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Holländer, Leó

(1806–1887), community leader. Leó Holländer’s father, Mark, originally from Tarnopol, immigrated to Hungary and was the first Jew to settle in Eperjes (Prešov), a royal free city, in 1780. The wealthy merchant was elected as rosh medinah, the head of Sáros county Jewry, in which capacity he served as an influential intercessor with local and Viennese authorities. Leó was instructed by private tutors from abroad; later, he completed eight years of gymnasium studies at the famous Eperjes College. It was here that Holländer formed close ties with the local gentry, which would serve him in good stead later. In 1833, he joined Ferenc Pulszky, the budding liberal politician and future president of the Hungarian Academy, for a five-month grand tour to visit sites of antiquarian interest in Italy, where they also received the pope’s blessing. Holländer’s hobby was antiques, and he came to own one of the most important coin collections in the country, later donated to the National Museum.

In 1825, Holländer married the daughter of Joseph Grünbaum, a banker from Kraków, and joined his father’s firm, though his natural bent was toward scholarship. He followed his father as head of Sáros county Jewry and soon assumed a national role as a key representative of Hungarian Jews. He headed the Jewish delegation to the 1840 Diet, submitting its petition for emancipation. In the summer of 1848, he was elected president of the general assembly of Jewish representatives that met in Pest. Later, Holländer served as the provisional president who opened the Jewish Congress in 1868 in which he took an active part as a key speaker for the Neolog camp.

Early on, Holländer had advocated moderate religious reforms in his hometown and had been instrumental in bringing Solomon Schiller-Szinessy, the future Cambridge University professor, to serve as preacher in the community. Yet it is telling of Holländer’s strong traditional identity that he would celebrate his birthday only on its Hebrew date. In correspondence he conducted with Feivel Horowitz, the rabbi of Pápa, around the Paks assembly in 1844, he envisioned a type of organization that would balance the mostly traditional rabbinate with more progressively oriented lay leaders, seeking to achieve a modus vivendi between the Orthodox and Neolog camps.

Holländer was a Hungarian patriot who served with his two sons in the revolutionary army. He was appointed first as captain in December 1848, and later promoted to major on the staff of General György Klapka, where he was in charge of army provisions at the fortress of Komárom.

Holländer’s position on Hungarian nationalism was not unambivalent. In July 1848, when he presided over the general assembly of Jewish representatives in Pest, Jewish relations with the reigning Hungarian liberal government were at an all-time nadir. The liberals had caved in under the pressure of violent anti-Jewish disturbances and had ordered a Jewish census in order to expel illegal foreigners as well as the disarming and dismissal of all Jews from the National Guard. Jewish emancipation was cavalierly placed on a back burner, and Jews were repeatedly humiliated by the dismissive treatment meted out to them.

Against the background of a growing wave of Jewish emigration, Holländer called on the assembly to take an aggressive stance toward the ministry. He disagreed with those who urged that under the revolutionary circumstances Jews should set aside their particular interests and assign priority to the broader Magyar national cause. “The time of crawling and begging is past. . . . We need not shrink from the reproach of separatism today. Each nation, the Slav, the Illyrian, the Romanian, etc., wants to protect its nationality; why should we not as well?” Friedrich Gross, the other prominent personality at the assembly, opposed any wish to retain a Jewish nationality; rather Jews should attach themselves firmly to the Hungarian nationalism—identical to liberalism—and offer help and support to the Hungarian nation against the external and internal enemy.

Holländer would once again raise the issue of Jewish nationalism in an interview he conducted with Moses Montefiore in May 1863, when he provocatively asked whether Montefiore entertained the hope to restore Jewish national independence in the Holy Land. Holländer published the affirmative answer—the only time that Montefiore publicly expressed his views on Jewish nationalism—in a leading German Jewish periodical.

Suggested Reading

Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums 9.21 (1845), see the Beilage; Giora Amir, Presov (Kibbutz Dalia, Isr., 2002); M. Austerlitz, “Holländer Leó,” Magyar Zsidó Szemle 4 (1887): 434–436; Der ungarische Israelit 1 (1848): 125; L[eo]. H[ollander]., “Zwei Tage mit Sir Moses Montefiore: Ein Charakterbild,” Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums 27 (1863): 345–347, 365–367; Ferenc Pulszky, Életem és korom, vol. 1, pp. 46–48 (Budapest, 1880); Michael K. Silber, “The Entrance of Jews into Hungarian Society in Vormärz: The Case of the ‘Casinos,’” in Assimilation and Community: The Jews in Nineteenth-Century Europe, ed. Jonathan Frankel and Steven J. Zipperstein, pp. 284–323 (Cambridge, 1992).