By: Isidore Singer
Austrian province. The first documentary mention of Jews in Styria occurs in connection with the village of Judenburg under date of 1075 (Peinlich, "Judenburg und das Heilige Geistspital," p. 7); another place between Graz and Rein is called in the archives "ad Judæos"; and at Marburg was a Jewish cemetery which became, after the expulsion of the Jews from Styria in 1496, the property of the Minorite order (Puff, "Marburg," i. 119). In general it may be stated that numerous towns and villages, bearing such names as "Judendorf," "Judenanger," "Judengraben," etc., are so many indications of the distribution of Jews throughout the province in the early Middle Ages. In Graz (where they inhabited a special quarter), in Judenburg (which was one of the commercial centers of Austria), and in Marburg, Radkersburg, and other localities the existence of organized Jewish communities may be taken for granted. In Judenburg the Jew Cham was in 1460 proprietor of six houses; his coreligionist Manl, of three. Besides engaging in commerce, the Jews of Judenburg busied themselves with agriculture and road-building. It is interesting to note that the church of Judenburg is designated in local documents as having been a former synagogue, many of the stones in the building bearing, indeed, Hebrew inscriptions.
In 1238 King Frederick II. forbade the baptism of Jewish children against the wishes of their parents, this prince showing in general a favorable disposition toward his Jewish subjects, who had the right to appeal directly to him. A similar attitude was taken by Duke Frederick the Warlike (1278) and the powerful minister of Albrecht I., Abbot Heinrich von Admont (1296), and by Ottocar II. and his son Rudolph.Riots at Fürstenfeld and Judenburg.
Christmas of 1312 was marked by a bloody riot against the Jews of Judenburg and Fürstenfeld; but papal bulls and the intervention of Duke Albrecht II., who on this account was nicknamed "Judendulder," arrested the anti-Jewish uprisings. In Wolfsberg, however, seventy Jews were burned at the stake on a charge of having desecrated the host. On the 11th of May, 1421, all the Jews of Styria were, almost at the same hour, thrown into prison. Some died at the stake; others were expelled from the province; while a small number embraced Christianity. Milder treatment was meted out to the Jews during the reign of Frederick the Peaceful (1424-93), who granted his protection even to the Jewish refugees from other Austrian provinces. But in 1496, urged by the estates, Maximilian I. decreed the expulsion of all Jews from Styria, only nine months being allowed them in which to liquidate their affairs. Most of them seem to have emigrated to Italy.Congregation of Graz Officially Recognized.
Although in 1753 and 1775 a few individual Jews (see Baumgarten, "Die Juden in Steiermark," p. 38) were allowed to reside temporarily in the province, the first real attempt at a resettlement began under a decree of Joseph II. of 1781, which granted the Jews permission to frequent the markets of Graz; but the old decree of Maximilian was renewed in 1783, 1797, 1819, 1823, and 1828. Even after the revolution of 1848 the status quo was maintained; with few modifications it was renewed by imperial decree of Oct. 2, 1853; and not until 1861 was theprohibition repealed. In Sept., 1865, the first prayer-house in Graz was dedicated by Adolph Jellinek and Solomon Sulzer, who, accompanied by representative Jews and the entire choir personnel, went from Vienna for the purpose. On May 17, 1869, the organization of the new Jewish community was duly confirmed by the governor. It has remained the only congregation in the community, and numbers (1905) about 1,200 souls. Its rabbi is Samuel Mühsam; and it possesses three charitable institutions—a ḥebra ḳaddisha, a ladies' society, and Ḥebra Matnat' Aniyyim—besides a communal school with about 200 pupils.
Judenburg has a Jewish "Korporation," i.e., a congregation lacking official indorsement; the same is the case with the minyan in Leoben. There are Jewish cemeteries in Judenburg and Gleichenberg-Trautmannsdorf. At the latter place, a well-known health resort, a Jewish hospital was erected in 1884, owing partly to the efforts of the poet Leopold Kompert. There are small Jewish settlements at Andritz, Auhmühl;, Aussee, Bruck, Brunnsee, Cilly, Dietersdorf, Egenberg, Feldkirchen, Fehring, Fernitz, Friedau, Gratwan, Hausmanstetten, Irdning, Kindberg, Knittelfeld, Köflach, Leoben, and twenty-four other localities (Baumgarten, l.c. p. 50).
In 1892 the old synagogue at Graz was replaced by a beautiful building, which was visited in 1895 by the emperor. During the twelve years 1890 to 1902 about 170 Jews in Styria embraced Christianity, while during the same period twenty-one Christians adopted Judaism.
The Jews of Styria are occupied mainly in trade and commerce; but there are also some farmers among them; and, curiously enough, one of the greatest swineries near Graz is maintained by a Jew.
- Emanuel Baumgarten, Die Juden in Steiermark, Vienna, 1903.