SALONTA (Hung. Nagyszalonta ), town in W. Romania: within Hungary until the end of World War i and between 1940 and 1944. The first Jews settled there around 1840, but it was only after the abolition of residence restrictions in 1848 that the Jewish population increased. An organized community was established in 1850, when the first synagogue was also erected. A ḥevra kaddisha was established in 1859. A large and magnificent synagogue (still standing) was opened in 1886. The community school functioned between 1869 and 1936; until the end of World War i, the language of instruction was Hungarian. The cultural character and the everyday language of the local Jews was mostly Hungarian, with very little Yiddish being spoken. From 1882 the rabbis of the Great Synagogue preached exclusively in this language, even after Salonta passed to Romania. After the schism within Hungarian Jewry of 1868–69 (see *Hungary), the community joined the Neologist organization. In 1927 a few members founded an Orthodox community. Prominent among the rabbis of Salonta was Abraham Isaac Nébel (1887–1967; d. in Jerusalem), who was appointed rabbi of the town in 1925. The small Orthodox community was headed by Nathan Brisk, who perished in the Holocaust From 1885 the community also served as the official center for the Jews living in 15 villages in the vicinity. The Jewish-Zionist cultural activity initiated by R. Nébel caused some agitation in this assimilated community; but though it gave rise to ramified Zionist activities, it did not diminish the Jews' Hungarian acculturation and sense of belonging.
The Jewish population numbered 534 (42% of the total) in 1891; 843 in 1910; 740 (4.8%) in 1930; 593 (3.7%) in 1941.
The Jews of Salonta were involved in the processing of the agricultural produce of the entire region, which was then sold throughout the country and even exported. Many Jews were landlords and also involved in agricultural production.
After 1919 the majority of the Jewish population continued to support the Hungarians, even in the face of the conflict between the former rulers, the Hungarians, and the new ones, the Romanians.
Holocaust and Contemporary Periods
Under Hungarian rule, Jewish men were drafted into labor battalions in 1942–43, most of them perishing. In the summer of 1944, the Jews in Salonta were deported via Oradea to *Auschwitz. After the war the survivors returned to the town and reorganized the community. They numbered 190 in 1947. Monuments in memory of those who had perished were erected opposite the synagogue and in the cemetery. The number of Jews in Salonta dwindled to ten families in 1971, as a result of emigration to Israel and other countries, and was further reduced by the turn of the century.
A. Nébel (ed.), Jubileumi emlékkönyr (1936); Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929), 634–5.
[Yehouda Marton /
Paul Schveiger (2nd ed.)]