The Prague Jews


The Prague Jews
(reference to Yehuda Leb ben Joshua Portit Porges)

A web of legends surrounds the one-time Prague ghetto, its beginnings are lost in the myths.
Over the centuries the mysterious face of the Jewish Town has attracted the attention of historians and the curiosity of visitors.
It rouses feelings of unfathomable enigmas, untraceable tracks of time ...
Today we know that the Jews did not find their home here at the time of the comans and Quadi, as 18th and 19th century historians supposed.
They came towards the end of the first millennium of our era.
From that time on, the history of their settlement became part of the Czech Lands, their integral and essential essence.
Over the centuries the coexistence of the Jews and the rest of the inhabitants of Prague and of the Czech Lands was coexistence typical of the Diaspora, full of transience, conflict, suffering, painful hatred, deathly spite but also mutual enrichment, encounter and understanding.
The fate of the Prague Jews truly was a reflection of the Prague Jews truly which was a reflection of the social, economic problems our country underwent.
This was a highly complex development, much was not comprehended and even more awaits true clarification.
There are still unmarked spots on the map of the life of the Prague Jews.
The reasons are indifference, lack of tolerance, the absence of a will to comprehend that prevailed in the last decades.
The indictment must be laid to the world war that cut the thread of life and history, fate is the true offender.
When did the Jews first step on the blessed land of Bohemia?
The lack of historical sources may not give us a chance ever to give a satisfactory answer to this question.
But it clearly was at the time of the first historically recorded Bohemian princes, in the 9th and the early 10th century.
In the well-known description of Prague penned by Ibrahim ibn Jakub (965) the Jews are expressly mentioned as clearly very important persons active in local and long-distant trade.
We do not known for certain where these Jews came from, we do not know where their first steps led them, where they found their first homes in the Prague Basin.
They may have been merchants from the East mediatin profitable trade between the Frankish Empire, the German lands, Byzantium, Kijevan Rus and the Hazars, possibly Jews from the West.
They may have lived in the settlement below Prague Castle or below Vysehrad, perhaps in what is now Mala Strana, the Lesse Town. One core of the Prague Jewish settlement was, for certain, the enclave to the north of the Old Town Square.
Here, on of the Old Town Square. Here, on the edge of the early medieval Prague market center, the Jews established an important community.
It was not far to the market from the scattered farmsteads and small hamlets, not far to the highly important old trade routes and the fords across the River Vltava.
Then the Jews still lived scattered among other Christian and foreign merchants and traders.
At the beginning at least they enjoyed the same tolerance as the Frankish, Saxon and Polish merchants.
But this conciliatory neighborliness, peace and calm did not last long.
The clamour of the crusades reached Prague with their raging pogroms in the name of the one and true faith.
The chronicler has left us reports of forced baptism and of killing in Jewish Prague (1096).
The scanty and not very reliable reports of the equal status had been shattered.
This was not changed even by the privilege granted by Prince Sobeslav in the 70s of the 12th century, whereby formally the Jews were given the same status as other foreigners.
Increasingly they were pushed to the margin of society.
The relationship of the Christian surroundings to the Jewish minority was influenced by the development of the Church´s official attitude towards the Jews.
The anti-Jewish offensive of the papacy in the early 13th century aimed at restricting the further economic rise of the Jews left little mark on the conditions of the Pragie Jewish community.
The Czech monarchs took little notice of the resolutions of the Lateran Council (1215), which set out to limit the economic and social influence of the Jewish Communities in Europe to a minimum.
The Premyslid rulers made it quite clear even in this sphere that they were the true masters of their land.
Thus the Prague Jews became increasingly dependent on the will of their monarch.
By stages they became the true servants of the royal Chamber.
They were given a number of concessions and freedoms by the charter issued by King Premysl Otakar II ( 1254).
On the other hand, it strictly defined their duties and by various provisions influenced their entire life.
At that time Jewish settlement will have existed only in the growing Old Town.
