Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creatures of men.

Benjamin Disraeli

Aaron Isaac - Biography

Aaron Isaac (lived 1730 - 1817) was a Jewish engraver and peddler from Germany who, under the reign of Gustav III, established the first legally permissible Jewish community inside of Sweden.



It was the age of the Enlightenment, led by philosophers whose works revolutionized the social structure of Europe. Some liberally minded monarchs, like Gustav III, eased restrictions on Jewish settlement. "In 1781, opposed by the Swedish clergy, he pushed through the first law guaranteeing certain religious freedoms. This law gave foreigners the right to practise their religion but it forbade them to proselytize and to encourage Lutherans to leave their faith." Gustav III, in a letter to his mother, the dowager queen Lovisa Ulrika, wrote, "...It is certain, that it would be highly beneficial to the country, if such a hardworking people as the Jews were to settle here..."

Jewish Settlement through the Eyes of Aaron Isaac

Aaron Isaac had made Swedish contacts during the Seven Years' War, who in turn put him in contact with Carl Sparre, the governor of Stockholm. In 1774, Isaac received permission and moved to Stockholm. In 1775, he, his brother Marcus Isaac, and their companion Abraham Pach were granted licenses to work as engravers of seals and stonemasons.

Although their right to settle in Sweden and practice their religion had been ensured, they had not been accepted into society and were isolated by a fear of being assaulted. Isaac later wrote in his memoirs that "...If I were to write the complete history of how they have persecuted me and my family this book would be too small to contain it. But I saw clearly that God was always on my side and prevailed against my enemies without my having to lift a hand against them."

Throughout his lifetime, by virtue of his contacts with Sparre, Isaac became the gateway through which Jewish immigration passed. He was careful about who would be permitted to immigrate because the reputation of the Jewish community in Stockholm rested upon the useful of Jewish assistance to the national economy. Immigration thus focused on relatives of Isaac and Jewish families from Germany that could bring their own capital and start their own businesses.


Prior to Aaron Isaac and Gustav III, Jews in Sweden were either required to convert to Christianity or live an illegal and nomadic existence. By creating the conditions for Jewish families to remain Jewish and become part of the Swedish nation, they built the foundation for the modern day Jewish community of Sweden.

  • The Jews of Sweden: Their History and Tradition, Judiska Museet Stockholm, ISBN 91-974363-3-X

"This booklet contains an English translation of the first chapter from the book by David Glück, Aron Neuman and Jaqueline Star entitled Sveriges judar, deras historia, tro och traditioner (The Jews of Sweden, their history, faith and traditions). That book was published in 1997 by the Jewish Museum in Stockholm.

See also

  • Stockholm Synagogue (reference to the original synagogue in Stockholm, at Tyska Brunnsplan, 1790–1870)
  • Marstrand

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