JOSEPH II ° (1741–1790), king of Germany (1764–90) and Holy Roman emperor (1765–90); co-regent with his mother, *Maria Theresa, until her death in 1780. Although educated in the spirit of the Enlightenment, he nevertheless remained a practicing Roman Catholic. After the death of his father in 1765 he became emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and married his second wife Josepha of Bavaria (his first wife was Isabella of Parma, 1760–1762). Strongly influenced by the ideas of Joseph von Sonnenfels, his rule was based on a system of "benevolent despotism"; his paramount belief was in the power of the state when directed by reason and his main aims religious toleration, unrestricted trade and education, and a reduction in the power of the Church. Additionally he saw himself as emperor as first servant of the state system. These views were reflected in his policy toward the Jews, first outlined in his "Judenreformen" of May 1781. Intending to end the long-standing isolation of the Jews and integrate them into the general social fabric, he wished to increase their means of gaining a livelihood and enable them to aquire general education, "thus rendering them more useful to the state." This attitude was deeply connected to his vision of a centralized state, in which every individual has its function. Like many of his other ideas, such as the abolition of serfdom or new legal code, his Jewish reforms were only partially realizable and had to contend with the opposition of his provincial civil servants. Joseph abolished the most humiliating measures, the yellow *badge and the body tax (Leibmaut see *Leibzoll) in 1781, and on Jan. 2, 1782, he issued the first of the Edicts of Tolerance (*Toleranzpatent). Although enthusiastically hailed by the enlightened and well-to-do, they were considered a gezerah ("oppressive decree") by the broader strata of Jewry, who wished to pursue their traditional way of life. They had even more influence because under his and his mother's reign the Austrian Empire had expanded after the Polish Partition (1772–1795) and annexation of Galicia and the Bukowina with their massive Orthodox Jewish population. In several other laws Joseph ii damaged the traditional fabric: in 1781 he prohibited the use of Hebrew and Yiddish in business and in communal and public records. Of profound importance for the structure of Jewish life was the abolition of rabbinical jurisdiction from 1784 onward, as well as the introduction of liability for *military service in 1787. A special law in 1787 obliged Jews to adopt German-sounding family names and personal names, which had to be chosen from a list. The majority of Jewry did not benefit from Joseph's legislation, because neither the restrictions on residence in *Vienna and other cities nor the *Familiants Laws in Bohemia and Moravia were affected; the policy of curtailing the size of the Jewish population was explicitly perpetuated. However, the founding of the German-language schools and the permission to attend universities offered new opportunities to the rising merchant class and led to the development of a Jewish intelligentsia. Joseph's decrees imposed all the duties of a citizen on the Jews but did not grant them all the rights. Nevertheless, the bulk of Jewry in Hapsburg lands was thankful for the alleviations he had introduced. In the modified form of the Systemalpatent of 1797, his legislation remained the basis for the status of the Jews until the revolution of 1848.
S.K. Padover, Revolutionary Emperor: Joseph ii of Austria (1938, 19672); J. Fraenkel (ed.), Jews of Austria (1967), index; M. Grunwald, Vienna (1936), index; E. Benedikt, Kaiser Joseph ii (1936, 19472); A.F. Pribram, Urkunden und Akten zur Geschichte der Juden in Wien, 2 vols. (1918), index; R. Kestenberg-Gladstein, Neuere Geschichte der Juden in den boehmischen Laendern, 1 (1969), index; W. Mueller (ed.), Urkundliche Beitraege… (1903), index; H. Spiel, Fanny von Arnstein (Ger., 1962), index; A.Y. Brawer, Galiẓyah vi-Yhudehah (1956), 147–87; R. Mahler, Divrei Yemei Yisrael, 1 pt. 2 (19542), 183–93, 207–25; S.I. Schulsohn, in: mgwj, 72 (1928), 274–86; W. Pillich, in: Zeitschrift fuer Geschichte der Juden, 2 (1965), 129–35; G. Kisch, in: hj, 19 (1957), 120–1, 136–7; K. Stillschweig, ibid., 8 (1946), 1–18; L. Singer, in: jggjČ, 5 (1933), 231–311; 6 (1934), 193–284; O. Muneles, in: Judaica Bohemiae, 2 (1966), 3–13; P.P. Bernard, in: Austrian History Yearbook, 4–5 (1968–69), 101–19. add. bibliography: J. Karniel, "Die Toleranzpolitik Kaiser Joseph ii," in: jidg, Beiheft 3 (1980), 155–77; T.V. Walzer, Die Wiener Juden in der Zeit von der Toleranzpolitik Joseph ii. bis zum Israelitengesetz 1890 (2003); K. Lohrmann, "Das oesterreichische Judentum zur Zeit Maria Theresias und Joesphs ii," in: Studia Judaica Austriaca, 7 (1980); K. Gutkas, Kaiser Joseph ii (1989).
[Jan Herman /
Bjoern Siegel (2nd ed.)]
"Joseph II°." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 17, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/joseph-iideg
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