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Mukachevo

MUKACHEVO

MUKACHEVO (Czech. Mukačevo ; Hung. Munkács ), city in Transcarpathian district, Ukraine. Until 1919 Mukachevo belonged to Hungary, then until 1938 to Czechoslovakia, and from 1938 to 1945 again to Hungary. From the end of World War ii it formed part of the Soviet Union. The modest beginnings of the community are reflected in documents early in the 18th century. In Jewish sources, such as the place-formulas in divorce bills, the town is referred to as "Minkatchov, a town situated on the banks of the Latartza River and of springs." The Jewish population rapidly increased and it became one of the largest communities in Hungary, renowned on the one hand for its extreme conservatism and pronounced inclination toward ḥasidism, and on the other for its many undertakings in the fields of Hebrew education and Zionist activities. Many documents on the beginnings of the Jewish settlement in this town have been preserved and published. According to these, Jews settled there early in the second half of the 17th century. There is also evidence of isolated Jews living in the surrounding area prior to this period. In 1711 ownership of the town was transferred to the Schoenborn family of the nobility, who authorized the growth of the Jewish population on payment of taxes and levies. Local Jews were already engaged in commerce at that time and acted as brokers in trade between Galicia and Hungary. There were also Jewish farmers and craftsmen. The population was continuously augmented by arrivals from Galicia. In 1741 a Jewish community of 80 families was organized and a synagogue established; their numbers had doubled by 1815 (165), reached 202 in 1830, and 301 by 1842. In the 1848–49 Hungarian revolt against the Austrians, 247 Jews joined the local guard. From 1851, when there was already a large yeshivah in Mukachevo, the community maintained regular records of births, deaths, and marriages. A Hebrew press was founded in 1871 and many Hebrew books were published in Mukachevo (see Kirjath Sepher, Index to Studies, Notes and Reviews (1967), entries, 86, 192, 193, 473).

The most prominent rabbis of the community were Solomon Shapira (grandson of R. Zevi who had also occupied this rabbinical seat for a few years); Zevi Shapira, who succeeded his father in 1893; and Ḥayyim Eleazar Shapira, who led the community from 1913 and became known as the leading opponent of Zionism in the ḥasidic world. After his death in 1937 he was succeeded by his son-in-law, Baruch Rabinowitz, subsequently rabbi in Ḥolon, Israel (for hasidic dynasty, see *Shapira family). In 1891 the community numbered 5,049 (47.9% of the total population) and two additional synagogues were erected in 1895 and 1903. The Jewish population continued to grow and numbered 7,675 in 1910 (44%); 10,012 in 1921 (48%); and 11,241 (43%) in 1930, of whom 88% registered their nationality as Jewish.

Between the two world wars Jews participated actively in the administration of Mukachevo and its general political life. Despite opposition by the masses, the Zionist party of Czechoslovakia found many supporters in the town. Four Yiddish periodicals were published. Pupils of the town and its surroundings streamed to the first Hebrew elementary school, which was founded in 1920 by the Organization of Hebrew Schools in Subcarpathian Ruthenia. A Hebrew secondary school was established in 1925. This was headed from 1929 by Ḥayyim *Kugel, who became a member of the Czechoslovak parliament in 1935, and later by Eliahu Rubin. At the time of the Holocaust there were about 30 synagogues in Mukachevo. Many of these were ḥasidic battei-midrash and kloyzen.

When Mukachevo reverted to Hungarian rule in 1938, the Jews immediately suffered heavily.

Holocaust Period and After

In 1940–1941 many young Jews were drafted into work battalions and sent to the Russian front, where most of them died. In July and early August 1941 many Jewish families without Hungarian citizenship were expelled to Stanislavov (Galicia) and Kamenets-Podolski, and there most of them perished. After the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, the Jews were herded together in a ghetto with about 15,000 others from the Berehovo district. The ghetto consisted of a few streets with extremely poor sanitary conditions and almost no food. The able-bodied were pressed into forced labor. In the second half of May 1944 transports started to leave for Auschwitz and by May 30 the city was pronounced *judenrein. After the war some 2,500 returned to the city, but after it was annexed to the Soviet Union, many left for Czechoslovakia and Israel. Under Soviet rule the synagogues were confiscated; the last one was converted into a warehouse in 1959. Some Jews were imprisoned for practicing sheḥitah. Between 1,000 and 2,000 Jews were living in Mukachevo in the late 1960s. Most remaining Jews emigrated in the 1990s, leaving for Israel and the West.

bibliography:

J.L. Ha-Kohen Weingarten, Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 1 (1946), 345–71, incl. bibl.; mhj, 2 (1937); 3 (1937); 5 pt. 1 (1959); 5 pt. 2 (1960); 7 (1963); 8 (1965), index locorum s.v.Munkács; L.R. Braham, Hungarian Jewish Studies (1966), 223–33; A. Sas, in: Juedisches Archiv, 2 nos. 1–2 (1928), 1–6; 2 nos. 3–4 (1929), 33–39; 2 nos. 5–7 (1929), 33–44.

[Yehouda Marton]

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