Victory for Vienna’s Orthodox Jews

The Constitutional Supreme Court here has overturned the 1890 Law of the Israelites to allow Vienna’s small Orthodox community to separate from the larger Jewish community. Benjamin Schreiber, president of the Agudat Israel, hailed the ruling as a victory for Orthodox Jewry.

The old law required that all Jews constitute a single community. The Orthodox have been trying for decades to found their own community because they contend the existing establishment is too liberal and its leaders lack religious commitment. The Orthodox are said to represent about eight percent of the approximately 10,000 Jews in Vienna who identify themselves as such.

There is also a financial angle. Orthodox Jews have had to pay their dues to the community whose facilities they refuse to use because they do not come up to their religious requirements. They have also had to depend on the general Jewish community for the disbursement of government subsidies. As long as they were not recognized as a separate community, the Orthodox could not receive government money.

Jewish community spokesmen declined to comment on the court’s ruling which takes effect May 31, 1982. But the Agudat Israel issued a statement saying that separation is the best way of living together.

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