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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Switzerland

Communities - Black Plague with Jews on stakes and expulsions - restrictions - emancipation by Napoleon (1797) and federal constitution (1866) except Aargau (1879) - J stamp and refugees during World War II - refugees 1956 and 1968

Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Switzerland, vol. 15,
                col. 557, Jews pleading for protection from Helvetia
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 557, Jews pleading for protection from Helvetia

from: Switzerland; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 15

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)



<SWITZERLAND, central European republic.

The Medieval Community.

[Jewish communities - since 1306: Jewish immigration wave from France]

Since the frontiers of Switzerland have undergone a long process of evolution, it is difficult to determine where and when the Jews appeared for the first time. They are first mentioned in *Basle [[Basel]] from 1213, when the bishop of the town ordered the return of the pledges which he had deposited with a Jewish moneylender. In the list of the taxes due from the most important Jewish communities of the Holy Roman Empire (1241), Basle is mentioned as liable for 40 silver marks and *Constance 20 silver marks. In the course of the 13th century the first Jewish communities appeared in *Lucerne (1252), *Berne (1262-63), *St. Gall [[St. Gallen]] (1268), Winterthur (before 1270), *Zurich (1273), *Schaffhausen (1278), Zofingen and Bischofszell (1288), and Rheinfelden (1290).

The number of communities increased in the succeeding century, when there were some 30 communities in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. At the same time, increasing numbers of communities were established in what has become the French-speaking area of Switzerland, then part of the region where the house of Savoy held sway: besides *Geneva, where the first Jewish settlement is mentioned in 1281-82, 14 communities were formed at the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries, including those of Chillon, *Montreux, and *Lausanne.

It is apparent that most of these Jews came from Alsace and southern Germany on the one hand and from France on the other, the stream of immigration gaining in intensity after the expulsion of the Jews from France in 1306.

[Taxes - freedom for limited duration - occupations - communities - blood libel in Berne in 1294 and expulsion]

The taxes of the Jews were paid to the counts of Hapsburg in the north and to the dukes of Savoy in the south, with the towns often securing a portion of these revenues for themselves. On occasion, the Jews received the freedom of a city in the north, but this was of limited duration. The principal occupation of these groups of Jews was moneylending. The most important communities in Switzerland proper were those of Berne, Zurich, and Lucerne. By the middle of the 14th century the right to authorize the existence of a community had been transferred to the towns. The communities appear to have been relatively small, and only Berne and Zurich seem to have owned cemeteries.

The life of the Jews until the middle of the 14th century appears to have been free of any major upheavals, with the exception of Berne, where as the result of a *blood libel (c. 1294) some Jews were executed and the rest expelled. The tomb of the supposedly martyred child in the blood libel case was for a long time a place of pilgrimage for Christians.

[since 1348: Black Death persecutions: Jews at stake on the Lake Geneva and at Berne - expulsions at Zurich and Lucerne in 1349]

In 1348 the whole of Swiss Jewry was threatened with extermination. The *Black Death having reached Savoy, a number of Jews of Chillon were tortured to confess to having caused the plague by poisoning the wells. As news of this spread to other communities on Lake Geneva, to German-speaking Switzerland, and to northern Europe, a wave of anti-Jewish persecutions ensued;

as each town was (col. 554)

struck by the plague, the Jews were burnt at the stake. This was the fate of almost all the communities on the shores of Lake Geneva. When the municipality of Berne learned of these accusations, it requested a copy of the confession, and soon after, the Jews of Berne too were burnt at the stake (November 1348). One local Jew was even accused of having sent poison to the Jews of Basle, and the municipality warned various towns to beware of the Jewish poisoners. Practically all the towns of Switzerland took up the accusation, burning or expelling the Jews, particularly Zurich (Feb. 22, 1349) and Lucerne. These persecutions also spread to Alsace and Germany.

