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BUDAPEST, capital of Hungary, formed officially in 1873 from the towns of Buda, Obuda, and Pest, which each had Jewish communities.

Buda (Ger. Ofen; Heb. אובן)

A community was formed there by the end of the 11th century. Its cemetery was located near the Buda end of the present Pest-Buda tunnel under the River Danube. In 1348 and 1360 the Jews were expelled from Buda but returned after a short interval. As Buda became the royal residence under King Sigismund (1387–1437), its community rose to prominence in the Jewish life of the country. Its leaders were entrusted by the king with the representation of Hungarian Jewry, and the position of Jewish prefect was held by members of the Buda *Mendel family, who sometimes took part in royal ceremonies. After 1490 the Jews of Buda were subjected to continual persecution, their property was frequently confiscated and the debts owing them were often unpaid. Following the Ottoman victory over the Hungarians at Mohacs in 1526 many Jews from Buda fled abroad or to the western part of Hungary, while the remainder were deported to Ottoman territory. Shortly afterward, in 1528, Jews were again living in the Jewish quarter of Buda. A census of 1547 showed 75 Jewish residents in Buda and 25 newcomers. During the 150 years of Ottoman rule the Jews were severely taxed, but their numbers continued to increase. A conscription roster of 1580 numbered 88 Jewish families, comprising about 800 persons, including three rabbis, inhabiting 64 houses. They engaged in commerce and finance, and sometime rose to hold official posts in the treasury as inspectors or tax collectors. Jews specialized in the manufacture of decorative braids for uniforms; the family physician of the pasha of Buda was a Jew (c. 1550). In 1660 the community numbered approximately 1,000 and was the largest and wealthiest in Hungary. The ruinous fighting between the Ottoman and Austrian imperial forces put an end to this prosperity. The Jews sided with the Turks; when in 1686 Buda was taken by Austria only 500 Jews survived the siege, the Jewish quarter was pillaged, and the Torah scrolls were burnt.

Jewish residence in Buda was prohibited until 1689, when a few Jews began to resettle there and had a prayer room by 1690. In 1703, when Buda was constituted a free royal city, a struggle began between the Jews of Buda, who preferred to remain under royal protection, and the citizenry which made efforts to extend its jurisdiction to the Jewry. This culminated in a decree ordering the expulsion of the Jews in 1712. In 1715 Charles III ordered the burghers to end the continual disturbances and a more tranquil period ensued. A few Jewish families were exempted by the emperor from certain restrictions. The exemptions led to an attack and plunder of Jewish homes in the fall of 1720. Charles, however, again gave them protection. According to a 1735 census, the community numbered 35 families (156 persons), the majority merchants; five families owned open stalls. The repeated accusations of the citizenry bore fruit, however, under *Maria Theresa who in June 1746 issued a decree ordering the expulsion of the Jews from Buda. The obstinate resistance of the burghers was broken by *Joseph II, and in 1783 Jewish residence was again permitted. The antagonism of the guilds recrudesced during the Hungarian revolution of 1848 when renewed demands were made for the Jews' expulsion.


Organized communal life in Buda dates to the 13th century. Under King Matthias Corvinus (1458–90) the head of this community had jurisdiction over the Jews of the entire country. During the Ottoman era, Buda Jewry had Sephardi and Ashkenazi congregations. Two synagogues are known to have existed in 1647.


The first rabbi whose name is recorded was *Akiva b. Menahem ha-Kohen (15th century) known by the honorific of nasi. In the second half of the 17th century difficulties in finding appropriate candidates for the rabbinate of Buda compelled the community to employ as rabbis scholars passing through Hungary on pilgrimage to Ereẓ Israel. *Ephraim b. Jacob ha-Kohen, a refugee from Vilna, became rabbi of Buda in 1660. About this time the movement of *Shabbetai Ẓevi gained a large following in Buda; a number of rabbis, among them Ephraim's son-in-law Jacob Sak, supported the messianic movement. The Austrian capture of Buda is recorded in the Megillat Ofen of Isaac b. Zalman *Schulhof. Jacob's son was the celebrated Ẓevi Hirsch *Ashkenazi (Ḥakham Ẓevi). Among rabbis of the Haskalah period was Moses Kunitzer. Prominent Jews of Buda in the 19th and 20th centuries include the orator and poet Arnold Kiss (d. 1940), and the scholar and educator Rabbi Bertalan Edelstein (d. 1934).


The synagogue of the Jewish community of Buda fort is mentioned in the Buda chronicle of 1307 as having stood beside the Jews' Gate. It remained in existence until the expulsion of the Jews from Buda in 1360. The second synagogue, built in 1461 in the new Jews' Street, survived until the recapture of Buda. It is mentioned and reproduced in 17th-century engravings. A Sephardi house of worship has been revealed, dating back to the Ottoman era. Subsequently the Jews of Buda could only hold prayer meetings in rented rooms. In 1866 a temple was built in Moorish style in Öntöház Street. In the heyday of assimilationism (from the mid-19th century), especially after the administrative union of Buda and Pest, the Pest community repeatedly tried to impose its hegemony on that of Buda, which, however, succeeded in safeguarding its unique historical character. The Buda community opened an elementary school in 1830.

