The history of the Jews in Sweden probably began with the Hanseatic League in medieval times, but there are no records. In the Elizabethan era, it was common for European royalty to have Jewish doctors at court, and there is a record of a Jewish doctor who served Gustav Vasa in the 16th century.
Church records at Stockholm Cathedral record several Jewish families entering Sweden and being baptized into the Lutheran Church, a condition at that time imposed upon any Jew who desired to settle in Sweden.
In 1681 for example, the Jewish families of Israel Mandel and Moses Jacob in Stockholm, 28 persons in all, were baptized in the German church of that city in the presence of King Charles XII, the dowager queen Hedvig Eleonora of Holstein-Gottorp, and several other high state officials.
King Carl XIII (1697–1718) spent five years with an encampment in the Turkish town of Bender and accumulated a large number of debts there for his entourage. Jewish and Muslim creditors followed him to Sweden, and the Swedish law was altered so that they could hold religious services and circumcise their male progeny.
In 1680 the Jews of Stockholm petitioned the king that they be permitted to reside there without abandoning their creed, but the application was denied because the local consistory had refused to endorse it.
On December 3, 1685, Charles XI ordered the governor-general of the capital to see to it that no Jews were permitted to settle in Stockholm, or in any other part of the country, "on account of the danger of the eventual influence of the Jewish religion on the pure evangelical faith." In case Jews were found in any Swedish community, they were to be notified to leave within fourteen days.
Through court patronage Jewish merchants were occasionally appointed royal purveyors. During his bellicose reign, King Charles XII (a.k.a. Karl XII) usually had one or more wealthy Jews with him in the field as the paymaster(s) of his army.
In 1718, Jews obtained permission to settle in the kingdom without need to abjure their religion.
Charles XII spent five years in Bender, Bessarabia, at the time a part of the Ottoman Empire, with his army and incurred tremendous debts with Jewish and Muslim merchants who supplied the army with equipment and provisions. On his return a large number of Muslim and Jewish creditors arrived in Sweden and the Swedish law was altered to allow them to hold religious services and circumcise their sons.
After the death of Charles XII in 1718, the Swedish government was financially embarrassed for a long time and the royal household was often relieved from pecuniary difficulties by the Jewish merchants of Stockholm who insisted, in exchange, for the granting of additional privileges to themselves and their coreligionists.
As a consequence the concession of 1718 was renewed and supplemented by royal edicts of 1727, 1746, and 1748, but permission was restricted to settlement in smaller cities and rural communities. One of the most prominent Jews in Sweden at this time was the convert Lovisa Augusti, who became one of the most popular singers on the stage in Stockholm.
In 1782 an ordinance was issued (juderegelemente) - due particularly to efforts of the prominent Liberal Anders Chydenius - by which Jews were restricted to reside in one of four towns: Stockholm, Gothenburg, Norrköping.
|Anders Chydenius (1729 – 1803)|
To these was added the town of Landskrona, as a Jew had established there a factory for the manufacture of sails and naval uniforms. They were not permitted to trade in markets elsewhere or to own property. Jews were ineligible for government positions and election to Parliament. They were forbidden from converting Lutherans to the Jewish religion. (All Swedes were born into the Lutheran church until the separation of church and state in 2000.)
Published by Scandinavian Jewish Forum
Published by Scandinavian Jewish Forum