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Continuity and Change in the Constitutional Experience of German Jewry

Filed under: World Jewry
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 13:3-4 (Fall 2001)

Despite the progress of Emancipation in the nineteenth century, German Jews were required to belong to legally recognized Jewish communities. Even after this requirement was lifted, Jewish communal life remained strong. The community structure that the Prussian state expected the Jews to implement was modeled after German civil administration. This framework, however, resembled both medieval German and medieval Jewish models. Thus, German Jews, while modernizing their own communal institutions, continued to maintain both their own and their German neighbors’ political traditions. The German Jewish communal constitutions attest to a Jewish political tradition of adaptation to prevailing non-Jewish norms, as well as retention of ancient Jewish elements.

Historians of modern Jewish life typically regard the period of Enlightenment and Emancipation as a time when the historic Ashkenazi communal structure, the kehilla, was shattered. Their assumption is that the kehilla was replaced by a more voluntaristic form of community whose members practiced a less comprehensive, more confessionalized Judaism. Thus, Max Wiener, a classic exponent of this view, writes in his Juedische Religion im Zeitalter der Emanzipation of an “atomization of religious community” (Atomisierung der religioesen Gemeinschaft).1 The shattering of the old communal framework left all Jews, according to Wiener, with a Torah whose most important demands were rendered meaningless insofar as Judaism no longer governed all of life. Similarly, Jacob Katz writes, “In places that witnessed the Haskala movement and civil emancipation – France (Alsace), Germany, Bohemia, and Moravia in the second half of the eighteenth century, and Hungary a generation or so later – the fundamental structure of traditional society was actually destroyed.”2

The image among some Jewish historians of a radical gulf between a medieval before and a modern afterwards is in jarring contrast with more recent trends in studies of social and political modernization. Sociologists such as S.N. Eisenstadt and Edward Shils, and political scientists such as Samuel Huntington, sought an account of those changes that constitute “modernity” which did not understate dimensions of continuity with pre-modernity. As this perspective has worked its way into Jewish studies, a new appreciation for the persistence of traditional elements in Jewish communal life has emerged. Thus, Robert Liberles writes, “I wish to emphasize that despite occasional political rhetoric, the governments of Western Europe did not seek the demise of the organized Jewish community and that despite the loss of juridical autonomy, emancipation did not present a fundamental challenge to Jewish communal structure. In fact, in many ways, communal ties were actually strengthened as a result of emancipation.”3

Similarly, Daniel J. Cohen, writing on the persistence of seventeenth and eighteenth century organizational patterns into the nineteenth and even twentieth centuries, remarks that “it is most instructive to study the attempts of the Jews of Baden at the beginning of the nineteenth century to revive the Diet, not convened for a whole generation, and, at the same period, the obstinate struggle of the Jews of Ansbach to uphold rabbinical jurisdiction and [their] own management of the Diet. These instances, together with the survival in the nineteenth century – or even up to the Holocaust – of several organizational patterns and institutions of some of the ‘Landjudenschaften‘ (e.g., full-scale continuation until 1863 of Jewish jurisdiction in Altona and Schleswig-Holstein) attest to the strength and vitality of the ancient organizational framework, once it had been adapted to altered conditions.” Indeed, Cohen adds a stronger statement: “And, perhaps, there is more to it than this: we may conclude that, even in the period of Assimilation, the wish to preserve independent institutions beyond the purely religious field never died out, drawing strength from vivacious ties with the past and its inheritance.”4

We will adopt this perspective here and argue that, at least in the case of German Jewry, medieval organizational patterns and political values were carried over into modern Jewish communal life. This is not to deny that German governments drastically reduced the autonomy of Jewish communities or that significant social changes occurred as Jews won complete legal emancipation and became fully enfranchised citizens. We will argue that the fitful progress of emancipation and Germany’s own incomplete modernization allowed for the retention of medieval elements. By “medieval elements,” we refer primarily to the institutional structure of German Jewish communities (Gemeinden) and secondarily to dimensions of their political culture, such as the way in which rights and duties were balanced.

After looking at both the German and Jewish institutional backgrounds, we will consider selected constitutional documents of German Jewry and their relation to earlier communal patterns and norms. By “constitutional documents,” we refer to the written statutes of Jewish communities promulgated in the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These statutes are modern, German-language, legal documents, yet they bear a resemblance in certain respects to the earlier tradition of communal ordinances (takkanot ha-kahal) which shaped Ashkenazi communal life from early times. Nineteenth-century German Jewish communities, as reflected in the constitutional documents by which they represented themselves, are a classic case of social “continuity and change.” Why? Before we attempt a close historical analysis, a general principle could be asserted.

That any society should exhibit both continuity and change at once is hardly surprising. An acute observer of political culture from the early modern period, David Hume, reminded us that “as human society is in perpetual flux, one man every hour going out of the world, another coming into it, it is necessary in order to preserve stability in government that the new brood should conform themselves to the established constitution and nearly follow the path which their fathers, treading in the footsteps of theirs, had marked out to them.”5 Few people are inventive or imaginative enough to design entirely new social systems. Even fewer get the chance to implement their designs. People tend to retain what works. Even when certain features of a social system, certain institutions and practices, are discarded, other, more agreeable elements are retained. When the political environment in which modernization occurs is itself cautious and conservative, as was the case in Germany, changes in social structure will be incremental rather than radical.

The early nineteenth century was a time when civic life underwent renewal in the areas under Prussian control. To a certain extent that meant return to premodern concepts of civic autonomy. This renewal or reappropriation by Germans of earlier patterns of municipal governance provided a model for German officials (and for Jews) of how to transform Jewish communal structures as well. The modernization, that is the regularizing and rationalizing, of Jewish communal institutions in imitation of German models, however, also constituted a retention of Jewish medieval patterns. Certain constitutional elements of the German city which had been restored were also typical of the kehilla. The two civic entities had long mirrored one another.

This is not only a matter of structure, but a matter of political culture as well. By following German norms deriving from a long past, it might appear to Jewish actors that they were also acting in fidelity to their own communal traditions. This assumes, of course, that Jewish communal leaders, insofar as they were not revolutionaries, were concerned to situate their thought and action in some imagined continuum of Jewish tradition.6 We suggest here that the close interrelationship between historic German municipal administration and the structure of the kehilla lent support to this imagination during the period of their conjoint modernization. The two traditions shared what a great contemporary, Goethe, called an “elective affinity.”

Elements of the German Constitutional Foreground

The immediate legal and political model for the nineteenth-century Jewish community constitutions was the 1808 reform of Freiherr vom Stein, which provided a new constitutional basis for German municipalities. The Jewish communities structured themselves on the pattern of German cities, as envisioned in this reform. But this in itself was no innovation. The medieval Jewish communities, known in Hebrew as kehillot (singular, kehilla), at least since the thirteenth century, emulated certain aspects of the legal and political organization of the German town.

The history of the German city is a history of its struggle to maintain its relative autonomy in the face of the encroachment of ecclesiastical and various secular powers. Already in the early Frankish period, villages were legally recognized as closed, corporate entities. The earliest German legal code, the Lex Salica, granted to village dwellers the right of preventing migrants from settling in their domain, as well as control over weights and measures, and oversight of local resources.7 The Lex Salica spoke, at least in its latest sections, of an assembly of citizens (Gemeindeversammlung) that decided matters of public importance. Regular organs of communal self-government cannot be said to fully mature, however, until the late eleventh and twelfth centuries when Europe experienced dramatic urbanization. For the first time since the decline of Roman cities, cities emerged as independent legal and political entities characterized by unique institutional structures. City councils, for example, began when bishops or princes, the usual initiators of cities, drew to themselves trusted men, clerical and lay, for advice. These individuals constituted a Rat. By the thirteenth century, the Rat began to govern on its own, excluding the bishops or princes, and trying to secure its power by seeking unmediated access to the emperor. If successful, a city won autonomy from both bishop and prince. Thus, between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, the free imperial cities were born. Although they were subject to the emperor, these cities lived under their own constitutions as autonomous corporations.

The medieval Rat was composed of leading citizens who exercised both executive (consules or Ratsmänner) and judicial (scabini or Schöffen) authority. With the growth of merchant and artisan guilds in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, however, increasing numbers of Bürger protested the concentration of power into the hands of what had become a self-perpetuating patriciate. A second chamber came into being to balance the authority of the Rat. These representatives of the economically dynamic sectors of the citizenry became known as the Grosser Rat or Bürgerversammlung.8

From the late fifteenth century to the eighteenth century, the power of kings grew at the expense of both the cities and the emperor. The most democratic element, the Grosser Rat, declined in importance with a decline of communal autonomy. The Rat continued to govern the city, albeit as an arm of the king. The Grosser Rat lost its legal or constitutional status as representative of the classes (Stände), yet it did not disappear. The representatives of the various guilds and Stände adapted themselves to the emerging power realities by becoming deputies, lobbyists as it were, for their class and professional interests. Nonetheless, with the decline of the Grosser Rat, popular participation in communal government was eroded.