Obuda (Hung. Óbuda, Ger. Alt-Ofen, Heb. אובן ישן)

"Old Buda," a village and later part of Buda, had a Jewish community in the 15th century which disappeared after the Ottoman conquest in 1526. It was rehabilitated from 1712 on, when the Jews lived under the protection of the counts Zichy, who granted them a charter in 1746, and to whom they paid an annual protection tax. The 1727 census records 24 Jewish families living in Obuda, and the 1737 annual conscription roster, 43. By 1752 there were 59 families, and the community employed two rabbis and three teachers; by 1784 there were 109 families with four teachers. The 1803 conscription list records 527 families. An elementary school was opened in 1784, the first secular Jewish school in the country. Moses *Muenz was rabbi in Obuda from 1781 to 1831. The Jewish linen weavers of Obuda won a reputation for the town; the Goldberger factory had an international reputation. After the revolution of 1848–49 a large contribution was levied on the Obuda community. The old synagogue of Obuda was demolished in 1817 and an imposing new one, still in existence, was consecrated in 1820. Julius *Wellesz was rabbi of Obuda from 1910 to 1915.


Jews are first mentioned in Pest in 1406; in 1504 they owned houses and land. Records again mention Jews living in Pest from the middle of the 16th century, and a cemetery is known to have existed by the end of the 17th. After the Austrian conquest in 1686, Jewish residence within the city was prohibited. In the middle of the 18th century Jews were allowed to attend the country-wide weekly markets held in Pest, but the only Jews permitted to stay in the city for a specified time were Magranten ("transients"; see *Familiants laws). In 1783 Joseph II abrogated the municipal charter with its exclusion privileges and permitted Jews to resettle in Pest. The first "tolerated" Jew received permission to settle within the city walls in 1786 in return for paying a "toleration tax" to the local governorate. Article 38 of the De Judaeis law passed in 1790 ratified the legal position of the Jews established under Joseph II. In Pest, however, the law was understood to apply only to Jews living there before 1790, hence new arrivals were not permitted to settle permanently. An attempt was even made to expel the married children of the "tolerated" Jews. In 1833 there were 1,346 Jewish families in Pest. The restrictions on Jewish residence were abrogated by article 29 of the annual national assembly of 1840. Jews had the right to establish factories, and engage in trade and commerce as well as to acquire property. Pest Jewry took the lead in pressing for the abolition of the tolerance tax, and in 1846 the "chamber dues" were abolished. On the outbreak of the Hungarian revolution of 1848, Jews volunteered for civil defense, but the German citizens of Pest objected to their enrollment. On April 19 a mob which attacked the Jewish quarter was repelled by the military. Nevertheless many Jewish youths enlisted in the revolutionary army, and the Jews of Pest gave large financial contributions to the revolutionary cause. After the suppression of the revolt, a huge contribution was levied on the Pest community, and to help the Obuda and Pest communities a collection was made by Hungarian Jewry of 1,200,000 forints. The Pest community played a leading role in the struggle for *emancipation in Hungary. The half century preceding World War I was a period of prosperity and cultural achievement for Pest Jewry. Their numbers increased, and they played a prominent role in the capital's economic development. Max *Nordau and Theodor *Herzl were born there during this period. With the growth of Nazism before World War II Jewish communal and economic life was again restricted.


Active community life is not recorded in Pest until the first half of the 18th century. The first synagogue was opened in 1787, and in 1788 the community received a burial site from the municipality; Moses Muenz of Obuda officiated as rabbi. The first rabbi of Pest (1793), was Benjamin Ze'ev (Wolf) *Boskowitz. Other noted rabbis of the community were Loew *Schwab, S.L. Brill, W.A. Meisel, S. *Kohn, M. *Kayserling, S. *Hevesi, and J. *Fischer. The new constitution for the religious community, approved by the local authorities, came into effect in 1833. The noted Orientalist I. *Goldziher served as secretary of the Neolog community of Pest from 1874 to 1904. A separate Orthodox community was established in Pest in 1871. Koppel *Reich became its rabbi in 1886, and a member of the Hungarian upper house in 1926.

See *Orthodoxy, *Reform


The Jews of Pest rented a place for worship in the Orczy building in 1796, whose congregation observed the conservative ritual; a more progressive temple existed in the same building, known as the "Kultustempel." In 1859 a double-turreted Moorish-style temple was built in Dohány Street. Construction of the octagonal temple in Rombach Street was completed in 1872. In 1913 the synagogue of the Orthodox congregation was erected in Kazinczy Street.


