Federations of Communities, Territorial

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Throughout the Middle Ages and early modern times individual Jewish communities, though jealous of their independence, formed on occasion federations on a district, regional, or countrywide basis. These were prompted in the Middle Ages in many instances by external needs, principally the obligation imposed by the government to collect state and other taxes on a corporate basis, and in others by internal need and trends. Such consolidations were largely sporadic and came into being for a specific purpose. In some countries, however, they were of long duration. *Synods in France and other countries brought communities together to consult on matters of mutual interest and to adopt regulations, mainly on the internal social, moral, judicial, and political affairs of the communities. Frequently conferences were convened for such purposes.

In Aragon communities of entire districts formed into collecta for tax collection. In other countries also the insistence of the state authorities to bargain on taxes with the communities of the entire domain, or at least of a wide region, resulted in the formation of federations, some ephemeral, and some more lasting; some were formed on Jewish initiative and others ordered by the state. Many of these federations of communities, once engaged in a common enterprise, utilized their mutual contacts to further their internal needs. Such were the *Councils of the Lands of Poland-Lithuania, and Bohemia and Moravia in the late Middle Ages as well as the *Landjudenschaft of German principalities up to the 18th century.

In modern times much of the organization of the new-type Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform congregations has been based on territorial federation. Freed from the task of tax collection they serve on a voluntary basis the religious requirements, social needs, and aims of the trend to which they adhere within the boundaries of the state. The formation of such federations received considerable stimulus through the growing sense of patriotism to the state, the break-up of the old local community, the wish of opponent religious camps to secure a countrywide framework to strengthen their positions, and the rapid development of modern communications systems. The movements to *autonomism and the implementation of *minority rights also considerably influenced the formation of federations between the two world wars.

See also history of individual countries in Europe; *United States; *Va'ad Le'ummi, *Takkanot.


Baron, Community, 3 (1942), index; O.I. Janowsky, Change and Challenge, a History of 50 years of jwb (1966).

[Isaac Levitats]

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Federations of Communities, Territorial