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Szabolcsi, Miksa

(1857–1915), journalist and editor. Born Miksa Weinstein in [Nyír] Tura, Szabolcsi studied at yeshivas in Kemecse, Újfehértó, Érmihályfalva, Püspökladány, and Vác. Later he was a private tutor for children of prominent Jewish families (including Mór Wahrmann and Ignác Einhorn) and in 1877 he enrolled in the newly founded Rabbinical Seminary of Hungary. He left the seminary after one semester, however, and became a journalist. Szabolcsi first wrote for Debreczeni Ellenőr, where he covered the Tiszaeszlár blood libel trial (1882–1883) and received much acclaim. The proceedings had a major influence on his career. Szabolcsi wrote in Hungarian, Hebrew, and German.

Szabolcsi was also a reporter for Wiener Neuzeit, for which he covered the blood libel proceedings throughout the affair. In fact, he solved one of the trial’s most puzzling questions—the mystery of a floating corpse in the Tisza River. In his reports, he regularly sent articles not only to his own newspaper but also to Pester Lloyd, Neue Freie Presse in Vienna, and Egyenlőség, founded in 1881 and edited by Mór Bogdányi. Szabolcsi’s outspoken articles ultimately led to an antisemitic attack on his life and to a ban forbidding him to enter Nyíregyháza, where the trial took place. Writing under the pseudonym Szabolcsi, he changed his name officially in 1886.

In 1884, Szabolcsi became the editor of Jüdische Pester Zeitung, a German newspaper written with Hebrew characters. From 1886 until his death, he was editor in chief of Egyenlőség. As one of the creators of Hungarian-language Jewish journalism, he trained many prominent journalists and discovered new Hungarian Jewish writers.

During his 33-year career as a journalist, Szabolcsi wrote some 20 lengthy works and thousands of short articles and essays. His paper, considered the semiofficial organ of the Pest Israelite Community, grew into the leading press organ for Hungarian Jewry. In Egyenlőség, he fought against Orthodoxy and antisemitism, encouraging both the emerging Zionist movement and the further integration of Hungarian Jews. As a major leader of the Pest Israelite community, he was one of the most effective promoters of the idea that Jews in Hungary should not be considered a nationality but a religious denomination. He enthusiastically supported introducing Hungarian-language sermons to synagogues in Pest and advocated the Magyarization of Jewish family names in Hungary. He published theological studies in a scholarly column titled “Meturgeman” (Interpreter). Nonetheless, his great attempts to maintain a balance between identifying with the dominant nation while adhering to Judaism seemed unfeasible even during his lifetime.

In 1889, Szabolcsi and Vilmos Vázsonyi launched a press campaign to support the “reception” of the Jewish religion. Their efforts culminated successfully in a law that was passed in 1895. In 1912, Szabolcsi spearheaded the Hungarian Jewish movement for autonomy, and in 1913 he created an independent Hungarian branch of the Jewish Territorial Organization, founded by Israel Zangwill. Szabolcsi also composed numerous liberal pamphlets on political and church questions; he challenged works that falsified the Talmud and exposed misunderstandings about Jewish literature. He helped to found the Izraelita Magyar Irodalmi Társulat (Israelite Hungarian Literary Society; IMIT) in 1894 and the Országos Magyar Izraelita Közművelődési Egyesület (National Hungarian Israelite Educational Association; OMIKE) in 1910.

Szabolcsi’s major works were Magyar Szánhedrin (Hungarian Sanhedrin; 1898), Gyöngyszemek a Talmudból és Midrásból (Pearls of the Talmud and the Midrash; 1889–1912), and Utazás a Szentföldön (Journey to the Holy Land; 1905). He edited and helped translate the six-volume Hungarian edition of Heinrich Graetz’s History of the Jews (1908–1909).

Suggested Reading

Sándor Hegedűs, “Szabolcsi Miksa a publicista,” Szabolcs-Szatmári Szemle 19.1 (1984): 74–85; György Kroó, Szabolcsi Bence (Budapest, 1994); Lajos Szabolcsi, Két emberöltő: Az Egyenlőség évtizedei, 1881–1931 (Budapest, 1993).



Translated from Hungarian by Veronika Szabó