University of Amsterdam/Catholic University Leuven
Although Jews were for large parts of their history devoid of political power, it certainly played a role in the construction of Jewish history and the shaping of the ideal model of a Jewish community. Of notable influence was the concept of three ketarim, crowns, that was introduced by R. Shim’on bar Yochai in Avot 4, 13: ‘There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of Kehunah, and the crown of Malkhut; but the crown of a good name excels them all.’
In their commentaries on this passage, the tanna’im and amoraim found the ‘three crowns’ everywhere in Jewish history. The easiest ones where the first two: the crown of the Torah constituted a tradition starting with Moses, via the prophets to the rabbis. Moses’ brother, Aharon, was considered the founding father of the crown of Priesthood, with contemporary kohanim as his successors. The keter malkhut, the crown of Kingdom, constituted more difficulties. For the rabbis, the Davidic dynasty formed the only legitimate expression of Kingdom. Therefore, Jewish community leaders with some degree of civil authority were eager to connect their family history to the Davidic dynasty.
Except for a few rather short periods of independence, Jews were always subjected to foreign powers – often as a vulnerable minority in a predominantly non-Jewish society. This forced Jews to reinterpret the meaning of the third crown. The first strategy was a radical one, made by Shlomo ibn Gabirol in his famous liturgical poem, Keter malkhut, which became part of the Sephardic liturgy for Yom Kippur. Ibn Gabirol detached the kingly crown from earthly rulers, and connected it solely to God. He was the real King of the Jewish people; he rules both the universe and the world. Whether or not there was Jewish political power, Jews could be assured that above the kings of the nations the real King was in control.
The second strategy was less drastic and interpreted internal Jewish lay leadership, operating next to the rabbinic establishment, as a form of keter malkhut, albeit insufficient and often ultimately dependent on non-Jewish authorities. This line of argument was based on Genesis 49, 10: ‘The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet’. Because of this text, commentators argued, there always should be somewhere some form of ‘malkhut beit Yehuda’.
The final and last strategy was no less radical as the first one, but in opposite direction. In 1743 the publishing of three Yiddish books started, each devoted to one of the crowns. A Yiddish translation of Sefer Tam ve-Yashar - a midrashic account of the Biblical narrative from the creation to the conquest of the Land - was given the heading: Keter Torah. This volume never saw the light. The other two, however, became bestsellers. Sefer Yosippon, since it was supposedly written by Yosef ben Gorion ha-Kohen, was sold as Keter Kehunah.
The only original book was She’eris Yisro’el, intended as a sequel to Yosippon and devoted to Jewish history since the fall of the Second Temple to the beginnings of the eighteenth century. This book, written by R. Menahem Man ben Shlomo ha-Levi Amelander, thus dealt with the period in which Jews were in Diaspora and not in a position to exercise any political powers. Yet precisely this book was given the subtitle Keter Malkhut. One of the reasons for this choice, the publishers argue in their introduction, is that the book describes the suffering of Jews in galut under the yoke of malkhut. Here malkhut becomes the code name for the non-Jewish authorities, the kings of the nations, those to whom the Jews were subjected.
This short interpretation history of ‘keter malkhut’ shows us how medieval and early modern Jews defined their relation to the phenomena of politics and political powers. Both in the Islamic and Christian world Jewish communities were given varying degrees of autonomy, which resulted in limited internal political structures. Incidentally, Jews also played significant roles in the administration of non-Jewish rulers. But more often, Jews were confined to their own corporate structure and dealt with the authorities without having the possibility to become part of the ruling elite themselves.
Against this background the rise of modern nation states and the political consequences of the French Revolution resulted in a series of important changes for Jewish communities. In many European countries the corporate structure of the Kehillah was uplifted and Jews were no longer considered to be a foreign nation but citizens. This resulted in at least three important developments up until the first half of the nineteenth century.
The first was a redefinition of the relationship between the national Jewish community and the government. With the abolishment of the ‘Jewish Nation’, whose leaders spoke on behalf of the Jews to the authorities, a new model was needed to further the communication between the Jewish community and the government. The second development is the participation of Jews in local, regional and national politics, using both their active and passive voting rights. Jews were able to become politicians and started to participate in different political movements. The third change is the rise of a new type of Jewish diplomacy, transforming old-time shtadlanut into a new variant of Jewish solidarity in which Jewish politicians with a European human rights discourse and the use of modern communication channels lobbied for oppressed Jews in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Of course, these three changes were interrelated and even interdependent upon each other. Their newly acquired citizenship enabled Jews to participate in politics, which experience subsequently was used within the leadership of the Jewish community and for the political fight for suffering co-religionists elsewhere. In this paper the emphasis will be, however, on the first change: the search in the first half of the nineteenth century for a new model to relate the Jewish community with the national government.
