KECSKEMET (Hung. Kecskemét), city in central Hungary. The first Jews arrived there when the area was under Turkish domination in the 16th to 17th centuries. Subsequently the city came under Austrian rule. In 1715 the municipal council was requested to order the Jews attending the fairs there to do their business separately from the other merchants. In 1746 four Jewish families from Obuda (Alt-Ofen) settled in the city. At first the Jews mainly engaged in the trade of hides and feathers. Later, they organized the internationally celebrated trade of the region in cattle, poultry, preserves, alcoholic liquor, and wine.
A community was established in 1801, and in 1814 the Jews were authorized to use a house which they had purchased as a synagogue. The Jews in Kecskemet were attacked during the revolution of 1848 and their shops were looted. The community was declared neologist (see *Neology) in 1868. A magnificent synagogue was erected in 1871; it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1911 but was rebuilt in 1913. A separate Orthodox community was founded in 1917. After the end of World War I, following the collapse of the brief Communist regime, the White Terror fomented pogroms in the town and eight Jewish victims lost their lives.
Rabbis of Kecskemet included Simeon Fischmann, Armin Perls, later rabbi of *Pecs, Joseph Bárány, Joseph Borsodi (1916–42), and Joseph Schindler (1942–50) who, after his return from the concentration camps, continued to hold rabbinical office in the city. There was a Jewish school in the city from 1844 to 1870.
In the wake of the growing antisemitism after 1930 there was an increase in Zionist activity, particularly after 1939. The Jewish population numbered 47 in 1785, 441 in 1840, 1,514 in 1869, 1,984 in 1900, 1,860 in 1920, 1,567 in 1930, and 1,346 in 1941.
In May 1944, after the German invasion of Hungary (March 19, 1944), the Jews in Kecskemet were rounded up and treated with exceptional brutality by members of the SS from among the Hungarian Volksdeutsche. Their suffering was so great that 70 of them committed suicide by taking poison; 13 people were smuggled out at the last minute with the aid of forged documents. At the end of June, the 940 remaining Jews in the ghetto were sent to Auschwitz, from which only 150 returned.
Between 1945 and 1947, there were 410 Jews living in Kecskemet, including refugees from the siege in Budapest. The Jewish population numbered 221 in 1949, 84 in 1954, and 40 in 1970.
J. Bárány, in: IMIT, 9 (1899), 102–26; M. Sandberg, Shanah le-Ein Keẓ (1966).