—Ancient and Medieval:

At the beginning of the common era there were Jewish communities at Alexandria, Rome, Salamis, Corinth, Athens, Delos, etc.; at Antioch (in Pisidia), Iconium, Smyrna, Ephesus, and other well-known cities on the Mediterranean and in Asia Minor. In Palestine, which even as a Roman province retained its essentially Jewish character, the whole country formed one community, with its center at Jerusalem, where the highest religious, judicial, and executive authorities were located.

After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the national life of the Jews was replaced by the communal life, on which the Roman form of government was impressed. But while the Romans reserved for themselves the government of the province, they did not interfere with the internal affairs of the communities. The Jews still had a center in the person of the patriarch ("nasi"), who had the disposal of communal offices, and the right to levy a tax (Aurum Coronarium), which right, on the cessation of the patriarchate, was transferred to the emperor. At an early date the Babylonian communities separated from those of Palestine, and had their own head, called "resh galuta" (exilarch), whose authority was greater than that of the patriarch.

The communities, whether found in ("villages"), ("cities"), or ("walled towns"), were composed of ("full citizens"—residents of more than twelve months' standing), ("half citizens"—residents of from thirty days' to twelve months' standing), and "transients"—those who remained less than twenty days in the place. At the head of the community was a governing board () consisting of at least three members, but usually of seven, and, in later times, of twelve. If brothers happened to be on the board, they had one vote only between them. All communal offices, even that of physician, were filled by appointment from the "court" with the concurrence of the community. The governing board, even where it had absolute authority, was expected to observe the wishes of the community. Membership in the board, as well as other communal offices, was sometimes hereditary.

The Governing Body.

The governing board conducted all the affairs of the community, giving special attention to the distribution of funds for alms; it apportioned communal and municipal taxes according to fixed rules, and decided on the acquisition and sale of communal property. It supervised the entire social and commercial life of the community, fixed weights and measures, the price of food, and the rate of wages; it issued police regulations, and could even interfere in the private affairs of the individual; and, in the interest of the community, could annul rules long sanctioned by usage and precedent. The board was responsible for the safety and the social and intellectual welfare of the community.

The Jews of ancient Rome were governed by a "gerusiarch," that is, a president of the communal council ("gerusia"); an archon ( or );an Archisynagogue (); etc. (Berliner, "Magazin," i. 66; for the later communal government at Rome see Berliner, ib. ii. 31). In Sicily the following expressions were current: "dienchelele" (chief district rabbi); "manigliori" (from = "keeper of the keys of the synagogue"); "presbyter" (ḥazzan and shoḥeṭ); "sacristano" (); "celebrare missam" (literally, "to celebrate mass"), to conduct services, etc. (Güdemann, "Geschichte des Erziehungswesens," ii. 71, 281). At Cologne the president of the community was called "Judenbischof" (Jewish bishop), and was assisted by a chapter. At Speyer the archisynagogue, appointed by the Catholic bishop, was at the head of the community.

The Bet Din.

The governing board was subject to the "dayyan" (judge, also called "ḥakam," or "zaḳen"), who was ordained by the nasi or exilarch, and was the final authority on ritual, civil, and political questions. He decided unaided in money matters (without being obliged to make restitution in case of an error of judgment), where otherwise three lay judges were required. Criminal cases were decided only by three scholars of standing (), who were usually elected for life to insure impartiality and respect. They did not, in general, draw a salary, but when their entire time was devoted to the affairs of the community, they might receive means sufficient for a bare subsistence. They had supervision over all religious and political affairs. Those who had been ordained at Babylon were called "rabbonim"; those ordained in Palestine were called "rabbis." The title of "ḥaber" (associate) was bestowed upon a person who had rendered special services to the community. He was considered in many cases as arbitrator. A community consisting of more than ten members was a synagogal community, and was obliged to secure a synagogue, the judicial and outer affairs of which were in the hands of a committee elected from the members of the governing board. It was not permissible to sell or exchange the synagogue, except in cases of extreme necessity, nor could the old synagogue be pulled down before the new one was built. Affairs pertaining to the ritual and liturgy were in the hands of the archisynagogue. (This term when applied to a woman, as in old Roman inscriptions, meant, no doubt, merely the president of a woman's philanthropic society, like the "parnesessa" at Rome in the sixteenth century.) The archisynagogue was especially honored, his office being for life and sometimes hereditary. In the Diaspora there were honorary titles, such as "fathers," or "mothers, of the synagogue"; thus, the title of "mater synagogæ" or "pateressa" was conferred upon Dona Gracia Mendesia. The "rosh ha-keneset" (archisynagogue) was subordinate to the "ḥazzan ha-keneset," whose orders were authoritative in synagogal and in general matters; he was also executor of the punishments decreed by the court, and performed the functions of the later "shammash," who is otherwise called ("the messenger of the court") in the Talmud and by the Geonim.

