MORAVIA (Czech Morava, Ger. Maehren, Heb. ,ןרהרמןיררעמ), historic region of the Czech Republic (formerly in *Czechoslovakia). A political unit from around 769, it formed the nucleus of the Great Moravian Empire (first half of the ninth century until 906). From 1029 it was under Bohemian rule; in 1182 it became a margravate and as such a direct fief of the empire. Together with *Bohemia it became part of the *Hapsburg Empire (1526–1918), and then part of Czechoslovakia, united with former Austrian Silesia after 1927. Between 1939 and 1945 it was part of the Nazi-occupied Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia, after parts had been ceded to Germany as a result of the Munich Agreement of September 1938. It was replaced, in 1960, by the establishment of two provinces, southern and northern Moravia. Partly because of the region's location on the crossroads of Europe, throughout the centuries there was a considerable amount of reciprocal influence between Moravian Jewry and the Jewries of the surrounding countries. It had a thriving cultural life, promoted by the high degree of autonomy and communal organization it developed. Moravian Jews played a large part in the development of the communities in Vienna and northwestern Hungary.
From the Early Settlement to the 17th Century
Documentation of the first stages of Moravian Jewry is very scanty. In all probability Jews first came to Moravia as traders in the wake of the Roman legions. According to tradition, some communities (e.g., *Ivanice, *Jemnice, *Pohorelice, and *Trebic) were founded in the first millennium C.E., but such reports cannot be substantiated. Moravia is mentioned rarely in early medieval Jewish sources. However, it may well be that some authorities confused part of Bohemia with Moravia. As other authorities referred to all Slav countries as "Canaan," it is
When Moravia passed under the rule of the Luxembourg dynasty in 1311, the Jewish community of Brno, carrying their Torah Scrolls, participated in the celebrations welcoming King John of Luxembourg to the city. In 1322 John permitted the bishop of Olomouc to settle one Jew in four of his towns (*Kromeriz (Kremsier), Mohelnice, Vyskov, and Svitavy (Zwittau)), and to benefit from their tax payments. At that time Jews earned their livelihood mainly as moneylenders, but gentile moneylenders could also be found. Several Moravian communities, such as Jemnice (Jamnitz), Trebic, and Znojmo, were affected by the wave of massacres evoked by the *Pulkau *Host desecration in 1338. A toll privilege granted in 1341 to the monastery of Vilimov, which was on the main road between Moravia and Bohemia, puts Jewish merchants on a par with their gentile counterparts and mentions a great variety of merchandise in which they dealt. *Charles IV granted the cities of Brno and Jihlava the right to admit Jews in 1345, making the Jihlava community independent of that in Brno. There was an influx of Jews fleeing from Germany into Moravia during the *Black Death massacres (1348–49). In 1349 the bishop of Olomouc complained to the city authorities that Jews did not wear special Jewish hats, as they were supposed to do. Between 1362 and 1415 Jews were free to accept real estate as security on loans.
Some of the Jews expelled from Austria in 1421 (the *Wiener Gesera) settled in Moravia. Accused of supporting the *Hussites, the Jihlava community was expelled by Albert V, duke of Austria and margrave of Moravia, in 1426. As a result of John of *Capistrano's activities, the Jews were expelled from five of the six royal cities in 1454 (Jihlava, Brno, Olomouc, Znojmo, and Neustadt; the sixth royal city, Uherske Hradiste, expelled the Jews in 1514). The royal cities remained forbidden to them until after the 1848 revolution. The Jews who were expelled settled in the villages. During the 16th century, when there was no central power in Moravia ("in every castle a king"), the Jews were settled in small towns and villages under the protection of the local lords. The latter treated them well, not only because of the part they played in the economic development of their domains, which they shared initially with the Anabaptist communes, but also because some of the lords belonged to the Bohemian Brethren (see *Hussites) or were humanists; many therefore believed in religious tolerance. The importance of the Jews in the Moravian economic life (as military purveyors and *Court Jews) increased because of the constant threat of the Turkish wars. Since several Christian sects lived side by side, it became somewhat easier for the Jew to pursue his own interests without interference. When the Anabaptists were expelled (1622), and the country became depopulated during the Thirty Years' War (1618–48), the Jews took over new economic areas and were also permitted to acquire houses formerly occupied by "heretics." However, at the same time some communities suffered severely during the war (e.g., Kromeriz and *Hodonin (Goeding)). Moravia also absorbed refugees from Poland after the *Chmielnicki massacres (1648), among them scholars such as Gershon *Ashkenazi, author of Avodat ha-Gershuni, and Shabbetai Kohen, author of Siftei Kohen, the renowned commentary on the Shulḥan Arukh, who became rabbi of Holesov. Many Jews also arrived after the expulsion from Vienna (1670).