Church and State after the French Revolution
The question of the organization of Jewish communities became severely connected to the broader issue of the relations between Church and State. During the ancien régime nearly everywhere an established church dominated, that was protected by the government and in its turn religiously sanctioned the authorities. Both were considered to be part of a godly order, in which each had its own tasks but both shared the same principles. Dissenting religious views were thus deemed to be potentially harmful for the state as well, resulting in the suppression of minority churches.
Following the French Revolution the relationship between Church and State gradually changed. In the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth century one may be able to detect three major phases occurring in nearly every European country, although the tempo differed from country to country. The first phase is the abrogation of the discrimination of religious minorities. As a consequence of the freedom of conscience, freedom of worship was granted to dissenting churches. Enlightened thought saw the choice of religion as a personal decision, in which the state had no right to interfere. Discriminatory statutes, which limited the civil rights of non-members of the established church, were gradually repealed.
This first phase in many countries took a great deal of the nineteenth century: Great Britain annulled the last discriminatory laws in 1886, Austria and Hungary adopted the principle of denominational equality only after the 1867 Ausgleich, while in the Scandinavian and German countries only since the 1840’s things changed. In France Napoleon gave freedom to the Lutherans, Calvinists and the Jews, but after the 1814 Restoration Catholicism was again re-established as state religion until 1830. In the Netherlands and Belgium freedom of worship was secured by law since the French and Batavian Revolutions and not retracted afterwards.
The second phase lead to a further disentanglement of Church and State with the disestablishment of the official church. With the recognition of the legitimacy of minority churches and acknowledging their contribution to society, the situation of extensive privileges for the established church no longer could be continued. The acceptance of confessional plurality implied the granting of the same privileges to the other churches or the complete withdrawal of state support for the churches. Most European countries chose the first option, thus reducing the established church to a status comparable to the other ones. From this moment on the state was officially involved in the appointment of church officials and clergy of all denominations, and in many countries was as well responsible for paying salaries to clergy members. Some countries officially disestablished the official church, as in France, Ireland or Wales, while elsewhere the establishment was not completely repealed but transformed to a mere façade.
As the final phase one could point at those countries that went even further than the disestablishment of the official church and broke all formal relations with the various churches. The state viewed itself as neutral and secular, completely separated from the churches and no longer in a position to neither interfere in church life nor subsidize any expressions of religious beliefs. France adopted this stance in 1905, with the abrogation of the Concordat with the Vatican and the other recognized worships and the legislation of the laïcité. Many other countries also adopted the stance of a neutral state, but did not realize a complete separation of State and Church until the present day.
As soon as Jews were emancipated, first in France in 1791, later on in other countries such as the Batavian Republic (1796) and the Kingdom Westphalia (1808), their future development became part of general politics on the State and Church issue. The emancipation implied that Jews were no longer foreigners, belonging to a different nation and subjected to the laws of that nation, but citizens, with equal rights and duties as each other citizen. The Jewish community had to reconstruct itself according to the formats provided by other religious communities in society.
While nearly all other religious denominations, whether established or dissenting, had some form of national organization, Jews lacked such structures. Therefore the creation of such a structure in many countries was on the top of the list of both governments and progressive Jewish elites. Only with a central structure, like other denominations, the Jewish communities could be treated equally. This policy of centralization had a huge impact on Western European Jewry and resulted in a much closer relationship with national governments than had ever existed before. The paradoxical situation, not only for the Jewish communities but as well for other formerly dissenting denominations, was that the granting of freedom of worship resulted in an unprecedented interference of the state in religious life. This policy started in the Revolution years, but was pragmatically continued in the Restoration period.
The policy of centralization was thus at the same time an act of equal treatment and a curtailment of religious freedom. Studying from this perspective of centralization the history of Western European Jewry, one is able to identify three different models that may be labeled respectively French, British and German. In each model the relationship between State and Synagogue was organized differently.
