ŽIDOVSKÁ STRANA (Czech "Jewish Party"), national Jewish party in Czechoslovakia. It was founded at the first conference of nationalist Jewry held in the Czechoslovak Republic, convened in Prague on the initiative of the Jewish National Council at the beginning of January 1919. The party aimed to secure representation of the Jewish national minority in the institutions of the new state and the local authorities. The party was joined by Zionists of every trend, with the exception of *Po'alei Zion, which advocated independent political activity of Labor, and of Jews of nationalist outlook not within the Zionist Organization. The principal objective, to assure parliamentary representation for the Jewish minority, was not achieved from the beginning, although the Jewish Party gained about 80,000 votes in the first elections (1920) and almost 100,000 votes in the second (1925). This was because the election law stipulated that only a list that obtained 20,000 votes in at least one electoral district, or a sufficient number of votes for the election of a deputy in a district on the first ballot, could be represented. Since the Jews were dispersed throughout the state, they could, even theoretically, obtain this number only in one electoral district – and they failed to do so.
In the third elections (1929), the Jewish Party joined forces with the Polish minority party and thus succeeded in sending its first two deputies to parliament. These were Ludvik *Singer (after his death in 1931 replaced by Angelo *Goldstein) and Julius Reisz. At the fourth elections (1935), it was no longer possible to form a political Polish-Jewish alliance because the Poles had begun to adopt a hostile policy toward the Czechoslovak Republic. The Jewish Party concluded an elections agreement with the Czech Social Democratic Party, which included two representatives of the Jewish Party within its list. Although this decision won the acclaim of Po'alei Zion, it was criticized by conservative circles of the Jewish Party. In these elections Angelo Goldstein and Ḥayyim *Kugel were elected. The Jewish Party was also represented in the provincial diets of Moravia-Silesia and Slovakia, and in many municipal councils. Its outstanding leaders included, in addition to the parliamentary deputies, František Friedmann, Emil *Margulies, and Arnošt Frischer.
Although the party is regularly discussed as a single body, it actually represented three different sectors of Jewry, which in the political sphere also expressed local attitudes and interests. In the Czech-speaking lands (Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia), the Jews had experienced a long uphill struggle, but by now it had reached a mature stage. In the Czechoslovak Republic, the Jewish Party embodied the desire of the middle class and the secular elements, who expected it to take care of the general needs of the Jewish population, as any Western European party does.
In Slovakia, the party upheld the local interests of the population regarding its religious and social needs. On a national level, it promoted ethnic-Jewish demands and fostered Zionist policies. In this endeavor it clashed with the leaders of the Czech countries; while devout Zionists, they misunderstood the desires of Slovak Jewry. The strength of Slovak Orthodoxy, hostile to Zionism and cherishing its own material and political interests, inhibited the abilities of the party in Slovakia. In Carpatho-Rus the party expressed the desire for modernization within a part of the Jewish masses. Zionism, especially among the youth, also expressed the desire to escape the squalid conditions of Carpatho-Rus. Here the party encountered stubborn opposition on the part of the Orthodox, headed by the ḥasidic rabbi of Mukachevo, Chaim Eleazar Shapira. In elections the Jewish Party, especially in the eastern parts of the Republic, was exposed to machinations and intrigue on the part of the Agrarian Party in cooperation with the Orthodox. There was also competition from Czech, German, and Magyar assimilationists. Another problem expressed itself in the conflict between the need for domestic policies ("Landespolitik") of the electorate and the Zionist desires of the ideological political elites of the party.
During World War ii, Frischer represented the Jewish minority in the Czechoslovak National Council in Exile in London. When Czechoslovak independence was renewed after the Holocaust, there was no longer room for political activity by national minorities, and the Jewish Party was not reorganized.
A.M.K. Rabinowica, "The Jewish Party," in: The Jews of Czechoslovakia, vol. 2 (1971), 235–345; M. Crhova, "Jewish Politics in Central Europe: the Case of the Jewish Party in Interwar Czechoslovakia."
[Chaim Yahil /
Yeshayahu Jelinek (2nd ed.)]