Paloczy Street Synagogue, Miskolc, ca. 1900. Postcard printed in Hungary. (YIVO)

Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the


Seat of Borsod county, Hungary. Founded by a steady stream of immigrants from Moravia from the 1720s on, the Jewish community of Miskolc grew slowly during the eighteenth century. Until the 1820s, its only functioning communal institutions were the burial society, founded in 1767, and a seven-man executive committee appointed in 1769 to collect the Toleration Tax on behalf of the royal crown. The community had no rabbi until the 1770s, and, until 1784, only a single school, which had been founded in 1734. A Josephinian Normalschule, established in 1784 and highly praised by Ferenc Kazinczy, superintendant of schools for the Habsburg government and a leading figure in the Magyar national revival, functioned for just three years.

The growing influence of nobles in Miskolc eliminated all restrictions on Jewish settlement by 1820. The Jewish population increased to 389 by 1828; to 1,096 by 1837; and to 2,937 by 1848. From 1848 to 1920 Jews constituted about 20 percent of the city’s total population. By 1869, there were 4,770 Jews in the town, and numbers rose to 5,117 by 1880; to 8,551 by 1900; and to 10,291 by 1910. The Jewish population remained at approximately 10,000 until 1944.

According to the census of 1848, the three most common occupations for Jews were in commerce, tavernkeeping, and artisanry. Jewish artisans first organized in 1813 and were recognized as an official guild by the royal crown and the county diet in 1836. Jews were among the city’s leading commercial and industrial entrepreneurs. Joseph Lichtenstein, for example, was a cofounder in 1845 of the first credit bank in Miskolc.

The first synagogue, built in 1786, was restored after being damaged in a fire in 1843. In 1861, construction began on a new, larger synagogue on Kazinczy Street, which was completed in 1863 and was followed by the Paloczy Street synagogue in 1901. By 1880, Miskolc had three yeshivas and three Talmud Torah schools. In 1895, some 800 Jewish students studied at these schools, and an additional 800 were enrolled in vocational programs.

At the entrance to a kosher butcher shop, Miskolc, Hungary, ca. 1985. Photograph © Yale Strom. (Courtesy of the photographer)

Although religiously traditional, Miskolc Jews introduced certain innovations associated with Reform Judaism as early as the 1830s (notably, they allowed weddings to be performed in the synagogue as opposed to the traditional custom of outdoor ceremonies). The completion of the Kazinczy Street synagogue in 1863 precipitated a conflict between Ezekiel Mozes Fischman, chief rabbi of Miskolc, and Hillel Lichtenstein, the ultra-Orthodox rabbi of Szikszó. At the end of the 1860s, the community wavered over whether to affiliate as Orthodox or Neolog. After the leadership chose to affiliate with Orthodoxy in 1869, the members of the Kazinczy synagogue became Neolog in 1870. In 1875, the two communities were reunited as a single Orthodox community. A decade later, a small contingent organized a Status Quo congregation, and Hasidic Jews organized a separate congregation after rejecting innovations with respect to marriage ceremonies. The Miskolc rabbinate was consistently moderate in its traditional outlook. Fischman (1836–1875), Moritz Rosenfeld (1878–1908), and Salomon Spira (or Shapira; 1898–1944) brokered compromises between traditional and progressive positions.

Noted individuals from Miskolc included Pinḥas Heilprin, a maskil who immigrated from Galicia in 1843 and was among the most outspoken critics of Samuel Holdheim’s radical reform; his son Mihály Heilprin, who composed Hungarian poetry in 1848 and was active in the revolutions of 1848–1849; Abraham Hochmuth, whose statewide program of education reform during the 1850s was based on changes he had introduced in Miskolc during the 1840s; Mihaly Popper, a leading voice of moderation and compromise at the General Jewish Congress of Hungary of 1868–1869; Samuel Austerlitz, one of the first Hungarian rabbis to become an ardent Zionist; and Lajos Hatvany-Deutsch, who often alluded to Miskolc in his semiautobiographical novels.

Miskolc Jewry was known for its communal institutions and organizations. The Jewish Artisans Guild, founded in 1836, later became the Miskolc Israelite Artisans Association. Emperor Franz Joseph personally acknowledged the Jewish Women’s Association, founded in 1847, during his visit to Miskolc in 1880. The Teachers Training Institute, founded in 1846, and Erzsébet Gymnasium for girls, founded in 1901, were among the leading educational institutions of their kind in Central Europe.

During the interwar period, Jews in Miskolc faced rising antisemitism, spearheaded by Lörincz Sim, a local police officer. A period of economic decline began in 1923, but Jews remained prominent in commerce, medicine, and law. The numerus clausus of 1919 temporarily reduced the number of Jewish students in the local public schools. In 1925, there were 2,571 Jewish students in Miskolc schools, but by 1944 the number had fallen to 1,588. The protection of the Hungarian minister of education partially rectified the situation. The number of Jewish students in local gymnasia then increased from a low of 23 in 1923 to 283 by 1939. After 1928, the Teachers Training Institute taught Hebrew as a recognized language.

On 20 June 1942, all men age 60 and under were taken into forced labor, mostly at the Hatvan labor camp. Jewish war veterans, some of whom displayed national colors, became officers in the camp. The postwar Jewish population of Miskolc has never exceeded 400.

Suggested Reading

István Dobrossy, ed., Miskolc Története, vol. 3 (Miskolc, 1998–2003); Nathaniel Katzburg, Pinkas ha-Kehilot: Hungaryah (Jerusalem, 1976), pp. 359–365; Aron Moskovits, Jewish Education in Hungary, 1848–1948 (New York, 1964), pp. 4, 79, 235–238, 288; Shlomo Paszternák, Miskolc és környéke mártirkönyv (Bene Berak, 1970); Péter Ujvári, ed., Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929; rpt. Budapest, 2000), pp. 606–608.