The French Model
In the nineteenth century France replaced the doctrine of the ancien régime, un roi, une loi et une foi, for a no less centralizing concept: adherence to the French nation, with its centre in Paris. The conception of French citizenship came to supersede religious beliefs, while these religious beliefs in their turn had to strengthen French national identity. This centralistic policy, directed at creating a unified French nation, was also behind governmental politics with regards to French Jewry.
Nevertheless, it was not the French government, but parts of the Jewish communities that took the initiative for a centralized national Jewish governing body in 1808. Community leaders such as Berr Isaac Berr and Israel Jacobson advocated such a body in order to obtain governmental protection and subsidies, just as the other religious denominations in the Napoleonic Empire. As model they chose the consistorial structure that the French Eglise Réformée had adopted in 1802. Napoleon agreed in the foundation of the Consistoire Israélite, as it was in accordance with his policy of centralization and control, and his government played an important role in the structuring of the Consistory.
The French consistorial model was introduced in the whole Napoleonic Empire, including present-day Italy, Belgium and some parts of Germany. The model was exported as well to the Napoleonic puppet states, the Kingdom of Holland and the Kingdom of Westphalia. The Dutch and Westphalian consistories were modeled after the French Consistory, but remained independent. The Dutch Opperconsistorie, established in 1808 and functioning until the resignation of King Louis Napoleon in 1810, was conceptualized by enlightened Dutch Jews and sanctioned by the King. In Westphalia, Israel Jacobson, who was also instrumental in the establishment of the French Consistory, played an important role in the short but influential existence of the Königlich Westphälisches Konsistorium der Israeliten from 1808 until 1813. Under influence of the French developments, the grand duke of Baden decided to establish a comparable structure to centralize the Jewish communities in his grand duchy. In 1809 the Jewish Oberrat started.
After the fall of the Napoleonic Empire the French Consistory continued its policy, although it no longer extended its influence over Italy, Belgium and the German border lands. The Westphalian Consistory was disbanded, as were the regional consistories in the Netherlands that had replaced the Opperconsistorie in 1810. The Baden Oberrat was not affected by the change in the political situation.
One of the very first issues William prince of Orange had to deal with when he arrived in the Netherlands in 1813 was the organization of the Jewish community. The Opperconsistorie and the regional consistories, lead by the elite of enlightened Jews, had managed to become very unpopular among Dutch Jewry in only a couple of years. Its centralizing policy, the restriction of previous privileges of parnassim and rabbis, and reform measures with regards to language and religion created a sphere of unrest. Many Dutch Jews wished for a return to the ancien régime situation, the restoration of the local corporate structure and the disbandment of the consistories.
Therefore the secretary for religious affairs, Joannes Didericus Janssen, had to give the Jewish community preference over the organization of other denominations. Janssen collaborated closely with an enlightened Jew, the medical doctor Samuel Elias Stein from The Hague, and together they created a new structure, which would not only be imposed on the Jewish community but on the other denominations as well. The result was the Hoofdcommissie tot de zaken der Israëliten (the Supreme Commission for Israelite Affairs), which initially was characterized by some telling differences with the French consistorial system, but in the course of time developed itself as just another centralized governing body according to the French model.
One last offspring of the French model was established in Würtemmberg in 1828. It was called the Israelitische Oberkirchenbehörde and received a structure much like the established Lutheran Church.
The organizations following the French model had two distinctive characteristics in common. The first is the explicit relation with the government. The French Consistory and its sister organizations all became part of the government itself, functioning as official committees responsible to the Department of Religious Affairs, as in France, the Netherlands and Baden, or the Department for Internal Affairs, which was the case in Würtemberg until 1848. The government provided the budget for the committees, took responsibility for the appointment of new members, and gave clear instructions according to prevailing national politics. In Würtemberg the organization was presided over by a non-Jewish official, which resulted in a direct grip of the government on the national Jewish community. In France and the Netherlands the members were exclusively Jewish, thus having the freedom to discuss its policy among themselves, but in the end they were responsible to the minister. It is no coincidence that in all the countries the seat of the body was in the same city as the government, often also using government buildings for official meetings.
The second characteristic is the hierarchical structure of the consistorial system. At the apex of the pyramidal structure stood the governing body, with regional structures – as much as possible in line with regional political structures – dependent on it. These regional structures, on their turn, were responsible for the implementation of national Jewish policies on local level. Via these structures every Jewish community became subjected to the national centralized body, and ultimately to the government itself. This centralization of Jewish communities was only the first step in a whole series of other centralizing efforts: the rabbinical establishment, Jewish education, rabbinic training and the examination of mohalim all became part of national Jewish politics.