[Jewish survivors reestablish the Jewish communities - restriction to the communities of Aargau]

The community of Switzerland was thus dispersed, if not annihilated. A few years later, however, the survivors, together with newcomers, had reestablished themselves and reconstituted the former communities. However, as a result of the competition of the Lombards and the Cahorsins, the usefulness of the Jews as a source of credit soon diminished and they were expelled from those towns which required residence permits (Basle [[Basel]], 1397; Berne, 1427; *Fribourg, 1428; Zurich, 1436; Geneva, 1490).

Soon, only a few Jewish physicians were allowed to live in the Swiss towns. As expulsion followed expulsion the Jews were finally permitted to live in the county of Baden only, where the communities of *Aargau were formed. The only Jewish scholar of note in Switzerland during the Middle Ages was Moses of Zurich, who, at the beginning of the 14th century, wrote notes and additions on the SeMaK (Sefer Mitzvot Katan). Thus, until the eve of the French Revolution, the only Jewish communities in Switzerland were those of the Aargau, Lengnau, and Oberendingen (later united with Niederendingen under the name of Endingen), where the Jews had retreated after they had been driven out of other localities in the county of Baden.

Slow Steps Toward Emancipation.

[1797: Napoleon anti-discrimination decree - since 1798: Helvetian Republic - civil rights and restrictions]

The proclamation of the Helvetian Republic (1798) was a turning point in the (col. 555)

history of the Jews in Switzerland. A year earlier [[1797]], the Swiss confederation had been compelled to refrain from any discriminatory measures against French Jews. As the influence of the ideas of the French Revolution made itself felt, the problem of the rights of the Jews arose. During the ensuing debates, a majority emerged which refused to grant the Jews total *emancipation on the grounds that the Jews were a political rather than a religious body, insistent on preserving their particularism.

Following protests by the Jewish communities, a new debate was held, but no conclusions were reached. In the meantime, the status of the Jews resembled that of the aliens residing in Switzerland. They were granted freedom of movement, residence, and trade. The publication of *Napoleon's "Infamous Decree" in 1808, which constituted a check to the civil rights of the Jews, strengthened the hand of their Swiss adversaries.

The canton of Aargau dealt with the problem of the Jews in the following manner (May 5, 1809): they were subject to all laws and ordinances of the canton without receiving citizenship; their commercial activities were regulated and limited; and they were advised to engage in useful professions. They were also required to obtain a special authorization before marrying. This was obviously a serious lowering of their status, which also encouraged discriminatory police measures.

In 1824, the canton reorganized the Jewish community: it was authorized to retain funds for education and worship, and the Jews were also ordered to provide for the needs of their destitute coreligionists without the assistance of the public authorities. The administrative body was to be nominated by the government of the canton. The freedom of the cities was still refused to them, but instead of being considered as aliens, they became dependents of the canton.

[France intervening for French Jews in Switzerland - full emancipation with the federal constitution of 1866 - Aargau gives full emancipation only in 1879]

In the meantime the situation of the Jews in Switzerland became increasingly paradoxical as certain foreign governments, especially that of France, became interested in (col. 556)

safeguarding the rights of their citizens of Jewish religion who were discriminated against in Switzerland. The case of the Jews of Alsace, who were already numerous in Switzerland, was of profound importance for the situation of the Jews in the country. Finally, the revision of the federal constitution of 1866 granted the Jews freedom of residence throughout Switzerland and guaranteed civic and legal equality, which henceforward was no longer dependent on adherence to one of the recognized Christian sects.

Federal intervention had become necessary as a result of contradictory votes in which the Jews of Aargau had been granted and then subsequently refused civic rights. In fact the regional Great Council had voted for their emancipation on May 15, 1862, but had been dismissed by a popular vote which had been solicited after a deliberate and active agitation. The emancipation decree having thus been repealed, a new law reintroduced most of the former conditions, but abolished the discriminatory measures concerning residence and marriage and granted the communities the right of electing their own administrative bodies. There had thus been a very slight progress.

