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Chapter 25

Thus our community began to dwindle down, for we could not stand in face of the imposed laws, and our religious life was completely paralysed. The children were thus entirely deprived of any training. On the death of a parent, the child, often an only child, could not say its Kaddish (a prayer for the dead), for, according to our law, Kaddish must be said before an assembly of ten adults – that is, eleven persons including the child; whereas the Royal decree forbade the gathering of more than ten persons. As regards circumcision, the rules imposed the gravest danger to life. For we had to take a child to Oshitz, a town about one mile from Úsov, and a child of eight days can hardly survive such a journey and back, especially in cold weather.

Some customs and laws we might still have observed in secret, but the possible serious consequences following such a step did not warrant our doing so.

Shortly after the promulgation of the Decree, a large meeting of the community was called, where it was resolved to pay for a delegation to go to Vienna, the capital of Moravia, to get the restrictions removed. My brother-in-law, Rabbi Itzik and myself were chosen to go. For many years I had acted as our community’s treasurer, but had not claimed any expenses. Thus I had enabled the community to save a considerable sum of money, and, though only a few people knew it, we had a sum of 700 Kronen to start our case with. I anticipated that it might take us some time to achieve our object, and was resolved to hold out for a year if necessary, even if it meant neglecting my private affairs. In this determination I was greatly assisted by my wife (Blessed be her memory) who gave me every encouragement to go upon this holy errand.

So my brother-in-law, Rabbi Itzik, and I hastened to Vienna, where we arrived on the first day of Shebat before Rosh Hashanah, of the year 5513 (1752). In Vienna we were hospitably accommodated with board and lodging by the Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Berish, the tutor and friend of my brother/son-in-law. He called a meeting of the most influential members of the Jewish community of Vienna. There were present a true proselyte, a Marrano from Spain, Don Lopus, Baron de Agilari, a great favourite with the Queen and also much beloved and esteemed by our lord Duke Joseph Wenzel Lichtenstein; also Rabbi Leib Wertheimer, the brother-in-law of Rabbi Berish; Rabbi Mordecai Joseph Margolith; and Rabbi Zalmon Ginzheim.

After discussing the matter, the meeting decided to do everything they could to see us through this trouble; and the members of that remarkable meeting carried out their decisions, each in his own way. Especially zealous was Baron de Agilari, who persisted in negotiating on our behalf with his friends of the nobility, in particular with his bosom friend, the Duke Lichtenstein. Rabbi Zalmon had a memorandum prepared by one of his friends learned in the laws of the land, and Baron de Agilari personally delivered this into the hands of the Duke Lichtenstein, on whose land Úsov was situated.

The Duke graciously accepted the memorandum and also prepared one of his own, and promised to hand both in to the Royal Council, of which he was a distinguished member.


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