Of course, there were differences between the ‘French’ modeled organizations. In all of them, except in the Dutch one, rabbis constituted part of the membership. In the Netherlands a strong tradition of lay leadership existed already in both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities since the seventeenth century. In the Hoofdcommissie only lay leaders were accepted as members. This created, however, a paradoxical situation. By law the Hoofdcommissie was required to ask the chief rabbis for ‘doctrinal decisions’ in religious cases. Thus the religious establishment was able to hinder considerably those parts of the agenda of the lay leaders that were too progressive in their opinion. In France and the other countries rabbis were accepted as representatives of the communities, and thus honored for their significance in the Jewish community. But everywhere, with the exception of the early days of the French Consistory, they were outnumbered and the centralized bodies thus were able to take religious decisions even when the rabbis did not consent.
The British Model
The British model differed from the French one in more than one aspect. First, the central organization was voluntary. Local Jewish communities could themselves decide whether or not to participate. Those who participated did so while maintaining their independence. As such, the structure was bottom-up instead of top-down as in the French model. Second, the central organization was not part of the government, but the own initiative of the Jewish community. There was no governmental influence whatsoever on the policy on the central body. While the French model organizations had a double role-- representing the Jewish community within the government, and representing the government within the Jewish community – the British style organization restricted itself to the first task. A third notable difference is the limited scope of the central organization. At least initially, it concentrated on political questions, not so much on religious or cultural issues. As a lobby group avant la lettre, it advocated Jewish interests in society at large.
Just as the French modeled organizations adopted comparable structures as other, mainly Protestant denominations, the British style body was also inspired by another denominational body. Since 1732 the nonconformist Protestants in London defended their interests via a London Board of Dissenting Deputies, in which representatives of dissenting churches met. When in 1760 a joint permanent body of the Sephardi and Ashkenazi London communities was installed, as successor to ad hoc deputados of the Sephardi Bevis Marks Synagogue, it chose the same structure as the dissenters. The London Committee of Deputies of British Jews, later renamed Board of Deputies of British Jews, gradually expanded beyond its local start.
Under the energetic leadership of Sir Moses Montefiore, the Board developed into an organization that in 1836 acquired recognition by the government as the formal representative of the Jewish communities in Great Britain. From that moment on, the government and the Board cooperated on several dossiers. The Board remained however independent. Representatives of communities outside London joined, as well. The Board developed the same policy of centralization as its sister organizations on the continent, but was in every step dependent on the support of the local communities and lacked the strong governmental backing that strengthened the French modeled organizations.
While the British situation is only to be understood against the background of the continued domination of the established Church of England in state politics, the only organization comparable to the Board was a typical product of the new liberal era after the 1830 revolts. In 1832 the Belgian Jews organized themselves in a new structure, after seceding themselves from The Hague based Hoofdcommissie. Their Consistoire Central Israélite de Belgique, with its seat in Brussels, is an interesting case. It adopted the hierarchical structure of the French system, just as the Dutch did not accept rabbis as members, but its relation with the government was best comparable to the Board.
The new Belgian State was a consistently liberal one and opted for a complete separation of Church and State at a time that most Western European countries were still deeply involved in the church denominations. All denominations in Belgium were granted the same rights and the government was not involved in any way in the structuring of the denominations. The Belgian Jews decided themselves to create a new central organization, independent from the government. They sought formal recognition by the government, which was granted at last in 1871. The Belgian Consistory represented Belgian Jewry before the government, just like in the British case, but at the same time also continued the internal policy of centralization of its Dutch and French predecessors. This was possible due to the enormous dominance of the Brussels community over the much tinier communities elsewhere and because there was a high degree of continuity between those who served until 1830 the Dutch Hoofdcommissie in Brussels and the founding fathers of the Belgian Consistory.
The British model was exported to the Jewish communities in other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, such as South Africa and Australia. They not only adopted the name, Jewish Board of Deputies, but its structure, as well; and they developed a relationship with the government that was also based on independence from governmental structures.
The German Model
In the French model, countries had a governmental Jewish central body, the British and Belgians opted for an independent central agency, while in the German model there was no central organization at all. In most of the German countries, until the formation of the unified German Empire in 1870, Jewish communities had to live without nationwide centralized structures. In Bavaria, Saxony, and large parts of Prussia, Jewish communities kept their semi-autonomous positions. The primary structure was the local kehillah, which controlled its members and functioned as representative to local authorities.
