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Set of tefillin with a green pouch worn by a Hungarian rabbi

Object | Accession Number: 1990.245.9 a-c

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    Set of tefillin with a green pouch worn by a Hungarian rabbi
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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Pair of tefillin and pouch owned by Rabbi Simon Hevesi, and later used by his son, Rabbi Ferenc Hevesi. Simon served as chief rabbi of Hungary between 1927 and 1943. Tefillin are small boxes containing prayers attached to leather straps and worn by Orthodox Jewish males during morning prayers. Simon Handler became an ordained rabbi in 1894, and was appointed chief rabbi in Kassa, Hungary (now Košice, Slovakia) followed by Lugos (now Lugoj, Romania) in 1897. As part of a pilgrimage study trip to Palestine, Simon met the leaders of the Jewish community in Budapest. At their invitation, Simon moved with his wife and five children to Budapest in 1905 and changed their last name to Hevesi. As a rabbi in the Dohány Street synagogue, Simon became a leader in the community, was a beloved speaker, and held a professorship in oratory at the Rabbinical Institute. He was elected chief rabbi of Hungary in 1927 and became president of the National Rabbinical Association. In 1930, Simon’s son, Ferenc, moved to Budapest with his wife and daughter, and also became a rabbi at the Dohány synagogue. In 1939, Simon traveled to the United States, and was given an honorary doctorate by the Jewish Theological Society of America. During his tenure in Budapest, Simon founded or served as a board member of numerous institutions and organizations, and was a prolific writer and editor of Jewish scholarly works. When Simon died in 1943, Ferenc and a colleague succeeded him as co-chief rabbis.
    Date
    use:  before 1952
    Geography
    use: Hungary
    use: United States
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Eva Ehrlich
    Markings
    b. left and right sides, embossed : ש
    Contributor
    Subject: Ferenc Hevesi
    Subject: Simon Hevesi
    Biography
    Ferenc Hevesi (1898-1952) was born in Lugos, Hungary (now Lugoj, Romania) to Simon (1868-1943) and Janka Hevesi (nee Brody, 1864-1945). He had four siblings: Jenő (later Eugene, 1895-1983), Géza (1897-?), Imre (1904-1998), and Nóra (later Kürschner). Simon was the town’s rabbi until 1905, when the family moved to Budapest.

    Ferenc entered the National Rabbinical Training Institute in 1912. Following his graduation in 1922, Ferenc worked as a rabbi in the city of Székesfehérvár, Hungary. On November 2, 1922, he married Magda Rottenstein (1906-1977), and their daughter, Eva (1924-2009), was born two years later. In 1930, the family returned to Budapest, where they shared a large apartment with Ferenc’s parents. Simon was the chief rabbi of Hungary, and Ferenc worked under his father at the Dohany Street synagogue. The combined household was very traditional, and they observed all of the holidays and ate exclusively kosher. They had a close extended family, and they regularly met at Simon and Janka’s home for meals. Antisemitism was rampant in Budapest, and despite the risk for persecution, Ferenc remained an outspoken opponent of Fascism. During a Friday night service in 1932, a shooter came into the synagogue; Ferenc was able to disarm the man.

    Around 1933 or 1934, Ferenc, Magda, and Eva moved into their own apartment. In June 1938, Ferenc’s brother, Jenő, who was a diplomat, changed his name to Eugene and immigrated to the United States with his wife and young son. During the 1930s, both Ferenc and Simon visited the US, but never considered leaving Hungary permanently. Ferenc was offered a job at a synagogue in New York City, but did not want to abandon his congregation and turned it down.

    Things became worse for the Jewish population as Hungary began instituting anti-Jewish policies modeled after German laws in 1938, and then joined the Axis alliance in November 1940. The family was able to keep abreast of the war by illegally listening to Allied radio broadcasts. In 1943, Simon died; Ferenc and a colleague succeeded him as co-chief rabbis of Hungary.

    Following Hungarian attempts to sign an armistice with the Allies, the German army occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944 and Adolf Eichmann arrived in Budapest to personally oversee the occupation. Two weeks later, the occupation authorities decreed that all Jews six years and older were required to wear a yellow Star of David. Eva could no longer attend school, curfews were slowly imposed, and food became scarce. Ferenc’s family’s valuables were confiscated, and they were removed from their apartment and forced into one they had to share with another family. The family was forced to relocate again, into a single room apartment crowded with 20 people. Ferenc was permitted to continue holding services at the synagogue, unless it conflicted with curfew. As chief rabbi, Ferenc was constantly harassed by the Germans, and was taken to Eichmann’s headquarters numerous times. Ferenc also refused their pressure to become part of the Judenrat. Eva and Magda purchased two sets of false papers in case they needed to escape, but did not obtain any for Ferenc, as he was too well-known to be able to use them.

