Tamás Raj, Hungary’s former chief rabbi, dies


BUDAPEST (JTA) — Tamas Raj, a charismatic retired chief rabbi and one of Hungary’s top intellectuals, has died.

Raj, who worked to reduce the persistent misunderstandings that divide the Jewish and Christian communities of Hungary, died Monday following a long illness. He was 70.

A survivor of the Holocaust, he also suffered from prolonged police harassment under the ensuing anti-religious communist regime.

Raj emerged as a leading rabbi in Szeged, a major city in southeast Hungary, where he served in 1964-70. He was a prominent figure in the Democratic anti-communist opposition before the collapse of the Soviet administration in Hungary 20 years ago, and became an eloquent and effective Liberal parliamentary deputy in 1990-94. He was named chief rabbi in 1996.

Raj was a theologian, philosopher and historian by training, a much-loved teacher at several religious as well as secular universities, and the editor of several major publishing enterprises, including the Jewish Makkabi Press. Raj wrote some 20 scholarly books. 

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