Early Traces.

Austrian province, formerly part of the kingdom of Bohemia, containing 44,255 Jews in a total population of 2,437,706 (1900). The first historical notice of Jews in Moravia is found in the toll law of Raffelstetten (Jew. Encyc. ii. 322), which mentions Jews who came from Moravia (Dudik, i. 381). This, however, does not prove conclusively that Jews lived in Moravia in the beginning of the tenth century, for its regulations applied probably to traveling merchants who went to Moravia chiefly to buy slaves (Thietmar's "Chronicon," vi. 36, in Pertz, "Monumenta Germaniæ Scriptores," iii. 821; "Vita Sancti Adalberti," in Pertz, ib. iv. 586 and 600; Dudik, iv. 211). Jews must have lived in Moravia in the eleventh century, for Cosmas of Prague, the Bohemian chronicler (1040-1125), refers to them on various occasions. He gives the somewhat improbable report that, in 1096, when the Jews, having heard of the approach of the Crusaders, desired to emigrate, Duke Bretislav issued an order for the confiscation of all property belonging to the Jews; for, he said, "they have made their money in the country, and therefore should leave it there" (Pertz, "Scriptores," ix. 103-104; Dudik, iv. 216; D'Elvert, "Zur Geschichte der Juden in Mähren," p. 49, Brünn, 1895; Grätz, "Gesch." vi. 94, 3d ed.). Cosmas reports also that Duke Ladislaus (1109-25) ordered that thereafter (1124) no Christian should serve a Jew, because a certain Jew had taken holy relies from the altar of a church and had thrown them into a sewer. For this crime the Jews were forced to pay 1,000 pounds of gold and 3,000 pounds of silver as ransom (Pertz, l.c. ix. 128).

The attempt which had been made by the territorial lords to wrest from the emperor jurisdiction over the Jews especially affected Bohemia also, as King Ottocar II. (Margrave of Moravia from 1247 and King of Bohemia 1253-78), after the death of Duke Frederick II. of Austria in 1246, claimed succession to the latter's possessions, in which the ducal jurisdiction had been proclaimed in 1244 (Jew. Encyc. ii. 322). In his charter of March 29, 1254, Ottocar promulgated the same law that Frederick had proclaimed for Austria, but omitted the limit of the rate of interest, and added the prohibition against accepting Church vestments as pledges and the provision that a Christian who accuses a Jew of child-murder, and who can not support his charge with the testimony of three Christians and three Jews, shall be punished as the Jew would have been punished. This last provision is identical with one in the bull of Innocent IV. of the same year (Jirecek, "Codex Juris Bohemici," i. 131-143; Roessler, "Prager Stadtrecht," pp. 177-187). A second charter, granted 1268, confirms that of 1254 and adds that, except in the presence of two sworn city officials, the Jews of Brünn shall not be permitted to receive a pledge after nightfall, nor to buy horses or cattle on which there rests a suspicion of theft. They were required to contribute one-fourth of the cost of maintaining the city's fortifications. The last provision was a concession to the rising hostility of the cities against the Jews, a hostility which affected the Jews of Moravia as those of other countries of western Europe until the beginning of the nineteenth century. An undated document promulgated by Ottocar exempts the Jews for one year from all taxes "because they have been mulcted by foreign lords, and because we shall soon derive profit from them, they being of our exchequer" ("Cod. Dipl. Mor." iv. 17-22; Dudik, viii. 232).

Under the Hapsburgs.

The animosity of the Church, which allied itself with the cities against the princes, did not affect the Jews in Moravia at that time. Bishop Bruno of Olmütz did not attend the council of Vienna (Jew. Encyc. ii. 323), held in 1267, which passed resolutions hostile to the Jews; and he absented himself, as Dudik thinks (vi. 40), probably on account of the Jews who were favored by the king in the charter issued the following year. The passing of the country into the hands of the Hapsburgs did not produce any change. King Rudolf ordered (1278) that the Jews of Olmütz, like those of Brünn, should contribute to the city's expenses ("Cod. Dipl. Mor." iv. 218, v. 267; Dudik, viii. 235). Olmütz must have had an important congregation in the twelfth century, for Isaac of Durbalo in his notes to the Maḥzor Vitry quotes a decision which he had heard in that city (Maḥzor Vitry, p. 388, Berlin, 1896-97). The Rindfleisch riots, which started in Franconia in 1298, spread also to Bohemia and Moravia. The Jews intended to flee, but King Wenzel II. (1283-1305) would not permit it. "He spared their lives, but took from them immense wealth" (Chronicle of Königsaal, in Dudik, viii. 218). Perhaps this is an exaggerated report of the sums exacted by the same king for confirming the charter of Ottocar II. about 1300.

