Hierosolymitanische Stiftung

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HIEROSOLYMITANISCHE STIFTUNG ("Jerusalem Foundation"), an institution for transferring and distributing funds in Ereẓ Israel, collected among European communities. An organization for collecting money for the support of Jews in Erez Israel (Hierosolymitanische Kasse) was founded in Venice in 1601 and soon after in Hamburg, Hesse, Frankfurt, and elsewhere. Funds were collected locally and eventually channeled to the recipients through one benefactor, usually a person of standing in the Jewish community, who bore the honorific title of "Nasi Ereẓ Israel." The fund operated well for more than a century. During the course of a complex lawsuit involving R. David *Oppenheim, then "Nasi", the Austrian authorities in 1722 severely limited the right of Jews to contribute to their brethren in Ereẓ Israel as well as denying further use of the title to Oppenheim.

At the time (1722/23) the financial situation of the Jewish communities of Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed was desperate, since an enormous sum of money was owed to Turkish moneylenders and there were no resources whatsoever for repayment. Samson *Wertheimer, the powerful Austrian *Court Jew, utilized his diplomatic connections and intervened on behalf of the Ashkenazi communities. He succeeded in having their debts reduced and solicited funds for their relief. In the process he reestablished the foundation, despite governmental restrictions, known thereafter as Hierosolymitanische Stiftung. Wertheimer succeeded so well in galvanizing public support that he assumed the title of "Nasi Ereẓ Israel." The Stiftung accumulated considerable sums; 25,000 florins were bequeathed to Wertheimer's son Wolf to be used for the benefit of Ereẓ Israel Jewry. Wolf Wertheimer finally succeeded in placating the creditors in 1727 through the good offices of the Austrian diplomatic agent in Constantinople and the Jewish physician Tobias Moshides in Jerusalem. However, in 1733 he was forced to declare bankruptcy, and only 20 years later, when he had regained his former standing and wealth, did he reestablish the foundation.

His will (1762) stipulated that the interest from his estate be allotted for the support of the communities in Ereẓ Israel. However, the money could not be disbursed and was deposited in the highest Austrian court (Oberhof-Marschallsgericht) until Francis I officially validated the foundation in 1801. The payments were thereafter made through the Austrian diplomatic agent in Constantinople and distributed by 12 representatives of Ottoman Jewry to the Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed. In Austria two supervisors (Kuratoren) were appointed, one of whom had to belong to the Wertheimer family. Nathan von *Arnstein, Ignaz *Deutsch, and Moritz *Guedemann were all associated with the fund as supervisors.

Beginning in 1854, money was distributed equally to Ashkenazim and Sephardim. The annual stipend provided a secure source of income for its recipients until the chaotic post-World War i inflation.


D. Kaufmann, in: Yerushalayim, 4 (1892), 25ff.; B. Brilling, in: Zeitschrift fuer Geschichte der Juden in der Tschechoslowakei, 2 (1931/32), 237–56; idem, in: Zion, 12 (1947), 89–96; A. Shochat, ibid., 1 (1936), 399ff.; Y. Rivkind, in: Reshumot, 4 (1926), 301–20; I. Heilprin (ed.), Takkanot Medinat Mehrin (1952), 8–10; S.H. Lieben, in: jjlg, 19 (1928), 29–38.