- Legislation for EducationRabbi Tsevi Elimelekh of Dynów's Regulations for the Support of Torah in Munkács
In the late 1820s a set of takanot (regulations) regarding traditional Jewish education for all boys in Munkács, in Carpathian Ruthenia, at the time part of the Habsburg monarchy, was enacted by the local rabbinic leadership. They were titled Takanot tamkhin de'orayta ('Regulations for the Support of Torah'), and over the next century they were copied and printed in different locations in eastern Europe. This chapter examines the takanot, their objectives, circulation, and effectiveness.
The chapter begins by sketching the context of their enactment, before turning to the details of the takanot themselves: while the takanot ostensibly organized educational matters, they had a distinct socializing objective, and a careful reading highlights the particular socio-religious issues that troubled those who drafted them. The legacy of the takanot, as indicated by their legislative and publication histories, is then considered. The second half of the chapter explores the effectiveness of the takanot as a tool for the preservation and conservation of traditional education in the face of the winds of change that were blowing across the continent. It will examine the role of the takanot in their Munkács birthplace, from the end of the nineteenth century until the eve of the Second World War: that is, under the Hungarian government of the dual monarchy (1867–1918) and in the Czechoslovak Republic (1918–38). During this period, two processes were concurrently in play. Within the Jewish community, modernity was encroaching on traditional life, giving Munkács' Jews greater opportunities to leave the enclave [End Page 43] and enabling the rise of political movements like Zionism. At the same time, the government was actively regulating education. The rhetoric, writing, and activism of rabbis in Munkács during this period suggest that Takanot tamkhin de'orayta were largely ineffective in preserving traditional education and preventing reform.
The emancipation of the Jews in Europe began in the late eighteenth century, at the time of the Haskalah, and triggered discussions about traditional Jewish learning. At the same time governments were enacting new legislative measures concerning education. The 1781 Edict of Toleration and subsequent laws promulgated by Emperor Joseph II altered the legal situation of non-Catholics in the Habsburg lands.1 On 2 January 1782 a further edict was issued, the Toleranz-Patent für die niederösterreichischen Juden, expanding existing compulsory education rules to Jews of Lower Austria and obligating Jewish children to study basic secular studies. Inter alia, the edict stated:
Since it is our purpose to make the Jews more useful and serviceable to the state, principally through according their children better instruction and enlightenment and by employing them in the sciences, arts, and handicrafts, we permit and command the tolerated Jews, in places where they have no German schools of their own, to send their children to the Christian upper elementary schools, so that they shall learn at least reading, writing, and arithmetic, and although they have no synagogue of their own in our capital, we yet permit them to build for their children, at their own expense, a normally equipped school, with a teaching staff of their own religion, which shall be subject to the same control as all the German schools here, the composition of the moral books being left to them.2
Joseph II continued to enact edicts for other provinces, as well as laws and instructions that applied to the whole realm. The various edicts differed based on local conditions and existing legislation, yet the central tenets were in concert: linguistic assimilation and related educational directives, permission to engage in previously forbidden occupations, and religious toleration for private worship. In October 1789 an edict issued for Moravia was extended to Hungary and Transylvania, which included Carpathian Ruthenia. The new legislation, however, did not change life in Carpathian Ruthenia, a region geographically removed from the seats of government, power, and official oversight.3 [End Page 44]
While the new laws may not have succeeded in imposing changes in Munkács' schooling, traditional Jewish education was nonetheless being re-examined and reassessed. By the...