Next to the local structures there were only informal networks, depending on family structures, religious authorities and educational opportunities. Confronted with difficult halakhic questions, local communities could chose themselves to which rabbi they wanted to turn for a psak. Some rabbis with great authority thus extended his influence over more than one kehillah. Also yeshivot were instrumental in forging networks over larger distances and created a sense of unity to their adherents. But in the end most of the German Jews had to deal with the local kehillah and the local authorities. It took until the beginning of the twentieth century before a central organization, on a voluntary basis, was founded for Prussian Jewry.
National Governments and Jewish Elites
When we concentrate on the French and British models, we find the few pioneering Jewish politicians among its ranks. They used their political skills both for general society at large and for the Jewish community. In the Netherlands one-fourth of the members of the Hoofdcommissie had political experience, as well, and the only Jewish minister during the nineteenth century, Michel Henri Godefroi, served for a couple of years as its president.
For those bodies organized according to the French model, the question is in how far the Jewish members were able to set out their own policies. The national governments, of course, had large impact on the process of decision-making. Especially in Würtemberg, with a non-Jewish official presiding over the central body, the involvement of the government was very direct. Elsewhere, in France and the Netherlands, there was more room for their own agenda.
In the Netherlands the Hoofdcommissie was given three tasks by the government. It had the responsibility to advise the government both on demand and by its own initiative on all Jewish affairs. Controlling the implementation of governmental decisions was also on its list, while the Hoofdcommissie had finally to guarantee order and unity in the community. These responsibilities created room enough for the Hoofdcommissie to conduct its own policy, aimed at the further centralization and nationalizing of the community. In effect, research of the minutes shows that the government nearly always followed the Hoofdcommissie’s advice, except for cases where additional governmental funding was required. On the whole, it is adequate to state that the national government and the ruling Jewish elite shared the same agenda and therefore were quite successful in furthering their causes.
The Consequences of the Policy of Centralization
Someone who would compare the map of Jewish Western Europe of 1750 and 1850 will find out that large parts of Western European Jewry were in the meantime structured according to the borders of the nation states in the wake of the Congress of Vienna. Also internal boundaries, such as those of departments or provinces, now determined the organization of Jewish life. This restructuring of Western European Jewry in national and regional central bodies had a whole series of consequences. I would like to mention a few of the most important here.
First, the creation of new central bodies frustrated a different process of centralization that already took place. The Jewish communities in Alsace may serve as an example for this. Besides local parnassim, Alsatian Jewry knew already in some regions so-called territorial parnassim. These parnassim were often closely connected to the local feudal lord or bishop via economic ties. These lay leaders already challenged rabbinic predominance in communal affairs since the 1730s and 1740s. Two decades later one could observe as well a centralization of the recruitment and training of rabbis. Local yeshivot turned into regional centers of learning and local rabbis like R. Samuel Sanvil Weyl were able to broaden their territories enormously. It was however the Revolution and the subsequent period of Terror that destroyed these tendencies of bottom-up centralization. The new consistorial structure did not build upon these earlier fundaments, but introduced a different model, top-down and even explicitly directed against rabbinic predominance and the structure of non-governmental controlled yeshivot.
Second, transnational networks came under severe pressure. Sephardi communities in the Netherlands, Germany, Britain and France formed together a well-functioning Western Sephardic Diaspora, in which colonial communities participated, as well. They shared an educational network, exchanged rabbis and chazzanim, and were connected through family and economic networks. The same could be said about Ashkenazi communities that perceived themselves as an integral part of a transnational Ashkenaz.
The policy of centralization forced both Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities to concentrate on the national level. In the Netherlands and France the Sephardim and Ashkenazim were even forced to cooperate together. The Dutch Sephardi communities struggled for decades during the nineteenth century to regain their independence and sever the unity with the Ashkenazi communities, a goal only achieved in 1870. In the meantime, the Askhenazi elite was very enthusiastic about the union with the socially wide respected Sephardim and agreed in the overrepresentation of Sephardim in the joint bodies, with often a Sephardi in the role of president.
