In the First World War, the Jews of the Carpathians were to face, for the first time, in fact, major political upheavals and important new challenges, such as the numerous Jewish refugees who flooded the area during the war. The end of the war and the new political reality that it created – the annexation of Carpatho-Rus to the new Czechoslovak Republic – exposed, albeit rather belatedly, the previously-exposed Jews of the Carpathians (together with the rest of the inhabitants of the region, of course) to the modernity. The Jewish life of the Transcarpathian region in the interwar period, as well as the development of relations between the Jews and the local population, are mainly a sign of this belated modern crisis in Carpatho-Rus and of its consequences.
Jewish life in Carpatho-Rus was naturally concentrated around communal institutions and the pace of religious life. In many cases, Jews were married within the communal framework, and in any event, mixed marriages with non-Jews were rare phenomena; In most families, five or more children were very common. Almost all the Jewish children in Carpatho-Rus had attended the “cheder” at a young age, both in the early morning hours before going to school, and then after school until the evening. Many people still remember the “cheder” to this day in rather gloomy colors. Most of the Jews in the area, like most of the rest of the population, lived without electricity or running water. In addition to the usual distress of life in the Carpathians, World War I brought other hardships, of course.
The JDC contributed to somewhat alleviating the plight of the Jews in the region. In fact, the Joint Distribution Committee was active in Prague since March 1919, and two pioneer delegates arrived in the Carpathian region in the summer of 1920. The Joint Distribution Committee was established in Munkács, where representatives of the Czech Red Cross were already active. Basic food was sent to the area from neighboring Transylvania, via a JDC representative there, and from the Netherlands. Clothes were sent from the western provinces of Czechoslovakia with the help of the Czechoslovak Red Cross and the local government in Transcarpathian Ukraine. The idea of setting up a well-equipped Jewish hospital in Munkács was promoted by one of the first JDC workers in the town of Munkács, Dr. Olkon, who toured the region and saw the poor health of the Jews with his own eyes. Dr. Emanuel Fränkel reveals that at the beginning of his activity there, he encountered the unwillingness of the city’s wealthy to help and take part in the rehabilitation and welfare efforts. However, within a short period of time about 150 JDC centers were opened around the area, and in August 1922, a meeting of representatives of the Jewish communities in the region was held in Munkács, dealing with economic welfare and rehabilitation. It was important for representatives of the Joint to begin with uniting the various factions in the Jewish community, so that aid and rehabilitation operations would be as efficient and effective as possible. However, the reality of the Jewish community in Transcarpathian Russia between the world wars was almost a derogatory word.