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The Reader’s Forum

July 19, 1934
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

To the Editor, Jewish Daily Bulletin:

May I take this opportunity to correct the article which appeared in the Jewish Daily Bulletin on July 16, page 5, under the heading “Hungary Backs Move to Solve Problems of Three Jewish Sects,” written by a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent, Mr. A. Wiener.

It is my privilege to know the problems of the Hungarian Jews since I was, until recently, chief rabbi in one of the oldest Jewish communities in Hungary. I deem it a necessity to inform the readers of the Jewish Daily Bulletin about the true situation of the Jewish communities in Hungary.

About sixty-five years ago, on December 27, 1867, Hungarian Jewry won its emancipation, and in the following year, on December 10, 1868, the Hungarian government called together a congress of delegates representing the Jews. With the approval of the majority of the delegates this Congress drew up a constitution which was not in harmony with the Jewish Code of Law, known under the name of “Shulchan Aruch.” On June 14, 1869, Emperor Francis Joseph gave his sanction to this constitution.


However, Orthodox Jewry, refusing to submit to the constitution, drew up one of its own, whose principles were in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch. After a hard and long fight the statutes of this latter Constitution were also officially accepted by the emperor. Having secured a constitution of their own, the Orthodox Jews organized themselves throughout the entire country as a separate, independent, religious body.

A third group, being dissatisfied with the splitting of Jewry into two organized bodies, declared their refusal to join either of these and organized themselves into a third party, called “Status-quo-ant,” i.e. everything is to stay as it was before the meeting of the Congress, that every community remain independent and autonomous, without a centralized organization. To this latter party belonged well-known rabbis and eminent laymen, representing about sixty large communities.

Among them were numerous chassidic rabbis and talmudic scholars, who belonged solely because they would not submit to a centralized organization as long as there was dissension among the Hungarian Jews. Consequently, although the law recognizes only one Jewish community, there are in reality three factions.


Those communities which accepted the statutes created by the Congress were the progressive or Neolog Jews, who refused to recognize the division of Jewry into three bodies. They used their political influence to cause the government to call another Congress into session for the purpose of drawing up a new set of statutes which would satisfy all factions and would thereby preserve the unity of the Hungarian Jews. The Orthodox and the Status-Quo-Ante factions refused to participate in the proposed Congress.

The progressive Jewish communities, the so-called Neolog Jews, would not convene without the Orthodox and Status-Quo-Ante groups, because by doing so they would be admitting the existence of three separate factions, and they would be denying the possibility that there can and will be a united Hungarian Jewry. Fierce arguments ensued. The Orthodox group stood firm in their own recognized independence. That, by no means, would bind themselves to any organization of progressive Jews.

The Neolog faction finally recognized that it was impossible to achieve their goal of uniting Hungarian Jewry and they abandoned it. With the permission of the government they called their own convention, to meet October 15, 1934, for the purpose of completing and modifying their obsolete and outworn constitution.


I want to state in opposition to your correspondent that according to a decree of June 2, 1934, issued by the Hungarian government, the purpose of the Congress will only be to modify the old constitution and to adjourn after this has been accomplished and not, as your correspondent has stated, to “become a permanent institution which will be regularly convened whenever Hungarian Jewry finds it necessary to decide momentous problems of the day.”

Also, as opposed to a statement made by Mr. Wiener, the fact is that the new Congress can only be called together by a decree of the government and not by the Jewish leaders alone.

In closing, I offer my final criticism which is that Mr. Wiener was wrong in stating that this Congress aims at a unification. It actually ratifies “tripartarianism.” Despite the fact that the Hungarian law recognizes only one religious community, it is apparent that, by giving its consent to the new Congress, the government said in accepting the post, “have three independent divisions to govern their own religion and social life. Through this new development “tripartarianism” became stronger than ever in Hungarian Jewry.

—Rev. Dr. Lazar Schonfeld New York, July 17.

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