Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Modern Day Female Moses: Judith Feld Carr-Leading Out Jews From Syria

Nadene Goldfoot                                                
Jews were rescued out of Syria in 1992 and 1994 and taken to Israel.  A Jewish mother of 6 from Canada led them out.  She didn't have to do it.  This woman had a childhood neighbor, Sophie, who had lost her daughter in Auschwitz.  She had told her, "You can never let this happen again to the Jewish people. "  These words stuck in Judith Feld Carr's (b: 1938) mind all her life.  She became a human rights activist.

 She and her husband, Dr. Ronald Feld, shared a mutual interest in the plight of Syrian Jewry in the 1970's.  They had read an article in the Jerusalem Post about 12 young Jews whose were trying to escape from Qamishli, Syria and had stepped onto a minefield which not only killed them but mutilated their bodies as well.

Judith and Ronald Feld were so touched by the story that they brainstormed for a while for ways they could help Syrian Jews.  Israel had been reborn on May 14, 1948 which ticked off Syria and put it in such a rage that they had burned down synagogues and forbid the Jews to leave the country.  Nuremberg-type laws which ushered in the Holocaust were passed in Syria by  President Shukri al Quwaatli. and continued by Hafez al Assad.  
1.  Jews were not allowed to travel more than 3 kilometers without a permit.
2. They were forced into ghettos.
3. Business opportunities were strictly limited
4. Educational opportunities were limited.
5. If a Jews tried to escape, they were usually hunted down and killed or tortured.

Judy was a mother of 6 children and a musicologist. She was a music teacher in a high school in Toronto for many years and also taught university musicology.  She was born in Montreal and raised in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.   This teacher was busy supporting her household, but wound up rescuing 3,228 Syrian Jews.  It was all done in secret, of course.

She made one phone call to Syria which started 28 years of rescue work and international intrigue.  Many of the Jews rescued were in prisons.  The phone call was to a Jewish man who was in the service of the secret police!  He gave her the address of Ibrahim Hamra, the Chief Rabbi of Syria.  .  She and Ronald sent a pre-paid telegram to Rabbi Hamra and asked if he needed Hebrew books.  They received a telegram back a week later with a list of titles.  The Felds were smart enough to remove evidence that they were printed in Israel.  This meant they had to remove the first page with the name of the publisher.  Otherwise, the books would never have been delivered to the Rabbi.  The Felds and Rabbi Hamra had to communicate in code using verses of Psalms just like Hidden Jews (B'nai Anusim)  did in Spain 500 years earlier.

A friend in Toronto had returned from Syria and spoke to Judy, telling her that her brother, a rabbi in Aleppo, was dying of cancer and had been tortured in prison because 2 of his children had escaped out of Syria.  She wanted to get her brother to Canada, and asked Judy for advice.  It took a year and a half of negotiating prices for the prisoner's release as well as many other obstacles until they found out that Rabbi Eliyahu Dahab was out of prison and was sent to Canada for medical care.  Before he died, he told Judy Feld of his dream to have coffee with his mother in Jerusalem one last time.  He died on Tisha B'Av after a reunion with his mother.  His dying wish was that his daughter could also be released from Syria.

This led to Mrs. Judy's underground network.  Her young husband died of a heart attack in 1973 and she worked alone with often unbearable pressure on her.  She said she felt like quitting almost every 2nd day but couldn't because she had figured out an underground system and people were depending on her.  She had never had to contact one Jew in Syria.  They had to find her which was very hard as they didn't know anything about her other than she was "Mrs. Judy in Canada."  She felt like she was "buying" people.

Judy had donations to cover the expenses of paying for the release of Syrian Jews come to Beth Tzedek Congregation Synagogue in Toronto, Canada.  If a ransom couldn't be negotiated, escapes had to be planned.  She never had a casualty.  She had to split up families with parents releasing their children to others.  Judy's father died and she had to delay the funeral by an hour because she was planning an escape of a mother and 6 children.

Judy remarried Donald Carr and he helped her to continue her rescue work.  They were able to go to a senior home in Bat Yam, Israel and Zaki Shayu spoke about being a prisoner in Aleppo suffering  4 years.of torture there.  The Syrian authorities told his mother that he had died.  Judy had rescued him and there he finally was able to meet Judy..

Her last rescue was on September 11, 2001, an hour before the attack on the World Trade Center. Abraham Hamra is still alive and is safe in Israel today.  Judy was able to save many rare Jewish religious articles like the famous Damascus Codex, known as a "Keter" (Crown) which was written in the 12th Century in Italy and had wound up in Damascus.  Judy became the chair of the Canadian Jewish Congress's National Task Force for Syrian Jewry and published  facts about them.  She then made representations to the Canadian government to admit Syrian Jews a temporary status to Canada and urged them to talk to the Syrian government about their denial of civil and human rights to the Jews of Syria.

Such work is amazing, knowing how much red tape she had to cut through.  Judith has been awarded many awards.  One was "The Presidential Award of Distinction of the State of Israel, created by President Shimon Perez.  Canada has awarded her with many also; One is the Order of Canada; the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 2002.

Resource: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judy_Feld_Carr
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1027071/jewish/Buying-Lives.htm by Miriam Metzinger
Book:  "The Ransomed of God:  The Remarkable Story of One Woman's Role in the Rescue of Syrian Jews "by Harold Troper

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Egyptian Situation with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Complex

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                        

A year ago the 83,688,164 Egyptians,  out of which those who voted,  made a terrible mistake in voting in as their 5th president,  the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi on June 30, 2012.   They are an organized but evil group.  After about 6 months the people realized their error and finally threw out Morsi on July 3, 2013, causing something almost like a Civil War in Egypt.  The Military took over but Morsi’s people are adamant about getting him back in power and have stooped to forceful attacks to gain it.  Egypt is now in such a bad state that businesses have closed up and people are afraid to be out in the streets if they’re not the rioting kind.  A total of 83 people have died in riots, mostly of the Muslim Brotherhood fighting against the Military power.

Morsi had been arrested on January 28, 2011 for being the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was an outlawed group by Sadat and Mubarak as they were violent and would change the law to follow Sharia law instead of their secular law.  He was in jail for only 2 days when there was a jail break and now it is thought that Hamas terrorists were the ones who broke him out.  They share the same sort of charter goals.  Morsi had Mubarak put in prison, though he was sick and elderly, and now the Military has done something similar to Morsi.  He has been held incognito somewhere and his arrest has been ordered.  The Military have been building a criminal case against him.

Even embassies have closed up and are not capable of helping anyone to leave as the streets are not safe.  Israel’s embassy is closed as well as the USA and Britain’s programs cannot keep to their schedule, either.

The United States made the decision to continue funding Egypt even though their contract was for Morsi's reign.

What people thought was a good Morsi, like Dr. Jekyll, had turned into the evil Mr. Hyde, just like having a split personality, or dissociative identity disorder.    In this one body they found 2 personalities who were vastly different in their moral character.  The Muslim Brotherhood’s Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and Jews, which many Jews are fully aware of.   Truly, the Muslim Brotherhood personality was the stronger.  More likely Morsi had planned all along to put in Muslim Brotherhood goals.  It seems like promises don't mean much to his group or him.  Let this be a lesson.  Those who want to destroy Jews just because they are Jewish are evil and will not turn out to be successful.  Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood  have  driven out most of the Christians, and there are only a few Jews left in Egypt.

