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The first Jewish settlers filtered into the province in the second or third century, many of them as traders from Rome. The founder of the Hungarian state, King Stephen I, adopted Christianity and decreed it a state religion. However, his laws also guaranteed equal rights for all peoples and religions, including Judaism. The first gravestone with a Hebrew inscription was found in Buda and bears the legend Pesach, son of Peter, dated 1278. The golden age of medieval Judaism in Hungary came at the peak of Hungarian political and economical development; the Renaissance under the reign of King Matthias. According to a source of the day, Jews were among the wedding procession during the ceremony held for King Matthias and his bride Beatrix in 1476. After the death of the King in 1490, Hungary was increasingly threatened by the approaching Turks, and the position of the Jews became increasingly precarious.
At the time of the Turkish conquest, Hungary's Jews mainly lived in villages and under the protection of higher nobility, only rarely maintaining communities in a few large towns.
After Buda was reclaimed, Jews arriving in Hungary under Habsburg rule generally lived in smaller settlements under the patronage of the landowning nobility. Initially, they were only seen in Buda or Pest for weekly fairs and markets.
At the down of the reform period in the early 19th century, Hungary was the first country in Eastern Europe to offer integration and equality to its Jews, a move to designed to demonstrate the nation's regeneration and modernization. During this time Jews did their best to improve the country's economic situation. Full Jewish emancipation came immediately after the Compromise of 1867 and the creation of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. The Jewish Congress was created between 1868-69 to plan and oversee a uniform Jewish organization.
SynagogueSynagogue
The founder of Zionism, which emerged at the turn of the century, was Budapest-born Theodor Herzl.
In the early twentieth century, Hungarian Jews were able to gain a foothold in Hungarian political life in the first time. The traditional Germanic influence, irredentist pressure and the depression of 1929 dragged the country towards fascism. The authorities turned against the Jews as the alliance with Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy combined with slogans of irredentism, made Hungary's involvement in the Second World War inevitable. Even though the economic situation improved in the late 1930s, anti-Jewish laws gradually deprived Hungarian Jews of their rights.
 
All this was an early sign of the catastrophe awaiting the Jews. On March 19, 1944, Germany invaded Hungary and Hitler's notorious commandos arrived to implement the "final solution" to the "Jewish problem". Before long, the deportation of provincial Jews had begun. Of the million Jews living in Hungary at the time, two thirds perished during the Holocaust.
In recent years, there have been spectacular changes in the lives of members of the Hungarian Jewish community. Renovation work has been completed on the Great Synagogue and on other Jewish temples. In addition, numerous Jewish religious communities have been established around Budapest.
 
There are 48 synagogues in Hungary today, most of them located in Budapest. The Jewish Museum, the Library, the Rabbinical Seminar and the Pedagogical Institute can also be found in the capital. A rich variety of religious object is on display in the Jewish museum, from the copy of a third century plaque to original relics of the Jewish faith.
The most exciting event embracing Jewish culture is The Jewish Summer Festival organized yearly during the month of August.
 

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