LIEBMANN, ESTHER SCHULHOFF AARON (c. 1645–1714) and JOST


LIEBMANN, ESTHER SCHULHOFF AARON (c. 1645–1714) and JOST (Judah Berlin; c. 1640–1701), Court Jews in Berlin. Esther Schulhoff, born in Prague, first married Israel Aaron (d. 1673), Brandenburg court supplier and founder of the Berlin Jewish community. Jost Liebmann's first wife, Malka, was the niece of *Glueckel of Hameln. Liebmann learned precious-stone and metal working with Ḥayyim Hameln, Glueckel's husband.

Esther Aaron and Jost Liebmann married in 1676. Esther, who held a letter of protection as a Berlin Court Jew and maintained close ties to Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, secured permission for Liebmann to work and settle in Berlin. Between 1676 and 1701 the Liebmanns were a formidable team who maintained a household consisting of six children of their own, two from Esther's first marriage, a child from Aaron's first marriage, and whatever children Jost brought from his first marriage, as well as Esther's parents and relatives of Jost. Esther worked actively alongside her husband, attending the Leipzig Fair with him, unusual for a married Jewish woman at that time. After she was widowed, Esther attended many other fairs, as did other entrepreneurial widows, including Glueckel.

The Liebmanns, who were among the wealthiest Jews in Berlin, were the main court jewelers, assisting Frederick I of Prussia to acquire a sizable collection of precious stones and objects. In 1684 Jost Liebmann was released from payment of the body tax (Leibzoll) and in 1694 his books were recognized as legal evidence in court. Esther and Jost Liebmann were influential in the Jewish community and secured positions for their sons and other family members as rabbis in various communities in Prussia. In 1684, they received permission to sponsor Berlin's sole synagogue, which functioned in their home. This gave them considerable power over opponents within the Berlin Jewish community, particularly Moses Benjamin Wulff.

After Jost's death in 1701, Esther Liebmann successfully carried on their business, supplying ever-increasing amounts of jewelry to the court. The luxury-loving Frederick I owed her large sums. Part of her payment was a license to mint and issue coinage and she received numerous other royal privileges. With the accession in 1713 of the frugal soldier-king, Frederick William I, Esther Liebmann was put under house arrest and released only after she had paid the king a substantial fine. Her wealth and influence declined and the woman who had been the most powerful female Court Jew in Germany died the next year. Esther's sons, Isaac Liebmann and Liebmann Jost, were also court purveyors of jewels, but they did not attain the wealth and position of their parents.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

D. Hertz, "The Despised Queen of Berlin Jewry, or the Life and Times of Esther Liebmann," in: V.B. Mann and R.I. Cohen (eds.), From Court Jews to the Rothschilds (1996), 67–77; H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 1 (1953), 47ff.; S. Stern; The Court Jew (1950).

[Judith R. Baskin (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.