In the wake of the Prussian defeat at Jena in 1806, Friedrich Wilhelm III undertook to modernize state, army, and, to an extent, society. The reforms were directed by his senior ministers, including Freiherr vom Stein and State Chancellor Hardenberg. The Hardenberg reform bearing on Jewish emancipation, the Edict of 1812, is well known to students of modern Jewish history. Here, however, we are concerned with a reform only indirectly (but crucially) relevant to contemporary Jews. On 19 November 1808, the monarch promulgated a new law returning a substantial measure of self-governance to the cities. Its aim was to enable citizens to participate more fully in local government and thereby generate greater patriotism. The Prussian reformers recognized that French success on the battlefield came in part from the identification of French citizens and soldiers with the revolutionary cause. The Prussian royal house and its bureaucracy wanted to stimulate a similar loyalty to its regime without departing one iota from its conservative, monarchic tradition.9 (In tandem with the return of self-government to the cities came a sweeping reform of the army. Henceforth, the army would be made up of conscripts from the Prussian lands, rather than mercenaries from all over Europe. Ironically, the possibility of having an armed citizenry ready to defend itself was one of the factors that motivated rulers to establish cities in the eleventh century.)

The 1808 law concerning cities (Städteordnung) was a dramatic, yet essentially conservative, response to a crisis. It did not constitute a break with the past as much as a selective reappropriation of the past.10 Freiherr vom Stein was not a romantic who thought that he was returning to the Middle Ages. Rather, he drew on an incipient legal tradition, elements of which had survived both the age of absolutism and the importation of French forms of city governance. Despite the loss of autonomy, German cities had retained some of their medieval constitutional character. For example, the Prussian Allgemeines Landrecht of the last years of the eighteenth century, citing early fifteenth-century precedents, continued to provide for the local election of a governing council (Stadtvorstand, equivalent to Rat) and an additional election of Repräsentanten (equivalent to Grosser Rat).11 The council, however, was not a fully authoritative body invested with the power to conduct the business of the city. It was, as noted above, a kind of private representation of the Bürger. Furthermore, while the election of representatives was left to local custom, this meant that, in many localities, the representatives were merely appointed by the Stadtvorstand, thus further diluting popular participation in government. (One of the major innovations of the 1808 Städteordnung was to restore political and legal competence to both the Stadtvorstand and the Repräsentanten, enabling them to become the official governing organs in the eyes of the state.)

The Landrecht provided for several classes of citizen, with different levels of political and economic entitlement. All citizens had to take an oath (Bürgereid) in order to maintain or acquire citizenship. Constituting membership in a polity by submission to an oath, that is, by consenting to enter and uphold a civil covenant, is a thoroughly medieval practice going back to the conjurationes, the sworn “conspiracies,” out of which cities were founded in the eleventh century.12 Oath-taking indicates a closed society with what we might call a “thick” community, that is, a community that expects a high degree of consensus from its members.

It is from this quasi-medieval constitutional background that vom Stein developed his Städteordnung. As with much German constitutionalism, it owes something to the rational and progressive character of French constitutional practice (itself based on the United States Constitution); yet it fills the modern form with a traditional content. An example of the more rational, French approach to constitutionalism was the Städteordnung‘s classification of cities into categories by population. The largest cities were subdivided into districts, each with its own administrative center. The idea of the city as a privileged corporation, whose rights ended where its suburbs began, was transformed, under modernizing French influence, into the administrative concept of an urban area. Nonetheless, despite the division of the country’s cities into rational classifications and administrative categories, a central element of the medieval city was retained: the concept of a citizen (Bürger) whose unique rights and duties were tied to the city.

The city had two classes of inhabitant: the Bürger, who were full citizens, and the class of protected persons (Schutzverwandte), who had significantly fewer rights. Although there was a two-class system, it was possible for residents to become citizens just as it was possible for one to lose citizenship. One could become a citizen if one had no criminal record or was judged to be impaired in some other manner. The candidate for citizenship had to be unbescholten, that is, of good character and reputation. (This qualification and specific term also appear repeatedly in Jewish communal constitutions.) The idea that one’s character and habits had to be evaluated by one’s peers as a condition for membership is rooted in a conception of society as a religiously based covenantal order. Membership in a commune is a privilege, requiring fidelity to the shared values and practices of the group. These ancient and medieval ideas, still evident in the Städteordnung, would decline as the century progressed. A revision of the Städteordnung in 1850 abolished the categories of Bürger and Schutzverwandte and made all tax-paying residents of a city inhabitants (Einwohner) possessed of equal rights. The conceptual demise of Bürgerschaft indicates the transition from the closed, medieval society to a more open, modern one in which, of course, Jews could enter as legal, if not yet social, equals. However, that transformation had not yet been perfected in 1808. The Städteordnung not only retained and empowered the concept of the Bürger, it also retained a concept of citizenship contingent on taking the citizen’s oath. In Elazar’s terms, the city was no longer an exclusive covenantal polity, but neither had it yet become an open civil society.

The Städteordnung granted the Bürger the right to govern themselves through a citizens’ assembly (Bürgerversammlung). The assembly did not meet, however, as an ongoing legislative body in the manner of a direct, participatory democracy. It was intended to meet every three years to elect a representative body competent to actually govern. This body (Stadtverordneten) was similar in purpose to the medieval Grosser Rat. Its size depended on the size of the city, as classified under the law. Most significantly, the Stadtverordneten were no longer thought of as representatives of private interests that is, of the various guilds, corporations, and classes that make up the city. When the Grosser Rat was degraded by absolutist monarchs, its members became little more than lobbyists for the groups they represented. They were agents who could only represent their groups on an issue-by-issue basis. They lacked both the consent of their groups and the authority of the sovereign to do more than articulate narrowly conceived interests. With the rehabilitation of the Stadtverordneten into a true deliberative and legislative body, the elected members as well as the citizenry who elected them had to accomplish an intellectual reorientation that paved the way toward parliamentarianism several decades before Germany became a fully constitutional state. Upon becoming partners in governance, the representatives had to think of themselves as engaged in a common task oriented toward a common good. Similarly, the citizenry had to become a responsible electorate. Voting implied consent to the laws and policies the Stadtverordneten would later enact.13

One of the first tasks of the Stadtverordneten was to elect, from its midst, a Magistrat (equivalent to the medieval Rat or Kleiner Rat, as it was also called). The Magistrat was the highest executive authority. Composed of both paid and unpaid members (especially in the larger cities where the volume of administrative work required a professional civil service), it arrived at its decisions, as did the Stadtverordneten, collegially, that is, by majority rule. It appointed commissions, drawn from its own members, from the Stadtverordneten, and from the general citizenry to execute specific tasks. There are elaborate rules in the Städteordnung, as well as in its revisions of 1831 and 1850, for the division of labor between the Magistrat and the Stadtverordneten. In general, the Magistrat had executive authority while the Stadtverordneten had legislative and consultative competence. Both had a share in the collection, supervision, and spending of the city’s finances.14 This basic structure was replicated in the constitutions of German Jewish communities.

Turning from structure to the ethos of this emerging political culture, two observations are relevant. In his lapidary analysis of Prussian law, Eugen Leidig speaks of the “unity of right and duty” (Einheit von Recht und Pflicht).15 Whoever is given the right to participate and act in council is also thereby obligated to do so. The emphasis here is on the symmetry of rights and duties. Whoever has the right to vote (aktive Wahlrecht) also has the duty to stand for election (passive Wahlrecht) and to serve. The city is to be governed by citizens who, in Aristotle’s phrase, both know how to rule and how to be ruled. The Städteordnung lists a table of exemptions from this rule. Age, vocation, and prior record of service could reduce one’s obligation to the community, at least for a given period. Both these tables of exemptions (often with the same language), and the ethos of participatory government and the “thick” community they imply, are found in Jewish documents. This is but another indication that Germans and Jews shared not only civil structures but also civic values.

Second, the Städteordnung, by enabling a more republican form of self-government within the cities, created conditions that made it difficult to sustain or tolerate Jewish separatism. Even before Jews were fully emancipated, the Städteordnung aimed at the inclusion of all residents in the rights and responsibilities of the city. When King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, in 1841, proposed a return to corporate Jewish community and a subsequent exclusion of Jews from civil life, his interior minister opposed the plan on the grounds that it would violate the Städteordnung and disrupt the efficient government of the cities.16 In the 1840s, Jewish emancipation was still controversial. City governance, however, seemed an indisputable success.

Elements of the Jewish Constitutional Background

Jewish civil institutions in the local arena long antedate the Jewish experience in Germany. Philo reports on the structure of Jewish communal governance in Alexandria. A 36-man senate governed the Jewish politeia.17 Similarly, the Talmud speaks of the powers of the seven-man council (sheva tovei ha-ir) and of other officials in the administration of the public affairs of Jewish communities (B. Megillah 26a; B. Baba Batra 8b). In talmudic times, the council, as the representative of the inhabitants, could set and inspect weights and measures, intervene in the market to establish reasonable prices for foodstuffs, and pass ordinances as the need arose (B. Yevamot 89b). Properly executed public decisions were binding on the citizenry. The citizen was obligated to contribute to the public treasury in order to support public works and religious purposes such as universal education (B. Baba Batra 21a). Citizenship was defined in terms of length of time spent in the community (twelve months) or possession of local property. The obligation to contribute to poor relief was incurred after only thirty days, however.

The roots of Jewish communal self-governance in Germany go back before the First Crusade. In the small communities of the Rhine valley, the leading scholars probably made the relevant public decisions.18 As communities grew, however, this familial and paternalistic form of decision-making became inadequate. Rabbis such as Meir of Rothenburg determined that decision-making power was vested in the majority of the householders, assembled as a body.19 But as in the German experience, direct democracy, that is, the Bürgerversammlung, was not a workable idea. The ancient institution of the tovei ha-ir, once again assumed to represent the will of the majority, emerged in Jewish communities during the same time that the German Rat was being fully articulated.20 The tovei ha-ir, as in talmudic times and based on talmudic law, enacted ordinances for the common good, collected (and sometimes assessed) taxes, supervised transactions, adjudicated disputes, managed educational and welfare initiatives, supervised the synagogue and other religious institutions, and represented the community to the non-Jewish authorities as well as to other Jewish communities.