Other Officials.

The ("delegate of the congregation," or "leader in prayer") stood before God as representative of those who did not understand the import of the prayer. He, too; was an unsalaried official. All worthy persons, however, and especially those in straitened circumstances or in trouble, were allowed to lead in prayer on days of fasting and repentance. The lesson from the Torah was read by the ("reader") although any one called upon was to read his own section. The weekly section was translated into the Aramaic vernacular by the ("dragoman"), who was entitled to compensation; and in order to insure the requisite minimum for the service, ten men, called Baṭlanim, received a regular salary to attend.

The school, like the synagogue, was under the supervision of the community, which appointed the teachers (called variously , ). The latter were paid by the parents of the children of school age, but this salary was generally so small that the community contributed an addition as ("relief"). No one who was unmarried, or under the age of forty, was employed as teacher. An assistant teacher () was paid by the community when the pupils numbered forty or more; a second assistant being added when the number reached fifty. Private teachers were also allowed. A father or guardian was obliged to send his child to school, and he was not allowed to send the child to a neighboring school if there was one in his own community. Most of the communities had their own schoolhouses (), often adjoining the synagogues.

Benevolent Institutions.

The management of the alms fund was an important matter; it was in the hands of a special committee (), chosen generally from among the members of the governing board, and hence also called . The mere management, which involved no responsibility, was in the hands of one person; the levying of contributions, from which women, orphans, and the poor were exempt, was in the hands of two persons working together, who had the right to fine delinquents. The distribution was in the hands of at least three persons, for they had to decide on the amount of the relief, and any court dealing with money matters had to consist of at least this number. This office, also, was often hereditary, and the antecedents of the incumbent had to be irreproachable. In expending the money the wishes of the givers were to be considered. There were two chief classes of poor-funds: (1) The ("box"), for feeding and clothing the resident poor. Every Friday evening a collection was taken up for them, and they were provided for during the coming week. (2) The ("dish"), for the support of transients, for whom collections might be taken up on any day, in such amounts as were necessary. Non-Jews, also, were to be relieved, but those who begged from house to house received only a trifle from the fund. On special occasions, as on Purim, the poor received additional gifts. Money was also distributed in the synagogues for philanthropic purposes. Orphans were cared for by their guardians, or, if there were none, by the local court ().

Various Funds.

The irregular or special communal taxes werelevied only when occasion demanded, and only upon those directly concerned. This fund was managed by the treasurer (), who was a member of the governing board. The budget included the expenses (1) of the synagogue and its service, to which the full citizens, including orphans, contributed; (2) of education, such as the building of the schoolhouse and the occasional relief of the teacher, to which all members of more than two months' standing contributed; (3) of the poor-fund, consisting of (a) the "ḳuppah" (weekly food distribution), supported by all members of more than one month's standing; (b) the "tamḥui" (daily distribution of meals), supported by those of more than three months' residence; (c) the clothing fund, maintained by all residents of more than six months' standing; and (d) the burial fund, supported by all those of more than nine months' residence; (4) of the public safety, such as for walls, soldiers, etc., to which all full citizens and all landowners, and even orphans, contributed, Talmudic scholars only being excepted; (5) of the water-works, to which only those benefited contributed. The state taxes were apportioned among the communities, which divided them among their members. Only scholars were exempt from the poll-tax, while the tax on real estate was paid entirely by property-owners.

Along these lines developed the life of the community ("ḳahal," pronounced "kohl" in the disricts where German-Polish was spoken; compare the term "kohlstibel" = "communal room"). Yet the rabbi (the designation [compare , applied to women to-day] was dropped toward the end of the twelfth century, being later replaced by = "rabbi" [compare Zunz, "Literaturgesch." p. 284; Rahmer's "Jüd. Lit.-Blatt." vii., No. 31; Salfeld, "Martyrologium," xxiv.; on and at Aden, see Rinman, "Massa'ot Shelomoh," pp. 10, 110]) no longer had the high position enjoyed by the "resh galuta" of Babylon and the "nagid" in Egypt until the fifteenth century. Until the end of the thirteenth century he was independent of the community as an unsalaried official. In England, before the expulsion, there was one "presbyter omnium Judæorum Angliæ.," appointed by the king, generally for life. In Poland during the sixteenth century he was appointed by the king, in whose name he levied taxes and held court. The rabbinate in Bohemia was in a similar position during the same century; but here there was no regular district rabbinate, as in Galicia and Moravia. In Algeria at the beginning of the fifteenth century the appointment of the rabbi was subject to the sanction of the government. In countries bordering on the Rhine he was appointed every three years. Rabbinical synods were held in some places as early as the thirteenth century; at Bologna, after 1416. In Poland they were held annually, and known as the "wa'ad arba' araẓot," Council of the Four Lands.

