”l, Dovid Yehoshua Gross z”l, Shmuel Rosenberger z”l, Alexander Freund.

Those listed below served as Head Gabbays in the Community until the destruction:

Krantztor z”l, Moshe Hartman z”l, Yaakov Kolav z”l, YaakovSchwartz z”l, Zusia Markovitz z”l, Eliyahu Spiegel z”l, Avraham Davidowitz z”l, Ignatz Hirsch z”l, Adolph Freund z”l, Yehezkel Roth z”l, Solomon Shimon Baer z”l, Reiter z”l, Simcha Frankel z”l, Yehiel Markovitz z”l, Yehiel Fried z”l Yosef Markovitz z”l, Shlomo Roth z”l, Yitzchak Mandelbaum z”l, Eliyahu Haim z”l, Zvi Sheinberger z”l, Meir Yosef Chaim.

 

Rebbes in Satmar

As the Hassidic Community grew in numbers, several famous rebbes settled in Satmar.

Admor Rabbi Yissachar Dov Leifer ztz”l (the son of the Tzaddik R. Mordechai from Nadvorna ztz”l.), lived on King Matthias Street. He passed away at a young age in Satmar.

The Righteous Rabbi Eliezer Fish ztz”l known as the Biksader Rebbe.

The Admor Rabbi Aharon Rota ztz”l, who would become the leader of Shomrei Emunim, lived on Zrinyi Street and died in Jerusalem.

The Admor and Dayan Rabbi Haim, Reb Haiml ztz”l (the grandson of the Divrei Haim of Sanz ztz”l), lived on Bathory Street and died in Satmar.

The Admor Rav Tzvi (Hershele) Halberstam ztz”l lived on Bathory Street and was Martyred in the Holocaust.

The Admor Rav Elhanan Tzvi (Rav Chana Hersch) lived on Zrinyi Street. His fate is unknown, since he left Satmar before the Holocaust.

All of those Admoring had synagogues in their homes.

 

The Children's Education

A majority of children in the community received a traditional Jewish education. Until the community established a Talmud Torah, boys attended private heders operated by their teachers. Some of the private heders continued to operate until the Shoah.

The educator Yitzhak Danziger z”l was the prime mover behind the general Jewish school. This school was in operation until the community established its own general school in the 1870s. The community appealed to the government for financial support but the authorities refused and the community had to fund its own school from it's Treasury.

As the student body increased the community needed to add classes. The community struggled to fund the school and at that point they received some government aid.

 

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