Besides riots and demonstrations and deaths that have incurred, his backers are planning a sit-in now in a mosque in northern Cairo, which sounds like a safer way to demonstrate.  Just Saturday, 72 people were killed in riots.  Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has vowed to continue taking to the streets to demonstrate.   They've had a march on the Army intel headquarters.  Their violence is being met with violence.  Obama has asked the military to be more democratic and allow more peaceful demonstrations.  I've never seen a demonstration remain peaceful with hot-headed people, though.  It's hard to maintain.  It's like telling a child to hold the ice cream cone but not eat it.

I still do not understand how the Egyptian public was so naive as to vote in the Muslim Brotherhood.  This was as bad as the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza voting in Hamas, a terrorism organization as their political leaders.  All they had to do was to read their charter and know where they intended to go.  It seems they all have a Dr. Jekyll Mr Hyde complex; to be the country they were under Sadat or to be the country under Morsi.  It wasn't enough for the USA and allies to back democracy.  They should have looked to see what finagling was going on to get that vote.  They should also have looked into the moral character of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas to see that it was not compatible with Western democratic ideals.

There is so much possibility for Egypt if they stick to Sadat's decision of peace with Israel and can get their house in order.  I can imagine a bus going from Egypt's Cairo to Tel Aviv, a distance of about 250 miles.  There was a time in 1981 when tourists from Israel were lucky enough to go to Egypt for a vacation.  Two of my friends went, and a cousin also visited in the 90's.  No way can this happen now.  The Arab Middle East is not happy with their own governments.  They war against themselves.

Update: 7/30/13  There are at least  500,000 Syrian refugees living in Egypt and only about 80,000 are registered with the UN.  It seems that most were prevented from doing so, and must live by their wits without funding from the UN.  Egypt does not keep the refugees in camps, which is a good thing, however, but it makes receiving assistance non-existent.  It was Morsi who welcomed them in, and the Military who is threatening them with deportation due to some being more on the Muslim Brotherhood side. About 70 have been incarcerated.   They have now assured the UN that they are welcome, but they are still not receiving any assistance.

Resource: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_Case_of_Dr_Jekyll_and_Mr_Hyde
updating: website blaming zionists for everything  http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4410835,00.htmlhttp://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4410835,00.html
Notes: updated population from 79,089,650 in 2011 to 83,688,164  July 2012; also said to be 91 million today.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How It Was That Jewish Girls Became Christian Nuns In Roman Hands in 1562

Nadene Goldfoot                                                              

Judah Maccabee, the son of Mattathias, was the military leader of the revolt against Syria in 168 BCE.  This was the Hasmonian dynasty.  The information comes from the 1st book of the Hasmoneans of the Maccabees are found in the Books of the Apocrypha.  I Maccaabees or the first Book of the Hasmoneans tells the history of the Hasmonean family from the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes down to the early days of John Hyrcanus’ reign.

A Jewish embassy was in Rome in 161 BCE, and recorded diplomatic relations with a tablet declaring peace with the Jews of Judah, now taken over by the Romans.  .

The Judah Macabbee event  led to our celebration of Chanukah, which comes close to the Christian festival of Christmas.  The story was written in Hebrew which was still being used in the 4th century but had since been lost.  The Greek translation survived in the Septuagint.  II Maccabees is a shortened version written in Greek by a Hellenistic Jew, Jason, of Cyrene.  Its date is abut the 2nd century BCE.  III Maccabees describes the persecution of the Jews by Ptolemy IV Philopator of Egypt.  It was written about at the beginning of the Christian era while others think it reflects events in Egypt under Caligula, written in a refined rhetorical Greek, a powerful essay of reason over passions.

The peace didn't last long since Rome took Jerusalem in 70 CE.    Jews were still trying to re-take their city that was losing its Jewish flavor by 132 CE, 62 years later with Bar or Ben Kosiba, alias Simon, known to us as Bar Kokhba, which means the son of the star.  He was the nephew of Rabbi  Eleazar of Modiin and of Davidic descent.  He led a revolt against Hadrian in 132 CE.  Rabbi Akiva thought he was the Messiah.  He revolted because the Romans were rebuilding Jerusalem into a Roman colony and now they had put out restrictions against circumcision and that was the last straw!

The Roman Emperor Hadrian  ruled from 117 to 138.  He first removed and executed the savage governor of Judea, Lucius Quietus and this made a good impression on the Jews at first.  He visited Palestine in 130 and saw that Jews were implacable.  Bar Kokhba’s forces re-took Jerusalem in 132.  Coins were minted with the names of Simeon and Eleazar the Priest.  In 133 the Roman counterattacked with an army of 35,000 under Hadrian and the commander, Julius Severus.  They had first entered the Galilee, then fought for the Valley of Jezreel, Ephraim and the Judean Hills, and then took Jerusalem.

By 134 and 135, the Romans invaded Bar Kokhba’s last stronghold, Betar, and reduced the remaining hill and cave strongholds.  Bar Kokhba was killed when Betar fell by a storming attack.  Records speak of the destruction of 50 fortresses and 985 villages and of 580,000 Jewish casualties besides those who died of hunger and disease.  As a result of the revolt, Judea fell into desolation.  It’s population were decimated and Jerusalem was turned into a heathen city, barred to all Jews.  Bar Kokhba had held off the Romans for 3 years, defeated in the end.  Jews from then on scattered in the wind.  Some remained in the Levant, going to other countries to live while others who were to be called the Ashkenazis found themselves closer to Rome, and from there went to Germany and France.  There were families who remained hidden and were able to continue living in Judah and Israel.  There was no PEACE WITH JUDAH from the Romans, only exile!  I call this insidious propaganda!    

After Hadrian had won this battle which was the most difficult of his reign, he received the title of Imperator.  Judea became a consular province called Syria-Palaestina.  The ruins of Jerusalem were reconstructed as a pagan city, and an equestrian statue of Hadrian was erected on the site of the HOLY OF HOLIES.

Was it after this period that Josephus, Justinus and Eusebius wrote about Jews receiving “friendship” from the Romans?  Or was this what Rome said about a country after they defeated it?  Friendship was a technical term for diplomatic ties considered just below formal diplomatic relations.  Memory about this event comes from oral and written tradition into the Middle Ages on a bronze tablet that had hung in the church of San Basilio in Rome.  This tablet mentioned Judas Maccabaeus who was held in high regard in the Middle Ages.  His story about their Maccabaean revolt against the Seleucid king served as an “allegory of the battles of the Church against its enemies.”  It had a religious significance reminding the people of Judah the warrior who was aided by G-d, and had succeeded against overwhelming odds in his battle against the Syrian Seleucid army.

This tablet has now been proved to have been real by a historian from Arad, Dr. Linda Zollschan.  Her work has been published in a Danish journal, Classica Et Mediaevalia, the Danish Journal of Philology and History, volume 63.

Zolschan discovered that  the location the bronze tablet was kept turned out to be in the ruins of the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus, a temple used as the "Foreign Office" of Rome.  In her article, she mentions the church which used to house the tablet as churches often displayed such items. It was mentioned in 1140 and was known about in the 16th century, mentioned in a guidebook for pilgrims to Rome.

 The land where the church stood was granted by Pope Pius IV in 1562 to the Cominican order of nuns, who built a Monastery there.  They had sought property in Rome to house Jewish girls who had converted to Christianity (forced converts ?) and who wanted to live as nuns under monastic vows, but had nowhere to go because other monasteries rejected them because they had Jewish ancestry.  The Spanish Inquisition had taken place in 1492 and had affected many Christian countries to either convert Jews or expell them.