In order to put an end to unpleasant rivalry for leadership in prayer, a salaried reader was appointed, who frequently discharged other religious functions and received the title (ḥazzan). In his musical functions he was assisted by a "bass" and a "singer," and occasionally by boy choristers. The ḥazzan was usually elected by the unanimous vote of the congregation: it is on record that one refused nomination at the hands of the Archbishop of Cologne.

Communal Taxes.

The taxes which the governments demanded from the communities were often paid with difficulty. In Spain and in England, about 1273, even children of ten had to contribute, and in the latter country the Jews at times paid one-twelfth of the royal revenues. In Anjou the taxes were collected by a "sindicus et procurator universitatis Judæorum." Where the Jews formed one-tenth of the population they often paid one-fourth of the taxes, more than one-half of this sum being frequently paid by the wealthier members of the communities; hence the moneyed aristocracy which arose toward the end of the seventeenth century. The rabbi (also his widow), other professional scholars, all salaried officials, and some physicians, were exempt from taxes; artisans paid only the poll-tax; in Christian countries the ḥazzan paid, but not in Mohammedan. Some communities elected a committee of ten to choose the rabbi, the ḥazzan, and the sexton (). These three received perquisites. In Poland, Russia, and Hungary their salary was raised by collections at weddings; and they received special gifts ("kibbudim") during festivals.

Fines and Imposts.

Wandering beggars were, and still are, a plague to communities, particularly as the latter were responsible for any trespasses of the former. At Metz every one was subject to taxation if a beggar remained eight days. The tax for the Holy Land was confiscated by the Roman emperors as "fiscus," the so-called "golden sacrificial penny" which the Jews had to pay to the emperor when he had extraordinary expenses (Würfel, "Juden in Nürnberg," p. 49; Ulrich, "Juden in der Schweiz," p. 12). Even to-day money is paid into the ("the collection-box for Palestine"). In many countries (as in Austria down to modern times) there were also taxes on meat, wine, artificial light, strangers, dowries, luxuries, houses, imports, and exports. In Prague there was a tax even on the writing-material used by school-children; in Rome a tax was levied for the benefit of the circus. In Switzerland the Jews of the village communities paid from 15 to 20 florins to get timber and foliage for their tabernacles (Ulrich, l.c. pp. 32, 287).

In Nuremberg (Würfel, l.c. p. 32) the municipal council and judges had the right to appoint annually a committee and recorder, who saw that the community lived in peace and amity. In Zurich, in 1335, the Jews were required "to obey the burgomaster and city council. If any Jew injured another the latter was to bring the matter before the said burgomaster and council, and when they had decided according to their 'light,' he was to abide by their decision forever, appealing to no special Jewish law or to any higher court. He who did so was to be adjudged guilty of perjury, and pay two hundred silver marks as penalty" (Ulrich, l.c.). The foregoing was construed as applying even to the internal affairs of the synagogue.

In Spain all the communal decisions had to beconfirmed by the government. Here, however, as late as 1379, the community could inflict capital punishment; but this measure was taken only against the "malshin" (slanderer), a term which has been adopted into Spanish. An efficacious mode of punishment exercised by the Jewish court, and still employed by the Church, was the Ban ("niddui"), in its more stringent form called "ḥerem."

Minor Officials.

The communal elections took place in the various countries and communities at different times between Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. The Schulklopfer, generally identical with the , was a curious institution. In Talmudic times, and later in Palestine, the "shofar" was blown at the beginning of the Sabbath. Still later (but as early as Yer. Beẓah 63a), mention is made of , the "Schulklopfer," or "synagogueknocker," who, crying "In Schul herein!" knocked at the window with a hammer every morning except on the Ninth of Ab. Usually he tapped three or four times, but in cases of death, twice; on the Sabbath he used his fist instead of the hammer. The also acted as public crier in the synagogue, invited to the festivities, called together the council, acted as bailiff of the court ("shammash bet din") in the absence of a special officer, and arranged for "minyan" (the number [10] of men required to be present at any religious services), to help form which the members of the community could be forced only on New-Year and Atonement days.


