SZERENCSÉS (FORTUNATUS), EMERICH:
Hungarian deputy treasurer; died Aug., 1526. As a married man he had had illicit intercourse with a Christian woman, and when this became known, in order to escape severe punishment he was forced to embrace Christianity; he was baptized by Ladislaus Szalkai, Archbishop of Grau, while the palatine Emerich Perényi, whose first name he thenceforth adopted, acted as sponsor. After Szerencsés' conversion he was appointed deputy treasurer, in which position he exercised a great deal of influence in favor of his former coreligionists. Whenever they were in danger he sent them letters of warning written in secret characters; and on one occasion when he learned that an accusation of ritual murder had been lodged against the Jewish community of Ofen, he persuaded the king and the dignitaries to deliver the calumniator to him. When an order of expulsion was issued against the Jews of Prague he made great sacrifices in order to secure its revocation. He likewise rescued a Jew and a Jewess who had been condemned to death by fire; and he had the children of a baptized Jew brought up in the Jewish faith. As long as he lived he distributed alms among the poor Jews every Friday. As a token of their gratitude toward him the rabbis of Ofen, Padua, and Constantinople ordered that his sons, Abraham and Ephraim, who, like their mother, had remained Jews, should be called up to the Law by their father's name, and not, as was the custom when the father had become a Christian, by their grandfather's. This action was taken as an indication that Szerencsés was not considered an apostate at heart.
But meanwhile the nobility of the realm, headed by Stephan Verböczi, accused Szerencsés of being the cause of the financial embarrassment of the country; and some of the members of the Diet of 1525 even demanded that he be burned at the stake. Szerencsés, indeed, had been grossly negligent in his official duties, and, in common with many of the most respected noblemen of the time, had made free use of the state's money. He was therefore imprisoned by King Louis II., whose favorite he had been, but was released shortly afterward. On the adjournment of the Diet servants of the nobles, reenforced by the rabble, attacked and plundered his home, and he escaped the rage of the populace only by flight. At the same time the mob stormed the ghetto, and seized all the valuables belonging to the Jews. When the Diet convened in the following year (1526) on account of the threatening incursions by the Turks, Szerencsés was once more restored to favor, but he died shortly afterward. On his death-bed, surrounded by many Jews, he repented his sins, with tears and prayers. His descendants adopted the name of Sachs.