Other cantons had already previously granted equal rights to their inhabitants and most other cantons followed suit from 1866, with the exception of Aargau, which did not apply the full stipulations of the emancipation law until Jan. 1, 1879, following a campaign led by the famous historian Meyer *Kayserling, rabbi of Endingen, and the intervention of the federal council.

Therefore the one canton which had tolerated the Jews after their expulsion from the rest of Switzerland was the last to grant them emancipation.

However, the religious liberty of the Jews was incomplete. After a campaign against cruelty toward animals, in which the influence of the anti-Semitic movements of the end of the century could be detected, it was decided to (col. 557)

include prohibition of shehitah [[ritual slaughter]] in the federal constitution (1893). As this decision was taken by plebiscite, it could only be abrogated by another plebiscite, and so the practice of shehitah on quadrupeds - the legislator neglected the case of fowls - is still prohibited in Switzerland, in spite of repeated efforts by the Jewish communities to obtain abrogation of the prohibition.> (col. 558)

[[So, Jewish meat is imported from abroad]].


Holocaust and Contemporary Periods.

[S.I.G. and other legal activities]

During the Nazi era, the Jewish community of Switzerland was confronted with extraordinary and highly responsible tasks. In the 1930s, S.I.G. initiated legal suits in Berne and Basle [[Basel]] against the distributors of the Protocols of the *Elders of Zion; both resulted in a clear denunciation of this infamous publication as a crass forgery. In 1936 S.I.G. established its own press agency, JUNA, in order to combat anti-Semitic and (col. 558)

Nazi propaganda. On Dec. 5, 1938, the Bundesrat (Federal Council [[of the Swiss government]]) enacted a Demokratie-Schutzverordnung ("law for the protection of democracy"), prohibiting public incitement of racial or religious hatred.

[Asylum questions about the Jews - J stamp]

Throughout this period, the Swiss authorities were disinclined to grant the right of asylum to Jewish émigrés and refugees. Concerned about the danger of foreigners (i.e., Jews) inundating the country, the government decided that Switzerland would only serve as a country of transit. The endorsement of passports issued to German Jews with the letter J (promulgated by the German government on Oct. 5, 1938) resulted from an agreement between Germany and Switzerland to enable the Swiss to exercise complete control over the entry of refugees from Germany and Austria (which was annexed to the Reich earlier in the year).

Another regulation issued by the federal police in August 1942 denied the status of political refugees to persons who became "refugees only on racial grounds, e.g., Jews". This abrogation of the traditional Swiss concept of the right of asylum and the resulting policy of barring the entry of untold numbers of Jews threatened by deportation and death were bitterly opposed by both Swiss Jews and large sections of the non-Jewish Swiss population. The effectiveness of this opposition, however, was negligible.

[Jewish refugees in Switzerland]

Toward the end of the war, the number of Jews who had been permitted to take refuge in Switzerland did not exceed (col. 559)

25,000. Their needs were provided for primarily by the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and to some degree by the federal and cantonal governments; substantial funds were also raised among the local Jewish community, as well as the general population. Thousands of the inmates of the "work camps" established by the authorities underwent training and reeducation under a program conducted by *ORT. In the final years of the war, as a result of strenuous efforts made by the Swiss Jews, 1,700 Jews from Hungary (via *Bergen-Belsen) and 1,200 from *Theresienstadt were rescued by gaining permission to enter Switzerland.

When the war ended, most of the Jewish refugees left the country. Of the few thousand who remained, 900 people, most of whom were sick or old, were granted "permanent asylum" by the authorities, on the basis of proposals submitted by the S.I.G. Entry permits were also obtained for some 400 children from *Buchenwald, and arrangements for the accommodation of tuberculosis patients from various concentration camps in sanatoriums in Davos and elsewhere.

[1956 and 1968 Jewish refugees - struggle against anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism - and for ritual slaughter - community life]

In 1956, after the *Sinai Campaign and the Hungarian uprising, S.I.G. looked after Jewish refugees from Egypt and Hungary. It also attended to the needs of Jews who had fled to Switzerland from Czechoslovakia after August 1968.

