Jewish genealogy in Argentina
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jewish genealogy in Argentina



by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook

A number of laws passed during that period are of such a nature as to admit of but one explanation, the desire to insult and humiliate the Jew and to brand him by the medieval Cain's mark of persecution. The law, issued in 1893, "Concerning Names" threatens with criminal prosecution those Jews who in their private life call themselves by names differing in form from those recorded in the official registers. The practice of many educated Jews to Russianize their names, such as Gregory, instead of Hirsch, Vladimir, instead of Wolf, etc., could now land the culprits in prison. It was even forbidden to correct the disfigurements to which the Jewish names were generally subjected in the registers, such as Yosel, instead of Joseph; Srul, instead of Israel; Itzek, instead of Isaac, and so on. In several cities the police brought action against such Jews "for having adopted Christian names" in newspaper advertisements, on visiting cards, or on door signs.

The new Passport Regulation of 1894 orders to insert in _all_ Jewish passports a physical description of their owners, even in the case of their being literate and, therefore, being able to affix their signature to the passport, whereas such description was omitted from the passports of literate Christians. In some places the police deliberately tried to make the Jewish passports more conspicuous by marking on them the denomination of the owner in red ink. Even in those rare instances in which the law was intended to bring relief, the Government managed to emphasize its hostile intent. The law of 1893, legalizing the Jewish heder and putting an end to the persecutions, which this traditional Jewish school had suffered at the hands of the police, narrowed at the same time its function to that of an exclusively religious institution and indirectly forbade the teaching in it of general secular subjects. There are cases on record in which the keepers of these heders, the so-called melammeds, were put on trial for imparting to their pupils a knowledge of Russian and arithmetic.

However, the most effective whip in the hands of the Government remained as theretofore the expulsion from the governments of the interior. In 1893, this whip cracked over the backs of thousands of Jewish families. Durnovo, the Minister of the Interior, issued a circular, repealing the old decree of 1880, which had sanctioned the residence outside the Pale of Settlement of all those Jews who had lived there previously.[1] That decree had been prompted by the motive to prevent the complete economic ruin of the Jews who were settled in places outside the Pale and had created there industrial enterprises. But such a motive, which even the anti-Semitic Ministry of Tolstoi had not been bold enough to disregard, did not appeal to the new Hamans. Many thousands of Jewish families, who had lived outside the Pale for decades, were threatened with exile. The difficulties attending the execution of this wholesale expulsion forced the Government to make concessions. In the Baltic provinces the banishment of the old settlers was repealed, while in the Great Russian governments it was postponed for a year or two.

[Footnote 1: Compare p. 404.]

There was a particularly spiteful motive behind the imperial ukase of 1893, excluding the Crimean resort place Yalta from the Pale of Settlement, [1] and ordering the expulsion from there of hundreds of families which were not enrolled in the local town community. No official reason was given for this new disability, but everybody knew it. In the neighborhood of Yalta was the imperial summer residence Livadia, where Alexander III. was fond of spending the autumn, and this circumstance made it imperative to reduce the number of the local Jewish residents to a negligible quantity. To avert the complete ruin of the victims, many were granted reprieves, but after the expiration of their terms they were ruthlessly deported. The last batches of exiles were driven from Yalta in the month of October and in the beginning of November, 1894, during the days of public mourning for the death of Alexander III. On October 20, the Tzar was destined to die in the neighborhood of the town which was purged of the Jewish populace for his benefit. While the earthly remains of the dead emperor were carried on the railroad tracks to St. Petersburg, trains filled with Jewish refugees from Yalta were rolling on the parallel tracks, speeding towards the Pale of Settlement.

[Footnote 1: The Crimean peninsula, forming part of the government of Tavrida, is situated within the Pale.]

Such was the symbolic _finale_ of the reign of Alexander III. which lasted fourteen years. Having begun with pogroms, it ended with expulsions. The martyred nation stood at the threshold of the new reign with a silent question on its lip: "What next?"

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