THEBEN (Mandl), JACOB KOPPEL (1732–1799), head of the community of Pressburg and renowned *shtadlan (the name of Theben is derived from the town of Devin (Ger. Theben) situated near Pressburg). Born in Pressburg, Theben inherited from his father the exclusive representation of the textile industry and the status of *parnas and delegate of the Jews at court. He maintained relations with the court of the Austrian emperor and the noblemen of his retinue. Theben was elected parnas of the community of Pressburg in 1783. He waged a struggle against the decrees of Empress *Maria Theresa and the degrading projects of *Joseph II, which included shaving off the beards of the Jews. When the bridge toll was raised for Jews only, he acquired a lease of the collection of custom duties and reduced the fee. He was particularly renowned for his political struggle against compulsory military service by the Jews (one of the decrees of Joseph II). He did not demand the abolition of this service in exchange for a payment, but equal rights in exchange for equal obligations. He regarded military service and sacrifice by those deprived of rights as absurd. In 1796 Theben presented Emperor Francis I with a gift of 20,000 gold ducats in the name of the Jews and thus obtained the exemption from military service, but no rights, for them. In his private life he was the typical wealthy Jew of his period; his house was frequented by the poor and his table was always ready to welcome them. When he was received in audience by kings, his takhrikhim (funeral shrouds) were among his personal objects. His father ABRAHAM THEBEN (d. 1768) carried the Hebrew title Manhig u-Farnas ha-Medinah. He exploited his wide influence for the benefit of the Jews and interceded in favor of those tortured as a result of the *blood libel in the village of Orkuta (1764).
I. Reich, in: Beit El, 2 (1868), 362–81.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.