The talmudic designation tovei ha-ir did not remain constant. Members of the administrative council were designated by other names as well: parnassim, roshim, berurim, ne’emanim, and gabaim. The council as such was known as the kahal. Depending on the size of the community, it generally had between seven and fourteen members. They conducted their deliberations collegially, as was true in the old German usage, and with confidentiality. The members rotated the chairmanship. The chairman of the month (parnas ha-hodesh) called the sessions and was empowered to fine members who did not attend. (This feature remained intact in both Jewish and German constitutions into the twentieth century.) The parnas ha-hodesh set the agenda. Every member had a right to speak. Issues were settled by majority vote and, in case of a tie, the parnas ha-hodesh would vote twice.

It is possible that in the earliest period of the existence of the kehilla, the representatives were elected directly by a citizens’ assembly. By the fourteenth century, however, the evidence suggests that the tovei ha-ir were elected by an intermediary and ad hoc body of electors (borerim).21 This procedure, amply recorded in the surviving communal enactments (takkanot), became the norm.22 The elected leaders had to be confirmed by the non-Jewish authorities. A fee was paid to the state for their confirmation. Occasionally, and by the fifteenth century increasingly, the state intervened in the elections or bypassed them entirely, appointing its own Judenbischöfe or Judenmeister in place of popularly elected parnassim. These state-imposed leaders surface in contemporary responsa. Only in the case of such state-appointed leaders must a public financial accounting be given to the kehilla. The fifteenth century halakhist, R. Jacob Weil, assumes that a popularly elected parnas enjoys the consent and credibility of the public and is thereby exempt from having to account for his financial decisions.

From the fifteenth century on, German governments began to intrude into the internal affairs of the kehillot. Absolutist rulers weakened communal autonomy by bypassing elections, appointing parnassim themselves (such as their own court Jews, for example), depriving communities of the power of the ban, and outlawing rabbinic synods.23 The most notorious incident occurred in 1603 when Jewish leaders from southern Germany met in synod in Frankfurt. The synod was denounced by a Jewish informer, and proceedings were initiated against the rabbis and parnassim. The degree of Jewish autonomy implied by the promulgation of takkanot, as well as the display of Jewish unity across political borders, was unacceptable in the new epoch of the territorial state.24 The decline of communal autonomy in the non-Jewish world thus had its Jewish parallel.

Jews also undermined their own institutions. Already in the fifteenth century in an attempt to lessen their tax burden, community members increasingly turned to the state to pay their taxes directly. This undercut one of the primary functions and competencies of the community. The responsa also indicate increasing reliance on non-Jewish courts to adjudicate disputes.

The process of the decline of medieval communal life was interrupted by even more unfortunate circumstances: the expulsion of Jews from most German cities in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.25 Jews resettled in rural localities as well as towns that previously had no Jewish population, such as Altona and Hamburg. The scattering of the Jewish population, as well as the desire of Jews in small communities to remain independent of larger Jewish centers, led to the establishment of administrative networks uniting all Jews in a region. These structures, similar in some respects to the Council of the Four Lands to the east, were called Landjudenschaften or kahal ha-medinah.26 Unlike the Council of the Four Lands in Poland or the Medinat Mehren in Moravia, however, the German Landjudenschaft was not a confederation of autonomous communities on the earlier medieval model of a supra-kehilla organization. A Landjudenschaft was an assembly of Jewish individuals. In this, it suggests a parallel with the derogation of integral communal authority among Germans; the Grosser Rat also deteriorated into an assembly of individuals representing distinct interests rather than communal power.27

A Landjudenschaft however, continued to function as something more than simply an assembly of individuals. It retained some of the representative elements of its predecessor kehillot. Its distinctive feature was a triennial assembly of all the Jews in the region (Judenlandtag or yom ha-va’ad). Officers were elected at these assemblies for a three-year period. The three-year interval between elections was based on prior medieval custom. Between assemblies, communal business was conducted by a small council (va’ad katan) of twenty to thirty members. The council consisted of a president (Obervorsteher, Obervorgänger, or Oberparnas) who was frequently also the shtadlan and the court Jew. He was assisted by elders (tovei medinah) and adjuncts who could replace the tovim as necessary (ikorei medinah). There were also scribes, tax assessors and collectors, and the territorial rabbi. Once again, we see the two-tiered structure typical of both prior German and Jewish institutional design. With the exception of the rabbi and the scribe, the offices were honorary.28 Features such as this represent continuity with the practices and structures of the more integral kehillot of the past. They were also carried over into the Jewish communities of the post-Emancipation era.

Before the eighteenth century, the non-Jewish authorities were relatively uninterested in the internal structures and competences of the Landjudenschaft and of the remaining communities. In the eyes of the state, Jewish organization was a tool for tax collection. In the case of Landjudenschaft, their territorial range corresponded to the territorial dimensions of the state and suited the state’s concept of sovereignty. During the eighteenth century, however, German governments set up supervisory committees (e.g., the Judenkomissariat in Prussia) that more closely regulated communal affairs. The urge for more control originated in the desire to get more accurate information about Jewish assets. Communal bookkeeping had to be submitted in German so that the members’ finances were perfectly transparent to the state. The commissions encouraged direct communication between Jews and the state, and eclipsed the mediating function of the regional councils.29 The distinctive popular assemblies were scheduled and sometimes run by state officials, or not scheduled at all.

In addition to the economic motive, absolutist theories of undivided sovereignty, such as Puffendorf’s, could not tolerate the existence of independent corporations, such as guilds, or autonomous communities, such as the kehillot. These entities detracted from the monarch’s sole claim to authority.30 Policy based on absolutist theories weakened the Jewish communities while, somewhat paradoxically, strengthening one part of them. The Prussian Jewry laws of 1722/23, 1730, and 1750 stripped away traditional elements of autonomy, such as rabbinic and lay jurisdiction in halakhic courts. But at the same time, they dramatically increased the power of the parnassim, or at least of the Oberparnas, in order to increase his efficacy as an agent of the crown. The absolutist princes gave parnassim near dictatorial powers, essentially creating them in their own image.31 The parnassim became a branch of the crown in the same way that the Rat of each German city became a branch of a centralized authority.

Beginning in 1722-1723, the Prussian crown established the exact duties of the parnassim (or, in the language of the statute, the Ober-und anderen ältesten). The parnassim were required to meet weekly. The Oberparnas could fine any councilman who did not come to the meeting. The various financial operations of the community, such as tax farming or compensation of paid employees, had to be conducted in a precise and bureaucratic manner. Weekly reports had to be given regarding the itinerant Jewish population. The treasurer and director of welfare were ordered to submit their books to the parnassim monthly, and so on.32

The Prussian Jewry law of 1730 attempted to restrict rabbinic activity to ceremonial and ritual functions, depriving the rabbis of jurisdiction in civil and economic affairs. The court (bet din), a fundament of communal autonomy for centuries, was to be stripped of its competence and fated to disappear.33 However, this regulation was clearly not effective in putting a definitive halt to the Jewish courts, for the same demand is reiterated, somewhat more explicitly, in the regulation of 1750.34 That regulation made plain that, except for patently religious disputes, Jews were to rely on a regular court of justice (ordentliches Justiz-Forum). The Jewish courts were permitted to survive only as forums for arbitration (per modum arbitrii) to which Jews could repair if they so desired. If they were not satisfied with the decision of the arbitrators, however, they could seek binding justice in the civil courts. For centuries, the possibility and occasional actuality of defection to civil jurisdiction threatened the autonomy of the communities. Now the state institutionalized the threat. Although parnassim from many communities fought to temper the finality of the regulation, they were unsuccessful. The Prussian state was adamant in its campaign against traditional autonomy.35

Given the logic of absolutism, the state would have likely curtailed the full sweep of communal autonomy without pretext. Jews, however, often provided a pretext. Irregularities in election procedures, complaints of unfairness in allocation of taxes, or dictatorial excess in governing the community gave the authorities handy reasons to intervene. Internal disaffection was based on perceived unfairness in the distribution of tax burdens, class conflict, and resentment at the entrenched privilege of an oligarchic leadership. Rising internal dissent was given a massive ideological boost by the Enlightenment. Moses Mendelssohn and others attacked the legitimacy of the old, compulsory community with a modern, Lockean conception of the ends and norms of civil community.36 Enlightenment liberals like Mendelssohn and enlightened despots like Friedrich the Great were, in a sense, speaking the same language when it came to the Jewish community. Friedrich’s chancellor, Friedrich Cocceji, argued, following Benedict Spinoza, that the destruction of the Jewish state centuries ago rendered its purported civil law null and void.37

The great breakthrough toward significant emancipation came in 1812 with an edict that granted Jews rights and duties equal to those of Christians. Jews who previously had enjoyed toleration were allowed to become Bürger, upon assuming fixed last names and presenting their documents to the relevant officials.38 This “fitting constitution” (angemessene Verfassung), as its promulgator, Friedrich Wilhelm III, called it, was supposed to supercede all Jewry laws not explicitly confirmed in the text. Thus, it is somewhat controversial whether or not the edict upheld earlier requirements such as compulsory membership in the community.39 The edict said little about the internal ordering of the Jewish community. What it did say continued in the line of previous developments. Paragraph 30, for example, confirmed that “under no conditions are rabbis and elders to arrogate to themselves either jurisdiction, or guardianship and direction.”40 This confined the Jewish leaders, as we have seen, to an exclusively religious field of activity. There were powerful internal and external reasons to present the Jewish community as a purely religious institution. This transformation, however, was not successful. The endurance of the political dimension of the community (albeit under conditions of adaptation and transformation) was caused by the failure of the 1812 emancipation.

