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Zrenjanin

ZRENJANIN

ZRENJANIN (Hung. Nagybecskerek ), city in the Banat, Vojvodina province, Serbia; formerly called Veliki Bečkerek and Petrovgrad. Zrenjanin was a regional agricultural and trading center. In the first part of the 18th century it was within the Austrian "military area" and thus inaccessible to Jews. The first mention of a Jewish presence there dates to 1760. A ḥevra kaddisha was created in 1764, and the community was officially founded in 1790. A Jewish school was built in 1816 and the following year a Jews' judge (Judenrichter), Adam Guttmann, was nominated. The first prayerhouse was erected in 1809, and another was built in 1895. The first rabbi was Rabbi Fein, who was followed by David Oppenheim and Maurice Klein. The last held office from 1880 to 1915 and became well known in all Hungarian-speaking communities for his translation of Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed into Hungarian as A tévelygök utmutatója (4 vols., 1879–90). Jews traded mainly in hides, cattle, wine, and cereals.

During the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 about 25 Jews participated in the uprising, and the victorious Austrians imposed a collective fine on the community for alleged disloyalty: they had to provide 25,000 boots for the army. In the second half of the 19th century the community played an important role in the Danube basin, smaller communities gathering around it. Zrenjanin Jews gave aid to Belgrade Jews, who had suffered through shelling from the Turkish citadel in 1862 – 100 florins, which was half the sum donated by Budapest. By the turn of the century the community was well established and fairly prosperous. A new Hungarian-style synagogue was inaugurated in 1901 (it was completely demolished in 1941). The Zrenjanin Jewish community suffered during World War i, but subsequently recovered, and by 1929 it numbered 400 families. Until the Holocaust it was active under rabbis Maurice Niedermann and David Finci, and President Leopold Fleischberger. There was a small Orthodox group. In November 1936 a German antisemitic paper, Erwache (a sort of imitation of Der Stuermer), was published. Its editor was brought to trial, but the court acquitted him. The community, numbering about 1,300, was almost annihilated by the Hungarians in 1941; the few survivors were deported to Auschwitz. The community was reestablished after the war and in the early 21st century hosted small-scale *Maccabiah Games for Vojvodina's Jews.

bibliography:

azdj, 26:34 (1862); Ben Chananja, 5:29ff. (1862); D. Kaufmann, in: rej, 4 (1882), 208–25; Fischer, in: Jevrejski almanah (1925/26), 285–302: Savez jevrejskih opština Jugaslavije, Zločini fašistskih okupatora … u Jugoslaviji (1952), 9–13; Satellite Croatia 19411945 (1960), incl. bibl. add. bibliography: D. Colic, "Jevreji u razvoju privrede Banata," in: Spomenica, 4 (1979), 11–21; Z. Loker (ed.), Yehudei Vojvodina be-Et he-Ḥadashah (1994).

[Zvi Loker]

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