“Converts were given accommodation and the girls were lured to convert by a gift of 50 scudi for a dowry so that they could marry.  The church found them Christian partners for marriage, and those that didn’t marry became nuns.  So it was that 40 nuns who were really converts from Judaism lived in the ruins of a church that had once openly had evidence of the “friendship” between the Romans and the Jews.  “

Resource: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/170260#.UfFcvdKOTqH, by Hana Levi Julian
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Jewish Skeleton in Brazil From days of Inquisition Opens Up Sepharic American History

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                    
                                             Kahal Zur Israel Synagogue in Recife, Brazil
There is a synagogue, Shearith Israel,  in New York City that was started by Sephardic Jews from Recife, Brazil.

Back in Recife, we find another synagogue that turns out to be the first known synagogue built in the New World in 1636. Jews had moved there from Portugal  when the Spanish Inquisition of 1492 insisted that their Jews either convert to Catholicism or get out of the country. Spain expelled 180,000 Jews.  50,000 converted to Christianity in order to remain in Spain and kept Jewish rituals.  They came to be known as Hidden Jews.   From 1146 and again in 1391 Jews of Spain were forcibly converted to Christianity.   In 1355 there were 12,000 Jews that were massacred by a mob in Toledo, Spain.   Many moved next door to Portugal.  They were able to be there a few years until the same thing happened to them.  They were forced to convert to Christianity but did so begrudgedly and kept their Judaism a secret.  Moses Seixas was living in Recife with his family.

The archaeologists declared that the skeleton they found during their work of digging a tunnel was Jewish and had been there since the 16th Century.  The skeleton's arms and hands were down at his sides.  This is not how Christians bury people.  They cross the arms over their chest, so this skeleton was a Jewish male adult.  He was buried in a shroud, which is the Jewish form of burial,  even today.  Nothing was buried with him.  There wasn't even a casket for him.  Today Jews bury their deceased in a simple wooden coffin.  In Israel, because of the lack of wood supplies, the body is buried just like this man was.  The grave digger only managed to dig a hole 5 feet in depth instead of the American tradition of 6 feet.  His tomb is about 1 1/2 miles east of the Kahal Zur Synagogue which is the Recife synagogue that the Jews had built.  Perhaps this was start of a Jewish cemetery.

Marcos Albuquerque of the Federal University of Pernambuco oversaw the dig around the skeleton.  He explained that to find out exactly when he died would require a piece of the bone for carbon dating.  He said that for religious reasons they did not touch the body but left it where it was found.  It would have been so nice if they had taken bone for not only carbon dating but for DNA profiling.  It would have been a boon for geneticists to see what haplogroup these Jews carried from Israel.
Brazil's Jewish history goes back to Fernando de Noronha (1503) , the Brazilian pioneer  who was thought to be a Hidden Jew.  Later, Hidden Jewish immigrants came from Portugal and fostered the sugar and tobacco industries and developed rice and cotton plantations.  The Inquisition didn't leave them alone, however.  They came over to find them and hunt them down in 1591 to 1595 so that by 1618, many decided to emigrate.  Some of the Hidden Jews went to Bahia from Holland during its brief period of Dutch rule in 1624 and 1625.  when the Dutch conquered the Pernambuco region in 1631, the Hidden Jews returned openly to Judaism, and numerous immigrants came from Holland.

Communities flourished in Itamaraca and Recife, where Isaac Aboab served as rabbi.  The Portuguese captured Recife in 1654 and the Jews had to leave.  Some returned to Holland and other established Jewish communities through the West Indies and in New York.

In 1822, Brazil declared their independence.  Some of the Hidden Jews reverted back to Judaism.  Next, European Jews began to immigrate and communities were established in Belem, Sao Paolo, Recife, Bahia, Manaos, and Rio de Janeiro.

"During a visit to Newport, R.I., in 1790, a year before the Bill of Rights was ratified, President George Washington received a letter from Moses Seixas, warden of the Touro Synagogue."

Moses Seixas (1708-1780) came from a Sephardi family founded by Isaac Mendes Seixas and Rachel Levy, daughter of Moses Levy, an early New York City merchant  who emigrated to America from Portugal in 1730. His son, Gershom Mendes Seixas (1745-1816),  was the Reverend of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York for some 50 years. He was married to Elkalah Cohen in 1775 and then after her death to Hannah Manual in 1789.   Moses was the warden of the Touro Synagogue.  Here is part of a letter he wrote to George Washington from Newport, Rhode Island. on August 17, 1790.  Fifteen Sephardic families had started this synagogue in 1657.  

Permit the children of the stock of Abraham to approach you with the most cordial affection and esteem for your person and merits -- and to join with our fellow citizens in welcoming you to Newport.

With pleasure we reflect on those days -- those days of difficulty, and danger, when the God of Israel, who delivered David from the peril of the sword -- shielded Your head in the day of battle: and we rejoice to think, that the same Spirit, who rested in the Bosom of the greatly beloved Daniel enabling him to preside over the Provinces of the Babylonish Empire, rests and ever will rest, upon you, enabling you to discharge the arduous duties of Chief Magistrate in these States"

The British had occupied New York City in 1776.  Gershom took the scrolls and other religious objects from the synagogue and went to Stratford, Connecticut and then to Philadelphia where he helped found the first Jewish congregation in 1780.

After the British left New York City, he returned to his duties there.  He was one of 13 clergymen to participate in George Washington's first  inauguration.  Seixas was the trustee of Columbia College from 1787 to 1815.  One of his sons, David C. Seixas (1788-1880) achieved prominence as an educator of the deaf and introduced the daguerreotype into America.  Benjamin Mendes Seixas (1747-1817) was a founder of the New York stock exchange!

Whose skeleton was buried 500 years ago so close to the Brazilian synagogue?  Could it have been the rabbi of the synagogue?  Either that or it was one of the parishioners.  Was it somebody evading the inquisition authorities?

Resource: http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/500-year-old-Jewish-skeleton-found-in-Brazil-320391 forwarded from Ana.
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
facts about israel, Division of Information, Ministry for for Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem

Saturday, July 20, 2013

From Italy to Germany and Back Again to the Ghetto: Destiny of Ashkenazi and Sepharidic Jewry

Nadene Goldfoot                                          

                                                          Jewish Ghetto in Venice, Italy
70 CE and the unthinkable happened.  The Romans took over Jerusalem and burned the Temple, the 2nd Temple that Jews had rebuilt when they returned from Babylonia.

What was to happen to them!  Some were able to sail across the Mediterranean to Rome, either as slaves or freemen where they found refuge.  Eventually, when things were so bad there, they moved northward into Germany, which was across the border.

Things were not going well.  In 640, 721, and 873 Jews in the Byzantine Empire were forcibly converted to Christianity.  This caused the remainder to look towards Germany in the north as a place of refuge.

In 1096 the German Crusade massacred the Jews in European towns that they found.  Back in Jerusalem there were Jews who had remained.  By 1099 they were massacred by the Crusaders.

Somehow, Jews had been able to sail to far away England to regain their lives, but in 1290 they were expelled from there.