The first Jewish school in Pest was established in 1814 by Israel *Wahrmann. A Jewish girls' school was opened in the fall of 1852 and in 1859 a Jewish teachers' training college was founded. After the attainment of emancipation, a number of Jewish schools closed down, including those in Buda and Obuda. The Orthodox congregation of Pest opened its school for boys in 1873. The Rabbinical Seminary and its secondary school (gymnasium), opened in 1877, helped to make Pest the center of Jewish learning. The Pest community established a comprehensive secondary school in 1891. Following the widespread antisemitism aroused by the *Tiszaeszlar blood libel case in 1882, the idea of establishing a Jewish secondary school (gymnasium) found increasing support, and in 1892 Antal Freystaedtler donated one million forints for this project. The school was opened in the fall of 1919 as the Pest Jewish Boys' and Girls' Gymnasium. Because of the existing discriminatory restrictions, the Pest community also opened an engineering and technical college and a girls' technical college. The rabbinical seminary and a secondary school continue to function.


Welfare and communal institutions of the Pest community included a hospital, opened in 1841; the hospital of the Orthodox congregation, opened in 1920; the Hungarian Jewish Crafts and Agricultural Union (MIKEFE), established in 1842; the Pest Jewish Women's Club, founded in 1868, which established an orphanage for girls in 1867; an orphanage for boys, established in 1869; the deaf and dumb institute, founded in 1876; and the blind institute, founded by Ignác Wechselmann and his wife in 1908. In 1950 the Orthodox community and the communities of Pest, Buda, and Obuda were unified by government order, forming the Budapest Jewish community existing under conditions similar to those prevailing in other communities in Soviet satellite states.

The Jewish population of Budapest, 18132004 The Jewish population of Budapest, 1813–2004

Year Numbers Percentages
1813 5,525 0.78
1830 8,750 0.81
1848 18,265 13.80
1869 44,890 16.60
1880 70,227 19.70
1910 203,687 23.10
1920 215,512 23.20
1925 207,563 21.60
1935 201,069 18.90
1941 184,453 15.80
1946 96,000 9.50
1967 50,000 3.90
2004 80,000 0.07


The annual registers of 1735–38, the first to show the number of Jewish families residing in the area which forms Budapest today, recorded 2,531 heads of families of whom 1,139 engaged in commerce. The Jewish population increased with the development of a capitalist economy and the growth of Budapest into a metropolis and reached its highest level in the period preceding and immediately following World War I. Subsequently it declined sharply due to the lowered birthrate, an increasing number of conversions to Christianity, and emigration during the counterrevolution and the Horthy regime. There were 44,890 Jews living in Budapest in 1869, 102,377 in 1890, 203,687 in 1910, 215,512 in 1920, and 204,371 in 1930. (See Table: Jewish Population of Budapest.)


A. Buechler, A zsidók története Budapesten (1901); A. Fuerst, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 2 (1948), 109–86; S. Scheiber, Magyarországi zsidó feliratok (1960), 141–300; F. Grunwald, A zsidók története Budán (1938); Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929), passim; Új Élet (fortnightly since 1945), passim; L. Venetianer, A magyar zsidóság története (1922), 147–280, 286–303; Z. Groszmann, A pesti zsidó gyüelekezet alkotmányának története (1934); S. Eppler, in: Multés Jövö (1935), 329–38; M.H. Szabó and D. Zentai, Mit mondanak a számok a zsidókérdésben (1938); E. Duschinsky, in: The Jews in the Soviet Satellites (1953); R.L. Braham, The Hungarian Jewish Catastrophe: a Selected and Annotated Bibliography (1962); idem (ed.), Hungarian-Jewish Studies (1966– ); F. Grunwald and Naményi, in: A 90 eves Dohány utcai templom (1949), 19–31; A. Moskovitz, Jewish Education in Hungary (1848–1948) (1964), includes bibliography, with additions by B. Yaron, in: KS, 41 (1965/66), 85–88; A. Scheiber, in: Seventy Years: A Tribute to the Seventieth Anniversary of the Jewish Theological Seminary of Hungary (1948), 8–30; S. Eppler, in: A pesti izraelita hitközség (1925), 55–81; A. Scheiber, in: KS, 32 (1956/57), 481–94; F. Hevesi, in: JBA, 6 (1947/48), 71–75; J. Lévai, Black Book on the Martyrdom of Hungarian Jewry (1948), passim; idem, Eichmann in Hungary (1961); E. Landau (ed.), Der Kastner-Bericht (1961), passim; Jewish Communities of Eastern Europe (1968), 30–37. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: R.I. Braham, Hungarian Jewish Catastrophe (1962), biblio.; A. Scheiber, Héber kódexmaradványok magyarországi kötéstáblákban (1969); Braham, Politics; PK Hungaria, 191–220.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.