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Translation of Halmeu chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Romania
Translation of Halmeu chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1980
Published in Jerusalem, 1980
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Romania, Volume II,
pages 126-128, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1980
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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Translated by Jerrold Landau
(Romanian: Halmeu, Hungarian: Halmi)
Halmeu is a town in the district of Satu Mare, about 35 kilometers north of the district city. The majority of its residents were Hungarian.
|Year||Population||% of Jews in
Until the End of the First World War
Apparently, the first Jews came to Halmeu from Galicia at the beginning of the 18th century. The oldest gravestone preserved in the cemetery is from the year 5504 (1744). The owners of the area, the Perényi and Haller noblemen, took them under their protection and employed them in the sale of agricultural products. With the passage of time, the Jews leased lands, especially vineyards, in which they prepared kosher wine. Halmeu very quickly became known in the entire area on account of this. Others opened taverns and distilled liquor. Several of the Jews of Halmeu became relatively wealthy, but most toiled hard to earn the livelihood for their families. The Jews also earned their livelihood from agriculture, through acquiring land that they worked with the help of tenants. They also sold and rented agricultural machinery, such as threshing machines, to farmers in return for wheat. Others raised sheep for the production of milk, cheese, and wool. The Jewish settlement in Halmeu thrived, and became a Jewish center for the villages of the area.
The Organization of the Community: The first organized minyan [prayer quorum] gathered in the middle of the 18th century. The foundation of the first communal organization was laid, the Chevra Kadisha [burial society] was formed, the first cemetery was opened, and the mikva [ritual bath] was built, during the first decades of the 19th century. During that decade, the community also had a shochet [ritual slaughterer] who also made the rounds to all the villages of the area. The first synagogue was built during the 1820s. In 1889, a new, larger synagogue was built. The plans for furnishing it were a cause for dispute in the community, for the more progressive elements wanted to arrange the seating so that the entire congregation sat facing east, whereas the more Orthodox element did not want to change the setup that existed in the old synagogue. A Chevra Shas [Talmud study group] was established in 1881. From 1800, the community maintained ledgers in which births, marriages and deaths were recorded.
Rabbis and authors: Until the middle of the 19th century, there was no
rabbi in Halmeu. The rabbi of the district city of that time, Selish (Nagyszöllös), served all the residents of the Ugosca district. The first rabbi was accepted in Halmeu around 1840. He was Rabbi Mordechai the son of Rabbi Tzvi Horowitz, who moved to the community of Şimleul Silvaniei in 1875, and died there around 1885. While he was the rabbi of Halmeu, he published his book Divrei Mordechai that contained topics of practical halacha for the Jews of the community and the district, and his book Gdulat Mordechai (Ungvar, 5626 / 1866) about novellae on Talmudic topics. Rabbi Eliahu Klein (1852-1928), the son of the renowned Torah giant Rabbi Shmelke of Selish, served as the rabbi of Halmeu for more than 50 years (1876-1928). Rabbi Eliahu Klein published his father's book of his Tzror Chayim (Munkacz, 5636 / 1876) with his own notes and novel ideas. He died on the 1st of Shvat, 5688 (1928). The rabbinical judge Rabbi Mordechai Rotstein was also a prolific author. He published his book Beit Vaad Lachachamim [A Meeting Place for the Wise] on the Torah (Munkacz 5647 / 1887); a commentary on Psalms in Hassidic style called Parnasa Tova [Good Livelihood] (Sighet 5649 / 1889; and reprinted later in a photocopied edition); and Torat Chesed on the Torah (Munkacz, 5657 / 1897).
83 Jews of Halmeu participated in the First World War, including several captains and sergeants. Twelve of them fell on the battlefronts.