The concentration of settlement, growing mutual dependence, all of this encouraged feelings of belonging together among the members of the community and strengthened their economic potential.
The tolerant government of the last Premyslid kings proved favorable to the development of the Jewish community.
It was at that time that they built the New Synagogue, called Old-New from the 17th century on, today the most famous sight in the Jewish Town apart from the Jewish Cemetery.
Its architecture conveys to this day the atmosphere of the period of Premyslid Prague, and its ornaments are proof of the highly developed skill of the Masonic lodge of the time.
The evil times that befell the entire kingdom when the Premyslids died out left their marks also on the Jewish community.
The first few decades of the 14th century were a period of general uncertainty, and at that time there was repeated looting without mercy in the Jewish streets, the most secret hiding-places were searched, digging went on even in the synagogues, by order of the king and by the will of the rabble.
The long reign of Emperor Charles IV. (1348-78) brought the Prague Jews new privileges and relative calm even though the Luxembourg rulers - the reigning local dynasty - treated Jewish property as though it were their own.
They put it in pawn, sold it, or used it as backing for guarantees.
But the king ensured protection and, among others, offered a chance for them to settle inside the walls of the arising New Town.
A sign of the status of the Jewish community is a banner that has survived, given to the Jews of Prague by Charles IV in 1375.
From that year on the Jews would, over the centuries, come to the gates of the ghetto to welcome the kings of Bohemia in Prague.
The banner was a shield and legacy of the favors of the ruler´s predecessor, a symbol of ambition and sign of hope.
But there were times when this symbol of the reler´s favour proved to no avail.
A terrible pogrom in the absence of King Vacla IV in 1389 almost eradicated the people of Israel in Prague.
The deadly anguish, hopelessness and impotence can be heard to this day in the words of a mournful elegy composed by a witness to the pogrom, Avigdor Kara.
Every year on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the words of this elegy sound as a warning memento among the walls of the Old-New Synagogue.
Beginning with the Hussite period the Prague Jews became an important political factor for one whole century.
The struggle between the triangle of monarch - nobility - towns as to who was to own the profitable Jewish taxes strongly influenced the life of the entire community.
At the same time this protected them from possible explosion, which was never in the interest of all three rivals.
At the end of the weak reign of the Jagiello dynasty, changes began to be implemented that determined the status of the community more than all the disputes as to Jewish taxes.
The economic and political changes at the end of the 15th and the early 16th century caused the Jews to being driven out of the credit trade. Usury was no longer only their prerogative.
The Prague Jews managed even then to come to term with this and to adapt themselves.
They endeavored to find their place in the crafts and trade.
No wonder that this resulted in growing antagonism towards them on the part of the burghers organized in guilds.
In the early 16th century there were increasing complaints by the respected guild masters of Prague about Jewish competition Many of them would have preferred to see the Jews far from the walls of Prague.
Petitions to the king demanding the expulsion of the uncomfortable competitors increased in numbers as time passed.
As on so many occasions in the history of the Jewish Town, when discord reigned among the inhabitants bringing lack of unity, distaste to submit to the interests of the majority, restiveness in the streets and in the families, the Christian surroundings this time tried to use this to achieve the definitive expulsion of the Jews from Prague.
For several decades the Jews had to live in fear of their very existence.
Various attempts to drive them out in the years 1518-1543 were followed by calmer periods that raised the hopes of the inhabitants of the ghetto.
The unstable ship of fate of the Prague Jews tossed in restless times. In 1551 the Jews were again driven to the margin of society by the words of an order-in-council of Ferdinand I commanding that ?all Jews were to wear a sign on their garments that might distinguish them from the Christians ...?.
The forced marking of the Jews, which had been demanded in various forms before but was never adhered to, this time proved a harbinger of dark distressful times to come. In 1557 Ferdinand I, on the instigation of his younger son, the Arch-Duke Ferdinand, who was governor of the Czech Lands, issued a decree exiling all Jews from Prague and the Czech Lands.
