Following the Black Death persecutions which started in 1348, the Jewish spiritual centres shifted from the Rhine eastwards. There was an important Yeshiva, for instance, in the Silesian town of Świdnica, where famous scholars learned and taught. Świdnica belonged to the Piast Duchy of Świdnica-Jawor, where – after the death of Bolko II in 1368 – his widow, Agnes of Austria, ruled up until her own death in 1392. In 1370 Agnes decreed a peace settlement for the Jews in her duchy, which can be seen as one of the first such arrangements. It impacted at various levels on internal Jewish affairs, for instance in stipulating that the community was to elect its »bishop«. This strengthened the parish council against the local scholars. The Jewish court, which, in accordance with Jewish law, decided on questions concerning marital and inheritance law and in civil process orders between Jewish parties, also answered to the Jewish »bishop« and his advisors. What was new in Duchess Agnes’ »Jewish Charter« was that the congregation could determine the level of taxes they would pay the Duchess.
© De Gruyter 2016