Extraordinary legislation for the community was made public by means of the "taḳḳanah" (enactment), proclaimed and sometimes posted in the synagogue, and written in a book. Such enactments were usually issued for a given time only, generally for five years. In this way was promulgated the decree of monogamy for western European Jews; the decision as to when and what taxes were to be paid, and as to when the "Schulklopfer" should go round. One of the earliest "taḳḳanot" (dating before the ninth century) decreed that the dowry secured to the wife in the "ketubbah" (marriage contract) might be taken from the personal property of the husband after his death. The decrees against pronouncing the name of God, and against making proselytes, are also old. In Sicily begging from house to house was forbidden, under pain of the ban, by the taḳḳanah. By this means the inclusion in letters of the usual formula, "may he live long," was enforced; sermons were announced; the rate of interest was determined; the conditions under which one might move from a community, thereby casting an additional burden on that community, were set forth; and purchasing imported fowls or wine, lending money on stolen property, and building houses which would obstruct the street leading to the synagogue, were prohibited.

A. M. Gr.Communal Property.

Each community owned all the instruments of communal life. Foremost among these is the synagogue, with its sacred scrolls and other appurtenances; one or several "batte midrashim," or houses of study—in modern times Talmudic libraries; lodges for washing the dead; ritual baths; slaughter-houses; lodging-houses for travelers; places for administering justice and for communal business; a large hall for the solemnization of marriages; a dancing-hall (usually in Germany and France, but not in Spain and the East); bakehouses or ovens, for the annual Passover cakes and the weekly "schalet"; and many cooking and other utensils, which might be used in turn by such members of the community as needed them. Another class of communal property includes funds for carrying on worship and study, and for charities; funds for the use of the general body in dealing with the Gentile government, for the purpose of preventing the oppression of individuals. Where the Jews were confined to a separate quarter, funds to pave and to clean the streets, to build and to repair gates, were sometimes needed. In such cases they were raised by a tax on the householders.

The communal property, both real and personal, may be bought and sold by the "ḳahal" acting through its proper organs. The Codes take this power for granted, but restrain its exercise. Thus, a synagogue may be sold in order to put up a bet ha-midrash, or to buy scrolls of the Law, but not conversely (Megillah, 26b, 27a; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 153, 1).

  • M. Weinberg, Die Organisation der Jüdischen Ortsgemeinden in der Talmud Zeit, in Monatsschrift, 1897;
  • Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, ch. ii.;
  • Grunwald, Die Statuten der Altona Hamburg Gcmeinde, in Mittheilungen der Gesellschaft für Jüdische Volkskunde, xi.
L. G. L. N. D.—In Modern Times:

Notwithstanding the emancipation of the Jews from their medieval state of dependence on the government, the authorities in most of the European states still continue to regulate them in one way or another. This is especially the case on the continent of Europe, where most of the states have a ministry of public worship within whose jurisdiction all such matters fall.

France and the Netherlands.

The most important community organization in these states was the system of consistories established by Napoleon I. on March 17, 1808, and still effective as modified by an ordinance which was developed by Martin du Nord and promulgated by King Louis Philippe on March 27, 1844 (see Consistories). The consistorial system exists not only in France, Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg (see Antwerp, Brussels, Amsterdam, etc.), but also has survived the French régime in Alsace-Lorraine, there being three "Circonscriptions Consistoriales": at Strasburg for Upper Alsace; at Colmar for Lower Alsace; and at Metz for Lorraine.

Germany presents to-day the most varied assortment of communal organizations, due to the different regulative forms adopted by the states which make up the empire. In some this organization is perfect, and is in direct communication with the government—e.g., in Württemberg, Baden, Hesse, and Mecklenburg—in others it is imperfect, and the connection with the state is almost nominal.

In the kingdom of Württemberg the laws of April 25, 1828, and of Aug. 3, 1832, made it obligatoryupon every Jew to be a member of a congregation. All were to form "Kirchengemeinden" (church communities), electing their own officers and having at their head a rabbi selected by the "Oberkirchenbehörde" (upper ecclesiastical council), such selection to receive the sanction of the government. The chief rabbi, whose seat is in Stuttgart, has the title "Kirchenrath." The congregations are divided into 13 "Rabbinatsbezirke" (rabbinical districts) and 41 "Gemeindebezirken" (community districts). The Oberkirchenbehörde or Kirchenoberbehörde, is made up of a government commissioner, a Jewish theologian, three or more additional members, and an "expeditor." It nominates all ministers and officers, and regulates the affairs of the congregations throughout the kingdom.