Many Jewish families at that time departed, but a number of families who managed to be granted exceptions remained in the town.
Every step of those who closely followed to remain was closely followed by the Christian surroundings, and thus Jewish trade and crafts did not develop much.
This unpropitious situation lasted until Maximilian II ascended the throne.
The new king revoked all decrees of expulsion by degrees and, on the contrary, confirmed many, almost forgotten privileges for the Jews.
During the reign of Maximilian and his successor Rudolph, Jewish trade and Jewish crafts came to flourish once again.
This prosperity of the Prague Jewish community is linked to a number of famous names which survive in numerous sources.
The greatness of the time can be seen on beautiful Jewish prints, parchments and a number of official folios that have survived in a continuous series from 16th century.
It speaks to us from the famous chronicle of David Gans ?Zemah David? and other writings by this scholar.
From it we are informed of the outstanding donor of the Prague ghetto, Mordechai Maosel, Rabbi Lov and his contracts with the eccentric Emperor Rudolph II as well we about Gans himself and his encounter with Johannes Kepler and Tycho de Brahe.
If we did not have all these sources, which have remarkably survived from that time including Gans? chronicle, writings of the Royal Chancellery and the Imperial Court, the ? White Book of the Jews?, and others, we might not even regard this as something so exceptional.
The reason may be that it happened after a period of striking decline of the community that the Jews experienced in the first half of the 16th century as a result of historical events, inner conflicts, pogroms, fires and attempts at their expulsion.
There were other great men whose influenced the intellectual life of Jewish Prague at the end of the 16th and 17th century.
In the first place, the versatile Joseph Shelmo Delmedigo from Candia. Shelomo Ephraim Luntschitz, the successor to Rabbi Low in the office of the Chief Rabbi of Prague.
The authorities in Vienna for his alleged anti-Catholic attitude persecuted Zom Tov Lipmann Heller.
Yehuda Leb ben Joshua Portit Porges
, the chronicler of the Thirty Years? War and its consequences for Jewish Prague, and others.
Mystic currents and elegiac poetry had strong expanders and authors in Prague at that time.
In the 16th to 18th century literature came into being that served as the basis for the entire intellectual and literary movement of Jewish literature of the 19th and the 20th century had its roots in this.
The Thirty Years War left bloodstained marks all over the country.
The economy was disrupted, tens of thousands of people died.
But despite the war the Prague Jews managed to keep all that they had acquired in the preceding decades with their far from small investments.
They took an active part in the defense of Prague during the last Swedish invasion in 1648.
The favorable Jewish legislation of Ferdinand II opened up for them certain hitherto forbidden activities, increasing their ability to compete within the city as such.
Prague, still kneeling among the defeated before the victorious Habsburg, could not oppose the emperor?s decision, though there were frequent complaints of Jewish competition.
For more than fifty years the Prague Jews lived in relative calm.
The borders of the ghetto became stabilized, there was a slow but steady increase in population.
It was not until the end of the 17th century that the idea of reducing the Jewish population in Prague arose once again.
A frightful epidemic of the plague caused great mortality in the overcrowded ghetto.
At that time a Jewish plague cemetery was laid out far beyond the city walls on the territory of Olsany of the time.
A fire that broke out in 1689 was a further merciless blow.
Practically all the houses of the Jewish Town burnt down, and even some of the synagogues collapsed in the flames.
The Prague city authorities tried to use this disaster to expel the Jews completely from Prague.
The time of the 17th to 18th century did not bring any guarantees of the independent and calm existence of the Prague Jewish community.
Although Emperor Joseph I and his successor Charles VI by stages confirmed for the Jews their age-old rights, the situation of the Prague community continued to remain uncertain.
On the insistence of the burghers of the Old Town the ghetto was equipped with new gates at the beginning of the 18th century, they were to ensure that a checkpoint existed and restricted the gradual extension of the Jewish Town.