Another example of the loosening of the transnational bonds is the policy regarding foreign rabbis. Until the process of centralization started rabbis were exchanged throughout the transnational networks, but from now on governments and the Jewish central bodies wanted to have solely rabbis trained within the national system, under close supervision of the state. Foreign rabbis were considered to be a threat to the moral and civil improvement of the Jewish community. Not only the local yeshivot within the national border were no longer accepted, it also became much more difficult for rabbis trained elsewhere to get a position. In France the state funded École Central Rabbinique de France, first located in Metz later on in Paris, was accepted as the sole supplier of French rabbis. In the Netherlands a similar institution, the Dutch Israelite Seminary, was founded. But both in France and the Netherlands it took well until the second half of the nineteenth century before the majority of rabbis were home-trained. Until then the governments had to accept exceptions to the rule.
Third, the reverse of the pressure on transnational networks was the concentration on the formation of a distinctive national profile of the Jewish community. The central structure was itself shaping a national Jewish community, but was at the same time used to promote the nationalizing of the Jews. This took a whole variety of measures. All of the central bodies were most active in the suppression of Yiddish and the promotion of the vernacular. Jewish education was often in the middle of the battle, with the promotion of sermons in the vernacular as a second front. But this language politics stretched as well to the allowance of vernacular texts besides Hebrew ones on the matseivot.
In the Netherlands from the start of the Hoofdcommissie on in 1814 the governmental laws were clear: at Jewish school instruction should take place exclusively in Dutch, while Hebrew as language of the religion was allowed to be taught. The Hoofdcommissie was realistic enough to realize that this was impossible to achieve from one day upon the other. They therefore first propagated the production of Dutch language text books and focused on the training of teachers with a proper understanding of the ‘national language’. Only after these two preconditions were fulfilled, the Hoofdcommissie started to enforce governmental laws. An inspector was installed with the task to visit the Jewish schools and every school that still allowed Yiddish in the classrooms was threatened with the withdrawal of school funding. Next to language, national history, geography and the moral education strongly were strongly encouraged in order to further the integration of the Jews and the creation of a national awareness among them.
Thus the politics of centralization resulted in a national hierarchical structure, loosening the Jewish communities from transnational networks and reshaping it into a national one, aimed at the integration into broader society. But one more consequence of the centralization of national Jewish communities should be mentioned. Despite the progressive agenda of the central bodies, in effect they had a conservative effect on the development of their community. The governments wanted to further the social integration of Jews into society, but were not interested in religious reforms. Such reforms created a lot of unrest within the Jewish communities, which not only was despised by the governments but also avoided by the ruling elites. These elites felt responsible for the social position of Jews in society and wanted to keep their basis of power, the central structure, intact. They therefore did not risk a heated debate on religious reforms, which might result in a breakup of the central organizational structure. The early nineteenth-century Jewish leaders were satisfied with a series of minor ameliorations in the decorum of the synagogue services, without risking fierce opposition of rabbis or orthodox community members.
The policy of centralization might therefore be one of the explanations for the geography of the Reform movement in the nineteenth century. Reform communities were particularly successful in those parts of Europe, especially in Germany, where no central bodies existed. In such areas each Jewish community could make its own decision as regards to religious reforms. In Great Britain a Reform community could start because of the voluntary nature of the Board of Deputies, but even this structure did everything it could to counter the rise of religious division among British Jewry. In France, Belgium and the Netherlands Reform was not successful during the nineteenth century. Only here and there, progressive local rabbis tried to introduce changes, but carefully avoided a confrontation with the central body.
The nineteenth century broadened in an unprecedented way the political opportunities for Western European Jewry. They could not only participate in the political systems of a growing number of Western European countries, but use these new political skills for the Jewish community, as well. As a result of the emancipation of Jewish communities, they were reduced from a nation to a religious denomination. This implied the reconstruction of the Jewish community in a nationwide central structure, just like the other denominations. But since the relationship between Church and State was organized differently from country to country, the model of centralization of the Jewish community also differed.
The analysis of Western European Jewish communities along the lines of organizational structures, resulting in three different models, French, British and German, provides us with some helpful parameters to explain the different paths of emancipation. Especially in the countries that chose the route of radical emancipation, such as France and the Netherlands, a rather conservative Jewish community was the result, while in Germany Reform Judaism could easily spread all over the country. The policy of centralization, the result of joint efforts of governments and Jewish elites, radically changed the shape of Western European Jewry and resulted in structures that in many cases to the present day characterize the specific nature of each individual Western European Jewish community.