EXPLORING YOUR JEWISH ROOTS
Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Brno
The House of Habsburg is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and Spanish Empire and several other countries. The Habsburgs expanded their influence through arranged marriages and by gaining political privileges. They were also able to gain high positions in the church hierarchy for their members. Territorially, they often profited from the demise of other noble families.
The history of the Jews in the Habsburg lands dates back to the late medieval period long before the Habsburg Empire. The Catholic nature of the Holy Roman Empire as well as the Habsburg Empire resulted in their expulsion from certain areas as well as legal restrictions on dress, profession, and movement. However, by the 12th century Jewish culture and torah study was flourishing in this region. Famous Jewish scholars like the Maharal and Abraham ben Azriel in Prague, Yitshak ben Moshe and Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller, (Tosfos Yom Tov) in Vienna and many other famous Jewish scholars illustrate the great influence of the Habsburg Jewry in the field of Jewish scholarship and philosophy. During the following centuries Prague and Vienna became two of the important centers of Jewish printing, while also in Budapest Jewish intellectual life flourished.
Many of the legal restrictions on Jews were removed in the 1780's and the rest were removed in the mid nineteenth century. As a result of their emancipation, large groups of Jews in the Habsburg lands adopted the dominant German culture and language and developed a strong loyalty to the emperor who had liberated them. There developed a variety of streams within Judaism in the different regions of of Habsburg: Orthodoxy, Hassidism, the anti-Zionist Neture Karta and at the opposite end, the Reform and the Zionist movements. During the the post-emancipation period many fully integrated and assimilated Jews were found in professional fields like finance, literature and art, science and even in the military. In Prague famous Jews such as Kafka, Brod, Freud and Mahler became an important part of the Czech culture. In Budapest Herzl, the founder of political Zionism was born. David Schwartz, the original inventor of the Zeppelin airship, was born in Budapest. In Vienna, Gustav Mahler became director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper) and experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press, although he had converted to Catholicism from Judaism to secure the post.
As the Jews integrated more deeply in secular life, anti-Semitism grew, culminating in the destruction of almost all Jewry in this region during the Holocaust. The suppression during the years of communism prevented the remaining Jews in rebuilding their communities. Only after the end of the cold war did a revival of Judaism start which continues until today.
This ten day tour will give you a good understanding of Jewish life and local culture during the time of the Habsburg Empire and until today. Amongst others we will visit the cities of Budapest, Prague, Vienna and Bratislava.
Monday - Prague
Tuesday - Prague
Thursday - Brno
Friday - Vienna
Shabbat - Vienna
The program on Shabbat is appropriate for participants with any level of Shabbat observance. Please contact us with any questions.
Sunday - Bratislava, Esztergom
Monday - Budapest
Tuesday - Budapest
The above itinerary is an sample program. If you are interested in a custom made Jewish heritage tour to the Habsburg Empire for your community, family or other group we can design a special itinerary for you. Contact us for more information.