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Mezey, Ferenc

(1860–1927), community leader, philanthropist, editor, and writer. Ferenc Mezey’s father, Albert Mezey (originally Grünfeld), was a merchant; Ferenc’s mother, Rózsa Fábián, was born into a small landholder’s family. His parents had planned a rabbinic career for him, but Mezey instead went into commerce and later worked as a bank clerk. Dissatisfied, he attended Pázmány Péter University in Budapest, receiving a degree in law. As a law student, he wrote for newspapers and law journals under a pseudonym.

Mezey opened a law office in Budapest and began to work for the Neolog National Office in 1880, serving there until his death. In 1902, the minister of religious and educational affairs appointed him secretary of that office. Under the presidency of Mór Mezei (no relation), Mezey first became its vice president, later in 1925 its acting president, and on 26 June 1927—just a few days before his death—its president. In this capacity, he played a leading role in major public matters concerning Hungarian Jewry. The Pest ḥevrah kadisha’ (burial society) elected him its secretary and lawyer in 1889; Mezey organized its administration and was actively involved in founding other Jewish communal institutions such as a home for the terminally ill, the Jewish hospital, an institute for blind adults, and a school in Kőrösmező.

Between 1905 and 1914, Mezey was on the executive of board of directors for the Franz Joseph Rabbinical Seminary; from 1914, he served as its president. At the same time, he was the acting president of the National Israelite Teacher Training Institute and for decades the chair of the National Hungarian Israelite Fund, founded in 1896. Between 1891 and 1895, he and Lajos Blau edited Magyar Zsidó Szemle (Hungarian Jewish Review), a scholarly journal that was considered the organ of the Neolog movement. Writing articles mainly on church policy, Mezey also played a significant role in the Reception movement, achieving legal equality for the Jewish religion by launching powerful press propaganda and preparing the law on church–state relations. He helped found the Israelite Hungarian Literary Society (IMIT) and was its secretary for a year. With Vilmos Bacher, Mezey edited its yearbook in 1895 and 1896.

In 1905, Mezey traveled to Palestine with other Hungarian and international Jewish leaders. In recognition of his services, he received the title of Hungarian Royal Counselor in 1911. In 1916, he helped found the Hungarian Jewish Museum. Playing a political role at the National Jewish Congress of 1925, he unsuccessfully supported the idea that the delegate to the upper house of Parliament should always be the incumbent leader of the national office (not a freely elected person).

In addition to his journalistic work, Mezey also wrote fiction. His sketches and short stories focus on the Jewish past in the countryside. His short stories were published in a collection titled Rajzok a zsidó életből (Sketches of Jewish Life; 1925).

Suggested Reading

Kálmán Ödön, “Dr. Mezey Ferenc pályája” Magyar Zsidó Szemle 46.7 (1929): 165–223



Translated from Hungarian by Veronika Szabó