At this time an increasing number of Moravian Jews were engaged in crafts, a process that had already begun in the 16th century, and the cloth and wool merchants and tailors, who made goods to be sold at fairs, were laying the foundations of the textile and clothing industry for which Moravia was later known. In 1629 *Ferdinand II permitted the Jews to attend markets and fairs in the royal cities, on payment of a special body tax (Leibmaut; see *Leibzoll); in spite of protests from the guilds and merchants, the charter was renewed in 1657, 1658, and 1723. Jews also attended fairs outside Moravia, especially those in *Krems, *Linz, *Breslau (Wroczlaw), and *Leipzig. In
List of alternative names for places shown on map
Alstadt – Stare Mesto
1650 the Moravian Diet decided that Jews could reside only where they had been living before 1618, but the decision was not enforced. Later this was modified by the Diet of 1681 to permit Jews to dwell where they lived before 1657.
The Modern Era
On July 31, 1725, during the reign of Charles VI, an imperial order fixed the number of registered Jewish families at 5,106 and threatened any locality which accepted Jews where they had not been previously settled with a fine of 1,000 ducats. On September 20 of that year the same penalty was imposed on anyone who allowed Jews to come into possession of real estate, particularly customhouses, mills, wool-shearing sheds, and breweries. The first enactment was reinforced a year later by allowing only one son in a family to marry (see *Familiants Law); the second was never carried out, as it would have deprived noblemen of lucrative revenue and most Jews of their livelihood. Under Charles VI the geographical separation of the Jews was implemented in most Moravian towns.
*Maria Theresa threatened Moravian Jewry with expulsion (Jan. 2, 1745) but rescinded her order, permitting them to remain for another ten years. In 1748, however, she raised their toleration tax (Schutzgeld) from a total of 8,000 florins (since 1723) to 87,700 for the next five years and 76,700 in the following five; in 1752 the tax was fixed at 90,000 florins. Two years later the empress' definitive "General Police Law and Commercial Regulations for the Jewry of the Margravate of Moravia" appeared; as its name indicates it regulated all legal, religious, and commercial aspects of Jewish life in Moravia. The authority of the *Landesrabbiner was defined and his election regulated, as were those of the other offices of the *Landesjudenschaft. In essence the law was based on a translation by Aloys von *Sonnenfels of the resolutions and ordinances of the old Council of Moravian Jewry. Although the earliest recorded session of the council had taken place in 1651, it was at least a century older, for a Bendit Axelrod Levi was mentioned in 1519 as being "head of all Moravian communities." The names of most Moravian rabbis were recorded from the mid-16th century.
