Private synagogue established in Eisenstadt in the late seventeenth century by Shimshon Wertheimer, a prominent court Jew. Today, the synagogue is part of the Austrian Jewish Museum. (Austrian Jewish Museum, Eisenstadt)

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City that since 1925 has been the capital of the Austrian federal state of Burgenland; before 1921, the city was under Hungarian rule and was known as Kismarton. Eisenstadt is also referred to as Ash, a Hebrew acrostic for Eisen Stadt.

The Jewish community of Eisenstadt was one of the oldest in Hungary. Its town charter of 1373 noted that Jews lived both within and outside the city walls. In 1388, Emperor Sigismund granted the bishop of Eisenstadt a privilege to settle Jews on his estates. The population increased considerably when Jews who had been expelled from inner Austria (1496) and Sopron (1526) were allowed to settle there. Between 1547 and 1571, a Jewish quarter with a synagogue, bathhouse, and cemetery was established.

In 1622, Eisenstadt came under the rule of the Esterházys. Soon after the expulsion of the Jews of Vienna in 1670–1671 by Emperor Leopold I, Paul Esterházy allowed them to be admitted into the city. After the Kurucz wars (1704–1708), the community entered a period of prosperity. Eisenstadt owed its development to the fact that it was the fictitious legal residence of many Viennese Jews. In 1735, some 112 Jewish families (600 individuals) lived there, and by 1836 there were 908 Jews who paid 1,636 florins per year in protection money and for special clothing and gifts for the town’s rulers.

Eisenstadt’s social and professional structure was similar to that of other communities in Burgenland. Toward the middle of the eighteenth century, Eisenstadt was the leading of the Seven Communities, an association of towns under the protection of the Esterházys (the others were Mattersdorf, Lackenbach, Deutschkreutz, Kobersdorf, Frauenkirchen, and Kittsee). The Jewish community of Eisenstadt had a great deal of internal autonomy. Its legal basis came from privileges granted by the Esterházys. The Jewish leadership united to control its own religious and political functions and was dominated by wealthy members.

The community developed a rich Jewish cultural life, expressed by its own minhagim (customs) and takanot (statutes). The best-known takanah was a ban on cardplaying. Among the community’s societies were the ḥevrah kadisha’ (burial society), tsedakah (charity) organization, bikur ḥolim (for visiting the sick), malbish ‘arumim (providing clothing for the needy), Talmud Torah (for Torah education), and Erets Yisra’el (providing donations for the Holy Land).

Eisenstadt was also a center for Torah study. Among its rabbis were Shimshon Wertheimer (only nominal, 1717–1724); Me’ir ben Yitsḥak Eisenstadt (author of Panim me’irot, 1717–1744); Mosheh Perles (1817–1840); and Esriel Hildesheimer (1851–1869). The last rabbi was Mordekhai Schlesinger (until 1938). In the eighteenth century the kabbalists Mordekhai Mokhiaḥ, Me’ir ben Ḥayim, and Shim‘on ben Efrayim Juda lived in Eisenstadt.

With the abolition of feudal law in 1848, the Jewish community gained its independence (becoming known as Eisenstadt-Unterberg) and retained this status until 1938. It had the right to elect its own mayor in addition to its president, although one and the same person generally held both offices. In 1857, most of Eisenstadt’s population was Jewish, but after 1867 many migrated to other places, especially to larger cities in Austria and Hungary.

Relationships between Jews and non-Jews were generally good. Intermarriage was rare. In 1938 there were 462 Jews living in the city of Eisenstadt. After the Anschluss, Eisenstadt’s Jews were expelled; virtually all died in the Holocaust. In the postwar period there were barely a dozen Jews living in all of Burgenland.

Suggested Reading

Aron Fürst, Sitten und Gebräuche in der Eisenstädter Judengasse (Székesfehérvár, Hungary, 1908); Bernhard Wachstein, Die Grabschriften des alten Judenfriedhofs in Eisenstadt (Vienna, 1922); Bernhard Wachstein, Urkunden und Akten zur Geschichte der Juden in Eisenstadt und den Siebengemeinden (Vienna, 1926).