In the grand duchy of Baden, as early as 1809, an organization of the Jewish communities was effected. The synagogues were divided into provincial. synagogues, with a "Landesrabbiner" (chief rabbi of the district or province) and elders at their head—all to be approved by the government—and "Ortssynagogen" (local synagogues), dependent upon the provincial ones. At the head of the organization is an "Oberrath" (high consistory) in Carlsruhe, made up of an "Obervorsteher" (rabbi or layman), two "Landesrabbiner," two "Oberrathen," three additional "Oberrathen," and a scribe. The Oberrath was chosen by the grand duke, the Obervorsteher (chief warden) by the ministry, and the rabbis by the Oberrath, subject to confirmation by the government. The "Ortsrabbiner" were to be elected by the "Jüdische Landvorstand," with confirmation by the Oberrath. The decisions of the Rath in important matters is also subject to confirmation by the ministers. On May 4, 1812, a government commissary was added to the Oberrath; and for the provincial synagogues were substituted (March 5, 1827) "Bezirkssynagogen" (district synagogues), a "Landessynode" (national synod) being added. According to the law of June 18, 1892, every Jew is bound to pay a certain church tax regulated according to his general state tax, and for this purpose the individual congregations divide their members into sixty different classes. There are now in Baden both "Bezirksrabbiner" (district rabbi; e.g., at Bruchsal and Freiburg) and "Stadtrabbiner" (city rabbi, as at Carlsruhe, Pforzheim, and Mannheim).

In Mecklenburg-Schwerin, according to the statute of May 14, 1839, the Jewish Church was recognized as such by the state, and all congregations were put under an Oberrath made up of two government commissaries (who have, however, no voice in religious matters), the Landesrabbiner, and a Rath of five, to be changed every four years. The Landesrabbiner is elected by the Rath subject to confirmation by the government, which contributes to his salary.

Mecklenburg-Strelitz has an "Ober- und Landesrabbiner" confirmed by the state. The Jewish communities in the grand duchy of Hesse were to be divided in 1825 into grand-ducal rabbinates; while Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (which, according to the "Juden Ordnungen" of 1823 and 1833, was to have a Landesrabbiner and to receive a state subvention) has a grand-ducal "Aufsichtsbehörde" for Jewish affairs and a Landesrabbiner. Saxony has only individual congregations and no general organization; but since Dec. 30, 1834, these congregations have been placed within the jurisdiction of the ministry of education, and since Jan. 30, 1836, the government contributes toward their expenses. Oldenburg, Birkenfeld, Saxen-Meinigen (which, according to the edict of Jan. 21, 1829, was to have a Rath made up of the Landesrabbiner and a deputation from the consistory), Anhalt, and Bruswick still have a Landesrabbiner whose election is subject to confirmation by the state. The province of Hesse-Nassau is divided into Rabbinatsbezirke, each with a Provinzalrabbiner at the head, and with a Landrabbinat in Cassel. The cities of Frankfort-on-the-Main and Homburg have each a separate Stadtrabbinat. In some districts (e.g. Fulda, Hanau, Marburg) the religious affairs of the Jews are in the hands of a "Königliches Vorsteheramt der Israeliten" (royal directoral board of the Jews), in others (e.g., Wiesbaden), of "Regierungs Commisaren" (governmental commissioners). In Bavaria the law of June 10, 1813, allowed every fifty families to form a congregation; but no organization was given to the Jews as a body. There are at present Bezirksrabbinate, Distriktsrabbinate, and Stadtrabbinate.


The greatest difficulty in organizing the Jewish communities was experienced in Prussia, due to the various enlargements of the kingdom during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. In 1815 portions of Germany which had been under French rule were added to the kingdom. In these former French provinces the consistorial arrangement had been introduced by the decree of March 17, 1808, and in Westphalia by the royal decree of March 31, 1808. In the province of Posen the law of June 1, 1833, recognized the Jewish congregations as corporations, at the head of which were representatives elected under the auspices of the government. The law of Jan. 14, 1834, gave these corporations further administrative powers. A third set of communities was governed by Frederick the Great's "General-Juden-Reglement," of April 17, 1750, for the kingdom of Prussia, Brandenburg, and part of Pomerania, and by the law of May 21, 1790, for Breslau. In Lübeck the heads of the congregations had to be confirmed by the "Landgericht." In religious matters the members of the congregations were placed under "the elders and rabbi," and were watched over by a royal commission. A fourth class comprised Jewish congregations, especially in Silesia, for which no especial regulations had been issued.

