| Prague - Praha is one of the most recognized cities
not only in Europe but worldwide as well. It is usually
listed among the ten most beautiful cities in the world, and if it isn’t it’s
definitely among the next ten. No one that has seen this city can say any less
than “beautiful” as a description. It’s located on the gentle hills surrounding
the Vltava river where it’s the most west positioned
capital of the Slavic nation. Prague
has over a thousand years of Jewish history; in fact, Jews were present in this
city from the very beginning of its establishment.
AltNeue Shul (Staro Nova Synagoga) is the oldest synagogue
in Europe. Established in 1270, rebuild in 1867, and although
it does not serve as a synagogue now, it served the Jewish community for more
than 700 years.
Prague was one
of the most important centers of Jewish religion for a while, spreading Jewish
influence for centuries to come. Virtually, all of the streams of contemporary
Judaism claim being influenced by one of the most prominent individual in the Prague’s
history - Rabbi Yehuda
Leib ben Betzalel - the Maharal.
Maharal was a Rabbi for his flock, and a Poisek for legal Jewish authorities, he
also had a leader writing status for communities, he was a recognized scientist
in several subjects like chemistry, physics, mathematics and astronomy. When it
was necessary, he was a politician and defender of his people on the king’s
court. But with all of this, he never ceased to be a family man. His legendary
love and respect to his wife is known from many stories, and now they rest side
by side in Jewish cemetery, in a rather uncommon arrangement. We
will not dwell on the “stories”, but on historical fact that actually accrued.
Prague was a
home for Halachic authorities of the most importance as well as cabalists and
philosophers. Rabbi Yechezkel
ben Rabbi Yehuda haLevi Landau (the Noda Beyehuda), Rabbi Ephraim Shlomo ben
Aharon Luntschitz (the Keli Yakar), Rabbi Avigdor Kara, Rabbi Abraham Reuven
ben Hoshke haKohen Katz (the Yalkut Reubeni), Rabbi Elazar ben David Fleckeles
(the Teshuva meAhava) and Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Rappoport. Their
graves can be found on the two of Jewish cemeteries located in the city of Prague.
the city has more to offer than Kevurim - graves of holy Tzadikim. Besides the
AltNeue Shul there are still operating synagogues serving the present community
consisting of almost 1,000 people.
will visit all the most important places were Jewish history took place, mostly
in Yosefov – an old Jewish district of town.
One can definitely satisfy their sense of beauty
by visiting Prague’s Hradcany, one of the most
beautiful Old Town district in Europe.
– Preßburg – Pozsony - Prešporok = Bratislava – Preshburg, also known as
Istropolis, Prešpurk, Posonium, Požun; which is a capital of Slovakia. Not too many cities in the
world could present such a long list of names, especially a city with only one
thousand years of history.
In a general
scale, the thousand years is not a large number, however in this part of Europe it makes the city one of the
its history, Bratislava was already a capital of another
country – Hungry. It is the only capital city in the world bordering two other
countries - Hungary and Austria. It is also the only capital
located so close to the other capital – Bratislava and Vienna are distanced by only a
little more than 30 miles. The list of names for this city is long, but the
list of different governments’ ruling over this land is much longer.
history of the Jewish community of Slovakia is almost the same as their
Hungarian neighbor’s history. However, due to the fact that Slovakian Land was always predominantly
Slavic, the Jews of Slovakia were later distinguished for their customs,
scholarships and even their language.
doubt, the greatest son of Bratislava was Rabbi Moshe Schreiber – the
was born in Frankfurt am Main but his active years were spent in this City, Bratislava.
was a commentator, a Posek – (Halachic authority), and a Rosh Yeshiva. His
influence was not limited to his time only. The Chasam Sofer’s name is forever
imprinted on Jewish history as the one of the supreme.
Yeshiva produced such luminaries of Talmudic study as: Rabbi Moshe Schick -
Maharam Schick, Rabbi Dovid Schick - Imrei Duvid, Rabbi Chaim Yosef Gottlieb of
Stropkov, Rabbi Yoel Unger - Teshuvas Rivo, Rabbi Naftali Sofer - Matei Naftali, Rabbi Yehuda Aszod -
Yehudah Ya'aleh, Rabbi Avrohom Shmuel Binyamin Sofer - Ksav Sofer – son of Rabbi Naftali, Rabbi Shimon Sofer - also a son, Rabbi Dovid Zvi Ehrenfeld -
son-in-law, Rabbi Shmuel Ehrenfeld - Chasan Sofer’s – grandson, Rabbi Rabbi
Shlomo Zalman Spitzer - Tikun Shloime,
son-in-law of Chasam Sofer, and the Rabbi of the
Schiff Shul in Vienna, etc.
battle to separate from the reform community is known as an example of an active
struggle for the preservation of the true Torah Judaism. The struggle was
continued by his son and grandson. The battle of separation began after the failure
of congress, when they were called by the government in 1869, to unite the Jewish
The Ksav Sofer was one of
the leaders of European Jewry and among 389 other Rabbis, in petition to
Austro-Hungarian parliament in 1872 signed a most significant document. The
Rabbis were requesting recognition of traditional Judaism as identity separate
from the “reform” community, and from any other group calling itself Jewish but
not submitting to the rules of the Shulchan Aruch.
story of the Chasam Sofer’s tomb is one of the most fascinating tales.
| Budapest – Know also by some as
Jewry went trough one of the most twisted history the Jewish community in this
central European Country had endured.
oldest Jewish presence within Hungarian land can be dated as far as to the time
of the Roman Empire; it is proven by the Archeological
findings in the Roman provinces of Pannonia and Dacia that Jews were there long
before the Magyars invaded this Slavic land.
written documents describe a small and rather persecuted community only
beginning to exist from the late 11th century. Most of the Jews of that time
were of Ashkenazi descent.
