EISENSTADT


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 work eight days villenage services and pay ten florins in taxes yearly. The Jews were expelled from Eisenstadt in 1572 but returned soon afterward. In 1626 the community came under the protection of the aristocratic Hungarian Esterhazy family. The Jews had to leave Eisenstadt at the time of the expulsion from Austria in 1670 but were shortly afterward permitted to return. In 1675 Jews who had immigrated there from Mikulov (Nikolsburg), Moravia, were granted a letter of protection. The renewed version of 1690 served as model for the charters granted to all "Seven Communities" in the region. In return for yearly taxes and gifts on all possible occasions, the community was granted broad autonomy. Prince Esterhazy built near his farming estate a "Jewish street" of 20 houses, which formed a political community (see *Politische Gemeinden) as Eisenstadt-Unterberg (Hung. Alsókismartonhegy). Its leaders included the Judenrichter, before whom, from 1732, a mace was carried as symbol of his function. In 1900, only 38 of the 451 inhabitants on its territory were not Jewish. In 1704 and 1707, during the Kurucz revolts, Eisenstadt was destroyed, its inhabitants taking refuge in Wiener Neustadt. The community was restored with the help of Samson *Wertheimer, who also served as its rabbi. He built a house there containing a bet midrash (maintained by Wertheimer's endowment until the 1840s). Meir *Eisenstadt (Maharam Esh) was rabbi from 1717 until his death in 1744, and through him the local yeshivah became celebrated. This was the most prosperous period for the community because some of the wealthy Jewish families living in Vienna without residence rights paid heavily for a fictitious right of domicile in Eisenstadt. Some 35 Jewish house owners are on record in 1725. In 1735 the community numbered 113 families (24 living in Vienna), totaling 600 persons. The Jewish quarter was destroyed by a conflagration in 1795. A new synagogue was built in 1832. In 1836 the community numbered 191 families (908 persons) of whom 61 were part house owners and 12 owned their own houses. Azriel *Hildesheimer was rabbi of Eisenstadt between 1851 and 1869, and his yeshivah, at which secular studies were also taught, attracted pupils from all over Europe. After the Revolution of 1848 when Jews were able to move freely, many left Eisenstadt.

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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

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.