Foldes Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish cemetery of Földes was established as early as 1850, since the oldest tombstone found in the cemetery dates to that year. According to the date marked on the latest tombstone found in the cemetery, the cemetery remained in operation until at least 1948. It has been fenced and is maintained by the Heritage Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries and the descendants of Jews from Földes. Some gravestones have been restored.
According to Hebrew Wikipedia, the first Jews were recorded in Földes in 1816. The Orthodox community was founded in the early 1800s. By 1820, they had a synagogue and a mikveh (ritual bath). The Orthodox community also founded a Talmud Torah and yeshiva. A new synagogue was built in 1845 (using voluntary donations from community members) which was later expanded several times. In 1848, Bertalan Szemere, the Interior Minister of the Revolutionary Hungarian Government, ordered a national Jewish census. At that time Mózes Epstein was the teacher of the community. During the 1848–49 War of Independence, 3 Jews served in the army. After the War of Independence, during the period of Austrian absolutism, the number of Jews decreased to 78 in 1853 and increased to 156 by 1861. In 1851, Rabbi Mihály Csillag (1811–1891) lived on a plot where in 1857 (according to the 1857 cadastral map) the synagogue was located. At that time, the Jewish community’s 750 sq ft cemetery bordered on Sziget, where it still is today. In 1867, the National Assembly adopted the Jewish emancipation law.
In 1871, following the Schism in Hungarian Jewry, Földes remained an Orthodox community. In 1873, Mór Fischer had a licensed Jewish private school. In 1876 the community founded an elementary school which had 1 teacher and 80 students. The teacher did not have qualifications from the National Israelite Teachers College and thus the school was closed. In 1883, the school was re-opened following the hiring of Ferenc Fischer who was a certified teacher. He remained in Földes until 1901. In 1903, 60 Jewish traders and craftsmen were registered in the Debrecen Chamber of Commerce and Industry. During World War I (1914–18), 50 members of the community served and six died. In the 1920s, Jewish youth played an active and prominent role in local sports. In 1929, 253 Jews lived in the community (60 families), 55 of whom were the taxpayers. Jews worked in the following professions: 1 teacher, 34 merchants, 15 artisans, and 1 entrepreneur. The Talmud Torah and the yeshiva religious schools were active, the elementary school had 35 students. The operation rules of the Chevra Kadisha were approved by the Interior Ministry in 1898. The Jewish community spent 9% of their budget on charity. The village’s of Sáp and Tetétlen also belonged to the Földes Jewish community. At the beginning of World War II, 65 Jewish men were sent for forced labour service, 33 of whom survived. In 1944, following the German Occupation, there were 214 Jews living the village. Földes’ Jews were transported to the Püspökladány Ghetto on 19 May 1944 and by the end of June they were transported to Debrecen. They were later deported to Auschwitz from the Debrecen brick factory.
In 1990, the names of 193 Jewish residents who died during the Holocaust were inscribed on the World War II memorial. After the war, survivors returned to the village for some time. According to World Jewish Congress, there were 50 Jews in the Orthodox community at the time, and the head of the community was Ernő Lefkovits. Regular prayer services were held in the synagogue, and there was a kosher butcher, a mikveh, and a Talmud Torah. Most of the Jews soon emigrated and by 1957 there were only 10 Jews left in the village. In 1958 the synagogue was torn down. Today, some pictures, writings in local history books, the cemetery in the old Sziget area, and the names on memorials in the Templomkert (Temple Garden) are the sole reminders of the former Jewish community in Földes.