Hungarian Jewish Stories of Origin: Samuel Kohn, the Khazar Connection and the Conquest of Hungary


  • Mari Réthelyi Louisiana State University



Samuel Kohn, Khazars, nationalism, Hungarian conquest, Neolog Judaism, Orient, Jewish identity


At the turn of the twentieth century, the Khazar ancestry of European Jewry was a popular idea that particularly resonated throughout the discourse surrounding Hungary’s national origin and belonging. One of this discourse’s critical questions concerned whether Magyars and Jews were divided or united by ethnicity or religion: this paper demonstrates how Samuel Kohn (1841-1920), an important rabbi-scholar of the time, participated in this discussion by arguing for a common origin of the two groups. Kohn asserted that the Khazar ancestry of Hungarian Jews comprises both an ethnic and a religious connection. He considered two complementary questions: whether Hungarians and Jews possessed common ethnic origins and thereby belonged to the same race, and whether Magyars converted to Judaism during the Khazar era, i.e., the belief that Hungarians and Jews shared a common religion in the past. The contemporary political atmosphere magnified the significance of Kohn’s contribution.






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