Turning Points for the Eastern European Jews Essay

Turning Points for the Eastern European Jews Essay -...

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Louloudes 1 Turning Points for the Eastern European Jews Daniel Louloudes History 273 Professor Simon November 14th, 2013
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Louloudes 2 Before the acquisition of Poland, relatively few Jews lived in Russia and religious life was dominated by orthodox Christians. The Jews of Eastern Europe enjoyed relative autonomy under polish rule and had the ability to negotiate their rights through the council of the lands in the kingdom of Poland. For a while, Poland was one of the most tolerant places for Jews to live in Eastern Europe. This all changed drastically after the polish partitions of 1772, 1793 and 1795. This served as the first major turning point for Eastern European Jews as the Russian Empire tried to assimilate the largest Jewish community in the world. 1 Under Russian rule things for the Jews gradually got worse as rights were constantly being given and taken away as each Russian Czar tried their own methods to assimilate the Jews. The most impactful policy decision was the establishment of the conscription system and its’ subsequent application to the Jewish population in 1827. The conscription system divided the Jewish community but it was not the only anti- Semitic policy to come from the Russian Czars during the 1800’s. In fact, up until Alexander II took power in 1855 Russian laws forced the Jews into a life of despotism and poverty. Alexander II‘s reign was the last major turning point for Jews in Russia. Finally, Russia had a leader who wanted to promote equality amongst his subjects and he did much to help the oppressed Jewish people. Under Polish rule, Jews were organized into small self-governing communities called Kehillot. Jewish people were prominent in the fields of trading, finance, crafting and liquor manufacturing. On a national scale the Jewish people were represented by the council of the lands in the kingdom of Poland and were able to negotiate their rights with the polish aristocracy. 1 Michael Stanislawski. “Russian Jewry, The Russian state, and the dynamics of Jewish emancipation” in Paths of Emancipation: Jews, State and Citizenship , Ed. Pierre Birnbaum and Ira katznelson (Princeton: Princeton University press, 1995) pg 264
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