The Vienna Jewish Kehillah is in great financial straits. The general condition of the Jewish population in Austria’s capital is becoming more critical and the Kehillah’s sources of taxation more meagre from year to year. Under these circumstances the Kehillah is forced to undertake duties of a social and cultural nature for the general Jewish masses. The conditions of life are such in Vienna today that even the "pintele Yid" is becoming weaker and must be supported through religious, cultural, social and educational institutions. Not only is the Kehillah unable to supply the needs which have arisen, but it is now forced to cut its budget all along the line. All subventions for religious, cultural, social and health requirements have this year been drastically reduced. Despite this, the Kehillah still has a considerable deficit. This deficit it must meet as speedily as possible, inasmuch as it already owes, for the past several years, money that runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, while the prospect for better times is not encouraging.
The Kehillah has two sources of securing funds to cover its deficit-the Government and the Jewish membership dues. The Austrian Government annually assigns millions of schillings from its budget for the support of the Catholic and Evangelical religions. The Jewish Kehillah, alone, receives not one penny of support. The Czecho-Slovakian minority receives an annual subsidy from the Austrian Government. The Jewish minority receives no support whatsoever. For many years the Kehillah was passive towards the support due it from the Government and made no demands either on the city or the Republic. Only in the last year, when the Kehillah felt itself at the end of its rope, has it begun to demand subventions from the Government. Negotiations and petitions have been interchanged for almost twelve months, but the Government seems in no haste to settle the matter. The Jewish delegations are received and dismissed with indefinite promises.
Several weeks ago, the Kehillah, three times in succession categorically requested the Competence Ministry to grant it a subsidy equal to that of the much smaller Evangelical Religious Community – that of one half a million schillings. This despite the fact that according to the Jewish per capita tax and the general tax, the Kehillah is entitled to a sum four times as large. The Government is deaf to this reasoning, and apparently hopes also this year not to pay any subsidies to the Jewish religious group. This despite the last memorandum of the Austrian Government to the Austrian people, in connection with the German and Canadian proposals for a change in the procedure of safeguarding minority rights, in which it portrays itself as a fine example of humanitarianism toward its minorities.
This discrimination against the Jews is a cause of grievance in all Jewish circles throughout the country. Even the dominating liberal Jewish party in the Kehillah, the Union of Austrian Jews, has declared its stand against the Government and their leaders have made known that they will no longer be content to be fed by the Government with promises only. They threaten, if, within a very short time, the Government does not give the Kehillah a larger subvention, in actual cash, it may be forced, perhaps in conjunction with the Federation of Kehillahs of all Austria, to enter strong charges against the Government with the highest Tribunal. It will be an interesting process – this suit by the Jewish Kehillah against its own Government. If necessary it will carry its charges even to the League of Nations. The Jewish parties are determined to force the Austrian Government to respect the equality of Jewish rights. Nor are they willing to permit the Vienna Kehillah to go bankrupt only because the Government is unwilling to give the Jewish community at least a part of the subvention which is due it under Austrian and international guarantees.
At the same time the Kehillah is endeavoring to increase its income through an increase of the taxes. Notwithstanding the fact that there are many definite indications that the Jewish community’s ability to pay taxes is overestimated-recently the tax income has grown more meagre and the Kehillah is forced to employ government agencies to collect its taxes-the Kehillah has asked the Government to order an increase of 20% in the tax quota of the Kehillah. This means that the Jew who is unable to pay 100 schillings a year, will notwithstanding be forced to pay 120 schillings. In all probability this will arouse a strong protest in Jewish ranks and result in the addition of large numbers of Jews to the "confessionslose." Thousands of Jews will be driven out of the Jewish faith, virtually to conversion.
There are certainly very wealthy Jewish groups in Vienna who can and should pay a much larger tax than the law imposes. According to the law, the Kehillah can impose a maximum tax, on, let us take for an example the Rothschild family, of $500, approximately 3,500 schillings. It is true the Rothschild family is not so niggardly. It gives much more through other channels, donations, etc. But other wealthy families are not so generous. They pay not more than the maximum, if that. Moreover they are on the verge of abandoning the Kehillah and (Continued on Page 6)
it is feared to give impetus to that intention by increasing the taxation. It is equally impossible to increase the number of tax payers. Of the 210,000 Jews in Vienna, 50,000 pay taxes, so that virtually every Jewish family is on the tax register of the Kehillah any how. It would mean, instead of the Kehillah’s supply social and cultural relief, adding heavy taxation to the already heavy burdens of poor business.
The financial straits of the Vienna Kehillah are neither accidental nor temporary. For a long time there has been no hope for an improvement of the economic position of the Jewish population in Austria. One looks with gloomy eyes on the present Jewish economic position and the horoscope is even more gloomy. There is no doubt, therefore, that the financial condition of the Vienna Council is determined that a subvention for the Kehillah must be wrested from the Government during the present budget year. Let the Government become accustomed to subventioning the Kehillah, then it will be forced every year, to grant a subsidy to the Jewish community in accordance with its per capita tax and on a proportionate basis with other minorities.
This the Austrian Government is in duty bound to pay, even if the Kehillah were sound financially, and particularly now when the Jewish community suffers and the Kehillah is battling an increasing deficit from year to year. This is why the demands of the Kehillah daily grow more forceful and imperative. That is the cause for the decision to bring the Government to trial in the next few weeks, if it does not allot a proportionate subsidy to the Kehillah in the current budget year.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.