The town of Wurttembeg, Germany was in the district of the Neckar River.  There was an important Jewish community there by 1298, when Rindfleisch and his hordes slew nearly 200 Jews on October 19, 1298.
In 1306 Jews that had been living in France that had crossed over from Germany were also expelled.  In 1316, Jews were turned over to the city by Ludwig the Bavarian for a period of 6 years of servitude or after the debts due to them had been cancelled in recognition of the city's loyalty.  On July 8, 1322, the Duke Frederick of Austria and the  city's non-Jewish citizens were released from their liabilities to the Jews.  Then in 1349 in Heilbronn, the Jews were attacked in their street on the Hasenmarkt.  Their goods were plundered and burned and their synagogue was set on fire.  The Jews in 1357 built themselves another synagogue. 1355 was the start of the terrible Spanish Inquisition in that 12,000 Jews were massacred by a mob in Toledo, Spain.   All Jews of France were expelled by 1400.

In France by 1420 the Jewish community in Toulouse was annihilated.  The next year Jews in Austria were expelled. All the while from 1146 to 1391 the Jews of Spain were being forcibly converted to Christianity so that by 1492  the Spanish Inquisition commenced which forcibly converted 50,000 so that they could remain in Spain while 180,000 others were expelled. In 1495 Jews were expelled from Lithuania who had gone there escaping the perils in Germany.  Following suit, in 1497 Jews from Sicily and Sardinia were expelled along with Jews from Portugal.  November 6, 1498  was when Jews of Nuremberg, Germany had to leave the city, and again  on Sunday 1499.  An armed escort went with them because of the danger on the roads.  Most settled in Neustadt, a piece of land owned by the widow Margravine Anna of Brandenberg.  Others went to Franfurt on the main and a few went to Prague.  Naples, Italy was a kingdom and they expelled Jews in 1541.

  The Jews of Heilbronn suffered severely under the arbitrary decrees of King Weneslaus during the war between the Suabian town.  They had a shameful policy for the Jews.  Kings Rupert and Sigismund had a war which broke out  because of them with grievances between the city and Heinrich Mosbach of Ems. About 1490, the Jews were ordered to leave the city despite the repeated intercessions of Emperor Frederick III.  Not many Jews remained in the city by 1523 and those who were were expelled by the city council but some  remained and were again expelled in 1529.

The reason Jews found they were expelled from towns was because of Christian anti-Jewish sentiment prevailing in Germany.  We know now that this never was dispelled up to present times.  It came out by the opposition of Christian burghers to Jewish business competition in money lending, craft making and trading.  This is the reason why all the Jews of England and France had already been expelled.

Germany, unlike England and France, was not united under one ruler.  For this reason in the Middle Ages there was no central expulsion of Jews from Germany.

Ultimately, Germany was a hard country to live in so by the 16th century, Poland and Lithuania offered what they called "Privileges" to live in their country to the Jews.  Besides that, a better Jewish education could be had in Poland and Lithuania than in Germany.  There, the education had become weak due to centuries of severe misfortune.  In reality they were laws set out in documents.  All wasn't a bed of roses in these eastern European countries, either.  The laws were enforced until by the end of the 18th century when Russia had taken over most of the territory of Poland and Lithuania.

Some German Jews, such as those in Heilbronn, moved back to Italy's Padua and Venice which were only 22 miles apart from each other.  Padua was 22 miles west of Venice.  It had happened that by the middle of the 14th century, many Jews of Rome, Pisa, Bologna and the marches of Ancona moved to Padua as moneylenders.  Even those German Jews and Jews from other Alpine countries  that had been persecuted moved back to Padua after 1440.  The word was out that this was a good place.  Padua flourished till the middle of the 15th century as a Jewish center.  By this time, Christian preachers were inciting anti-Semitism who influenced the government to have anti-Jewish legislation.  A ghetto was established in 1602 and there the Jews of Padua lived until 1797.

Venice is the home of the first ghetto for Jews.  Actually, Jews didn't first settle in Venice itself, but on the neighboring island of Spinalunga, which was called Gludeca in a document of 1252.  In the 13th century, many Jews went to Venice from Germany.  Some were seeking refuge from persecution.  Others were attracted by the commercial advantages of this important seaport.  They also engaged in commerce.  The Jews had started bank loans.  This was why they were allowed into Venice in the first place.  Jews were not regulated by law and their rights always remained precarious.  Their rights were determined like another foreign colony and were granted a stay in terms of years with a lease renewed of which was also sometimes refused.  They wound up being expelled twice and were compelled to retire to Mestre.

In  1516, the doges or ruling council of Venice debated whether Jews should be allowed to remain in the city of Venice.  They let them remain but decided they would be confined in a Ghetto.  Nuova, which was a small and dirty island, became the world's first ghetto.  "Ghetto" comes from the Italian getto which means "casting" or comes from the Venetian geto which means "foundry."  Italian and German Jews had to move into this ghetto.   The Germans went into Venice because of persecution in their German communities.  The Italian Jews had come from Rome and from the South where there was so much anti-Semitism.

Sephardic Jews from the Levant moved into ghetto Vecchio as well in 1541.  Spanish and Portuguese Jews also came to Venice in the late 16th century and were the strongest and wealthiest community in the ghetto.  Many of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews were Hidden Jews and became Jewish again by moving to Venice.  They all lived in the Ghetto Vecchio.

The German, Italian and Levantine communities were independent of each other yet lived side by side.  This could have been due to language and to the hierarchy that existed among them.  At the top of the ladder were the Sephardic (Spanish and Portuguese) and Levantine Jews.  German Jews were in the middle and the Italian Jews were on the lowest rung.

More restrictions were placed on them all.  They were only allowed to leave during the day and were locked inside at night.  Jews were only permitted to work in pawn shops, money lending, the Hebrew printing press, textile trading or practice medicine.  Detailed banking laws kept their interest rates low and made life difficult for many of the poor pawnbrokers and moneylenders.

When they left the ghetto they still had to wear clothing that marked them as being Jewish.  This meant they had to wear a yellow circle or scarf.  Jews were faced with high taxes.  The Talmud was burned in 1553 due to arguments between 2 Venetian printing companies.  Hebrew books were not allowed to be printed for the next 13 years, but the Jewish printing preses and publishing companies continued to thrive until the early 19th century after that lull.
An extremely bad era for the Venetian Jews was during the 1570's after the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.  The Jews were blamed for the war.  What else is new?  That goes on today as well.  Jews are always the ones blamed.  Expulsion threats were made.  The German and Italian Jews survived the war by making financial concessions.  They had to decrease their interest rate to 5% per annum which was the price they had to pay for living in the ghetto.  This was a major setback, but they recovered.

Imagine living for years as locked up prisoners.  It reminds me of Stalag 17, a show on TV in the 60's.  One adjusts.  Despite the poor living conditions, their community life continued to grow inside the ghetto.   Life centered around Jewish ritual and customs and the celebration of the Sabbath.  These Ashkenazic Jews built 2 synagogues on the top floors of the ghetto building, the Scola Grande Tedesca in 1528-29 and the Scola Canton in 1531.  The Levantine Jews, who had more money, built an extravagant synagogue in 1575 and it was housed in its own building in Ghetto Vecchio.  The Spanish Jews built a synagogue in 1584.  They were also able to build their own free school, the only one in Venice.  Christians came to the ghetto to visit Jewish banks, doctors and to shop for spices, jewelry and fabrics.

Their golden age was in the 17th century when Jewish commerce and scholarship flourished.  By the 1600's  they controlled much of Venice's foreign trade.  The Sephardic groups gained influence and wealth in the Venetian economy.  The residents of the Ghetto Nuovo also began to have greater economic stability and began participating in maritime trade, which had before only been allowed for those in Ghetto Vecchio.

