shtetl vs. kehillah #galicia


Suzan & Ron Wynne <srwynne@...>
 

A "shtetl" is a Yiddish word that refers to a community where Jews lived in
significant numbers in proportion to non-Jews. It is a concept rather than
an official community.....even a neighborhood could be a shtetl. I grew up
in a very Jewish neighborhood and some residents referred to it, jokingly,
as a shtetl.

A kehillah was a unit of government set up by law to govern the religious
affairs and the regulation of members of the Jewish community. All Jews in
Austro-Hungary were required to belong to a kehillah and to pay taxes to it.
The kehillah, called in Austria, Judische Kultus Gemeinde, was structured so
that there was a central group of leaders in Lemberg and then regional or
district kehillot comprised of elected leaders. The Gemeinde in each
district oversaw the organization and maintenance of all official Jewish
organizations, schools, buildings and services, including kosher butchering
and the production of kosher wine. There was a court, called a Bet Din,
attached to each Gemeinde for the purpose of hearing and ruling on a wide
array of matters pertaining to Jewish law, including divorce petitions, and
disputes. In 1877, Austrian law designated the district and subdistrict
kehillot to be responsible for the registration of births, marriages and
deaths. A registrar was hired by each Gemeinde, with the approval of the
Austrian government, and the registrar had to abide by the regulations that
Austria had set forth for the collection and maintenance of those records.

Hope that helps. I will be discussing the kehillah in much greater detail in
my revised book, Finding Your Jewish Roots in Galicia: A Resource Guide.

Suzan Wynne
Kensington, MD

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