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Chapter 03

The Christians left the synagogue, and immediately peace was restored, and a serene calm pervaded the synagogue. The congregation, deeply moved, chanted their prayers with greater fervour. The opening strains of Kol Nidrei rang through the solemn stillness with a passionate appeal. The Selichoth followed, and the service ended with the Song of Unity.

Leaving the synagogue, the leaders of the community, together with its most respected members, mounted the hill and went to the castle of the magistrate, still clad in their white Atonement robes.

The door of the castle was opened to them, and the magistrate received them.

Then the leaders of the Jews put before him a circumstantial account of all that had occurred to them that evening, and they said:-

“Our Lord and Magistrate! Surely all the inhabitants of this town, both Christians and Jews, are under thy care. Is it really possible that thou shouldst see deeds done to us that ought not to be done, and remain silent?”

And the magistrate answered them and said:-

“Is it not now late at night, and no time for stating a case? Go home now, and after your Fast, when both the plaintiffs and the defendants can appear before me, I will take up the case.”

In a short time, the complaint made against the deacon by the Jews before the magistrate spread all through the town, and was promptly brought to the knowledge of the Bishop and the other deacons.

Their wrath against the Jews grew rapidly. An assembly was called, and a crime against the Jews was counselled: it was decided with one assent to pervert the truth.

The day after the Fast of Atonement came. Both the citizens, filled with spite, and the Jews, filled with terror, were awaiting the result. The hour for the trial arrived. They appeared before the magistrate. And now the defendants took upon themselves to be plaintiffs, and began as follows:-

“We have come before thee to complain against these Jews. They fell upon our deacon; they struck him to the ground, they pulled and dragged him about and smote cruelly with their fists on his holy tonsure, on his face, and all over his body: witness the citizens who saw him there with their own eyes; and witness his robes and hood all stained with dust. Had not the citizens come at the right moment to stretch out a helping hand to him, he would surely have been killed by the Jews.”

This untruth of theirs was pronounced in the face of the sun, and before the clergy and all the people. And the citizens came after them and said the same things.

Then the four leaders of the Jewish community came forward. Although greatly astonished by their adversaries’ false words, yet they retained their presence of mind and answered:-

“You have just confessed, before all here present, that you came to our synagogue. It is also well known to everyone of the town that it was not a friendly visit paid to us; neither was there any pretence of peace. Your weapons – the rods, spades and hatchets – surely bear testimony to this. It is not easy to understand why you returned home without having tried the skill of your ‘peaceful weapons’ and without any victims from our ranks. The crowd rushed on; the air resounded with an outburst of oaths and curses; the weapons faltered – was it perhaps because ye lacked wrath?

“No! If it had not been the Lord our God who was on our side, then had we been swallowed up alive when your wrath was kindled. It was only because the Lord was merciful to us that he put those true words into the deacon’s mouth when you were questioning him – ‘Far be it from me to testify falsely against them! They neither laid a hand upon me nor put forth a finger against me.’ There were his very words two days ago. Why has he gone back on them now? Here, certainly, is room for great searching of heart.”

The magistrate no doubt knew with whom the truth lay. But seeing all the citizens, and especially the clergy, so eager to pervert it, he was somewhat afraid to pronounce the proper sentence. He spoke as follows:-

“I have listened to all these words of yours. I consider this a very serious case, and therefore feel obliged to put off passing judgement, particularly as our honourable Duke Joseph Lichtenstein is now on the estate, in the new castle which is in the forest, only one mile distant from here. He is at leisure now, as he has come to hunt, and such a difficult case ought to come before him. All your words will be sent to him, and he will pronounce the sentence.”

The Duke, like the magistrate, found it to be a difficult case, and decided that as this was a matter which concerned the Bishops of the Consistory of Olomouc, who were commissioned by the Government to act on behalf of the clergy, they alone could decide it. The Duke therefore gave up the case altogether.

The priest of Úsov was restless and frightened for the consequences. He eagerly looked about for any means whatever to avert the evil results of his action.

When the Duke refused to give judgement, the priest made up a complaint, a very grievous complaint, against the Jews of his town, and sent it to the Cardinal in the Consistory of Olomouc.

From the Cardinal, the complaint travelled to Brno and there it came before the chiefs of the Tribunal, who were entrusted by the Government with all the business of the kingdom of Moravia, and with that of all the Jews who dwelt there.

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