While Bishop Bruno of Olmütz became hostile to the Jews, and in a report to Pope Gregory XII. in 1273 complained that they were guilty of violating the Church canons by keeping Christian servants and by accepting Church vestments as pledges, and that they were exploiters of the country as usurers, and tax- and mint-farmers, the cities became more favorably disposed toward them, since the kings had ordered that they might be taxed for municipal purposes. Iglau asked even for the privilege of keeping Jews, and the Iglauer "Stadtrecht" restricted to Maundy Thursday the prohibition that Jews may not appear in public during Holy Week (Pertz, "Leges," iii. 426). When King John (1310-46) came to Brünn in 1311 the Jews participated in the festivities, and met the king outside of the city limits (Dudik, xi. 103). In 1322 King Charles IV. gave permission to the Bishop of Olmütz toallow one Jew to settle in each of his four cities, including Kremsir.


A great change occurred in the fifteenth century, due partly to the general hostility then manifested toward the Jews in the cities, and partly to local conditions, as the country was the prey of warring factions owing to the Hussite movement, and the Jews were accused of favoring the rebels. The first expulsion occurred in Iglau in 1426; and it was probably due to the influence of the Franciscan friar John of Capistrano on the young king Ladislaus Posthumus (1440-57) that the Jews were later expelled from Brünn, Znaim, Olmütz, and Neustadt ("Luaḥ," ed. by Epstein, Brünn [1887, or 5648]; Willibald Müller, pp. 12-17). The king gave them only four months' time to find another home. The citizens of the places from which the Jews were expelled were compelled to pay their debts to the latter, but without interest; and they received, moreover, the synagogue cemeteries and baths; but they had to pay the king an annual tribute equal to the amount which had been collected from the Jews in the form of taxes. Occasional expulsions occurred during the sixteenth century, as in Hradisch, 1514, and in Neutitschein and Sternberg, 1562. The edicts of expulsion against all Jews of the kingdom of Bohemia promulgated by Ferdinand I. in 1541 and 1557 were not carried into effect. The Jews expelled from the cities settled in small towns under the protection of the feudal lords, although the records of their activities and sufferings are very meager until the Thirty Years' war, when the Jews came into greater prominence. Ferdinand II., although a bigot, treated the Jews comparatively well, because he needed the revenues derived from their taxation to wage his wars and because he concentrated all his efforts to crush Protestantism in his dominions. By a charter, dated Oct. 15, 1629, he permits Jews to visit fairs even in the cities where they have no right of residence; he promises not to exact more than the sum of 12,000 florins annually, and forbids that they be taxed by any one but their lords, to whom, moreover, they shall pay no more than the usual tribute. Further, it was expressly stipulated that they should not have to pay more toll than the legal rate. Still it would seem that these laws were never strictly enforced, for as early as 1635 the "Landtshauptmann" (governor), Cardinal von Dietrichstein, had to admonish the royal cities to allow the Jews free passage. Cities and states continued to lay complaints before the emperor that the Jews adulterate spices, misrepresent the quality of the fabrics, woolen goods, and hides they deal in, buy stolen goods, seduce Christian women, and "take the scanty bread from the mouths of Christians."

Right to Attend Fairs.

Nevertheless, Ferdinand II. (1657) and Leopold I. (1659) reconfirmed the charter of 1629, and especially their right to frequent the fairs in the cities in which they had no right of residence (Müller, pp. 19-31). The expulsion of the Jews from Vienna in 1670 brought a great many of them to Moravia, and possibly the growth of the congregation of Nikolsburg dates from that period. The newcomers were heavily taxed, and, notwithstanding the solemn promise made by Ferdinand II. in 1629 that they should not be taxed beyond the limit stated in his charter, they were continuously harassed with "special" and extraordinary imposts by the imperial treasury, by their lords, and by the cities to which they went on business, and were constantly deprived of the means of earning a livelihood.

Segregated in Ghettos.

