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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

6 - Ordinary People, Ordinary Jews


German Jews could not find a friend in Schiller; in Goethe they found a steadfast adversary. As long as we had Kazinczy the Jewish school supervisor, Bajza rallying and laboring for a Jewish teacher training institute, Vörösmarty watching with a heavy heart already during the 40s that equality and brotherhood have left the eternal Jews untouched in their suffering, Petöfi scolding the German burghers with all his might for daring to persecute the Jews, justice and love regulating Kossuth's behavior toward us, Pal Szemere and Ferencz Pulszky rushing to acknowledge our worth with great skill – we could envision a bright future; but among all of these our most sincere friend was none other than Mór Jókai.

Béla Vajda, “Jókai,” 1904, 246

When he wrote these words in 1904, Béla Vajda, a late nineteenth-century Hungarian Jewish historian, captured the love affair between Hungarian Jewry and the great Hungarian romantic novelist Mór Jókai (YO-kah-ee). For more than a century, Jókai has been singled out as the Magyar philosemite par excellance. Jókai himself reinforced this view by extolling his own camaraderie with Jews, whom he regarded as fellow Magyars.

In the larger context of European philosemitism, however, Jókai is somewhat of an anomaly. His attitude toward Jews betrays little or none of the allosemitic tone that pervades the outlook of other philosemites, and nothing whatsoever of the missionary tone evinced by many English millenarians and comparably minded philosemities.

Edelstein, Alan, An Unacknowledged Harmony: Philosemitism and the Survival of European Jewry (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982
Lupovitch, Howard, Jews at the Crossroads: Tradition and Accommodation during the Golden Age of the Hungarian Nobility (Budapest: CEU Press, 2006
Coles, Paul, The Ottoman Impact on Europe (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968
Baron, Salo, Die Judenfrage auf der Wiener Kongress (Vienna: Löwit, 1920