STOCK EXCHANGES


Jews came to the stock exchange by way of their medieval occupation of *moneylending and their activity in the modern period as *Court Jews and in *banking. Soon after the founding of the first European international exchange at Antwerp (1536), *anusim arrived there and for a short time played a prominent role in it until their expulsion by *Charles V. Many of them then moved to Amsterdam, the economic capital of Europe in the 17th and early 18th centuries. By 1674, 13% of the total number of investments on the stock exchange was in "Portuguese" Jewish hands, though the size of their individual investments was not great. A contemporary noted that many brokers refrained from visiting the stock exchange on Saturday, when the Jews were absent. The first book to describe the practices of the Amsterdam stock exchange was published in Spanish by Joseph *Penso de la Vega in 1688. Jews were excluded from most of the commodity exchanges in Germany. Benjamin and Abraham *Goldsmid were prominent on the Royal Exchange in London at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries, and after the Napoleonic Wars they were eclipsed by N.M. Rothschild who was the dominant figure on the London Exchange.

In the United States Ephraim *Hart was among the 22 founders of the first board of stockbrockers in New York in 1792. August *Belmont was the representative of the Rothschilds in the 19th century. In the mid- and late 19th century a number of German-Jewish underwriting firms were prominent on the board: J. and W. Seligman and Co., run by the eight *Seligman brothers and led by Joseph Seligman, and Kuhn, Loeb, and Co., which was raised to international repute by Jacob *Schiff, Otto *Kahn, and Paul M. *Warburg. The battle between Hill-Morgan and Harriman-Schiff for control of the Northern Pacific railway stocks resulted in the stock exchange crash known as "Black Thursday."

Even at the height of their activity, Jews were never the largest nor the most prominent group on the exchanges in England and the United States; by the mid-20th century their number and proportion had declined considerably. In Continental Europe Jews were more prominent on the stock exchange (see Isaac *Pinto). Jews attended the exchanges of Lyons and Paris as early as the 18th century but it was only with the rise of the house of Rothschild in the post-Napoleonic era that they became prominent there; the initiative of this house in floating railroad stocks was followed by the *Fould house and others. The *Pereire brothers founded the Crédit Mobilier, the first joint-stock bank. In the aftermath of the Panama Canal stock scandal (1892–93), in which Baron Jacques Reinach was incriminated, antisemitic attacks were made on Jewish activity on the exchanges.

Jews were not allowed into the Frankfurt stock exchange, the most important in Germany at the time, until 1811, but from then until the Nazi regime they played a dominant and later a leading role, partly attributable to the activity of the house of Rothschild and other Jewish financial magnates. The stock exchange of Berlin was a relative latecomer. The patrician Jewish families of Berlin – *Gomperz, *Veit, *Ephraim, Riess, and Wulff, who had amassed wealth as court jewelers, army contractors, and mint purveyors – played a predominant part from its foundation. The statutes of the bourse corporation of 1805 found it necessary to lay down that two of the four chairmen must be Christians. In 1807, 159 of the 174 member firms were Jewish. Such marked preponderance of Jewish firms continued for a short period only. As in banking, the role of the Jews on the stock exchanges declined rapidly with the founding of public banks. In 1882 there were 2,908 Jews in Prussia engaged in stocks and banking, 22% of the total; by 1925 the absolute number of Jews in these fields had increased to 5,620 but their percentage of the total was only 3.84%, although many of this small ratio were in key positions. The economic recession of 1873–76 was blamed on stock speculators, some of whom were Jews, and this was one of the factors behind the antisemitic movement led by A. *Stoecker. In Vienna H. *Todesco and other leading Jewish financiers were prominent from the foundation of the exchange, on which a Rothschild soon came to play a leading role. The number of Jewish stockbrokers was also high. In the stock exchanges of Budapest, Prague, and Bucharest, Jews filled important positions in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Jewish role decreased as a result of antisemitic economic nationalism.

It was not only in times of economic crisis and financial speculation that the activity of Jews on the stock exchange was seized on as a pretext for antisemitic outbursts; anti-Jewish agitators magnified their influence out of all proportion, creating an anti-Jewish stereotype out of "Jewish mastery" over the stock exchange. In this they were aided by the theories of men like Werner *Sombart, who ascribed the creation and workings of the stock exchange to the "capitalist Jewish spirit."

For stock exchange in modern Israel, see Israel, State of: Economic *Affairs.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

G.N. Hart, in: AJHSP, 4 (1896), 215–8; S. Mayer, Die Wiener Juden (1917); R. Lewinsohn, Juedische Weltfinanz? (1925); H. Goslar, in: Gemeindeblatt der juedischen Gemeinde zu Berlin, 21 (1931), 14–18; J. Lestschinsky, Das wirtschaftliche Schicksal des deutschen Judentums (1932); H.I. Bloom, Economic Activities of the Jews of Amsterdam (1937); P.H. Emden, Money Powers of Europe (1938); H. Rachel, Berliner Grosskaufleute und Kapitalisten, 2 (1938), 541ff.; R. Strauss, in: JSOS, 3 (1941), 15–40; D. Bernstein, in: S. Kaznelson (ed.), Juden im deutschen Kulturbereich (19592), 720–59; E.V. Morgan and W.A. Thomas, The Stock Exchange (1962); R. Glanz, The Jew in the Old American Folklore (1961), 166ff.; R. Sobel, The Big Board (1965); A. Hertzberg, French Enlightenment and the Jews (1968), 74ff., 143–4, 146–7; S. Birmingham, Our Crowd (1968).

[Henry Wasserman]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.