The promise of 1812 was not to be fulfilled in the near term. Emancipation met with many setbacks, as the assimilatory motives behind the policy remained unsatisfied due to the Jews’ continued insistence, however modified, on some measure of group distinctiveness.41 Friedrich Wilhelm IV began a campaign in 1841 to resolve the lingering Jewish problem by returning the Jews to a fully medieval status: political segregation. The king was a romantic advocate of a Christian state and society. He wanted, as Alexander von Humboldt put it, “to recreate a little Middle Ages” (ein kleines Mittelalter zu bilden). In his view, emancipation was abortive. The Jews were uneducable and an intractable menace for a Christian state. They should be returned to kehilla-like corporate entities (corporative Verbände) that should have full civil competence (bürgerliche Funktionen) vis-à-vis their members.42 Jews should not vote in Christian society. Their corporations could send representatives, like the shtadlanim of the previous centuries, to advocate their collective interests. They would be deprived of Staatsbürgerrechte in favor of Korporationsrechte.

Deliberations over the king’s proposals lasted until 1847, accompanied by a vigorous Jewish protest campaign and much public reaction. Both within and outside the government, opponents argued that the proposal was regressive and probably illegal, insofar as it violated existing laws, such as the Städteordnung.43 Intellectuals such as Alexander von Humboldt opposed it as inhumane and untimely. For their part, Jews had to argue that the only purpose of the Jewish community is the promotion of Jewish religion, in the same sense that the Christian community promotes Christianity. The Gemeinde implies no political or national separateness whatsoever. To ascribe a civil or political role to the Gemeinde is, as the Dusseldorf community put it, a return to the Middle Ages (Züruckversetzung ins Mittelalter). Although the ministers were divided on the plan, the opponents finally won. Their argument was that emancipation as a process of denationalization and education had not failed. It had not had enough time to work. The Enlightenment faith in the possibility of the moral formation of the Jews (Bildung) was not yet exhausted. Both the upper and lower chambers agreed that Jewish communities were to be thought of as religious communities, designated by terms such as Synagogengemeinde or Synagogenverein. The more political Judenschaft was to be abandoned. As in 1812, any representative political role for the communal elders was proscribed.

The resulting law of 1847 (Gesetz über die Verhaltnisse der Juden), although it rejected the king’s central concept of separate Jewish political corporations, fell short of his advisors’ (and some Jews’) contention that the community should be a purely religious entity. Perhaps as a nod in the direction of the king, the law constructed these putative Jewish religious communities as if they were self-sufficient civil societies. Most significantly, it established the internal structure of the communities on the basis of the 1808 Städteordnung. For those who did not want to establish a state within a state or, mutatis mutandis, a city within a city, this was a puzzling place to start.

Following the regulations of 1730 and 1750, the 1847 law recognized and enforced Jewish communal autonomy. The law required that Jews belong to their local communities or to form them where such did not already exist (para. 35).44 (Until the Prussian law of secession in 1876, the only legal way of seceding from the community was to become a Christian.) These communities were considered legal persons (juristische Personen) under public law (para. 37). Each community must have an executive council (Vorstand) – equivalent to the Magistrat of a German city – and an appropriate number of representatives (para. 38). The law specified that the Vorstand is to consist of no less than three and no more than seven members who were not compensated for their office. As in the German town, the executive council consisted of honorary office holders (Ehrenämter). (In sufficiently large German cities, however, the city council had paid employees as well. Although Jewish communities had paid employees, they did not serve in a governing capacity.) The law further specified that a second body of Repräsentanten was to be elected, consisting of no more than 21 and no less than nine members (paras. 39-40). These figures analogize the Jewish community to a small German town. The law stipulated who had the right to vote and when elections must be held (para. 41). Both the technical vocabulary and the procedures closely followed the civil practice articulated in the Städteordnung of 1808, and its revision of 1831. Finally, the 1847 law outlined the duties and the competences of the two decision-making chambers (paras. 44-47), as well as the limits of their authority, that is, the conditions under which the autonomy of the community must be superceded by the state (paras. 48-50).

The law reflected a deep-seated ambivalence toward the Jewish community. Part of this ambivalence can be ascribed to the fact that, although the state was moving toward a fuller emancipation of the Jews, as a Christian state it did not want to emancipate Judaism. That is, it wanted to maintain a “demonstrative ignorance” of Judaism in order not to imply equality between Judaism and Christianity.45 Were the state as closely entwined with the regulation of Jewish institutions as it was with Lutheran and Calvinist institutions, it might convey approval or equivalence. Thus, the 1847 law, although it tightly regulated the administrative structure of the Gemeinde, ceded a certain amount of autonomy to it. Para. 51, for example, established that issues of religious practice were to be determined by the executive board and the representatives. “The government has to take notice of these matters and make decisions about them only insofar as public order requires intervention.”46 Para. 52 deferred to local custom in the selection and appointment of religious functionaries.

Why ultimately this ambivalence? Why not eliminate the Jewish community altogether? Friedrich Wilhelm III’s finance minister, Wolfart, in his critical report of 1816 on the failures of the edict of 1812, believed that he was speaking for all Prussians when he wished that Jews had never settled on Prussian territory. However, because they are there, indeed, because previous monarchs had invited them to settle, they must be tolerated and treated justly.47 But they must also be supervised. The harmful potential that their national difference brings with it must be confined and curbed. An official such as Wolfart continued to see the Gemeinde as a powerful instrument of supervision. Indeed, where the need for control was greatest, the Gemeinde was given a new lease on life. The 1833 law for the Jews of Posen, a newly acquired Polish territory, for example, established strong communities with significantly greater powers than in the territories of the old Reich. Another continuing concern, the migration of poor Jews from the East, provided a justification for the Gemeinde‘s supervisory role (see para. 71 of the 1847 law). The continuing efficacy of the Gemeinde in providing sick care and welfare services for Jews also eased the stress on public services. In short, the Gemeinde, as it served the Jews, continued to be useful to the state. Insofar as the state could not wish the Jews away, it could not dispense with the Gemeinde.

The Statutes of the Communities

As we have seen, the law of 1847 established the legal framework and administrative structure for the Jewish communities of Prussia. That structure, taken from the Städteordnung, was a modernized adaptation of a medieval prototype. As with the Städteordnungen of German cities and towns, Gemeinde constitutions tended to follow a basic pattern but permitted local variations as well. All Jewish Gemeinde constitutions covered the same basic ground. Beyond this, details were added that address local issues or express local terminology and tradition. The basic structure is outlined in Table 1.

Table 1: Basic Structure of Jewish Gemeinde Constitutions

I. Introductory Definitions
A. Purpose and Mission of the Gemeinde
B. Definition of Membership
1. Rights and Obligations of Membership
II. Administrative Structure
A. Organization of Presidium, Treasury, Board
1. Duties, Terms, Interrelations
B. Procedures for Electing Officers
1. Criteria for Members’ Active and Passive Voting Rights
2. Direct or Indirect Elections
3. Communication of Results to Civil Authorities
C. Procedures for Authorizing Commissions
1. Relationship of Commissions to Administrative Officers
D. Procedures Governing Appointment of Professional Staff
III. Finances
A. Procedures for Assessment of Members
B. Procedures for Appeal of Assessment
IV. Procedures for Amending the Constitution

Introductory Definitions

It is typical for the constitutions of northern Germany to begin with a geographic delimitation of the area (Bezirk) comprised by the Gemeinde. The city and some or all of its suburbs may be mentioned explicitly48 (e.g., Berlin, Bornheim, Hamburg, Spandau, Holzminden). Southern and western constitutions often dispense with the geographic prologue and move immediately to a statement defining the purpose of the Gemeinde (Frankfurt, Nürnberg, Würzburg). This statement, shared by the north German constitutions, is typically perfunctory. It explains that the Gemeinde is obligated to provide the means necessary for public worship in all its facets, for the education of youth, the burial of the dead, and the care of the poor and sick (Berlin). The Gemeinde is also obligated to manage its property and other assets, as well as to represent the Jews as an organized community before the public authorities (Würzburg).

An exception to this minimal statement of public purpose is Frankfurt’s Kehillath Yeshurun: Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft (IRG), the “separatist” community (Austrittsgemeinde) formed by Samson Raphael Hirsch. The IRG’s constitution, in its original 1874 version, begins with the declaration that the fundamental law (Grundgesetz) of the Gemeinde is the ancient Jewish religious law as handed down in the Torah, Talmud, and Shulchan Aruch. All decisions of the IRG have validity only insofar as they do not contradict these sources of Jewish law. The IRG sees itself not as a new body that has separated from the pre-existing community, but as the true heir of the ancient Frankfurt Gemeinde. This assertive or combative traditionalism is expressed terminologically as the constitution refers to the three standard divisions of communal responsibility – worship (Gottesdienst), education (Unterricht) and welfare (Wohltätigkeit) – by the tradition-charged Hebrew words, Avodah, Torah, and Gemilut Hasadim. The Israelitische Religionsgesellschaft of Karlsruhe uses the same language. This is a good example of how the same basic template was adapted to particular local purposes.

