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HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND - S.M. Dubnow




jewish genealogy in Argentina

HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND

FROM THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER I UNTIL THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER III

by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook

The fight against the places of Jewish worship was renewed by the police a few years later, during the reign of Nicholas II. The principal synagogue being closed, the Jews of Moscow were compelled to hold services in uncomfortable private premises. There were fourteen houses of prayer of this kind in various parts of the city, but, on the eve of the Jewish Passover of 1894, the governor-general gave orders to close nine of these houses, so that the religious needs of a community of ten thousand souls had to be satisfied in five houses of worship, situated in narrow, unsanitary quarters. The Government had achieved its purpose. The synagogue was humbled into the dust, and its sight no longer offended the eyes of the Greek-Orthodox zealots. The Jews of Moscow were forced to pour out their hearts before God in some back yards, in the stuffy atmosphere of private dwellings. As in the days of the Spanish inquisition, these private houses of worship would, on the solemn days of Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, be stealthily visited by the "marranos" of Moscow, those Jews who had saved themselves from the wholesale expulsions by fictitious conversion to Christianity. The passionate prayers of repentance of these involuntary apostates rose up to heaven as they had done in centuries gone-by from the underground synagogues of Seville, Toledo, and Saragossa.

By and by, the attempt to take the Jewish citadel by storm gave way to the former regular state of siege, which had for its object to starve out the Jews. The municipal counterreform of 1892 dealt a severe political blow to Russian Jewry. Under the old law, the number of Jewish aldermen in the municipal administration had been limited to one-third of the total number of aldermen, aside from the prohibition barring the Jews from the office of burgomaster [1]. Notwithstanding these restrictions, the Jews played a conspicuous part in municipal self-government, and could boast of a number of prominent municipal workers. This activity of the Jews went against the grain of the inquisitorial trio, Pobyedonostzev, Durnovo, and Plehve, and they decided to bar the Jews completely from participation in the municipal elections.

[Footnote 1: See p. 198 et seq.]

The reactionary, anti-democratic "Municipal Regulation" of 1892 proclaimed publicly this new Jewish disfranchisement. The new law deprived the Jews of their right of passive and active election to the municipal Dumas, merely granting the local administration the right to _appoint_ at its pleasure a number of Jewish aldermen, not to exceed one-tenth of the total membership of the Duma. Moreover, these Jewish aldermen "by the grace of the police" were prohibited from serving on the executive organs of the Duma, the administrative council, and the various standing committees. As a result, even there where the Jews formed sixty and seventy per cent of the total urban population, their only representatives in the municipal administration were men who were the willing tools of the municipal powers and who, moreover, were quantitatively restricted to five or ten per cent of the total number of aldermen.

In this wise, the law providing for an inverse ratio of popular representation came into effect: four-fifths of the population were limited to one-tenth of the number of aldermen, while one-fifth of it were granted nine-tenths of aldermen in the city government. The law seemed to tell the Jews: "True, in a given city you may form the overwhelming majority of tax-payers, yet the city property shall not be managed by you but by the small Christian, minority which shall do with you as it pleases."

It goes without saying that the Christian minority, which was not infrequently hostile to the Jews, managed the city affairs in a manner subversive of the interests of the majority. Even the imposts on special Jewish needs, such as the meat and candle tax, were often used by the the municipal Dumas towards the maintenance of institutions and schools to to which Jews were admitted in an insignificant number or not admitted at at all. This condition of affairs was in full accord with the medieval medieval Church canons: A Jew living in a Christian country has no right to to dispose of any property and must remain in slavish subjection to his his Christian fellow-citizens.

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