Becoming Habsburg

BookBecoming Habsburg

Becoming Habsburg

The Jews of Habsburg Bukovina, 1774-1918

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


June 20th, 2013





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. This is not mere rhetoric: the Jews of Bukovina were integral to, and at home in, local society. David Rechter’s important new history conveys the special nature of Bukovina Jewry while embedding it in the broader historical and intellectual frameworks of Galician, imperial Austrian, and east central European Jewries. 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: understanding its history can help us grasp the east/west fault lines within European Jewry, a key element in the Jewish experience in Europe.

'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

Author Information

David Rechter is Professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of Oxford.