(Rus., Uzhgorod; Slov., Užhorod; Hun., Ungvár), city in Ukraine. Ungvár was the historical capital of Ung county in Subcarpathian Rus’, then a region of Hungary. In 1919, after the region became part of Czechoslovakia, the authorities chose the city as the region’s capital, partly, it has been alleged, because it had a smaller Jewish population than the larger Mukačevo (Hun., Munkács; now Ukr. Mukacheve) in Bereg county. By 1941, there were 9,576 Jews living there, representing 27.2 percent of the town’s population.
Evidence is disputed about when Jews first arrived in Ungvár. While some claim that the first Jewish settlement was a Sephardic community in the fifteenth century, others identify refugees from the Khmel’nyts’kyi rebellion of 1648–1649 as its first settlers. Migrant Jews from Galicia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries contributed to the growth of the Jewish population.
Many of the settlers were Hasidim, although until the nineteenth century no important Hasidic dynasty was located in Ungvár. It was non-Hasidic Jews, the so-called “Ashkenazim” to the Hasidic “Sephardim,” who dominated the community. At the beginning of the nineteenth century a yeshiva, the first in Subcarthanian Rus’, was founded there; in addition, some important disciples of Ḥatam Sofer served as rabbis of the community. They included Me’ir Esh (Eisenstadter; d. 1852), his son Menaḥem Esh (d. 1863), and Ḥayim Tsevi-Hirsh Mannheimer (1814–1886), all of whom also played national roles. Typically, from the time of the founding of the Hungarian kolel in Jerusalem in the middle of the nineteenth century, the rabbi of Ungvár representing the Orthodox communities in eastern Hungary would serve as copresident with the rabbi of Pressburg. El‘azar Löw also served as head of the rabbinical presidium of the national Orthodox association. Another notable resident was the dayan (rabbinical judge) Shelomoh Ganzfried (1804–1886), who compiled the Kitsur Shulhan `arukh (1864), the abridged version of the Shulḥan ‘arukh still in use today.
Liberal Judaism was not an active force in Ungvár. While one pioneer of Hungarian Haskalah and Reform, Marcus Nissa Weiss, was active at the end of the eighteenth century, the Neolog movement played only a minor role in the mid-nineteenth century, and Reform collapsed after some 30 years, in the 1890s. The city remained a center for the publication of traditional rabbinic works from the 1920s until the Holocaust.
During the Hungarian revolution in 1848–1849, Ungvár sent 14 Jewish men to serve in the army, and the congregation fully equipped a battalion of soldiers. The concentration of secular intelligentsia, and large numbers of physicians, lawyers, printers, and clerks, contributed to both the rise of Magyar nationalism and the appearance of religious reform. The efforts of this sector to develop modern education met with determined opposition by the Orthodox. When in the mid-1860s a debate developed around the establishment of a rabbinical seminary, Me’ir Eisenstadt led the opposition successfully. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, government authorities imposed secular schools on the population as part of its Magyarization program.
During the Czechoslovak period (1919–1938), many parents sent their children to Czech schools even though the language of the local population was Ruthenian or Magyar. In 1934, a Hebrew high school was founded; it upheld conservative religious values and encountered only minor rabbinical opposition. After the Hungarian occupation of the region, the high school underwent intensive Magyarization, and in April 1944, with the beginning of deportations to Auschwitz, it closed its doors.
Užhorod during this time was an important center of finance and industry, areas in which Jews played leading roles. In the twentieth century, Zionist and non-Zionist organizations gained a firm base; the city became a stronghold of the Židovská Strana (Jewish Party). Some Jews, however, continued to support pro-Magyar circles.
During the Hungarian reoccupation of the region, from 1939 until the end of World War II, local Magyars spearheaded the persecution of Ungvár Jewry. In 1944, the Jews of Ung county were concentrated and sent to a ghetto; this policy began on 16 April, and two days later Jews were forced into a brick factory and lumberyard outside the city. Some 25,000 persons were confined with inadequate supplies of food and water; soon, the outbreak of epidemics provided the mayor with an excuse for deportations. The first transport left for Auschwitz on 17 May, the fifth and last on 31 May 1944.
Most of Ungvár’s Jews died during the war. Some survivors emigrated, but those who stayed on suffered religious, social, and national–ethnic discrimination. After the war, with Uzhgorod now within the Soviet Union, authorities nationalized the remaining synagogues. In 2005, about 600 Jews, mainly elderly, lived in the town, and institutional life, sponsored in part by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, was reviving to a degree.
Yeshayahu A. Jelinek, Ha-Golah le-ragle ha-Karpatim: Yehude Karpato-Rus u-Mukats´evo, 1848–1948 (Tel Aviv, 2003); Yehuda Spiegel, “Ungvar,” in ‘Arim ve-imahot be-Yisra’el: Matsevat kodesh li-kehilot Yisra’el she-neḥrevu, vol. 4, pp. 54–55 (Jerusalem, 1949); Yehuda Spiegel, Ungvar (Tel Aviv, 1993).