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CN-CZ Archives | Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia
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COCHIN, JEWS OF.

See India.

COHEN.

See Kohen.

COHEN, ELI (1924-1965).

Israeli spy who penetrated the highest levels of government in Syria. He was caught and hanged in Damascus. He is considered a hero of modern Israel.

COHEN, HERMANN (1848-1918)

. German philosopher. The son of a cantor in a small Jewish community, he attended the Rabbinical Seminary at Breslau for a few years. However, he left the Seminary and instead devoted himself to the study of philosophy. In 1876, he was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Marburg. At this time, Cohen entertained little interest in Judaism and devoted himself entirely to the development of his philosophic system, a modification of the system of Immanuel Kant. The antisemitic outburst of the historian Treitschke, in 1880, stirred Cohen’s Jewish consciousness, and he attempted to defend his people. An essay Love of Fellowman in the Talmud, written as a reply to a query of a court, about the Jewish attitude toward morality drew him still closer to Jewish matters. From that time on, Cohen wrote many essays on Jewish subjects which were later collected in three volumes. He also wrote a work on the Jewish religion called Die Religion der Vernunft (The Religion of Reason). In these works, he formulated his philosophical and ethical principles of Judaism. He dwelt especially on the high value of the Messianic idea

COHEN, MORRIS RAPHAEL (1880-1947).

American philosopher. Of his numerous works, the leading ones are A Preface to Logic and Scientific Method and Reason and Nature. In addition, Cohen wrote many essays on the philosophy of law and was editor of the Modern Legal Philosophical Series.

COLOMBIA.

Republic in northwestern South America. Marranos

COLORADO.

Jews first settled in Colorado during the gold rush in the 1860’s, and some, like Simon Guggenheim, became active in developing silver and lead resources. Today, most of Colorado’s 79,000 Jews live in Denver (with smaller communities in Colorado Springs and Pueblo), where the Intermountain Jewish News is published. Major Jewish health institutions located in Denver include the National Jewish Hospital and the Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society.

COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER (1451-1506).

Discoverer of America. He was believed to be of Jewish origin. He had Jews in his crew, and was befriended by powerful Marranos in Spain, to whom he wrote letters bewailing his treatment. Columbus claimed descent from the dynasty of King David. His son Ferdinand stated that his father’s “progenitors were of the blood royal of Jerusalem, and it pleased him that his parents shall not be much known.”

COMMANDMENTS.

See Mitzvah.

COMMUNITY.

See Kahal.

CONCENTRATION CAMPS.

See Holocaust.

CONFERENCE OF PRESIDENTS OF MAJOR JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS.

Umbrella organization of close to thirty American Jewish organizations. First organized in 1954, the Conference represents American Jewry to the U.S. Government, and gets particularly involved in U.S.-Israel relations.

CONFIRMATION.

Synagogue ceremony in which boys and girls graduating from elementary religious school publicly recognize their dedication to Judaism. Originating in Germany, confirmation was introduced in the U.S. in 1847 and now takes place in all Reform, most Conservative, and some Orthodox synagogues. It is celebrated on the holiday of Shavuot to signify that the graduates confirm their loyalty to the Torah which, according to tradition, was given on Shavuot.

CONNECTICUT.

There are sporadic records of Jews living in the state in the 17th and 18th century. Not until the mid-19th century, however, were Jews permitted to establish synagogues. The first were organized in Hartford and New Haven. Today, there are some 112,000 Jews living in the state, mainly in the Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Norwalk areas. Jews have been active in the state’s economic, social, political, and cultural life. One of the best known was Senator Abraham Ribicoff. More recently, Joseph Lieberman has been serving as U.S. Senator from that state. There are many synagogues and a high level of philanthropic activities. The Connecticut Jewish Ledger is published in West Hartford, The Jewish Leader in New London.

CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM.

See Judaism.

COPLAND, AARON (1900-1990).

Composer, pianist, conductor, and author. One of America’s leading musicians, Copland distinguished himself both as creative artist and as interpreter of modern music. His work as a composer developed from a dry, ironic modern idiom to more simplified melodic treatment. In both phases he made striking use of American jazz and folk motifs. Vitebsk, Study on a Jewish Melody and In the Beginning, a choral setting on the theme of Creation, are works on Jewish motifs.

CORDOVERO, MOSES.

See Kabbalah.

COSSACK UPRISING.

See Lithuania and Germany.