The emperor, while in need of the taxes paid by the Jews, had to consider the wishes of the states and the cities which complained of the constant increase in the Jewish population, and it was repeatedly stipulated that only those Jews who had lived there in 1657 might transmit their right of residence to their children. Still the emperor Charles VI. not only confirmed their privileges (May 13, 1723), but even reduced their annual taxes from 12,000 to 8,000 florins, renewed their right to visit all fairs, and allowed them to, enter the crafts. These favors seem to have aroused the enmity of the states, for on Sept. 15, 1726, the emperor proclaimed a law decreeing that in any Jewish family only one son should be allowed to marry (Familianten Gesetz), and on Dec. 8, 1726, the Jews were driven into ghettos, having been compelled to sell all their houses and to accept others which were assigned to them. The reason for these harsh measures seems to have been religious fanaticism, for the edict of the emperor refers specifically to the fact that the Jewish houses were near the church and that the object of the tyrannical measure was "die ungehinderte Uebung des Cultus divini." The destruction of the synagogue of Aussee in 1722, upon the false accusation that the Jews had assaulted the Catholic priest who attempted to convert them to Christianity, may have given occasion for the promulgation of that law. The Bishop of Olmütz, to whose diocese the priest belonged and who was particularly anxious to save him from the punishment which he had incurred by disturbing the peace of a synagogue, reported that the Jews of Rausnitz had mocked at the rites of the Catholic Church. This report, which was written May 6,1727, seems to have had a decisive effect, for on June 27, 1727, the order to separate the Jewish houses from those of the Christians was finally issued. Further hostile measures were planned. The Jews should be compelled to wear beards and a distinctive costume; they should not be locksmiths or goldsmiths; foreign Jews should not be tolerated in the country, and private synagogues should not be permitted. These propositions were submitted to the "Landesrabbiner" Issachar Berush Eskeles, who curiously enough took occasion to ask the government to issue a prohibition against shaving with a razor, but at the same time declared himself against the distinctive costume and against the order to compel the Jews to wear beards (Schram, "Ein Buch für Jeden Brünner," iii. 39, Brünn, 1903; Müller, pp. 68-72).

Page from the Minute-Book of a Meeting of Moravian Congregations Held in 1713.(In the possession of Prof. Gotthard Deutsch, Cincinnati, Ohio.)

A time of severe trial for the Jews of Moravia began with the reign of Maria Theresa (1740-80). As soon as war broke out the Jews were accused of aiding the enemy. General von Seherr, the commander of the fortress of Brünn, gave orders that no Jew be admitted into the city, no matter what passport he held. On March 14, 1742, he ordered also that the Jews of Moravia should pay within six days the sum of 50,000 florins under penalty of massacre and pillage. Upon the intercession of Baron Diego d' Aguilar and of the "Landesrabbiner" Eskeles, the empress repealed this order temporarily; but the Jews had to pay the amount afterward.

In the Seven Years' War.

The second war between Frederick the Great and Maria Theresa brought still greater trouble upon the Jews, and the empress, influenced by the persistent report of a conspiracy of the Jews with the Prussians, ordered the expulsion of the former from the kingdom of Bohemia within six months. For the province of Moravia this edict was promulgated Jan. 2, 1745 (Trebitsch, "Ḳorot ha'Ittim," pp. 17b et seq.; D'Elvert, l.c. pp. 1901 et seq. ; Grätz," Gesch." 3d ed., x. 355; Kaufmann, "Barthold Dowe Burmania," in "Grätz Jubelschrift," pp. 279-313, Breslau, 1887). Efforts made by the Jews, who were supported not only by some foreign powers, as the Netherlands and the Hamburg Senate ("Oesterreichische Wochenschrift," 1902, p. 137), but even by the local authorities, induced the empress to grant a temporary suspension of the cruel law (May 15, 1745). Later a further suspension was granted which permitted the Jews to remain ten years, and finally the entire edict was relegated to obscurity. The imperial office ("Hofkanzlei") expressly stated in 1762 that the suspicion of high treason under which the Jews had suffered had never been proved ("Allg. Zeit. des Jud." 1887, p. 678). But the attitude of the empress did not become any more favorable to the Jews. Immediately after the edict of expulsion had been revoked she considered the suggestion of a Jew named David Heinrich Lehmann of Prague to put a tax on Etrogim, and demanded of the Jews of the Bohemian kingdom an annual sum of 40,000 florins for the privilege of importing this fruit, of which tax the Jews of Moravia were to pay five-twelfths. The impossibility of collecting this exorbitant sum led to a reduction of the amount in 1746 to 4,000 florins; and in 1748, when the Jews were given permission to remain another ten years in the province, this tax, like all other Jewish special taxes, was abolished, and the Jews of Moravia were called on to pay annually a "Schutzgeld" of 87,000 florins during the first five years, and of 76,700 florins during the next five years. In 1752, when the first five years had expired, the tax was increased to 90,000 florins, but in 1773 it was reduced to 82,200. For the empress the ten-year limit was evidently merely a means of saving herself from the embarrassment of a direct repeal of the edict of expulsion, and she ordered at once a compilation of the existing statutes regulating the affairs of the Jews of Moravia. Alois von Sonnenfels was ordered to prepare a translation of the old Jewish constitution as it had grown out of the deliberations of the periodical assemblies ("Shay Taḳḳanot," 311 articles).

