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Synagogues Without Jews: "The Hapsburg controlled areas of Europe, under the Catholic sovereign, Maria Theresa (1717 - 1780), were radically intolerant of many ethnic and religious groups. The Jews were no exception and the empress expelled kehillot from Prague in 1744, Buda in 1746 and Hadonin in 1774.

Subotica admitted Jews to live and work in the town by permission only. Salamon Hajduska from Topolya, Serbia was denied these privileges in 1779. Undaunted, he proceeded to Vienna to seek an audience with the monarch, one who disdainfully conducted audiences with Jews from behind a curtain. Fancifully surprised by Hajduska's audacity, Maria Theresa granted him not only an audience but ordered city officials to issue the necessary permits. She was not usually so benevolent. Her malke gelt "queens money," a tax instituted in 1749, painfully drained Jewish resources.

Joseph II (1741 - 1790), Maria Theresa's eldest child and successor, issued the Toleranzpatent in 1782. It abolished wearing the yellow badge and payment of the malke gelt. University education, business opportunities and some civil rights were opened to Jews, but they were required to adopt German personal and family names and Hebrew and Yiddish communication was forbidden. As a result, Jewish education gradually deteriorated and assimilation increased. In 1786, Jewish Subotica consisted of 12 families who had not yet achieved the right to buy property.

Jewish migration from Lower Austria, Moravia, and Galicia expanded the community and in 1802 a synagogue in rustic Baroque style was built in the northern part of the town. Two towers and a porch were added in an 1850 renovation but the building was destroyed in 1913. An official census in 1807 recorded 234 Jews. As Hebrew and Yiddish were still forbidden, Rabbi Shlomo Pulitzer, the kehillah's first rabbi, paid fines for conducting weddings in 'a foreign tongue.'

Some of the Subotica Jews fought with Hungary in its unsuccessful 1848 uprising against Austria. Unfortunately, the consequence was more taxes for the Jews and destruction and poverty in neighboring Jewish communities. To help the needy, Babette Schiffer founded the Jewish Women's Organization in Subotica, which celebrated 150 years of activity in March 2002.

Subotica, as "Szabadka," passed to Hungarian jurisdiction in 1867. Jews gained full civil rights, the community prospered and Subotica boasted Jewish professionals, academics, manufacturers and businessmen. The turn of the century kehillah, numbering 3,024, urgently needed a new synagogue. Nearby Szeged held a synagogue design contest and the Subotica parnassim eagerly claimed the unexecuted second prize plan, designed by Marcell Komor and Dezso Jakab. The massive structure, containing 1,300 seats and designed in the Secessionist style, combined Jewish symbols, Magyar folk motifs and Oriental elements.

Following WW I Lajos Pollack initiated a scholarship fund for Jewish medical students and a project to build a Jewish hospital. In 1923, the hospital was named for Rabbi Dr. Bernat Singer who had led the new synagogue (1902 - 1916). The 1930s was a time of prosperity for the 6000-member kehillah, the 4th largest in Yugoslavia. Jewish industrialists provided many employment opportunities and community life was full with cultural, sports and Zionist activities.

Three quarters of the kehillah perished in the Shoah. As postwar readjustment was so difficult, 800 of the remaining 1200 Subotica Jews came on aliyah in 1948, when the State of Israel was founded. The diminished community was incapable of maintaining its synagogue and deeded the building to the city for cultural purposes. Fortunately, public opposition prevented a real estate development on the site in the 1980s.

The World Monuments Fund listed the Subotica synagogue as a precious, endangered cultural site in 1996, 2000 and 2002. The Jewish Heritage Grant Program of the World Monuments Fund sponsored by the Lauder Foundation granted US$65,000 in 2000 to begin restoring the synagogue. An international foundation "SOS Synagogue" (Save Our Subotica Synagogue),, was founded in 2001.

Today the community has about 220 members, the majority born after WW ll. Steven Lanyi, studying at the Rabbinical Seminary of the Jewish University in Budapest is the religious leader. The kehillah has celebrated Jewish holiday services in the synagogue since May 2002, and the bat mitzvah of three young women. Ten children under the age of 12 learn in a heder every Sunday morning." [February 2009]


The Subotica Jewish community was established around 1775 and thrived as an  Austro-Hungarian Empire regional center. About 6,000 Jews resided there before WWI, almost all deported to Auschwitz in 1944. Currently about 200 members of the Jewish community make Subotica the third largest  SerbianJewish community.

Synagogue. Rákóczi Circle Street. Also see International Survey of Jewish Monuments 2000: and Trg Slobode 1. 24000 Subotica. +381 24 553 583, +381 24 525 755. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The Jewish Community address is Dimitrija Tucociva 13/I.


Jewish cemetery: Large and well-maintained, the cemetery dates from about 1780. Both an ohel and a Holocaust memorial exist. Major maintenance work began in 1999. Gravestones from the disused cemetery at Mali Iđoš (including many black marble obelisks) moved there in 2000. Another Holocaust memorial in the shape of a matzevah (gravestone) was dedicated in front of the synagogue in 1994, the fitieth anniversary of Subotica Jews' deportation to Auschwitz.  [January 2009]

The Jewish cemetery has an impressive memorial to Jewish victims of Nazi atrocities. Source: Srdjan Matic, MD, 40 West 95th Street, Apt. 1-B, New York, NY 10025; (212) 222-7783 [pre-1997]

[UPDATE] The magnificent Art Nouveau synagogue, after a twenty five year saga, was finally reopened in March 2018. 900+ "dignitaries" political figures and VIPs were in attendance. The occasion was planned "strictly under wraps" and the Jewish community or descendants were not invited. [Source: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , April 2018]

Last Updated on Saturday, 07 April 2018 21:08
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