Community Tokens

views updated


COMMUNITY TOKENS , internal Jewish currency. The special conditions under which Jews lived in the Diaspora before Emancipation and in Ereẓ Israel especially up to World War i led to a kind of community similar to a miniature state. To preserve the character of the community, whose members did not enjoy the privileges of other citizens, Jews were obliged to create and provide for their own institutions, such as synagogues, rabbinic courts, schools, hospitals, homes for the aged, soup kitchens for the poor, etc. All these institutions were administered by the community and financed by its members through ordinary and extraordinary contributions. In order to cope with these tasks, the communal leaders at times resorted to issuing tokens of their own, with an internal value only and not generally acceptable outside the community. To not raise the suspicion of the authorities, they were often cast in a style that distinguished them from legal tender. Many communities issued tokens in metal or paper, and much information about them has been lost. Whenever a new kind of token is discovered, a fresh investigation has to be carried out.


Perhaps the oldest Jewish metal tokens are those issued by the community of Rome in the ghetto period. These were given to the shoḥet for the slaughter of a small chicken (1½ baiocchi) and a large one (3 baiocchi) and the proceeds went to the talmud torah fund. The Sephardi immigrants in *Constantinople had their own community centers and synagogues. They issued 5 para brass tokens on which the origin of the community is mentioned, such as Araico (Sarajevo), Shirigis (Saragossa), and Cordoba. The community of Beirut issued a brass charity token for the sick (Bikkur Ḥolim) in 1904. During World War i and in the first years after, many communities in Russia and Poland issued paper tokens. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire at least two metal tokens were issued: one in the Austrian community of *Mattersdorf with the initials i.g.m. (Israelitische Gemeinde Mattersdorf) and an equivalent abbreviation in Hebrew; and the other issued by the Hungarian community of *Satoraljaujhely in German and Hungarian (Cultussteuer der israelitischen Gemeinde S.A. Ujhely). In the 1830s the Jewish merchants of Belgrade obtained from Prince Milosh recognition of their custom of minting their own small change. Private issues were not uncommon; various Jewish enterprises issued their own tokens. Julius *Popper, owner of the gold mines in Tierra del Fuego, issued in El Paramo two gold coins of 1 and 5 grams respectively in his name: "Popper-Tierra del Fuego." The numismatic dealer Henry Seligmann, of Hannover, Germany, in 1921 issued porcelain tokens in the denominations of 25 and 50 Pfennig. Various Jewish enterprises in the United States, especially restaurants, circulated their own tokens.

Ereẓ Israel

Under Turkish rule in the 19th and 20th centuries, the communities in Ereẓ Israel issued a considerable number of tokens. A brass Ẓedakah token was issued in Jerusalem by the Torat Ḥayyim yeshivah, which also put out a small stamp-shaped paper token of ½ para and different kinds of paper currency in denominations of 1, 5, and 10 gold Napoleons. Other communities in Jerusalem, such as the various kolelim, also issued their own paper currency, as did Hebron yeshivah (in Jerusalem) during the British Mandate. There were other brass tokens, such as a square one bearing the legend שְׂכַר שְׁחִיטָה דַקָּה ("fee for the slaughter of a sheep or goat"), a rectangular one inscribed צְדָקָה תַּצִּיל מִמָּוֶת ("charity saves from death"), a round one with the legend קרש ("grush" = piaster = 40 para), and another round one with the abbreviation צְדָקָה לַעֲנִיִּים) צל״ע "charity for the poor"). Turkish copper coins were also issued, countermarked with the same abbreviation. In the 1880s the colony of Zikhron Ya'akov and the agricultural school of Mikveh Israel issued brass tokens of 1, ½, and ¼ (presumably piaster), which, however, were declared illegal by the Turkish authorities. Another more primitive brass token was issued by the colony of Reḥovot, which also issued paper tokens inscribed in Hebrew and French in denominations of ½, 1, 3, 6, 13, and 26 piasters. The colony of Petaḥ Tikvah issued zinc tokens of 1 and 2 (undefined denominations), and in the early 1920s also issued paper tokens in denominations of ¼, 1, and 10 Egyptian piasters, then the legal currency in Palestine. In 1916 the city of Tel Aviv put into circulation paper tokens of 2/10, ¼, ½, and 1 beshlik and 1 franc as an emergency measure. However, this was prohibited by the Turks and had to be withdrawn. To overcome the lack of currency from 1914 to 1916, the Anglo-Palestine Co., the forerunner of the Anglo-Palestine Bank and today's Bank Leumi, issued checks in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 francs which were accepted by the yishuv as legal tender. In the early 1950s, during another shortage of small change, the Tel Aviv municipality issued paper tokens in denominations of 50 and 100 perutah respectively. The ½ mil of kofer ha-yishuv was a brass token that served as a self-imposed security tax during the British Mandate (from 1939) to meet the requirements of the Haganah. Paper tokens were issued by various bus companies in aid of the Magen David Adom. During the British Mandate there were private issues of small paper, mainly by restaurants.


B. Kisch, in: hj, 15 (1953), 167–82; Y. Shachar, in: The Holy Land Philatelist, 64–65 (1960), 1306–07; H. Feuchtwanger, in: Israel Numismatic Bulletin, 5 (1963), 2ff.; A. Kindler, in: Museum Haaretz Bulletin, 7 (1965), 66ff.; see also pls. x–xv.

[Alvin Kass]