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Bezidul Nou

BEZIDUL NOU

BEZIDUL NOU (Hg. Bőződújfalu ), village in Transylvania, Romania, inhabited by Szeklers, a distinctive ethnic group of Hungarian origin who speak a specific Hungarian dialect. In the 17th century it was an important center of the Sabbatarians, who practiced their religion mostly in secret. There were other centers of Sabbatarians in 18th century Transylvania, but they disappeared in the face of Christian hatred and enmity towards them. In 1868–69, after equal rights had been granted to Hungarian Jewry, the Sabbatarians, then numbering approximately 100, mostly poor farmers, openly practiced Judaism. The seal of the community they established was inscribed the "Proselyte Community Congregation of Jeshurun." At the beginning of the 20th century a few Jews by birth settled in the village and intermarried with the proselytes. In 1940 Bezidul Nou passed from Romania to Hungary and there followed a period of disaster because of the strong racial laws which existent in Horthiite Hungary. The authorities ordered the demolition of the synagogue; under pressure from the local Christian clerics and the Hungarian Horthiite authorities, most of the community became converted to Unitarianism. From 1940 the leaders of the congregation tried to obtain exemption for their members from the anti-Jewish racial laws. On Oct. 3, 1941, the Hungarian minister of justice signed an order enabling the descendants of Sabbatarians to obtain certificates of exemption. There were then 94 proselytes living in Bezidul Nou, while an additional 30–40 persons originating from the village or the vicinity also obtained certificates. These were still being issued by the Hungarian ministry of justice in spring 1944, a few days before the German occupation. When ghettos were established, the proselytes were deported to the Marosvasarhely ghetto together with the other Jews who lived in the region. Some of their leaders succeeded in reaching Budapest and obtained certificates for a small number already confined in the ghetto, who were subsequently released. Those who did not wish to accept the certificates were deported to *Auschwitz.

After World War ii Bezidul Nou reverted to Romania; those who survived the Holocaust remained formally Christians, although some continued to follow Jewish observances. In 1960 they began to emigrate to Israel, where by 1968 they numbered approximately 50. Only five families, all aged persons, remained in the village in 1969, formally belonging to the Unitarian Church. But they observed the Sabbath and their wives lit candles on Sabbath eve as they had learned from their forefathers; they also maintained close contact with their relatives in Israel for some time. A small cemetery with a few hundred tombstones attests to the past existence of the community. The Hebrew inscription (Ger Ẓedek, "proselyte") appears next to the name on many of the tombstones, most of which bear the menorah and a Magen David. Today these are almost the only memory of the existence of a specific Sabbatarian community among the Szeklers, though even today there are stories about these the "Jewish" predecessors.

bibliography:

S. Kohn, A szombatosok (1889), 336–7; Beck, in: Dr. Blochs Oesterreichische Wochenschrift (1912), 704–5, 738–40, 754–6; Gy. Balázs, in: Libanon, 6 (Hg., 1941), 18–22.

[Yehouda Marton /

Paul Schveiger (2nd ed.)]

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