Hungary

Personalities. Movers & shakers.

Imagine stepping back in time and meeting the Jewish heroes responsible for making Jewish history. Those central figures may no longer be physically with us, but you can feel their impact and influence in every site you explore.
Begin your journey through the lives of famous Jews in history now.

Aaron Chorin 1766-1844

Chorin was a Hungarian rabbi, the leader of a new Judaism which included many creative concepts but which came into harsh conflicts with the Jewish establishment. He also worked for Jewish emancipation with the state authorities.

Béla Kun 1866-1938

Born to a Jewish father and a formerly Protestant mother, Kun grew up to become a revolutionary who led the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919. Kun immigrated to the Soviet Union after the fall of the Hungarian revolution where he was arrested and executed during the great terror of the late 1930’s. His name was exonerated after the death of Stalin.

Hanna Szenes 1921-1944

Born in Hungary, Szenes joined the Zionist Student Organization and emigrated to Mandatory Palestine, where she joined the Haganah. In 1943 she enlisted in the British Army and was one of the parachutists participating in the mission to rescue the Hungarian Jews before their deportation to Auschwitz by the Nazis. She was captured at the Hungarian border and tortured but refused to speak. She was later executed by a firing squad. Considered a heroine in Israel, her poetry is widely known and recited.

Hatam Sofer 1762-1839

Born as Moses Schreiber, he is known as Moshe Sofer or Hatam Sofer, meaning Seal of the Scribe. Sofer was a leading European Orthodox rabbi and as the rabbi of Pressburg (Bratislava) he established what became the most influential yeshiva in Central Europe, which following the end of World War II was relocated to Jerusalem.

Ignaz Einhorn 1825-1875

Ignaz Einhorn (Eduard Horn) was a rabbi, journalist, political economist and politician who made it to the rank of State Secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Commerce in the late 1860’s. As a rabbi, he promoted Reform as an alternative Judaism, permitting mixed marriages (he himself was married to a Catholic), ending circumcision, shifting Shabbat worship to Sunday etc. Einhorn was also the founder of the Alliance Israelite Universelle.

Imre Kertesz 1929-2016

This award-winning author is a Holocaust survivor who was deported at the age of 14 to Auschwitz and later sent to Buchenwald. Kertesz won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002, the first Hungarian to do so.

Mátyás Rákosi 1892-1971

Although he was born a Jew, Rakosi repudiated his religion. After World War I he joined the Communists and fled to the Soviet Union, returning in 1924 to Hungary where he was imprisoned until 1940. From 1945 to 1956 he was the leader of the Communist Party in Hungary but was then forced to retire in the Kirgis Soviet Socialist Republic. After his death in 1971, his ashes were secretly brought back for burial in Budapest.

Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum 1887-1979

Teitelbaum is the founder and first Grand Rebbe of the Satmar Dynasty and a major figure in the postwar renaissance of Hasidism, which rejected modernity and opposed Zionism. During the Second World War Teitelbaum provided shelter and forged documents for Jewish refugees who arrived illegally from German-occupied territories. In 1944 the Germans entered Hungary and the Jews of Satmar were herded into a ghetto. The rabbi and his family tried to escape to Romania but were caught and put in the ghetto in Kolozsvar. He eventually received a visa, making his way to Jerusalem in 1945 and then immigrated to the United States, resettling in Brooklyn where he lived for the rest of his life.

 

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