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Yet his prestige was slight, and learned rabbis were considered by the Jews as their real spiritual leaders.The growing Russian and Galician element in the Romanian Jewish population at the beginning of the 19th century opposed the hakham bashi, since such an institution was unknown to them and many of them were followers of Hasidism and led by zaddikim.They were invited either to reestablish war-ravaged towns (1761, Suceava) or to enlarge others (1796, Focsani).The newcomers were encouraged by the landowners to found commercial centers, the so-called burgs.Anti-Jewish excesses that occurred in the neighboring countries often extended to Romania.In 16, Cossacks invaded Romania, murdering a great number of Jews in Jassy.Greek Orthodox Christianity also preached intolerance toward Jews and shaped the first codes of law: the Church laws of Moldavia and Walachia in 1640.Both proclaimed the Jews as heretics and forbade all relations with them.
The hakham bashi's function was hereditary and included the right of collecting taxes on religious ceremonies and contributions from every head of a family — comprising 30,000 taxpayers altogether in the two principalities in 1803 — as well as conferring exemption from taxes and tolls.
As they were foreign subjects they asked their consuls to intercede and, in 1819, the prince of Moldavia decided that the hakham bashi should have jurisdiction only over "native" Jews.
Because of strife among the diverse groups of Jews and their complaints to the authorities, the hakham bashi system was abolished in 1834.
In the 16th century some refugees from the Spanish expulsion came to Walachia from the Balkan Peninsula.
A few served as physicians and even diplomats at the court of the sovereigns of Walachia.