    On October 15, the radically antisemitic, German-backed Arrow Cross Party seized power of the Hungarian government. Ferenc was at the community center when Nazi and Arrow Cross soldiers arrived to arrest him. With the help of the gatekeeper, Ferenc managed to slip out and the family went into hiding. Ferenc went to the home of a Gentile cousin of Magda’s, while family friends helped Eva and Magda secure rented lodgings. Out of fear of discovery, Eva and Magda moved every few days, aided by members of the underground resistance. In November, a closed Jewish ghetto was created in the area around her father’s Dohany Street synagogue. Ferenc’s brother and sister-in-law were forced into the ghetto, but were able to escape. Ferenc was thrown out of their relative’s home in December, and he went to the sanatorium where his mother was being treated, which was owned by an American doctor. A rabbi in the Judenrat alerted the authorities, but the doctor helped Ferenc escape again, and he hid in a shed until he was taken into an apartment owned by a retired army colonel. Eva and Magda eventually went to the same apartment building, and were placed in the basement with a group of Gentiles hiding from the air raids They remained there until their section of the city, including the ghetto, was liberated by the Soviet army on January 16, 1945. The remainder of the city was liberated the following month.

    When they came out from hiding, Ferenc and his family were able to find Magda’s parents, Moritz and Erna Rottenstein, who had survived in a Jewish hospital. Erna was very ill, and died a short time later. Ferenc’s mother had been in the same sanatorium where he had hidden, but starved to death after the nurse who was caring for her began stealing her food. When Ferenc returned to the synagogue, they found huge piles of unidentifiable Jewish corpses, frozen by the winter temperatures. Ferenc presided over a mass service and burial. Long lines soon formed for individual burials.

    Near the end of February, Ferenc’s family returned to their apartment, only to find it had been emptied of all their belongings by the building janitor. After he was caught, the janitor was able to get their belongings back. Ferenc became a chaplain for the Hungarian army, and returned to his former rabbinical duties. The American military mission arrived in Budapest, and Eva met a Hungarian-American soldier, Adrian Heller. They got married on October 8, 1946, and Eva immigrated with him to the United States.

    In the fall of 1946, Ferenc traveled to England and the United States, where he Anglicized his name to Francis. He was sponsored by the American Joint Distribution Committee, and gave speeches on behalf of the Hungarian Jewry. On February 2, 1947, Francis presided over Eva’s religious wedding ceremony in New York City. Magda was also granted permission to travel to attend the wedding. Before Francis and Magda could return to Budapest, they were warned that Francis was being accused of a crime and that he should stay in the US.

    Francis was offered a job leading a congregation in Dalton, Georgia. Eva joined her parents there when she got divorced in 1949. They later moved to Washington, D.C., where Eva met Bernard Ehrlich, who she married in 1950. Francis was offered a job at a yet-to-be-formed department at Georgetown University, and in the meantime took a temporary position at a congregation in Hawaii, where he unexpectedly died in 1952. Magda lived with Eva and Bernard until her death in 1977, and they raised three girls.
    Simon Hevesi (1868-1943) was born Simon Handler in Aszód, Hungary, to Márk (1837-1911) and Julianna (nee Rosenberg) Handler. He had four siblings: Rudolf (1873-?), Illes (Elijah, 1878-1955), Nora (?-?), and Irma (?-?). Márk was a well-respected rabbi, and as a result, Simon and his siblings grew up in a very religious household. After attending grammar school, Simon was admitted to the National Rabbinical Training Institute. He also attended lectures in philosophy, history, and linguistics at the University of Budapest. Simon obtained a doctorate in humanities in 1892, and became an ordained rabbi in 1894. That same year, he became chief rabbi in Kassa, Hungary (now Košice, Slovakia) followed by Lugos (now Lugoj, Romania) in 1897. Simon married Janka Brody (Johanna, 1872-1945), the daughter of a respected Talmudic scholar. They had four sons and a daughter: Jenő (later Eugene, 1895-1983), Géza (1897-?), Ferenc (1898-1952), Imre (1904-1998), and Nóra (later Kürschner).

