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AUSTERLITZ:

Jewish Community in Twelfth Century.

Town in Moravia, Austria. Its Jewish congregation is one of the oldest in the province; according to some historians, dating from the beginning of the twelfth century. Records seem to point to a tribute paid by the Jews to King Wenzel in 1288, which revenue he presumably turned over to the Teutonic Knights when they obtained possession of the domain. The payment of this tribute was continued to the successors of the Knights, the counts of Kaunitz. A record in the archives of the present congregation of Austerlitz shows that the Jewish tribute for the year 1757 included pepper, ginger, and other spices. The Jewish merchants visited all the Mediterranean ports, and dealt extensively in the natural and artificial products of the Orient; and it was for this reason that the tribute mentioned was exacted from them, not only by the local secular and ecclesiastical officials, but even by the papal court itself.

The fact that as late as 1798 the Jewish community was ordered, under penalty of legal enforcement, to pay arrears amounting to 503 florins, 3 kreutzers = $200, indicates that this tribute had been exacted from them for a considerable period.

The relations existing between Jews and Christians were at all times friendly. During the Hussite movement, which in 1550 had its headquarters at Austerlitz, no change in the friendly relations between Jews and Christians had occurred; at least the movement was not provocative of any ill-feeling toward the Jews. A striking testimony of this friendly feeling even at a much later date is the fact that on the occasion of the closing of the monasteries by Joseph II. (1780-90), an abbot deposited his valuables with a poor Jew, who later, on finding with no little difficulty the dwelling of the depositor, returned to him intact all he had received from him.

Known as "the White City."

The main occupation of the Jews was trading, and the chief articles sold by them were starch and lime. In connection with this fact it is interesting to note that in Jewish records still extant Austerlitz is called "'Ir Laban" (the White City). The Jewish inhabitants numbered about 445 individuals, occupying thirty-four houses, one of which bears the inscription "Moses Abraham in the year 1523."

When Maria Theresa issued the edict restricting the number of Jewish families in the province of Moravia to 5,100 (later to 5,400), Austerlitz was permitted to shelter 72 Jewish families. Charitable societies for the sick and needy, and schools, established about that time, are still in existence.

According to manuscripts left by R. Josef Weisse, the following ministers officiated at Austerlitz as rabbis; in 1560, R. Löb, a contemporary of R. Moses Isserles, with whom he was in correspondence for some time; in 1570, Jacob, son of Moses, a contemporary of Rabbi Loewe ben Bezaleel; in 1594, Ḥayyim Meling, son of Rabbi Isaac Meling, of Prague; in 1620, Baer Eilenburg; in 1643, Joel Glogau; in 1659, Mordecai; in 1690, Abraham, son of the author of "Bet Yehudah"; in 1703, Nathan Feitel; in 1770, Simḥa Leipnik; in 1780, Elijah Hirsch Istels; in 1790, Jacob Gleiwitz; in 1811, Gerson Buchheim, great-grandfather of Dr. Gustav Karpeles, editor of "Die Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums" at Berlin; and in 1845, Hirsch Duschak, who had received a thorough rabbinical training, and possessed wide secular knowledge.

Jewish Synods Meet at Austerlitz.

In 1662 and in 1724 Jewish synods held their sessions at Austerlitz, passing the important resolutions now embodied in the (311 regulations) (see TaḲḲanot). A noteworthy incident took place in 1805, when a French officer of high rank asked the rabbi to summon ten Jews that he might say "kaddish" for a deceased member of his family.

Bibliography:
  • N. Brüll, Zur Gesch. der Juden in Mähren, in Wiener Jahrbuch der Israeliten, 1867;
  • David Gans, Ẓemaḥ David;
  • Depping, Die Juden im Mittelalter, Stuttgart, 1834;
  • Joseph von Hermann, Gesch. der Israeliten in Böhmen, Vienna, 1818;
  • Hieronymus von Scari, Systematische Darstellung der Gesetze für die Juden Mährens und Schlesiens, Brünn, 1835;
  • G. Wolf, Die Alten Statuten, 1880;
  • Wolny, Die Markgrafschaft Mähren, Brünn, 1836;
  • private sources communicated by R. Josef Weisse and S. Diamant, Austerlitz.
D. E. Ba.
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