Jews, Frankists and Converts in Habsburg Moravia, 1700-1900
Prof. Michael Miller
This project examines the ancestors and descendants of thirty-five Jews who converted to Catholicism in the summer of 1773, a few months after Jacob Frank, the infamous “false messiah,” arrived to the Habsburg province of Moravia. This “mass conversion” in Prossnitz (Prostějov, Czech Republic) provides a unique lens through which to view Jewish-Christian relations in Central Europe on the eve of the Enlightenment. In earlier times, the Jewish community might have totally ostracized these apostates, but in the more ecumenical and tolerant climate of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Moravia, Jews and former Jews could continue to fraternize and socialize in ways that would have been previously unimaginable. By tracing the genealogy of these converts forwards and backwards, I hope to understand the contours of the emerging “semi-neutral” society, in which boundaries between Jews and Gentiles were dissolved as new forms of sociability replaced the hierarchical relationship that had defined Christian-Jewish relations for centuries.
Click here for the Final Report on this project.