According to the "Allgemeine Landrecht" the Jewish communities are considered as "merely tolerated church societies," like the Herrenhuter and Mennonists. The communities have therefore been allowed to develop their own organization as they best seemed fit, only under a general supervision of the state. Each province, or district, has developed a "Verband der Synagogen-Gemeinden" e.g. (East Prussia with 45 congregations, West Prussia with 41, Pomerania with 21, in Posen with 26, Bromberg with 27, Breslau and Liegnitz with 36, Saxony with 15, and Westphalia with 44). The Jews ineach place are forced to belong to the Jewish congregation, no matter what their religious affiliations may be. Thus the Reform-Gemeinde in Berlin is a part of the Jüdische-Gemeinde of the city. The extreme Orthodox party has found this arrangement burdensome; and in 1873 a law was passed by the Reichstag, largely through the efforts of Lasker, which permitted any one to declare himself "Confessionslos." This enabled the Orthodox Jews to found their own synagogue apart from the general organization, as was done in Berlin by the Synagogen-Gemeinde Adass-Jisroel, in Frankfort by the Israelitische-Religions-Gesellschaft, and in Mayence.

The simple form of city and district organization in Germany, as above described, has not been found sufficient to meet all the demands, and attempts have been made to bring the congregations and communities into closer touch with one another. For this purpose the Deutsch-Israel Gemeindebund was formed in 1869; its council sat at first in Leipsic, and since 1883 has met in Berlin. It is a purely deliberative assembly, so far as its power goes; but it deals with questions which affect the Jews of Germany as a whole. The Central Verein Deutscher Bürger Jüdischen Glaubens" has a similar object in view; while the Deutscher Rabbiner Verband (founded in 1884), the Verein Traditionell-Gesetzestreuer Rabbiner in Deutschland, the Vereinigung der Liberalen Rabbiner Deutschlands (founded in 1898), and the Deutscher Reichsverband Jüdischer Religionslehrer (founded in 1901) deliberate upon questions affecting the purely religious interests of the congregations.

Austria also presents a very varied organization of Jewish communities. Up to the end of the reign of Francis II. (1835) the Vienna Jews were not allowed to use the term "congregation"; they were merely "the Jews of Vienna," at the head of whom were "Vertreter" (delegates); their rabbi was an "inspector of meat," and their preacher a "teacher of religion." The law of March 21, 1890, definitely regulated the Jewish communities, ordering that every Jew must be a member of the congregation of the district in which he resided, and giving the congregation the right to tax its members. The Jewish congregation of Vienna is presided over by the Vorstand der Israelitischen Cultus-Gemeinde with a "Vertreter-Collegium," or board of delegates, consisting of eleven members and various permanent and temporary commissions. Its religious affairs are in the hands of a "Rabbinats-Collegium," with a chief rabbi, a "Rabbinats-Assessor," and various other rabbis. They are responsible for the proper keeping of the registers. The congregation has a number of synagogues, each with its own management. There are also a number of unofficial "Vereinsbethaüser." The Turco-Israelitish congregation (Sephardic) has had since 1737 its own synagogue, with a "Vorstand" and a ḥakam or rabbi. The rest of Lower Austria has only local congregations, which at times have combined with a Bezirksrabbiner at their head.


Maria Theresa tried to introduce a sort of consistorial arrangement of the Jewish communities in Galicia by the law of July 16, 1766. This provided for an Oberlandesrabbiner and twelve parnasim, who formed a "Juden-Direction," which had both spiritual and temporal powers. This Direction was dissolved in Nov., 1785, because of the misuse of its powers; and on May 29, 1789, the emperor Joseph issued a new "Judenordnung" dividing the country into districts, each having a rabbi who held office for three years. At present there is no general organization except in the larger cities. Thus Lemberg has a "Cultus-Representanz," at the head of which is a Vorstand, a "Cultusrath," and a rabbinate made up of a Gemeinde-Rabbiner, a Synagoge-Rabbiner and Rabbinats-Assessoren. Bohemia formerly had a "Representanz der Landsjudenschaft," with representatives from the various districts of the kingdom. At present no such organization exists. The city of Prague has an Oberrabbiner, at whose side are Gemeinde-Rabbiner and preachers. Bosnia and Herzogovina have an Oberrath whose seat is at Sarajevo. The Jewish communities of Moravia have had an even still more interesting development. At the beginning of the eighteenth century Moravia had its "Landesrabbiner," "Landesältesten," "Landeseinnehmer," and a "Solicitator." The law of 1754 reorganized the Jewish communities and instituted a royal commission in matters relating to the taxation and policing of the Jews. Under Emperor Joseph II. there was a further reorganization. The special Jews' Law was done away with, and there was founded the Mährisch-Jüdischer Landesmassafond, which has been of great help in regulating the financial status of the congregations. In 1798 the number of Jewish congregations was fixed at 52; in 1877 at 55. According to the law of May 20, 1874, the governing board of every congregation must be announced to the police, and the election of a rabbi must be confirmed by the authorities. The law of March 21, 1890, mentioned above, did not do away with the Landrabbinat of Moravia, and it has remained the only one of its kind in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. It still has a Landesrabbiner. The law of Jan. 1, 1892, fixed the number of Jewish congregations in Moravia at 50.