A clearer picture of the council emerges after the Thirty Years' War (1618–48): Moravia (medinah) was divided into three provinces (galil), in each of which two heads (rashei galil) officiated; at the same time, each one was a member of the governing body of Moravian Jewry (rashei ha-medinah). The chief authority was the Landesrabbiner (rav medinah), who had jurisdiction over both secular and religious matters. His seat was in *Mikulov (Nikolsburg). His presence at council sessions was obligatory and he was the authoritative interpreter of their decisions. There were two types of council: the governing "small" council of six heads of provinces, and the "large" legislative one, which was attended by representatives of the communities and met every three years at a different community. The franchise was very limited and the council oligarchic in spirit and practice. The last "large" council, that of 1748, was attended by 61 representatives elected by 367 house owners. Its main function was the election of small bodies of electors and legislators. The authority of the council was undermined by the absolutist state, which in 1728 defined its ordinances as "temporary"; from 1754 Maria Theresa limited the independence of the communities and their central council. The main function of the council and the Landesrabbiner was to divide the tax load justly among the communities. When Landesrabbiner Menahem *Krochmal was called upon to settle a dispute between the poor and the rich over the control of the communities, he claimed that the decisive voice belonged to those who contributed more to the community. Krochmal's tenure (1648–61) was vital in the formulation of the 311 ordinances (shai takkanot) of the Moravian council. Among his noted predecessors were R. *Judah Loew b. Bezalel (Maharal) and R. Yom Tov Lipmann *Heller. Among the more distinguished holders of the office were David *Oppenheim (from 1690 to 1704); Gabriel b. Judah Loew *Eskeles, nominated in 1690; and his son Issachar Berush (Bernard) *Eskeles, (d. 1753), who also became chief rabbi of Hungary and successfully averted the 1745 expulsion threat. His successor, R. Moses b. Aaron *Lemberger, ordained that henceforth at least 25 students should attend the Mikulov (Nikolsburg) yeshivah, and that each Moravian sub-province should support two yeshivot with ten students each. R. Gershon Pullitz and R. Gershon *Chajes (Landesrabbiner 1780–89) fought against the insidious influence of Shabbateanism and Frankism in Moravia: in 1773 Jacob *Frank resided in Brno, where the *Dobruschka family were among his adherents; members of the *Prostejov (Prossnitz) community were commonly called Schebse since so many of them were followers of Shabbetai Ẓevi.
In spite of the hostile attitude of Charles VI and Maria Theresa and the continuous curtailment of the authority of the council and the Landesrabbiner, there was a thriving communal life in Moravia. In the first half of the 19th century the Landesrabbiner Mordecai *Benet (d. 1829), Nehemiah (Menahem) Nahum *Trebitsch (d. 1842), and Samson Raphael *Hirsch (served from 1846 to 1851) wielded great influence. Besides the spiritual metropolis of Nikolsburg, there were important centers of learning in Boskowitz (*Boskovice), Ungarisch-Brod (*Uhersky Brod), Kremsier, Leipnik (*Lipnik nad Becvou), and Prossnitz.
The situation of Moravian Jews improved after Joseph II 's *Toleranzpatent, which abolished the body tax (see *Leibzoll) and other special taxes and permitted some freedom of movement. But the limitation of the number of Jewish families remained, the number of licensed (systematisiert) Jewish families being kept at 5,106, later raised to 5,400. An edict of Francis II in 1798 limited their rights of settlement to an area of 52 Jewish communities (Judengemeinden), mostly in places where communities had existed from early times. The six royal cities remained closed to the Jews. Like most of the local Christian communities, the Jewish communities were subject to the authority of the feudal lord. At that time the largest communities were Mikulov with 620 families, Prostejov with 328, Boskovice with 326, and Holesov with 265. The
The restrictions imposed on the Jews by Charles VI and Maria Theresa, most of which remained in force until the second half of the 19th century, led many Moravian Jews to leave the country, mainly for Hungary (Slovakia) and later for Austria. After equal rights and freedom of movement were granted, new communities were established in the big cities of Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava (Maehrisch Ostrau), and Jihlava, while others were set up in small places that previously Jews had only visited on market days. At the same time many Moravian Jews left for other parts of the Hapsburg Empire, particularly Vienna, and some emigrated. As a result, the Jewish population of Moravia remained relatively static at a time when the world Jewish population was rising, and even declined slightly from 1890. (See Table: Jewish Population in Moravia).
Jewish Population in Moravia
In 1787 Joseph II ordered that half of the main tax on Moravian Jewry (then 88,280 florins) be allowed to accumulate in a fund (known as Landesmassafond) for the payment of the
Landesrabbiner and other officials. In 1831, when the fund was sealed, the capital was allocated for low-interest loans for needy communities. An assembly of 45 Moravian communities convened in 1862 in order to try to obtain control of the fund, which was managed by state officials. After protracted negotiations, *Francis Joseph I awarded the guardianship of the fund (almost 1,000,000 kronen) to an elected curatorium whose first chairman was Julius von Gomperz of Brno. This curatorium served in lieu of a central Jewish organization until the collapse of the Austrian regime and enabled Moravian Jewry to alleviate the lot of the declining small communities. Jews were mainly engaged in trade, but increasing numbers entered some industries and the free professions or became white-collar workers (mainly in undertakings owned by Jews). They were prominent in the wool industry of Brno, the silk industry of northern Moravia, the clothing industry in Prostejov, Boskovice, and some other towns, the leather industry, the sugar industry in central and southern Moravia, and the malt industry in Olomouc. The brothers Wilhelm and David von *Gutmann (orginally from Lipnik) developed jointly with the Rothschilds the coal mines of Ostrava and established the great iron and steel works there. The Rothschilds also built the Kaiser Ferdinand Nordbahn, a railway linking Vienna and Galicia via Moravia and Silesia. Consequently there was a substantial number of Jewish railway engineers, employees, engine drivers, licensees of railway restaurants, etc. In the late 19th and 20th centuries Jews were also prominent in the timber industry and trade, the glass industry, hat-making, hosiery, and even in the development of water power.
