GALICIA, Austria:

Province of Austria; acquired at the partition of Poland, 1772, and which, except for some small territorial changes, has remained such since the Vienna Congress of 1815.


The census of 1900 showed the number of the Jews in Galicia to be 811, 371 in a total of 7,315,939 inhabitants, or about 11 per cent. Notwithstanding heavy emigration, their number has increased steadily in proportion to the total population. The census of 1850 showed 317,227 Jews among 4,734,427 inhabitants, in 1827 there were 246,147 among 4,382,383, and the first census made by the Austrian government in 1789 showed 178,072 among 3,039,391 inhabitants. Most of the Jews live in cities, and in seven of these they form the majority of the population—in Brody, about three-quarters.

While the great masses receive no other education than that which the ḥeder affords, the number of Jews in the high schools, in the universities, and in the professions is far above their proportion to the population. Thus in 1890, Jewish scholars in the gymnasiums aggregated 18 per cent; in the realschools, 21 per cent. Among the physicians there were 25 per cent Jews, and among the lawyers 48 per cent. Even among the veterinary surgeons and the druggists the number of Jews is somewhat above their proportion to the population, notwithstanding the fact that the opportunity to practise these professions depends largely on governmental appointments, to which comparatively few Jews are assigned.


The oldest history of Galicia is identical with that of the Jews in the kingdom of Poland, of which this province formed part up to its occupation by Austria in 1772. Upon the annexation of Poland, the empress Maria Theresa pursued the policy of not interfering with the customs and habits of the population in order to reconcile them to the new government. This policy was followed also in the treatment of the Jews. As under Polish dominion, the Jews formed a separate body and enjoyed a liberal measure of autonomy; the congregations formed a political community, and were combined into a district, over which an elder ("Kreisaeltester") presided; the elders of the six districts together with six representatives at large ("Landesaeltester") formed a board of trustees ("Generaldirektion"), over which the chief rabbi ("Oberlandesrabbiner") presided. The last was selected by the empress from three candidates presented by the trustees. Maria Theresa selected Ezekiel Landau for this office, but he declined (see "Noda' bi-Yehudah," part ii.; "Oraḥ Ḥayyim," No. 36; Buber, "Anshe Shem," Cracow, 1895, p. xxi.), whereupon Löush Bernstein of Brody was selected in his place, but he failed to make his office effective. The office was abolished by Joseph II., and Bernstein died in retirement in 1789. The power of excommunication was vested in the chief rabbi, who exercised it under the supervision of the government, which made use of it in punishing evaders of taxes, smugglers, or deserters from military service. The school system was organized in three grades along traditional lines: in the lowest grade elementary branches and Bible were taught; in the second the Talmud was studied; while in the third or highest grade rabbinical instruction was given. Maria Theresa applied paternal government in its most minute details to the internal life of the Jews. She devised the rules for bestowing the titles of ḥaber and morenu and for granting the licenses for the reader and the shoḥeṭ. Different from the practise pursued in the older provinces, the empress decreed no limitation to the number of marriages, except in so far as affected the taxes which had to be paid before a marriage license could be issued. Severe penalties were devised for persons who baptized Jewish children without the consent of their parents, but these were not enforced, as the canonical law which declared such a baptism valid was respected, and children baptized against the will of their parents were taken from them and handed to some Christian institution for custody and education. A serious restriction placed on Jewish artisans was the provision of Maria Theresa's "Judenordnung," which did not permit them to work for Christian customers, except in places where no Christian was working at the same trade. This provision was incorporated in the constitution of the Galician gilds of May 9, 1778, which contains the requirement that no Christian master mechanic should "aid or abet any charlatan ["Pfuscher"], disturber, quack, or Jew, nor should any such charlatan or Jew be permitted to work at any trade, except that Jews might work for Jews." The taxes were originally levied according to the traditional Polish system, which demanded a per capita tax of two florins, Polish (about 23 cents); but soon after the annexation this tax was increased to one florin ("Conventionsmuenze"), which was almost double the original amount. This system was changed by the law of 1776, which provided that every family should pay a tax of four florins ($1.60) for right of residence, and another tax of the same amount for license to trade, and an income tax, for the payment of which the communitywas held responsible. Thus the community assessed the individual congregations, which in turn assessed the individual members. Aside from these taxes, special licenses were required for every marriage, for the building of a new synagogue or the repairing of an old one, for holding services in a private house and for similar ceremonies.

