Schiffschul - Große Schiffgasse 8 - Adass Jisroel (Community of Israel) - 2nd District Leopoldstadt

Synagogue built in: 1864
Earliest record of community: 1848
Last rabbi: Sigmund Fürst
Community members: approx. 700
Pogrom Night: Burned down and destroyed
Today: Empty lot
Summary: The Jews who came to Vienna from Bukovina and Pressburg were “Oberlaender” (“highlanders”) who came from strictly religious communities, and were followers of the Rabbi Moses Sofer ("Chatam Sofer").

Because the highlanders’ dress and demeanor met the expectations of the Austrian public, their appearance—unlike that of the Jews who had migrated to the Austrian capital from Galicia—did not offend the Viennese population or the city’s assimilated Jews. Furthermore, the highlander Jews spoke a cultivated Hochdeutsch (High German), which allowed them to navigate the monarchy’s bureaucratic system easily. Only their uncompromising religiosity separated them from the long-established Viennese Jews, whose modernized liturgy (the “Mannheim rite”) the highlanders could not accept.

Until 1848, the Galician Jews and those from the Hungarian areas of the monarchy met for prayers in the Alter Lazenhof. When these groups later parted ways, the Polish Jews established their own “Beth Israel” (House of Israel) association (at the Polish schul – or synagogue). The Hungarian and Slovakian Jews initially changed their place of worship to Ankergasse (today: 3 Hollandstrasse).

In 1864, this strictly orthodox community moved to 8 Grosse Schiffgasse, into a newly built synagogue named the “Schiffschul” after its location. The synagogue was simple, in line with the East European model. In the sparsely furnished inner room, only the Holy Ark was accentuated by oriental-style decorations. The bimah (platform for Torah reading) was located in the middle of the room. There were 500 seats for men and a further 250 on the ladies’ gallery. The synagogue’s association, called “Adass Jisroel” (Community of Israel) was officially founded in 1897.

From 1853 until his death in 1893, Salomon (Salman) Spitzer was the Schiffschul rabbi; he was the son-in-law of the Chatam Sofer of Pressburg.

In 1892, the front wing of the synagogue building was renovated to make room for a Beth Midrash (house of study), which was named “Torah Etz Chaim.” After the First World War, Sigmund Jeschaja Fürst became the Schiffschul rabbi. He was one of the most important personalities in the worldwide “Agudath Israel” organization. The community’s Dayan (rabbinic judge), Josef Baumgarten, worked side by side with Rabbi Fürst. Records indicate that another Schiffschul rabbi, who served later in community’s history, was Meir Fleischmann.

Among the other institutions belonging to the Adass Jisroel synagogue association were: a school for religious studies called the “Jesod HaTorah” (located at 11 Nestroygasse); a women’s charitable association on Grosse Schiffgasse; a matzo (unleavened bread) bakery; 10 butchers’ shops; two smokehouses; a traditional “black and white pastry” bakery, and a confectioner’s. These businesses made Schiffschul the only Bethausverein (Prayer House Association) in Vienna that was financially independent of the greater community.

During the 1938 pogrom, in the early hours of the morning of November 10, the Schiffschul synagogue was destroyed. The building’s whole interior was smashed to pieces and set on fire. By 11:16 am, the synagogue had completely burned out and the roof had fallen in. The fire brigade’s report included the following dispassionate statement: “[…] The temple was fully ablaze upon arrival. The roof of the neighboring house, number 10 Schiffgasse, was protected using a hose; incidentally, six hoses were deployed to extinguish the large fire. The entire structure burned down. The dilapidated tin roof, in so far as it had not collapsed of its own accord, was torn down. Damages estimated to be 100,000 Reichsmarks.” At around one o’clock in the afternoon, Jewish prayer books and Torah scrolls were burned in the street on Grosse Schiffgasse.

Eyewitness reports from the pogrom spoke of the trauma these frum (strictly observant) Jewish people suffered, as Torah scrolls were dragged out of the synagogue and trampled by the mob, and as young boys had to watch while their mothers’ head coverings were torn off and their mothers were publicly humiliated.
Located in: Vienna