After defining the location and/or purposes of the community, the constitutions define membership and explicate the rights and duties of members. In nineteenth-century constitutions, membership is usually divided into two classes: regular members (ordentliche Mitglieder) and irregular members (ausserordentliche or provisorische Mitglieder). Regular members are generally defined as adult males who have resided in the area of the Gemeinde for at least three months (Würzburg, 1862 and 1871). Sometimes property considerations apply to membership status (Bornheim). While some communities count women as regular members (Würzburg), in others, women of self-sufficient means, as well as orphans with assets, are irregular members (Nürnberg). In any case, these different classes – with different correlative rights and duties – reflect the earlier practice, common to both Germans and Jews, of civil citizenship. To be a citizen of a city or member of a Gemeinde was more than a matter of geographic residence. It indicated an acceptance into, in the German case, an oath community and, in the Jewish case, a community of legal privilege and fiscal responsibility (hezkat ha-yishuv).49 Those who were not full Bürger were, as we saw above, Schutzverwandte. Significantly, in the twentieth-century constitutions, the covenantal or compactual language of Bürgerschaft is on the decline. The old categories of regular and irregular membership have largely been replaced by a generic status by which all Jews who have dwelt in the area of the Gemeinde for longer than three months are members (Holzminden). Nonetheless, some constitutions continue to specify that membership is not automatic or merely contingent on the ability to pay dues. The executive board of the community must judge individual cases and admit would-be members whom they consider fit. The requirement of board approval, while significant, is but a dim echo, however, of the power of the medieval parnassim over hezkat ha-yishuv.

Sometimes the constitutions are quite specific about what conditions must be met by prospective members. The Hamburg statutes, for example, specify that a woman who marries a member of the Gemeinde can herself become a member. However, if a woman who is a member marries a man who is not, she forfeits her membership. Generally, children inherit membership status from parents.50 Newcomers must be able to certify that they are Jews (“Israeliten“). In Frankfurt, they must be properly circumcised. In Karlsruhe, they must have circumcised their sons and not be intermarried. Conversion to another religion, legally seceding from the community, or moving away and failing to pay taxes (Gemeindesteuer) constitute grounds for losing membership. Even when one moves away from the Gemeinde, one may still be obligated to pay taxes for a certain period, for example, up until the last day of the month in which one departed (Bornheim).

In all of these ways, membership is more like citizenship in a commune than like the purchase of a service. Lingering traces of covenantalism more than pure contractualism define the relationship between member and community. At the level of political culture, this is particularly evident in the close symmetry of rights and obligations enumerated by the constitutions. Generally, regular members are entitled to full access to all of the facilities and services of the community. They need not pay for these services in excess of their yearly taxes, unless the board determines that special surcharges are necessary. Irregular members are entitled to a range of services, but not to all, for example, cemetery use (Karlsruhe). One other difference between regular and irregular members is that the latter cannot vote or hold office (Würzburg).

The most typical obligation expected of community members is to vote in Gemeinde elections. Unlike medieval communal enactments, Gemeinde constitutions do not prescribe penalties for those householders who fail to vote. But, as in the kehillot, members who are suited to hold office must do so if chosen by their peers. The offices of the Gemeinde, like those of the kehilla and of the medieval (or modern) German town, were honorary and unremunerated (Ehrenämter).

The constitutions stress the “unity of right and duty” (Einheit von Recht und Pflicht); members have the right to vote (aktive Wahlrecht) only insofar as they accept the burden of office (passive Wahlrecht). Constitutions often list tables of exemptions, borrowed from German constitutional practice. Thus, one who has already served an unbroken nine years in a communal office can enjoy a three-year respite. One wishing to take advantage of this provision must inform the board fourteen days in advance of the election (Würzburg). Others who may decline elected office are: those whose physical condition prevents them from fulfilling their duties, those over 60 years old, those in the service of the state or city, or those whose profession requires them to leave the city frequently (Nürnberg). Some constitutions exempt doctors and pharmacists as well (Spandau). One can appeal to the Gemeinde to be exempt from standing for election, but will lose the right to vote and will assume a double tax burden (Posen). Often the statement of duties will precede the enumeration of rights in the constitutions. Members who have not paid their taxes, who are insolvent, who have a criminal record, or who are not citizens of the German empire cannot vote (Nürnberg, Würzburg). In order to be fit to vote, the member must not have disgraced himself or his community. The term favored by both the Städteordnung and the constitutions is unbescholten (to be of good character or reputation).

Administrative Structure

Gemeinden were governed like German towns with a two-tiered, basically medieval, conciliar structure. All Gemeinden have an executive board (Vorstand, Vorsteher). The Vorstand corresponds to the Magistrat of the Städteordnung and to the parnassim of the kehilla. It consists of as few as three propertied, well-regarded men in small communities (Holzminden, Spandau) or as many as nine (Hamburg) or sixteen (Frankfurt) in large communities. Many communities had special requirements for election to this office such as age or income. Members of the Vorstand must not be closely related to one another. Earlier constitutions, such as the takkanot of Cracow, also go to great lengths to prevent family members from being elected to the same administrative branch.51 The member who got the most votes in the election serves as the president of the Vorstand (Würzburg). In other communities, the Vorstand itself elects one of its members as president for a specific term, corresponding to the medieval institution of parnassim ha-hodesh (Hamburg). Typically, the candidates who did not receive enough votes to serve on the Vorstand were appointed as auxiliary members of the board (Beisitzern or Ersatzmänner).52 They could be called upon to fill a seat if a member died or needed to be replaced for some other reason. This institution also derived from earlier practice. In seventeenth-century Hamburg, for example, the kehilla had potential substitute officeholders called ikorim.53

In both the kehilla and the modern Gemeinden, the terminology for institutional branches or offices was not consistent. While Vorstand generally signified the entire executive board, as distinguished from the lower council of representatives, in some communities Vorstand signified an executive council within a larger executive board called either Ausschuss, Administration, or Verwaltung. In Würzburg, for example, a three-member Vorstand served with a financial secretary (Kassier) and seven other members to make up the Ausschuss. Similar arrangements prevailed in Frankfurt and Nürnberg.54 In earlier kehillot, the upper council was often a composite of elders (roshim), similar to the core Vorstand group, and assistants (tovim).55

The Vorstand was a collegial institution. Its decisions were the result of deliberation and majority vote. The president of the Vorstand had the power to call meetings and to preside over them. In his absence, the member with the greatest seniority or who had received the most votes in the election could preside. The president had no power in excess of the other board members, however. The constitutions generally have elaborate rules governing the Vorstand‘s proper tasks and collective power. In Frankfurt, for example, the Vorstand decided on the acceptance of new members and the amount of their yearly contribution, expelled members when necessary, received and managed funds, supervised and administered the assets of the community as well as its various institutions and employees, and represented the community to the outside authorities. The Vorstand often had the power to call a general assembly of the entire Gemeinde, or to order a joint assembly with the representative council. The constitutions often have detailed rules governing what the Vorstand can do without consultation with the representative council, or what the core Vorstand group can do without deliberation with the treasurer and deputies. The constitutions stipulate cash amounts below which the core group might, for example, decide expenditures on its own. In Frankfurt, the Vorstand was authorized to spend up to 300 Reichsmarks without broader consultation. Earlier in the nineteenth century, the figure was given in local currency, for example, 100 florins as in Würzburg.

The second tier in the governing structure was the representative council, corresponding to the Grosser Rat of a medieval German town or to the Repräsentanten-Versammlung or Stadtverordneten of a modern German town. This body was called by various names in the Gemeinde constitutions such as Aufsichtsrath (Karlsruhe), Repräsentanten (Berlin, Bornheim, Posen, Spandau), Repräsentanten-Kollegium (Hamburg), or Rechnungsausschuss (Holzminden). This body often consists of as many as fifteen members or as few as six in small communities.

As some of the names for this body indicate, its main purpose was oversight and validation of the Vorstand‘s decisions, particularly of its financial and fiscal policies. In Hamburg, for example, the Repräsentanten-Kollegium had to approve the Gemeinde‘s annual budget, which was drawn up by the Vorstand, as well as to certify the accounting of the past year. The Repräsentanten needed to approve the sale or purchase of real estate, creation of new paid or unpaid positions, appointment of individual public servants, as well as the terms of their appointment. The Repräsentanten can send proposals and requests to the Vorstand for their discussion and approval. The Repräsentanten elect one of their own members as president, who is entitled to call meetings on either a regular basis or as need requires. The Vorstand can also require the Repräsentanten to hold meetings and can delegate its own members to attend them. In general, the constitutions stipulate an elaborate division of labor between the two bodies. They also imply a balance of power between them insofar as, for other than small expenditures, the consent of both bodies is required to execute policy. In some communities, the Vorstand and Repräsentanten are elected separately. In other communities, only the Repräsentanten are elected. They then hold an election among themselves to create a Vorstand. Another variation is to hold one election. The highest vote-getters form the Vorstand, while the runners-up form the Repräsentanten.