Life deteriorated at the end of the 17th century economically.  By the 18th century there were lots of anti-Jewish feeling and limitations were placed on Jewish economic activity.  The population decreased from 4,800 in 1655 to 1,700 in 1766 because many prominent families left for Leghorn or other port cities.  Taxes for Jews were terribly high and Jewish ship owners and merchants lost their shops between 1714-1718. Finally in 1737, the Jewish community had to declare bankruptcy.  Napoleons' troops reached Venice in 1797 and tore open the ghetto gates.  That caused many Jews to volunteer to be in Napoleon's army.  Venice became part of the Hapsburg empire in 1798 and some restrictions were reintroduced.  The ghetto, however, was not officially re-established.  Many chose to continue to live in there, but wealthy Jews left to live in other parts of the city.

In 1848-49, when pioneers were crossing North America for the  Oregon Territory, the Venetian Republic was created but short lived by a Daniele Manin, who had Jewish ancestors.  Italy was unified in 1866 and Venetian Jewry were given an equal status as others.  A famous Venetian Jew, Luigi Luzzati began his career of politics organizing an aid society for gondoliers.  He served in the Italian Parliament for 50 years and was elected Italy's first Jewish Prime Minister in 1910.

WWI caused rising tensions for Jews and many left the city.  They didn't live under restrictions in the early years of Mussolini, but everything changed in the 1930's because of Italy's relationship with Germany.  About 1,200 Jews were living in Venice when German troops occupied the city in 1943.  205 people were deported to extermination camps from 1943 to 1944 which included the Chief Rabbi Adolfo Ottolenghi.  At the end of WWII, 1,500 Jews lived in Venice but that decreased from then on.  By 1965, 844 Jews lived in Venice.

This is what happened to Jews who took the high road and headed out of the Middle East.  They were just different family groups, perhaps following one of the high priests of Jerusalem who may have been more inclined to know some geography or had heard from traders of safer lands.  They came to be known as the Ashkenazi Jews, a term picked up in Germany.

Resource: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Venice.html
Genealogy Booklet 2nd Draft of the Heilprin Family by Andi Alpert Ziegelman, 2009, history section
Facts About Israel, Division of Information Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Largest Jewish Ghetto in the World: Pale of Settlement

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                      

                                                      Tevia in "Fiddler on the Roof"

 Poland went through its 3rd partition in 1795 and added Vilna and Grodno Provinces to the Russian Empire.  This completed the formation of the Pale of Settlement, the largest Jewish ghetto in the world which existed for more than a century.

Jews had lived in Poland since the 9th century.  It's not certain if the first Jewish settler came from               Germany or Bohemia from the west or from the south where the Kingdom of Kiev and the Byzantine Empire lay.  It is thought that they were reinforced by Jews from Khazaria.  We know that they were traders. Traders had opened up areas in the Dark Ages to civilizing influences.  By the year 905, Poland had its first charter for Jews.  Polish coins of the 12th and 13th centuries were minted by Jews and bear Hebrew inscriptions.  The Tartars invaded in 1240 and utterly devastated Poland. "Mongol-Tartar Golden Horde forces led by Batu Khan, (a grandson of Genghis Khan), began attacking Europe in 1223, starting with CumansVolga Bulgaria and Kievan Rus."Actually, Tartars were a Turkic people who were also conquered by the Mongols and they were mostly the Kipchaks.  They had joined the Mongol forces.  

Catherine II didn't want Jews living in Russia so she allowed them to live in the Pale, which was Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus.  She established the Pale in 1791.  This was done under pressure to rid Moscow of Jewish business competition and  the supposed "evil" influence on the Russian masses.  More than 90% of Russian Jews were forced to live in the Pale, which was only 4% of imperial Russia.  The Jewish population went from 1.6 million in 1820 to 5.6 million in 1910.  Even inside the Pale, Jews found that they were being discriminated against.  This was through paying double taxes and rules like they were forbidden to lease land, run taverns or receive higher education.

In 1860, a liberalization period started which granted Jews some privileges, but this came to an end with the May Laws of 1882. this coincides with the year of Jews who left and went to Palestine in the 1st Aliyah.   This group left from 1882 to 1903 and was led by the Bilu (1st modern Zionist pioneering movement founded in 1882 at Kharkov by Jewish students reacting against the wave of Russian pogroms.) They were first to immigrate to Palestine in 1882 and consisted of 15 young  men and women who reached Jaffa in the summer.  They were like the people on the Mayflower sailing to America.  Others followed later that year.    In 1882, 300 families and other smaller groups went to Palestine from Russia (Pale).

 These May  Laws restricted Jews in the Pale and forced them to to move to urban areas of other towns and shtetls in the Pale, which were  overcrowded and offered limited jobs.  Jews living in rural areas in 1882 of the Pale were forced to leave their homes.  250,000 Jews living along the western frontier of Russia were also moved into the Pale.  700,000 Jews living east of the Pale were driven into the Pale by 1891.  This must be the time that Tevia and his family in "Fiddler on the Roof" had to leave their little shtetl and cow in which he had milk to sell, which caused them and their neighbors to all immigrate as they found they were excluded from rural areas inside the Pale.   By 1870 and on to 1880, thousands of Jews became victims in pogroms.  They suffered form such pogroms, boycotts and other anti-Semitic depredations. In 1880, the Jews of Brody, which was just outside the Pale and actually situated in Austria-Hungary,  began the exodus of over 2 million Jews from the Pale to the USA, Britain, Europe, South America and Palestine.  There were over 4 million Jews living in the Pale by 1885.

 By 1890 all the persecutions going on sent thousands of Russian Jews to Palestine, and many Jews also chose to immigrate to the USA then as well. That was good for them, because in 1891, 2,000 Jews were deported out of Vitebsk, many of them were in chains as they left.  In that same year, 20,000 Jews were expelled from Chernigov.   This is about the time my grandfather left Lithuania for England, which led him to go to Ireland, and then finally to the USA.  All this led to mass immigration to the USA (2 million Jews between 1881 to 1914) A 2nd Aliyah to Palestine took place from 1904 to 1914.  During this period, the Kishinev and Homel pogroms and the failure of the 1905 revolution took place.  Only after the overthrow of the Czarist regime in 1917 was the Pale of Settlement ended in August 1915 and legally in March 1917.

Kovno was a Lithuanian city in Kaunas.  It was on the border of the Pale right across from the Baltic Sea and Germany.  Jews had lived there since the 15th century and were then expelled in 1495, right after the 1492 Spanish Inquisition.  They were able to return in 1501.  Again, they faced expulsion in 1753 but they survived.  Finally they received equal rights in 1858 and by the early 20th century numbered 50% of the total population.  It was a distinguished center of Jewish learning, which was most important to Jews, like other people needed amphitheaters to watch events.  Lithuania had their independence from 1918 to 1940.  Before WWII, there were 25,000 Jews in Kovno which was then 25% of the total population.  Then in 1941, all the Jews were herded into a ghetto by the Nazis and 10,000 were killed in a single day on October 28, 1941. The survivors were joined by 7,000 deportees from Germany and Lithuania but nearly all were exterminated by 1944.   Surprisingly, some must have returned, for there were 5,500 Jews in Kovno in 1988.

Vilna was a town in Lithuania and Jews had lived there since the end of the 15th century.  They were then banished in 1527 by Sigismund I because his burghers requested it.  Some were able to return only to become victims of a riot in 1592.  The next year they were allowed to settle, have homes and lend money.  In 1633 they were given permission to trade in precious stones, meat and livestock and to be craftsmen.  Then along came anti-Semitism in the form of a riot against them in 1635.  By 1655, those Jews left were massacred by the Cossack army.  4,000 Jews were among the victims of a famine in Vilna in 1709-10.

