Jewish Enlightenment
On the History of the Jews in Czernowitz

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The revolution year of 1848 saw Bukovina separate from Galicia (proclaimed on March 4, 1849) and brought with it several joyously greeted freedoms, which were quickly taken away by the reactionary regime. In spite of that progress couldn't be halted, if not in the political, then in the cultural arena.

More and more of the population were caught up by the new currents of the Enlightenment. The proponents of this movement were immigrants from Galicia who believed that they served progress when they attacked the walls that the rabbis had erected for hundreds of years to preserve Judaism in a hostile world. The advocates of these new ideas didn't realize what danger they were subjecting themselves and their people to.

Blinded by the light of profane knowledge they opened the fight against everything conventional and shrank back from no consequence. In Czernowitz, however, the enlightenment clashed with another current, that of the Chasidim, which had captured a large part of the population.

The Rabbinic courts of Sadagura, Wiznitz and Bojan were near enough and their adherents were devoted protagonists of religious fanaticism. Extremists and rational people stood face to face and defended their positions. The contrasts became more extreme. The events of the next decade took a dramatic turn.



Goldfaden was a Russian-born playwright and poet, and was the author of some forty plays.

He established the "Bukowiner Israelitisches Volksblatt" group in Czernowitz, which existed for only a short period of time.

After attending gymnasium in Czernowitz, then law school, Franzos abandoned his law career to become a journalist.

He then traveled extensively in southern Europe, eventually founding the fortnightly review Deutsch Dichtung.

Some of the torch bears for the Enlightenment in Czernowitz were the pioneer of Jewish theater, Abraham Goldfaden and other well know names like Welwel Zbaracazer-Ehrenkranz, Mordechai Schreier, Chaim Gottesmann, Moses Ornstein, whose famous student was Karl Emil Franzos, the private teacher Abraham Abisch Eisner, Israel Teller and the book dealers David Apotheker and Jehoschua Widmann. Along with them worked intellectuals like the poet Matatja Simche Rabener, the nephew of the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Igel, further Moritz Amster (1831-1904), workers of the "General Newspaper of Judaism" and the "Vienna Pages" and the lawyer Dr. Heinrich Atlas and Dr. Reitmann, who was an advocate of German education. The Enlightened found understanding in increasing numbers of the population where there was the inclination to escape the "spiritual straight jacket." Its influence can be seen in the fact that the Jews of the city gradually let their sons study at the gymnasium despite the fact that from the year it was founded, 1803 until 1820, it didn't have a single Jewish student and that the Israelite German elementary school (with instruction in German) was opened in 1855. The education of youth conformed with the modern spirit, which wanted or not, led to an assimilation with the Germans.

* -- Top photograph and text  excerpted from "The History of the Jews of Bukovina,"  Vol. II,  p. 27.  Article: "On the History of  the Jews in Czernowitz," by Prof. Dr. Hermann Sternberg, Tel-Aviv. Translated by Jerome Silverbush.
Goldfaden photograph courtesy of  Wikipedia; Franzos  photograph courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.





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