One of the areas of greatest difference between medieval and modern institutional processes can be found in electoral procedures. In the kehillot, elaborate safeguards existed to ensure fairness in elections. Elections were not direct. Rather, electors (borerim or mevorerim) were chosen from the pool of eligible, propertied males. On election day in Frankfurt, which was often during the week of Passover, potential electors could not leave their homes. The electors themselves, as well as the candidates, were often chosen from different income classes. After they were chosen by lot, they were escorted from their homes to the synagogue and forced to take oaths before the open Holy Ark.56 They would have to swear that they were not in collusion with each other and only intended the good of the community (tovat ha-klal). Then they would have to pick names from a special election urn, sometimes of the candidates themselves, at other times, as in Cracow, of yet another group of electors.57 Those who were elected to office also needed to take oaths before the open ark or before the non-Jewish ruler who, after payment, confirmed the communal leaders in their positions. Government officials sometimes supervised elections directly, influenced them, or suspended them in favor of direct appointment of their own favorites. Of these ramified procedures, faint traces remain in the Gemeinde constitutions.

In Hamburg, for example, both the 1864 and the 1908 constitutions require an open election in which all adult male, tax-paying members (who have in fact paid their taxes for the past year) vote for the fifteen members of the Repräsentanten-Kollegium. A list of all Gemeinde members in good standing was posted several weeks before the election. All candidates who receive one-fifth of the vote became Repräsentanten. The next seven vote-getters became substitutes (Ersatzmänner). In Hamburg, however, the Vorstand was not elected directly, but elected by members of the Repräsentanten-Kollegium. Here, an echo of medieval procedure remained. The outgoing Vorstand chose two of its own members, while the Repräsentanten-Kollegium chose three of its own. These agents (Vertrauensmänner) were charged with drawing up a list of three names of potential Vorstand members. These candidates had then to leave the premises while Vorstand and Repräsentanten voted on them by absolute majority. The highest vote-getter became the Vorsteher. The voters were obligated to strict confidentiality (zur Verschwiegenheit verpflichtet). The appointments had to be communicated to the city senate.

In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Hamburg, seven (rather than five) electors (equivalent to sheva tovei ha-ir) drew up lists of names for Vorstand candidates, although they did so individually rather than by consultation. The candidates also had to leave the room. Discussions were not permitted. (This feature endures in some modern constitutions, such as Berlin’s.) Their names were put in an urn and selected under the supervision of the communal rabbi. The top three vote-getters became, collectively, the presidium (parnassim; Vorsteher) of the Vorstand. Then these three, together with the seven electors, drew up lists for the deputy-Vorsteher. The procedure of voting for officers and then including these officers in the election of a subsequent rank of officer continued until the Vorstand was fully formed.581

Despite the prevalence of direct electoral procedures in the modern communities, they nonetheless continued to employ intermediary bodies in the conduct of elections. In Würzburg, for example, the Vorstand composed the list of candidates for office, posted them for public perusal at least one week before the election, and notified the Gemeinde members of the coming event. (In Berlin, by contrast, the constitution stipulated that the list had to be posted for a full month, so that members would have ample time to protest if they disagreed with the status imputed to them by the Vorstand.) The Vorstand chose an electoral commission (Wahlkommisar) from its midst that was responsible for all relevant preparations. Furthermore, on the day of the election, the assembled voters would choose an electoral board of five (Wahlausschuss) that would assist the Wahlkommisar in its supervision of the procedures. The role of this body was not simply administrative, however. In the event of a tie, the commissioners themselves decided the results. In Bornheim, as late as 1868, the election commissioner was a local government official. This survival from the previous century must have been highly intrusive. While Nürnberg, for example, had elaborate rules in its constitution to ensure strict secrecy (extending even to the uniform shape and color of the ballot), in Bornheim the voters had to audibly announce whom they chose as the commissioner! Even in a major community such as Berlin, a civil official also supervised the proceedings according to the constitution of 1896. This was based on the Prussian law of 1847.

In many communities, direct elections took place every three years in a general assembly of all members (Generalversammlung). This practice goes back to the trienniel assemblies of the Landjudenschaft. In addition to the general assembly for electoral purposes, the whole community could be summoned by the Vorstand for special sessions. In Würzburg, for example, the constitution stipulates that the entire voting membership of the Gemeinde could be summoned to approve the appointment of high officials, that is, those officials who required the approval of the king, to decide on their remuneration, to buy new property or authorize new construction, or to revise the statutes themselves. In a small community such as Holzminden where the governing structure was compact (Vorstand, equivalent to Vorsteher + deputy + treasurer; Rechnungausschuss, equivalent to two members), the general assembly met frequently as a regular organ of government. It functioned as a direct democracy. Its competencies included not only those listed above but also close oversight of the Gemeinde‘s finances. The general assembly approved the Vorstand‘s budget proposal, certified the Rechnungausschuss‘s accounting, and decided on the tax categories of members, as well as other monetary matters.

All Gemeinde constitutions have provisions for appointing or electing commissions to supervise and coordinate activities such as schooling, welfare, synagogue affairs, and, where applicable, traditional institutions such as kashrut and mikveh. Such commissions also functioned in the kehillot.59 Generally, commissions were composed of members of both the Vorstand and the Repräsentanten, or their deputies, as well as other community members appointed by the Vorstand. In some communities, such as Hamburg, members of commissions were elected by the Repräsentanten. When a Vorstand member served on a commission, he was its director. At any rate, commissions were answerable to the Vorstand. A large community like Berlin had sixteen separate commissions. In its statutes, the Frankfurt separatist community stipulated that only those Jews who were known to have kosher homes, whose businesses were closed on the Sabbath, and who had never been seen eating traifot (non-kosher foods) in public were qualified to serve on commissions. In Hamburg, two large commissions, the IU-Verband and the Tempel-Verband, had control of the divided religious life of the city. Each one was a quasi-autonomous legal entity, with much wider jurisdiction than was normally the case with Gemeinde commissions. The Hamburg statutes try to define precisely the extent and limits of this autonomy so that the central Gemeinde institutions remain in control. In the 1864 constitution, for example, the Gemeinde claims a right to a 10 percent profit on the Synagoge-Verband‘s sale of kosher meat for the next ten years.

Salaried professional staff of the Gemeinde, such as rabbis, cantors, or teachers, were appointed by the Vorstand, in consultation with the Repräsentanten (Bornheim). Decisions about salary, pension, conditions of employment, or termination of employment had to be worked out collegially between the two bodies (Hamburg). The civil authorities had to be informed of employment decisions. The constitutions specifically exclude salaried employees as voting members of the Gemeinden. They give the Vorstand broad discretion in disciplining employees. In Spandau, for example, the constitution stipulates that after the Vorstand warns and then reprimands a troublesome employee, if it is still not satisfied, it can withhold up to one half of the employee’s monthly salary. In general, specific contractual provisions are not stipulated in the constitutions but left to the discretion of the Vorstand. Some statutes distinguish between rabbis and other employees (e.g., Nürnberg and Berlin), while others do not. In Berlin, following the Prussian Jewry law of 1847, the rabbi, unlike other officials, was elected by the Repräsentanten. In Bornheim, it was the responsibility of the Vorstand to propose three rabbinic candidates to the Repräsentanten for their vote.


All of the constitutions have substantial, detailed sections dealing with procedures for assessing and assigning members’ tax liability, managing the assets of the community, and accounting procedures. In some communities, a finance committee made tax determinations (Hamburg). In others, the Vorstand was assigned this task (Würzburg). In Würzburg, the procedure was as follows: Every three years, the Vorstand (in Würzburg, this was called the Cultus-Verwaltung) devised a new target figure (Repartition) for the Gemeinde‘s optimal income. Its income should not only cover expenses, but also build a surplus to establish a reserve fund. Income was based both on fees raised through Gemeinde services (e.g., rental of synagogue places, properties, burial charges, and various fines) and on direct assessment. The latter consisted of a head tax (Kopfgeld) set by the Vorstand that applied to everyone except widows, not yet self-sufficient orphans, and the poor (who paid half the amount), and an income tax. The Vorstand divided the community into several income categories and calculated the tax for each category. All of the potential contributors were classified by a majority vote of the Vorstand. The list of taxpayers and their assessments was posted in the Gemeinde building. The community was informed of the posting and called to read the list. Members had a right of appeal, but had to do so within fourteen days. Whoever did not request clarification within the two-week period was assumed to be in complete agreement with his assessment. Requesting a change in one’s status within the three-year period was only possible if one had suffered substantial financial losses and these could be legally documented. The Vorstand had a right to shift a member into a higher tax bracket during a three-year period if the member had a substantial increase in wealth.

The procedure for appeal is explicit. If a member brings a complaint against his assessment within the two-week period, the entire Vorstand must meet to consider it. It decides by majority vote whether to decrease his tax liability. If the member is dissatisfied with the judgment, he can appeal it to the civil authorities. Until that authority renders a decision, however, he must pay his taxes to the Gemeinde so that its cash flow is not damaged. Should the final judgment be in his favor, he will receive the difference from the Gemeinde. Taxes were to be collected either quarterly or semi-annually, as the Vorstand determines. If not paid within four weeks of the stipulated time, the member is in arrears and loses his rights. A member who leaves the community must nonetheless pay for the half-year period in which he left. A deceased member’s estate is also taxed for the half-year period in which he died. The tax rate on the estate cannot be raised, however.

The Würzburg constitution contains specific directions for where monies are to be directed. Fees for synagogue honors are to go to the treasurer and used as discretionary funds to be spent on poor relief. The rabbi is directed to charge three florins, thirty kroner from every bridegroom and direct it to the treasurer. This constitution also has provisions for special surcharges, for example, on various classes of new members. This general system also prevailed in Nürnberg, Berlin, and Karlsruhe, inter alia. Some constitutions, such as Berlin or Hamburg, stipulate tax rates relative to income in their texts.

