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Jewish communal history throughout the millennia of diaspora life has long been the subject of considerable scholarly attention. The European community of the pre-Emancipation era, especially, has for decades attracted modern investigators by its numerous extraordinary features. Its remarkable combination of religious and secular authority, its almost “extraterritorial” status and “sovereign” political powers and its overwhelming control over its members have flattered the political ambitions of nationally-minded modern Jews, but antagonized many reformers and anti-segregationists. Philo-Sémites and anti-Semites among the non-Jews, too, have often held definite opinions about the “ghetto” community. Like their Jewish confreres, however, they, too, have frequently substituted one or another bias for reliable information and sound reasoning. It is hoped that this first attempt at a comprehensive historical and sociological analysis of the entire communal evolution to the Emancipation era will help to promote clarity, if not unanimity of appraisal.
Apart from the usual embarrassment in defining the highly ambiguous term “community” — it is used here in the prevailing, organizational sense which is even narrower than that of the German Gemeinde — students of communal aspects of Jewish history are beset by two opposing difficulties: an extreme dearth of material for certain areas and periods and a plethora of extant information on other regions and epochs. Modern literature on the subject, too, is unevenly distributed and much repetition in one field is aggravated by nearly total silence in others. The present author has made an effort to maintain the relative proportions of the various phases of his ramified topic regardless of this quantitative disparity. In the use of the vast and significant literature of rabbinic responsa, for example, he has been guided principally by the importance of the countries or centuries of their provenance. Representative samples from diverse areas and periods were considered more promising than mere concentration on works of a few outstanding masters, however great an influence the latter may have wielded on the subsequent evolution of Jewish law.
The focus of this entire work is centered on the European community of the Middle Ages and early modern times, both because of the great richness and variety of its historic accomplishments and, genetically, because of its intimate linkage to Jewish community life throughout the world today. At the same time its deep moorings in the ancient and contemporaneous eastern communities have come to the fore ever more insistently. In fact, while trying to detect the hidden springs of this phenomenally tenacious evolution, the writer found himself delving deeper and deeper not only into the obscure realms of the First Exile and the Persian and Hellenistic dispersion, but also into the early manifestations of ancient Palestinian municipal life. Many rather unexpected relationships have laid bare some of the most autochthonous roots of the diaspora community securely ensconced in the ever fertile soil of ancient Israel. It has been found necessary, therefore, to devote the first two chapters to a general outline of both the modern foreground and the ancient background of the community in dispersion in its extraordinary historic career from the Babylonian Exile to the American and French Revolutions.
the Author -- The Jewish Community: Its History and Structure to the American Revolution. Vol. III.
I. Quest for New Forms, 3; II. The Palestinian Municipality, 6;
III. Synagogue, 10; IV. Graeco-Roman Association, 13;
V. Talmudic Consolidation, 21; VI. Protected Community, 34;
VII. European Corporation, 51; VIII. Supercommunity, 65;
IX. Local Society, 88; X. Membership and Elections, 98; XI. Lay
and Ecclesiastical Officers, 118; XII. Religious Guidance, 142;
XIII. Education and Public Enlightenment, 160; XIV. Law
Enforcement, 172; XV. Public Finance, 183; XVI. Social
Welfare, 197; XVII. Crucible of Capitalism and Enlightenment,
NOTES TO CHAPTER VIII
1 The statute of 1402 is included in the Ordenaçoens . . . Affonso, II, 81, pp. 476 ff. It is well summarized by Kayserling, Portugal, pp. 9 ff. The preamble indicates that its renewal in 1440 was occasioned by the complaints of the procuradores of the community of Lisbon and other communities against Don Juda Cofem, nosso Arraby Moor. For other interventions of the Portuguese communities, often represented by that of Lisbon, see Ordenaçoens, II, 73, pp. 436 ff.; 90, pp. 508 f.
