Re: Ancestry of some Hungarian Jews #hungary

MBernet@... writes:
" Henry Wellisch wrote "During the 18th century the Hungarian administration
conducted a number of censuses of its Jews and these, as well as some tax lists
have been preserved and were published in the 18 volume collection of Hungarian
Jewish documents entitled Magyar Zsido Okleveltar. .... The documents are in
Latin, the official language in Hungary at that time, and give the following
details: Name of the head of household, his occupation or profession and the tax
being owed... Why was this question asked and how were people able to supply such
detailed answers >from such a remote period?"

Celia commented:
Michael Bernet sent us a humorous response and told us about how he felt about such
an ethnicity question if he were asked it today.

==I tried to write lightly but I swear I was quite serious. Tribal affiliations of
the Jews, (except for Levites and Cohanim who had ritual duties associated with
their tribal legacies) were lost with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Kingdom
of Judah, and the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE. A few families have beliefs about
being descended >from a specific tribe other than Cohen/Levi but this is not taken
seriously. The Hungarian authorities may have wanted for whatever reason, record
Cohen/Levi, and they put a question in there about tribes. But the Jews had no way
of answering that correctly. I tried to put myself in their situation so I could
figure out an answer, and came up with what to me seemed the best possible

I have learned a beautiful Yiddish expression (I learned Yiddish as an adult in
Israel in 1948): "Oyf a klotz kashye gitt mer a klotz enfer" (a stoopid question
deserves a stoopid answer). My direct male ancestral line happened to know their
tribaal descent. There's no way that any other ancestors would have known. The
tribus question was a klotz kashye, ergo the responses must have been klotz

To seek any deeper meaning requires some very dangerous and very bloody slashes
with Oakham's razor. None of the attempted explanations posted here or sent to me
directly come near qualifying for plausability. The authorities obviously did not
use the Tribus question to ask for geograaphical ant-cedents. I doubt that they
cared very much whether they were Monkatzcer Chasidim or Sotmarers -- and the Jews
apparently didn't mention specific affiliations. As a rule Jews in those days and
in those countries tried to volunteer as little as possible information to the
authorities about themselves or about other Jews, convinced it would at some point
be used to tax Jews, expel them, expropriate their synagogues or expel them >from
the town.

Celia states: "The Habsburg authorities would certainly know nothing about
subdivisions in Hungarian or other Jewry {a Jew was a Jew with a specific
Zustandigkeit/residence status is what concerned them}."
==Exactly. Knowing the name of the tribe >from 26 centuries before was of no
interest to them.

Celia adds: "The Hungarian kehilla and rabbis were very active and also very
influential - their communities were very diverse, competitive and even
quarrelsome and I suspect in early days {ie 1700s} and they all knew exactly who
they were and where they came {Bohemia, Moravia, Galicia, Poland, German
territories, Burgenland, Romania, Turkish territories, Sephardic etc}. The early
Pressburg Jewish censuses show this diversity. Lists were probably kept by the
various kehilla with this specific information and these have been somehow
transposed into these censuses."
==Not quite true. Pressburg's Jews were never certain >from one day to the next
whether they might wake up in the morning and discover that their bed and bedroom
had been moved overnight to Bratislava. Yes, some of the rabbis were powerful, and
many of the groups had boisterous disputes with other groups but they had no way
of knowing tribal fealty during the First Temple period. And I'm pretty sure they
didn't assemble records of their members according to Geographic origins: I recall
that various members of my family were picked up >from their homes, transported to
a nearby border, and left there when a strip of the border has to be passed on to
the other country under treaty arrangements -- "at least let them take back their
Jews with the land; we have too many Jews as it is.

I've had some suggestions that the census enumerators were pious Catholics who
wanted to ensure that all Jews were returned in tribal order to the Holy Land to
make possible their conversion to Christianity and thus bring about the Second
Coming of Christ. I guess I don't know enough about the Empire or about Christian
beliefs to give an opinion on this "solution."

Michael Bernet, New York

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