Procedures for Amending the Constitution

All constitutions require a mechanism for their emendation. A Gemeinde constitution could be changed rather easily. In Hamburg, a two-thirds majority of both chambers was required to add a provision to the statutes. After four weeks, another two-thirds majority had to ratify the change. Changes also required the approval of the city senate. The Frankfurt constitution declared that the paragraphs describing the fundamental characteristics of the community could not be revised (unabänderlich). All other paragraphs, however, could be revised by a two-thirds vote of the entire community, that is, the general assembly, at which at least half of the voting members were present. In Berlin, two-thirds of the two chambers were required in addition to the consent of the civil authorities.


It would be imprudent to draw overly broad conclusions about German-Jewish constitution-making on the basis of this small sample of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century documents. A presentation such as this has had, inevitably, to pay more attention to similarities than to distinguishing features. Nonetheless, all of the constitutions do descend from a common ancestor, the early nineteenth-century Prussian Städteordnung. That institutional design also descended, as we have seen, from a prior medieval experience of civil governance. The historic Jewish patterns represented in the kehilla mirrored, in myriad ways, the German archetype. Indeed, the Gemeinde constitutions of contemporary Jewish communities in united Germany continue to manifest this same constitutional architecture. Although everything, in a sense, has changed, these institutional features bear witness to the persistence of constitutional traditions. In the sphere of constitutional design, continuity and change have found a harmonious balance.

The persistence of the Jews in organizing themselves in political rather than in purely religious communities is undeniable. In at least this sense, a continuing Jewish political tradition endures. Furthermore, there is a clear tendency of Jewish communities to seek to retain covenantal elements in their constitutions, that is, to resist a complete transformation into secularized civil societies. The German-Jewish case, in all of its historical complexity, shows how intimately covenantalism and constitutionalism – the traditional and the modern – are related.

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* An earlier version of this essay appeared in Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 30:4 (Fall 2000) and appears here with permission.

1. Max Wiener, Judische Religion im Zeitalter der Emanzipation (Berlin: Philo Verlag, 1933), pp. 7-8. “Wie aber sollte die Stellung des Judentums sein, des Judentums, das sich vor allem als Lehre einer alle Lebensgebiete durchdringenden religios-gesetzlichen Ordnung fuhlte, in der Atomisierung der religiosen Gemeinschaft, in der Eingliederung ihrer Einzeltrager in eine neutrale Gesellschaft den wichtigsten Teil seiner Forderungen bedeutungslos oder gar vollig unausfuhrbar geworden sah?”

2. Jacob Katz, Tradition and Crisis, Bernard Cooperman, trans. (New York: NYU Press, 1993), p. 196.

3. Robert Liberles, “Emancipation and the Structure of Jewish Community in the Nineteenth Century,” Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, 31:1986), p. 52.

4. Daniel J. Cohen, The Organizations of the “Landjudenschaften” (Jewish Corporations) in Germany During the XVII and XVIII Centuries, vol. I (Hebrew) DSS Hebrew University: 1967, p. xxi. For a view that renders thematic the awareness of continuity in the midst of change, see Ira Katznelson and Pierre Birnbaum, eds. Paths of Emancipation: Jews, States and Citizenship (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).

5. Cited in Charles W. Hendel, ed. Hume’s Political Essays (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1953), p. 52.

6. This is not to deny that some early modern Jews were revolutionaries and advocated the complete dissolution of the Jewish community. In 1844, for example, 169 members of the Hamburg community called for the dissolution of the Gemeinde and the transfer of its institutions and functions to the Hamburg Senate. They advocated the formation of private religious societies for those Jews who wished to remain significantly Jewish. That German governments rejected such radical proposals and kept compulsory communal membership more or less intact buttressed conservative sentiment within the Jewish community. See Kurt Wilhelm, “The Jewish Community in the Post-Emancipation Period,” Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, vol. 2 (London: East and West Library, 1957), p. 50.

7. On the early history of German communal self-government, see Franz Steinbach and Erich Becker, Geschichtliche Grundlagen der kommunal Selbstverwaltung in Deutschland, Rheinisches Archiv 20 (Bonn: Ludwig Roehrscheid Verlag, 1932), ch. 1. A more contemporary treatment of the legal and political structures of the German city is found in Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formulation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983), pp. 371-380. Control over who is allowed to settle in the commune is directly parallel to the Jewish practice of herem ha-yishuv. The halakhic basis for this practice was already contested by R. Tam and R. Meir of Rothenburg. Cf. Eric Zimmer, Harmony and Discord: An Analysis of the Decline of Jewish Self-Government in 15th Century Central Europe (New York: Yeshiva University Press, 1970), ch. 1.

8. In both the German and the Jewish instances, these names are not necessarily standardized. In Cracow, a town settled by German colonists, for example, they were known as the Quadraginta Viratus or Vierzigmänner-Kollegium, as there were 40 of them.

9. The words of Friedrich Wilhelm III himself, in the introduction to the Städteordnung, are illustrative: “das dringend sich äussernde Bedürfnis einer wirksamen Theilnahme der Bürgerschaft an der Verwaltung des Gemeinwesens überzeugen Uns von der Nothwendigkeit, den Städten eine selbstständigere und bessere Verfassung zu geben, in der Bürgergemeinde einen festen Vereinigungspunkt gesetzlich zu bilden, ihnen eine thätige Einwirkung auf die Verwaltung des Gemeinwesens beizulegen und durch diese Theilnahme Gemeinsinn zu erregen und zu erhalten.” Cited in G.L. von Maurer, Geschichte der Städteverfassung in Deutschland (Erlangen, 1870), p. 314. See also Josef Wilden, Die Kommunalverwaltung Preussens (Dusseldorf: Druck und Verlag von L. Schwann, 1910): “Dazu kommt, dass der Staat die Bürger, indem er sie in der Kommunalverwaltung ehrenämtlich an der Verwaltung teilnehmen lässt, sich heranbildet und so den wahren Patriotismus grosszieht. Die Kommunalverwaltung ist also eine politische Schule von grösster Bedeutung für den Staat,” pp. 12-13.

10. German legal scholars at the turn of the century vigorously debated whether the vom Stein-Hardenberg Städteordnung was a wholly new departure, or a return to medieval precedents. Steinbach and Becker view the new frame of government not as a break (Unterbrechung), but as the manifestation of a profound developmental process of transformation (tief umgestaltende Entwicklung). See Steinbach and Becker, Geschichtliche Grundlagen der kommunalen Selbstverwaltung, ch 2. The debate between Steinbach and Becker, and the numerous scholars they cite, is essentially about the re-appropriation of tradition by a modernizing society. Their opponents appear to be insensitive to the possibility that modernization can proceed through a certain creative reclamation of the past, rather than only through an alienation of the past. That this by now remote and rather arcane debate is germane to our inquiry goes without saying.

11. Eugen Leidig, Preussisches Stadtrecht: Die Verfassung und Verwaltung der preussischen Städte (Berlin: Siemenroth und Worms, 1891), pp. 17-20.

12. Berman, Law and Revolution, p. 362. Cf. Daniel J. Elazar, Covenant and Commonwealth (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1996), pp. 73-82.

13. In the language of the Städteordnung itself: Die Stadtverordneten bedürfen weder einer besonderen Instruktion oder Vollmacht der Bürgerschaft, noch sind sie verpflichtet, derselben über ihre Beschlusse Rechenschaft zu geben. Das Gesetz und ihre Wahl sind ihre Vollmacht, ihre überzeugung und ihre Aussicht vom gemeinen Besten der Stadt ihre Instruktion, ihr Gewissen aber die Behörde, der sie deshalb Rechenschaft zu geben haben. Leidig, Preussisches Stadtrecht, p. 68.

14. Wilden, Die Kommunalverwaltung Preussens, pp. 25-37.

151. Leidig, Preussisches Stadtrecht. The deep medieval roots of this requirement of civic participation are exemplified in the laws of twelfth-century Cologne. See Berman, Law and Revolution, p. 372.

16. Annegret Brammer, Judenpolitik and Judengesetzgebung (Berlin: Schelsky und Jeep, n.d.), p. 329.

17. A rich article, not yet translated into English as far as I know, is Zecharia Frankel’s “Die Gemeindeordnung nach talmudischem Rechte,” appearing in the second volume of the Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums (MGWJ), 1853, pp. 289-304. Frankel wants to establish not only the antiquity of Jewish communal institutions, but the essential continuity of those institutions with contemporary Jewish civil practice. Basing himself upon Frankel and independent research, Samuel Spitzer’s Die Gemeinde-Ordnung bei den alten Israeliten (Essek [Austria-Hungary]: n.p., 1873) also investigates the background and linkages of present practice with ancient and medieval prototype. While Frankel insists that the medieval Jewish community was self-originating and uninfluenced by Greco-Roman, let alone Germanic practice, Spitzer is much more willing to postulate non-Jewish influence. The concern of nineteenth-century scholars to situate their own communal practices in an historical continuum is a topic itself worthy of investigation.

18. See Kolbo, responsum 142, (New York: Shulsinger Brothers, n.d.), p. 100.

19. Kolbo, ibid.; Mordekhai, B. Metzia, no. 257, cited in Zimmer, Harmony and Discord, p. 173, note 9.

20. Zimmer, Harmony and Discord, p. 176, note 5.

21. Spitzer, Die Gemeinde-Ordnung, p. 27. Spitzer believes that medieval Jewish election procedures had a talmudic basis, and were influenced by Greco-Roman custom. The Hebrew term for the urn in which names of electors were placed, for example, the kalpe, derives from the Greek kalpe, cf. Yoma 39a.

