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Beyond the Walls: The Beginnings of Pest Jewry

  • Howard Lupovitch (a1)


Historians have conventionally presented the beginnings of Pest Jewry as a function of legal developments. According to this approach, Jews were denied entry until 1783, when Joseph Us Patent allowed Jews to settle freely in Pest and other royal free cities. “Only in 1783,” wrote historian Nathaniel Katzburg, “did the situation [for Jews] improve when Emperor Joseph II nullified the discriminatory laws directed against Hungarian Jewry, and the gates of the ‘free’ cities, including Pest, opened to Jewish settlement.” This privilege was sharply curtailed by Law 38 of 1791. This law, enacted by the National Diet following the nullification of Joseph II's Patent, barred royal free cities from evicting Jews wholesale, but allowed these cities to evict all Jews who had not obtained legal residence by 1 January 1790. As scholar Vera Bácskai pointed out: “After the death of the emperor, the Pest council wanted to expel [the Jews] and only a special order by the palatine made possible Law 38 of 1790, according to which Jews who had settled before 1790 could not be expelled from the city.” Law 38, the argument concludes, defined the parameters of Jewish settlement in Pest and other royal free cities until 1840, when the National Assembly enacted Law 29, allowing native-born and naturalized Hungarian Jews to settle freely in Pest and other royal free cities.



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1 Katzburg, Nathaniel, Pinkos ha-Kehillot: Hungariya (Encyclopedia of Jewish communities: Hungary) (Tel Aviv, 1978), 191; Vera Bácskai, “Pesti Zsidóság 19. század első felében” (Pest Jewry during the first half of the nineteenth century), Budapesti Negyed (Budapest quarterly) 8, no. 2 (1995): 1. Citations from this article are from the online version; accessed on 17 October 2003.

2 Bácskai, Vera, “Budapest and Its Hinterland: The Development of Twin Cities, 1720–1850,” in Capital Cities and Their Hinterlands in Early Modern Europe, ed. Clark, Peter and Lepett, Bernard (Aldershot, 1996), 185–87.

3 Kiraly, Bela, Hungary in the Late Eighteenth Century: The Decline of Enlightened Absolutism (New York, 1969), 45.

4 There were, of course, Jewish communities that increased this rapidly during the second half of the nineteenth century, such as Lodz and Warsaw. See, for example, Guesnet, François, “Lodzer Juden im 19. Jahrhundert: Ihr Ort in einer multikulturellen Stadtgesellschaft,” in Annäherungen: Beiträge zur jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur in Mittel- und Osteuropa, ed. Jersch-Wenzel, Stefi and Wartenberg, Günther (Leipzig, 2002), 34.

5 Moess, Albert, Pest Megye és Pesi-Buda Zsidóságának Demográfiája, 1749–1846 (Demography of the Jews of Pest county and Pest-Buda) (Budapest, 1968), 64. In 1787, 22,442 people lived in Pest; in 1840, 75,520 lived there.

6 Ibid., 64–65. In 1799, 1,075 Jews lived in Pest; in 1823, 3,987; and in 1843, 7,095.

7 Budapest Főváros Levéltára (Budapest Municipal Archive; hereafter cited as BFL) Intimata #6061; “Census of 1797,” BFL Miscellenia #7105.

8 Bácskai, , “Pesti Zsidóság,” 1.

9 Bácskai, , “Budapest and Its Hinterland,” 184–90.

10 Ibid., 188.

11 Sorkin, David, “The Port Jews: Notes toward a New Social Type,” Journal of Jewish Studies 50, no. 1 (1999): 8895; von Kessel, Peter and Schulte, Elisja, eds., Rome, Amsterdam: Two Growing Cities in Seventeenth-Century Europe (Ann Arbor, 1998), 56.

12 Stone, Daniel, “Jews and the Urban Question in Late Eighteenth Century Poland,” Slavic Review 50, no. 3 (1991): 534.

13 Nagy, Lajos, Budapest története a török kiűzésétől a márciusi forradalomig (A history of Budapest from the expulsion of the Turks to the March revolution), vol. 3 (Budapest, 1975), 343–44.

14 For a brief overview of the checkered history of this institution, see Frojimovics, Kinga et al. , eds., Jewish Budapest: Monuments, Rites, History (Budapest, 1994), 70ff.

