Hebrew mss @ CUL: Jews and Privileges in Germany

The Hebrew manuscript collection at CUL is quite wide-ranging, covering space from India to the Carribean, and time from the 10th to the 20th centuries.  It has particularly strong coverage of the early modern period, with substantial historical materials from Italy and Amsterdam, Greece (Corfu) and France.   One obvious lacuna for our collection was the Jewish community of Germany. 

While we do have some manuscripts that were produced in Germany, such as our ‘Evronot, there was previously not much in our collection which described the actual people from this area during the early modern era.  Until now.  We recently were able to acquire a German manuscript from 1750 which describes the "Revised Privileges and Laws of Jewry in Royal Prussia."

A full description is available at the link above, but in summary, the manuscript includes:

1) A list of the Schutzjuden (Protected Jews) to whom King Frederick II (the Great) granted the privilege to live in Prussia.

2) A list of laws under which the Jews could remain in King Frederick’s lands.

This document presents a fascinating slice of time; not only for the specific individuals that are listed within it, but also for the laws themselves, which include governance of the community.  The laws were very specific, including a provision that the Jews were not allowed to say a phrase (she-hem mishtahavim la-hevel va-rik) within the Alenu prayer which was seen as derogatory to Christians.  That such detail would be included in these laws implies that a study of the other laws may give us more insight into this particular community of Jews at this time.

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