Jews Given More Rights in Hungary by Emperor Joseph II Hot

Jews Given More Rights in Hungary by Emperor Joseph II

Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II
Source: Wikipedia

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One year after he issued the Edict of Toleration which granted Austrian Jews numerous civil rights, Emperor Joseph II issues the Systematica Gentis Judaicae Regulatio (Systematic Regulation of the Jewish Nation) for Jews in Hungary.

This decree ends the special laws that had applied only to them and thus places them under the jurisdiction of the general laws that are already applied to everyone else. Jews are also permitted to rent land and become members of guilds and apprentice their children to guild masters.

They are allowed to work as craftsmen, merchants, seal engravers, saltpeter producers, and gunpowder manufacturers.

Royal free cities are all opened to them; being able to live in a city rather than a ghetto, is an important step forward for the cause of Jewish emancipation from the traditional anti-Semitic laws promulgated by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages.

Jews are no longer required to wear special distinguishing clothing or badges, another hallmark of the antisemitic laws imposed on Jews by the medieval Catholic Church which will be revived by the Nazis in 20th century Europe.

At the same time, though, there are a number of restrictions that come with these liberties. In addition to not having to wear distinguishing clothing, for example, they also can't wear anything of their own choosing that is distinguishing. They have to "divest themselves of wearing beards and all external signs of their religion."

All contracts, certificates, and other documents with legal authority must be written in one of the approved languages: German, Hungarian, or Latin.

The use of Hebrew or Yiddish is forbidden; documents which use those languages will be considered null and void. In fact, Jews can't use Hebrew or Yiddish for anything other than prayers - not even in the printing of books.

The justification for this is explained in the Systematica Gentis Judaicae Regulatio:

"Since it is generally known that especially the more lettered Jews acquire proficiency in the use of their language by reading such books, therefore, in the interest of expediting the extirpation of the Jewish languages, and at the same time expediting the spread of the languages used in the dominions, it is graciously ordered that, with the exception of books written in pure Hebrew language, which belong among the Jews in the strict sense to the group of the holy and ritual books and are needed for the performance of divine services, ceremonies, and prayers of this people, the printing in and import into our countries of all other books classifiable to any group — whether pure Hebrew, or in corrupt Jewish language [Yiddish], or merely written in Jewish letters — will be totally and most strictly forbidden."

The intent of both the new liberties and the new restrictions seems to be assimilation: Jews can be treated as equals, but only if they cease to separate themselves too much from the wider political and cultural community. This goal will be reinforced in 1787 when Joseph II orders that all Jews must select a German family name which they will have to keep.

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