Wertheimer, Samson

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WERTHEIMER, SAMSON (1658–1724), Court *Jew in Vienna; scholar, shtadlan, and philanthropist. Born in Worms of a learned father, Wertheimer studied at the yeshivah in Frankfurt. In 1684 he married the widow of Nathan Oppenheimer and through her family came into contact with Samuel *Oppenheimer, who brought him to Vienna, appointing him manager of his affairs and presenting him to Emperor Leopold I. The wealthiest Jew of his day, from 1694 to 1709 Wertheimer was the chief administrator of the financial affairs of the emperors Leopold i, Joseph i, and Charles vi. He placed enormous sums at the disposal of the government, particularly during the Spanish War of Succession and the war against Turkey, and acted as court agent to the emperor and the rulers of Saxony, Mainz, Trier, and the Palatinate. Emperor Leopold i had such confidence in Wertheimer that he also entrusted him with diplomatic missions. On the occasion of the marriage of the emperor's brother, Prince Charles Philip, to the daughter of the king of Poland, Wertheimer succeeded in obtaining from the latter a dowry of 1,000,000 florins; in appreciation of this the emperor awarded him 1,000 ducats and presented him with his portrait. Paintings of the king of Poland and three prince electors were found in his estate. After the death of Oppenheimer in 1703, Wertheimer was appointed chief agent of the court (Hoffaktor); he then found new sources of income for the imperial treasury by improving the salt industry of Siebenbuergen, increasing the export of salt by removing several customs stations and by leasing the mines. At the same time he organized the monopoly of the Polish salt trade, arranging for and financing the transfer of the salt from *Wieliczka to Hungary and Silesia. The conference of Utrecht (1714), which brought to an end the Spanish War of Succession, was financed by the Wertheimers, who also paid the expenses of the Austrian ambassador. Ten imperial soldiers guarded his house and he was known by the title of Judenkaiser (Jewish Emperor). He invested his fortune in over half a dozen houses and estates in Vienna, Austria, and Germany. Together with other Court Jews, he saved the Jews of Rothenburg from expulsion by the payment of a large sum of money. He also intervened successfully with the authorities on behalf of the communities of Worms and Frankfurt. Speaking for all the Jewish communities in the empire, in 1700 he appealed to the emperor against the incitement of Johann *Eisenmenger; as a result, the emperor forbade the latter's antisemitic book to be circulated. Because of poor health, Wertheimer generally conducted his affairs from his home in Vienna and did not travel extensively, as was the custom of other Court Jews.

Wertheimer was offered the office and title of *Landesrabbiner of Hungarian Jewry for his aid in reestablishing communities and synagogues ravaged by warfare; the title was confirmed by the emperor and was the only one he used, though Moravia, Bohemia, and Worms accorded him similar honors. A scholar and patron of scholars, he financed the printing of the Babylonian Talmud undertaken at Frankfurt (1712–22) by his son-in-law, Moses *Kann. Some of the sermons he delivered in the synagogue in his home have been preserved. He also left behind manuscripts that dealt with various aspects of halakhah, Midrash, and Kabbalah. He built a large synagogue in Eisenstadt and one in Nikolsburg. Judah *he-Ḥasid and his group were supported by Wertheimer, who bore the title of Nesi Ereẓ Israel and was in charge of the transfer of money collected throughout Europe to the Holy Land (see *Hierosolymitanische Stiftung).

In his old age, Wertheimer retired from court affairs, handing them over to his son wolf, who was instrumental in organizing the diplomatic effort for the repeal of Maria *Theresa's expulsion of Prague Jewry. Wolf went bankrupt in 1733 after Bavaria had refused to honor its debts to him. These were eventually acknowledged after more than 20 years of litigation; payments, in installments, to his sons commenced after his death (1763). Wolf's grandsons, joseph (1742–1811), hermann (1750–1812), and lazar (1740–1818), became members of the nobility, with the title Edler von Wertheimstein, in 1791, 1792, and 1796 respectively. Most of their descendants were baptized.


M. Grunwald, Samuel Oppenheimer und sein Kreis (1913); B. Wachstein, Die Inschriften des alten Judenfriedhofes in Wien (1912–1917), index; J. Taglicht, Nachlaesse der Wiener Juden (1917), no. 279, 272–5 (Heb., no. 9, 22–25); M. Grunwald, Vienna (1936), index; S. Stern, The Court Jew (1950), index; Y. Rivkind, in: Reshummot, 4 (1925), 309–17; M. Lemberger, in: Gedenkbuch im Auftrage des Kuratoriums, A. Engel (ed.), (1936), 74–88; L. Bato, Die Juden im alten Wien (1928); D. Kaufmann, Samson Wertheimer (1888); idem, Urkundliches aus dem Leben Samson Wertheimers (1892); M. Braun, in: A.S. Schwarz Festschrift (1916), 499–507; mhj, 3 (1937); 5 (1960); 10 (1967); 11 (1968); 12 (1969), indexes; H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 3 (1955), index; 4 (1963), index; 5 (1965), index.

[Yomtov Ludwig Bato]