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Bohemus, Abraham Judeus

(d. 1533), tax collector and financial adviser to Polish kings Aleksander Jagiellończyk and Zygmunt Stary. Known as Abraham of Prague, Abraham Judeus Bohemus moved from Bohemia to Poland at the end of fifteenth century. There he lived in the Kazimierz district of Kraków before settling in Lwów. Along with the Fiszel family and Ozer from Opoczno, Bohemus was one of the chief financiers of the Polish court.

Abraham offered loans to the Hungarian and Czech King Władysław II Jagiellon, as well as to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. In 1512, with their support, he was designated by King Zygmunt the Old to be the general tax collector, empowered to collect the Jewish poll tax from communities in Great Poland and Mazovia. From 1514, he also collected the Jewish poll tax in Little Poland, performing this function until 1518.

Abraham’s duties caused him to come into conflict with the Kraków provincial voivod and the Jewish communities of that city and Lwów. He suffered financially and was placed under a ban by the Jewish community; consequently, he sought the protection of Sigismund the Old. In 1518, after the intercession of Emperor Maximilian, Sigismund removed Abraham from the jurisdiction of the kehilot (Jewish community councils); under threat of fines, rabbis were forbidden to put him under a ban. The king also dismissed all accusations against Abraham, freed him from taxes paid by all other Jews, and allowed him to live in any city within the kingdom. In 1533, Zygmunt removed Abraham from the jurisdiction of the royal officials and placed him under the jurisdiction of Queen Bona.

Abraham was also involved in commerce; from 1514 he held a trading post in Lwów, where he owned a house in the Jewish quarter, given to him by the king. In 1518, the king granted him the right of unlimited trade throughout the kingdom. Bohemus spent his final years in Lwów. His estate was passed to his son Mosheh.

Suggested Reading

Maurycy Horn, “Jewish Jurisdiction’s Dependence on Royal Power in Poland and Lithuania up to 1548,” Acta Poloniae historica 76 (1997): 5–17; Jan Ptaśnik, “Abraham Judaeus Bohemus,” in Obrazki z przeszłości Krakowa, vol. 2, pp. 38–48 (Kraków, 1903); Adam Teller, “The Laicization of Early Modern Jewish Society: The Development of the Polish Communal Rabbinate in the Sixteenth Century,” in Schöpferische Momente des europäischen Judentums in der frühen Neuzeit, ed. Michael Graetz, pp. 333–349 (Heidelberg, 2000).



Translated from Polish by Anna Grojec