100th Yahrzeit of Rabbi Samuel Rosenberg from Unsdorf

Autor: Ján Gurnik | 19.9.2019 o 21:40 | Karma článku: 0,00 | Prečítané:  283x

Pôvodný článok v slovenčine (Original article in Slovak) Huncovce boli miestom stretnutí a spojení   https://jangurnik.blog.sme.sk/c/512488/huncovce-boli-miestom-stretnuti-a-spojeni.html preložený kvôli mnohým záujemcom v zahraničí  

HUNCOVCE - ŽIDOVCE - MALÁ PALESTÍNA (HUNCOVCE- JEWISH TOWN - LITTLE PALESTINE)…people were still heard saying during WW2. After that, nothing was heard, as if nothing had ever been, because almost nothing was left.
But something was left after all…and others should know about it, that is why this blog came to be.


On 13th June 2019, a significant event took place in Huncovce, a small town in Spiš. Without a big promotion, in silence and almost an intimate atmosphere, the town witnessed a large family reunion. The descendants of Samuel Rosenberg, the “Wunderrabi”, “Unsdorfer rabbi” or “Be’er Shmuel”, as he is known in the Jewish world, came together to meet him on the 100th anniversary of his passing.


Samuel Rosenberg

S.R. was born on 23rd August 1842 in the town Tiszafüred, nowadays Hungary, where his father Rabbi Yisrael Yona Tzvi Rosenberg established and led a Yeshiva. Samuel studied on a Yeshiva in Bratislava, and after graduating in 1862 he started helping his father. He became a Rabbi in the town of Csába, before becoming the Rabbi of Huncovce in 1882.

Later he became the Chief Rabbi after the grand Salomon Perlstein, whose place had been vacant for several years after his passing at the end of 1869.


What did Samuel Rosenberg come to?

Huncovce, formerly also called Hunsdorf (Unsdorf), was the center of Jewry in Spiš region. It was the Chief Rabbi’s residence. The 1828 census shows that there were 928 Jews in Huncovce, while the count in all the other villages summed up under a hundred. Moreover, Jewish people were also prohibited to settle in larger towns.

After the year 1840, when the free royal cities finally opened their gates to Jewish people, their numbers in Huncovce continually diminished and their population in cities was on the rise. Despite that, there were still 524 Jews living in Huncovce in 1869, and when Samuel Rosenberg arrived in 1882, the community counted 350 members.S.R. was active in the local Synagogue, built in 1821.

The Synagogue must have been used very intensively, because it didn’t serve only for ceremonial purposes, but also for discussions, talks and negotiations.

There was a Mikveh in the basement, which was used for ceremonial purification.

The Synagogue building was completely rebuilt in 1950s, and today it’s used as a textile warehouse. However, it is still a sacred place for the Jewish descendants, who never miss the opportunity to prey in the place where the Torah was.

S.R. also led the Yeshiva, a higher Jewish school, where young men received their education. This school became the second most significant in Hungary, right after the Yeshiva in Bratislava, established by Chatam Sofer. It was thanks to Samuel Rosenberg, his knowledge, way of teaching and his unique qualities which were widely known not only behind the borders of Spiš, but also outside Hungary. Thanks to him, Huncovce had a prestigious educational establishment, where he turned hundreds of boys into men, many of which become Rabbis. Even during his life, he was regularly visited by many of his former students on the Yom Kippur, so that they could be together with their wise, righteous and noble master.

Samuel Rosenberg passed away on 9th June 1919 (11th Sivan 5679) in what we can call „the reputation of holiness”. He is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Huncovce.

He rests next to his only son Efraim Yehuda, who died at a young age, and his son-in-law Yehuda Horowitz, the husband of his only daughter Sarah.

Yehuda and Sarah Horowitz had several children, amongst which the most significant was Josef Jona Zvi Horowitz, who took over the position of Chief Rabbi and the leadership of Yeshiva in 1919. In 1929 he was invited to Frankfurt am Main, to become the Chief Rabbi of the local orthodox Jewish community. He accepted and left to Germany, while the leadership in Huncovce was taken over by his younger brother Salomon Horowitz.

The successor of Samuel Rosenberg

Josef Horowitz fulfilled the role of Chief Rabbi in Frankfurt until the Crystal Night in November 1938. He saved himself from imprisonment by leaving to England, which was only possible thanks to his Czechoslovak passport. During the war, he was the leader of the local orthodox Jews and left a permanent mark in the spirit of his grand teacher. In 1950 he moved to USA, where he officiated as Unsdorfer Rav. In New York he established a Yeshiva, similar to the one in Huncovce, and a Mesifta named Beer Shmuel. He also established a Yeshiva of the same name in Bnei Brak (Israel) where he settled in 1965 and died in 1970. By his life-long dedication, Josef Horowitz spread out and, through his descendants keeps on spreading, the teachings of Samuel Rosenberg in the whole orthodox Jewish world.


The Program of the special event

On the eve of Samuel Rosenberg’s 100th Yahrzeit, the grandsons and great-grandsons of Josef Horowitz started their journey to Huncovce from all parts of the world. The Yahrzeit was on 14th June this year. They were welcomed by the residents of Huncovce who, together with their mayor, prepared a dignified program accompanied with live music from the formation Mojše Band.

