Sátoraljaújhely is one of the northernmost towns of Hungary, lying near the Slovakian border. In the 18th century, Galician Jewish families arrived in the settlement, whose main occupation was wine trade. According to verified data, the “Szentegylet” (Holy Association), predecessor of the community was established in 1771. In 1780, they operated their own hospital. The first synagogue of the town was built in 1790. The number of the Jewry grew quickly: in 1771 23, while in 1811 74 Jewish family heads were registered. Between 1808 and 1841 the rabbi of the community was Moshe Teitelbaum. In this period, 1 125 Jews were mentioned, amounting to 20% of the town’s population. Besides wine trade, Jews took up vine cultivation and wine making, as well. Jewish craftsmen, given that their chances to join a guild were scarce, tried to enter into professions involving reparation or service.

From 1869, a census was held in every 10 years, providing an accurate picture of the number and ratio of Jewry within the population of the town.

The number of the population and Jewry of Sátoraljaújhely and ratio of Jews

Name/Year 1869 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 1930 1941 1949
Number of population, capita 9 946 12 621 14 581 18 545 21 676 22 936 20 577 20 303 17 115
Number of Jews, capita 3 253 4 057 4 089 4 850 5 816 6 507 4 763 4 242 358
Ratio of Jews, % 32.7 32.1 28.0 26.2 26.8 28.4 23.1 20.9 2.1

Source: Census data


Data between 1869 and 1890 show a relatively high, 30% ratio of Jewry in the population. In this era, Jewish was the denomination with the most members in the settlement, outnumbering Roman Catholics. The time period between the Compromise of 1867, the adoption of the Emancipation Law and World War I was the golden age of the Újhely Jewry. The town, with perhaps a little exaggeration, was referred to as “Little Jerusalem”. Nevertheless, the community was shaken by the schism of 1868-1869. The majority of the Újhely Jewry supported the status quo ante, i.e. “everything should remain as it was”. The recovery at the end of the 19th century had positive impact on the economy of the town: trade flourished, new hotels and restaurants were opened. The number of Jews working in industry had grown, similarly to those working as intellectuals. The harmonious relationship of the town and its Jewry was ended by World War I and the Trianon Peace Treaty. Sátoraljaújhely became a border town, half of it belonging to Slovakia under the name Slovenské Nové Mesto. With this, an important trade route had been disconnected. The Great Depression of 1929-1933 and the increasingly anti-Semitic politics only made things worse. In spite of all these, there is no public information about serious conflicts between the Christian and Jewish population from the 1920s. From the end of the 1930s, institutionalized discrimination, the effect of anti-Jewish laws and the growing plethora of constraints became more widespread, aiming to economically plunder Jews and oust them from social positions. As an effect, smaller atrocities happened in Sátoraljaújhely, as well. After the German invasion of Poland and the beginning of deportations from Slovakia, Zemplén county became one of the main directions for the thousands of fleeing Polish and Slovakian Jews, who tried to seek refuge at their co-religionists. The authorities collected the Jews caught during the raids into internment camps. In August 1941, refugees /those labelled as stateless/ were handed over to the German by the Hungarian Law Enforcement Services /gendarmerie/ and the Army, and were executed in Kamianets-Podilskyi.

German troops invaded Hungary on March 19, 1944, and arrived at Sátoraljaújhely on March 22. The Hungarian administration started the preparation of ghettoization soon afterwards. Zemplén county had been assigned to Gendarmerie District VIII (Košice) of War Zone I, and, validating it with the approach of the Russian troops, ghettoization was started on April 15 and 16 among the first ones in the country. The only ghetto of Zemplén had been assigned in Sátoraljaújhely, into which 13-15 thousand people had been crammed in 4 days. The ghetto was built in the most derelict part of the settlement. In a month, Jews living there under inhumane conditions were transported to the Auschwitz death camp. Soldiers of the Red Army got to Sátoraljaújhely in November 1944. 550 Jews survived the Shoah. During the census of 1949 only 358 of them were residents of the town. Due to outward migration, their number decreased to 80 by 1950, ending religious life in the town. Jews leaving Sátoraljaújhely mostly found their new homes in Israel and the USA.

Existing Jewish relics of Sátoraljaújhely

The Jewish consider the ohel of the scholar rabbi, Moshe Teitelbaum an outstanding relic. The grave of the rabbi is in the old Jewish cemetery of Újhely. The resting place of the tzadik is visited by masses of pilgrims each year. The grave of the rabbi and the rebbetzin /wife of the rabbi/ can be found in the ohel. A little bit further from these graves, one can find the resting place of a Polish rabbi, Aleksander Safrin, who died while travelling through the town.

The new cemetery is located in the Southern sector of the town, at the end of Kazinczy street. Rabbi Jeremiah Lőw and his son, Eleazar Lőw, chief rabbi of Uzhhorod are buried here. Here lies Naftali Elimelech Gewurtzmann, rabbi of Antwerp, who died while visiting the town. A column has been erected in the cemetery for the several thousand Jewish martyrs of Sátoraljaújhely.

The first synagogue of the town had been built in 1790; the house of worship was used until 1887. The great synagogue was inaugurated in 1888 under 13 Dózsa György street. It was hit by a bomb during World War II. In 1963 it was discussed whether it should be transformed into a music school, using the remaining walls. The plan had not been realized. Later, a nondescript furniture store was built where the synagogue had once stood. The single-storey building of the former Hasidic house of worship can be found under 8 Bólyai Ernő street. The other great synagogue of Sátoraljaújhely, now found on the Slovakian side of the border in Slovenské Nové Mesto, has been converted, and is now used as a Christian church.





The Canadian municipality of Kiryas Tosh

The settlement of Tosh, lying 15 kilometres North of Montreal is a Hungarian village. The majority of its population are descendants of Hasidic Jews emigrating from Nyírtass in Hungary. Their rabbi was born on April 11, 1921 in Demecser, lying only 6 kilometres from Nyírtass. He was a Holocaust survivor. He was drafted into labour service, liberated by the Red Army in 1944. The rabbi settled in Nyíregyháza in the Northern part of Hungary, and married Chava Weingarten. Meshulim Löwy moved to Montreal in 1951. He established the settlement of Kiryas Tosh in 1963. They have built their independent institutional framework there. The Hasidic community have their own schools, synagogues, ambulance service, ritual baths, chevra kadisha, emergency service, kosher restaurant, butcher shop, bakery, book shop and higher education institutes. Street names in the village are also Hungarian; Rue de Tash, for instance. Thousands of pilgrims arrive to the Hungarian village from all over the world to request blessing and advice from the chief rabbi.

The famous rabbi, along with his hundreds of Hasidic Jewish followers visited Nyírtass in 2006. It was during this visit that the idea and dream of rabbi Meshulim was born, namely, to establish a centre with a synagogue in the village of his great-grandfather that provides civilized conditions for pilgrims arriving to Nyírtass each year. Today R. Elimelech Löwy is the spiritual leader of the community in Tass.


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