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Singer, Ludvík

(1876–1931), lawyer and politician. Ludvík Singer was a leader of Czech-speaking Zionists in Bohemia. He was born in Kolín and studied law at the Czech University in Prague, where he became involved in the Czech Jewish movement. In his first job as a lawyer in Liberec (Reichenberg) in northern Bohemia, he was confronted with the Czech–German national conflict, which apparently shook his belief in Czech Jewish assimilation.

In 1906, Singer opened a law office in Kolín and joined the Zionist movement a year later, becoming chair of the Zionist District Committee for Bohemia in 1910. In October 1918, he was appointed chair of the Jewish National Council in Prague, and in this position he negotiated issues concerning the Jewish national minority with Czechoslovak political representatives. He took part in the Paris Peace Conference as a member of the Comité des Délégations Juives.

In 1919, Singer was elected to the Prague city council and was reelected to this body until his death in 1931. In 1929, he and Julius Reisz were elected to the Czechoslovak parliament, representing the Jewish Party (Židovská Strana). They joined the club of Czechoslovak Social Democrats although they were not members of that party. In June 1930, Singer was picked to be president of the Prague Jewish Community, the first Zionist to hold this office.

Singer played an extraordinary role in the history of the Zionist movement in the Czech lands, being one of the few Czech-speaking Zionist leaders. As a member of the Prague city council, and later as a member of parliament, he contributed enormously to the development of cooperation between Jewish nationalists and the Czech political establishment. On the one hand, he urged recognition of Jewish national rights in the Czechoslovak state; on the other hand, he was sensitive to the national policy of the Czechs. For this latter reason, after 1918 he advocated the adoption of the Czech language by Bohemian Jews. In the politics of the Jewish Party, he championed cooperation with Czech leftist parties rather than with representatives of the Polish or German minorities. Singer also wrote two historical essays, concerning censorship during the reign of Joseph II and the history of the edicts of toleration in Czech lands.

Suggested Reading

Hillel J. Kieval, The Making of Czech Jewry: National Conflict and Jewish Society in Bohemia, 1870–1918 (New York, 1988); Aharon Moshe K. Rabinowicz, “The Jewish Party: A Struggle for National Recognition, Representation and Autonomy,” in The Jews of Czechoslovakia, vol. 2, pp. 253–346 (Philadelphia and New York, 1971).