From the 18th century, the city became a center of rabbinical study, being dubbed the "Lithuanian Jerusalem.  The Vilna Gaon, Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, the best known scholar,  came from here.  Vilna became a Zionist center and the birthplace of the Bund.

Jews from Vilna suffered from famine under German rule in WWI and from a pogrom at the hands of the  Polish troops in 1919.  Jews numbered 140,000 at the end of the 19th century, but by 1941 were only 65,000 including 15,000 refugees from Poland.  The Germans made 2 ghettos in Vilna and 30,000 Jews were killed there by the end of 1941.  12,000 remaining Jews were increased by Jews from White Russian rural districts who were shipped in by transports in 1943.   By August 1943, Jews were deported to extermination camps.  The Russians entered the city in 1944 and found 600 Jews hiding in the sewers.  By 1988 the Jewish population rose to 13,000.

Suwalki, where my paternal grandmother, Zlata came from, was right next door to Kovno with its west side bordering Germany. Originally it was a part of Lithuania and then went to Poland.  My grandmother said she was a Litvak.

In 1911 in Zhitomir, Russia, a person's given name and its spelling sometimes was a matter of life or death.  In civil and legal situations of many Jews the fact of the military draft caused young people worry and sometimes financial destruction.  An example of the spelling of a name in one small shtetl in one year is shocking.  The names of all draftees had died before the draft.  It didn't matter, the deceased were considered to be draft dodgers and their families were fined.  For example, the name from the Draft List was Pavolotskij, Lejb-Gersh Shimonov.  The name from the Death Records Book read as Favolotskij, Lejb-Gersh Simonov.  This was all in Hebrew, and the Hebrew letter pe reads as both a p and a f, which was the cause of the confusion.

Another case as a Jew identified as Mojshe who was drafted into the army, but he was also fined 300 rubles for a supposed brother Moisej, who was said to have evaded the draft because this Mojshe had been listed as Moisej in one list.

There was the family of a Yankel Korotkin who was executed in Vilna and was fined because the deceased was accused of draft evasion.

Letichev resident Yanakael Rozenblat was murdered during a pogrom, but his family was fined.  Another family was fined because a girl named Sima was entered by in the books by mistake as Simkha.  Hundreds of such cases like these happened every year making the lives of many ordinary Jews unbearable because of the consequences of spelling errors.

Lithuanian Jews, who became Russian subjects, also contributed to the pool of names.  Such male first names as:
Aaron, Abel, Al'bert, Alexander, Alfred, Armand, Arnold, Aron, Asher, Avner, Benyamin, Bernard, Calvin, Conrad, David, Edmund, Eduard, Efraim, Elias, Eliaser, Elie, Emil, Ephraim, Eugenio, Frederic, Gabriel,  or feminine names as: Bella, Clara, Corolina, Debora, Dina, Emma, Etta, Eugenie, Eva, Fanni, Gena, Ida, Liza, Marianna, Nakhema, Nataliya, Nekhama, Rebeka, Regina, Rivka, Roda, Ruth, Sara, Sonya, Zlata.

Such names were written in Hebrew and then transliterated into Russian with the Cyrillic alphabet.

Cyril,  According to Webster's 7th New Collegiate Dictionary,  a ghetto is a quarter of a city in which Jews are required to live;   broadly, a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live because of social, legal, or economic pressure.  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia defines ghetto as: a Jewish quarter, strictly, a quarter set up by the law to be inhabited only by Jews. I took it a step further calling the Pale of Settlement a huge ghetto and indeed it was.  I was not the first to say this.  That credit goes to Boris Feldblyum, born in Zhitomir, Ukraine in 1951,  who had lived in several cities in Ukraine, Russia and Lithuania before emigrating to the USA in 1979.  His book is listed in my resources.   He is a researcher of our Jewish history of the Jewish people in Russia and Eastern Europe.  He has written articles for Avotaynu, an international Journal of Jewish Genealogy on archival research and more.

The name "Ghetto" comes from the foundry or Ghetto in Venice where the Jews were segregated in 1517.  The idea of segregation of the Jews, implicit in earlier Church legislation goes back to the Lateran Councils of 1179 and 1215 which forbade Jews and Christians to live together in close contact.  In Spain, the Jews lived at least from the 13th century, in "juderias" provided with walls and gates for their protection, the city officials said.  Of course then in 1492 the Jews either had to convert or leave the country.  Their laws affected Portugal who did the same thing a few years later.  From the 15th century, the friars in Italy began to press for the effective segregation of the the Jews, and in 1555, Pope Paul IV ordered that Jews in the Papal States should be forced to live in separate quarters.  This was immediately carried into effect in Rome and became the rule throughout Italy in the course of the next generation.  The name "ghetto" which was already accepted in Venice, was now universally applied. The institution was common under the name Judengasse.  It was also found in use in Germany, Prague, where the Jukdenstadft was famous, and in some Polish cities.  It was a town within a town, enjoying a certain degree of autonomy and a vigorous spiritual and intellectual life, but it was insalubrious, overcrowded because of not being allowed to expand, and subject to frequent fires.  The system was often accompanied by forced baptism, the wearing of the Jewish Badge, conversionist sermons, occupational restrictions, etc.  It was finally abolished in Italy in the French Revolutionary Period and reintroduced locally in the 19th century and came to an end when Rome united with the kingdom of Italy in 1870. In other countries the record was similar.
Between 1939 and 1942, Jews from Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia and other places were transferred mainly to the Warsaw and Lublin areas.  Ghettos were instituted there and at other places.  The Warsaw Ghetto population rose to 445,000.  

The Russian Catherine II used the same concept in respect to the Pale of Settlement.  Jews were confined to the Pale and could not enter Russia.  In fact, they had a very hard time leaving it.  When Jews started to emigrate to the USA in the early 1900's, my husband's family had to leave at night in the dark and sneak out at risk of their lives,and to do this they had to  pay a guide to get them out past the border.  In essence, this land was treated like a city ghetto only it was on a larger scale.  The idea was just the same.  The Jews were required to live within the borders that Catherine II allowed, and as you read, she changed her rules and confined them into the urban centers in the end.  In fact, the Pale, according to my encyclopedia was made up of 25 provinces of Czarist Russ in Poland, Lithuania, White Russia, Ukraine, Bessarabia and Crimea where Jews were "permitted" permanent residence, depending of the permanent nature of the day, it looks like, for they were forced out and lost their homes as well.  Life outside the Pale wasn't much better as those outside without permission to be there depended on the arbitrary decision of the local governor  with the borders arbitrarily restricted from time to time by the oppressive Statute of 1835 concerning Jews.  The May Laws certainly were horrible and restrictive, as bad as any city ghetto condition.
The whole concept was definitely a Ghetto action on a very large scale.  Catherine II in 1762 permitted all aliens to live in Russia except Jews.  With Poland being partitioned in 1772, 1793 and 1795, the great Jewish masses of White Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Courland became Russian subjects and were under the reactionary rule of the Czars.  In 1786 they were restricted to towns which lay the foundation of the Pale of Settlement.  Only the Karaites received equality of rights with the Christians in 1795.