The "Generalordnung" of 1754.

The product of his labors was the "General-Polizei-Prozess- und Kommerzialordnung für die Judenschaft des Markgrafthums Maehren," published in 1754. In its attempt at regulating all details of congregational life it is typical of the spirit of institutionalism prevailing in Austria. It states who has the right to confer the title of "Reb" (Ḥaber) and of "doppelter Reb" (Morenu), makes it the duty of the "Landesrabbiner" to assign to the other rabbis which "so-called Masechte" they should teach during the coming term, regulates the marriage fees of the rabbi, ḥazzan, and sexton, and contains several very humiliating regulations, e.g., that the "Landesrabbiner" should every other year pronounce the "great ban" against thieves and receivers of stolen goods. This law contains also a civil code and a constitution of the Jewish congregations. The empress was very fond of interfering in every detail of government. Thus she revised personally the cost of the elections of the elders for the province in 1758 (G. Wolf, in Wertheimer's "Jahrbuch," vol. x., pp. 14 et seq.); she had a census of the Jewish families taken in 1754, and limited the number of all Jewish families in the province to 5,106 (Von Scari, p. 3; D'Elvert, l.c. p. 177).

Under Joseph II.

Under the reign Of Joseph II. (1780-90) conditions were considerably improved. Although most of the officials and the city councils did not favor it, he issued his "Toleranzpatent" in Brünn on Feb. 13, 1782. Limitation of the number of Jewish families remained, but the number was increased to 5,400. The "Schutzgeld" was abolished, but the Jews still had to pay special taxes—namely, a family tax of five florins annually for each head of a family, and an impost on every article of consumption—so that the treasury should not lose the 82,200 florins paid theretofore by the Jews of the province. From the surplus of these taxes a fund was created which still exists as the "Maehrisch-Juedischer Landesmassafonds." The tax on articles of consumption was especially burdensome, and its method of levy led to constant quarrels and accusations. The dues on cattle and fowl were levied when they were killed, but fish had to be carried from the market to the revenue office, and a receipt for two kreutzer had to be shown when the collector appeared in the house, which he did very often during-the Friday night meal. Similar vexatious measures, were applied in the case of wine which the Jews used for their own households. These conditions remained almost unchanged until 1848.

Present Constitution.

Under Francis II. further restrictions were added: an edict of 1803 prohibited the Jews from dealing in flour and grain; and an edict of 1804 required that Jews should not be permitted to buy any cattle in the markets, unless they could prove that they needed it for the purposes of retail trade as butchers or feeders, or could show a written order from a butcher for whom they acted as agents. When the Reichstag of Kremsir proclaimed freedom of religion the Catholic clergy protested, and the cities and villages where Jews had not been before tolerated also opposed the new policy. The city of Sternberg, whence Jews had been expelled in 1562, passed a resolution that it would never allow a Jew to settle there ("Allg. Zeit. des Jud." 1849, p. 506). In the village of Raitz as late as 1861 the mayorwould not allow a Jewish family to settle. In other cities where Jews had been living from times immemorial, the population arose against them when they left the ghetto and opened stores in the part of the city formerly not open to them. This was the case in Trebitsch, Pirnitz, Strassnitz, and Olmütz in 1850 ("Allg. Zeit. des Jud. "1850, pp. 296, 314, 339, 359). But after the proclamation of the constitution of Dec. 20, 1867, the old restrictions were entirely removed, and the Jewish population shifted from its former habitations to the cities, especially to the larger ones from which it had been excluded; so that when, in accordance with the law of March 21, 1890, the new congregational districts were formed by the minister of worship (June 15, 1891), of the previous fifty-two congregations twelve were dissolved, while ten new ones were formed, among which are the largest, namely, Brünn, Olmütz, and Mährisch Ostrau. A peculiarity of Moravia is the fact that it still has (1904) twenty-five Jewish settlements which are regular townships, as they used to be up to 1848, when almost every Jewish settlement was governed as a political community ("Jüdisches Volksblatt," Vienna, June 24, 1904). These communities have been required since 1884 to have separate boards for religious and municipal affairs (D'Elvert, l.c. p. 207); their members are those living within the old ghetto confines, so that in many instances the community counts more Christians than Jews, while the majority of the latter live in "the Christian city." The "Landesmassafonds" (to which fines and other revenues were later added) for assisting poor congregations which through excessive special taxes fell into debt, is now used exclusively for the assistance of needy congregations and congregational officials. It was handed over to the Jews in 1868, and is administered by a board of eleven members, chosen by the congregations. It amounted when first given over to the Jews, to 911,846 florins, and in 1903, to 2,201,404 kronen ($440,000). A convention of rabbis, teachers, and congregational officers, called together by the government in the city of Brünn Oct. 30, 1868, to consider the question of religious instruction and especially that of preparatory theological education, did not reach any definite results ("Allg. Zeit. des Jud." 1868, pp. 939 et seq.).

