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synagogue ruin in 1984 [February 2009]

Synagogue has been renovated. Two Jewish cemeteries: the old one next to old castles ruins on the island between rivers Tisza and Bodrog. This cemetery could only be accessed with a boat. Caretakers are Mr. Lajos Lowy (Rákóczi u. 41) and Mr. László Dudovics (Bodrogkeresztúri u. 8). The new cemetery is on Bodrogkeresztúri Road."Tokaj" - Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Hungary [March 2009]

Synagogues Without Jews: photos. "Tokaj is located in northeastern Hungary, in the Zemplen district, where the Bodroy and Tisza Rivers intersect. The area is famous for its fine wine---and the first Jews who settled here were wine merchants. Their settlement, which began in the 17th century, was curtailed in 1680 when a national uprising caused the whole district to be looted and burned by the army of Ferenc R k¢czi II. Jews, in particular, suffered from the actions of the occupying army and were eventually driven out by the general instability of the town.

Jews began returning to Tokaj in the 18th century. Again, they focused on wine production by leasing vineyards and wine cellars, and they were very successful, so successful, that they managed to arouse their neighbors' jealousy. In 1798 the Jews were forbidden to produce high-quality wine and in 1800 they were forbidden to lease or buy vineyards in Tokaj, save for one area in the district.The Jews prospered in Tokaj despite the odds against them,. They owned large houses in the city's center, established several community-run philanthropic organizations and constructed a beautiful synagogue, one of the ten largest in Hungary. By the mid-19th century, the Jews had branched out into other business ventures. A match factory was opened in 1879 and there were Jewish banks which financed industrial enterprises. For the most part, the Jews of Tokaj worked as merchants and artisans, but there were some who served as physicians, lawyers, and clerks.

The community was Orthodox. It had its own school, where they taught religion and tradition while still placing an emphasis on Hungarian patriotism. The Tokaj authorities must have had some interest in the Jewish school, because by 1888 the language of instruction was changed from German to Hungarian and the teachers had to be certified. The relationship between the Jews and Christians also improved over time. The Jews faced little discrimination before World War II, and even after the war began they maintained a normal way of life until the German occupation.In the 1930s Tokaj became an important center for Zionist activity. While most of the middle-class did not personally consider aliyah, they supported the Zionist movement through their efforts to collect money and to publish its philosophy. For the young Jews of Tokaj there was a youth movement, Barisia, which inspired some immigration to Palestine.

By 1938, the Jewish community numbered close to 1,000, in a total population of 5,903. That year, when the Discriminatory Laws were passed to limit Jewish economic activity, the Jews were still able to hold onto their businesses through the help of Christian partners. The situation changed when Germany occupied Hungary in 1939. Jewish men over 40 were conscripted to forced labor at work camps all over Hungary. Many wealthy members of the Tokaj community were put into concentration camps in Kistarcsa. In April of 1944, all the Jews of Tokaj were forced into a ghetto composed of their own synagogue and yeshivas. By May they were taken to other cities in the area, and eventually transported to Auschwitz. When the war ended, only 112 Jews returned to Tokaj. Of these, only three Jews remained by 1960. One of them, Lajos Lowy, tried to restore the synagogue. A great deal of progress was made on the project in the early 1990s, but it stalled in an unfinished state for lack of funds. The building is occasionally used for special events." [February 2009]

BOOK: Itt van Elrejive: Tokaj-Hegyaljai zsido temtok (Here lays: The Jewish cemeteries in the region of Tokaj-Hegyaljai [Hungary}), by O. Wirth. Budapest, 1988. 157 pages, chiefly illustrated, Hungarian. S86B1637. Notes: inscription photographs (some readable), region Jewish history, men index: 32 personal names (2: + family names), Women index: 20 personal names (2: + family names).
Source: Printed Books on Jewish cemeteries in the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem: an annotated bibliography. Jerusalem: The Israel Genealogical Society, 1997 by Mathilde Tagger TOKAJ (I): US Commission No.

TOKAJ (I): US Commission No. 000021

Located in Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen at 48°07' 21°25', 30 km from Nyiregyhaza. Cemetery is at Sziget (Island); Land record hrsz 605.

Responsible for site: Polgarmesteri Hivatal of Tolcaj Rakoczi ut 48 ph: 41 52511, Budapesti Orthodox Hitkozseg, of Dob u.35, H-1075 Budapest Phone: (011- 361) 132-4333, Vatosvedo es Varosszepito Egyesulet, Tolcaj, Lowry Lajos and Muzeum, Tokaj, Bethlen ter 7 of Kocsa Andrasne.

Key: Kocsa Andrasne, Tolcaj, Sziget.

Noteworthy Jews buried are David Schmoll and unknown builder of first synagogue. Last known Hasidic Orthodox burial was 1925. Tiszalkarad and Lowy (40km away) used the national monumument site, reg. no. 1468. The isolated rural forest area by water has no marker. Cemetery, reached by boat on river Bodrog, has broken masonry wall and locked gate, Size before WWII was 0.30 hectares, now-0.28.