Joseph II.

During the eighteenth century ideas of humanitarianism found their way into the Austrian empire; and Joseph II., imbued with a commendable desire, wished to establish in his domains the principle of the equality of all mankind. As he improved the condition of the rest of his Jewish subjects, so he proclaimed for the Jews of Galicia a policy which was a departure from that of his mother. The "Patent" of May 27, 1785, and the "Judenordnung" of May 7, 1789, regulated their legal condition ("Pillerische Sammlung der Patente und Verordnungen fuer die Koenigreiche Galizien und Lodomerien," 1785, p. 89; and Koefil's "Systematischer Auszug der Galizischen Gesetze und Verordnungen," ii. 391). The purpose of the law-giver is clearly defined in the preamble to the "Judenordnung" of 1789, which says: "It is both in accordance with the accepted principles of toleration as well as conducive to the general good to abolish the discrimination which legislation has hitherto made between Jewish and Christian subjects, and to grant to the Jewish inhabitants of Galicia all the rights and privileges which the Christian subjects enjoy." Previous to the publication of these general laws individual laws had established the principle of toleration. A law of Feb. 4, 1782, stated that Jewish physicians should have the right of practising medicine among Christians, and on June 28 of the same year the schools were declared to be open to Jewish children and students. The restriction which prohibited Jewish mechanics from working for Christians was abolished Sept. 16, 1784; and in order to encourage manual labor Jews who lived exclusively by farming were exempted from paying taxes, while artisans and factory employees enjoyed certain privileges in the matter of taxation. The "Patent" of 1785 had abolished the "Generaldirektion," so that the Jews should not form a separate body politic; the special Jewish checks ("Mameras"; see Mamran) were declared void; rabbinical civil law was abolished 1785; early burial was prohibited April 10, 1787. In the same year an order was issued that the Jews must serve in the army, and that before Jan. 1, 1788, all Jews must adopt fixed and hereditary family names. Further, in bookkeeping they were ordered to use the language of the country; books kept in Yiddish were not accepted as evidence in court. Joseph II. ruled in that spirit of paternalism which regulated all the internal affairs of the citizens. Though his policy would sometimes clash with religious practises, the general spirit of his legislation was benevolent. Once he prohibited the stringing of the wires which marked the Sabbath boundary ("Sabbath-schnüre"), but permitted it later on the condition that it would not interfere with public traffic (see 'Erub). He ordered that itinerant preachers and ḥazzanim should be treated as vagabonds. The pamphlet "Ruaḥ Ḥayyim" (Brünn, 1785), in which the driving out of a devil is minutely described, afforded the emperor an opportunity of admonishing the censor and of directing him to withhold permission to publish such literature as "tended only to retard the enlightenment of the Jews, as there were enough old books of this type extant" (Nov. 2, 1785), but he was sufficiently broad-minded to declare himself opposed to any alterations in the text of the Talmud, because such a work belonged to literature, and should be kept intact for the sake of historical study (Sept. 19, 1789).

Benevolent Despotism, 1790-1848.