15 Bácskai, , “Pesti Zsidóság,” 14; Moess, , Pest Megye, 60.

16 Wyrozumski, Bofena and Wyrozumski, Jerzy, “New Sources for the History of Cracow during the Middle Ages,” in Kroke—Kazimierz—Cracow: Studies in the History of Cracow Jewry, ed. Reiner, Elhanan (Tel Aviv, 2001), 3031; Gonda, Moshe Elijahu, A debreceni zsidók száz éve (One hundred years of Debrecen Jewry) (Haifa, 1970), 47.

17 Nagy, Lajos, “A Terézváros kialakulása” (The establishment of Theresa District), Tanulmányok Budapest Múltjából (Studies from Budapest's past) 3 (1956): 103.

18 Nagy, , Budapest története, 60; Horel, Catherine, Histoire de Budapest (Paris, 1999), 70.

19 Nagy, , Budapest története, 61. As historian Sándor Büchler has noted, “For Jews, its narrow, dirty streets were reminiscent of the Prague and Pressburg ghettos.” Büchler, Sándor, Zsidók törtenete Budapesten a legréggibb időlctöl 1867–iy (A history of the Jews in Budapest from ancient times to 1867) (Budapest, 1901).

20 Ibid., 435–38.

21 Ibid., 177, 439.

22 Ibid., 397.

23 Ibid., 398.

24 Lee, Erika, At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882–1943 (Chapel Hill, 2003), 192.

25 Mendes-Flohr, Paul and Reinharz, Yehuda, The Jew in the Modern World (Oxford, 1995), 18.

26 Nathans, Benjamin, Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2002), 114.

27 On the role of Pod”iacheskii as a hub of Jewish immigration, see Ibid., 117–18.

28 “City of Pest's 1703 Letter of Privilege,” in Források Buda, Pest, és Óbuda Történetéhez, 1686–1873 (Sources on the history of Buda, Pest, and Óbuda, 1686–1873), ed. Vera Bácskai (Budapest, 1971), 32.

29 Peisner, Ignacz, Budapest a XVIII. Században (Budapest in the eighteenth century) (Budapest, 1900), 31.

30 Ibid., 31–32.

31 Bácskai, , “Pesti Zsidóság,” 34; Büchler, , Zsidók törtenete Budapesten, 332–36.

32 This incident is described in detail in Büchler, , Zsidók törtenete Budapesten, 337, passim; it is recapitulated in English in Frojimovics, et al. , ed., Jewish Budapest, 69.

33 Scheiber, Sándor, ed., Monumenta Hungariae Judaica (Magyar Zsido Oklevewltar) (Collection of documents), vol. 16 (Budapest, 1974), 167.

34 Nagy, , Budapest Története, 116; Bur, Marta, “A Balkáni Kereskedők és a Magyar Borkivitel a XVIII. Században” (Balkan merchants and the Hungarian wine-export in the eighteenth century), Törtenelmi Szemle (Historical review) 21, no. 2 (1978): 288ff. In eighteenth-century parlance, merchants from the Balkans were referred to colloquially—and imprecisely—as “Greek” in reference to the fact that they were Greek Orthodox Christians. In fact, “Greek” merchants included Serbs and Armenians. For this reason, I refer to them as Balkan merchants.

35 Nagy, , Budapest története, 120–21.

36 Ibid., 122.

37 Ibid., 123.

38 Büchler, , Zsidók története Budapesten, 214–15.

39 Katzburg, , Hungariya, 188.

40 Peisner, , Budapest a XVIII. Században, 123.

41 Bur, , “A Balkáni Kereskedők,” 293.

42 The Latin text of this patent was reprinted in Magyar Zsidó Szemle (Hungarian Jewish review) 13 (1896): 367–74; an abridged translation in Hungarian appears in Ibid., 323–24.

43 Nagy, , Budapest története, 396.

44 Ibid., 397.

45 Büchler, , Zsidók története Budapesten, 346.

46 Bácskai, , “Pesti Zsidóság,” 2.

47 Ibid., 3.

48 “Letter from Alexander Leopold to Francis I, 13 November 1792,” in Sándar Lipót főherceg Nádor iratai, 1790–95 (The papers of Crown Prince Palatine Alexander Leopold), ed. Mály-usz, Elemér (Budapest, 1926), 865.

