NASSAU, former duchy in Germany. In the Middle Ages Jews were to be found in Limburg on the Lahn, Diez, Montabaur, and other towns in the duchy. Limburg was the most important community before the *Black Death persecutions (1348), when all the Jews were annihilated. The settlement was reestablished, but there is evidence that they were again severely persecuted and expelled. After the Thirty-Years War (1618–48) *Wiesbaden emerged as the leading community. When the duchy of Nassau split up into minor principalities, Jews settled in the villages, where they engaged in peddling and livestock trading. In 1798 the French army abolished the *Leibzoll ("body tax") in Nassau-Usingen, but it was reap-plied in 1801 and only finally abolished in 1808 through the intervention of Wolf *Breidenbach, the *Court Jew of Brunswick. The authorities compensated themselves by raising the Schutzgeld ("protection money"; see *Schutzjuden). Nassau-Usingen, which had 104 Jewish families, increased its territory and included about 530 Jewish families in 1805; after 1815–16, a single duchy was created. In 1836 there were 1,238 Jewish families (6,147 persons) distributed in 229 localities and conducting services in 95 Judenschulen. Only 11 communities in the various localities had more than 100 persons; the largest, Heddernheim, had 327, but almost all of the men were peddlers who were generally absent on their business. The capital, Wiesbaden, had 234 persons, and its rabbi, Abraham *Geiger, who served from 1832 to 1838, appealed unsuccessfully to the government to be appointed *Landrabbiner. The Orthodox communities opposed his efforts, and Geiger left in frustration. In 1842 Reform services modeled on those of Wuerttemberg were introduced and four district rabbinates created. In 1848 full civic equality was temporarily granted, and in 1861 the Jewish *oath was abolished. In 1865, a year before it was annexed to *Prussia, as part of the province of Hesse-Nassau, there were in Nassau 7,000 Jews (1.5% of the population). Through emigration from the rural communities to the cities, in particular to Wiesbaden, their numbers subsequently decreased.
M. Silberstein, in: ZGJD, 5 (1892), 126–45, 335–47; A. Kober, in: Festschrift S. Dubnow (1930), 215–25; idem, in: Festschrift M. Philippson (1916), 275–301; idem, in: Nassauische Annalen, 66 (1955), 220–50; J.L. Frank, Loschen Hakodesch (1961); H. Wiener, Abraham Geiger and Liberal Judaism (1962), 9–17.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.