The Frank­furt Juden­gasse: Jew­ish Life in an Ear­ly Mod­ern Ger­man City

Fritz Back­haus, Gisela Engel, Robert Liber­les and Mar­garete Schlüter, eds.
  • Review
By – August 29, 2011
A nar­row focus of time and place gives this col­lec­tion of arti­cles great strength. From dif­fer­ent van­tage points and through dif­fer­ent lens­es, the read­er is giv­en a vivid pic­ture of what Jew­ish life was like in the city of Frank­furt. The ear­ly mod­ern peri­od was one of great change in West­ern Europe, and for the Jews of Frank­furt it reached its cli­max in the late 19th cen­tu­ry, when the Jews were final­ly per­mit­ted to live out­side the walls of the ghet­to, and the ten­e­ments of the Jew­ish street were torn down. The image of the ghet­to imme­di­ate­ly sets one’s atten­tion on rela­tions between Jews and Chris­tians, but the arti­cles go beyond that. They show how Jews were seen by ethno­g­ra­phers who were par­tic­u­lar­ly fas­ci­nat­ed by Jews. The pow­er strug­gles with­in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, and the polit­i­cal con­cerns of both Jews and Chris­tians, are dis­cussed, some­times through lit­er­ary rather than doc­u­men­tary sources. The musi­cal cus­toms of the Frank­furt syn­a­gogues are placed in his­tor­i­cal con­text, and some inter­est­ing let­ters from the Roth­schild family’s Frank­furt branch that were recent­ly recov­ered from Rus­sia are described. The schol­ar­ly tone and dense type­set­ting require a deter­mined reader.

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