There is no general Jewish congregation in Hungary, and the congregations have perfect freedom in managing their affairs. The Jewish community of Budapest is presided over by a Rabbinats-Collegium and a commission. In Austria, as in Germany, the attempt has been made to form larger and more comprehensive organizations of the Jewish communities. The Israelitische Allianz in Wien was founded (1873) with the intention of subventioning schools, of furthering the study of Jewish history, and of combating anti-Semitism. The Allgemeiner Oesterreichisch-Israelitischer Bund and the Oesterreichisch-Israelitische-Union pursue similar objects.


In Italy, in the former kingdom of Sardinia, the Jews were organized under deputies or syndics, elected by the notables. They were divided into four communes or universities: Piedmont, Monferrato, Allesandria,-Nice, each with a chief rabbi. These universities were subdivided into smaller groups. Piedmont, under French domination, was divided in 1808 into two consistories (Turin and Casale); but in 1815 the old order was reestablished. In what was formerlythe grand duchy of Tuscany, an old corporation statute of Cosmo. I. (1569-74) ordered that the Jews should be under forty "governanti," appointed for life by the grand duke, and at the head of whom there was to be a "cancellero." Venice had a head commission of twenty-four notables ("sezioni rinnite"). Various other systems prevailed in different parts of the country, which have largely been abolished in united Italy. The leading congregations have a chief rabbi, the others a vice-rabbi or teacher. The affairs of each congregation are in the hands of a commission of from two to four members, recognized by the government.


In Denmark the Jewish communities were organized by the edict of March 14, 1813. Each synagogue was to have a priest (rabbi); the chief rabbi was to reside at Copenhagen. The power of the latter was afterward considerably reduced; the congregations outside Copenhagen were to be perfectly free, each having a "katechete" or teacher, responsible to the government. In Sweden, according to the edict of May 27, 1782, the Jews are free to form congregations wherever they wish; but synagogues can be built only with the consent of the king. Every congregation chooses seven electors, and these choose three wardens for three years.

Russia and Rumania.

In Russia every Jew is forced to belong to some religious organization; the government rabbi being held to a strict registration of all births, marriages, and deaths. New congregations can be formed only with the permission of the government. There is no hierarchy: the congregations usually have two rabbis; one the religious head, whom they elect, and a second appointed by the government, who need not necessarily be a theologian. The affairs of the individual congregations are in the hands of the "ḳahal" or board (see Council of Four Lands). For purposes of taxation the government divides the Jews into certain definite classes. The Karaites have their own organization; their head rabbi is called "ḥakam" (see Crimea). In Rumania (Moldau-Wallachia) a peculiar organization existed since the beginning of the eighteenth century. At the head of the Jews in Moldau there was a "hahambasha," nominated by the prince, whose jurisdiction extended also over Wallachia. He was usually a layman, though the post was often confided to a rabbi. At his side was a "vakil-haham-basha." Each community was presided over by one or more provosts and notables, whose election had to be confirmed by the prince upon the recommendation of the haham-basha. The post of haham-basha was abolished in 1832 at the request of the Jews themselves.


In Turkey the Jewish communities have preserved more of a political character than anywhere else. Their head is a state official (who was responsible for the collection of the poll-tax ["kharaj"], up to 1855, when it was abolished), as were the heads of the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Armenian Reform bodies. According to the "Hatt-i-Humayun" of "Gul-ḥane," 1839, the internal affairs of the Jewish community were placed under the supervision of a board comprised of lay and clerical members; with the exception of legal questions which were to be decided by the regular tribunals. The hakam-bashi and one delegate were to take part in the deliberations of the supreme court of justice. A similar representation was given to the Jews in the vilayets, sanjaks, etc. The hakam-bashi of Constantinople was formerly chosen by the Jews themselves; though the government might annul the choice. They had, also, their purely spiritual head, the "rab-ha-kolel."

