M'gilath S'darim‎ > ‎Chapters‎ > ‎

Chapter 29

After I had stayed in Olomouc for a month, the Secretary sent for me and gave me a letter from the District Commissioner which I was to carry from Brno. Before sealing the envelope, he read to me the letter, which went more or less as follows:

“You have asked for my opinion as to the merits of these petitions. I have considered them carefully. The Jewish community of Úsov, which is under my governorship, is evidently not able to pay its heavy taxes and at the same time maintain several houses for prayer. It is being greatly impoverished and will not be able to hold out for another year. Therefore it is my opinion that the petitions requesting permission to erect one or two houses of worship merit favourable consideration. Please advise the Royal Council in Vienna to the same effect. I enclose a list of the distinctions between a Synagogue and a House of Worship.”

This, in substance, is the letter I had to deliver to the Tribunal in Brno.

But before I left Olomouc for Brno, I received the sad news from Vienna of the deaths of Rabbi Berish and his friend, the nobleman, who was to have had charge of our petitions. This news disturbed me a good deal, for I feared that even after I had obtained the Tribunal’s consent to our petitions, there would still remain an obstacle should our petitions be handed over to the Councillor who was our enemy. But, trusting in the mercy of God, I left Olomouc.

On my arrival in Brno, I immediately delivered the petitions and other documents to the Tribunal Secretary in the Palace of Assembly, and asked him to hand them over to the member in charge of our case. Now it is the law of the land that the name of the member in charge of any matter should not be revealed, so that no influence may be brought to bear upon him by the parties to the case. Nevertheless, I stayed in Brno for eight days in the hope of getting in touch with the member in charge of our case. And I employed my time in visiting the private houses and offices of the members in order to bespeak their favour in our case. At the same time I hoped to learn from their replies the name of the member I was particularly anxious to see. Thus I left no stone unturned in this matter.

When I had seen nearly all the important members of the Council without discovering who was the member on whom so much depended, and was about to give up all hope of finding him, one nobleman, whom I had particularly impressed with my beseechings, asked me at last whether I had visited a certain nobleman So-and-so. I said I had not, not having been aware that he was a member of the Tribunal. So he told me that nobleman So-and-so was not only an important and influential member, but the very one that had the charge of our petitions. But he cautioned me against revealing the real name, or the source of my information, as it might bring serious trouble upon himself. Having promised this and thanked him most humbly, I left his office.

The next day I went to the house of nobleman So-and-so. I gave a gift to the servant, and asked him to present me to his master at an opportune moment. The servant took my name in to the nobleman and after an hour’s anxious waiting I was presented to him. The nobleman asked me my purpose in calling on him. I answered that I came from Úsov, where we, the Jewish community, had for a long time suffered malicious attacks by the local priest, who had at last succeeded in depriving us of the right to practise our religion. And now we were petitioning the authorities to remove the hard restrictions. I told him that the Duke Lichtenstein, our protector, had also drawn up a petition on our behalf, and all the courts of the land were waiting for the Tribunal to give their consent; and I was before him to beseech his favour and good counsel.

To this he answered angrily that our petitions mentioned nothing of the sins we had been committing against Royal Commands in the matter of practising our religion, but the Tribunal’s report would have to give the whole truth. HM the Queen would not decree anything against the wish of the Holy Consistory, nor would she countermand the orders of the late King Charles VI which forbade our assembling more than ten in one or more houses on the same day. And finally, we had no prospect of winning in the matter against the Consistory.

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