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Eskeles

ESKELES

ESKELES , family in Vienna. The name is derived from Elkesh, i.e., Olkusz, town in Krakow province. The first noted member, gabriel ben judah loew eskeles (d. 1718), was born in Cracow. A pupil of Samuel *Koidanover, he became rabbi of Olkusz in 1684. The rabbinate of Prague was offered to him in 1683 but it is not clear if he accepted it. He became rabbi of Metz in 1695, and in 1708/9 Landesrabbiner ("chief rabbi") of Moravia and head of the yeshivah in Nikolsburg (Mikulov), sharing his office with David *Oppenheim. In 1712 he banned the kabbalist and Shabbatean Nehemiah *Hayon. Gabriel left unpublished novellae on the Talmud tractates Shabbat and Megillah, a commentary on Avot, and a collection of responsa (now lost), known mainly from quotations in Meir *Eisenstadt's Panim Me'irot.

His son issachar berush (Bernard Gabriel, 1692–1753) married a daughter of Samson *Wertheimer, and, as written on his tombstone, "wrapped in a gold-trimmed cloak" became rabbi of Kremsier (Kromeriz) at the age of 18. As he absented himself frequently on business, he appointed a substitute rabbi. In 1717 he is mentioned as rabbi of Mainz. Around 1719 he settled in Vienna as court purveyor (see *Court Jews), supplying arms and other commodities. He succeeded his father as chief rabbi of Moravia and in 1725 followed Samson Wertheimer as chief rabbi of Hungary, administering both offices from Vienna. When consulted by the Moravian authorities in 1727, he suggested that they enforce the precept forbidding Jews from shaving with a razor, and advocated distinctive dress for Jews except for traveling. He translated into German the Moravian takkanot (published in 1880 by Gerson Wolf) for the Austrian government. His novellae on

tractate Berakḥot remain unpublished. Using his influence at court, he supported Diego *d'Aguilar's efforts to prevent the expulsion of the Jews from Moravia in 1742, and from Prague and Bohemia in 1744–45. Four days before his death, he established the Eskeles-Stiftung (see below).

Issachar's son bernhard (1753–1839), born after his father's death, became one of the outstanding financiers in Austria at the beginning of the 19th century. After an unsuccessful start in Amsterdam, where he lost his father's legacy (over 400,000 florins), he returned in 1774 to Vienna, married Cecily Wulff (née *Itzig), and went into partnership with her brother-in-law Nathan von *Arnstein. Following the rise of his banking house and his uncovering of a banking forgery (1795), he was entrusted with government financial tasks and his advice was sought by *Joseph ii and *Francis i. He founded the Austrian National Bank in 1816, and, competing with Salomon Mayer *Rothschild, promoted railway construction. Ennobled in 1797, he became a baron in 1822. It is assumed that he was the author of an anonymous exposé of the Jewish situation used by Joseph ii for his Toleranzpatent. In 1815, he was one of the signatories of a petition for Jewish rights (see *Austria). The only Austrian Jew invited to the Napoleonic *Sanhedrin in 1806, he informed the police out of loyalty to Austria. In an obituary (azj, 1839, 518–9) he was attacked for failing to make sufficient use of his influence and wealth for the benefit of the Jews. Bernhard's wife cecily (1759–1818), a daughter of Daniel Itzig, made their house a meeting place for high society (see *Salons), mainly during the Congress of *Vienna. Her parties rivaled those of her sister Fanny von *Arnstein. *Goethe made her acquaintance at Carlsbad. Bernhard and Cecily's children were baptized in 1824. denis (Daniel) inherited the firm, which went bankrupt in 1859, as a result of his connection with the French Crédit Mobilier. Issachar's elder daughter lea (Eleanore) was involved in a Prussian spy scandal. Because of this Valentin Guenther (with whom she had had two children), who had played an important part in the formulation of the Toleranz-patent, was banished from court. In later years Goethe corresponded with her.

The Eskeles-Stiftung

Issachar established a foundation for Torah teaching to children and providing dowries for poor brides. Endowed with 50,000 florins, the foundation was one of the largest in the Hapsburg empire. When in 1782 the government ordered that it should be used for the newly founded Normalschulen (see *Austria, education) Bernhard sued the government, and it was agreed that the foundation should be used for its original aims as well as for the new ones. As its income had decreased considerably, Bernhard doubled the capital in 1811. In 1839 he altered the statute, adding a donation for five Moravian university-trained rabbis and ten students. The latter were required to be of Jewish faith when granted the scholarship, but they were not to lose it if they were baptized. Of the two trustees one was to be a member of the Eskeles family of any religion, who was to propose the second, a Moravian resident of Jewish religion, who could be replaced if he were baptized. The foundation's committee still existed in Brno in the 1930s.

bibliography:

Wiener, in: Illustrierte Monatshefte fuer die gesamten Interessen des Judenthums, 1 (1865), 387–94; W. Mueller, Urkundliche Beitraege … (1903), 68–92; B. Wachstein, Die Inschriften des alten Judenfriedhofes in Wien, 2 (1917), 350–70; H. Gold (ed.), Die Juden und Judengemeinden Maehrens in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (1929), index; Michael, Or, no. 657; M. Grunwald, Vienna (1936), index; H. Spiel, Fanny von Arnstein (1962), index; H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 4 (1963), 331; M. Friedman, in: Sefunot, 10 (1966), 508, 532–5; K. Grunwald, in: ylbi, 12 (1967), 168; L. Singer, in: jggjČ, 5 (1933), 295–7; T. Jakabovits, in jggjČ, 5 (1933), 79–136 passim.

[Meir Lamed]

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