The Christlich-Juedische Arbeitsgemeinschaft in der Schweiz (Swiss Conference of Christians and Jews) has played an important role in the struggle against anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism. Following a series of representations made by the S.I.G., the problem of heirless property left in Switzerland by victims of the Nazis was legally resolved. From its inception, S.I.G. also attempted to bring about the abolition of the ban on ritual slaughter.

The Swiss Jewish community maintains care of the aged, in which it follows the most up-to-date methods, and promotes youth education through, inter alia, summer camps, meetings of young people and organized trips to Israel, and support to the youth movements. Swiss Jewry also maintains a museum in Basle [[Basel]] (Juedisches Museum der Schweiz=) which has an important collection of cultural and religious objects. In 1964, S.I.G. participated in the Swiss Exhibition at Lausanne with a pavilion designed to express the basis tenets of Judaism.

Swiss Jews maintain active contact with Israel. The Swiss-Israel Society is dedicated to the strengthening of relations between the two countries, and on the eve of the *Six-Day War (1967) it took the lead in a spontaneous expression of solidarity with [[Herzl]] Israel on the part of all sectors of the Swiss people. The S.I.G. is a founding member of the *World Jewish Congress, and a member of the European Council of Jewish Community Services and maintains (col. 560)

active contact with all world Jewish charitable organizations.

[B.SA.]> (col. 561)

Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Switzerland, vol. 15,
                  col. 561, map of the Jews in Switzerland of 1960
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 561, map of the Jews in Switzerland of 1960


The Jewish population of Switzerland increased steadily. After the break-up of the communities of Endingen and Lengnau (where in 1970 only the synagogue, reconstructed during the middle of the 19th century, is to be seen), many new communities were formed, augmented by immigrants from France and then from Germany and Central Europe. However the number of Jews has remained small in relation to the general population.

The most important communities were Zurich (6,143 in 1960), Geneva (3,254), Basle [[Basel]] (2,291), Lausanne (1,288), and Berne, the capital (686). In 1904 the 13 existing communities, then consisting of about 1,500 members, formed the Schweizerischer Israelitischer Gemeindebund (S.I.G.) or Fédération Suisse des Communautés Israélites. The S.I.G. is the central body of Swiss Jewry, but all member organizations retain complete autonomy in their own affairs, notably in religious and administrative matters. In 1970 there were 24 communities with 4,724 members. A Sephardi community of Egyptian and North African origin was formed in the region of Geneva and Lausanne in the 1950s.

[S.SCH.]> (col. 558)

<Relations with [[Herzl]] Israel.

[Pro-Israel actions with "neutral" tone without mentioning the Palestinian refugees]

Switzerland does not play any political role in Middle Eastern affairs and is wary of any move that might be interpreted as a breach of her neutrality. Nonetheless, Switzerland has frequently expressed support for [[Herzl]] Israel - first demonstrated by the holding of *Zionist Congresses on Swiss soil - and this feeling is shared by broad sectors of the Swiss public. These expressions of support reached their height during the Six-Day War (1967). Especially important in this context was the behaviour of the Swiss press, cultural organizations, and mass media toward the incident of an Arab terrorist attack on an El Al plane in Zurich in 1969 and the objectivity of the Swiss authorities on all levels - political, legal and judicial - by placing the responsibility for the attack on the governments of the Arab countries from which the terrorists operated. An act of sabotage in 1970 on a Swissair plane bound for Israel evoked a similar angry reaction.

[[It seems the plight for the Palestinians by the Jewish racism in Palestine was not mentioned by the government]].

Diplomatic relations existed between the two countries from 1949 and were elevated to ambassadorial level. In addition to the embassy in Berne, Israel maintains a consulate in Zurich and a representative attached to the European office of the United Nations in Geneva. Trade relations between the two countries reached $57,000,000 in 1966 and $66,000,000 in 1968, with imports and exports balancing out over the period of a number of years.