22. See Heinz Moshe Graupe, Die Statuten der drei Gemeinden Altona, Hamburg und Wandsbek, two volumes (Hamburg: Hans Christian Verlag, 1973), vol. I (German translation), pp. 225-35; vol. II (Hebrew-Yiddish original), pp. 171-182; Israel Halperin, ed. Takkanot Medinat Mehren 1650-1748 (Jerusalem: Hevrat Mikitze Nirdamim, 1951), p. 11ff; Majer Balaban, ed. “Die Krakauer Judengemeinde-Ordnung von 1595 und ihre Nachträge,” Jahrbuch der Jüdisch-Literarischen Gesellschaft, vol. X: 1912, pp. 298-360. The section on elections in the takkanot is section 11, pp. 314-319; Josef Meisel, ed., Pinkas Kehillat Berlin (Jerusalem: Reuben Mass, 1962), p. 33.

23. On the concentration of power in the hands of the chief parnassim during the period of absolutist consolidation, see Selma Stern, Der Preussische Staat und die Juden, III:1 (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1971), pp. 258-259.

24. Michael A. Meyer, ed., German-Jewish History in Modern Times, vol. I: Tradition and Enlightenment: 1600-1780 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), pp. 87-91.

25. Jews were expelled from the following old centers of Jewish life: Speyer – 1405; Trier – 1418; Köln – 1424; Augsburg – 1439; Ulm – 1446, 1456, 1499; Breslau – 1455; Mainz – 1473; Bamberg – 1478; Nürnberg – 1499; Donauwoerth – 1517; Regensburg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber – 1519; Nordhausen – 1559; Würzburg – 1567. See Daniel J. Cohen, Die Landjudenschaften in Deutschland als Organe juedischer Selbstverwaltung von der fruehen Neuzeit bis ins neunzehnte Jahrhundert, vol. I (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Goettingen: Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1996), p. xv.

26. Meyer, ed., German-Jewish History in Modern Times, ch. 6.

27. Daniel J. Elazar and Stuart Cohen, The Jewish Polity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), pp. 178-203.

28. Meyer, ed., German-Jewish History in Modern Times, pp. 200-201. For more detailed descriptions of the various offices, see the Introduction to Cohen, Die Landjudenschaften als Organe juedischer Selbstverwaltung, pp. xiii-xx.

29. Cohen, ibid., pp. xii-xiv (English Introduction). For an exemplary document illustrating governmental intrusion, see Cohen, ibid. , vol. III, p. 259.

30. Stern writes: “Aber entscheidend ist doch erst die vorherrschende Tendenz jener Zeit geworden, dass jeden Verband als selbständige Wesenheit und eigene Willensgemeinschaft die Idee der Staatsallmacht und die Ausschliesslichkeit der Staatseinheit gefährde. Es sei undenkbar, hatte schon Puffendorf gelehrt, dass ein Staat Staaten in sich enthalte.” Der Preussische Staat, III:1, p. 261.

31. Stern, ibid., p. 261. See also I. Kracauer, Geschichte der Juden in Frankfurt a.M (1150-1824) , vol. II (Frankfurt: Kaufmann Verlag, 1927), pp. 178-182.

32. Stern, Der Preussische Staat, II:2, document 97, pp. 153-156.

33. For the full text of the 1730 General Privilegium und Reglement, see Ismar Freund, Die Emanzipation der Juden in Preussen, vol. II (Berlin: Verlag von M. Poppelauer, 1912), pp. 15-22, esp. paras. 23/24.

34. Freund, Emanzipation der Juden, vol. II, p. 53 (para. 31 of Das General-Reglement vom 17 April 1750). See also Michael Graetz, “From Corporate Community to Ethnic-Religious Minority, 1750-1830,” Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, 37 (New York: Leo Baeck Institute, 1992), p. 72. The prohibition of rabbis and parnassim from civil jurisdiction was reiterated yet again in the Edict of Emancipation of 1812. The three-fold reiteration indicates just how reluctant the Jews were to give up the ancient props of communal autonomy.

35. Lionel Kochan, Jews, Idols and Messiahs: The Challenge of History (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd, 1990), pp. 52-53. 36. Graetz, “From Corporate Community,” pp. 74-76.

37. See Azriel Schochet, ‘Im Hilufe ha-Tekufot (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1960), pp. 75-88.

38. For the text of the law, see Freund, Die Emanzipation der Juden in Preussen, vol. II, pp. 455-459.

39. Robert Liberles argues that compulsory membership was not affected by the 1812 edict and that the eighteenth-century laws remained in force. Liberles, “Emancipation and the Structure of the Jewish Community in the Nineteenth Century,” Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, 31:1986, p. 61. For a view that Liberles reads as conflicting with his own, see Herbert Strauss, “Pre-emancipation Prussian Policies towards the Jews 1815-1847,” Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook, 11:1966, pp 126-127. Strauss suggests that the 1847 law established “Jewish religious corporations” as an alternative to the king’s desired political corporations. Liberles infers then that Strauss views these religious corporations as a novum. That this is what Strauss intended is far from clear.

40. “In keinem Fall dürfen sich Rabbiner und Juden-ältesten weder eine Gerichtsbarkeit noch eine vormundschaftliche Einleitung und Direktion anmassen.” Freund, Die Emanzipation der Juden in Preussen, vol II, p. 458.

41. Strauss, “Pre-Emancipation Prussian Policies towards the Jews, 1815-1847,” pp. 107-136.

42. For a full discussion of these issues see, Brammer, Judenpolitik und Judengesetzgebung, pp. 258-365.

43. Brammer, ibid. , pp. 329, 365. With respect to the Städteordnung, the members of the conservative noble chamber (Herrenkurie) argued that the Städteordnung established that all citizens of a city are to be united in a common association for the common good (alle Bürger und Vertreter der Stadt durch ein gemeinsames Band des Gemeinsinns für das Wohl derselben vereinigt sind). A separate Jewish representation would destroy this fundamental principle.

44. For the text of the law, see Freund, Die Emanzipation der Juden in Preussen, vol. II, pp. 501-519.

45. Kurt Wilhelm, “The Jewish Community in the Post-Emancipation Period,” p. 50.

46. Freund, Die Emanzipation der Juden, vol. II, p. 514.

47. This remarkable document is in Freund, ibid. , pp. 475-496.

48. The following Gemeinde constitutions were used in this study: Berlin, 1896; Bornheim, 1868; Frankfurt: IRG, 1874; Frankfurt: Israelitische Gemeinde, 1920; Hamburg, 1867; Hamburg, 1908; Holzminden, 1910; Karlsruhe, 1881; Nürnberg, 1902; Posen, 1912; Spandau, 1909; Würzburg, 1862; Würzburg, 1871; Würzburg, 1914. In cases where more than one version of a constitution exists, if no date is given in the parentheses, then the text is substantially the same in the various recensions. Original documents are found in either the Leo Baeck Institute, New York, or Widener Library, Harvard University.

49. For conditions of membership in traditional Ashkenazi kehillot, see Salo W. Baron, The Jewish Community, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1948), ch. 10.

50. Compare, Baron, The Jewish Community, vol. 2, pp. 4-5.

51. For the text of this ordinance, see Majer Balaban, “Die Krakauer Judengemeinde-Ordnung von 1595,” Jahrbuch Jüdisch-Literarischer Gesellschaft, vol. 10, 1912 (Frankfurt am Main: Kauffman Verlag, 1913), section 11. First-degree relations as well as in-laws could not serve together.

52. Mordechai Breuer ascribes to the term “Beisitzer” an entirely different sense from “substitute official,” which is the sense that it has in the nineteenth century constitutions, as well as the term chosen by Graupe to translate “ikorim” (see note 53 below). For Breuer, “Beisitzer” refers to Jews who lacked the permission of the parnassim to reside in the kehilla, but who were nonetheless given authorization by the non-Jewish ruler. See Michael A. Meyer, ed., German-Jewish History in Modern Times: Tradition and Enlightenment, p. 167.

53. For the text, see the critical edition of Heinz Mosche Graupe, Die Statuten der drei Gemeinden Altona, Hamburg und Wandsbek (Hamburg: Hans Christians Verlag, 1973), p. 172 (Judeo-German); p. 225 (German translation).

54. In Nürnberg, the Vorstand + treasurer + substitute deputies was called the “Adminstration.” The representative council was called, somewhat confusingly, the “Gemeinde-Ausschuss” (community board).

55. Baron, The Jewish Community, vol II, p. 63.

56. A classic description of this procedure in Frankfurt is found in Johan Jacob Schudt’s Juedische Merkwuerdigkeiten, vol. 2 (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1714). (The original text was reproduced by Louis Lamm Verlag, Berlin, 1922.) See Book VI, Chapter IX, “Von der Juden zu Franckfurt Baumeistern und Vorstehern.”

57. Baron, ibid.; Majer Balaban, “Die Krakauer Judengemeinde-Ordnung von 1595,” section 11, pp. 314-319.

58. Graupe, Die Statuten der Drei Gemeinden, pp. 172, 225.

59. Majer Balaban, “Der Kahal in Polen im XVI bis XVIII Jahrhundert,” Neue Jüdische Monatshefte, vol. I, sect. 2.