The reign of Leopold II. (1790-92) was of too short duration to have had any influence on the development of Jewish affairs. However, it should be mentioned that shortly after the death of Joseph II. personal service in the army was abolished, and the old Polish exemption-tax ("Rekrutengelder") was introduced (Nov. 24, 1790); but with the provision that it should never be reintroduced, it was finally repealed in 1796. The general principle of Francis II. (1792-1835) and of Ferdinand I. (1835-48), who ruled through Metternich, was that of restricting all liberal thought; hence it was opposed to the emancipation of the Jews. In those days the government hoped that by closely regulating the internal affairs of the Jews it would succeed in assimilating them with the rest of the population. The temper of the new emperor was made manifest by an order (Sept. 7, 1792) which declared that the right of the Jews to participate in municipal elections should be so regulated that they would not inconvenience the Christian citizens ("die Christlichen Buerger nicht beeintraechtigen"). This law decreed that only such Jews as enjoyed municipal franchise might be electors. The granting of the franchise was in the hands of the municipal council, and might be granted only to property-holders and master mechanics. From the inner city of Lemberg the Jews were excluded, with the exception of such proprietors of large business houses as could prove that the volume of their business amounted at least to 30,000 florins ($12,000) per annum; as a rule strangers were not admitted, and even the residents were not permitted to marry women from other cities. If a Jew from another city wished to move to Lemberg, he had to prove that he had induced two other Jews to leave the latter city. Foreign Jews could come to Galicia for only a limited time, and from July 18, 1811, a poll-tax ("Geleitzoll") was introduced in the case of Jews coming from the kingdom of Poland, which amounted to 4.45 florins for men, 3.15 florins for women and servants, and 1.45 florins for children. Jewish importers of cattle and provisions fared better, having to pay but 1.06 florins. It must be admitted, however, that this reactionary step was introduced only as a reprisal against Saxony, which levied a similar poll-tax on Austrian Jews, while those of the then existing dukedom of Warsaw were exempted from paying it. This strange relic of medievalism survived until March 7, 1851, when it was abolished by an imperial edict. The business of druggist, like the medical profession, which in Polish times was generally followed by the Jews, was prohibited to them under Austrian rule, at first only inWest Galicia (1802), then in the entire province (1829). The strong attachment that Francis II. formed for the Catholic Church is responsible for repeated orders (1806, 1820) that Jews must not deal in ecclesiastical furniture, crucifixes, or vestments.

