Jewish presence during the 17th and 18th centuries
Jews lived in Vienna either temporarily or permanently only when granted a privilege permitting them to reside in the city. In about 1580, the increasing numbers of Jews living in Vienna again made it necessary to establish their own cemetery. At the beginning of the 17th century, most Jews lived around today's Ruprechtsplatz. In 1624 they were ordered to move their homes to a part of the "Unterer Werd" (a district of Vienna - today Leopoldstadt). From there they had to cross over a bridge to reach their shops in the inner city. The Thirty Year War (1618-1648) forced the Emperor grant them new privileges to permit their free movement and guarantee their ability to provide credits for the war.
Jewish communal life was self-organized with their own judges, a rabbi and communal institutions such as a synagogue. Yomtov Lipman Heller and Dr. Leo Lucerna were rabbis in the first years of the newly established community.
The Christian citizens of Vienna opposed the Jewish settlement and tried to have them expelled again. Strongly supported by the Bishop of Wiener Neustadt, the Jews (who numbered about 1,300) were expelled in 1670. Most of them moved to Moravia and Hungary, those moving to Brandenburg and Berlin founded the influential community there.
Court Jews, who held a quite privileged position since they provided money for the court, were present in Vienna already before the 1670 expulsion ands some continued to be active even after the expulsion. Samuel Oppenheimer worked for the Viennese Court from the 1670s. With his death in 1703, the economic system collapsed and Austria was on the verge of bankruptcy. His nephew, Samson Wertheimer held similar privileges, but was more cautious in his endeavours.
Reforms introduced by Empress Maria Theresia tightened the control of Jews, but Jews kept providing money for business investments. The official number of Jews living by the middle years of the 18th century in Vienna was around 500, with many more living there without permission. A 'Chevra Kadisha" (burial society), founded in 1763 by young Jews and which cared for the cemetery (which was active until 1784), was one of the first communal institutions to be organized.