¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Paragraphs 3, 4, 8, 11, 18, and 19 outline the Jews’ permitted sources of livelihood: Jews were permitted to trade in most goods, except for salt and iron (later also tobacco). These, as we shall see, were special monopolies under direct control of the counts. Trading in cattle and horses was acceptable, but the letter threatened severe punishment for trading in sick or defective animals. Although not mentioned explicitly, as a general rule Jews were not allowed to own a farm or to live off its proceeds.4 Jews were permitted to ply their business in the public market hall and on the road, but not in owned shops. Thus, the ability to maintain stock was extremely limited. They could sell ritually slaughtered meat. Moneylending ‘without Jewish usury’ was permitted in principle, but “usury” was not defined explicitly. In a strict sense, collecting any interest could be interpreted as usury; but what incentive would a moneylender have to accept risk without a chance at profit? An interest rate of 6% to 8% was typical.5 In fact, the records show that the lending business was brisk, despite the ever-present threat of being accused and convicted of usury. While not mentioned explicitly in this letter of protection, but borne out by the records, financial transactions (including purchases and sales) above a certain value had to be registered with the authorities.6 Jews were not allowed to pursue business on Sundays and Christian holidays. Special rules applied to the return of stolen property, whether pawned or fenced.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Paragraphs 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 12 address legal status and recourse: Jews were promised fair treatment by county courts and magistrates. They could appeal to the emperor for protection under the imperial servitude statute, but only as long as the issue did not contravene the interest of the count. And within these limits, the count promised to support the concerns of Jews. Of course, the count charged for any arising cost. Any conflict, whether Jew against Jew or Jew against gentile, had to be handled strictly in secular courts. Access to rabbinical courts was strictly denied, both in paragraphs 5 and 8. This was a very sensitive point. According to Jewish tradition, every aspect of life is governed by Talmudic laws. Some issues are straightforward; others require interpretation or judgment by a properly qualified rabbi. Most simple country rabbis lacked the requisite legal training, but they were still able to mediate conflicts. As shall be discussed below, the counts quickly came to regret their exclusion of rabbis for settling squabbles between Jews and relaxed this provision in the protection letter of 1671. However, there might have been good reason for their reluctance to involve rabbinical courts. Some fifty years earlier, a simple disagreement between two Jewish business partners, the financier Simon ben Elieser Ulmo-Günzburg and the printer Nathan Schotten, both in Bavarian Swabia, had escalated from involvement of a plain arbitrator, through an arbitration panel, to a local rabbinical court – with parallel involvement of secular courts – then to an open conflict between the rabbis of Swabia and those of Frankfurt,7 and ultimately it percolated all the way up to Emperor Maximilian II.8 It is thus understandable that many local rulers wanted no part of it.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Paragraph 5 clearly negates a directive from the synod of Jewish rabbis in 1603 that disagreements between Jews had to be resolved in Jewish courts.9
4Mordstein, Selbstbewusste Untertänigkeit, 227 – 239; Ullmann, Nachbarschaft und Konkurrenz, 379.
5Mordstein, Selbstbewusste Untertänigkeit,.228 – 242.
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