The system of taxation was very burdensome, Joseph II., while filled with the noblest of intentions and desirous of carrying the principle of equal rights into practise, was hindered by financial needs. The always depleted treasury of the empire made it impossible to forego the income derived from special Jewish taxes. So, while in civil law and in their municipal affairs Joseph II. placed the Jews on a level with the Christians, he retained in Galicia, as well as in the older provinces, a system of special Jewish taxes. Besides the taxes introduced by his mother, which he retained with slight changes, he introduced a special tax on kasher meat, which, when additional revenue was required, was often increased. The original tax of 1¾ kreuzer (a little more than a cent) on every pound of meat was later increased to 3 krcuzer, while that of 5 kreuzer on a goose was advanced to 17 kreuzer. The "Schutz steuer" of four florins for every family, to which one florin was added for the benefit of the landlord ("Domesticalsteuer"), was abolished in 1797, because it did not yield the expected revenue and also because it gave the authorities a great amount of trouble in dealing with the numerous delinquents. In its place a light tax was introduced which was levied on every light burned for religious purposes (as on Sabbath and holy days), on every oil-lamp burned at the anniversaries of the deaths of relatives (see Jahrzeit), on every candle used in the synagogues on the Day of Atonement, on every Ḥanukkah light, and on every candle lighted at a wedding. This tax ranged from one-half a kreuzer for every Ḥanukkah light to one florin for a torch at a wedding, and was a great source of annoyance. As a rule, it was farmed out and levied with absolute indifference to the hardship which it caused. But when it failed to yield the expected revenue, a direct tax was imposed upon all the Jews of the province in order to make up for the deficiency, and this had to be paid by the congregations as a body. With regard to this, it must, however, be admitted that in general Francis II. was averse to taxing religious rites and ceremonies. When some Jews offered to pay 150,000 florins for the privilege of collecting a tax on every Etrog used on the festival of Sukkot, he declared himself strongly opposed to it, although Maria Theresa had established a precedent by levying 4,000 florins on the Jews of Moravia for the privilege of importing that fruit ("Oest. Wochenschrift," 1901, p. 727; "Israel. Familienblatt," Hamburg, Oct. 10, 1901). While on the one hand discrimination against the Jews in civil and political affairs was frequent, on the other hand, owing to the system of taxation, the traditional policy of constant interference with their religious practises and other internal affairs could not be avoided. In order to maintain the revenue of the treasury it became necessary to compel every Jew to kindle lights on Sabbath and holy days and to eat none but kasher meat. Paternalism, however, did not stop here. An imperial order of Dec. 14, 1810, decreed that no one should marry unless he had passed an examination in religion based on Herz Homberg's catechism "Bene Zion." While this law was in force over the whole monarchy, it was particularly exasperating for Galicia, where only a very small fraction of the population could read German, and where Homberg, whom the government had sent there as inspector of the schools, had made himself universally hated by his irreligious conduct and by his proneness to inform against the Jews. The consequences were that the educational movement inaugurated by Joseph II. was abandoned, and the special Jewish school fund, formed from Jewish taxes, was merged into the general tax-fund of the country. The various attempts to raise the status of the rabbis fared no better, and the government decree (1836) that after ten years no rabbi should be appointed who had not taken an academic course at a university became a dead letter. The meddlesomeness of the government was noticeable in an order of 1812 which prohibited the collecting of gifts for the poor in Palestine. It threatened to treat as a vagabond a solicitor of such alms. Inspired, as was the demand for a higher education of the rabbis, by higher motives was an attempt to encourage secular education and the assimilation of Jews and Christians by privileges offered to such as would acquire school education and would discard their peculiar dress. Since the time of Joseph II. repeated laws prohibited the Jews from dealing in alcoholic liquors, but these remained ineffective, chiefly on account of the power of the landowners, who possessed the exclusive privilege of distilling, and who, from the time of the earliest settlement of the Jews in Poland, farmed out this privilege to Jews (see Solomon Luria's Responsa, No. 34). Finally, on March 24, 1841, the government promulgated a law which permitted such Jews as would abandon their distinctive dress, and who would acquire an elementary-school education, to live in villages and to engage in the liquor traffic. This law also remained a dead letter. A new order, dated Sept. 9, 1847, required all Jewish liquor-dealers to qualify by Jan. 1, 1847. Even this law did not have the desired effect, for in 1847 the trustees of the congregation of Lemberg were asked to assist the government in its attempt to enforce the law. A decided step in advance was the abolition of the limitation of marriages in Lemberg (1846); but the general status of the Jews remained unchanged until 1848, and even the constitutions of 1848 and 1849 did not have any immediate effect, as the national movement among the Poles, who considered the Jews as strangers, and the hostility of the cities, which were unwilling to give up the privileges which they possessed of limiting the business activity of the Jews, were strong factors in making it impossible for the Jews to avail themselves of the privileges which the new order of things conferred upon them.

Constitution and Reaction Since 1848.

