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[Page 20]

Museum of the Jewish Diaspora



Typed by Genia Hollander

Satu-Mare (Hung. Szatmarnemeti or Szatmar, also called Sakmer), city in Satu-Mare province, N.W. Rumania. Until World War I and between 1940 and 1944, part of Hungary. There is sporadic mention of the presence of Jews in or passing through Satu-Mare in the early 18th century. There were 11 Jews in the town in 1734, and 19 in 1746. In 1841, several Jews obtained permits to settle in Satu-Mare permanently. A community was formally established in 1849 and a synagogue erected in 1857. Benjamin Ze'ev Mendelbaum became the first rabbi in 1849, officiating until his death in 1896. Through his influence, the community defined itself as orthodox in 1869. In 1898, it split up and a status-quo ante community was established. A magnificent synagogue was erected in 1904. The Jewish population rose from 78 in 1850 to 3,427 (16% of the total population) in 1870; 7,194 (20% of the total population) in 1910 and 11,533 (21%) in 1930. There were then five large synagogues and about 20 smaller ones in the city. The first Jewish printing press was established in 1903.

From the end of the 19th century, there were conflicts among the supporters of the Chasidic and the Misnagedim. From 1902, the status-quo community was led by a Zionist rabbi, Dr. Samuel Sandor Jordan who established the first Hebrew kindergarten in Hungary. The first Jewish schools were opened in 1866, between 1940 and 1944. There was also a secondary school for boys and girls (four classes). Jews took an active part in the development of industry and commerce in Satu-Mare and were prominent in the liberal professions, contributing to the local Hungarian press. Between the two World Wars, branches of the Zionist movements were active in the community; a B'nai B'rith lodge was established as well as a branch of the Jewish Party and other institutions. The rabbis of the orthodox community were Judah Gruenwald (until 1920) and Eliezer David Gruenwald. After his death in 1928, there followed a bitter conflict within the orthodox community over the election of a new rabbi. The struggle lasted six years and was concluded in 1934 by the victory of the supporters of Joel Teitelbaum, whose domineering personality and uncompromising anti-Zionist stand influenced orthodox Jewry in the whole of Transylvania. In 1941 there were 12,960 Jews living in Satu-Mare (24.9% of the total population). Their number rose following an influx of Jews from surrounding villages. After the Nazi established a ghetto in Satu-Mare, all the Jews from the town and the vicinity were concentrated there until deportations began in the summer of 1944.

After World War II, some of the survivors returned from the camps and about 500 Jews resettled there. They were joined by former residents and Jews from other localities and by 1947, they numbered approximately 5,000. Subsequently, many moved away or emigrated to Eretz Israel and by 1970, there remained some 500 Jews in Satu-Mare.


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