Between the Two Wars
After the First World War, the district was split into two: the northern half was annexed to Czechoslovakia, and the southern half was annexed to Romania and added to the Satu Mare district. At the end of the war, Halmeu became a border town next to the new Czechoslovak Republic. At first this change caused a serious economic crisis among many of the Jews of Halmeu who lost their markets across the border. However, they quickly became accustomed to the new situation and took advantage of new markets in Romania. During the first post-war decade, the community grew and the Jewish population increased, especially as a result of internal migration from the surrounding villages. During the second inter-war decade, especially in the latter half of the 1930s, a small demographic decline began. Several tens of families moved to the nearby city of Satu Mare, and a few even immigrated to other countries, especially the United States.
The community grew and broadened during that era. Additional communal institutions were added to the existing ones: the Malbish Arumim [Clothing the Naked] Society to provide clothing for the poor, especially for the children of the school and the Talmud Torah; the Sandakaut Society to support needy mothers giving birth and to provide assistance in arranging for the circumcision ceremony; and a women's organization to provide assistance and help to poor families. The long-standing Chevra Kadisha also rejuvenated itself and took on new roles, such as concerning itself with families whose head had become ill, and other such roles. The Talmud Torah employed seven teachers, and approximately 75 students attended the cheders of the organization. The rest of the students studied with individual teachers. In November 1934, the cornerstone of the Jewish School of Halmeu, affiliated with the Talmud Torah, was laid. The Romanian Minister of Education was present at the ceremony.
Several Hassidic Beis Midrashes existed alongside the Great Synagogue. The number of these grew during that period. Aside from them, two private minyans that worshipped in the Sephardic-Hassidic style were conducted at the homes of two of the grandchildren of Admorim who lived in the town: the Beis Midrash of Rabbi Halberstam, the Rabbi of Dushinya [Spas], and the grandson of Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz; and the Beis Midrash of Rabbi Shmelke Leifer, a grandson of Reb Mordechaile of Nadworna.
The last rabbi of the community of Halmeu was Rabbi Yaakov Shalom Klein (1876-1944), the son of the previous rabbi. He was one of the important rabbis of Transylvania, and maintained a Yeshiva of significant size. (At the heights of its activities, it had 120 students). Rabbi Klein perished in the Holocaust.
Economic and Societal Live: During this era, significant changes took place in economic life. Many of the well-to-do people of Halmeu lost their livelihoods, whereas new people, who had become more accustomed to the winds of the times and the Romanian regime, ascended on the economic scale. According to a list composed by the survivors of the community, between the two world wars, the Jews of Halmeu earned their livelihoods from the following areas of employment: 20 owners of land, estates, vineyards and fruit orchards; 15 shopkeepers; 4 hide merchants; 10 tavern and inn keepers; 10 wheat merchants; 4 wood merchants; 14 textile and haberdashery businessmen; 10 bank owners and employees; 30 tradesmen; 3 physicians; 1 lawyer; 2 government officials; 1 judge; 10 communal officials (rabbis, rabbinical judges, shochtim, beadles); 15 with other miscellaneous sources of livelihood; 20 poor people in need of support.
From a social perspective, the vast majority of the Jews of Halmeu were not involved in Hungarian culture. Aside from the small intellectual class, the masses of Jews lived in accordance with the culture of their people and the tradition of their forebears. A great many of the Jews of Halmeu were scholars who were occupied with the study of Torah day and night. The vast majority spoke Yiddish. In the census of 1930, 1,173 Jews of Halmeu indicated that Yiddish was their mother tongue.
Zionism: There was barely any Zionist activity in Halmeu during the first decade after the First World War. Apparently, the first Zionist activity took place in 1928, when approximately 10 girls set up a chapter of the non-factional Aviva youth group. The religious youth established a Mizrachi Youth chapter during the 1930s. Its members were forced to struggle against the rabbi who declared a ban upon Mizrachi in 1932. In 1935, a group of Hapoel Hadati was founded, with 60 members and supporters. At the end of the 1930s, a chapter of the Barisia youth movement was founded. Zionist activity in Halmeu always fluctuated between strength and weakness, as can be shown by the following facts: In 1933, 19 shekels [tokens of membership in the Zionist Movement] were sold; in 1935 15; in 1935 75; in 1936 49; in 1938 56; and in 1939 88 shekels (Mizrachi 68, Barisia 20).
