TRANSYLVANIA (Hungarian, Erdély; German, Siebenbürgen):

A district which has formed a part of Hungary since 1867. According to one tradition, the first Jewish settlers of this region were subjects of the Persian king Xerxes, who fled thither after the battle of Salamis; while another tradition states that they were colonized there by the Dacian king Decebulus. It is certain, at all events, that Jews lived in Transylvania soon after the country had become a part of Dacia during the Roman period. The earliest mention of them in historical sources, however, is in 1578, when it was decreed in Art. xxii. of the regulations passed by the national assembly at Kolozsvar that "Greeks and likewise Jews might not engage in trade, except in places especially assigned them for residence." This "locus depositionis" in which Jews were allowed to live was Gyulafehérvár (Karlsburg,formerly called Weissenburg, Alba Julia, and Alba Carolina), a frontier town, where the Turkish trade passed through Jewish hands. In 1623 the grand duke Gabriel Bethlen granted the Jews the privilege of settling in fortified cities, of carrying on commerce throughout the country, and of unrestricted observance of religion. This privilege, although made a law by the national assembly in 1627, was of short duration. The ordinances passed by the national assembly in 1650 provided that the Jews should be restricted commercially, and should be forced, like the Greeks, to wear distinctive articles of clothing and badges; and the intolerant grand duke George Rakoczy II. deprived them of the right of residence in fortified towns. These provisions, however, were never carried out. While the emperor Joseph II., in his patent of 1781, appointed Gyulafehérvár as a residence for the Jews, and while the same provision was made by the government as late as 1845, the Jews have always lived in various parts of the country, although their numbers may have been small. The religious congregation and the only community officially recognized, however, were at Gyulafehérvár, where there was a bet din as early as 1591. The first rabbi whose name is known was Joseph Reisz Auerbach (1742-50), who was succeeded by Solomon Selig b. Saul ha-Kohen (1754-58), Johanan b. Isaac of Belgrade (until 1760), Benjamin Zeeb Wolf of Cracow (until 1777), Moses b. Samuel ha-Levi Margolioth (1778-1817), Menahem b. Joshua Mendel (1818-23), Ezekiel b. Joseph Panet (1823-45), and Abraham Friedmann (1845-79), all of whom held the title of district rabbi.

The Sabbatarians (Sambatianer) are important factors in the history of the Jews in Transylvania. This sect originated among the Christians, under the influence of the Reformation, and was founded in 1588 by Andreas Eössy, whose followers regarded the Jews as the chosen people and held their belief to be the only true faith. They observed the Jewish dietary laws, kept the Jewish feasts, and were especially strict in their observance of the Sabbath. The persecutions of the princes Gabriel Bethlen and George Rakoczy I. alienated the Sabbatarians further and further from Christian doctrines, until they approached Judaism so closely that the only congregation which survived the persecution, and which still exists in Bözöd-Ujfalu, officially adopted Judaism with the permission of Baron Eötvös, minister of religion. At present (1905) the Jewish population of Transylvania is 59,239.

  • S. Kohn, A Szombatosok, Torténetük, Dogmatikájuk, és Irodalmuk, Budapest, 1888;
  • H. Hazai, Munkálatok a Szombatosokról, ib. 1903;
  • Eisler, Ar Erdélyi Zsidók Multjából, Klausenburg, 1901.
S. L. V.
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