COSTA RICA.

Republic in southern Central America. Costa Rica’s Jewish community was founded by settlers from Cura

COUNCIL OF FOUR LANDS.

See Kahal.

COVENANT.

In biblical times a contract or agreement of friendship between persons or nations was completed in a ceremony in which the two parties walked between the two halves of an animal sacrifice (Gen. 15:9-11). In the biblical covenants between God and Israel, a sign accompanied each renewal of the contract. When God made a covenant with Noah after the flood, He set the rainbow as a sign that “the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Gen. 9:13-15). In the covenant God made with Abraham, giving to him and to his children the land of Canaan for “an everlasting possession,” circumcision was the sign (Gen. 17:10). When the Lord renewed the covenant with the Children of Israel at Sinai, His sign was the Sabbath (Exod. 31:13). In the Bible, the Torah itself is called “the Book of the Covenant,” the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments “the tablets of the covenant,” a reminder that Israel’s part of the contract was faithfulness to God and righteous behavior toward men.

CRESCAS, HASDAI (ca. 1340-1412).

Spanish rabbi, statesman, and religious philosopher. The Talmudic scholarship of Hasdai Crescas was so highly valued that his contemporaries simply called him “the Rov [teacher] of Saragossa.” Crescas’ statesmanship was recognized when he served the Royal Court of Aragon, yet this did not save him from tragedy. His son was killed during the black year of 1391, when Spanish mobs, incited by the eloquence of a monk, raged in many cities and gave Jews a choice between death and giving up their faith. Crescas is best remembered for his philosophical work Or Adonai, “Light of the Lord.” This book described the major beliefs of Judaism as faith in God’s guidance and in Jewish destiny. Crescas opposed the philosophy of Aristotle and stressed his belief in free will. He is considered the last original Jewish thinker of the medieval period, and his work influenced deeply the 17th-century philosopher Baruch (Benedict) Spinoza.

CRÉMIEUX, ISAAC ADOLPHE (1796-1880).

Statesman who devoted his life to furthering French democracy and equal rights for the Jews of France. He was instrumental in the abolition of a degrading oath which all French Jews were forced to take when appearing in court. Admitted to the bar in 1817, he became an outstanding orator, lawyer, statesman, and defender of human rights. Deeply aroused by the blood accusation against his fellow Jews in the Damascus affair, Crémieux actively intervened on behalf of the unfortunate victims. This close contact with the misery of Asian Jewry led him to form the Alliance Israélite Universelle to promote their welfare. He became president of this important organization and retained the post for life. In the turbulent political scene of 19th-century France, he held various government posts, including that of minister of justice, and in 1873, was made senator for life.

CRIMEA.

Peninsula in the former Soviet Union, on the shore of the Black Sea. Jews first settled there during the time of the Second Temple, more than two thousand years ago, possibly even earlier. Their numbers grew under Roman rule. Old Jewish inscriptions discovered in Crimea indicate that a substantial and prosperous Jewish population existed there at the beginning of the common era. In the 8th and 9th centuries, the Khazar Kingdom flourished in the Crimea. First a pagan nation, the Khazars embraced Judaism at an early period in their history. This period of an independent Khazar state ended in 1016, when the Russians and Byzantines united to defeat the Khazars. Jewish communities survived the Tatar invasions in the 13th century. In later periods, prosperous Jewish tradesmen from the Crimea opened routes of commerce to Turkey, Russia, and Poland. When Czarist Russia annexed the region in 1784, most of the Jews were artisans and small traders. In addition to the Jewish population, Crimea had substantial Karaite communities. This sect, founded by Anan ben David during the 8th century, rejected Talmudic tradition, adhering only to biblical law.

In 1924, the Soviet government set aside some of the land of this area for Jewish colonization. Jewish families who had lost their means of livelihood because of the government ban on private enterprise emigrated to the Crimea. A special organization, Komzet, the Commission for the Rural Placement of Jewish Toilers, supervised the colonization. The American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) extended financial and technical help to the settlers through the Agro-Joint. Before World War II, there were about 80,600 Jews in the Crimea, out of a total population of more than a million. Twenty-five thousand Jews engaged in agriculture. During Nazi occupation, all the Jewish colonies were destroyed, and most Jews perished. Only a small number returned to their homes after the war.

CRUSADES (1096-1291).

