The History of the Győr Jewish Community before the Holocaust
The Győr Jewish Community until the Early 20th Century
The city of Győr is located in northwestern Hungary, close to the Danube River. The Rába River passes through the city, leading to the Danube. As early as the 15th century, when the city was rebuilt after a fire, a street was allocated specifically for the Jews, and the commander of the palace belonging to the governor of Győr offered protection, for payment, to the Jews working in trade and money lending. However, land owners and priests in Győr forbade Jews from living in the city, so they stayed in its environs. In 1669, Jews were forbidden to live in the province, and were allowed to come to the city only during market days. As far as is understood, at the end of the 17th century, only two Jewish families lived in the city, under the patronage of the commander of the palace.
In 1791, those living on Győr Island near the city organized a Jewish community of some 30 families. These Jews were allowed to practice trade in the city and build a synagogue, but were forced to pay for protection. A few years later, a yeshiva was established on Győr Island and the island's Jews were permitted to establish a cemetery and even live in the city itself, while having to shoulder heavy taxes.
By 1860, a Talmud Torah was operating in Győr and a Jewish school had been established with some 200 students. The school was recognized by the authorities. During this period, the Jewish community in Győr were mostly Neolog and numbered some 3,000 people – 11.6% of the city's population. Within the community lived Yehoshua Wodianer Cosman, a Talmudic scholar who funded the city's yeshiva and was known for his exegesis of the Babylonian Talmud, which was published after his death as Nachalat Yehoshua.
With the growth of the Jewish settlement in Győr, the synagogue became too small to hold all the worshippers, and some began holding services in private homes. The Austro-Hungarian authorities forbade this practice, and ordered the community to build a new synagogue, which was consecrated in 1871. At the same time, the old synagogue continued to function. That year, a pipe organ was brought into the new synagogue. In protest, some of the community left to create an Orthodox community, which ran a school on Győr Island.
In the second half of the 19th century, Győr became a center for grain export to Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, with large grain storehouses built in the city. The Jews played a large part in this development; hundreds found employment as merchants, agents, clerks, storage bag vendors and other jobs connected to the agricultural industry, the white-collar industry and trade. Dozens of them owned factories, including those manufacturing alcohol, candies, matches and agricultural machinery, as well as flour mills and brick factories. In 1865, the Jews of Győr established a company for marine transport. A women's association to help clothe Jewish students, support poor brides and more was established in the city. The association utilized many funds and organized soup kitchens for impoverished students. In 1913, a center for the elderly called "The Institution for Nourishment" was established in Győr.