Under Maria Theresa (1740–1780)
In 1747, during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, the Jews of Hungary were taxed for the privilege of remaining in the empire, and were threatened with expulsion if they did not pay.
On September 1, 1749, the delegates of the Hungarian Jews, except those from Szatmár County, assembled at Pressburg and met a royal commission, which informed them that they would be expelled from the country if they did not pay this tax. The frightened Jews at once agreed to do so; and the commission then demanded a yearly tax of 50,000 gulden. This sum being excessive, the delegates protested; and although the queen had fixed 30,000 gulden as the minimum tax, they were finally able to compromise on the payment of 20,000 gulden a year for a period of eight years. The delegates were to apportion this amount among the districts; the districts, their respective sums among the communities; and the communities, theirs among the individual members.
The queen confirmed this agreement of the commission, except the eight-year clause, changing the period to three years, which she subsequently made five. The agreement, thus ratified by the queen, was brought on November 26 before the courts, which were powerless to relieve the Jews from the payment of this Malkegeld (queen's money), as they called it.
The Jews, thus burdened by new taxes, thought the time ripe for taking steps to remove their oppressive disabilities. While still at Presburg the delegates had brought their grievances before the mixed commission that was called delegata in puncto tolerantialis taxae et gravaminum Judeorum commissio mixta. These complaints pictured the distress of the Jews of that time. They were not allowed to live in Croatia and Slavonia, in Baranya and Heves Counties, or in several free royal towns and localities; nor might they visit the markets there. At Stuhlweissenburg (Székesfehérvár) they had to pay a poll-tax of 1 gulden, 30 kreuzer if they entered the city during the day, if only for an hour. In many places they might not even stay overnight. They therefore begged permission to settle, or at least to visit the fairs, in Croatia and Slavonia and in those places from which they had been driven in consequence of the jealousy of the Greeks and the merchants.
The Jews also had to pay heavier bridge-and ferry-tolls than the Christians; at Nagyszombat (Trnava) they had to pay three times the ordinary sum, namely, for the driver, for the vehicle, and for the animal drawing the same; and in three villages belonging to the same district they had to pay toll, although there was no toll-gate. Jews living on the estates of the nobles had to give their wives and children as pledges for arrears of taxes. In Upper Hungary they asked for the revocation of the Tolerance tax imposed by the chamber of Zips County (Szepes, Spiš), on the ground that otherwise the Jews living there would have to pay two such taxes; and they asked also to be relieved from a similar tax paid to the Diet. Finally, they requested that Jewish artisans might be allowed to follow their trades in their homes undisturbed.
The commission laid these complaints before the Queen, indicating the manner in which they could be relieved; and their suggestions were subsequently willed by the queen and made into law.
The queen relieved the Jews from the Tolerance tax in Upper Hungary only. In regard to the other complaints she ordered that the Jews should specify them in detail, and that the government should remedy them insofar as they came under its jurisdiction.
The Tolerance tax had hardly been instituted when Michael Hirsch petitioned the government to be appointed primate of the Hungarian Jews in order to be able to settle difficulties that might arise among them, and to collect the tax. The government did not recommend Hirsch, but decided that in case the Jews should refuse to pay, it might be advisable to appoint a primate to adjust the matter.
Before the end of the period of five years the delegates of the Jews again met the commission at Pressburg (Bratislava) and offered to increase the amount of their tax to 25,000 gulden a year if the queen would promise that it should remain at that sum for the next ten years. The queen had other plans, however; not only did she dismiss the renewed gravamina of the Jews, but rather imposed stiffer regulations upon them. Their tax of 20,000 gulden was increased to 30,000 gulden in 1760; to 50,000 in 1772; to 80,000 in 1778; and to 160,000 in 1813.
Under Joseph II
After 1789, the Jews paid a tolerance tax of 4 guilder per family, a tax on kosher meat, a marriage tax, a tax on the synagogues and cemeteries of 100 guilder per year, and a quota tax of 50 guilder per year.
- JewishGen. Hungary: Assorted Census Records, 1781-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2008.
- Wine and thorns in Tokay Valley: Jewish life in Hungary : the history of Abaújszántó, by Zahava Szász Stessel, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 1995, p. 50-51
- The Virtual Jewish History Tour Budapest, By Rebecca Weiner
- JewishGen, The History of the Jews of Rzeszow, Chapter 7, p. 47