M'gilath S'darim‎ > ‎Chapters‎ > ‎

Chapter 20

Then in the year 5511 (1750) something happened which, though not directly concerning us in Úsov, yet had the effect of re-awakening the old disputes which had caused the destruction of our Synagogue, and caused us great injury.

In the village of Brimov, near the Hungarian frontier in Moravia, there lived a Jew named Tzvi Hirsch. He was an old tenant of the beerhouse, of forty years’ standing, and held in great esteem by the noble Lord of the Manor, Lord Helishosy. His house had always been open to all comers and he was renowned for his hospitality. He was the head of a great family of sons, relatives and servants who traded in the neighbourhood or stayed with him, so that they all used to assemble in his house for prayers. He appointed a special room with a Holy Ark, Scrolls, Candelabra and the other requisites for a house of worship, as is the custom with the prosperous members of the Jewish settlements.

One day a new priest was appointed to the church in that village. And when he saw that the Jew had a small synagogue of his own in the village, he immediately wrote to the Consistory in Olomouc to complain about it.

The Consistory then wrote to the Lord of the Manor, Lord Helishosy, requesting him to forbid the Jew to maintain a public house of worship. But the noble lord answered that as the Jew was a most honourable and God-fearing man, and had been in his tenancy for over forty years without any blemish on his character, and was, moreover, greatly esteemed by both Jew and Gentile, he saw no reason for interfering with him.

On receiving the lord’s reply, the Consistory lodged a complaint with the Tribunal at Brno; they, however, upheld the decision of the lord. The Consistory’s general council then decided to forward the complaint to the Royal Court, indicting the Tribunal as well as the Jew of Brimov. With their letter they sent a supporting letter from the Cardinal in Vienna.

Then Her Majesty the Queen Maria Theresa addressed a letter of remonstrance to the Tribunal, demanding to know why they had thwarted the Holy Consistory and supported the Lord Helishosy in allowing the Jew to maintain his place of worship, without having instituted any enquiry.

To this the Tribunal answered that since any tribe of heathens, once permitted to settle in Her Majesty’s land, are allowed to pursue their customs undisturbed, they considered it to be no more than right for the Jews (whose code of laws and morals so nearly resemble their own, and from whom, indeed, they had borrowed some part of the Bible) to exercise their religion freely.

There followed a Royal Manifesto addressed to the Tribunal in these terms:

“It is true that the Jews, having our Royal permission to live in the land, may ipso facto, follow the rites and laws of their religion. Nevertheless, a limit must be set to how far they may go in that practice. Therefore these communities that are already allowed by Royal Charter to build and maintain Synagogues may exercise that right; but those that have acquired the right not directly from Us, but from local magnates and nobles, cannot be allowed to continue unless and until they obtain such rights from Our hand. It follows, therefore, that the question under dispute between the Consistory and the Tribunal with reference to the synagogue in Brimov is decided in favour of the Consistory. And it stands to reason that no settlement which holds temporary leases from the local lords or nobles should receive better treatment than that town of Úsov, which, though registered in the Books of State as a community, was yet forbidden by my late father, Charles VI, to rebuild their destroyed synagogue.

“All Jewish settlements of the same rank as Brimov must strictly adhere to the following particulars in the exercise of their religion:-

1. They must not assemble ten at a time for the purpose of prayers, whether in a fixed place of worship, or in a temporary one.

2. They must not read from the Scrolls on certain days of the week as is the custom in Synagogue towns.

3. None but Synagogue towns may practise marriage rites.

4. They must not have any discourses on religion, either in public or in private.

5. Those settlements that are situated four miles or more from a Synagogue town may practise the rite of circumcision; those within four miles must take the child to the town for circumcision.

6. No rites and ceremonies that appertain to Synagogue towns may be exercised in places where they have no right to build or maintain Synagogues.”

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