The number of Swiss tourists to Israel was 12,628 in 1968. Formal agreements over air transportation exist between the two countries, as do general scientific and cultural ties. When most of the Communist countries severed diplomatic relations with Israel after the Six-Day War, Switzerland represented Israel's interests in Hungary and Guinea.


[[Human rights would be good. Switzerland signed them only in 1968]].


-- J.C. Ulbrich: Sammlung juedischer Geschichten (Basel, 1768)
-- F. Guggenheim-Gruenberg: Geschichte der Juden in der Schweiz (1961)
-- A. Weldler-Steinberg: Geschichte der Juden in der Schweiz (1966)
-- Germ. Jud, 2 (1968), index s.v.: Schweiz
-- A. A. Haesler: The Lifeboat is Full: Switzerland and the Refugees 1933-1945 (1969)
-- Schweizerischer Israelitischer Gemeindebung: Festschrift zum 50-jaehrigen Bestehen (1954)
-- C. Ludwig: Die Fluechtlingspolitik der Schweiz seit 1933 bis zur Gegenwart (1957)
-- R. Hilberg: Destruction of the European Jews (1961), index
-- Swiss Jewish Relief Union: Dix années d'activité de l'Aide juive aux réfugiés en Suisse, 1933-1943 (1944)
-- Stroock, in: A.J. Karp (ed.): The Jewish Experience in America, 3 (1969), 77-122> (col. 561)

Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Switzerland, sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971:
                            Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 554
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 554
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971:
                            Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 555-556
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 555-556
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971:
                            Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 557-558
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 557-558
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971:
                            Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 559-560
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 559-560
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971:
                            Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 561-562
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Switzerland, vol. 15, col. 561-562


More news about Jews in Switzerland

1933-1945 Swiss Jews did not want many Jewish refugees because Swiss authorities wanted to have financial means of all Swiss Jewish communities feeding the Jewish refugees which was too much for the Jewish communities. Jews in German territories did never know this and Swiss and German authorities invented the "J" stamp for Jewish passports. After 1945 this history was hidden until 1999.

                          online, Logo

12.12.1999: <Judentum: Dunkle Seite ausgeklammert> - schweizer Juden fürchteten sich in den 1920er und 1930er Jahren vor neuem Proletariat und waren froh um Einwanderungsbeschränkungen für Juden aus dem "Osten"

aus: Shraga Elam;  SonntagsZeitung  12.12.1999

Der Artikel

<ZÜRICH - Aus Rücksicht auf jüdische Gefühle hat die Bergier-Kommission in ihrem Bericht die Auseinandersetzungen unter den Juden um den Schweizerischen Israelitischen Gemeindebund (SIG) schöngeschrieben.

Die Historiker streifen die labile Haltung nur am Rand: Im Flüchtlingsbericht wird ein Protokollauszug vom August 1938 zitiert, in dem der jüdische Funktionär Silvain Guggenheim beim Fremdenpolizeichef Heinrich Rothmund für eine Einreisesperre gegenüber jüdischen Flüchtlingen plädierte. Kommentiert wird diese Passage dann folgendermassen:

«Die Protokolle der Sitzungen des Central-Comités des SIG zeigen jedoch, dass der SIG sich nie für die Sperrung der Einreise aussprach, sondern alle Möglichkeiten ausschöpfte, um (in) den jüdischen Gemeinden Geld zu sammeln.»

Die Protokolle des SIG sprechen allerdings eine andere Sprache. Aus der Sitzung vom 18. Dezember 1938 heisst es etwa: «Herr Sidney Dreifuss (der Vater der Bundesrätin) berichtet über die Verhältnisse im Kanton St. Gallen, wo die Polizei eher zu entgegenkommend war. So ist die Zahl der Flüchtlinge wieder erheblich gestiegen. Es kamen unerwünschte Elemente herein und alte Leute, deren Emigration fast unmöglich erscheint. Man ist in St. Gallen nicht der Meinung, dass die Grenze hermetisch zu schliessen sei, sondern möchte Verwandte, Kinder und um das Judentum verdiente Personen weiterhin aufnehmen. Die polizeiliche Sperre ist neuerdings verschärft worden.

