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BLOCH, JOSEF SAMUEL:

Leaves Rabbinical for Political Career.

Austrian rabbi and deputy; born at Dukla, a small city in Galicia, Nov. 20, 1850. His parents, who were poor, destined him for the rabbinical career, and he devoted himself to the exclusive study of the Talmud. He frequented the yeshibot, especially that of the celebrated Rabbi Josef Saul Nathanson at Lemberg, who, in his responsa, mentions Bloch, when he was only fifteen years old, as one of his most intelligent pupils. After having finished his studies at the colleges (gymnasia) of Magdeburg and Liegnitz, he went to the University of Munich. Thence he went to the University of Zurich, where he obtained his degree of doctor of philosophy. He was appointed rabbi in Rendsburg, Holstein, afterward in Kobylin, Posen, and Brüx, Bohemia; and finally he ended his rabbinical career in Floridsdorf, near Vienna. The anti-Semitic movement had at that time (about 1880) almost reached its climax in Austria.

During the Tisza-Eszlár trial Professor Rohling, of the Catholic theological faculty of the Prague University, made a written offer to substantiate under oath the blood-ritual of the Jews. Bloch then came to the front with a series of articles in which he openly accused Rohling of having offered to commit wilful perjury; denouncing him, moreover, as a person utterly ignorant in Talmudic learning. After several successful attempts to delay the proceedings, Rohling preferred to withdraw, thus tacitly acknowledging defeat (see Blood Accusation).

At this time, 1883, Bloch founded a periodical, "Oesterreichische Wochenschrift," with the aim to defend the political rights of the Jews, to refute unjust attacks, and to inspire its readers with courage and faith in the conflict that had been forced upon them. Bloch also attended several meetings held by workingmen, and lectured with some success on the Talmudic principles of labor and on the laboring classes in the Old Testament.

Becomes Deputy.

After the death, at Cracow, in 1884, of the chief rabbi S. Schreiber, who had been deputy for Kolomea in parliament, Bloch was elected as his successor; in 1885 he was reelected, and after a hard struggle with Dr. Byk, in 1891 he was elected for the third time. As a member of the Chamber of Deputies he withdrew from his rabbinical post in order to devote himself entirely to his public functions and journalistic labors.

In 1893, instigated by one Deckert, an anti-Semitic pastor in Vienna, a baptized Jew named Paulus Meyer declared in the "Vaterland" of May 11 that a number of Russian rabbis from Lentschna had performed a ritual murder in his presence. In the name of the children of these rabbis, Bloch at once instituted criminal proceedings against Deckert, Meyer, and the publisher of the paper, and on trial, Sept. 15, a conspiracy was unmasked and the three defendants were sentenced to heavy punishment.

His Works.

When in 1896 Christian socialism had gained a strong footing in parliament, and the government had commenced to recognize the Socialist party, Bloch was sacrificed and everything imaginable was done to prevent his reelection. Through the combined efforts of the government, the Christian-Socialist party, and the Polish club (party of Polish deputies), all of whom supported the election of the Jewish burgomaster of Kolomea, Bloch failed of reelection. Since that time he has devoted himself exclusively to journalism. Bloch published the following works: "Ursprung und Entstehung des Buches Kohelet," Bamberg, 1872; "Studien zur Geschichte der Sammlung der Alt-Testamentlichen Litteratur," Leipsic, 1875; "Die Juden in Spanien," Leipsic, 1876; "Hellenistische Bestandtheile im Biblischen Kanon," 2d ed., Vienna, 1880; "Quellen und Parallelen zu Lessing's Nathan," 2d ed., Vienna, 1881; "Jean Bodin, ein Vorläufer Lessing's," Vienna, 1882; "Drei Streitschriften Gegen Prof. Rohling," Vienna, 1882-83; "Die Arbeiter bei Griechen, Römern, und Palestinensern," Vienna, 1882; "Elementarschule, oder Erziehungswesen bei den Alten Völkern," Vienna, 1883; "Armenpflege und Heimatsrecht, eine Social-Talmud. Studie," Vienna, 1884; "Einblicke in die Geschichte der Entstehung der Talmudischen Literatur," Vienna, 1884; "Aus der Vergangenheit für die Gegenwart," Vienna, 1886; "Acten und Gutachten im Processe Rohling-Bloch," Vienna, 1892; "Open Letter to My Esteemed Colleagues of the Italian Parliament," London, 1895 (published also in Italian and German); "Talmud und Judenthum in der Oesterreichischen Volksvertrebung," Vienna, 1900 (parliamentary speeches).

Bibliography:
  • Eisenberg, Das Geistige Wien, s.v.
S. W. Rei.
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