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Previous Meetings -- October 2008




October 2008

Suzan Wynne

Author, The Galitzianers: The Jews of Galicia, 1772-1918


Photo Courtesy of Jack L. Weinstein


The Lives of Our Galician Ancestors


Suzan provided two handouts at the Meeting, which are reproduced below.


Handout #1


Judische Kultus Gemeinde = Jewish Cultural Administration 1772-1918

Other titles:                 Kahal (central body)

                                    Kehillah (local district body)



Self-governing system established by Austrian law through most of Empire

Continued under Poland rule 1919-1926


Governmental tool to:

         Communicate with Jewish communities about laws

         Track Jews for official purposes

         Enable government to hand-off enforcement of unpopular law & taxes


Useful for Jewish community to:

         Promote cohesion

         Promote standardization of compliance with Jewish law

         Organize advocacy for more favorable laws and taxes


Gemeinde mandated Jews to:

         Belong to a Jewish community

         Attend annual service in the official synagogue of district

         Obey secular and Jewish law

         Pay required taxes to the district


Maria Theresa died 1780

         Legislation for central appointed Kahal comprised of 12 men;

         Later changed to 6 appointed and 6 elected


Josef II died 1790


         revamped Kahal to 141 Jewish communities;

         Disbanded Gemeinde structure 1789, retaining 141 recognized communities


Leopold died 1792

         Reinstated Gemeinde;

         Overturned some of Josef's reforms


Franz Ferdinand 1792-1835

         Overturned rest of Josef's reforms;

         Enacted new Jewish taxes;

         Harsh rule; return to occupational restrictions


Ferdinand 1835-1848

         Ruled under regent;

         Increases in special Jewish taxes;

         More occupational restrictions


Franz Josef 1848-1916

         Abolished some special taxes and in 1848-1868;

         Emancipation throughout Empire 1868 and in Galicia 1869;

         Retained Gemeinde structure with new duties


Charles 1916-1918


Handout #2


Jews were born into a district where they were registered for life unless given permission to change, but generally residence could be changed at will for marriage or work.


Composition of Gemeinde:

         12 elected men;

         President selected to represent Jewish community with respect to state and local government and church leadership;

         Appointed Chief Rabbi for each district:

         Court composed of 3 rabbinical elders, and

         Administrative personnel.


Who voted? Eligible men 13 years old and up and, apparently, women in business or with property. Eligibility meant that taxes were current.


How often were elections? Every 4 years


Were there political parties? Yes, many of them as time went on.


Gemeinde responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Jewish community, i.e. infrastructure; production of kosher wine and candles; kashering standards; integrity of eruv.


Annual approved budget for administration paid for with tax receipts.


Taxes were numerous and high for Jews until 1848: kosher meat; candles; "head" tax; synagogue; cemetery; marriage. Candle tax collected weekly by a "lecht pachter."


Franz Josef: came to power in 1848 during Hungarian uprising at age 18. Emancipated Jews throughout Empire, except Galicia in 1868; Galician Jews emancipated 1869.


         Mandatory elementary secular education 7-14

         Access to higher education

         Access to land ownership

         Reduction in occupational restrictions

         Mandatory military service for men


Expanded role of Gemeinde in 1875 legislation to include registration of births, marriages and deaths. Regulations issued 1877.


Hassidic influence very strong within Gemeinde

         Major roles in elected governance; struggle to dominate chief rabbinate;

         Organized resistance to civil marriage and mandated secular education;

         Advocacy for relaxation of restrictions, special taxes, prohibition of production and importation of Hebrew & Yiddish books.




To Purchase Suzan's Book

Click HERE



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