Herr E. Hüttner warnt davor, die Forderung nach Schliessung der Grenze zu stellen. Dies muss den Behörden überlassen bleiben, die übrigens Massnahmen ergriffen haben. Mehr würde nicht erreicht, wenn man in Bern vorstellig würde, aber es würde die Verantwortlichkeit für die Versorgung der Flüchtlinge damit eingestanden, und anderseits würden wir einen Makel auf uns nehmen.

Der Präsident (Saly Mayer) macht darauf aufmerksam, dass gewisse Behörden immer wieder versuchen, ihren Entscheid über Einlass von Flüchtlingen davon abhängig zu machen, ob wir sie übernehmen. Sie spielen die Humanen und überlassen uns die Verantwortung. Dadurch entstehen unhaltbare Verhältnisse. Es erheben sich schwere Bedenken, ob die Mittel auch weiterhin aufgebracht werden können. Es erscheint unmöglich, die Hand dazu zu bieten, dass weiterhin ganze Gruppen illegaler Flüchtlinge in die Schweiz eingelassen werden. Es entstehen daraus Gefahren für die Gemeinden, den Gemeindebund und die jüdischen Institutionen. Die Flüchtlingsfrage drängt auch nachgerade alle übrigen jüdischen Fragen in den Hintergrund. (...)

(...) der Vorsitzende (stellt) das Einverständnis des Central-Comités (...) fest (...), dass von unserer Seite aus nichts geschehen darf, um noch mehr Unbemittelte einzulassen, sondern dass man sich auf Angehörige und verdiente Persönlichkeiten zu beschränken hat.» Und von der Sitzung vom 16. Februar 1939 wird protokolliert:

«Wir konnten die Behörden nicht daran hindern, Flüchtlinge einzulassen. Aber es sind dreimal so viele, als man anfänglich gerechnet hatte. Die Ausreisen sind ungenügend. (...) Nur wenn das Flüchtlingsproblem in Ordnung gelöst werden kann, ist der Bestand der Gemeinden und jüd. Institutionen in der Schweiz gesichert. Wenn die Liquidation nicht rasch genug und nicht umfassend erfolgen kann, bleibt ein neues jüdisches Proletariat zurück, das die künftige Entwicklung hemmen wird."

Shraga Elam>

12 December 1999: <Jewry: Dark side excluded> - Swiss Jews were afraid in 1920s and 1930s that new proletariate will come and they were glad about immigration limits for Jews from the "East"

from: Shraga Elam; SonntagsZeitung; 12 December 1999


The article:

<Zurich - Respecting the Jewish feelings, Bergier Commission describing Jewry did describe the relations between Jews and Swiss Israelite Federation (SIG) in a better way than they were.

Historians are describing the instable position only in some words: There is cited an excerpt of a protocoll in the refugee report in August 1938 in which Jewish representative Silvain Guggenheim is pleading for more immigration limits concerning Jewish refugees speaking with boss of immigration authorities, Heinrich Rothmund
. Guggenheim even wanted a block of immigration for Jewish refugees. But this fact is commented like this:

"Protocolls of the session of SIG Central Committee show that SIG never was for a block of immigration but was looking for all possibilities for fund collections in Jewish communities.>

But SIG protocolls show other facts. There were sentences like this on 18 December 1938: "Mr. Sidney Dreifuss (father of today's member of Swiss Government) reports about the conditions in canton of St. Gallen [in Eastern part of Switzerland] where police forces showed even too much tolerance. Therfore the number of refugees has risen much again and unwanted elements were coming and old people with almost impossible emigration possibilities. Commander of St. Gallen does not mean that the frontier has to be absolutely shut, but wants to go on admitting relatives, children and persons who made a contribution to Jewry. Police blockage has been enforced again.

