יום שני, 27 בינואר 2014

Changes of Names in the Munk Family

Erzsébet Mislovics, University of Szeged, Hungary

Changes of names among the Jews in modern Hungary highlight not only individual factors, but also reflect the relationship between the Jews and the state. Jewish immigrants to Hungary arrived from various directions and language areas. Generally, Jews only had first names, although those in the western and eastern parts of the country later showed some differences: they used their ancestral proper names or the names of their former places of residence as family names; in the eastern region, the patronymic endings of –ics, -vics were typical. The increasing bureaucracy of state power deemed it necessary to control citizens more effectively; therefore, compulsory family names were introduced. The regulation of Joseph II obliged Jewish citizens to use proper and family names.
It often happened that Austrian officials gave names to Jews, so most of the family names were of German origin. The second act of acculturation took place among Hungarian Jews in the 19th century when the Hungarian state regarded the choice of names as an opportunity for the expression of loyalty. In a certain sense, the state offered a contract for individuals: rights in exchange of giving up their ethnic independence. For Hungarian Jews, as opposed to other ethnic groups, the steps towards identification with the state were voluntary. Up until World War I, the Jews were the highest percentage who changed their names. This did not mean that there were no opponents to this development among the Jews.
This lecture focuses on the changes of names in the Munk family. The Munk family had lived in Germany and the Bohemian lands until the mid-eighteenth century when it entered northern Hungary (Nyitra, now Slovakia). However, members of the family did not long remain in this market town. The families are characterized by mobility (within the country and beyond borders as well). The study covers a 200 year period and focuses on the following questions: To what extent was name change linked to regions and certain settlement patterns of the families? In what respect did the employment and economic status of the family influence the process of name change?
The Munk család genealógiája [Genealogy of the Munk family] is an invaluable source for modern Hungarian Jewish history and for the development of Jewish identity in Hungary. This period witnessed the transition from a traditional framework to a modern, acculturated even assimilated milieu. The history of the Munk family is the basis of our analysis, where broader historical developments are manifested in one case study over several generations. The response of the family members to the expectations created by the Hungarian state and society and their response to the inner challenges concerning Jewish families are highlighted and examined. 

Selected bibliography:
Erzsébet Mislovics, Two Centuries of a Hungarian Jewish Family: A Prosopographic Study of the Munk Family (Jerusalem, 2010).
Michael K. Silber, “Roots of the Schism in Hungarian Jewry: Cultural and Social Change from the Reign of Joseph II until the Eve of the 1848 Revolution” (Ph.D. Jerusalem, 1985).
Michael K. Silber, “The Historical Experience of German Jewry and Its Impact on Haskala and Reform in Hungary”, in: Jacov Katz, Toward Modernity the European Jewish Model (New Brunswick and Oxford, 1987) 107-157.

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