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OESTERREICHISCH-ISRAELITISCHE UNION:

Austrian political society for the protection of Jewish interests, founded in 1884 on account of the victory of the anti-Semites in the election of that year in Vienna and Lower Austria. Its purposes were "To promote a love for Jewish learning among the Jews of Austria and to further their interests, to oppose and dispel the wide-spread errors in regard to the Jews and the prejudice against them, and to combat the efforts instituted to increase the severity of the religious and racial opposition to them."

The realization of these aims was begun in the most active and efficacious way by the board of directors, which included Josef S. Bloch and Chief Rabbi Güdemann, besides university professors, lawyers, and prominent merchants. Effective influence was gained in all political elections as well as in those of the Jewish congregation of Vienna. Under the auspices of the society free public lectures are given every winter by leading scholars and by men distinguished in public life, for the strengthening ofthe Jewish consciousness and sense of political freedom. Its propaganda for the establishment of a Jewish theological seminary in Vienna, as well as its movement for the promotion of Hebrew studies in the religious schools, was crowned with signal success.

In 1895 the Union gave the impulse to the creation of a central body for protection and defense, composed of representatives of the larger Austro-Jewish congregations. This Allgemeiner Israelitischer Gemeindebund did not receive the sanction of the government until it had changed its constitution; and it has not yet accomplished very much.

The anti-Semitic riots and the charges of ritual murder which arose in 1896 throughout Austria, especially in Bohemia, in connection with the reactionary tendency in government circles found the Union well prepared for defense. It kept the government and the press constantly informed of the state of affairs and appealed to them for help. It organized its own "Rechtschutz-Bureau," which gives gratuitous legal aid to all Jews whose rights have been infringed or who have been unjustly persecuted for their religion; it repels false accusations against the whole body of Jews, and wards off illegal attacks. In the year 1898 the Union, moved by the terrible sufferings of the Jews in Galicia, instituted a thorough investigation of the condition of their coreligionists there. One result of this action of the society, combined with that of other allied bodies, was the foundation of the Galizischer Hilfsverein, which aims at raising the moral and material standard of the Jewish population of that province.

The society has published since 1888 a monthly magazine, under the title "Mittheilungen der Oesterreichisch-Israelitischen Union," for the propagation of its ideas. Since 1892 it has published also the "Kalender für Israeliten," which ranks among the best Jewish year-books now issued, especially on account of its literary department and its exhaustive list of the Jewish congregations of Austria and their officers.

Bibliography:
  • Kalender für Israeliten, passim;
  • Oesterreichische Wochenschrift, passim.
D. A. Ki.
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