49 Bácskai, , “Pesti Zsidóság,” 4.

50 “Instruction from Palatine Joseph regarding the Military Exchequer's [zábkivetelről],” in József Nádor élete és iratai (The life and papers of Palatine Joseph), ed. Domanovszky, Sándor (Budapest, 1944), 2:240. “Any impediments possible must be placed before the so-called Kornjuden, even stemming the flow of Jews.” In 1805, Joseph would note in his diary that “Jews are among those who pass false bank notes while promising to bring more suitable coins into circulation.” Ibid., 3:309. The initial complaints regarding forgery are in Ibid., 2:477–78.

51 On the history of the Zichy family, see Nagy, Ivan, Magyarország Czimerekkel (Hungary's coats of arms) (Budapest, 1987), 12:371–84, esp. 379–81. On the Orczy family, see Ibid., 8:291.

52 Gates-Coon, Rebecca, “18th-Century Schutzherren: Esterhazy Patronage of the Jews,” Jewish Social Studies 47, no. 3/4 (1985): 185ff.; the letter of privilege from the Zichys to the Jews of Moson County is reprinted in Scheiber, ed., Magyar Zsidó Oklevéltár, 8:286–88.

53 Gál, Éva, “Zsidók Zsámbékon a 18. században” (Jews in Zsámbék during the 18th century), Magyar Izraeliták Országos Képviselete: Évkönyv (Yearbook of the State Congress of Hungarian Israelites) (Budapest, 1984), 144–45.

54 “Udvari konferencia jegyzőkönyv” (Protocols of the court conference), 24 December 1792, in Mályusz, , ed., Sándar Lipót főherceg nádor iratai, 299, 490.

55 BFL, Intimata #6061; “Census of 1797,” BFL Miscellenia #7105.

56 The Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, Óbuda Lajsztromozatlan iratok (Uncataloged documents on Óbuda), 1801 #5.

57 Ibid., Óbuda iratai (Óbuda Documents) JUNL VI #43 1784, and VII #99 1788.

58 Ibid., VII #134 1787.

59 Ibid., IX #261 1792.

60 Ibid., IX #389 1794.

61 Mályusz, , ed., Sándor Lipót Főherceg Nádor Iratai, 440, 445.

62 Frojimovics, et al. , eds., Jewish Budapest, 7172.

63 Hundert, Gershon David, “Jewish Urban Residence in the Polish Commonwealth in the Early Modern Period,” Jewish Journal of Sociology 26, no. 1 (1984): 26; Stone, , “Jews and the Urban Question,” 535.

64 The Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, Óbuda Iratok I #69 1786.

65 Ibid., I #203 and #234 1790.

66 Büchler, , Zsidók története Budapesten, 351.

67 Ibid., 348.

68 Bácskai, , “Pesti Zsidóság,” 8.

69 Büchler, , Zsidók története Budapesten, 354.

70 “Pest Burgerschaft to Pest Magistrate,” 17 08 1814, BFL Intimata #6314.

71 “Pest Burgerschaft to Pest Magistrate,” 16 06 1817, BFL Intimata #6336.

72 “Census of 1799,” BFL miscellania VII 96 1799.

73 “The Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, Óbuda iratai XV #251 1799.

74 Büchler, , Zsidók története Budapesten, 360.

75 Bácskai, , “Pesti Zsidóság,” 9. Ironically, Ullmann's son Moses would spearhead the opposition of Pest Jews to a similar claim from a Vienna merchant.

76 BFL Intimata #6112, 1793; Moess, , Pest Megye, 65.

77 Büchler, , Zsidók története Budapesten, 366. By this point, the town had decided that any Jew who had lived in Pest for ten years or more, had his own business, and lived respectably, could remain in the city if he petitioned the town council.

78 The following discussion draws from Büchler, , Zsidók története Budapesten, 371–91, whose presentation of this episode was summarized in English in Frojimovics, et al. , eds., Jewish Budapest, 6364.

79 Büchler, , Zsidók története Budapesten, 376.

80 Ibid., 379.

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Beyond the Walls: The Beginnings of Pest Jewry

  • Howard Lupovitch (a1)


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