VORARLBERG, autonomous province in W. Austria. Jews lived in the village of Feldkirch in the early 14th century. Seven Jewish families who moved without permission, in 1343, to Bludenz, continued to remain the property of their former lord, Duke Ulrich I of Montfort, according to a decision of the court. Virtually no Jews lived in the isolated and mountainous region in the following century. In 1559 the city of Bregenz received the privilege of not tolerating Jews within its walls; nonetheless, a *Schutzjude, Wolf, was given permission to settle there in 1584. In 1617 Jewish refugees from Burgau were invited to settle in *Hohenems, where they soon constituted a flourishing community; by 1624 a Hebrew printing press was in operation in the city. In 1676, however, they were expelled. Jews first came to Sulz in 1637 but the community assumed permanent form only in 1676, when refugees from Hohenems settled there. Between 1676 and 1688 the community numbered about 65. Only the three richest Jewish families were allowed to remain in Sulz in 1688 when an expulsion order of the Vorarlberg estates was modified by the emperor; by 1743 their number had grown to ten. In 1744 the local militia, after a victory against French invaders, plundered the synagogue and Jewish homes and expelled the ten Jewish families, who thereafter found asylum in Hohenems. The refugees appealed to *Maria Theresa when the Vorarlberg estates attempted to forbid their return. The empress's decision on restitution was never carried out.
Severe economic restrictions which forbade the Jews to engage in trade within the semi-autonomous province forced them to become large-scale exporters and importers of goods (mainly textiles) from neighboring Switzerland, Italy and Bavaria. The Jewish community of *Saint Gall, Switzerland, was founded by merchants from Hohenems. The Jews established and developed the textile industry in Hohenems and later, in Bregenz. After all economic and civil disabilities were abolished in 1867 in Austria, a sharp numerical decline subsequently set in as the Jews moved to the major cities. The Jewish population declined from 246 in 1869 to 126 in 1910 and 42 in 1934 and ended in the Nazi period. After World War II
A. Taenzer, Die Geschichte der Juden in Tirol und Vorarlberg (1905); J. Scherer, Die Rechtsverhaeltnisse der Juden in den deutsch-oesterreichischen Laendern (1901), 668–71.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.