The principle of full equality, introduced by the constitution of 1848, was not long enforced. Two Jews from Galicia, Berish Meisel, rabbi of Cracow, and Abraham Halpern, a merchant of Stanislau, were members of the Reichstag of Kremsier, and Isaac N. Mannheimer, a Vienna preacher, was elected for Brody; but with the interruption of parliamentarygovernment certain restrictions were reintroduced, while others were enforced by the local authorities contrary to law, but with the connivance of the government. The only permanent improvement was the abolition, March 7, 1851, of the poll-tax levied on Jews from Russian Poland who came to Galicia on business, but a number of other disabilities were reenforced. With the rest of the Austrian Jews those of Galicia lost the right of acquiring land by the law of Oct. 2, 1853; but while for the other provinces inhabited by Jews this right was restored by the imperial order of Feb. 18, 1860, the restrictions were enforced in Galicia and in the Alpine provinces until the constitution of Dec. 21, 1867, was proclaimed. Jewish merchants of Lemberg who bad opened stores in the inner part of the city were forced to close them within two months, and the landlords who had rented stores to Jews were punished. The same regulation was enforced in Sambor; and when the Jews appealed to the provincial government against these illegal proceedings, the latter referred the case to the district authorities ("Kreisamt"), who decided against the Jews. As late as 1859 the city of Tarnow demanded the enforcement of a decree made by the King of Poland in 1765 which restricted the Jews to a ghetto. The law which prohibited the employment of Christian domestics by Jews, while never strictly enforced, was used from time to time as a vexatious measure, even where a Jewish tenant of farm-land employed Christian laborers. Under this law a Jew of Wadowice was fined on Sept. 11, 1859. Afterward the Bishop of Przemysl in a pastoral letter of Jan. 20, 1860, declared that such a law, conflicting with that of the Church, and could never be valid. In some instances the police arrested Christian domestics who served in Jewish houses, and brought them to the priest, who ordered them to leave their places under penalty of whipping. The law was formally abrogated on Nov. 20, 1860.

Lemberg, the capital of the province, continued to disregard the constitution. In drawing up the municipall statutes (1863 and 1866), the city council demanded that Jewish members should be limited to fifteen per cent of the total number, and that the property of the city should belong exclusively to the Christians. By the constitution of 1867 Jews were admitted to the municipal boards, to the provincial diet, and to the Parliament; but while the letter of the constitution was maintained, the local laws were often framed so as to discriminate against the Jews in fact. A notable instance of this kind is the school law of 1883, which declared that every school principal must be of the same religion which the majority of the school-children professed, but as in that case a great number of Jewish school principals would have to be appointed for Galicia, the Galician members of the Reichsrath insisted on the introduction of a clause which made an exception in the case of Galicia. Another instance which proves that the laws granting the Jews full civil liberty are merely theoretical is the case of Michaline Araten, who was taken to a convent Dec. 30, 1899, all efforts of her father to rescue her proving futile. Neither the courts nor the administrative authorities would render a verdict against the convent; a mayor who at the request of the father searched the convent was punished with arrest for breach of peace, and even an audience which the father obtained with the emperor proved abortive. Similar instances of the abduction of Jewish girls into convents against the will of their parents, and their retention against their own will, have happened quite frequently, although none made such an impression as that of Michaline Araten because the relatives in the other cases did not have the means to exhaust all legal resources. Another instance showing how the law is often a dead letter in Galicia is found in the fact that a Jewish government official who in 1895 rented a room in Saybusch was forced to quit the town because the municipal authorities claimed on the basis of a governmental decision of 1809 that they could not be compelled to tolerate any Jews among them. That under such conditions nothing is done by the government to alleviate the great misery which exists among the Jewish population, especially in the country districts, is self-understood, notwithstanding the fact that a recently appointed governor, Count Potocki, admitted to a Jewish committee who waited on him that it was necessary that something be done ("Oest. Wochenschrift," 1903, p. 434). The Baron de Hirsch fund, formed from a legacy of $4,000,000, and the Hilfsverein for the Galician Jews in Vienna, formed 1902, are making noble efforts to alleviate misery and to encourage education.

Intellectual Culture.