The Holocaust: Already at the end of 1940, after the Hungarians entered northern Transylvania, several decrees were enacted against the Jews of Halmeu, primarily in the economic realm. The civic government confiscated the property of many of the owners of enterprises and shops under the pretext of aryanization, and transferred ownership to Hungarians. In July 1941, the civic government began to deport entire families across the border, under the pretext that they were not Hungarian citizens. The deportees were given over to the hands of the Gestapo, [Page 128]
who transferred some of them to immediate murder in Kamenetz-Podolsk, and moved the remainder to several ghettos in Galicia. In 1942, several tens of the Jews of Halmeu were drafted to forced labor. Some were transferred to Ukraine, where most of them perished from hunger, cold, hard labor, and especially murderous beatings.
At the beginning of May 1944, all of the Jews of Halmeu were concentrated in the Great Synagogue where their belongings were searched for valuables. Many of them were cruelly tortured in order to expose the location of the hidden property. After a week, the Jews of Halmeu were transferred to the Selish Ghetto. There too, they endured torture and degradation. From there, they were deported to the death camps of Auschwitz, were 80% of the Jews of Halmeu perished.
After the war, a few Jews of Halmeu returned to their town. Jews from the nearby villages also joined them. The Great Synagogue had been severely damaged. The survivors conducted prayers in the Beis Midrash of the Yeshiva, and also attempted to revive a semblance of communal life. They began to leave Halmeu during the early 1950s, and the vast majority immigrated to Israel.
Today, only individual Jews live in Halmeu.
Schwartz, Yehuda (edior): An Eternal Memorial to the Holy communities of Halmeu-Turcz and the District, Tel Aviv (5728 / 1968) (photocopied);
Shik, Moshe: Respnosa of Maharam Shik Yoreh Deah, Muncacz 5641 / 1881, paragraphs 356, 356;
Even Haezer, Lemberg 5644 / 1884, paragraph 74;
Teitelbaum, Yekutiel Yehuda: Responsa Avnei Tzedek, Yoreh Deah, Lemberg, 5645 / 1885 paragraph 11;
Even Haezer, ibid. 5646 / 1886, paragraphs 28, 33;
Choshen Mishpat, paragraphs 9, 10;
Weinberger, Yehoshua Aharon Tzvi: Responsa Mahariatz, Margareten 5673 / 1913, Orach Chaim, paragraphs 13, 14;
Glick Avraham Yitzchak: Responsa Yad Yitzchak, Section III, Satmar 5669 / 1909, paragraphs 87, 88;
Fuchs, Moshe Hersch: Responsa Yad Rama, Grosswardein 5700 / 1940, Section I, paragraphs 8, 63, 64, 104, 105; Section II, paragraphs 12, 34, 38, 39, 60, 75;
Greenwald, Moshe: Responsa Arugat Habosem, Orach Chaim, Svolyava 5674 / 1914, paragraph 193;
Yoreh Deah, Section II, Satu Mare, 5686 / 1926, paragraphs 125, 159, 191;
Greenwald, Yehuda, Responsa Zichron Yehuda, Section II, Ujhel, 5688 / 1928, paragraph 128;
Engel, Shmuel, Responsa Marash Engel, Section III, Bardejov 5686 /1926, paragraph 117; Section VII, London 5717 / 1957, paragraph 113;
Winkler, Mordechai Leib, Responsa Levushei Mordechai, First edition, Tolcsva 5672 / 1912, Orach Chaim, paragraph 5;
Yoreh Deah paragraph 123; Even Haezer, paragraph 21; Second edition, Budapest 5682 /1932;
Yoreh Deah paragraph 65; Miskolc 5697 / 1937, paragraph 103;
Dushinski, Yosef Tzvi: Responsa Maharitz, Jerusalem 5717 / 1957, paragraph 144.
Stein Artúr: A zsidók anyakönyvei és konskripciói. Budapest 1941, p. 40.
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