The close ties between Moravian Jews and Vienna persisted until the end of the Austrian monarchy, and even increased after emancipation, since Moravia had no university under Austrian rule. Consequently, the great majority of Moravian Jews spoke German. In 1900, 77% of all Moravian Jews declared German as their mother tongue, 16% Czech, and 7% other languages (mainly foreigners), but this did not indicate any strong political assimilationist trend toward Germany or hostility toward Czech nationalism. Jews enthusiastically supported the candidacy of T.G. *Masaryk for the Austrian parliament in 1907 and 1911. Students from Moravian communities studying in Vienna were among the first followers of Theodor Herzl and many Zionist associations sprang up in Moravia, from the early days of Zionism.
After the Czechoslovak Republic had been established in 1918, Moravian Jews frequently constituted the bridge between the Jews in Bohemia on the one hand and those in Slovakia and Subcarpathian Ruthenia on the other, between traditionalists and modernists, Zionist and non-Zionists. Slovakian Jewry felt close to Moravian Jewry by ties of blood and tradition. The yeshivah of Mikulov was and remained the alma matter of many West Slovakian Orthodox Jews. Moravian Jews could perhaps not match West Slovakian Jews in religious feeling but surpassed their Bohemian brethren. Orthodoxy was not foreign to Moravian Jewry, and it was strengthened by the steady influx of Jews coming from Poland, often through the
The first provincial union of Jewish communities was established in November 1918 under the leadership of Alois Hilf from Ostrava; this union became instrumental in the emergence and consolidation of the Jewish National Council, as well as in the setting up of the Supreme Council of the Jewish Religious Communities in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. The Central Committee of the Zionist Organization in Czechoslovakia had its seat in Ostrava from 1921 to 1938, under the chairmanship of Joseph *Rufeisen; the center of *He-Halutz was also located in Ostrava and the main office of Keren Hayesod was in Brno for a long time. Brno had the only Jewish high school in the western part of Czechoslovakia and Ostrava had a fully equipped vocational school. Moravian Jews were represented by a Zionist in the provincial Diet. However, the number of Jews continued to decline, from 45,306 in Moravia and Silesia in 1921 to 41,250 in 1930, almost half of whom were concentrated in the three cities Brno, Ostrava, and Olomouc. The venerable communities dwindled or even disintegrated.
When the Germans occupied Austria in March 1938, several thousand Jews escaped to Moravia, mainly to Brno. They were followed in September and October of that year by a few thousand more from the areas detached from Czechoslovakia and incorporated in Germany by the Munich Agreement. The majority of Jews in the Teschen (Tesin; Cieszyn) district, ceded to Poland, did not flee. On March 15, 1939, the remaining parts of Moravia were occupied by Nazi Germany and became part of the Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia. Immediately after the conquest, the lot of the Jews in northeast Moravia was especially disastrous. They constituted a high percentage of those expelled to the Nisko reservate in the Lublin area. Many perished there in the first winter of the war; others returned, only to join their fellows in *Theresienstadt and various extermination camps. After the war, very few survivors returned to Moravia, and the majority of them later emigrated to Israel and other countries. In 1970 barely 2,000 Jews remained in former Moravia, the largest community being in Brno. In Brno there also existed a center of Carpatho-Rus Jewry which was involved in communal problems such as indemnities from Czech authorities, Carpatho-Rus authorities, and German authorities. Brno was the seat of the chief rabbi of Moravia, Richard *Feder. The rabbi was the only leading Jewish figure who dared criticize the Communist regime for its treatment of the Jews. He also publicly expressed longing for Ereẓ Israel and interest in the State Israel. When he died in 1970, at the age of 95, the rabbinate remained vacant. In Brno and in Ostrava a prayer room, cemetery, and religious services were maintained. Purim and Hanukkah were celebrated, with the participation of the children of congregation members. The Jewish museum of Mikulov, established shortly before World War II, was restored as part of the state museum. The ancient synagogue was refurbished, as was the cemetery. The cemetery was also used as a repository for the tombstones of cemeteries liquidated elsewhere. Another Jewish museum was established by the state in *Holesov. For further details on the contemporary period, see *Czechoslovakia as well as *Czech Republic and Slovakia. For fuller details on the Holocaust period, see *Czechoslovakia under Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia.