Another peculiar Moravian institution was that of the Landesrabbiner, which, according to the "Generalordnung" of 1754, existed "at all times" in Nikolsburg. The "Landesrabbiner" was nominated by the six representatives of the congregations—those situated in each of the six districts ("Kreis") sending one elector—and appointed by the government. Those known to have held the office are: Judah Loew ben Bezaleel, Yom-Ṭob Lipmann Heller, Menahem Mendel Krochmal, Gershon Ashkenazi, David Oppenheimer, Gabriel Eskeles, his son Issachar Berush Eskeles, who however, held the office merely nominally, as he was in the banking business in Vienna. After him the office was held by Aaron Lemberger (Lwow; 1753-57); he lived in conflict with the local rabbi Gershon Pollitzer, who succeeded him as "Landesrabbiner" (1758-72); Schmelke Horowitz, called Samuel Herschel Lewi (1774-78); Gershon Chajes (1780-89); Mordecai Benet (1789-1829); Nehemias Trebitsch (1832-42); Samson Raphael Hirsch (1847-51). Hirsch was the last regularly elected "Landesrabbiner." After his resignation Abraham Placzek was appointed by the government as temporary "Landesrabbiner," which office he held until his death in 1884. During his last years his son Baruch Placzek was made his assistant. An attempt to provide for the office of the "Landesrabbiner" in the law regulating the affairs of the Jews of Austria March 21, 1890, failed, but the minister declared that the present law had not abolished the office. Still it was not revived, although the present (1904) incumbent, Baruch Placzek, is given that title by the government. His recent application to have Solomon Funk of Boskowitz appointed as his successor was not granted ("Oesterreichische Wochenschrift," 1904, p. 190).

Distinguished Rabbis.

Many famous rabbis occupied the rabbinical seat in Nikolsburg and in other cities of Moravia, among whom may be mentioned, apart from those already noted, Shabbethai Kohen, Nathan Adler, and Eleazar Loew, who made Moravia a seat of Talmudic learning; a number of Talmudic authors are natives of the province or have lived there, as Eliezer Nin of Nikolsburg, Samuel Loew of Boskowitz, Naphtali Hirsch Spitz, and others. The modern Haskalah movement had some devotees there, as Joseph Fleisch in Rausnitz; and the science of Judaism had also a number of representatives, among whom may be mentioned: Leopold Loew, Ad. Jellinek, Moritz Steinschneider, Isaac Hirsch Weiss, Nehemias Bruell, and David Kaufmann. A printing-office opened in Brünn during the latter part of the eighteenth century by a convert named Neumann did not produce anything remarkable.

While in the seventeenth and the eighteenth century complaints were constantly made that the strictest rules against the increase of the Jewish population were without avail, the Jewish population decreased in the ten years from 1890 to 1900 from 45,524 to 44,255, though the general population of the province during the same time increased by 160,000.

  • Dudik, Maehrens Allgemeine Geschichte, Brünn, 1860-89;
  • D'Elvert, Zur Geschichte der Juden in Mähren und Oesterreichisch-Schlesien, Brünn, 1895;
  • Willibald Müller, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Mährischen Judenschaft, Olmütz, 1903;
  • Abraham Trebitsch, Ḳorot ha-'Ittim, Brünn, 1801;
  • Löw, Das Mährische Landesrabbinat seit Hundert Jahren, in Gesammelte Schriften, vol. ii., pp. 165) et seq., Szegedin, 1890;
  • Benjamin Fränkel, in Ḳobeẓ 'al Yad of the Meḳiẓe Nirdamim, Berlin;
  • Von Scari, Systematische Darstellung der in Betreff der Juden in Mähren . . . Erlassenen Gesetze . . . , Brünn, 1835.