Keyword: Jewish Community Vienna

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (11/19/2007)

Political and religious representation of Vienna’s Jews – Currently about 7,000 members – President is elected every five years

Vienna – The Jewish Community Vienna (IKG) has existed for some 160 years and is electing its members of the board on Sunday. During the year of revolution in 1898, Kaiser Joseph I appointed individual, privileged Jews as representatives of the Jewish Community, thereby signaling an organized representation of Jews in Vienna. After a change in the by-laws beginning of 2005, the Jewish Community sees itself officially also as a political representation. It currently numbers about 7,000 members.

With the amendment of the by-laws, the powers of the President, who has been Ariel Muzicant since 1998, have been limited and the position is to be carried out on an honorary basis, i.e, “in addition to one’s profession.” The President is primarily the main representative of the Community and less the head of the administration. Furthermore, there are two secretary generals – one which is secular and one which is spiritual – and twenty-four Board Members.

The by-laws clearly define who is a Jew, and therefore, can become a member of the Jewish Community. It goes by the simple rule: Whoever according to the Halacha - that is, Jewish religious law - is a Jew, can be part of the Community. The decision lies with the Chief Rabbi, the practice used since the end of the war. A rule of thumb is: Whose mother is Jewish is a Jew. Moreover, there is the possibility of converting to Judaism which, however, demands many years of study.

Until the year 1938, the IKG had 180,000 members. With the invasion of Hitler’s troops into Austria, the IKG was dissolved, triggering the darkest chapter in the history of Jewish-Viennese relations. Some 120,000 Viennese Jews were forced to leave the country. About 60,000 died in concentration camps, but the IKG began flourishing again already in May of 1945. After World War II, the Jewish community consisted of some four hundred Jews who had survived by hiding in the underground or as forced laborers.