    In Lugos, Simon organized multiple educational institutions (the first of their kind in southern Hungary), and worked with non-Jewish intellectuals. As part of a pilgrimage study trip to Palestine, Simon met the leaders of the Jewish community in Budapest. At their invitation, the family moved to Budapest in 1905 and changed their last name to Hevesi. Simon became a leader in the community and held a professorship in oratory at the Rabbinical Institute. He was elected chief rabbi in 1927 and became president of the National Rabbinical Association. During his tenure in Budapest, Simon founded or served as a board member of numerous institutions and organizations, including the National Hungarian Israelite Public Education Association, Hungarian Revision League, the Israelite Hungarian Literary Society, the National Israelite Patronage Association, and the Hungarian Israelite Handicraft and Agricultural Association. He was also a prolific writer and editor of Jewish scholarly works. He wrote around six hundred pieces, 31 of which were published, and contributed to 26 journals and newspapers.

    In 1930, Simon’s son, Ferenc, who followed him as a rabbi, moved to Budapest with his wife and daughter. They shared a large apartment with Simon and Janka. Ferenc worked under his father at the Dohany Street synagogue. The combined household was very traditional, and they observed all of the holidays and ate exclusively kosher. They had a close extended family, and they regularly met at Simon and Janka’s home for meals. Around 1933 or 1934, Ferenc’s family moved into their own apartment.

    In 1939, Simon traveled to the United States, and was given an honorary doctorate by the Jewish Theological Society of America. His son, Jenő, was sent to the US as a diplomat with his family in 1938. Jenő changed his name to Eugene while there, and during his visit, Simon convinced him to remain in the US instead of returning to Hungary.

    Things began to change for the Jewish population as Hungary began instituting anti-Jewish policies modeled after German laws in 1938, and then joined the Axis alliance in November 1940. Young males were conscripted into forced labor battalions to support the war effort. When Simon’s granddaughter, Eva, graduated high school in 1942, most Jews were prohibited from attending university. While a connection of the family was able to get Eva enrolled, she was prohibited from attending medical school as she had wanted. The family was able to keep abreast of the war by illegally listening to Allied radio broadcasts. When Simon died in 1943, Ferenc and a colleague succeeded him as co-chief rabbis. The situation in Hungary continued to worsen as the German army occupied the country and the radically antisemitic Arrow Cross Party came to power. Janka starved to death in a sanitarium after the nurse who was caring for her began stealing her food. Ferenc, his wife, and daughter survived the war in hiding and immigrated to the United States afterward.

    Physical Details

    Language
    Hebrew
    Classification
    Jewish Art and Symbolism
    Object Type
    Tefillin (lcsh)
    Genre/Form
    Ceremonial objects.
    Physical Description
    a. Rectangular light green velvet pouch lined with green cloth with a drawstring closure. A green and yellow striped cloth drawstring with 1 knotted end and 1 frayed end is inserted in the interior channel near the top. The top edge has a V-shaped slit in the corners.
    b. Well-worn head tefillin with a square, black painted, leather box (batim) constructed of 4 leather panels with an embossed Hebrew letter Shin on the left and right sides; the right Shin has four strokes. The box is centered on a black painted, square, multi-layered leather platform, sewn together with gut from kosher animals (giddin). The platform has a triangular, notched back with an opening through which a worn, knotted, black painted leather strap (retzu’ot) is threaded. The underside of the strap is unfinished. The interior of the box is divided into 4 sections, which should hold 4 parchment (parshiyot) inscribed with Hebrew prayers. The straps are loosely wrapped around the tefillin. Some of the paint has worn off the edges of the batim.
    c. Well-worn hand tefillin with a square, black painted, leather box (batim) with smooth sides. The box is centered on a black painted, square, 5 layered leather platform, sewn together with gut from kosher animals (giddin). The platform has a triangular, notched back with an opening through which a worn, long, looped, black painted leather strap (retzu’ot) is threaded. The underside of the strap is unfinished. The box should hold a parchment scroll (parshiyot) inscribed with 4 Hebrew prayers. The strap is partially wrapped around the tefillin. Much of the paint has chipped off the batim.
    Dimensions
    a: Height: 10.250 inches (26.035 cm) | Width: 7.500 inches (19.05 cm)
    b: Height: 1.750 inches (4.445 cm) | Width: 3.750 inches (9.525 cm) | Depth: 3.625 inches (9.208 cm)
    c: Height: 1.875 inches (4.763 cm) | Width: 1.625 inches (4.128 cm) | Depth: 2.250 inches (5.715 cm)
    Materials
    a : velvet, cloth, thread
    b : leather, paint, gut, parchment, ink
    c : leather, paint, gut, parchment, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Corporate Name
    Dohány Street Synagogue

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The tefillin was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1990 by Eva Ehrlich, the daughter of Ferencz Hevesi.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-07 07:13:47
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn3338

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