Munkács Religious Life


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If one were to bifurcate the eastern part of Europe into northern and southern hemispheres, arguably, two cities, one in the north and the other in the south, could epitomize the different crucibles experienced by Jews during the past century: In the north, Vilna (Vilnius or Wilno in Polish) could represent the epitome of Jewish idealism and Yiddish nationalism while in the south, Munkács could represent Jewish piety and commercial creativity.

The Jewish community of Munkács was an amalgam of Galician & Hungarian Hasidic Jewry, assimilationists, Zionists from Hashomer Hatzair on the left (called Hanoar Hatzioni there) to Betar on the right. There was also no lack of (non-Chasidic) Orthodox Jews (officially recognized by the Hungarian government as the Status Quo Ante community) a sprinkling of Neolog Jews, Luftmenshen and fools, the most famous of whom in Munkács was given the appellation: Meyer Tzits. It was a community of paradoxes: the most outspoken voice of religious anti-Zionism was the Rabbi of Munkács, Rabbi Chaim Elazar SPIRA, who led the community from 1913 until his death in 1937. He had succeeded his father, Rabbi Zvi Hersh, who had earlier inherited the mantle of leadership from his father Rabbi Shlomo SPIRA. In this bastion of anti-Zionism, all forms of Zionism flowered. The Hebrew Gymnasium was founded in Munkács five years after the first Hebrew speaking elementary school in Czechoslovakia was established there, in 1920. It soon became the most prestigious Hebrew high school east of Warsaw. Zionist activism along with Chasidic pietism contributed to a community percolating with excitement, intrigue and at times internecine conflict.

There was friction and acrimony between the Munkatsher and Belzer Chassidim that still resonates today in the communities of Brooklyn and Meah Shearim. However, along with the dominant Munkatsher Chasidic community, there co-existed smaller, yet vibrant, Chassidic groups who were followers of the Rabbis of Spinka, Zidichov, and Vishnitz. By the time of the Holocaust, there were nearly 30 synagogues in Munkács, many of which were Chasidic shtibelech and Kloyzim. By 1851, Munkács supported a large Yeshiva, thereby demonstrating the community's commitment to Jewish learning and piety.



~ Munkács Religious Life Photographs ~



Following are photographs of religious life in pre-WWII Munkács.

Click HERE to contact me concerning any photographs you would like to contribute.



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~ Sitting outside the synagogue ~
Postcard: Courtesy Louis SCHONFELD, USA

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Rabbi Menachem Mendel HAGER of Vishiva visits Munkács
Photo: Courtesy Amos Israel ZEZMER

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If you can identify anyone above, contact:
Amos Israel ZEZMER (researcher code #57388)


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Father and child
Photo: Courtesy Louis SCHONFELD, USA

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Boys at prayer
Photo: Courtesy Louis SCHONFELD, USA

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On the way home after morning prayers
c. 1935-8

Photo: Copyright © Mara (née VISHNIAC) KOHN
Courtesy International Center of Photography


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Worshipers leaving the synagogue
c. 1935-8

Photo: Copyright © Mara (née VISHNIAC) KOHN
Courtesy International Center of Photography


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The Torah is needed by a
family that is sitting shivah
c. 1935-8
Photo: Copyright © Mara (née VISHNIAC) KOHN
Courtesy International Center of Photography


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Leaving the synagogue
Photo: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium

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Walking in the rain
Photo: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium

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Religious books for sale
in the synagogue yard

Photo: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium

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Klezmer Troupe
Photocredit: Ghetto Fighters' Museum

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Tashlich
Postcard: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium
(Throwing Sins into the Latorica river)

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In the courtyard of the home of Rabbi SPIRA
1933

Postcard: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium

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Procession
Postcard: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium

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On the way home
Postcard: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium

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Hassidic friends
Postcard: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium

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Chaim Ber GRUENFELD
Photo: Mugen Bais Shaul by Rabbi Duvid Leib GRUENFELD, USA
Gabbai for Rabbi Lázár SPIRA

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Moshe Hersh WEISZ
Photo: Mugen Bais Shaul by Rabbi Duvid Leib GRUENFELD, USA
Sofer (Scribe) in Munkács

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Chaim GRUENFELD
Photo: Mugen Bais Shaul by Rabbi Duvid Leib GRUENFELD, USA
Sofer (Scribe) in Munkács

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Shaul Yecheskel PERLSTEIN
Photo: Mugen Bais Shaul by Rabbi Duvid Leib GRUENFELD, USA
Rosh Hakahol (Community Head) in Munkács

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Yechiel Mechel BEINHORN
Photo: Mugen Bais Shaul by Rabbi Duvid Leib GRUENFELD, USA
Head of Belzer Kloz

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Yehuda GRUENFELD
Photo: Mugen Bais Shaul by Rabbi Duvid Leib GRUENFELD, USA

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Meyer Yakov GRUENFELD
Photo: Mugen Bais Shaul by Rabbi Duvid Leib GRUENFELD, USA

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Relaxation at the
baths in Marienbad

Photo: Courtesy M. Y. EHRENREICH, USA

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Left to right: unknown, unknown, Rabbi Lázár SPIRA (Munkács), unknown and Rabbi Naftali Teitelbaum (Nyirbator)
Visiting Munkács
c. 1930

Photo: Courtesy M. Y. EHRENREICH, USA

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Foreground, left to right: unknown, unknown, Rabbi Lázár SPIRA (Munkács), unknown and unknown



~ Funeral of Rabbi Lázár SPIRA ~



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The Aron of Rabbi Lázár SPIRA
1937

Photo: Courtesy M. Y. EHRENREICH, USA

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The Rebbetzin and daughter at the funeral
1937

Photo: Courtesy M. Y. EHRENREICH, USA

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~ Rabbis Living In Munkács ~



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Rabbi Yacov Moishe SAFARIN
Photo: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium
Rabbi of Kamarno
Father-in-Law of Rabbi L. SPIRA


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Rabbi Chaim SHRIEBER
Photo: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium
Dayan in Munkács

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Rabbi Yechiel WAGSHAL
Photo: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium

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Rabbi Menashe EICHENSTEIN
Photo: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium
Rabbi Of Zdichoiv

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Rabbi ____ EICHENSTEIN
Photo: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium

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Rabbi Moshe EICHENSTEIN
Photo: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium
Rabbi Of Zdichoiv

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Rabbi Hersch Ber KLEIN
Photo: Courtesy Ari TESSLER, Belgium
Righthand man of Rabbi L. SPIRA

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Rabbi Wolf ROSENBERG
Photo: Courtesy Yad Vashem Archives

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Rabbi Meyer GROSZ
Photo: Courtesy Yad Vashem Archives

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Created by: Marshall J. KATZ, USA / Compiled by: Louis SCHONFELD, USA
with assistance from
Ghetto Fighters' Museum
International Center of Photography
USHMM, Washington, D.C.
Yad Vashem Archives
and the following

JewishGen members/descendants and contributors of Mukacheve Jewish families:

David FRIEDMAN, Israel
Rabbi Duvid Leib GRUENFELD, USA
Louis SCHONFELD, USA
Adam SMITH, USA
Ari TESSLER, Belgium
Amos Israel ZEZMER, France.


Updated: 02 July 2012

Copyright © 2008 Louis SCHONFELD All rights reserved.

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