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Subotica

SUBOTICA

SUBOTICA (Hung. Szabadka ), city in the district of Bačka, Vojvodina province, in Serbia, part of the federation of Serbia and Montenegro; formerly known as Maria-Theresiopol. Modern Subotica, with *Novi-Sad – the most important urban center of Vojvodina – was founded in 1775. At that time some Jews probably lived there as the treaty between the city and the royal authorities at Pressburg, concluded in 1743, already stipulated that "Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and gypsies may be admitted by the [city] senate" (Judaeorum et Ziganorum admissio a solo oppidani huius magistratus arbitrio dependebit). In fact, the senate granted such a permission in 1775 to Jacob Heschel, known as "Hirsch from Paksch [Hungary]." Barely ten years later Jews asked and obtained authorization to found their own religious community, and a "Jew's judge" was elected and subsequently confirmed in office. Before the end of the 18th century there was a synagogue, and 13 families had official status in the city.

At the beginning of the 19th century 43 Jewish families lived there, and the first rabbi, Lew Hirschmann, was installed, inaugurating an era of growth and prosperity. Jews were accepted as importers, middlemen, custom officials, etc. As they were not prevented from engaging in new fields, they became initiators of the food and spirits industries and gradually entered the liberal professions as well. Many Subotica Jews participated in the Austro-Hungarian war of 1848 on the Hungarian side, a large number losing their lives or becoming war invalids.

Under the leadership of the novelist Isidor Milko the community inaugurated a new synagogue in 1901, which is still standing (1971). A talmud torah was built soon after, and religious and communal life was intensified during the office of Rabbi Benat (Bernard) Singer. An exclusive achievement of Subotica's Jews was the opening of the Jewish Bernat Singer Hospital, named for the rabbi, in 1923. It operated until the Holocaust, when the Hungarian occupiers took it over. It served not only local needs but also those of other Yugoslav Jewry. In 1925 a short-lived Zionist weekly, Szombat (Sabbath), was published in Hungarian by Dr. Imre Vidor. Zionism became active under the leadership of the lawyer Moses (Moshe) Schweiger, son of Rabbi Hermann Schweiger of Zenta. In 1940 there were 6,000 Jews in Subotica out of a total population of about 100,000, and in addition to the numerous national and local communal organizations in the city there was a small Orthodox (ḥasidic) religious group.

Holocaust Period

When the Hungarian Fascist troops entered the city on April 11, 1941, the only resistance was made by several Jewish youths who threw bombs. Most of them were secretly tried and executed. During the occupation the fate of Subotica Jews was little different from that of Novi Sad and Vojvodina Jewry. They were arrested en masse, placed in an improvised ghetto nearby, transferred to Bacsalmas in old Hungary, and then deported to and murdered at *Auschwitz. The remaining Jews of Novi Sad and smaller places in the Bačka were first gathered in a four-story mill in Subotica – 3,500 people – before being herded into cattle wagons and sent to Poland. After the war the survivors tried to continue communal life. In 1948 about 800 of the remaining Jews left for Israel. The Jewish population of Subotica was approximately 400 in 1970 and 220 in 2004. The synagogue was partially restored and returned to use.

bibliography:

M. Vidor, in: Jevrejski Almanah 4, Belgrade (1928/29), 1–4; L. Fišer, ibid. (1955/56), 86–96; Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929), S.V. Szabadka. add. bibliography: D. Jelić et al., in: Zbornik, 5 (1989), Subotica Jewry issue.

[Zvi Loker]

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