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Kármán, Mór

(1843–1915), educator and cultural policymaker. Mór Kármán was born in Szeged, Hungary, where he came under the influence of Rabbi Lipót (Leopold) Löw, a pioneer of Neolog Judaism in Hungary. Kármán studied philosophy, pedagogy, and philology at the University of Vienna, and received his doctoral degree from the faculty of humanities of the University of Pest in 1866.

Between 1868 and 1869, with Löw’s recommendation, Kármán taught religion at high schools in Pest. József Eötvös, the minister of religion and education, commissioned him to study the system of German practical teachers’ training; Kármán thus attended the University of Leipzig, where he was a student of Tuiskon Ziller between 1869 and 1871. Upon returning to Hungary in 1872, Kármán became a private lecturer of pedagogy, ethics, and psychology at the University of Pest. In the same year, he was hired by the Ministry of Education to set up a model high school for teachers’ training in Budapest; he remained there as a supervisor until 1897. His theories, based on practical psychology, were influenced by the German educator Johann Friedrich Herbart.

Between 1873 and 1883, Kármán was the secretary of the Hungarian Council of Education, and he played a major role in designing curriculum for high schools. He edited the journal Magyar Tanügy (Hungarian Education) with Gusztáv Heinrich between 1873 and 1876 and then by himself until 1882. Due to severe illness, he lived a secluded life for several years after 1897. Starting in 1907, however, he was the official in charge of theoretical pedagogy at the Ministry of Religion and Education. In 1908, he was ennobled. The following year, he was appointed full professor at the University of Pest.

With Herbart, Kármán believed that pedagogy was primarily the science of knowledge, but contrary to Herbart’s teacher-centered views, he emphasized the importance of student activity. His theoretical and practical work contributed to the modernization of Hungarian teaching methods, especially at the high-school level. In addition to his own publications in the field, he translated pedagogical material from English and German into Hungarian.

Kármán’s intimate friendship with Löw, as well as family relationships, shaped his positive connection to Judaism. Kármán was deeply involved in the educational and literary life of Hungarian Neolog Jewry, and he translated David Cassel’s Jewish history textbook A zsidó nép és irodalom története (A History of the Jewish People and Literature; 1868) into Hungarian. He advised the education department of the Jewish Community of Pest, and concerned himself with the theoretical problems of Jewish religious education. He believed in creating an ethical standard for the present while taking Jewish tradition into consideration, and also emphasized the importance of being informed about elements common to different religions.

In 1886, Kármán urged the establishment of Hungarian Jewish high schools—alongside other religious high schools—but this concept was considered premature. In 1894, he was an initiator and later a leader of the Hungarian Literary Society (IMIT). In 1913, he objected to a projected translation of the Talmud into Hungarian, arguing that the Talmud’s ideas were outmoded. In his late writings on Jewish topics, Kármán wrote about Löw and on the historical tasks of the rabbinate; he published these in the periodical Múlt és Jövő in 1914.

Suggested Reading

László Felkai, Tantervi változatok a magyarországi zsidó iskolákban, 1780–1990 (Budapest, 1995); Bernát Heller, “Kármán Mór,” Izraelita Magyar Irodalmi Társulat Évkönyve (1916): 251–284; Sándor Köte, Közoktatás és pedagógia az abszolutizmus és a dualizmus korában, 1849–1918 (Budapest, 1975); József Waldapfel, “Kármán Mór zsidósága,” Libanon (Budapest) 4 (1943): 89–92.



Translated from Hungarian by Veronika Szabó