Hungary’s former national chief rabbi and one-time director of the Rabbi Training Institute József Schweitzer has died at the age of 93, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (MAZSIHISZ) disclosed on Thursday night.
Mr. Schweitzer was born in the Western town of Veszprém in 1922 and studied in Budapest after his grandfather, Veszprém rabbi Ármin Hoffer was placed to Budapest. During the Second World War, he was drafted for forced labour and went into hiding in Budapest. He was ordained a rabbi in 1947 after graduating in Semitic linguistics, ancient Eastern history and sociology in the previous year. Having served as the chief rabbi of the southern city of Pécs between 1948 and 1981, he became chief rabbi of Budapest’s Jewish community in 1981 and served as the director of the National Rabbi Training institute from 1985 to 1997. In acknowledgement of his religious, scientific and educational merits, he was appointed national chief rabbi in 1994 and served in this position until 2000.
Mr. Schweitzer, whose areas of scientific research included Jewish theology and the history of Hungarian Jewry, was a lecturer and doctor honoris causa at several universities, including the New York Jewish Theological Seminary. He received several awards in recognition of his work, both domestically and internationally.