The great majority of the Galician Jews, especially those in the eastern part of the province, are still in a condition similar to that which prevailed among the western Jews in the first half of the eighteenth century: their education is limited to Hebrew and the Talmud. From the time when the Jews of Poland entered into the field of Hebrew literature Galicia has been a seat of learning. About the middle of the sixteenth century Moses Isserles spread over western Europe the fame of Polish Talmudists. Since the sixteenth century Lemberg has been the seat of an important yeshibah, and many of its rabbis have been called to occupy prominent rabbinical positions in Germany. When that part of Poland was annexed by Austria the intellectual life of the Jews remained unchanged. Maria Theresa made no attempts to improve it, and the efforts of Joseph II. were without permanent results. Herz Homberg, who was appointed inspector of the Jewish schools in Galicia, 1787, was recalled in 1794, because he could effect no improvement. The Galician Jews constantly petitioned the emperor to repeal the law of compulsory education, and they were finally successful, so that even now, after the new school law for Austria has been in existence for more than thirty years, it is still a dead letter for the Galician Jews. (On the Galician school question see Wolf in "Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums," 1887, p. 231.) Galicia produced a great number of prominent Talmudists in the latter part of the eighteenth and in the nineteenth century. Of this number may be mentioned the various representatives of the Ettinger and Orenstein families, who furnished Lemberg with the rabbis Jacob (died 1837) and Hirsch Orenstein (died 1888), Marcus Wolf Ettinger (died1863), Isaac Aaron Ettinger (died 1891), Solomon Klueger of Brody (died 1869), A. M. Taubes (at the end of his life rabbi of Jassy), and Joseph Saul Nathansohn, rabbi of Lemberg (died 1875).

A more modern course was pursued by Hirsch Ḥagis, rabbi of Zolkiev (died 1855), who contributed to scientific periodicals and wrote on historical and dogmatic topics. By the end of the eighteenth century the Mendelssohnian movement had also taken root in Galicia. Its pioneer was Nachman Krochmal (1785-1840), who gathered about himself a circle of sympathizers, among whom S. L. Rapoport (1790-1867), Joseph Perl (1777-1839), Isaac Erter, and Isaac Mieses were prominent. The younger Haskalah had also quite a number of prominent representatives, among whom may be mentioned Osias H. Schorr (died 1895), Hillel Kahane, Alexander Langbank, Naphtali Keller, Ḥayyim Nathan Dembitzer, Joseph Kohen Ẓedeḳ, Solomon Rubin, and the two assiduous workers in the field of the history of literature, Solomon H. Halberstamm and Solomon Buber. The ghetto novel has two representatives from Galicia, Leo Herzberg-Fränkel and Karl Emil Franzos. In connection with this ought to be mentioned the fact that Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, a Christian, drew the inspiration for his beautiful idyls of Jewish life from scenes in Galicia. Numerous also are those who have made a name in general literature and in science, among whom may be mentioned David Heinrich Müller, the Orientalist, and Marcus Landau, the essayist.

Attempts made to introduce modern ideas into the life of the Jews by means of modern schools and a reformed synagogue service have been successful in only a small measure. The greatest merit in this direction belongs to Joseph Perl, who established the first German school in Tarnopol, Galicia (1815), and introduced into it a modern synagogue service. In the same year a Jewish high school was established in Brody. Very slight reforms were introduced in Lemberg, where Abraham Kohn was elected rabbi in 1843. He fell a victim to fanatics, who poisoned him Sept. 6, 1848. Reforms, restricted to a certain decorum in ritual practises, were introduced in Cracow. They are still a rare phenomenon, for the Ḥasidim have gained a strong foothold in Galicia, especially since the immigration of Israel of Raisin, who fled from Russia in 1842 and established himself in Sadagora, where his grandson continues to gather a large number of devoted followers around him. Hillel Lichtenstein, a native of Hungary, fostered Ḥasidism through his numerous works in Hebrew and Yiddish, while Moses Teitelbaum, a native of Galicia, introduced Ḥasidism into northern Hungary.

  • Von Kortum, Ueber Judenthum und Juden, Nuremberg, 1795;
  • Stoeger, Gesetzliche Verfassung der Galizischen Judenschaft, Lemberg, 1833;
  • Bernfeld, The Jews in Galicia, in Luaḥ Aḥiasaf, viii. 291-299; and the Jewish periodical press.