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Mezei, Mór

(1836–1926), journalist, lawyer, politician, and member of the Hungarian parliament. Mór Mezei concluded his secondary studies in Pest, where he also studied law. As one of the leading—and perhaps most important—figures and ideologists of the assimilationist movement among Jews in the nineteenth century, he was a founder of the Izraelita Magyar Egylet (National Israelite Magyar Association) in 1861, of which he became the secretary and finally its chairman.

In 1862, Mezei became editor in chief of the journal Magyar Izraelita (Hungarian Israelite), the foremost Jewish paper of the preemancipation era. He soon faced an exceptional court proceeding for the tone of his articles; because of a general amnesty declared on the occasion of the recovery of the emperor’s wife from an illness, however, the trial did not lead to more serious measures than Mezei’s removal from his editorial position. Again receiving special permission from the emperor, Mezei was able to work as an attorney in 1864, before the profession became open to Jews in general. He was a founder and leader of Magyarító Egylet, the association established to promote Magyarization among Jews. Writing about the demand for emancipation extensively during the following years, he established himself as a partner of the liberal elite representing Neolog (Reform) Jewry. He was a member of the committee established to plan the Jewish Congress of 1868, where he played an important role as a leading Neolog representative as well as one of the elected notaries.

Mezei had not pursued an active public role until the fight for equal status for Judaism (the “Reception”) in the 1890s. During those years he ran his law office and served as legal counsel to the city of Budapest’s most important banks and enterprises, which were located in the Lipótváros (Ger., Leopoldstadt) district in the center of Pest. Unlike Mór Wahrmann, whose parliamentary seat Mezei gained for two terms after the former’s death in 1892, he actively supported the efforts for Jewish rights of the younger generation, serving as chairman of the committee established to represent Jewish interests during the process. At an advanced age, he became chairman of Országos Iroda (National Office), the organization of Neolog Jewry, and was also a member of the leading body of the temporarily unified Magyar Zsidók Országos Szövetsége (Association of Hungarian Jews).

Suggested Reading

Lajos Szabolcsi, Két emberöltő. Az Egyenlőség évtizedei, 1881–1931 (Budapest, 1993).