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Reception, Law of

Although the Hungarian parliament emancipated Jews as individuals in 1867 (Act Seventeen), it was only later legislation, Act Forty-Two of 1895, that made Judaism equal to other received religions (religiones receptae). The Law of Reception was deemed necessary because in the nineteenth century the legal standing of various religions was defined by their position in the hierarchical structure as either received, recognized, or tolerated. Received religions benefited from protection of the state.

In 1868, legislation guaranteed the reciprocity of received religions; hence, it was then possible to convert from one religion to another and to marry someone of a different faith. Received religions also were granted financial support from the state, and their representatives sat in the Upper House of parliament. Tolerated and recognized religions did not have these rights. Before 1895, Judaism was defined as a tolerated and later as a recognized religion; hence Jews were not allowed to convert Christians to Judaism nor to marry Christians legally in a mixed marriage (unlike members of received religions).

Judaism became a received religion at the conclusion of a cultural war that raged in parliament between 1892 and 1895 over the broader issues of separation of state and church, civil marriage, and freedom of religion. Liberal reforms were initiated by the government of Sándor Wekerle. In the parliamentary debates of the Lower House, both liberal and conservative politicians agreed that equal rights should be granted to the Jewish religion; they voted almost unanimously in favor of the Law of Reception on 26 June 1894. Of the Jewish members of parliament, Mór Mezei, Mór Wahrmann, Soma Visontai, and Ármin Neumann actively campaigned for the bill, as did one of the highly respected conservative politicians of the era, Albert Apponyi.

Outside the parliament, a movement in favor of the reception law had been initiated as early as 1892 by a younger generation of Jewish activists, including the liberal politician Vilmos Vázsonyi and his brother Ernö, Lajos Palágyi, and Miksa Szabolcsi, the editor of the Jewish periodical Egyenlőség (Equality). The Pest Neolog Jewish Community organized 230 Jewish communities in support of the legislation, but a substantial part of Hungarian Orthodoxy opposed the bill, fearing a substantial rise in intermarriage. In the Upper House, where conservative opposition was strong, Catholic prelates and their secular aristocratic supporters—led by Nándor Zichy and Miklós Móric Esterházy—cited the dogma of Christian indelibility and protested the option of Christian conversion to Judaism. The Catholic People’s Party supported the opposition of the Upper House. Twice the bill was rejected by a slim majority; it was passed a third time only after a tie vote was cast by the leader of the House.

On 16 October 1895, Franz Joseph I sanctioned the Law of Reception, which supplemented the 1867 Law of Emancipation. The new legislation provided Judaism with the same rights as the accepted Christian denominations. In reality, however, there were no Jewish representatives in the Upper House until 1926, and only meager financial support for the Jewish communities was forthcoming. Many Hungarian Jews, including a minority of the Orthodox, regarded the change as an important legal step that eliminated the shameful second-rate status of Judaism. In gratitude, the Neolog communities established a fund in 1896 to advance Hungarian Jewry “in the national spirit.” The immediate social effect of this law was that Jews who wished to marry Christians no longer needed to convert to Christianity.

Suggested Reading

Zsigmond Groszmann, A recepciós mozgalom politikai története (Budapest, 1915); Nathaniel Katzburg, “Milḥamtam shel yehude Hungaryah le-ma‘an shivyon zekhuyot datiyot bi-shenot ha-tish‘im le-me’ah ha-19,” Tsiyon 22 (1957/58); Nathaniel Katzburg, “Recepció,” in Fejezetek az újkori zsidó történelembõl Magyarországon, pp. 103–115, (Budapest, 1999); Anikó Prepuk, “Religious Equality and Jewish Emancipation. The Acceptance of the Jewish Denomination in Hungary in the 1890s,” in Tolerance and Intolerance in Historical Perspective, ed. Csaba Lévai and Vasile Vese, pp. 13–23 (Pisa, 2003); Árpád Zeller, A magyar egyházpolitika: 1847–1894, vol. 2 (Budapest, 1894).



Translated from Hungarian by Veronika Szabó