A Win­dow on Their World: The Court Diary of Rab­bi Hayy­im Gun­der­sheim — Frank­furt am Main, 1773 – 1794

Edward Fram
  • Review
By – May 24, 2013
Jew­ish courts have been active for cen­turies, but his­to­ri­ans know sur­pris­ing­ly lit­tle about how they func­tioned. One of the main rea­sons for this is the dearth of records from the courts. Some court records have been found in the Cairo Genizah and a small num­ber of court ledgers sur­vive from ear­ly mod­ern Europe. In his new book, Edward Fram pro­vides access to one of those few records, a per­son­al diary by one of the rab­binic judges in eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry Frank­furt, who record­ed all of the cas­es that came before the court dur­ing his tenure. The bulk of this vol­ume is devot­ed to a metic­u­lous edi­tion of the diary, which was writ­ten in Hebrew, with an Eng­lish lan­guage sum­ma­ry of each entry. The edi­tion is fol­lowed by a series of Hebrew index­es of place names, per­son­al names, and legal top­ics. Fram’s intro­duc­tion to the book is extreme­ly valu­able. Besides intro­duc­ing the diary itself and its author, he demon­strates how the diary can be used as a his­tor­i­cal source for the Frank­furt Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty and for Jew­ish law, and the ways in which it is sim­i­lar and dif­fer­ent to oth­er gen­res of Halakhic writing. 

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