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58 BISCHITZ, Johanna (born Hani Fischer, later Johanna Hevesi Bischitz) (1827–1898) Founder and long-term President of the Pesti Izraelita Nőegylet (Pest Israelite Women’s Association), Hungary’s largest Jewish women’s association; member and Honorary Member of numerous other women’s associations in and outside of Hungary. Johanna Bischitz was born Hani Fischer in the Hungarian town of Tata (Komárom County) in 1827, the third of ten children of Moritz (Mór) Fischer (1799–1880), director and owner of the world-famous ‘Herend’ porcelain factory, and Mária Salzer (1799–1886), of whom little is known. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1848/49, Hani (Johanna) cared for the wounded Hungarian soldiers her father had accommodated in his house. Due to his internationally renowned financial success, Fischer was ennobled in 1867 and added the Hungarian name ‘Farkasházi’ to his own family name. In October 1852, Johanna married the widower David Bischitz (1811–1897), a well-off merchant and landowner from Sárbogárd (Fejér County), and moved to Pest (one of the cities unified as Budapest in 1873). She became the stepmother of three children from her husband’s previous marriage and gave birth to another four children. Reacting to the pauperization of a large segment of the Jewish urban (particularly female) population, Johanna Bischitz set up a women’s association to provide relief, together with eleven other women. After an initial refusal by the city of Pest to accept a Jewish women’s association, on the grounds that the women should join non-Jewish associations, Bischitz, with the support of Chief Rabbi Wolf A. Meisel (1816–1867), finally succeeded in founding the Pesti Izraelita Nőegylet (PIN, Pest Israelite Women’s Association) in the spring of 1866. Mária Gottesmann was elected President and Bischitz, Vice-President; later, from 1873 until her death in 1898, Bischitz presided over the PIN. Her tireless efforts helped make the association one of the best-known institutions in Budapest. An important accomplishment of the PIN was the establishment of Hungary’s first Jewish leány árvaház (girls’ orphanage), which opened on 6 October 1867. Later, on 1 November 1875, a similar institution was set up, a leány árvamenhely (orphan girls’ 59 asylum) for girls who had lost one or both of their parents. Katalin Gerő (1853–1944) was the director of the girls’ orphanage and asylum from 1898 until the end of her life. During this period—spanning two world wars—the orphanage took care of over 1300 Jewish girls. It ran one of the most progressive teacher-training schools in the country and worked closely with different vocational training programs for women in Budapest . One particularly successful initiative launched by the Pesti Izraelita Nőegylet was its népkonyha (soup kitchen), opened on 15 November 1869. Working in close cooperation with the Pest authorities, the kitchen was not only open throughout the year, but became a model for other soup kitchens established after 1873. The activities of the Pesti Izraelita Nőegylet also fostered exchange between Jewish and non-Jewish communities ; in the kosher soup kitchen, people of different religions could meet in a ‘semipublic ’ space on a regular basis. In the 1870s, over 65,000 warm meals were served per year. At the outbreak of World War I, this number had risen to 280,000. For this project alone, the women of the Pesti Izraelita Nőegylet set up a large-scale network of donations. Johanna Bischitz made contact with Baron Moritz de Hirsch (1831–1896) in Paris, one of the great Jewish philanthropists of his time, whom she convinced in the 1870s to set up a foundation in Hungary and who annually donated an incredible 120,000 gulden. Besides her highly professional charitable work, Bischitz believed in modern educational programs and solid vocational training for women and girls. As part of her efforts to improve the situation of women in Budapest, she entered into long-lasting forms of cooperation with other women’s associations: the Fővárosi Szegény Gyermekek ért Egylet (Capital’s Kindergarten Association for Poor Children); the Fröbel Frauenverein (Fröbel Women’s Association); the Országos Nőképző Egyesület (National Association for Women’s Education), which led campaigns for the education and vocational training of women after its foundation in 1868, and the Mária Dorothea Egyesület (Mária Dorothea Association), which represented the interests of female teachers. In the early twentieth century, some...


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