Edict of Toleration, 1782Issued by Roman Emperor Joseph II

We, Joseph the Second, by the Grace of God, elected Roman Emperor, at all times the Enlarger of the Empire, King in Germany, Hungary, Bohemia, etc., Archduke in Austria, Duke in Burgandy and Lorraine, send Our Grace to all and graciously make known the following-

From the ascension to Our reign We have directed Our most preeminent attention to the end that all Our subjects without distinction of nationality and religion, once they have been admitted and tolerated in Our States, shall participate in common in public welfare, the increase of which is Our care, shall enjoy legal freedom and not find any obstacles in any honest ways of gaining their livelihood and of increasing general industriousness.

Since however the laws and the so-called Jewish Regulations [Judenordnungen] pertaining to the Jewish nation prevailing in Our hereditary countries in general and particularly in Vienna and Lower Austria are not always compatible with these Our most gracious intentions, We hereby will amend them by the virtue of this present edict in so far as the difference in times and conditions necessitates it.

The favors granted to the Jewish nation by this present amendment, whereby the latest Jewish Regulation of May 5, 1764, is fully repealed consist of the following-

As it is Our goal to make the Jewish nation useful and serviceable to the State, mainly through better education and enlightenment of its youth as well as by directing them to the sciences, the arts and the crafts, We hereby grant and order- . . .

8. Graciously, that the tolerated Jews may send their children in such places where they have no German schools of their own, to the Christian primary and secondary schools so that they have at least the opportunity to learn reading, writing and counting. And although they do not have a proper synagogue in Our residence, still We hereby permit them to establish for their children at their own expense their own school organized in the standard way with teachers appointed from amongst their co-religionists. . . .

9. With regard to schools of higher degrees which were never forbidden to Jewish co-religionists, We hereby merely renew and confirm their permission.

10. In order to facilitate their future means of support and to prepare the necessary ways of gaining a livelihood, We hereby most graciously permit them from now to learn all kinds of crafts or trades here as well as elsewhere from Christian masters, certainly also amongst themselves, and to this end to apprentice themselves to Christian masters or to work as their journeymen, and the latter (the Christian craftsmen) may accept them without hesitation. This, however, should not be interpreted as if We wish to exercise any compulsion on the Jews and Christians, We merely grant both sides full freedom to come to an understanding about this amongst themselves to their satisfaction.

11. We hereby further grant to the Jewish nation the general license to carry on all kinds of trade, without however the right of citizenship and mastership from which they remain excluded, to be carried on by them freely, only consequently as it is usual here and even then not before having obtained permission, same as Christians do, from the Magistrate in this city and from the government of Lower Austria in the country. . . . Painting, sculpture and the exercise of other liberal arts are equally permitted to them as they are to Christians,-and We further

12. Grant to the Jewish co-religionists the completely free choice of all non-civic branches of commerce and authorize them to apply for the right of wholesale trade under the same conditions and with the same liberties as are obtained and carried on by Our Christian subjects…

15. Considering the numerous openings in trades and the manifold contacts with Christians resulting therefrom, the care for maintaining common confidence requires that the Hebrew and so-called Jewish language and writing of Hebrew intermixed with German, as well as these shall be abolished.

16. In order to facilitate the tolerated Jews in their trades also with regard to the question of servants, it shall be permitted to them from now on to employ as many Jewish as well as Christian servants as their business requires. . . .

18. By this present Decree We hereby permit the existing restrictions with regard to definite Jewish houses to lapse and allow tolerated Jews to lease at their choice their own residences in the city as well as in the suburbs.

19. No less do We hereby completely abolish the head-toll hitherto levied on foreign Jews and permit them to enter Our residence from time to time in order to carry on their business. . . .

23. Besides, We hereby completely remove the double court and chancellery fees hitherto in force only for Jews, and [We remove]

24. In general all hitherto customary distinctive marks and distinctions, such as the wearing of beards, the prohibition against leaving their homes before twelve o’clock on Sundays and holidays, the frequenting of places of public amusement and the like; on the contrary, it shall be permitted to wholesale merchants and their sons as well as to people of rank to carry swords.

25. Since by these favors We almost place the Jewish nation on an equal level with adherents of other religious associations in respect to trade and enjoyment of civil and domestic facilities, We hereby earnestly advise them to observe scrupulously all political, civil and judicial laws of the country to which they are bound same as all other inhabitants, just as they remain subject with respect to all political and legal matters to the provincial and municipal authorities within their jurisdiction and pertinent activities.

Done in Our City of Residence Vienna, the second day of January, 1782, in the eighteenth year of Our reign in the Roman Empire and in the second year of reign in Our hereditary lands.

Commission Sacae Caes. reg.ae m. tis in consilio

Source- Ronald H. Isaacs and Kerry M. Olitzky. Critical Documents of Jewish History, a Sourcebook. Jason Aronson Inc. Northvale, NJ. pp. 31-33.