But both gates and gateways, nor the strict check on all Jews arriving in the competitiveness of Christian trade and crafts.
Emperor Joseph I showed goodwill towards the Jews, but his successor Charles VI began, in 1714, to look for a possibility of how to reduce the number of Czech Jews without provoking the nobility that was interested in the Jewish money, without disappointing the townspeople and guilds and without losing the advantageous income of Jewish taxes.
The result of his efforts were the ?Family Laws? of 1726.
These notorious laws laid down for the whole of Bohemia and Moravia the fixed number of Jewish families that would be tolerated, and these family places were not permitted to be exceeded. In Bohemia there were 8.541 such family places, in Moravia 5.106, and strict records of these were kept. In each family only one son was allowed to get married and start a family of his own.
The others had to wait until another family place became free, either by death or departure abroad or official confiscation.
According to these laws the Jews were not allowed to settle in places where they had not lived prior to the year 1726.
These laws influenced the social and population development of the Prague Jewish community for more than one hundred years.
They became the target of strong criticism on the part of the Jewish representatives as from Christian men of enlightenment and free thinkers.
Despite the loss of population, the constant latent or open disfavor of the authorities the Prague Jewish Town was basically on the rise.
The shape of the ghetto underwent changes, and social differences inside the community became increasingly larger.
There was quite a large stratum of well-situated merchants with several really rich men at their head.
They all longed to change their lives, to attain the same status as the richest burghers of Baroque Prague of the time.
The Prague Jews welcomed the accession on the throne of Empress Maria Theresa after the death of Charles VI (1740) with great hopes.
They assumed that the Family Law would be lessened in their favor or perhaps completely revoked.
But they were bitterly disappointed in their anticipation.
The ruler in her anti- Jewish mood was forced to struggle for her heritage from the very onset of her reign, and she almost succeeded in putting an end to the century-old existence of Jewish settlement in Prague.
The young monarch did not hesitate long and in the middle of December 1744 issued a decree exiling all Jews from Prague and later from Bohemia.
Although important European Jewish communities in the Netherlands, England, Venice and Denmark undertook a diplomatic offensive against this inhuman order and there was an avalanche of oral and written intercessions, Maria Theresa would not be appeased.
In February and March 1745 almost 13 000 inhabitants of the ghetto left their homes.
The Jewish Town remained deserted, all that remained within its walls were several dozen sick persons, old men and pregnant women.
Many Jewish families lost all hope of ever returning and left the country straight away.
Their steps led them to Saxony, Brandenburg and even Hamburg, the Netherlands and the Rhineland.
The wealthier and those who hoped their considerable property would be returned did not go so far.
They settled in the close environment of Prague, where in an uncertain existence they did not lose hope of better times to come.
For example the existing community in suburban Liben grew considerably.
By stages the Jewish community grew into one of the largest Jewish settlements in the Czech Lands generally.
After the issue of the Patent of Tolerance the first exceptions were granted providing for settlement outside the ghetto.
In the decades that followed the perimeter outside the border of the ghetto was several times enlarged so that Jews could live there.
In every case the Patent of Tolerance made a profound impact on the life of the Jews as it did for others that were now tolerated.
The process of reform then continued at a slower pace - in the year 1797 a Jewish Systems Patent was issued that regulated the legal status of the Jews in great detail throughout life.
The new intellectual generation was greatly influenced by Berlin enlightenment and the ideas of Moses Mendelssohn, and they welcomed these changes with enthusiasm.
They were aware that the Josephinian reforms opened the door to true equality.
That may sound exaggerated nowadays, but it is clear from Jewish, in the first place Prague publications, that although Emperor Joseph was the second of the Habsburg Empire, he held first rank in the hearts of many thousands of the Jewish inhabitants.
The Josephinian reforms were not accepted explicitly.
The conservative circles around some of the rabbinical authorities justifiably feared a weakening of faith, customs, language and autonomous right, which had so far been the main support of the ethnically closed community and, by no means least, a deterioration of the basis of their own rabbinical power.
