(Murska Sobota, Slovenia)
Muraszombat is indisputably one of the youngest communities in the region.
According to a November 24, 1727 governing council ordinance, in Muraszombat also existed the anomaly that a Jew was leasing the local customs agency. However, this fact doesn't prove that any Jew was living there as a permanent resident. He might have lived elsewhere, as seen in the case of the Kőszeg situation. The 18th century county census does not mention any Jew living in Muraszombat. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 19th century, there were already Jews here: 4 in 1809, 5 in 1813, and 13 in 1822. It is not clear if these numbers represented families or only individuals. It is likely that the first community was a branch congregation of the Városszalonak community because that is where members paid the tolerance-tax.
Dr. József Frank, later Rabbi of Fiume, was the congregation's first rabbi. He functioned in Muraszombat for seven years, from 1837 to 1904. Later, only substitute rabbis served here. The new temple of Muraszombat was built in 1908. Dr. Albert Schweiger had been elected rabbi that year and he served in office for three years. Dr. Henrik Kis succeeded him in 1941. Religious education did not excel in Muraszombat due to the lack of a self-standing Jewish school. Nonetheless, in the domain of religious life, the community distinguished itself. The Heimers, Frimms, Attorney Vályi, Samu Kohn, Gyula Koch, and other families took part in the leadership of the community.
World War One caused great hardship and misery for the Jewish population, whose majority lived by modest means. After the war, the Mura Region (Prekomurje), including its 921 Jews who lived in two other communities besides Muraszombat, became part of Yugoslavia. This regime proved to be tolerant and understanding with the Jewish population, hailing the Balfour Declaration, and not inhibiting the development of the Zionist idea. However, this attitude pertained mostly to the Vajda Region, while the Jews of Muraszombat spoke Hungarian, and showed assimilative trends in sentiments. Despite all this, they suffered grave atrocities from the very Hungarian circles when the region temporarily fell again under Hungarian rule. It was especially the civil administration of the township that excelled in this field, culminating in 1944 with the deportation of the Jews.
Notwithstanding the tragedy we suffered, we must remember in a commendable manner the name of József Benko, a local meat processor, who provided food and shelter to the persecuted. Unfortunately, after the change of regime, he fell victim to a grave misunderstanding.
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