On November 28, 1830 the law “on the facilities granted to Jews in the region of Bessarabia who accepted Christianity” was passed (Levanda, 1874: 286-287). According to this law, all Christian Jews in Bessarabia received the right not to pay any taxes or benefits throughout life. It seems that the Russian authorities understood that the climate of assimilation, particularly in Bessarabia, was very weak, and decided to give an impetus to improve it. Tihonov A. K. stated that Jews who converted to Christianity received an allowance from 15 to 30 rubles, children got half of that amount (Tihonov, 2007: 190).
Although slow, the process of converting Jews from one of the many varieties of Christianity started. With the lapse of time, it was noted that this conversion was false. Even being baptized and receiving some concessions that were granted in this case, the Jews remained faithful to their religion. As a result, on October 14, 1830 a Law on the prevention of the Jews to false conversion into Christianity was passed (Levanda, 1874: 282) . According to this law they should not only be issued with a certificate from a priest, confirming that they had been introduced to the dogmas of the Christian religion, but also to have a positive reference from the local priest. It was recommended by the law that the baptism should be made on Sundays in public, all this in order for the impact of their conversion to increase.
Prayer: Father, forgive the insincerity of those who ‘converted’ for financial reasons, and even more those who were forced to this step by the inhospitable conditions and harsh realities of the political pressure, persecution and anti-Jewish legislation they faced. But even more, forgive those who used polemic, propaganda and economic and political pressure to force Jewish people to lose their identity. May we create cultures and societies that only only respect and protect the rights and faiths of minority groups that we may not share or agree with. May we also live our own lives as your disciples in ways that witness to the authenticity of the message of the Messiah through the integrity of our love for you and for others. In Yeshu’s name we pray. Amen.
Levanda V. O. (1874), Polnyj Hronologicheskij Sbornik Zakonov i polozhenij kasajuwihsja evreev, ot Ulozhenija Carja Alekseja Mihajlovicha do nastojawego vremeni, ot 1619 do 1873. Izvlechenie iz Polnyh Sobranij Zakonov Rossijskoj Imperii, SPb., 1874, № 84, № 156, № 220, № 224, № 264, p. 88-327.
Tihonov A.K. (2007), Katoliki, musul’mane i iudei Rossijskoj imperii v poslednej chetverti XVIII — nachale XX v.,SPb., Izd-vo S.-Peterb. un-ta, 2007, p. 136-190.
A curious fact is that due to the laws and customs of Moldova, baptized Jews were exempted from payment of all taxes and duties for their lifetime. The law of November 28, 1830 replaced it by a three-year benefit. Russian Jews generally speaking were not forbidden to settle in Bessarabia, while the Jews, subjected by the order of 1829, arriving from Sevastopol & Nikolaev to settle in Bessarabia, already in 1830 were granted, as an exception to the general rule, the ability to use the benefits on duties payment, granted by local cities (1855 preferential: merchants of the Ist grade – 7, IInd – 15, IIIrd grade of – 58).
Excerpts from the 1892 Foster Commission Report
AN ABRIDGED SUMMARY OF LAWS, SPECIAL AND RESTRICTIVE, RELATING TO THE JEWS IN RUSSIA, BROUGHT DOWN TO THE YEAR 1890
General observation. — It must be remarked that many of the laws here given contradict one another. This fact must not be regarded as involving any innaccuracy in transcription or translation. In Russia, laws are piled on one another without satisfactory consolidation. Hence the contradictions, which as they exist in the original text, exist also in this summary.
- A married (man or woman) who adopts the orthodox Christian faith must sign a declaration to the effect that (he or she) will endeavor to convert (his wife or her husband) to the same faith. (1887.)
- Should either a husband or wife (but not both) adopt orthodoxy, both are prohibited residency outside the pale of Jewish settlement. (1857.)
- If a Jew or Jewess converted to the Christian orthodox religion does not agree to continue his or her life with the spouse remaining in the Jewish religion, the marriage is dissolved, and the convert can marry a person of the orthodox religion. (1887.)
- Jews on reaching their fourteenth year, may be received in the orthodox church without permission of their parents or guardians. (1876.)
- The Minister of the Interior may allow Jewish children to be converted to any of the Christian denominations that are tolerated in the Empire, even without the consent of their parents. (1876.)
- If either husband or wife adopts Christianity, the children under 7 years of age of the same sex as the convert shall also be baptised. (1876.)
- Every convert to Christianity shall receive a monetary payment of from 15 to 30 rubles, without distinction of sex, and children half that sum. (1876.)
- Rural communities of Jewish agriculturalists shall keep apart from settlers belonging to another persuasion. (1876.)
- For the office of rabbi, only such persons are eligible who have passed a course of instruction either in the old Rabbinical schools, or in a training college for teachers, or in one of the public higher or middle class educational establishments. No one, except the rabbis or their assistants, may perform the rites of the Jewish faith. Marriages or divorces not having taken place before the rabbi or his assistant, will be considered illegal. (1886 and 1887.)
N. B. — Both Rabbinical schools were closed in 1873, i.e. seventeen years ago. Of the two training colleges for teachers, one, namely, that of Zitomir, was closed in 1885. Besides, when these colleges were founded, it was ordained by law, that such pupils as intended to become rabbis should not be received. As to the public educational establishments, it is well known that there neither the Hebrew language, nor the Hebrew religion is taught, but only such branches of knowledge as have nothing in common with Jewish theology. Consequently, such so-called crown rabbis must necessarily be elected who receive their education at the higher and middle class public establishments, but who are absolutely unable to perform religious rites which require theological knowledge. Thus it comes to pass, that the religious requirements of the Jewish communities can not be provided for in a legal manner.
- Synagogues and houses of prayer in the same streets and squares where orthodox churches exist must be situated at a distance of at least a hundred sazhen(1 s. = 2.13 meters) from the latter.
- Public prayer and worship may only be held in the synagogues and houses of prayer. Jews holding divine worship in their houses without permission of the authorities will be punished by law. (1876.)
- The establishment of synagogues is allowed only in places where there are no less than eighty Jewish houses, whereas houses of prayer can be started only in places where there are not less than thirty Jewish houses.
- Robbery of articles used in public worship, and of effects appertaining to the synagogue, is not considered as sacrilege. (1885.)
- Background Note
The above information was extracted from a report commissioned by Charles Foster, U.S. Treasury Secretary, in 1891. At the time, U.S. immigration was administered by the Treasury Department. The purpose of the Commission was to determine “the principal causes that incite emigration to the United States”, as well as whether current immigration laws were being followed or abused by the steamship companies and others. The Commission members, separately and together, spent months traveling throughout Europe and Russia, within the Pale of Settlement and outside it. With the assistance of virtually every U.S. Consul in Europe, the commission members had little trouble accumulating the information they wanted and interviewing whomever they wished. To their credit, they not only met with the major players, steamship executives, immigrant aid groups, etc., but also spent considerable time interviewing ordinary Jews. Their (fully indexed) report runs hundreds of pages, containing observations and an eclectic mix of raw research. The report provides insight on the mechanics of Jewish emigration from Russia, as well as laws regarding Jews. Among the material included is:
- Various transcriptions of passport documents, steamship circulars and regulations, and interview notes
- laws of various countries, primarily those regarding immigration/emigration and steamship operation
Source: House of Representatives Executive Document No. 235, 52nd Congress, 1st Session, Serial Set 2957
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