Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Becoming Habsburg

The Jews of Austrian Bukovina, 1774-1918
David Rechter

The Jews of Bukovina were integral to, and at home in, local society. David Rechter has written a very accessible history that conveys the special nature of Bukovina Jewry while locating it in a number of larger intellectual frameworks of relevance to European Jewish history, as well as to the history of Austria and of central Europe. Combining narrative with analysis and chronology with thematic treatment, he makes this untold story relevant to a wider audience.

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Habsburg Bukovina no longer exists, save in the realms of historiography, nostalgia, and collective memory. Remembered for its remarkable multinational, multi-faith character, Bukovina and its capital city Czernowitz have long been presented as exemplars of inter-ethnic co-operation, political moderation, and cultural dynamism, with Jews regarded as indispensable to the region's character and vitality. While this is not mere rhetoric, the myth of Bukovina as an El Dorado for Jews demands closer inspection.

David Rechter's important new history conveys the special nature of Bukovina Jewry while embedding it in the broader historical frameworks of Galician, imperial Austrian, and east central European Jewish societies. Carefully tracing the evolution of the tangled relationship of state and society with the Jews, from the Josephinian Enlightenment through absolutism to emancipation, he brings to light the untold story of the Jewish minority in the monarchy's easternmost province, often a byword for economic backwardness and cultural provincialism. Here, at the edge of the Habsburg monarchy, Jews forged a new society from familiar elements, a unique hybrid of eastern and western European Jewries. Bukovina Jewry was both and neither: its history can help us understand the crucial east/west fault line within European Jewry in the modern era.


About the author

David Rechter is Professor of Modern Jewish History, University of Oxford, Research Fellow in Modern Jewish History at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and Fellow in Modern Jewish History at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He is the author of The Jews of Vienna and the First World War (2000, paperback 2008), also published by the Littman Library.


Note on Transliteration
List of Abbreviations
Map 1: The Habsburg Empire
Map 2: Bukovina

Introduction: A Jewish El Dorado?

1 A New Land
2 Military Rule, 1774–1786
3 The Making of Bukovina Jewry: The Galician Years, 1786–1848
4 Revolution, Absolutism, Emancipation, 1848–1867
5 The Rise of Bukovina Jewry
6 State, Society, and Minority: Jewish Politics




'Argues that Bukovina served as a unique site for Jewish integration. Its diverse character, frontier setting, and balance among its different ethnic groups created the conditions necessary for the development of the “supranational society” idealized in the politics of the Habsburg Empire. These conditions in turn enabled the formation of a unique form of Jewish society . . . written in fluid, readable prose that will appeal to both beginners and more advanced readers.'
J. Haus, Choice