Nagykallo Old Jewish Cemetery
The older cemetery of Nagykálló is believed to have opened approximately 350-400 years ago. The oldest of the preserved tombstones dates to 1781, and the final burial took place in 1821. The ohel (tomb) of Isaac Eizik Taub, a famous rabbi, is in the cemetery. Some ruined, sunken tombstones are placed around the rabbi’s ohel and are stylistically reminiscent of the rabbi’s Sephardic heritage. The inscription on his tombstone was written in advance by the rabbi himself: “Here lies Rabbi Eizik, the rabbi of the holy village of Nagykálló.” To this day, the cemetery is among the most popular religious pilgrimage sites for Jews. The cemetery has been fenced.
Nagykálló was the former chief town of Szabolcs County, and a Jewish community was present in the town from its early days. However, there was a large-scale emigration following a series of attacks on the village. Records show there was an organized religious community in the settlement by the 18th century. In 1781, Isaac Taub, known in Hebrew as Yitzchak Taub, was elected chief rabbi of the county. He was the founder of the Hasidic community and first Hasidic Rebbe in Hungary. Jews came to him from afar for advice, guidance, and blessings. He died in 1821, at the age of 70. Ámos Imre, often referred to as the Hungarian Chagall, was also born in Nagykálló and produced many of his famous works while living in the town. Much of the painter’s works, who died in labour service in 1944, was inspired by moments in the lives of the Hassidic Jews, as well as the everyday life of the Jewish religion.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Jews were economically affluence, and thanks to their friendly relationship with the non-Jewish population, were able to acquire all the houses of the marketplace, with the exception of public buildings. Many local Jews served in the War of Independence (1848-49) and members of some Jewish families in Nagykálló served as Officers. The community established an elementary school in 1855, while the Talmud Torah was established earlier in 1782. Each school had 3 teachers. In 1880, 627 people of the town’s total population of 4,837 were Jews. Seven members of the Jewish community died in action during World War I.
According to data from the 1929 Jewish Lexicon, there were 982 members in the Jewish community among whom 165 were taxpayers. Jews in the community worked in many different occupations, including the following, as reflected in records: 2 wholesalers, 92 traders, 16 craftsmen, 15 farmers, 3 lawyers, 4 doctors, 2 engineers, 3 civil servants, 3 private officials, 4 teachers, 5 entrepreneurs, 8 private people, 12 employees, 14 classified as ‘other’, and 6 living on public donations. The annual budget of the community was 18,700 P.
In 1941 the total population of Nagykálló was 9,863, of which 869 were Jews. The synagogue of Nagykálló was built around 1800 and expanded in 1924. It remained in operation until 1956. The few Jews who survived and returned to the town after the war still went there to pray, until the building was demolished in 1960. The locals took the bricks from the synagogue and used them to build houses and barns. The Torah ark (aron ha-kodesh) and a row of benches were saved from destruction. The only wall that remains of the synagogue can still be seen on Várkert Street. The building of the former Jewish Hospital is now a police station.