100-500 stones are in original location with 20-100, not in original location. 25%-50% are damaged. Drainage is a constant problem. Special sections exist for men, women and rabbis. Oldest known stone is 1799-20th century. Inscriptions are Hebrew, German and Hungarian. No known mass graves. Local Jewish community owns site used for cemetery and residences. Adjacent property is residential. Boundaries smaller than in 1939 because of floods. Jewish survivors pay caretaker. Serious threat: Floods.

Peter Wirth completed survey on 11/20/91 using M.zS.L; Itt van elrejtve; Meir Sas: Vanished Communities in Hungary. Site survey: 03/11/91. Interview: Lowy Lajos at Tokaj, Rakoozi ut 41.

TOKAJ (II): US Commission No. 000022

Cemetery: Bodrogkereszturi ut 8. Present population is 1,000-5,000 with less than 10 Jews.

  • Local: Polgarmesteri Hivatal of Tokaj Rakoozi ut 48. ph: 41 52 511.
  • Regional: Budapesti Orthodox Hitkozseg, of Dob u.35, H-1075 Budapest Phone: (011-361) 132-4333.
  • Interested: Varosvedo es Varosszepito Egyesulet of Tokaj, Lowy Lajos of Tokaj Rakoozi ut 41 and Muzeum of Tokaj Bethlen ter 7. Dudovics Lajos, Lowy Lajos of Tokaj Rakoozi ut 41 and Muzeum of Tokaj Bethlen ter 7. Gluck Miklos of Tokaj Rakoozi ut 23.
  • Keyholder: Dudovics Lajos of Tokaj Bodrogkeresztum ut 8.

The pre-WWII Jewish population (census) was 959. First Rabbi was Gabriel Jakob Szenditz (died 1868) and then Rabbi Schuck David (died 1899). The Jewish cemetery was established in 1871. Rabbis Schuck David, Fanfeder and Strasser Akkiba are buried here. The last known Hasidic Orthodox Jewish burial was 1991. No other towns used this isolated suburban hillside site with a sign in Hungarian: "The Bestower." Reached by turning directly off a public road, access is open to all via a continuous masonry wall and locking gate. Pre- and post-WWII size of cemetery is 0.34 hectares.

500-5000 gravestones, 1-20 not in original location and less than 25% toppled or broken, date from 1871-20th centuries. Vegetation overgrowth and water drainage are constant problems. Special sections exist for men and women. The marble, limestone and sandstone finely smoothed and inscribed stones or flat stones with carved relief decoration, have Hebrew, German and Hungarian inscriptions. Some have traces of painting on their surfaces. The cemetery contains special memorial monuments to Holocaust victims. The cemetery contains no known mass graves. Within the limits of the cemetery are a pre-burial house, an ohel, and a well. The owner of the still-active cemetery is the national Jewish community. Adjacent properties are commercial/industrial, agricultural and residential. Boundaries are unchanged since 1939. Occasionally, organized Jewish group tours or pilgrimage groups, organized individual tours and private visitors stop. Jewish individuals within Hungary and abroad re-erected stones, patched broken stones, cleaned stones, cleared vegetation, and fixed wall and gate in 1986. Budapesti Orthodox Hitkozseg pays the regular caretaker. Weather erosion is very serious threat. Water run off from hill is destroying graves.

Lowy Lajos of Tokaj, Rakoozi ut 41 and Peter Wirth completed the survey on 10/28/91 using Zelenak Istvan: Zsido enileket Tokajbol; Wirth Peter: itt van elrejtve. They visited site on 28/10/91.

UPDATE: Alternate names: Tokay. Cemetery location: Botradkereztur Street, Tokaj, in Bodrogko County? at 48°07' 21°25', about 50 km. ENE of Miskolc. 1999 Jewish population is about 10. --Interested: Mr. Levi, who has the cemetery key and can be contacted from the bar near the synagogue. The last known Orthodox Jewish burial was 1990/91. Nearby towns used the cemetery. The suburban hillside, near a residential area, has Jewish symbols on wall. Reached by turning directly off a public road, access is open with permission. Vegetation overgrowth is minimal but a few trees have grown large. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Bethesda MD visited the site on 2 August 1998 and completed the survey on 1 March 1999.

UPDATE: In May 2003 after visiting Tokaj, Hungary, we were taken to a vineyard/winery for lunch. The owner, Tamas Dusoczky, bought this vineyard/winery in Tokaj after the Communists were driven out of power in Hungary. He found an overgrown Jewish cemetery on the property. He cleaned the cemetery and tells visitors to his winery about it. Although he is not Jewish, he said he would like to be buried there himself. The winery seemed to be in the countryside and not close to any town and yet there seemed to be a fair number of graves in it (I thought forty, my wife says twenty). There was one newer stone, a low marker between to other grvestones with the date "1944" on it. On the top left was the inscription "Nagymama (?grandmother?) 1857-1935. On the top right was "Nagypapa (?grandfather?) 1856-1911. In the center was "SOA 1944" At the bottom was "Csillag Csalad" (?Csillag family?). If you want the pictures we took of the gravestones contact us at . This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Rochester, NY [July 2003]

Last Updated on Monday, 10 October 2011 12:55
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