Mr. E.Hüttner warns to pleed for a complete shut of the border. This is the task of the authorities, and measures had been taken already. There would not be a better result pleading in Berne for it, but it would be a confession of the responsibility for alimentation for the refugees, and at the other hand we would take a charche on ourselves.

President (Saly Mayer) called attention that certain authorities are trying again and again making a dependency between the tolerance of aduption of refugees and the will of Jewish community adopting them. They are simulating human rules but give us the responsibility. Therefore the conditions are unacceptable. There are heavy doubts if the funds also can be collected further on. A collaboration to further immigration of complete groups of illegal Jews in Switzerland seems impossible. By this there are further dangers for the communities, for the Federation and for Jewish institutions. Question of refugees is urging that much that other questions are in the background. (...)

(...) Chairman (states) the aggreement of Central Committee (...) that there must not be anything from our side provoking more immigration of poor Jews without money, but there has to be a limitation to family members of persons of merits." And there is the protocoll of 16 February 1939:

"We could not hinder the authorities being tolerant adupting refugees. But there are three times as much as it was expected first. The exits of the country are not sufficient. (...) Only when the refugee problem can be solved in order the survival of the communities and of Jewish institutions in Switzerland is safe. When liquidatino is not fast enough and cannot be fast enough, so there will remain a Jewish proletariate which will hamper future developments."

Shraga Elam>

20 minuten
              online, Logo

14.9.2010: Zersplitterung des schweizer Judentums durch die starre, jüdische Orthodoxie - und die neuen liberalen Gemeinden werden wichtig

aus: 20 minuten online: Nationalfonds-Studie: Judentum im Wandel der Zeit; 14.9.2010; http://www.20min.ch/news/schweiz/story/22953531

<Viele Jüdinnen und Juden in der Schweiz können sich nicht mehr mit den religiösen Bestimmungen der orthodoxen Gemeinden identifizieren. Ein besonderes Konfliktpotenzial: die Mischehen.

In der Schweiz bekennen sich rund 18 000 Menschen zum Judentum. Etwa drei Viertel von ihnen gehören einer der rund zwei Dutzend jüdischen Religionsgemeinden an. Diese decken ein breites Spektrum ab, von orthodox (traditionell-strenggläubig) bis liberal.

Forschende am Institut für Jüdische Studien der Universität Basel haben im Rahmen des Forschungsprogramms «Religionsgemeinschaften, Staat und Gesellschaft» (NFP 58) die Entstehung und den Wandel dieser Gemeinden untersucht, wie der Schweizerische Nationalfonds am Dienstag mitteilte.

Gesellschaftlicher Wandel bringt Konflikte

Bis in die Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts gab es in der Schweiz ausschliesslich orthodoxe Gemeinden. Die jüdische Gemeinschaft pflegte aufgrund ihrer religiösen Traditionen, aber auch wegen der äusseren Anfeindungen einen starken Zusammenhalt.

Ab den sechziger Jahren wuchs in einem gesellschaftlich offenen Umfeld das Bedürfnis nach persönlichen Freiheiten. Die Bedeutung der Religionsgemeinschaft im Alltag schwand. Dies führte zu Konflikten zwischen den Ansprüchen einer modernen Gesellschaft und den jahrhundertealten religiösen Normen.

Das grösste Konfliktpotenzial birgt der Umgang mit Mischehen zwischen Juden und Nichtjuden, wie die Studie «Schweizer Judentum im Wandel» aufzeigt. Der Anteil solcher Mischehen wuchs auf über fünfzig Prozent.

Diese Annäherung an die nicht-jüdische Gesellschaft ist einerseits ein Zeichen für eine umfassende Integration. Andererseits gefährdet die Entwicklung den Fortbestand der traditionellen jüdischen Gemeinschaft, da religionsgesetzlich nur Kinder einer jüdischen Mutter als Juden gelten.

