Jewish scout organizations: their history and memory

Principal investigator: Viktória Bányai

Participants: András Lénárt (Holocaust Memorial Center, Budapest), Eszter Gombocz (John Wesley Theological College), Kata Vörös (Jewish Theological Seminary – University of Jewish Studies, Budapest), Bálint Szegedi (Hungarian Scout Association)

Period: 2018-2021

Grant, funding agency: Jewish Heritage in Hungary Public Endowment

Research questions and objectives:

This research project started in 2018, and its goal is to look at the history of Jewish scout organizations between 1913 and 1948 in Hungary – based on archival sources, contemporary press, memoirs and objects. The research aims to examine the role of Jewish scouting in the service of Jewish nationalist ideology, the appearance of scouting in Neolog denominational youth work between the two world wars, the role of the scouting in the assimilation or dissimilation efforts of Jewish families. We also collect information about the Jewish scout organizations of the Hungarian-speaking Jewish communities in territories of former Hungary, researching the role of Jewish scouting as a tool for community building in the double minority.

Research methods:

The primary research of sources revealed that there is a great inequality in preserved memory of former scouting troops in Budapest and in the provinces. The history of Jewish scouting troops in the provinces faded into almost complete oblivion. Furthermore it has become clear that history of those troops can only be learned through on-site research: review of local press products and yearbooks of local schools, research in the city archives and museums. This work is best done by local archivist and curators, therefore in the second phase of the research (in 2020) we were looking for cooperation with local professionals.

In this phase we continue the research with the following troops:

598. Jósika Scout troop (Jewish Community of Szeged) – 1926-48

615. Ámosz Scout troop (Jewish Elementary School in Pécs) – 1935-48

672. Bem Scout troop (Jewish Community of Kaposvár) – 1926-41

791. King David Scout troop (Jewish Middle School in Miskolc) 1934-41

Hasomer Ha-zair Scout troop (Jewish Community on Komarno)

Publications, databases:

The first results of the research were published in a thematic block in the REGIO (2019, no. 2). The four papers focused on the period 1913-1944 from different aspects:

  • Bányai Viktória: Liliom és Dávid-csillag: a zsidó cserkészet kezdetei Magyarországon, 1913–1924 [Fleur-de-lis and Star of David: The Beginnings of Jewish Scouting in Hungary, 1913-1924]
  • Gidó Attila: „Sómérok” a Kárpátokban [Shomers in the Carpathians: Jewish Scout Troops in Transylvania]
  • Gombocz Eszter: Cserkészliliom és kőtábla: A zsidó identitás újjáépítésének törekvései a két világháború közötti neológiában Vidor Pál életének példáján [Fleur-de-lis and Stone Tablets: Attempts to Rebuild Jewish Identity between the Two World Wars. The Example of Rabbi Pál Vidor’s life
  • Vörös Kata: Numerus clausustól a numerus nullusig: A zsidó cserkészek kirekesztése a Magyar Cserkészszövetségből [From Numerus Clausus till Numerus Nullus: Jewish Question in the Hungarian Scout Association]
  • Szegedi Bálint –Bányai Viktória – Vörös Kata: Zsidó cserkészcsapatok Magyarországon [Database of Jewish Scouting Troops in Hungary]

Press coverage:

in Hungarian:

Föltárul a magyar zsidó cserkészet múltja – Kácsor Zsolt beszélget Bányai Viktóriával és Lénárt Andrással (2018. április 1.)

Liliom és Dávid-csillag, avagy a zsidó cserkészet kezdetei Magyarországon (2019. december 29.)