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Čechů-Židů, Svaz


ČECHŮ-ŽIDŮ, SVAZ ("League of Czechs-Jews"), union established in 1919 to embrace the existing Czecho-Jewish assimilationist associations. The Czecho-Jewish movement came into being in the 19th century, when the process of Jewish assimilation in *Bohemia and *Moravia was complicated by the antagonism between Czechs and Germans under Hapsburg rule. In the German-language Jewish schools established through Emperor *Joseph ii, Jews acquired a German education and became a Germanizing factor. This added fuel to Czech antisemitism, although before emancipation was granted, Bohemian Jewry, mainly living in the Czech countryside, had generally mastered the Czech language. However, it was not until the 1840s that the first attempts were made by Jews to assimilate into the Czech environment. In 1844 David *Kuh called on Jews to amalgamate with the Slavs. This view was supported by the Czech writer Václav Nebeský. In 1846 Siegfried *Kapper published poems in Czech. Philip *Bondy was the first rabbi to preach in Czech. A growing number of Jews settled in the cities after 1848 and began to take an increasingly active part in their developing political and cultural life. In 1876 some students, with the support of prominent Czecho-Jewish leaders, such as Alois Zucker, professor of law at the new Czech university, and the economist and historian Bohumil *Bondy, established the League of Czecho Jewish Academics (Svaz českých akademiků židů), the first organization of the movement for Czech assimilation (in 1919 it adopted the name "Kapper"). The league issued the česko-židovský kalendář ("Czech-Jewish Almanac," 1881–82 to 1937–38).

The outcome of this activity was that in 1881 two Czech candidates were elected for the Jewish quarter of Prague, instead of Germans as previously; this result decided the election of a Czech mayor to the city. The congregation "Or Tomid," with Philip Bondy as its first preacher, was founded in Prague in 1883. August Stein translated the prayer book into Czech. In 1894 the Národní Jednota českožidovská ("National Czech-Jewish Union," later the Česko-židovská jednota) was founded, and the Českožidovské Listy ("Czech-Jewish Paper") began publication. The organization successfully opposed the Jewish German-language schools in Czech towns, the last of which (at *Benesov) was closed down in 1914. Mainly as a result of Czecho-Jewish activities, 55% of Bohemian Jews declared Czech as their colloquial speech (Umgangssprache) in the census of 1900. Members of the movement became active in all the political parties. After the *Polna blood-libel case (1899) a wave of antisemitic violence swept the Bohemian countryside. This was a setback to the movement and led to more realistic approaches. Many of the members dissolved their former party affiliations and supported T.G. *Masaryk's Realist party. In 1907 the Svaz českých pokrokových židů ("League of Czech Progressive Jews") was founded, led by Viktor Vohryzek, whose periodical Rozvoj ("Progress") became the chief publication of the entire movement. The Politická Jednota Českožidovská ("Czecho-Jewish Political Union"), founded later, was intended to make possible cooperation among Czech Jews of different parties. In 1910 the movement became active in Moravia. After the founding of the Czechoslovakian republic in 1918, these organizations united in the Svaz čechů-židů. The League gained strong support in the new Czechoslovakian state. For a short time it published a daily, Tribuna. In Slovakia a parallel movement, Sväz slovenských židov, was founded but had little success. In Carpatho-Rus the League tended to cooperate with the Orthodox community. The Masaryk brand of democracy and common Jewish-Czech interests in the face of growing German antisemitism ensured support for the movement between the two world wars. The Prague community was headed by a Czecho-Jew. The Czecho-Jews opposed Zionism but supported colonization activities in Ereẓ Israel. The outstanding leader of the movement was Jindřich *Kohn; Eduard *Leda-Lederer was its spokesman. After 1938 (see *Sudetenland) the League drew a "demarcation line" between Jews who declared Czech nationality and those who did not. It agreed to the measures advocated by the press and the Czech municipalities to prevent refugees from the Nazi-occupied area from settling there permanently, because this "menaced not only their national character, but also the livelihood of Czech people, without distinction of religion," despite the fact that 90% of those refugees were Jews. The League subsequently sent only observers to Jewish conferences and then only to those dealing with social welfare. During the Nazi occupation, all the Czecho-Jewish organizations and publications were suppressed. After the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, the League cooperated with the Communists as part of the Council of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia. But the attempt to reorganize the League in 1948 failed.


J. Shatzky, in: Freedom and Reason, Essays in memory of Morris Raphael Cohen (1951), 413–37; B. Blau, in: hj, 10 (1948), 147–54; G. Kisch, ibid., 8 (1946), 19–32; idem, In Search for Freedom (1949), index s.v.Kapper; J. Penížek, in: Masaryk and the Jews (1941), 115–24; V. Vyskočil, in: Judaica Bohemiae, 3 (1967), 36–55 (Ger.); idem, in: Židovská Ročenka (1968/69), 52–57; F. Kafka, ibid., 61–86; O.D. Kulka, in: Moreshet, 2 (1964), 51–78.

[Jan Herman /

Meir Lamed]

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