Before the Emancipation
Throughout the sixteenth and early seventeenth century Jews in Austria experienced less discrimination. In 1669 another round of expulsions began in Austria, King Leopold I appointed the Bishop Count Kolonch to urge the expulsion of the Jews from Austria. This edict of expulsion remained in force until 1848.
The Jewish expulsion caused grave economic repercussions, so the Emperor invited the wealthier Jews to return, a number of court Jews were permitted to remain with their servants. By the seventeenth century, the Vienna Jewish community had become prosperous and influential, with many of its leaders members of the court. Among the most famous were Samuel Oppenheimer and Samson Wertheimer, scholars and observant Jews who gained fame as court agents. In 1683, Wertheimer and Oppenheimer provided financial support to the Austrian army to get rid of the invading Turkish army, thus strengthening Jewish ties to the community.
Under the 40-year reign (1740–1780) of Maria Teresia, a rabid anti-Semite, many discriminatory laws were passed and the situation worsened for Austrian Jewry. In 1727, to limit the Jewish population, laws were introduced permitting only the oldest son of a Jewish family to marry. The tense atmosphere eased in 1782, when Joseph II, Maria Teresa’s son and successor, came to the throne and lifted many of the restrictions. During the eighteenth century, Joseph II attempted to bring Jews into the mainstream of society by abolishing many of the measures regulating their autonomy and segregation. Joseph II encouraged assimilation, and Jews were permitted to attend schools and universities, and could serve in the army.
After the death of Joseph II many of the restrictions against Jews were re-introduced, forcing Jewish children to attend Christian schools and only permitting prayer in "the language of the state." After the 1848 revolution, Jews were granted civil rights, partially due to their participation in the 1848 civil war and were allowed to form their own autonomous religious community. A number of Jews were elected to the Parliament. The Jewish tax was removed, as were the restrictive marriage laws, and the constitution of 1849 abrogated discrimination on the basis of religion. Despite this step forward, Jews were required to obtain special marriage licenses, even if the number of marriages was no longer limited. Further, the right of Jews to acquire real estate was suspended. With the reaffirmation of freedom of religion in the 1867 constitution, the situation for the Jews in Austria improved.
Full citizenship rights were given to the Jews in 1867, leading to a large influx of immigrants from the Eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, especially from Bukovina, Galicia, the Czech lands and Hungary.