This was what happened in Prague where by degrees the pro-reform circles rose to the top, who regarded complete equality as their aim.
The reign of Joseph II was a decisive turning point for the Prague Jewish community.
It was no mere chance that in period documents from the end of the century we find the Jewish Town called Josefov.
The Family Law was not revoked. While in other countries of Europe the Jews became, from a legal point of view, true citizens, in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy they only rose one step to become a population that was tolerated.
The number of families that were permitted slightly increased.
The Jews were permitted to follow their religion and customs related to it ?freely and without obstacles?, but everything had to be done by permission, and such permits required money.
The efforts of the Prague Jews to establish themselves among the German elite in this new situation and their growing share in Prague industry and trade led, by the end of the first half of the 19th century, to growing opposition in Prague that was becoming more conscious of its Czech heritage.
These trends were particularly noticeable among the industrial workers where the Czechs formed the absolute majority.
The rural workers were angered by the Jews? clear efforts to ?become German?.
In 1844 Prague witnessed real anti-Jewish riots after a long period.
Reports of this found their way even into foreign media.
The dissatisfied workers destroyed the equipment of several factories belonging to Jewish owners.
The enraged crowd linked their own problems with the existence of the ?omnipresent? Jews and attracted even Jewish homes.
Four years later, in 1848, anti-Jewish rowdyism repeated with exceptional strength in connection with the revolutionary events of the time - and this time, the army too had to be called in to defend the Jews.
Once again the old-new anti-Jewish pamphlets made their appearance, the situation became more tense.
At the head of the community stood another outstanding person, a member of the Landau family.
Moses Israel Landau used the full weight of his authority, which he enjoyed also in Christian circles, to try and improve the living conditions of his fellow-believers and to achieve equality for them.
In 1849 finally the truly medieval Family Law was revoked.
In the years 1851 and 1852, thanks to the influence of Moses Landau, the imaginary walls of the ghetto were pulled down, and after lengthy negotiations the Jewish Town, now officially called Josefov, was added to Prague as its fifth district.
But it was not until 1867 that the Jews were granted full civic rights.
The metropolis of Bohemia at that time assumed an increasing Czech character and the number of its inhabitants more than doubled in the years 1830 to 1910.
Most of them moved to Prague from the small towns of the Bohemian countryside in search of a better future, and the local Jewish communities there disappeared.
The problem of the identity of the Prague Jews was made worse by the problem of Josefov as a city quarter.
As the Jews acquired more rights, so their town decreased.
Although the houses were still standing, the original atmosphere was becoming lost as their inhabitants moved away.
The share of Jews among the population of the fifth quarter continued to decrease.
The final mortal blow to the ghetto came with the Slum-Clearance Law of 1893.
In the following twenty years major building activity caused the disappearance of almost the entire ghetto.
It brought to an end the history of the Wechsler, Cikan and Great Court synagogues, the bizarre walls of the Jewish Town were pulled down, after being an inspiration for many poets and an object of hate for many centuries.
At that time, too, the Prague Jews parted with their old Olsany cemetery.
In 1890 large new burial grounds were put at their disposal in Zizkov, which serve to this day.
Although the Prague ghetto gradually vanished, the members of the Jewish community maintained their position in Prague society.
The last peaceful decade of the existence of the Habsburg monarchy was favorable for the economic development of Prague. Many an industrial enterprise, a large part of the shops and financial life could not have managed without the abilities of the Prague Jews.
In the years 1893 - 1915 the old ghetto disappeared as a visible monument to the lives of whole generations.
No wonder that some Jews found that difficult to accept.
But the majority of the German, liberally oriented strata of Jewish entrepreneurs applauded the slum-clearance and was determined to fight for a new town.
The supporters of the old world were mostly regarded as eccentrics.
Nonetheless, they managed to save at least the most important of the synagogues of the vanishing ghetto.