The Crusades were a series of Christian wars designed to free the Holy Land from Moslem rule. They were uniformly tragic in their effects upon the Jews. Crusaders were exempted from the payment of their debts to Jews. Inflamed to hatred against the “unbelievers” by both church and state, the armies of Crusaders, often no more than armed mobs, began their “holy war” by massacring Jewish communities in France, Germany, and England. Some Jews were forcibly baptized, others were killed for refusing baptism, still others were slain without the opportunity of choice. Emperor Henry IV permitted the forced converts to live as Jews again. A few bishops and archbishops tried to protect the Jews of their districts, but their efforts generally failed. In the Holy Land itself, the few surviving Jewish communities were almost entirely destroyed by the Crusaders. What the pagan Romans had left undone, the Christians completed. The afflicted European communities met the attacks in different ways. Jews of Treves submitted to forced baptism, and later renounced it; those of Cologne tried in vain to hide; those of Worms, Speyer, Mayence, and York took their own lives; those of the French city of Carentan died fighting. Rashi, who was in Troyes, France, during the First Crusade, escaped injury. His grandson, Rabbenu Jacob Tam, was badly wounded, almost killed, in the Second Crusade. Many of the kinnot, or poems of lamentation, composed in memory of the victims are still recited on the Fast of the Ninth of Av. As a result of the Crusades, tens of thousands of Jews were massacred, some communities were completely wiped out, and others never recovered their strength. Jewish trade with the Orient was broken, and Jews were gradually forced to earn their living by usury. Above all, suspicion of, prejudice against, and hatred toward them became deep-rooted and lingered on for centuries in the popular mind.

CRYSTAL, BILLY.

See Stage and Screen.

CUBA.

Until the 1959 revolution which ended in Fidel Castro’s transformation of Cuba into a socialist state, Jews numbered 10,000. In 2007, about 1000 Jews, mostly poor and elderly, remain in a population of 11 million. Cuba won freedom from Spain in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War. In the 16th century, Marranos, forced converts who practiced Judaism in secret, came to Cuba to escape persecution in other parts of Latin America. For a short time they prospered, playing an important part in developing Cuba’s sugar industry. Finally, the Inquisition, which sought to wipe out all non-Catholic faiths, reached the island, and the Marrano community disappeared. Although religious persecution ceased in 1783, it was not until Cuba gained its independence that Jews began to immigrate in large numbers. The first to come were American Jews, who formed an independent community. At about the same time, many Sephardic Jews from Turkey and Morocco arrived. The influx of East European Jews began only after 1924, when the U.S. shut its doors to immigrants. Strict immigration laws passed in the 1930’s prevented further growth of the community. Today, about half of Cuba’s Jews are descendants of the Sephardic immigrants; the rest are divided between a “North American” and an East European community.

CUKERMAN, YITZHAK.

See Warsaw.

CUP OF ELIJAH.

See Passover.

CURAÇAO.

Island in the Dutch West Indies where Jews who originally fled Spain and Portugal settled in the mid-17th century. Their synagogue is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Jews occupy positions of social, economic, and political importance on the island. (See also Netherlands Antilles.)

CUSTOMS.

In Hebrew, minhag. A practice which, though not based on biblical or Talmudic law, has become, through long observance, as sacred and binding as a religious law. Customs have played an important part in the development of Halakhah, or Jewish religious law. The rabbis, seeking to achieve unanimity of practice and usage, established many customs of different times and places as laws. Many biblical laws, such as circumcision, began as customs before they became law. “The custom of Israel is law,” from Tosafot, is a familiar comment. Customs may vary from place to place, and the rabbis maintain that one must follow the local custom, and that sometimes a custom may even override a law. Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews vary in many customs, such as Hebrew pronunciation, the text of some prayers, and holiday observances. Reform Jews have instituted new customs, such as the confirmation ceremony on Shavuot.

CYPRUS.

Island at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It comprises an area of 6,188 m2, and has a population of close to half a million, consisting chiefly of Greeks and Turks. In the Bible Cyprus is mentioned as Kittim. During the Maccabean period Jews lived on Cyprus. Alexander Jannaeus fought the king of Cyprus and conquered him. In the time of Trajan, Jews took an active part in the revolt against Rome. As a consequence, Jewish Cypriots were exterminated, and for many years Jews were forbidden to live on the island. At the advice of Don Joseph Nasi, the Turks captured the island in 1571 from the city-state of Venice. In 1878, during the time of Lord Beaconsfield (Benjamin Disraeli), the island was occupied by the British. In 1960, Cyprus gained independence. Several attempts made by the Jews of Cyprus to start farm settlements failed. In the 1930’s a number of families moved from Palestine to Cyprus, and engaged in its citrus fruit trade. After the World War II the British established detention camps on Cyprus for Jewish refugees who tried to enter Palestine illegally. Today, about 24 Jews lived on Cyprus, out of a total population of more than 7 million.