H. Gold (ed.), Die Juden und Judengemeinden Maehrens in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (1929); Th. Haas, Die Juden in Maehren (1908); B. Bretholz, Geschichte der Juden im Mittelalter, I. Teil bis zum Jahre 1350 (1934); idem, Quellen zur Geschichte der Juden in Maehren vom XI. bis zum XV. Jahrhundert (1067–1411) (1935); I. Halpern, Takkanot Medinat Mehrin (1952); Baron, Community, index; L. Loew, Gesammelte Schriften, 2 (1892), 165–218; W. Mueller, Urkundliche Beitraege zur Geschichte der maehrischen Judenschaft im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert (1903); M. Lamed, in: BLBI, 8 (1965), 32, 302–14; G. Kisch, in: The Jews of Czechoslovakia, 1 (1968), 1–11; H. Kohn, ibid., 12–20; R. Kestenberg-Gladstein, ibid., 21–71; G. Fleischmann, ibid., 267–329; H. Stransky, ibid., 330–58; J.C. Pick, ibid., 359–438, passim; R. Kestenberg-Gladstein, Neuere Geschichte der Juden in den boehmischen Laendern. I. Das Zeitalter der Aufklaerung 1780–1830 (1969); idem, in: Gesher, 2–3 (1969), 11–82; F. Weltsch, ibid., 207–12; idem, in: Prag vi-Yrushalayim (n.d.), 23–35; N.M. Gelber, ibid., 36–51; A.F. Pribram, Urkunden und Akten…, 2 vols. (1918), index; Bondy-Dworský; M.H. Friedlaender, Kore ha-Dorot. Beitraege zur Geschichte der Juden in Maehren (1876); idem, Tiferet Yisrael, Schilderungen aus dem inneren Leben der Juden in Maehren in vormaerzlichen Zeiten (1878); R. Jakobson and M. Halle, in: For Max Weinreich (1964), 147–72; B. Bretholz and A. Glaser, in: Zeitschrift fuer Geschichte der Juden in der Tschechoslowakei, 3 (1932/33), 25–34; J. Bronner, ibid., 1 (1930/31), 243–7; B. Brilling, ibid., 2 (1931/32), 1–20, 237–56; T. Haas, ibid., 32–38; L. Moses, ibid., 4 (1934), 18–24; A. Engel, in: JGGJČ, 2 (1930), 50–97; B. Heilig, ibid., 3 (1931), 307–448; 4 (1932), 7–62; W. Zacek, ibid., 5 (1933), 175–98; A. Freud, in: BLBI, 2 (1959), 222–9; H.H. Ben-Sasson, Hagut ve-Hanhagah (1959), index; Y.L. Bialer, Min ha-Genazim, 2 (1968/69), 33–36; H. Flesch, in: MGWJ, 71 (1927), 71, 74; 74 (1930), 197–217; M. Wischnitzer, in: JSOS, 16 (1954), 335–60; S. Simonsohn, in: Sefer Yovel… N.M. Gelber (1963), 127–64; Y. Toury, Mehumah u-Mevukhah be-Mahpekhat 1848 (1968), index; G. Horowitz, The Spirit of Jewish Law (19632), 86–87; Germ Jud, 1 (1963), 171–3; 2 (1968), 510–2. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Fiedler, Jewish Sights of Bohemia and Moravia (1991).
[Meir Lamed /
Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.