Pinsteps. Jewish Ghetto

After the first expulsion, nearly 100 years passed before Jews began to return to Vienna. Around 1512, approximately 15 Jewish families settled in Vienna. In 1648-1649, a number of Jews arrived in Vienna from Ukraine, fleeing from Bogdan Khmelnytsky. In 1624, Austrian Emperor Ferdinand II established a ghetto in present-day Leopoldstadt. However, in 1669, Emperor Leopold I expelled the Jews from Vienna for the second time. During this expulsion, the synagogue in Leopoldstadt was converted into the Catholic Church of St. Leopold.

The second expulsion of Jews from Vienna was much shorter than the first. Austria's treasury had been depleted by the war with the Turks, and the emperor needed Jewish funds. Jews were allowed to return to Vienna, but they were heavily taxed. The leaders of the restored Jewish community in Vienna were the "court Jews" Samuel Oppenheimer and Samson Wertheimer. Throughout the 18th century, the Jewish community in Vienna remained very small, with Maria Theresa referring to Jews as the "most terrible plague." Around 500 Jews lived in Vienna. Viennese Jews suffered from various discriminatory laws. Jews were forbidden to have their religious community and conduct public worship. Some relief in this regard came during the reign of Maria Theresa's son, Joseph II. However, Joseph II's reforms primarily affected Bohemian (Czech) Jews (the Prague ghetto was abolished, and grateful Prague Jews named the district where they continued to live Josephov). Nevertheless, the Edict of 1782 declared the goal of "making Jews useful to the state," allowing Jewish children to attend general education schools and universities, permitting Jews to engage freely in trade and entrepreneurship, abolishing the mandatory wearing of the yellow star of David, and eliminating the special "Jewish tax." However, Jews were still prohibited from using Hebrew and Yiddish, and they were required to use only German. All of this contributed to the development of assimilationist tendencies among Vienna's Jews.

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Vienna. The Ringstrasse.

A leisurely stroll through the historic part of the city unfolds a tapestry of enchanting landmarks. The city park, adorned with the melodies of Strauss and Schubert, leads to the venerable city gates named after Luger and Mozart. The narrative of "Ah, My Sweet Augustine" echoes through time, while the oldest church in the city stands as a testament to bygone eras. The tales of Theodor Herzl, the anchor clocks, the Jewish quarter, the square where it all began, the longest narrow alley, the Estergazi restaurant, and Andersen's house weave together seamlessly.

Wander down Graben Street, passing by the plague column and fountains, where the stories of homes, people, words, legends, and traditions blend harmoniously. Amidst it all, relish the charm of restaurants, cafes, wines, and coziness that add an extra layer of warmth to this rich tapestry of history and culture.

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Evgeny Praisman (author)
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