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Chapter 26

The procedure for dealing with memoranda or petitions in Moravia is as follows:- They are first read before the Council of State; then handed over to one of its members for detailed investigation and report on the merits or demerits to the Council who finally decide the issue. Particulars of the stages and progress of such petitions are of course kept on record.

Since the Duke Lichtenstein had once before presented a petition on behalf of the community of Úsov, asking for permission to build a synagogue, and been refused, it was necessary to draw up the new petition in terms different from the first one. This memorandum, then, stated that there had been changes in the imposition of taxes, with Úsov having to pay a heavier tax of 600 Gulden. The Jewish community therefore could not afford to maintain the separate gathering places for worship with their manifold expenses. So the community asked for permission to erect one or two houses of worship and to be allowed to assemble more than ten people in them for prayers, and thus be relieved of their intolerable financial burdens.

While the petitions were being drafted from Chesvan to Shebat 5513 (1752), the members of Rabbi Berish’s committee did all they could in the way of seeing this nobleman or that influential councillor on behalf of the petition. Nevertheless we were all very anxious as to the outcome; for they might be handed over for examination to a certain Royal councillor who was a notorious Jew-hater and would certainly prevail upon the Royal Council to reject the petition, in spite of Duke Lichtenstein’s influence.

Now Rabbi Berish had among his friends in the nobility one intimate and close friend, a great Councillor, who was at that time, however, confined to his bed. And Rabbi Berish paid him frequent visits. One day, their conversation turned upon the condition of the Jews, and Rabbi Berish took the opportunity to acquaint the nobleman with the subject-matter of the memoranda to be presented to the Royal Council on behalf of the community of Úsov. He also expressed his anxiety as to their fate if they should fall into the hands of the Jew-hating Councillor; for their rejection would be an affront to Duke Lichtenstein.

The nobleman took a great interest in the matter, and kindly advised Rabbi Berish how to avert this insult to the Duke and get the petition granted. He explained that the documents would first come into the hands of the Chief Secretary of the Royal Council, and he would deliver them to any nobleman he thought fit, for the initial scrutiny. Now, if the Chief Secretary could be prevailed upon to hand over the petition to the sick nobleman himself, he would see to it that the petitions would not prove fruitless.

On leaving the nobleman’s palace, Rabbi Berish sent for my brother/son-in-law and passed on this advice. My brother/son-in-law then saw Rabbi Zalmon Ginzheim and Rabbi Joffe Margolith, and discussed with them the means to get the petitions handed over to the sick nobleman.

Now Rabbi Zalmon Ginzheim was on friendly terms with the Chief Secretary of the Royal Council, and he went to him. Having explained the whole case, Rabbi Zalmon Ginzheim asked him to send on the petitions, when they came into his hands, to the sick nobleman; and the Secretary promised to do so.

When the nobleman at last received the petitions, he studied them very carefully, and marked on the back that they merited favourable consideration. But, he continued, the Royal Council might with advantage forward them to the Tribunal in Brno, and thus obtain their opinion. He also said a clause should be inserted to differentiate between a true synagogue and a mere house of worship.

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