The main party met in Budapest, and on their way to Huncovce they also visited the town Tiszafüred, where Samuel Rosenberg was born. They then arrived to Huncovce in the afternoon, while other guests came directly from England. After short refreshment, they together followed the footsteps of their Rabbi.

First, they visited the former Synagogue where, between the shelves full of textile, mattresses and duvets, they performed a ceremony. As a part of the ceremony there was also a dance of all men who, holding hands and singing cheerfully, expressed their joy of the moment.

They continued in the building of former Yeshiva, where they also prayed.

They spent a moment at the location where Samuel Rosenberg’s house used to stand.


The whole party then gathered in the park by a monument, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of deportation of Jews from Huncovce, revealed on 15th September 2017. It was a pious moment, with speeches from the mayor Peter Majerčák, Ján Gurník and Mikuláš Lipták.

The crowd learned that on 30th May 1942, the main Jewish group of Huncovce was deported from this very park, the whole family of Rabbi Salomon Horowitz among them.

They also remembered the testimony of Emil Schneck, an eyewitness and almost a fellow victim of this tragic event.


Candles were lit in respectful piety while naming all eight family members. The act was accompanied by the psalm Kel Mole Rachamim, performed by Mojše Band.


At the end, there was a speech from a Horowitz family representative. He thanked for the reception, for the town’s interest in his exceptional ancestor, for the respect shown to the Holocaust victims, for the care taken of the cemetery. The town’s representatives were presented by a “house blessing” – a painting that, according to his words, can be found in each Jewish family house.




The program continued in the town hall, where the town’s representatives prepared a space for a mutual program dedicated to the Horowitz family members and the local visitors of the event.

The event organizers gave a presentation about Samuel Rosenberg, assembled from available information sources.


The guests also heard the testimony about S.R., written and sent for the occasion by Emil Schneck from Germany.

It spoke of his grandfather being taken to Siberia during WW1, and his grandmother being left alone with children at the homestead. 

When S.R. heard about this, he came to her with his son-in-law Yehuda Horowitz to ask if she could accommodate Jewish students. The grandmother rented the students a room until her husband’s arrival, and thankfully reminisced about the Rabbi’s help.


The testimony was followed by a speech from the Chief Rabbi of the English town Gateshead, Shraga Feivel Halevy Zimmerman.

This highest-ranked family member spoke of interesting and valuable details from their ancestor’s life, he talked about his greatness, his relationship to his descendants and to the town of Huncovce. He also said that they came „home “, and they feel like home. During his speech, with honesty and emotion, he revealed that Huncovce are „the center of their universe “.

How incredible it is that they consider Huncovce being their home, the center of their existence, even though they were all born so far abroad? 

It expresses their respect, awe, pride and responsibility towards Samuel Rosenberg, whose sainthood they do not doubt.
Rabbi Horowitz also presented his speech in Yiddish about S.R. to his relatives, together with a prayer which was shared with all other guests. At the end of the event, the mayor spoke and presented the family representatives by a symbolic gift – seven granite stones from the Poprad River, which flows by the Synagogue building and was the source of Mikveh water in the old times. There was writing on each of them:

When the stones were presented, the mayor expressed a wish: „May the respect for Samuel Rosenberg live as long, as these stones last.

The gifts were received with gratitude and joy. The seven stones will be split in a way, so that there is one in each country where the descendants of S.R. live, in places they hold dearly – Yeshivot, Synagogues etc. A young family member revealed plans for a new Synagogue to be built, and proudly announced that one of the stones will surely be placed there.

The mayor unveiled yet another gift - a memorial plaque made of black granite with the same writing as found on the stones. The plaque was installed on the Ohel of Samuel Rosenberg’s tomb, to commemorate this special day forever.


After the program, the family members gathered at the cemetery again where, praying until the late night, they experienced the closeness to Samuel Rosenberg and other relatives buried in the cemetery.


At late night between Thursday and Friday, they left Huncovce so that they could spend Sabbath at home with their families.



The meaning of this significant meeting

The gathering on the day of 100th Yahrzeit of Samuel Rosenberg was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime event for the Horowitz family. And so was it for the residents of Huncovce, even though not all of them realize that yet. A new spirituality began flowing to Huncovce on this day.

Huncovce was a place of meetings and unions…

The (initially) family meeting has broken the personal barriers and symbolically interconnected two different worlds.

It connected the branched Horowitz family, living in USA, Israel and England,

it connected the worlds of people talking different languages – English, Hebrew, Yiddish, German and Slovak, all heard in Huncovce that day,

it connected the Jewish world with the Christian world, when the residents, together with their mayor, organized a decent program for their precious guests, so that together with delight and unity they enjoyed this remarkable day, and eventually

it connected the material world with the transcendental one, when the descendants of Samuel Rosenberg spent a large part of their visit in a spiritual manner. In prayers they connected with God and paid respects to their forefathers, who preceded them into eternity, particularly to their grand Tzadik, Gaon, Rabbi Samuel Rosenberg from Unsdorf.


Video from the event

YouTube channels with videos from Huncovce

About Huncovce: www.huncovce.sk


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