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.
Pinchas Roth (PR) is a post-doctoral fellow at Ben Gurion University of the Negev.