Town in northeastern Hungary and the seat of Zemplén county before World War I. Sátoraljaújhely (also known as Újhely) was a market town that became a commercial center in the second half of the eighteenth century. Its Jewish community was founded in 1771; a burial society was formed a year later. Its first Jewish public school was established in 1785; it was closed at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Even though in 1807 the town expelled 30 Jewish families (citing immigration from Galicia, which increased the number of poor), the number of Jewish inhabitants reached 1,217 in 1825, 3,253 in 1869 and 5,730 in 1910, making up 18.6, 32.7, and 28.7 percent of the total populations in those years.
Jews living in Újhely adapted to the town’s inviting economic opportunities. They were involved in agriculture (viticulture, farm leasing) and commercial activities connected to it, primarily to the wine trade. In 1901, wine and spirit merchants Márkusz Weinberger, Márton Bettelheim, and Frigyes Schleicher, and grain merchant Adolf Blumenfeld earned the highest incomes recorded in the town. Also among the higher taxpayers were independent intellectuals, lawyers, and doctors, including Bertalan Haas, Salamon Reichard, and Vilmos Schön. Several of the latter also filled leadership roles in town and county politics. Moreover, Reichard, who served as head of the Jewish community, was elected as mayor, and Dávid Kelli became the chief of police.
Mózes (Mosheh) Teitelbaum, the foremost exponent of Hasidism in Hungary, arrived in Újhely from Galicia. In 1808, his yeshiva attracted more and more newcomers, which led to constant conflicts between Hasidim and the earlier Jewish settlers who had already become established. These conflicts split the Jewish community into Hasidic and “Ashkenazic” (that is, Orthodoxy of Ashkenazic tradition) tendencies, and Teitelbaum’s grandson was later forced to leave his rabbinic position. After the General Jewish Congress of Hungary of 1868–1869, Rabbi Jeremiás Löw, one of the leading Orthodox figures and an opponent of Hasidism, decided not to join either the Orthodox or the Neolog communities. The community therefore became what is termed Status Quo. Nonetheless, internal clashes did not cease. The most conservative members of the Orthodox group founded a “Sephardic”—that is, a Hasidic—congregation in 1876. Only in 1886 was a formal Orthodox community founded. Thus the spiritual and social segregation of Újhely Jewry led to a complete organizational split.
Internal differences did not stand in the way of the upsurge of a lively Jewish cultural and social life. The elementary school of the Jewish community was reestablished in 1838 (from 1850 to 1856 its teacher was Mihály [Michael] Heilprin, who later became a well-known writer in the United States) and the Orthodox community launched its elementary school in 1887. A Jewish hospital was founded in 1904, and both communities maintained various charity organizations.
During the last year of World War I, an anti-Jewish act took place in Sátoraljaújhely. Searching for some deserters, gendarmes broke into the synagogue and private homes; they carried off several Jews. When Albert Székely, a physician, protested these acts, he was prosecuted. In the 1920s, however, the Jews of Sátoraljaújhely actively participated in the town’s social life once again and, except for the isolated Hasidic community, integrated successfully into local society.
Beginning in the 1930s, a new wave of Jewish immigrants arrived in Sátoraljaújhely from Poland and Slovakia, raising the hostility of the Christian population. In 1939–1940, Jewish businesses were confiscated. After German occupation, intellectuals were imprisoned and many were interned. A ghetto was set up and the Jews of Sátoraljaújhely and the county were transported there beginning 15 April 1944; they were then deported between 16 May and 3 June of that year. Ultimately, about 90 percent (4,000 persons) of the town’s Jews were murdered.
Renewed anti-Jewish acts occurred in Újhely in the late 1940s. Police accused Jews of smuggling; they beat them and plundered synagogues, inflaming antisemitic sentiment. As a consequence, even though both the Orthodox and the Status Quo communities were reorganized, the total number of Jews in 1953 had dropped to 204. By 2001 there were only 6 Jews left in the town.
Tamás Csíki, Városi zsidóság Északkelet- és Kelet-Magyarországon: A miskolci, a kassai, a nagyváradi, a szatmárnémeti és a sátoraljaújhelyi zsidóság gazdaság- és társadalomtörténetének összehasonlító vizsgálata 1848–1944 (Budapest, 1999); Pinkas ha-kehilot: Hungaryah, pp. 513–515 (Jerusalem, 1976) ; Meir Sas, Vanished Communities in Hungary: The History and Tragic Fate of the Jews in Újhely and Zemplén County (Willowdale, Ont., 1986).
Translated from Hungarian by Veronika Szabó