JRI Poland #Poland Galician births to unmarried parents #poland


Suzan Wynne <srwynne@...>
 

Judith Elam has asked about why a father would need to attest to his
paternity to secure the heritage of his children. The government required
civil marriage but relatively few Jews had such marriages for a variety of
reasons. Civil marriage was taxed, yes, but the rabbis performing religious
marriages were supposed to report marriages to the government so that the
"chuppah" tax could be applied in those cases as well. Failure to report a
religious marriage was a violation and the rabbi could be fined. The vast
majority of Galitzianers were Chasidic before WWI and most of the leadership
of the kehillot districts were as well. The leaders were united in their
prohibition of civil marriage....government involvement in marriage was
unwanted for many reasons but the biggest reason was that the government
imposed rules for rabbis performing civil marriage that undermined Judaism
in their view. Rabbis had to take classes in basic secular subjects, learn
German, read a book that was written by an apostate Jew and pass a test.
This was a struggle that went on well into the 20th century. Some Chasidic
rabbis actually excommunicated people for having civil marriages but
certainly, the threat was there.

After 1877, when the Jewish community was given the authority and
responsibility for collecting and maintaining Jewish birth, marriage and
death records, registrars had to record births as illegimate when there was
no proof of a civil marriage. The law provided an opportunity for fathers to
appear with two witnesses to attest to paternity. If the father did that,
the child was supposed to be known by the father's surname or a combination
of the mother's and father's surnames. If the father did not attest to
paternity, the child carried the mother's surname. There was no tax involved
with registration or paternity attestation.

Until Emancipation in 1869, Jews rarely had to consider the many sanctions
the government imposed on children they considered illegitimate. After 1869,
Jews could attend university, obtain a business license, move up in society
in new ways and then, Jews began to travel for business, pleasure and
emigration. They needed travel papers and their status was written on their
passports and visas. Gradually, very gradually in small towns, there were
reasons for having a civil marriage that overrode the religious pressures
against civil marriage. Emigration was a major incentive. Admitting
countries might frown on admitting children that the Austrian government
considered illegitimate.

Suzan Wynne
author, The Galitzianers: The Jews of Galicia, 1772-1918

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