Celia Male raises several interesting questions regarding the precarious
Jewish household economy in Bohemia and Moravia. Despite widespread use in
literature of all kinds of comparing prices in "X" currency at time "N" to
"Y" currency in time "N+1", I am personally sceptical about the worth of
this information for understanding the economic standing of families.
However, I believe a broader quantitative grasp of contemporary financial
circumstances on a comparative basis would be extremely helpful. To make my
point clearly, and to bring it into direct relation with pure genealogical
undertakings, it would be very helpful if members of the SIG who acquire
hard census data on their Moravian and Bohemian families provide data, when
supplied, of taxes paid by their familiants - as lessees, as pedlars, and so
forth. Even a trickling amount of information on expenses - especially the
"contribution" tax - should help in understanding how the tax burden was
To illustrate: A document, perhaps immediately before 1781 since their
patronymics rather than later chosen surnames are given, shows a Moses
Salomon (lessee) paying 60 Fl. while Markus Salomon (pedlar) paid 10 Fl.
They lived on neighbouring estates, both were Familianten, and they were
probably brothers or cousins.
These amounts, showing a healthy spread in taxation burden, can only begin
to take on meaning in a comparative perspective. But as Valenta notes in his
Judaica Bohemiae article (xxxix, 2003) on the Jew Cantor, the annual
"contribution" was often marked by steep annual fluctuations because of war,
famine, and estate economic condition. Thus, Cantor, one of the wealthiest
Jews in the realm, saw his "contribution" drop >from 800 fl to 450 fl. in the
space of three years (1784-1787). My family's "contributions" pale in
comparison but if I knew about tax liabilities of neighbors, I might begin
to obtain a picture of their situation. Having said that, I must confess
that the task is daunting since there are other taxes, rental fees, licenses
and privileges to take into account for each family's economic situation.
Celia notes food prohibitions for festive occasions. The fee charges for
alcoholic beverages are understandable in the context of law and order
(damage compensation), but cakes? coffee?. >from memory, I recall that the
first chapter of the book Penny Universities contains the story of the
introduction of coffee to England in the mid-17th c.and its subversive
implications. North African Jews were the purveyers of this so-called
"drug". Were prohibition considerations for coffee similar in Bohemia?
KOENIG - Beraun kreis & Prague
KOHN - Saaz
WEIL - Beraun kreis & Prague
POLLAK - Lodenice/Bubowice (Beraun kreis) & Prague (tanner, industrialist)