Vienna is the home of the great majority of Jews in Austria. There are also several smaller communities, none with more than 100 Jews, including Baden, Bad Gastein, Graz, Innsbruck, Linz, and Salzburg. Present-day Austrian Jewry is primarily composed of Holocaust survivors (and their children), returning Austrian expatriates, and refugees from eastern Europe. In recent years, Austria has offered sanctuary to many Soviet and Iranian Jews. Among the newcomers from the former Soviet Union are a large number of Caucasian (mainly Georgian) Jews who have set up their own Caucasian Jewish Center. Today Austria is home to approximately 9,000 Jews.
The situation of Jews in the Austrian Republic that emerged out of the ashes of World War I was relatively stable until the mid-1930s, by which time the Jewish population numbered some 200,000 (180,000 in Vienna). Most Austrians enthusiastically welcomed the Anschluss. Austrians joined the Nazi Party and were active in the death camp apparatus in proportionally greater numbers than the Germans. Both Hitler and Adolf Eichmann were Austrian-born. Many Austrian Jews managed to flee the country after the 1938 Anschluss, when Austria merged with Germany. Nevertheless, nearly 70,000 were killed in the Holocaust.
In 1996 a public auction of heirless art owned by Jews murdered in the Holocaust was organized by the Austrian government at the Mauerbach Monestary. The funds generated from the sale were transferred to a humanitarian fund for Holocaust survivors. There are still many outstanding claims for looted Jewish property.
The Bundesverband der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinden is the primary communal organization. The Sephardi Federation operates independently. There are Austrian branches of many international Jewish organizations, such as B’nai B’rith and WIZO. The Zionist Federation is the principal outlet for Zionist activity. Youth organizations include B’nai Akiva, Hashomer Hatzair, and the Austrian Jewish Students Union. The community operates a hospital and a home for the aged.
Jews in Austria have had to contend with frequent outbursts of anti-Semitism on both a grassroots and state level. These have included vandalism, swastika daubings, and attacks in the press. The election campaign of President Kurt Waldheim, former U.N. secretary general, who lied about his Nazi past, was accompanied by blatant manifestations of anti-Semitism. However, this episode forced many Austrians to confront their history. More recently the success of the extreme right in the form of Joerg Haider’s Freedom Party has been cause for concern.
There are Jewish kindergartens and a primary school. The Zwi Perez Chajes Gymnasium was recently reopened after a hiatus of nearly 50 years. The ultra-Orthodox maintain their own separate school system. The Vienna University has an institute for Jewish studies. The Institute for the History of Jews in Austria is located in the former synagogue in St. Polten. The Jewish sports club S.C. Hakoah has long traditions in Austria and is responsible for physical training and athletics.
The Jews of Austria publish a number of journals and papers, which also have a wide readership among expatriate Austrian Jews. The two largest are the monthly Die Gemeinde, the official organ of the community, and Illustrietere Neue Welt. The Austrian Jewish Students Union has its own bulletin called Noodnik. The chief rabbi has a radio program. There is a Jewish bookshop in Vienna.
The only synagogue in Vienna to survive the Shoah is the Stadttempel (built in 1826), where the community offices and chief rabbinate are located. There are a number of shtiebelach and prayer rooms catering to various Chassidic groups and other congregations. Prayer rooms can be found in the smaller communities.Vienna has two kosher restaurants and a kosher supermarket, as well as kosher butcher shops and a kosher bakery. There is also a kosher hotel in the health resort of Bad Gastein.
Austria and Israel enjoy full diplomatic relations, although during the Waldheim presidency, Israel was only represented by a charge d’affaires. Aliya: Since 1948, 5,400 Austrian Jews have emigrated to Israel.
The Jewish Welcome Service in Vienna (Tel. 533ÿ8891) aids Jewish visitors, including newcomers who plan to remain in the city for extended periods. Austria has numerous sites of Jewish interest, including several synagogues and cemeteries . The Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna chronicles the rich history of Viennese Jewry and the outstanding role that Jews played in the development of the city. The Jewish Museum in Eisenstadt is housed in the one-time residence of Samson Wetheimer, the Hapsburg court Jew. There is also a museum in Hohenems. The concentration camp at Mauthausen, in the Danube Valley near Linz, offers grim evidence of the Holocaust.The Jewish Welcome Service in Vienna (Tel. 533-8891) aids Jewish visitors, including newcomers who plan to remain in the city for extended periods. Austria has numerous sites of Jewish interest, including several synagogues and cemeteries. The Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna chronicles the rich history of Viennese Jewry and the outstanding role that Jews played in the development of the city. The Jewish Museum in Eisenstadt is housed in the one-time residence of Samson Wetheimer, the Hapsburg court Jew. There is also a museum in Hohenems. The concentration camp at Mauthausen, in the Danube Valley near Linz, offers grim evidence of the Holocaust.
Federation of Austrian Jewish Communities
Seitenstettengasse 4, Postfach 145
Tel. 43 1 53 104 0, Fax 43 1 53 15 77
20 Anton Frankgasse
Tel. 43 1 470 47 41 , Fax 43 1 470 47 46
1010 Vienna, Seitenstettengasse 4
Tel. +43-1-535 25 30
Arkadi Davidov Keg
1020 Vienna, Taborstraße 19
Tel. +43-676/ 847 761 200
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database