Like in other settlements in the region, Jews came to Tarcal in the modern era from Galicia, Moravia, and the surrounding Hungarian counties. They were initially landowners’ tenants but occasionally engaged in trade, the traditional form of occupations permitted to Jews. The 1746 census mentions 13 Jews in Tarcal. At that time, the production of Aszú wine was still prohibited for Jews, but they could produce kosher wine. According to a source from 1764, a three-member Jewish wine-producing company in Tarcal sold 120 barrels of “máslás” wine to Polish Jewish traders.

By 1820, the number of Jews in Tarcal had increased to 50 families. In 1840, 234 Jews lived in the settlement, constituting 7.3% of the total population. In the 1880s, this number rose to 354 (12% of the population). During World War I, 26 Jewish men from Tarcal joined the military, four of whom died in battle. From the 1920s, the Jewish population began to decline, reaching 280 in 1929 according to the Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (Hungarian Jewish Encyclopaedia). In 1941, the Jewish population in Tarcal was 299, making up 7.5% of the total.

The growth of the community allowed them to accommodate all the institutions necessary for Jewish religious life. The exact date of construction of the Tarcal synagogue is uncertain, possibly sometime in the late 18th or early 19th century. There was a mikve (ritual bath) in the settlement, referred to colloquially as the Jewish bath, located in an empty plot opposite Petőfi utca on Vasút utca.

The development of the village, and with it the local Jewish community was halted by a wave of severe antisemitism following World War I. Members of the local Jewish community faced a series of antisemitic atrocities during the years of the White Terror (beatings and looting of their businesses). Between the two World Wars, antisemitic propaganda and the introduction of anti-Jewish laws significantly aggravated the situation. To cope with the economic crisis and impoverishment, Jewish women organized cultural programs and provided assistance to the poor, leading to the establishment of the Debora Women and Girls Association in 1934.

299 Jews were taken away from Tarcal, although, by this time, the younger men were already conscripted into the forced, state led “labour service.” On the 15th of April 1944, they were transported to the ghetto in Sátoraljaújhely, and from there to Auschwitz, where the majority of them were killed. In 1945, only thirty returned – twenty men and ten women. After the destruction of the majority of the community and the experienced tragedies, rebuilding a community was no longer feasible. In 1956, the remaining Jews of Tarcal also fled the settlement, possibly due to antisemitic atrocities (hate speech and violent acts), which was reported by the president of the congregation.

The martyred members of the Tarcal Jewish community are commemorated in a section of the World War I memorial devoted to World War II victims.

Tarcal Synagogue
(Tarcal, Könyves Kálmán Street 41.)

Built in Louis XVI style, the Tarcal synagogue, with its cornice and exterior staircase leading to the women’s gallery resembles the Mád synagogue.

Being situated on a hill allows the building to rise above the surrounding houses despite its size, which is not much larger than theirs. The exact date of the synagogue’s construction is unknown. On the facade, a plaque placed after the Holocaust bears the year 1779. It was customary to mark the year of consecration on the façade with a quote from the Torah in Hebrew, where the numerical value of its initial letters would show the date. However, the script on the synagogue’s facade is not entirely visible due to erosion. Based on various sources, it is assumed that the synagogue was probably completed around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The inscription above the entrance of the synagogue is the Hungarian equivalent to: “This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.” (Psalm 118:20 KJV), although the word standing for “Lord” has by now faded.

In 1981, the Jewish congregation sold the synagogue, which was in poor condition by then. In 2000, the building found a new owner: a Finnish artist who operates an exhibition space and guesthouse called “Tarcal Gallery” in the former synagogue. The former role of the building is only evidenced by fragments of the women’s gallery railing and a bas-relief on the eastern wall.


1.,2.,3. The façade of the Tarcal synagogue.
4. The Tarcal synagogue.
5. The rear façade with the women’s gallery railing, Tarcal, the synagogue building, the fall of 1985.


Tarcal Jewish cemetery
(Tarcal, Keresztúri utca 48.)

There are two Jewish cemeteries in close proximity to each other in the village, located on the northern border of the village on the slope of Kopasz Hill. Among the tombstones of the old cemetery is the ohel (crypt-like, tent structure raised above a grave) of the village’s former renowned rabbi, Jakab Spira, and his wife, which was renovated in the second half of the 2010s. In front of the tomb of the rabbi who died in 1906, a box was placed for pilgrims’ prayer notes. The grave remains one of the most visited in the area.