Restricted to live in a Ghetto area, a quarter of land belonging to Russia, no rights like other citizens, all because of their religion being Jewish.  This is the foundation of a ghetto.  I'm looking at my map right now at Russia.  It's absolutely huge.  The countries of the Pale are barely seen on this map. The only one I can make out is Ukraine.  I would say that the Pale was only about 4% of Russia, and this reference came from Feldblyum.
                                                Russia's Pale of Settlement

Reference:  Russian-Jewish Given Names by Boris Feldblyum
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Update: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatars, Lipka Tartars in Lithuania
Update: "1648–1655
The Ukrainian Cossacks led by Bohdan Chmielnicki massacre about 100,000 Jews and similar number of Polish nobles, 300 Jewish communities destroyed."
7/11/13 http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Pale_of_SettlementUpdate: 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Jewish History in Slovakia

Nadene Goldfoot
Jews in Slovakia?  Who has ever heard of Slovakia?  It's not a part of the Pale of Russia where Jews were allowed to live by Catherine II's decree, because she did not allow Jews to live in Russia.  Evidently Slovakia was not a part of the Russian empire though Poland Ukraine were in the Pale.

Romans crossed the Danube River in the 2nd century CE and occupied a strip of southern Slovakia, and indications are that Jews followed the Roman legions there first as slaves, then soldiers and later as merchants.  When the Romans left, so did the Jews.  Jews didn't return until the 9th century and are mentioned among the people of the Great Moravian Empire (833-907) which covered most of Slovakia.  It is said that Jews ran a slave trade and others imported goods from the Mediterranean lands.

In the 11th century the Magyars conquered Slovakia and it became a part of the Hungarian kingdom.  Jews lived in small groups mainly in rural villages and worked in agriculture. At the same time, there were the Crusades and harsh persecution of Jews by the Bohemian king Vratislav II which led to the migration of Jews from Bohemia, Germany and Austria to Hungary where they found refuge.  Some settled in Slovakia.

The Hungarian king Kalman enacted a "Jewish law" where Jews were permitted to live only in cathedral towns and on bishops estates.

In 1241 the Mongols (Tartars) invaded Hungary bringing on havoc and destruction.  Jewish merchants made a major contribution to rebuilding the economy.  Jews were in the cities of Pressburg (Bratislava), Senica, Trnavaa, Pezinok, Nitra, and Trencin.  By 1251 King Bela IV granted Jews a "privilege" document promising them protection against attacks by Christians which was a permanent legal status and had other benefits.  At this time most Jews made their living in finance.  A minority worked in commerce and the importing of goods.  Others held positions in public administration or were involved in minting coins to the displeasure of the Pope and church leaders.

Starting in the 13th century, Jews became wards of the king and paid taxes to the royal treasury.  They lived in cities on separate Jewish streets allotted to them by the authorities.  This was done to segregate them from the Christians.  Some towns had an organized community life and Jewish public institutions.  Nitra had a Jewish community considered one of the oldest in Slovakia.  We know from a document from 1113 that there was a Jewish cemetery there.  Jews also lived in a suburb of Parovee, known as Castrum Judaeorum or a fortified Jewish settlement.  Jewish refugees from Bohemia and Germany founded a community in Pressburg.

In the 14th Century the Pressburg community numbered about 800 people and was the largest in the kingdom.  At the end of the century was noted a Rabbi Isaac Tyrnau (German name of Trnava) who was the leading Torah sage in Hungary and author of Sefer Ha-Minhagim which described the religious practices of Jews in Hungary and neighboring countries.

By the 15th century, which is the time of the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, the Christians turned to religious extremism and Jews were in danger with anti-Jewish riots breaking out in several places.  In 1491 the authorities in Trnava spread a blood libel against the Jews and 12 men and 4 women were burned at the stake on August 22 of that year which was 7 Elul, 5251.

Along came the 16th century when the Turks defeated the Hungarians in 1526 bringing on expelling the Jews from Pezinok. In 1529,  30 Jews were burned at the stake in Pezinok and the rest fled the city.  Other communities were mistreating Jews, too.  In 1526 after the Battle of Mohacs, Jews were expelled from all major towns.  By the end of this century, the old communities of Slovakia had disintegrated and people were scattered all over.  This severe persecution caused community life in Slovakia to be severely broken up.

The 17th century saw Jews finally immigrate and continue to do so through the 18th century.  Jews were barred from many trading industries and often came into conflict with non-Jews.  Jewish communities of Slovakia existed until the Holocaust. In 1683, hundreds of Jews from Moravia fled to Slovakia seeking refuge from riots in Kuruc.  There had been living reestrictions imposed on them in Moravia.   Some people of the Hungarian aristocracy realized the talents of the Jews and that they encouraged economic activity so they encouraged them to settle on their estates.   These Jews were mainly from Moravia, Poland and Austria.  These refugees settled in Nitra county in 1649 and later in Pressburg and Trencin.  Because of new edicts in Moravia and the hardships in Poland, many migrated to Slovakia and Jews went northward and eastward as well.  Most people living in these regions were Slovakian subsistence farmers, serfs of Hungarian feudal lords.  By 1700, a leading yeshiva was established in Bratislava.  Under Joseph II, Jews received many additional civil liberties.  A census from 1746 show almost half of the Jewish heads of the households in Slovakia to be natives of Moravia and Bohemia, 10% from Poland and 5% from Austria and 35% from various locations in Slovakia or elsewhere in Hungary.

The 18th century showed there were several large Jewish communities in Slovakia with populations in the 100's.  The Jews in the west were mainly Ashkenazis who were more educated and open to influences of the neighborhood's culture and society.  The Jews in eastern Slovakia, also Ashkenazis  followed Hasidic customs, spoke Yiddish and were more like the Jews of Poland and Galicia in their lifestyle and dress.  These two groups didn't mix until about the middle of the 19th century.

In 1867, Slovakia became part of Austria-Hungary and was classified as "Northern Hungary."  The Hungarian parliament passed legislation promoting assimilation among the minorities including Jews.  The government supported Jewish cooperation in industry and finance so the Jewish population grew in small secluded towns in the east.  But anti-Semitism developed which prevented Jews from assimilating.  In 1882 and 1883, antisemitic riots occurred in several  towns.  In 1896 the Reception Law was introduced where Judaism and Christianity were on an equal level.  After that decree the Slovak Clerical People's Party was born and its main interests were in anti-liberalism and limiting Jewish influence.

By this time in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Zionism reached Slovakia and 8 local Zionist groups were created.  In 1903 Bratislava hosted the First Hungarian Zionist Convention.  The next year the First World Mizrahi Congress was held there.

World War I ended in 1917 and Czechoslovakia was created in 1918.  Jews earned the right to declare themselves a separate nationality and prospered in industry and cultural life.  They held more than 1/3 of all industrial investments.  In 1919, the National Federation of Slovak Jews and the Jewish Party were created.In 1921, there were 135,918 Jews in Slovakia.    In 1929 elections, the Jewish Party earned 2 seats in parliament.  They also  had a Jewish newspaper, "The Jewish People's Paper, first published in Bratislava on August 2, 1919.  In the 1st census in Czechoslovakia on February 15, 1921, there were 135,918 registered practicing Jews and 70,522 of them declared themselves of Jewish nationality.  There were also 165 Orthodox and 52 Reform Jews in the country.

Like in other surrounding countries, the 1930's brought on anti-Semitic rioting and demonstrations.  Many Slovaks had been incited by the Slovak People's Party.  During riots, professional Jewish boxers and wrestlers defended their neighborhoods in the streets form gangs and one, Imi Lichtenfeld, would later use his experience to develop Krav Maga.

