SIGHET (Hung. Máramarossziget ), town in Crisana-Maramures, N.W. Romania, between 1940 and 1944, part of Hungary. Jews had already settled there by the 17th century and were taxed from 1728. Community life in Sighet was traditional and also influenced by religious trends, including *Ḥasidism. The Frankists (see Jacob *Frank) too found adherents there. Ten Jewish families (39 persons) lived in the town in 1746; there were 142 Jews in 1785–87, and 431 in 1831. An organized community already existed during the second half of the 18th century, when the rabbi was Ẓevi b. Moses Abraham (d. 1771) from Galicia, a determined opponent of the Frankist movement. Other rabbis included Judah ha-Kohen *Heller, who served there until his death in 1819; and Hananiah Yom Tov Lipa *Teitelbaum (1883–1904) of the ḥasidic family of ẓaddikim. The Sighet community had joined the organization of Hungarian Orthodox communities in 1883, but the liberal elements, amid considerable dispute, later founded their "Sephardi community." From 1906 its rabbi was Samuel Danzig (b. 1878), who perished in the Holocaust. The last rabbi of the Orthodox community was Jekuthiel Judah *Teitelbaum, who also died in the Holocaust. Sighet had yeshivot, Jewish schools, Zionist organizations, and Hebrew presses and libraries, including the Israel Weiss Library. Attempts were made to publish periodicals in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Hungarian. The majority of Jews in the district were impoverished. The Jewish population increased rapidly during the second half of the 19th century. There were 4,960 Jews in the town (about 30% of the total population) in 1891; 7,981 (34%) in 1910; 10,609 (about 38%) in 1930; and 10,144 (39%) in 1941, the highest proportion of Jews in any Hungarian town. Natives of Sighet included the Yiddish author Herzl Apsán (1886–1944); the humorist, editor, and author, Hirsch Leib *Gottlieb; the rabbi and historian Judah Jekuthiel *Greenwald; the Hebrew and Yiddish poet J. Holder (1893–1944); the author Elie *Wiesel; the violinist J. *Szigeti; the Yiddish author J. Ring; and the pianist Géza Frid. Between the two world wars the local Jews suffered from the Romanian Iron Guard, which tried to make it impossible for them to maintain any kind of Jewish life there.
During World War ii, after the annexation of northern Transylvania by Hungary in 1940, the authorities began to curtail the economic activity of the Jews in Sighet. Men of military age were conscripted for forced labor in 1942, and in the summer of 1944 Hungarian and German Nazi authorities set up a ghetto, from which 12,000 Jews were deported to death camps.
In 1947 a Jewish community of about 2,300 was formed by returning survivors and Jews from other places. Only about 250 Jews remained in 1970. In 1959 the organization of Sighet Jews in Ereẓ Israel began publication of Máramarossziget, a periodical in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Hungarian on the history of the Jews in Sighet and the Marmures district. After 1989 there were several Jewish and official Romanian attempts to commemorate local Jewish life. Elie Wiesel's repeated visits contributed to a better knowledge of their history and heritage. In Israel there is a Sighet Organization which also aims to perpetuate the memory of those who died there.
Magyar Zsidó Lexikon, s.v.Máramarossziget; mhj, 3 (1937), 5 pt. 1 (1959), 5 pt. 2 (1960); 7 (1963); 8 (1965), index locorum in all volumes, s.v.Máramaros vármegye, Máramarossziget, Sziget; D. Schön, Istenkeresök a Kárpátok alatt (19642); J.J.(L.) Green-wald (Grunwald), Zikkaron la-Rishonim (19692); idem, Maẓẓevet Kodesh… Siget u-Felekh Marmaros (1952); N. Ben-Menahem, Sifreihem shel Rabbanei Siget (1949); idem, Mi-Sifrut Yisrael be-Hungaryah (1948), 330–86.
[Yehouda Marton /
Paul Schveiger (2nd ed.)]