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Austrian Parliament Adopts Law Granting More Rights to Jews and Jewish Community

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The lower house of Austria’s parliament, the National Council, has adopted amendments to the 122-year-old Israelitengesetz that governs relations of the Austrian state with the country’s Jewish community. For the first time, the Israelite Religious Community (IKG) and its subsidiaries such as Jewish schools will enjoy legal autonomy and be given more competencies, such as full control over Jewish cemeteries.

The revised law also safeguards the right of Jews to kosher food in state institutions such as the military. It grants every Jew the right to observe Jewish holidays and gives the IKG full autonomy to provide certain services, e.g. to seniors and the sick.

All parties except the extreme-right Freedom Party voted for the new law. IKG President Oskar Deutsch welcomed the new law, calling it “a special milestone” in the history of Austrian Jewry. However, a small group of Liberal Jews who are not part of the IKG protested against the bill because it only grants powers to the officially recognized Jewish Community.

The law officially recognizes five Jewish communities: Vienna, Linz, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Graz. They have a total of 7,000 registered members. An estimated 15,000 to 25,000 Jews live in Austria today. Before World War II, ten percent of the country’s two million inhabitants were Jews.

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