Beyond the Walls: The Beginnings of Pest Jewry
Austrian History Yearbook
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Historians have conventionally presented the beginnings of Pest Jewry as a function of legal developments. According to this approach, Jews were denied entry until 1783, when Joseph Us Patent allowed Jews to settle freely in Pest and other royal free cities. “Only in 1783,” wrote historian Nathaniel Katzburg, “did the situation [for Jews] improve when Emperor Joseph II nullified the discriminatory laws directed against Hungarian Jewry, and the gates of the ‘free’ cities, including Pest, opened to Jewish settlement.” This privilege was sharply curtailed by Law 38 of 1791. This law, enacted by the National Diet following the nullification of Joseph II's Patent, barred royal free cities from evicting Jews wholesale, but allowed these cities to evict all Jews who had not obtained legal residence by 1 January 1790. As scholar Vera Bácskai pointed out: “After the death of the emperor, the Pest council wanted to expel [the Jews] and only a special order by the palatine made possible Law 38 of 1790, according to which Jews who had settled before 1790 could not be expelled from the city.” Law 38, the argument concludes, defined the parameters of Jewish settlement in Pest and other royal free cities until 1840, when the National Assembly enacted Law 29, allowing native-born and naturalized Hungarian Jews to settle freely in Pest and other royal free cities.