Orthodoxe und Liberale

«Um eine abschreckende Wirkung zu erzielen, nahmen die meisten orthodoxen Rabbiner nichtjüdische Ehefrauen und Kinder nur sehr restriktiv ins Judentum auf», erklärt der Historiker Daniel Gerson. Die Folge war eine Abwendung vieler Juden von traditionellen Gemeinden und das Entstehen neuer liberaler Gemeinschaften, die sich stärker um die religiöse Integration der nicht-jüdischen Angehörigen bemühten.

Die liberalen Gemeinden hoben zudem die Trennung von Mann und Frau im Gottesdienst auf. Auch Frauen werden zum Lesen der Thora aufgerufen.

Ein Teil der orthodoxen Gemeinden sieht in der offenen Gesellschaft eine Gefahr und reagiert mit Distanzierung - etwa der Eröffnung privater Schulen mit starkem Gewicht auf Religionsunterricht. Dies wiederum erschwere manchen jungen Orthodoxen den Einstieg ins Berufsleben, sagt Gerson. Gerade ultraorthodoxe Familien seien deshalb nicht selten von privater oder staatlicher Unterstützung abhängig.

Während traditionelle Gemeinden das Judentum nach wie vor prägen, werden die Reformgemeinden wichtiger. Ausserdem entstehen informelle, kleine Gemeinschaften, in denen Familien ihren Kindern jüdische Religionspraxis ohne Rücksicht auf die Autorität eines Rabbiners vermitteln. Diesen Gruppen fehlen jedoch häufig dauerhafte Institutionen wie ein Gemeindehaus oder ein Friedhof.


translated in English:
14 September 2010: Splittid Swiss Jewry by inflexible Jewish orthodoxy - and the new liberal communities get important

from: 20 minuten online: Nationalfonds-Studie: Judentum im Wandel der Zeit; 14.9.2010; http://www.20min.ch/news/schweiz/story/22953531

Many Jews of Switzerland cannot identify themselves any more with the religious rules of their orthodox communiteis. A special conflict are mixed marriages.

In Switzerland are 18.000 Jewish people. About three quarters of them are a member of one of the two dozen Jewish religious communiteis. These communities have a wide range, from orthodox (strict religious rules) up to liberal style of life.

Cientists of the Institute for Jewish studies in Basle made an investigation about the founation and the development of the Jewish communities within the program "Religionsgemeinschaften, Staat und Gesellschaft" (NFP 58), as was communicated by Schweizerischer Nationalfonds on Thursday.

Social change brings conflicts

Up to the middle of the 20th century the Jewish communities in Switzerland were orthodox only. The Jewish community had their religious traditions, but also had a strong solidarity.

From the 1960s on a need of personal freedom came up. The importance of religious communities during normal life reduced more and more. This provoked conflicts between the modern life and the old religious rules and habits.

The greatest conflict are the mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews. This showed the study "Swiss Jewry in it's change" (orig. German: "Schweizer Judentum im Wandel"). The share of mixed marriaged grew to 50%.

On the one hand this approach to the non-Jewish society is a sign for a complete integration. On the other hand it's a dangerous development for the existance of the traditional Jewish communitz because by the strict religious Jewish law Jews are only Jews when they come from a Jewish mother.

Orthodox and Liberals

"To have a strong effect most of orthodox rabbis only accepted non-Jewish wives and their children only very restrictively", historian Daniel Gerson indicated. The consequence was the exodus of many Jews from their traditional communities and the foundations of liberal communities, and these liberal communities worked for more religious integration of the non-Jewish family members.

Add to this the liberal communities eliminated the separation of men and women in the religious services. Also women can read Torah in the service.

A part of the orthodox communities means the open society is a danger and reacts with adissociation - for example with the opening of private schools with a strong focus on religious teaching. But this provokes another problem: The pupils of these orthodox schools have difficulties to have a normal job life, Gerson says. Just these ultra ortodox Jewish families depend often from help from private side or from state's support.

Today there is still a strong traditional kind of life in Jewry, but the reform communities are always more important. Add to this there are little, informal communities where families are teaching Jewish religious traditions without any rabbi authority. But in these groups are missing the big institutions like atown hall or a cemetery.