Jewish Mementos in Vas Comitatus

Szombathely Part 3

In 1868 they employed the Rohonc teacher, Adolf Róder, he stayed for 25 years, the last of which he was director of the school.

He had been driven to the profession of teaching by the insuperable longing for knowledge. While he was 14-16 years old he could only read and write Hebrew. He had taught himself and was so successful that in 1850 he already started teaching in Keszthely. In 1868 he then came from Rohonc to Szombathely to be the teacher of the Jewish community. From 1890 on he was the director of the school. Within the Vas comitatus he worked towards magyrizing the German population. He actively partook in the life of the teaching staff which he had initiated in the 60s. His achievements in this area were recognized by the teachers’ association of the Vas comitatus and the Muraszombat teachers’ circle which elected him an honorary member. In 1870 he was teacher of the Szombathely teachers’ course.
Next to the teaching he did important literary work. Part of his writings were effective tools of the magyarization. He also was writer and editor for several local and national papers.

In 1893 he retired after 40 years of teaching. Even as a pensionist he wrote two plays and a short novel. Nominated by the minister of cultural affairs he was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit. While he had worked at the school he had completely magyarized it. His middle son, Antal Radó, who had been a student at the Szombathely Jewish elementary school is known as translator, poet and literary historian. He was full member of the Kisfaludy Society.

The institutions of the Szombathely Autonomous Orthodox Jewish Community on the corner of Aréna and Thököly (back then Hosszú Street) Street were enlarged. Apart from the already functioning synagogue they they also had a mikvah and a kosher shohet. In 1898 a denominational school was founded. A new building was erected for the school in 1900, it also functioned as council hall and community center. The elementary school employed a teacher, a handicraft teacher and a melamed (teacher of religion). Gyula Klein was the teacher of the Orthodox school. When he retired after 40 years of working as director and teacher he was honoured by the minister for cultural affairs. In 1927 a small building on Thököly Street was altered to be the school, they also built a butchery and behind that an office and a cold storage room there. After World War II it was transformed to house apartments. Nowadays it functions as office building, the original frontage however was kept throughout the renovations.

During the last third of the 19th century the Jewish communities built their most important institutions and founded organizations which had great influence in religiousness, culture and social welfare. Apart from the Chevra Kadisha already mentioned there were women’s associations, girls’ clubs, the Tomech Dalim Association for the Aid of the Poor (orthodox), the Chaunesz Evjaunim Welfare Organization (neological).
From 1896 to 1898 Pál Jungreis was rabbi of the orthodox community but his convictions were not tolerated so Márk Benedikt was appointed rabbi.

Márk Benedikt (Mordechai Meir Binét) was rabbi of the Szombathely orthodox Jewish community for 46 years. He was born 1858 in Paks and was a descendent of the great Nikolsburg rabbi Sevet Sofer, he studied in Galánta and Mieva. We was called to Szombathely in 1898. During his time in service the Jewish community grew rapidly, increasing by a decuple from 150 members. He paid great attention to the youngsters, the Jeshiva, and implemented religious education for middle school and Jeshiva. He had a good reputation not only amongst the Jews but throughout the city. He was a member of the Orthodox Central Bureau, a great scholar of the Talmud and an excellent speaker. With 86 he was murdered in Auschwitz.

Márk Benedikt founded the first Jeshiva in Szombathely, later it was lead by the Jewish community’s Dayans (assistants of the rabbi). In 1920 rabbi Avraham Einhorn was appointed Dajan and he held the position until his death in 1933. He tried to spread Hasidism not only among his students but in the whole community. On Saturday nights and during the third meal he “lead the table” (for the Hasides the table conveys the blessing of the Rebbe; the Rebbe sat at the head of the table, read from the Torah, sang, etc.). After several years the Hasides of Belz founded their own little Klojz (school house) in the yard. The students often drove from here to Belz to celebrate. Around 60 students, partly from Szombathely, partly from the surrounding area, studied at the Jeshiva. The Bocher (Talmud students) ate with Jewish families during the day. Those who could not eat with a family had the meal at their master’s table. In 1934 rabbi Gavriel Gestetner was appointed Dajan. He had studied in Unsdorf, Szatmár and with the Pressburg Jeshiva. He continued the Haside ministry at the Jeshiva. Next to simple daily tasks he also motivated the pupils to study serious Musar literature (Ethics). At the end of the Talmud tract they held a “Sijun Celebration” which was a feast accompanied by speeches by the teacher and the better educated students. The feast was organized by the Tiferes Bachurim Associations which considered it its duty to study the Talmud outside of lessons as well and to lead a life according to the Torah. Every week two Bocher collected Zedeka (donations) for the poor. Rabbi Gestetner was murdered together with his community in Auschwitz.
After the war rabbi Joszéf Grünwald, the learned rabbi from Páp in Szombathely, founded a Jeshiva and together with his students emigrated to Antwerp, 1951 to the United States of America.

The congressional community built a nursing home after the designs by Lajos Erdős, it was inaugurated on October 16, 1927. The institution, very modern for its time, could house 12 people.
A soup kitchen was established in the souterrain which was supervised by the girls’ club. 70-80 people were provided for every day.

(to Jewish Szombathely Part 4)

by Johannes Scholem Graf & Alexandra Vogt