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Rónai, János

RÓNAI, JÁNOS (1849–1919), first head of the Zionist movement in Hungary. Born in Alba-Iulia, Transylvania, he worked as a lawyer in Fogaras and Balazsfalva. Rónai wrote a book against the antisemitic movement in Hungary, led by the member of parliament G. *Istóczy, entitled Kosmopolitismus és Nationalismus különös tekintettel a zsidóság jelenkori állására ("Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism with Special Consideration of the Jewish Situation in Our Time," 1875), in which he justified Jewish national consciousness and the need to preserve it. In 1897, before the First Zionist Congress convened in Basle, he published Zion und Ungarn, a polemical book against the opponents of Zionism. He took part in that Congress and spoke there on the situation of the Jews of Hungary, warning against the swelling reaction and antisemitism in spite of the existing liberal regime. He founded Zionist associations in Hungary and Transylvania and was persecuted by the government, which sought the assimilation of the Jews for political reasons. In the Zionist Conference of Hungary held in 1902 in Pressburg (Bratislava) with Herzl as chairman, Rónai was chosen the first chairman of the Zionist Organization in Hungary and later became its honorary president. He published articles in Die *Welt and in the Hungarian press.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929), 750; L. Marton, in: Uj Kelet (Aug. 31, 1948).