Muslim – Ottoman conquer in the beginning of the 16th century brought some
improvement to the situation of the Hungarian Jews, that was also when the community
became predominantly Sephardic.
reinvading this part of Europe by Christian Armies and
establishment of the Habsburgs Empire, the Sephardim were to leave the land
together with their Muslim hosts. The new Jewish community began to plant their
roots; they were mostly immigrants from the north, predominantly from lands within
Poland. The restrictive character of
the Hungarian anti Jewish law however, did not allow them to grow strong.
the Spring of Nations in 1848, when the atmosphere changed in Europe, did the Jews of Hungary gained
in numbers and in influence. Due to the influence of the Haskala and Reform,
this process was slowed significantly.
such a divisive environment the Hungarian community gained their immunity to
other influences and allowed themselves to maintain the strength so necessary
for the future in the settlement of the American shores.
hundred years Hungary produced leaders such as
Rabbi Moshe Schreiber – Chasam Sofer who was born in Frankfurt am Main but was
mostly known to be active and influential in the Habsburg Empire.
was followed by his son, Rabbi Avrohom Shmuel Binyamin Sofer - Ksav Sofer and
later by his grandson Rabbi Shmuel Ehrenfeld – the Chasan Sofer. Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried – who wrote the Kitzur Shulchan
Aruch and Rabbi Moshe Shick – Macharam Shick are two other representatives of
classic orthodoxy. Chassidism entered the Hungarian dominion relatively late
and were never popular in Proper Hungary (which soon was known to be within the
borders of the Trianon Treaty), where most of the Jewish population assimilated
or at least didn’t maintain their language.
Carpathian Russia, there was the Munkatcher Rebbe-
Rabbi Yitschok Elimelech Shapira followed by Rabbi Chaim Eliezrer Shapiro –
Minchas Eliezer. Other Chasidic centers of Hungary are Chust, Shopron, Galanta,
Sherdahely and Pupa.
The most important one, at least from the historic point
of view, was Ujehly - Sighet - the Satmar, where Chasidic dynasty was established
by Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum – the Ismach Moshe. This student of the Chozeh of
Lublin brought Chasidism to Hungary. His great grand son - Rabbi
Yoel Teitelbaum, he reestablished the European style of the Jewish Community to
the United States of America after the Holocaust. His
influence on modern American Jewry is beyond description.
– Wien, at its peak had more than two
million of the inhabitants and contained a third large Jewish population in Europe. In 1921, the number of
Jewish residents in the city was more than 200,000. It should be expected that
such large Jewish population was very prominent and influential. However the kind of influence it truly was, I
will describe below.
all of the capitals that we are planning to visit, Vienna is the oldest one. It was a Celtic
settlement going back to the 6th century. However the first
information about Jews living in the city dates back to seven centuries
later. Vienna became a leading center of
German Jewry in the 13 and 14 centuries. This period ended with Vienner Gezera
-1421, when the Jewish inhabitants of Vienna were put on to boats without
ors on the Danube River and later were burned in Budapest, down the river.
were allowed back into the city in 1624; however they were enclosed within a
ghetto, only those who can prove to be wealthy weren’t. Several prominent
Jewish figures found their refuge in Vienna after the Chmilenitzki’s I-SH
pogroms in Poland including Rabbi Yom Tov
Lipman Heller – the Tosefofs Yom Tov.
town nearby, Eisenstadt, was another significant center of Jewish
life where Meir of Eisenstadt – the Maharam Ash was a Rav of the city from 1717
1851 Rabbi Ezriel Hildesheimer took position as the Rav of the city and established
his Yeshiva. There were not many prominent Jewish leaders within those two
cities considering the long history and the size of the community. The history
of the Jews of Vienna is now displayed in a modern exhibit in a museum building
located at Dorotheergasse 11.
Vienna was predominantly the center
of the Haskala and assimilation. However it was also the first city where the faithful
Jews separated themselves from any organizational structures of assimilators.
Under the leadership of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Spitzer and the alliance of almost
400 rabbinical authorities from allover the Europe, Vienner Jews disassociated
from non Orthodox structures.
one of the European cultural centers, Vienna, with its institutions and
media centers, it became a source of spiritual destruction. From the Haskala to
reform, from assimilation to Zionism, destructive propaganda spread toward east
European Jewish centers. The books and leaflets printed in Vienna were read in Shteitlech of
Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania. The harvest of this seed was
disastrous for European Jewry.
resulted with assimilation and intermarriage which proved to be the death for
Jewish societies within a few generations. So too was the case of the reform
movement. Rejection of Jewish codes of law brought annihilation in a spiritual
and physical sense. And although it is not the holocaust we speak of, the same
results were observable in America and even parts of Asia and Africa.
The fatal transformation of the
Jewish People to a national movement resulted from the Zionist philosophy, and it
turned the spiritual progress ages back. The Ticun, – the spiritual advancement
resulted from the existence of the holy people of Israel was canalized to an activity
entirely antithetical to our beliefs and our mission in History.