In 1860 a supreme tribunal for the Jews was instituted, consisting of four members, and an assembly of notables (Majlis Paḳidim, Majlis Jashmi, Ṭobe ha-'Ir), elected by the most important men of the community. A new constitution was granted to the Jews by Sultan 'Aziz, May 5, 1865, which instituted three different councils: a "Majlis 'Umumi" (national council) of 24 notables, a "Majlis Gashim" (temporal council) of 7 lay members, and a "Majlis Ruḥani" (spiritual council) of 9 rabbis. The communities in the various vilayets and sanjaks are under a ḥakam-bashi of their own, who is sup-ported by an administrative council.

The congregational system has been largely developed in English-speaking countries. In England, before the middle of the eighteenth century, the synagogues were entirely independent of one another. In 1757 the Great and the Hambro synagogues appointed one chief rabbi. In 1868 the three London synagogues and their two branches united into one organization; and in 1870 the United Synagogue was formed with the intention of comprising all the synagogues of the United Kingdom. The chief rabbi of the United Synagogue has the title of "chief rabbi of the united congregations of the British empire." He has at his side a bet din, and the worldly affairs of the United Synagogue are managed by a council consisting of life members and certain officers, of the wardens for the time being of the constituent synagogues, and of a certain number of representatives at council.


The Spanish and Portuguese congregations of London have their own organization, with their own ecclesiastical chief, who is called "haham." In 1840 the West London Synagogue of British Jews was formed as a Reform congregation; it and the daughter congregations in Bradford and Manchester do not form part of the United Synagogue. In 1887 a fourth organization was effected for the purpose of associating together the synagogues in East London. This organization, known as the "Federation of Synagogues," is managed by a board consisting of a president, one elected member from each confederated synagogue, and one representative for every fifty contributing members of each synagogue, and seven elected elders. Steps have recently been taken to form in England an organization to be known as the "Jewish Congregational Union," on lines similar to those followed by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

The English Jews have also organized, without respect to congregational affiliations, the Anglo-Jewish Association (1871), the objects of which arethe protection of persecuted Jews, and the education of Jewish children in Eastern countries. The London Committee of Deputies of British Jews (founded 1760) watches and takes action with reference to all matters affecting the welfare of British Jews as a religious community. It consists of 65 deputies: 31 elected by 18 metropolitan synagogues; 32 by provincial synagogues; and 2 by colonial congregations.

United States.

Organization on strictly congregational lines has been most completely developed in the United States. Here each congregation is a law unto itself. It may elect its own ministers and arrange its services at will. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, organized July 1, 1873, in Cincinnati, is merely a deliberative body, and has no power to make its decisions effective in the congregations composing the Union. As the Union represents the congregations belonging to the Reform wing, a similar organization of Orthodox Jewish congregations was formed in New York in 1898. No distinction is made in the status of the various rabbis, a very large number of whom are banded together for mutual help in the Central Conference of American Rabbis (founded 1891). In some of the larger cities—e.g., New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia—local rabbinical associations have been formed. A National Council of Jewish Women was formed in 1893.

No international organization of Jews has been attempted until quite recent times. The Alliance Israélite Universelle of Paris (founded 1860) was intended to be such; but, though it has branches in almost every country, the foundation of similar societies in England, Germany, and Austria shows that it has not attained this end. The International Zionist Organization, with its periodic congresses, has, since 1897, moved in this direction.

  • Statistisches Jahrbuch des Deutsch-Isr. Gemeindebundes, Berlin, 1901;
  • The Jewish Year Book, London, 1902;
  • Kalender für Israeliten, Vienna, 1901;
  • Annuaire des Consistoires et des Communautés Israélites, Marseilles, 1901:
  • Jost, Neuere Gesch. der Israeliten, passim;
  • William Freund, Zur Judenfrage in Deutschland, 1843, 1844;
  • C. R. d'Elvert Gesch. der Juden in Mähren, passim, Brünn, 1895;
  • Franco, Hist. des Juifs dans V Empire Ottoman, passim;
  • compare also, Zunz. Kurze Antworten auf Kultusfragen, Berlin, 1844 (reprinted in G. S. ii. 204 et seq.), and especially Louis Venetianer, The Organization of Judaism in the European States, Budapest, 1902 (in Hungarian).