EISENSTADT (Ger. also: Weniger Maertersdorf; Hung. Kismarton; Heb. א״שׁ; ציר ברזל), capital of *Burgenland, E. Austria. Its community was the leading one of the "Seven Communities" of Burgenland, and from the end of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th century one of the most important communities in Europe. Jews are mentioned in the city records in 1373, and the bishop of Eisenstadt was permitted to settle Jews there in 1388. Others came to the city after the expulsions from Austria (1421), Styria (1496), and Sopron (1526). By 1569 the community numbered 81 persons, living in eight small houses. A Jewish quarter and community institutions are mentioned for the years 1547 to 1571. Each Jew had to
In its days of fame as a center of Jewish learning the Eisenstadt community used to be referred to as "Little Jerusalem." It had many customs peculiar to itself. The entrances to the Jewish street were closed on Saturdays and holidays by chains. Above the entrance to the synagogue a silver ball was hung containing cord for ẓiẓit, free of charge, supplied by a donation (keren ẓiẓit). Those who were called to the Torah as an obligation, such as a bridegroom on the Sabbath before his wedding, paid a special due. The shammash served the rabbi a cup of wine after the sermon. On the eve of Simhat Torah it was the women's task to adorn the Torah scrolls before the * hakkafot. At the beginning of the cherry season the first child to show the rabbi a worm in a cherry was rewarded, and the shammash would then proclaim in the street that henceforward it was forbidden to eat cherries without first examining them.
At the end of the 19th century, the *Wolf family, who concentrated the wine export in their hands, were prominent in local and communal affairs. Sandor Wolf founded a private museum in 1902 and published books on Jewish and general local history. After World War I, Eisenstadt remained the only Jewish community in Europe to have the status of a political community (until 1938). The Jews there suffered economically because of the disruption of their former commercial ties.
The Jews were expelled from Eisenstadt immediately after the Anschluss in 1938; most of them moved to Vienna. Some were among the refugees thrust onto the land strip in the Danube (see *Burgenland). On Nov. 10, 1938, the synagogue equipment and part of the houses in the Jewish street were destroyed by a mob. The synagogue building was demolished. (The trade-union headquarters was built on the site in 1952; it contains a plaque commemorating the synagogue.) Many of the tombstones in the Jewish cemetery were used to build anti-tank traps in 1945.
One hundred and nine Jews from Eisenstadt perished in the Holocaust. Five survivors returned after the war. The community was not reorganized. The Jewish collection of the Wolf museum was incorporated into the Burgenlaendisches Landesmuseum; in 1972 a Jewish museum was opened, the first of its kind in Austria. Some 23,500 documentary items are preserved in the Juedisches Zentralarchiv der ehemaligen Judengemeinden des Burgenlandes. Rabbi Akiva *Eger the Younger was a native of Eisenstadt; a plaque on the house where he was born was destroyed by the Nazis. Moritz *Benedikt, the professor of neuropathology in Vienna and liberal politician, was also born in Eisenstadt.
A. Fuerst, Sitten und Gebraeuche in der Eisenstaedter Judengasse (Minhag Asch) (1908); idem, in: Egyenlöség, 40 (Jan. 8, 1921), 6–7; O. Aull, Eisenstadt (1931); H. Gold (ed.), Gedenkbuch der untergegangenen Judengemeinden des Burgenlandes (1970), 37–50, 51–55; N. Gergely, in Új Élet, 24 (Oct. 15, 1969), 3, 17–36; MHJ, 1 (1903)–12 (1969), index locorum S.V. Kismarton; H. Weiss, in: Zikhronotai (1895), 29–41; R. Patai, in: Arim ve-Immahot be-Yisrael, 1 (1946/47), 41–79, incl. bibl.; B. Wachstein, Die Grabinschriften des alten Judenfriedhofs in Eisenstadt (1922); idem, Urkunden und Akten zur Geschichte der Juden in Eisenstadt… (1926); S. Wolf, Die Kunst im Eisenstaedter Ghetto (1912); I. Schwarz, in: Menorah, 4 (1926), 705–8; M. Eliav (ed.), Iggerot Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer (Heb. and Ger., 1965), passim. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Reiss, Weil man uns die Heimatliebe ausgeblaeut hat (2001).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.