SZEGED, city in S. Hungary. Jews settled there at a relatively late date, at the close of the 18th century. Previously, the Austrian emperor and Hungarian King Charles III had left the choice "whether or not to accept Jews and gypsies" in the hands of the "free royal cities," and these cities, including Szeged, took advantage of this right to exclude them. Hence the first Jewish family settled in Szeged only in 1781; their numbers grew to 18 in 1786; 38 in 1792; 58 in 1799; 62 in 1806; and 681 in 1840. The first house was acquired by M. Pollak in 1788. Houses could be purchased by them in an extremely small area (1813). In 1844 there were 24 Jewish house owners in the town. The first register, of 1799, records two goldsmiths, two tailors, and one distiller among the Jews. The majority of the Jews in Szeged were merchants and peddlers, who were excluded from participation in the fairs. By the 1860s and 1870s Jews were active in the establishment of companies, banks, and industries, or as craftsmen. A number of crafts, such as goldsmithing and upholstery, were mostly in the hands of Jews. From the 1850s Jews also engaged in agriculture.
Throughout the community's existence, particularly when members of the Loew family served as rabbis (see below), it had an exemplary organization. The regulations of the community were drawn up in 1791 and revised in 1863, and remained in force until the Holocaust. The erection of the first synagogue was planned for 1789, but because of opposition from the authorities was not built until 1803. It was replaced by another (the "Old Synagogue") in 1839, which stood until 1905, when the Great Synagogue was erected. Noted for its magnificence, it was built upon the instructions of I. *Loew (it has been declared an architectural monument).
The first rabbi of the community was R. Jehiel (officiated 1789–90); he was followed by Hirsch Bak (1790–1843), and Leopold *Loew (1850–75), leader of the Hungarian Reform movement (see *Neology) who introduced very moderate reforms in his community. After the latter's death, W. *Bacher (1876–77), a prominent figure in the *Wissenschaft des Judentums, served as deputy rabbi and then I. *Loew succeeded his father, who died in Budapest. After World War I, J. Frenkel (who later settled in Israel) was at first acting rabbi and later rabbi of the community (1927–49). He was succeeded by J. Schindler (1950–63), and then by T. Raj.
Although the community of Szeged joined the Neologists after the schism in Hungarian Jewry following the Congress of 1869 (see *Hungary), it remained united out of respect for the Loew family. In contrast to most of the Hungarian communities, the Szeged community also granted a free hand to Zionist activities and allocated considerable sums to the national funds. The school of the community was established in 1844 and remained open until the Holocaust (1944), at first under the supervision of the rabbis of the Loew family, who acted as its principals and maintained its high standard. After World War II it resumed its work in conjunction with the institutions of *Youth Aliyah.
The Jewish population numbered 3,628 in 1869; 3,618 in 1880; 4,731 in 1890; 5,863 in 1900; 6,903 in 1910; 6,958 in 1920; and 5,560 in 1930. M. *Karman, the leading educator in Hungary, and W. Loew (a brother of I. Loew), the talented translator of Hungarian literature in the United States, were born in Szeged. The liberal and tolerant tradition toward the Jews in Szeged was replaced by anti-Jewish agitation after the establishment of the Horthy regime in the town.
Holocaust and Contemporary Periods
There were 4,161 Jews living in Szeged in 1941. After the German occupation (March 19, 1944), the Jews were confined to a ghetto with the Jews of the immediate vicinity. From there around 3,000 were deported to *Auschwitz, and others to Austria when two transports were erroneously sent to Strasshof.
About half returned from deportation, numbering 2,124 in 1946 and 927 in 1958, with a synagogue, school, old age home, and orphanage for 400 Budapest children who had lost their parents in the Holocaust. Only a few hundred Jews remained by the early 1990s.
I. Lőw and Zs. Kulinyi, A szegedi zsidók 1785-től 1885-ig (1885); Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929), 828–31.