It is a remarkable fact that the creative work of the Prague Jewish writers rose to the fore in this restless atmosphere of the turn of the century, the First World War and historic turning points.
Prague with its religious and professional diversity, the city that so often in history had shared in decisions that concerned the fate of Europe, was always imbued with spiritual forces, full of tension and conflicts, rebelling and yet humiliated.
The town where about 30.000 Germans lived, most of them Jews, gave German and thereby world literature three major writers - Kafka, Werfel and Rilke.
Not far behind in their footsteps followed such names as Oskar Baum, E.E. Kisch, Ernst Weiss, Hugo Salus, Paul Leppin, Gustav Meyrink, Paul Adler, Paul Kornfeld, Max Brod, etc., the majority of them Jews.
The ?Prague Circle? became a term of all-European culture.
And not only the writers among the ranks of the Prague Jews became known in world culture.
There were many others who creatively worked in a variety of spheres.
They, too, contributed to Prague becoming a true spiritual crossroads of Europe with an inimitable atmosphere.
New opportunities arose for the Prague Jews with the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak Republic.
But this did not overcome the anti-Semitism among certain strata.
During the first Republic, too, there existed individuals and whole political groups who fought the Jews. Nevertheless, the legal status of the Jews in the Czechoslovak Republic was equal to that of the other nationalities.
In the census taken in the year 1921 the Prague Jews, for the first time, were given the opportunity freely to claim Jewish nationality.
Almost one third of them availed themselves of this.
The rest claimed either German or Czech nationality.
Munich, the occupation of the Czech Lands and the war turned this general activity and those certainties to dust.
Soon after the occupation of the country by the Germans, ignominious and humiliating anti-Jewish decrees were introduced.
It was the onset of the most tragic time in the thousand-year old history of the Jews.
First they were deprived of civic freedoms and prosperity, then freedom of movement, later all human dignity and in the end - the overwhelming majority of them lost their lives.
From the area of Greater Prague and its immediate surroundings some 40.000 innocent persons were transported to Terezin and the extermination camps in the years 1941 - 1945.
Only a small fragment of these ever returned to try to renew a new community on the ruins of the old one.
In the years 1945-1948 it seemed that the Prague Jews were truly able to follow up their former famous traditions under new conditions and despite the tragic experiences of the war while grieving the untold victims of genocide.
The onset of the Communist regime in 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel were, however, the beginning of a major wave of emigration.
Of the few thousand Prague Jews that had survived the war more than two thirds moved away or emigrated.
Many of those who had suffered in Nazi camps and remained in their homeland even after 1948 spent the Stalinist fifties in Communist concentration camps.
Another wave of emigration occurred in the years 1968 - 1969.
Today the Prague community is one of the smallest Jewish congregations in Europe (several hundred members).
But in the eyes of other congregations and the whole world their significance has not grown less.
The history and the traditions of the Prague Jews are unique.
For almost ninety years the Jewish Museum in Prague has helped maintain their traditions.
During the second world war it was to serve the perverted Nazi idea of a central museum of an ?extinct race? in Europe.
In 1945 it followed up its pre-war activity, which was supported or subdued depending on the internal political development of the Republic.
In recent years the original function of the historic buildings is being implemented anew and more intensively than before.
The rooms of the Jewish town hall are used for a variety of activities, group meetings are developing.
The rooms of the Jewish Museum and the exhibitions in them are being renewed and enlarged.
Buildings that have been closed for years are being re-opened.
Josefov, the former Jewish Town, seems to be coming to life again. But nobody can bring back yesterday.