Before WWII broke out in 1941, some 5,000 Jews emigrated, but most were killed in the Holocaust.  The Slovak Republic had proclaimed its independence in March 1939 under the protection of Nazi Germany, and Slovakia began a series of measures against the Jews in the country.  First, they excluded them from the military and government positions.  The Hlinka's Guard began to attack Jews and they passed the Jewish Code in September 1941 which was like the Nuremberg Laws.  It required that Jews wear a yellow armband and were banned from intermarriage and many jobs.  By 1940, more than 6,000 Jews had emigrated out.  President Jozef Tiso was not only a Catholic priest but pro-Nazi, and he agreed to deport the Jews as part of the Nazi final solution.

By October 1941, 15,000 Jews were expelled from Bratislava.  Many were sent to labor camps.  Germany let them know that Jews were never return to the republic.  Terms for 20,000 young, strong Jews were made but the Slovak government agreed to a German proposal to deport the entire population for evacuation to territories in the east.  This started on March 25, 1942 but stopped on October 20, 1942 after Jews were able to stop the process.  By this time, 58,000 Jews had already been deported, mostly to Auschwitz as forced laborers for German Armament factories which was what Tiso and the government thought.  Then they found out that many of the deported Jews had been shot in mass executions and they filed complaints against Germany.

Jewish deportations started again on September 30, 1944 when the Soviet army reached the Slovak border and the uprising took place.  Germany decided to occupy all of Slovakia and the country lost its independence.  The Germans occupied it and 13,500 Jews were deported and 5,000 were imprisoned.  Deportations continued until march 31, 1945.  German and Slovak authorities deported about 70,000 Jews .  About 65,000 of them were murdered or died in concentration camps.  It is estimated that about 105,000 Slovak Jews, or 77% of their prewar population, died during the war.

At the war's end, there were still about 25,000 Jews living in Slovakia and they decided to emigrate.  In 1948 Communist rule was established that lasted until 1989.  There was little to no Jewish life.  Many Jews had emigrated to Israel or the USA to have freedom of religion.  Any Jews remaining had assimilated through intermarriage.

Resource: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Slovakia

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How Britain's 1939 White Paper Caused 769 Romanian Jews to Drown on Struma

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                    

Jews were lucky if they were on the last ship out of Germany in 1939 which my uncle had boarded.  The Nazis were taking over Europe.  It was on February 24, 1942 when the ship, Struma was sunk in the Black Sea by the Soviet Navy's torpedoes.   It had been carrying 769-781 Jewish passengers who were refugees from Romania, a country that had been taken over by Germany. The ship had been procured through the Irgun,  the Jewish Underground in Palestine,  and left Romania on December 12, 1941, the last ship to leave Europe.   They were headed for Palestine, a country that was designated in 1917 to be the Jewish National Home.  Britain had been given the Mandate to carry this out and allow Jews to enter.  However, they were going along with the head Arab, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who was connected to the Nazis,  and had issued their White Paper which kept Jews out of Palestine.

The Jews had to pay a very large fee to board the ship.  This had been happening all over Germany to Jews trying to get out.  Money had become everything as the ticket to escape.  If you didn't have enough, you were stuck.  The Jews in this case were told they would be sailing on a renovated boat with a short stop in Istanbul, Turkey to collect their Palestinian immigration visas.  The Romanian government of Ion Antonescu had approved the voyage.

Each person was allowed to take 44 lbs of luggage with him.  The Romanian customs officers took many of their valuables and other possessions, even food that they had brought with them.  They weren't allowed to see the ship before the day of the voyage and when they finally did, saw that she was a wreck with only 2 lifeboats. it had turned out to be a very old 180-ton cattle boat that was built in 1867.  It had been re-engined with a 2nd hand diesel engine and was only 148.4 feet long.   Below deck, there were dorms with bunks for 40 to 120 people in each.  The berths were bunks where passengers had to sleep 4 abreast with 2 feet width for each person.

When she was still at anchor, British diplomats and the Turkish officials had a discussion about the fate of these passengers as the British considered the ship as illegal.  Britain was determined to go with their White Paper of 1939 to minimize Jewish immigration to Palestine.  Even though the Jews' fate was death in Romania,, the British diplomats urged the Turkish government of Refik Saydam to prevent the Struma from taking this voyage.  Turkey refused to allow the passengers to get off the ship when they docked.  While the Struma was being detained in Istanbul, they ran short of food.  Soup was only cooked twice a week and supper was an orange and some peanuts for each person.  At night each child was given one serving of milk.                                                                      
Weeks went by.  Finally the British agreed to honor the expired Palestinian visas that a few passengers had and they were allowed to continued onto Palestine by overland.  A few others managed to escape from the ship with the help of some friends.  One woman was taken to an Istanbul hospital after miscarrying.  By February 12th, British officials agreed that children age 11 to 16 would be given Palestinian visas, but there was an argument as to how they would get there because the UK wouldn't sent a ship for them and Turkey wouldn't allow them to travel overland.  Everything was at an impasse.

On the 23rd of February 1942, a small party of the Turkish police tried to board the ship but the refugees wouldn't let them aboard.  That brought out a force of 80 policemen who surrounded Struma with motor boats and finally boarded the ship after 1/2 hour.  The police detached Struma's anchor and attached her to a tug which towed her out into the Black Sea.  The Jewish refugees hung signs overboard that said, "SAVE US." in English and in Hebrew.  The engine wouldn't start and the Turks abandoned the ship in the Black Sea 10 miles north of the Bosphorus, where she drifted helplessly.
Along came a submarine and torpedoed this unprotected enemy vessel.  There was a loud explosion and it sunk.  The sub was the Soviet submarine Skheh-213 that had sunk the Turkish vessel Cankaya the evening before.  The Struma sank quickly and many people were trapped below decks and drowned.  Others aboard survived the sinking and clung to pieces of the wreckage, but for hours no rescue came and all but one died from drowning or hypothermia.  More than 100 were children.  Struma's First Officer,  Lazar Dikof , and a 19 year old refugee, David Stoliar, clung to a cabin door that was floating in the sea.  The Officer died but Turks in a rowboat rescued Stoliar and next day.  He was the only survivor.  Turkey held him in custody for many weeks but released him after Britain gave him papers to go to Palestine.

The Jewish Underground in Palestine were so upset by this murder of so many that they put up wanted posters throughout Palestine accusing Sir Harold MacMichael of the murder.  On June 9th, 1942, Lord Wedgwood opened the debate and urged that  the mandate be turned over  to the USA.  He said, "I hope yet to live to see those who sent the Struma cargo back to the Nazis hung as high as Haman cheek by jowl with their prototype and Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler." A Jewish poet and British soldier, Emanuel Litvinoff, wrote a poem mourning the loss and betrayal of the Struma.  He had volunteered in the British army to fight Nazis but now called the British khaki he wore his "badge of shame."

The Brits displayed obtuseness and insensitivity by locking the gates to Israel to Jewish refugees who needed a haven in the Land of Israel that was due to them.  Throughout the war, nothing was done to stop the annihilation of the Jewish people.

Have the Brits changed their attitude towards the Jews?  The latest news I have seen is that one of their clerks at the airlines refused a gentile man a ticket to Britain because his passport showed he had lived in Israel for a period of time while going to school.  The same attitude is alive and well with  people in Britain.

Resource: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Struma_disaster
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
http://www.cjnews.com/index.php?q=node/109966 refused entry to Britain because of passport with Israel on it.