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President of the Jewish community in Presburg; died at Prague Aug. 26, 1799. As "sheṭadlan" of the Hungarian Jews he gained distinction; and under Joseph II., Leopold II., and Francis I. he labored indefatigably in behalf of his coreligionists, striving to protect them from harsh regulations. On March 31, 1783, Joseph II. issued the proclamation which was the foundation of the culture of the Hungarian Jews and the beginning of a happier era. One of its provisions, however, was that the Jews should not wear beards; but Theben obtained the revocation of this clause. When Joseph II. compelled the Hungarian Jews to perform military service, Theben sought, though unsuccessfully, to have this ordinance also revoked. In these undertakings his associate was Naphtali ben Isaac Judah Rosenthal, a wealthy citizen of Moor, and in his youth a friend of Moses Mendelssohn.

In 1791, when Leopold II. was crowned at Presburg, the Hungarian Jews, led by Theben, arranged an enthusiastic celebration, during which Theben urged the king not to require the Jews to serve any longer as soldiers. On this occasion the king presented Theben with a gold medal. In the same year Theben strove to free certain Jews who had been imprisoned and tortured in Per on account of a blood accusation. Indeed, there was scarcely any important matter connected with the Jews in which the Theben community did not take an active part.

"Theben" (Hungarian, "Dévény") is the name of a place near Presburg, whence Theben's ancestors probably came.

  • Ignatz Reich, Beth-El, 2d ed., ii. 363-381;
  • Joshua Levinsohn, Rabbi Ya'aḳob Koppel Theben, Warsaw, 1899.
E. C. A. Bü.
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