CYRUS (6th century B.C.E.).

One of the great conqueror-kings of the ancient world and founder of the Persian Empire. When this Median prince took Babylon in 539 B.C.E. he found there Jews who had been led into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar 50 years earlier. Cyrus permitted them to return to Palestine and named Zerubbabel, grandson of Judea’s last king, governor of Jerusalem. He assigned a military guard to escort Zerubbabel to his capital. The returning exiles carried with them the plundered vessels of the Temple and funds for its reconstruction. Both were gifts of the emperor.

CZECH REPUBLIC.

In 1993, by democratic vote, the nation of Czechoslovakia, bordering Poland on the north, Germany on the west, and Hungary on the east, was split into two countries, Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Czech Republic’s Jewish community in the regions of Moravia and Bohemia dates to the 10th century.

Jews first settled in a suburb of the capital city, Prague, and from there spread to other cities. Their numbers increased when they were joined by Jews fleeing the cruel attacks of the Crusaders in the countries of western and southern Europe. Jews prospered in the region, engaging in agriculture and various trades, until the mid-14th century when they suffered persecution and exile. They were accused of poisoning wells and desecrating the bread of the Holy Communion.

The religious war which broke out at this time between the students of Jan Hus and the Catholics brought further suffering to the Jews. In 1542, disaster was narrowly averted when pope Pius IV persuaded King Ferdinand I to cancel the edict ordering Jews out of Prague. After each tragic disturbance, the Jewish community rebuilt its life, and the community became famous for its outstanding scholars. Among these were Rabbi Judah Loew, scholar and saint also known as the Maharal, and Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller, author of a commentary on the Mishnah. The country was for many years the cause of controversy between certain Slavic and German tribes. After continuous battles between the Slavic and the German rulers in the mid-17th century, it fell to the Hapsburg crown and became a part of the Austro-Hungary empire. In 1918, Czechoslovakia again won political independence.

The new republic, established after World War I by Thomas Masaryk, granted its Jewish citizens equal rights in practice as well as in theory. In 1938, there were about 400,000 Jews living in the new Czechoslovakia, in a general population of about 15 million. Jews were represented in the government, civil service, the armed forces, Parliament, trade and commerce, and the professions. A national-cultural Jewish life developed there, and numerous yeshivot and Hebrew schools flourished. Carpatho-Russia was, between the World Wars, an important center of Hasidism. Many Jews there engaged in farming. Some of the most famous Czechoslovak communities were Prague, Brno, Bratislava, Moravska Ostrava, and Mukacevo. In the 1930’s Czechoslovakia absorbed many Jewish refugees from Germany.

The Munich Pact of 1938, under which large areas were surrendered to Nazi Germany, brought tragedy to Jews in Czechoslovakia. In the area which was ceded to Germany, Czech Jews were persecuted as were other Jews throughout the German Reich. In 1939, the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, nullified its independence, and turned it into a puppet state. Some Czechoslovak Jews managed to emigrate to other countries, including Palestine, but large numbers suffered the fate of millions of other Jews, and were exterminated in the infamous death camps.

After World War II, the republic of Czechoslovakia was reestablished and its Jewish citizens were granted equal rights. But nearly all of the communities were without Jewish residents. In 1946, the Communist regime came into power, and most of the remaining Jews emigrated. In 1989, the Communist regime came to an end. The new president, Vaclav Havel, visited Israel in 1990 and has shown interest in furthering cultural ties between the two nations.In 1993, by democratic vote, the country split into Czech Republic and Slovakia. Currently, the Jewish population in the Czech Republic is estimated at about 4,000; most live in Prague and other large centers.

CZERNIAKOW, ADAM (1880-1942).

President of the Judenrat, or Jewish Council, in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation. Despite his many efforts to ward off the Nazi onslaught against half a million Jews in Warsaw, the systematic extermination of this major Jewish population center continued unhindered, and eventually Czerniakov committed suicide.

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