2 Ibn Adret, Responsa, III, 411.
3 The resolutions of the conference of 1354 are reprinted in Baer’s Spanien, I, Pt. 1, no. 253 (cf. also the editor’s notes thereto) and, with an English translation, in Finkelstein’s Self-Government, pp. 328 ff. Cf., in general, also Baer’s Studien, pp. 118 ff. Similar conventions of Castilian Jewry for the purpose of tax distribution and communal regulation are mentioned in several records of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Cf. Asher b. Yehiel’s Responsa, VI, 15; Baer’s Spanien, I, Pt. 2, nos. 134, 143, 287, 329, 358. The most famous of these gatherings was the "synod" of Valladolid in 1432 (see below). The choice of this locality also for the juntas of 1476 and 1486 is not surprising, because since John II Valladolid had served as the royal capital and the foremost seat of the Cortes.
4 Baer, Spanien, I, Pt. 2, nos. 70 (1255), 241 (1388), 244 (1389), 258 (1395), 264 (1401).
5 Ibid., p. 52 and nos. 230 (1383–84), 287 (IV, 1), 307 (Doc. 5, 1465), 329 (1476), 347 ff. (1485), 352 (3), 355 (1486), 358, 365 ff. (1488), 373 (1491), 379 (1492).
6 Ibid., Pt. 1, nos. 104 (1271), 153 (Doc. 5, 1304–5), 601–3 (after 1391); idem, Studien, pp. 126 f.; idem in Debir, II (1923), 316 f. (on Alconstantin); Assaf, Ha-’Oneshin, no. 74; Kayserling, Die Juden in Navarra, den Baskenländern und auf den Balearen, pp. 88 f. It is interesting to note that when, in 1369, the Castilian city of Molina surrendered to the Aragonese troops, Don Samuel Abulafia, appearing as the representative of the Jewish community, included in the stipulations a provision that he continue to exercise in the city those rabbinic and judicial functions which were formerly his "as rabbi of the court of the King of Castile." The King promised not only to keep Don Samuel in office for life, but also to reserve his post for those descendants "who shall prove capable." Baer, Spanien, I, Pt. 1, no. 292.
7 The conspiracy of silence on the part of contemporary Hebrew writers with respect to their chief rabbis is too uniform and consistent to be the effect of an accident. Even Hasdai Crescas, a prolific author and influential jurist, philosopher and apologist, is known to us as Aragonese chief rabbi primarily through a chance remark of a Christian debater at Tortosa (gui fuit Rabi vel magister omnium vestrum), an inconclusive reference in a Hebrew letter of 1401 ("chief and judge over us and over all Israel" could not possibly have had the technical meaning of chief rabbi in the writer’s locality, Navarre), and a somewhat dubious note in another Hebrew letter of 1411 concerning the "late" Hasdai’s successor in the chief rabbinate (according to Baer, Enc. Jud. V, 696 ff., Hasdai died in 1412). Cf. Baer’s Studien, p. 127 n. 12; idem, Spanien, I, Pt. 1, p. 1001; Isidore Loeb, "Josef Haccohen et les chroniqueurs juifs," REJ, XVI (1888), 34. Indeed, Hasdai himself, writing in 1391, a year after his appointment by Queen Violante as chief trial judge for Jewish informers throughout the realm — the later decree conferring upon him the chief rabbinate seems irretrievably lost — apparently refrains from using any official designation. Cf. his epistle on the French controversy, reproduced in Isaac b. Sheshet’s Responsa, no. 269, and his description of the massacres, in Solomon ibn Verga’s Shebet Yehudah, ed. by M. Wiener, pp. 128 ff.
8 S. Schechter, "Notes sur Messer David Léon tirées de manuscrits," REJ, XXIV (1892), 135 = Kebod Hakamim (A Polemical Work) by Messer David Leon, ed. by S. Bernfeld, p. 64. The barb is evidently aimed at Seneor rather than at Paul of Burgos.
9 Baer, Studien, p. 29 (referring to the appointment of Don Pedro Fenollet, Viscount de Illa); idem, Spanien, I, Pt. 1, no. 253 (9), 283; Pt. 2, no. 287 (III, 7).
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