Herzl’s ambassador who lobbied for Zionism in America

Herzl’s ambassador who lobbied for Zionism in America

Herzl’s ambassador who lobbied for Zionism in America

A Russian Chazan-family that came to Hungary as Lithuanian refugees and became a dominant rabbinic dynasty in this country. Armin Abrahamsohn was one of the last rabbis from the family. With Norbert Lakk’s writing we remember the Zionist rabbi who was also open to Hungarian folk songs during his services.

Armin Abrahamsohn  was born in Zsámbék in 1878. Soon after, the family moved to Nagytopolcsány in the highlands — today the territory is part of Slovakia –, where his father, Farkas Abrahamsohn served as a cantor (chazan). His mother’s name was Sali Singer.

The family’s original name was Kantor and it is believed to have originated from Russia.

To avoid military service in Russia, Rabbi Abrahamsohn’s great-grandfather fled to Lithuania and took the name Abrahamsohn so that the authorities would not find him.

He chose Abrahamsohn (son of Abraham) because the Jews are the children and descendants of Abraham.

Armin Abrahamsohn studied at various Yeshivas in Hungary and later with Rabbi Slomo Breuer in Frankfurt. He graduated from the University of Brno. In 1906, he married Emília Lőwy, whose father, Ignac Lőwy, served as a rabbi in Sárbogárd.  The young rabbi began his career in Sárbogárd as a candidate rabbi, that is, he completed his “internship” service with his aging father-in-law.

Armin Abrahamsohn had a reputation as a very knowledgeable person, over time he learned to speak 13 languages.

He was a member of the committee of the Hungarian Zionist Organization and, as a trustworthy allie of Theodor Herzl, he also traveled to the USA, where he participated in various important fund-raising and other aid campaigns.

We also know about this from his successor, Gábor András, who to this day proudly keeps the New York postcard sent to his grandfather’s family.

Abrahamsohn was Orthodox, but not a bigot – he sometimes recited the holy texts in his pleasant voice to the tune of Hungarian folk songs at services.

He had a good sense of humor and loved tongue twisters. The Abrahamsohn family, with a hard-to-pronounce German surname, was called “pap” (Jewish priest/pastor)  by the non-Jews of Sárbogárd. This is how his children were named Pap Divatár (Tivadar), Pap Lili, Pap Öcsi (Lajos) and Pap Marci.

After the death of Rabbi Armin Abrahamsohn’s father-in-law in 1923, he became the leader of the local Jewish community. The well-respected rabbi of the settlement died in 1937, and the bells of the Christian churches rang at his funeral. His grave is located in the Jewish cemetery in Sárbogárd.

Abrahamsohn’s brother Armin Mano served as a cantor in Budapest, at the famous Dohány Street Synagogue for about 40 years.

Saving a Synagogue in rural Hungary