PRESBURG (Hungarian, Pozsony):
By: Gotthard Deutsch
City of Hungary, situated on the River Danube. Its location on a commercial highroad makes it probable that its Jewish community is one of the oldest in Hungary. The first documentary mention of its Jews dates from 1251. In 1291 they received a charter from King Andrew III. In 1360 they were expelled; and they then settled in the neighboring town of Heimburg, whence they returned in 1368. The first synagogue was built in 1399. In 1517 their capitation tax amounted to 120 florins annually. After the disastrous battle of Mohacs, Queen Maria ordered their expulsion (Oct. 9, 1526); but King Ferdinand, founder of the Hapsburg dynasty, repealed this edict in the same year. His son Maximilian II. ordered another expulsion (Nov. 26, 1572), but this edict also remained unenforced. Presburg, as the seat of the Diet, often saw assemblies of Jews; e.g., in 1749, when Jewish delegates compromised with Queen Maria Theresa with regard to the annual payment of 30,000 florins; and in 1840, when the Diet deliberated on the question of Jewish emancipation.
Presburg was always noted for the anti-Jewish tendencies of its citizens. The city, whose council had opposed all improvement of the political condition of the Jews in 1840, was the scene of a fierce riot in 1848 (April 23-24), caused by the provocation of the citizens at the granting of equal rights to the Jews. One of the latter was killed; several were wounded; and a great deal of property, including the Jewish school-building, was destroyed. The municipal council, which had refused Jews permission to enter the national guard (March 20), again showed its prejudice by ordering those Jews who had rented houses outside of the ghetto to return to their former habitations. The memory of these events is still celebrated by special services on the seventh day of Passover, on which day the riot reached its height.
A similar riot occurred two years later (April 22-24, 1850), owing to the insistence of the populace that Jews should not open stores outside the ghetto. The military restored order temporarily; but the city council refused to be responsible for its maintenance, unless the government would order all Jews to close their places of business who had not possessed previous to 1840 the privilege of maintaining stores outside the ghetto. Finally the council had to yield. The Jews received permission in 1851 to open stores without the ghetto; and in September of the same year the separate administration of the ghetto was abolished, the latter being made part of the municipal territory. Further difficulties arose over the claim of the Jews to a share in the institutions for the support of the poor. This difficulty was finally settled by a compromise, the city agreeing to pay annually to the Jewish congregation the sum of 1,703.88 florins and to leave to it the care of its poor (1856). The awakening of the anti-Semitic movement in Hungary found a sympathetic echo in Presburg, where the first Hungarian anti-Semitic society was founded, which from 1880 had for its organ the "Westungarischer Grenzbote." The Tisza-Eszlár affair caused riots on Sept. 28, 1882, and Aug. 4, 1883, which resulted in the destruction of property for which the city had to pay 5,000 florins damages. Blood accusations led to outbreaks of a milder character on May 26-27, 1887, and April 12, 1889. In 1892 the cathedral clergy opposed the building of a new synagogue, because of its proximity to their church.
In regard to internal Jewish affairs Presburg has become distinguished for its yeshibah and as being in consequence the stronghold of Hungarian Orthodoxy. When Joseph II. ordered the compulsory military service and secular education of the Jews, Hirsch Theben was prominent among the spokesmen of the latter, demanding the repeal of these laws. While the emperor would not yield on these points, he conceded them the right to wear beards, a practise which had been prohibited (1783).Spiritual Life.
The yeshibah became particularly prominent through the influence of Moses Sofer; and through him also Presburg was made the center of the opposition to the modernization of education and of religiousservice. Still, in spite of all opposition, a modern Jewish school was founded (c. 1822); and about the same time a society for the promotion of handicrafts was established. In 1844 this school received a new home through the munificence of Hermann Todesko of Vienna, a kindergarten being added to it. A Jewish students' society, which had been formed in 1838 for the promotion of culture and likewise, among other objects, for the modernization of religious services, was suppressed; but the Orthodox leaders of the congregation yielded to the extent of reorganizing the Talmud Torah, into whose curriculum secular branches were introduced, and which was placed under the management of a trained pedagogue. Yeshibah and synagogue, however, remained untouched by modern influences, although in 1862 the congregation extended a call to the "maggid" Feisch Fischmann, previously rabbi of Kecskemet, in order to satisfy the demand for a service which should appeal more directly to the younger generation. The first deviation from the traditional services occurred when the progressive element of the congregation, dissatisfied with the election of Bernhard Schreiber as rabbi, separated and formed the Israelitische Religionsgemeinde (March 17, 1872). This congregation has a service similar to that introduced by I. N. Mannheimer in Vienna. The yeshibah was recognized in 1859 as a rabbinical institution; and its students are therefore exempt from military service. Minister Tréfort decided that no student should be admitted who had not received a secular training equal to that provided by the curriculum of the lower grade of the high school (May 30, 1883); but this decision has never been enforced.
As a peculiar survival should be mentioned the privilege retained by the congregation of presenting the king annually with two Martinmas geese, on which occasion its representatives are received in personal audience by the monarch.Rabbis.
The earliest known rabbi of Presburg is YomṬob Lipman, one of the Vienna exiles; he officiated about 1695. Subsequent rabbis include: Moses ben Meïr Ḥarif (1736-58); Akiba Eger, originally assistant to Moses and upon his death his successor (died 1758, having held office for twelve days only); Isaac of Dukla (1759-62); Meïr Barby (1768-89); Meshullam Eger of Tysmenieca (1794-1801); Moses Schreiber (1806-1839); Samuel Wolf Schreiber, son of the preceding (1839-71); Bernhard (Simḥah Bonem) Schreiber, grandson of Moses Schreiber (from 1872). In 1899 Moses' son Akiba was made his assistant as principal of the yeshibah. The Israelitische Religionsgemeinde elected in 1876 as its rabbi Julius David, upon whose death (1898) the present (1905) incumbent, Dr. H. Funk, was appointed. Of other scholars and noted men who were natives of Presburg or who lived there may be mentioned: Mordecai Mokiaḥ (d. 1729); his son Löb Mokiaḥ or Berlin (d. 1742); Daniel Prostiz Steinschneider (1759-1846); Löb Letsch Rosenbaum (d. 1846); Michael Kittseer (d. 1845); Bär Fränk (d. 1845); Leopold Dukes; and Albert Cohn.
In 1900 the Jews of Presburg numbered 7,110 in a total population of 65,870. The community has several synagogues and chapels, two schools, various charitable societies, a Jewish hospital, and a training-school for nurses.
- Weiss, Abne Bet ha-Yoẓer, Paks, 1900.