June 2000

 A History of Habsburg Jews, 1670-1918
by William O. McCagg Jr

Short Excerpt

For the extensive excerpt, click here

The Christian cotton industrialists, however, operated in the towns of northern Bohemia, near the Saxon frontier. In Prague, it was above all Jews who made this new industry grow. Another case history will illustrate the phenomenon. Moses Porges was born in 1781 into a humble jewish family that produced rosewater in the Prague ghetto; his brother Juda (later called Leopold) was born in 1784. When they first went into business shortly before 1800, Moses dealt in linen goods, Juda spirits, and they wholly lacked capital. Yet by 1808 they had opened a small calico and chintz printing shop in a dark cellar in the unsanitary old center of Prague. Textile-printing was more important than it now sounds. Until the decisive spread of mechanical spinning in the 1830sz and 1840s, most of the actual spinning and weaving of textiles took place on a piece work basis in cottages. The dyeing and printing were the parts of textile production most suited to the factory, and they became the locus of odern innovations in the industry as a whole. The Porgeses were innovators. By 1819 their establishment was quite large. In 1830 they opened the first great mechanical cotton printery at the Prague industrial suburb, Smichow, a plant so splendid that the Kaiser visited it in 1833. By 1855 they were employing 569 workers; by 1843, 700. Their factory was then the third largest in Bohemia and they had other plants as well.

The first known Jewish cotton printing plant at Prague was established in the Karlin |__Karolinenthal] suburb in the 1790s by a Koppelmann Porges. Whether he was related to Moses and Juda is unknown, but by 1820 his plant also was among the largest in the crownland. Meanwhile in 1802 Aaron Beer Pribram and moses Jerusalem, wealthy Großhändler, had entered the industry, as had Meir Dormitzer, the wealthy descendent of a famous early-eigtheenth-century Jewish scholar; so also members of the Epstein and Mauthner families, and of the taussig, bunzl, Brandeis, Wehle, Lederer, Lippmann and Schick families, all of them eminent in Prague. A convenient statistic reveals that by 1807 bohemia had 58 linen, cotton, and calico " factories " of which 15 (all recently established and near Prague) were Jewish owned.

It seems legitimate to attribute this vigourous expression of Jewish modernism at Prague, alonf with the others mentioned earlier, in part to the city’s latitudinarian rabbinical leadership. But it is useful to reflect also on the record of Frankism, for late in the 18th century the members of the sect in another city, Warsaw, did smimilar things. They turned from their earlier aspiration for ennoblement and because leaders of the economic modernozation of the city - and of Poland. So pronounced was their group coherence (maintained by siginficant endogamy) and their dominance in the " bourgeois " professions of the city (that is, law, education and manufacturing) that they can be held up as a fine example of how a " religious ethic " leads to modern capitalism. Given the strength of Frankism in Prague about 1800, this record is more than suggestive, especially since it is known that Moses and Juda Porges were the sons of a frankist, and that they themselves visited the Frankist court at Offenbach in the final years of the 18th century just when another Porges was establishing the first Jewish cotton-printing establishment in Prague.

By 1835 there were 117 cotton-processing establishments in the crownland, of which 15 of the largest were in Prague and owned by Jews. The industry by now produced annually 1,400,000 pieces of cloth (at lengths of 30-50 ells), of which 800,000 lengthswere produced in Prague. Not unnaturally, therefore, here as in Vienna, the leaders of this industry were able to enter the ranks of the imperial bourgeoisie and to win a considerable acceptance. By the 1840s the Porges brothers and their partner Moses Jerusalem had been ennobled by the Kaiser and were among the leaders of Prague’s new bourgeois society.
Virtually all the great Bohemian trading and banking firms opened offices in Vienna. In the 1840s the Prague manufacturers followed suit, first opening factory outlets, then building new factories in the capital suburbs.
The bourgeois successes of the Prague Jewish industrialists had noxious effects for the whole of bohemian Jewry, because they awoke jealousies, and above all those of the city’s workers.
A main reason for the Prague worker Judeophobia of this period was a singularly direct relation between bad work conditions and Jews. In Prague the strikes began in 1844, because the Porges brothers introduced the perrotin at their factory in Smichow, and then arbitrarily lowered wages.

(Indiana University Press, 1992)