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Chapter 16

But our congregation was left like a flock without its shepherd; for they had no synagogue, and could not assemble for prayers as the Jewish law prescribes, but were compelled to pray in private.

So Rosh Hashanah of the year 548x arrived, and we resented more and more the prohibition to assemble a Minyan for prayers. We had to wander out in groups to neighbouring towns to join them in their Synagogues. The aged men and women walked to the nearest places, their prayer-books in their hands and their white robes wrapped round them. They lodged under the roofs of strangers and sat at strange tables, like common tramps and vagabonds. The young men and boys went farther afield. The women and children stayed in Úsov to guard the houses.

The community abhorred these periodic migrations, and turned their minds to abandoning the town. For they had nothing left in the world except their houses and their cemeteries. The former they would sell, even if they fetched only half their value; the latter, the resting places of the good, the great and the virtuous, they would abandon. For have not many great communities before them been obliged to abandon their cemeteries, where they had often sought consolation and comfort?

So they debated; but the leaders of the community said:

“Your suggestions, brethren, for abandoning the town altogether, seem to be the only way out; but before we decide upon such a momentous step, we ought to send delegates to the Tribunal in Brno and acquaint them of our resolve. As they will not allow a town in His Majesty’s land to go to ruin, maybe they will intervene on our behalf and obtain permission for us to carry on our religion as before.”

To this the community assented, and chose Rabbi Leib Roystitz, who had successfully interceded on our behalf on many former occasions, to take our petition to Brno. The petition humbly begged for permission to assemble for the purpose of public worship according to our law.

The Tribunal answered that they had no authority to rescind an enactment from the Royal Court; but they mercifully undertook to solicit the King on our behalf.

They did so, and the King in his mercy, having received petitions on our behalf from the leaders of many Jewish communities in Bavaria, replied that he had no desire to obstruct us in our religious ceremonies; and since it is impossible for Jews to worship their God unless ten people join in the worship, he granted us the right to assemble ten, but no more than ten, at one time for prayers.

Also he allowed us our claim on the materials left from the old synagogue, which were in the possession of the townsfolk. These we might take back and dispose of in the manner we thought best.

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