SHTADLAN


SHTADLAN, a representative of the Jewish community with access to high dignitaries and legislative bodies. The name is derived from the Aramaic root שדל which in its reflexive form has the meaning "to make an effort" or "to intercede on behalf of." The shtadlan had to combine the roles and abilities of diplomat, advocate, and intercessor. The functions of the shtadlanim depended on the situation of the Jews in various countries through the ages. Their role diminished and ceased in Western Europe after the French Revolution but continued to be of great importance in Eastern Europe and especially in Russia until the second half of the 19th century. Most of the leaders of Jewish society in the Diaspora who came into contact with state or Church authorities carried out the functions of the shtadlan. The role and status of such influential Jews, deriving from their connections both with the court and with other Jewish leaders, is delineated by *Saadiah Gaon, writing from Baghdad to Egyptian Jewry in the tenth century: "Relate any wish or problem that you have in relation to the state [ha-malkhut] to us, for then we will order the honorable community members [ba' alei battim ḥashuvim] of Baghdad and they will bring you the royal resolve, in so far as the Lord our strength will enable them" (in: Ginzei Kedem, 2 (1923), 35). *Samuel ha-Nagid saw his mission as the defense of the Jews in the principality of which he was vizier and commander of the Muslim state and army. *Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi of Bonn in 13th-century Germany considered that those who on weekdays interceded for the Jews with alien rulers should have the honor of being the prayer leaders of the community on the High Holidays. The name itself appears first in the 13th–14th centuries in Spain, where the term mishtadlim was used at first.

The Jewish policy in shtadlanut is explicitly defined in the resolutions of the conference of the communities of Catalonia and Valencia which met in *Barcelona in December 1354. Appealing to the king of Aragon and reminding him of the tradition of royal protection, they asked him to intercede for them to prevent mob violence and libels. They asked the pontiff "to bring to naught the evil designs of the populace who, should troubled days come… would in their foolish way torment the unhappy Jews. And let the pope command them that if, Heaven forbid, God should look forth from His Heaven and send down an evil judgment, they are not, in defiance of His will, to add another vile deed to their sins, but to strengthen themselves to walk in His ways, wherein he has commanded them to cherish us as the apple of their eye, because upon their faith we rest." Courageously they asked the pope to "explain that the Inquisition into heresy shall not pertain to Jews," since such is the Jewish religious entity that "even if a Jew strengthens the hands of a Christian who is a heretic to his faith, the stain of heresy cannot spread to the Jew, for it is impossible to ascribe to a Jew under the definition of heresy something which is right according to his faith" (Baer, Spain, 2 (1966), 26f.). The appeal is to reason, to tolerance, and to keeping faith with those who of necessity trust the ruling Christian powers.

Their actions and appeals throughout the Middle Ages prove that shtadlanim adopted an unequivocal stand on the question of Jewish rights. In a memorandum submitted in 1518 (a year before their expulsion), the Jews of *Regensburg answered the accusations brought against them point by point, observing in summing up: "If they want and need to keep Jews then they have to keep them humanely… and to fulfill what has been promised to them. That they have to keep Jews in Regensburg… and treat them humanely… our charters… show… We declare that we are Jews, and are no better than Jews" (R. Straus, Urkunden und Aktenstuecke zur Geschichte der Juden in Regensburg… (1960), no. 988. pp. 355–61). The explicit attitude of the Jews to humiliating legislation is revealed in the answer given by Johanan Luria in Alsace at the end of the 15th century in relation to the Jewish *badge: "It is [imposed] by the ruler's command. And if he should order me to carry a stone of two pounds' weight, I would have to do it. Verily this law is like other laws that you impose on us without reason" (H.H. Ben-Sasson, in: HTR, 59 (1966), 372ff.). The great shtadlan of the 16th century, *Joseph b. Gershon of Rosheim, constantly based his arguments on the concept of the natural equality of men (ibid., p. 387). In his arguments against Martin *Luther, he appealed to the obligation "to comply with an undertaking and to preserve the peace of the land," averring that the refusal to meet such obligations would lead "Christian opponents of Luther to… fare even worse than the Jews" (idem, The Reformation in Contemporary Jewish Eyes (1970), 290). By the 16th century, many individual communities and also the *Councils of the Lands employed professional, salaried shtadlanim who had to litigate for individual Jews as well as for the whole body politic of the Jews. In the *Landesjudenschaft the *Court Jew or a relative of his was shtadlan, an office which carried considerable authority. In the phrasing of most charters for Jews, echoes can be heard through the Latin of the demands, formulations, and achievements of the shtadlan. His intervention was most frequently occasioned by *taxation, the *blood libel, and the *Host desecration accusations.

From the late 19th century the terms shtadlan and shtadlanut acquired a pejorative undertone; they were used derisively to decry Jewish representatives who failed to stand up with pride and courage against persecuting governments and came to denote those who showed weakness and an eagerness for compromise.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

S. Stern, Court Jew (1950); idem, Josel of Rosheim (1965); Baron, Community, 3 (1942), index S.V. Shtadlanim; Carstein, in: YLBI, 2 (1958), 140–56; J. Katz, Tradition and Crisis (1961), index S.V. Court Jews; F. Baer, Protokollbuch der Landjudenschaft der Herzogtums Kleve (1922); H.H. Ben-Sasson, Toledot Am-Yisrael, 2 (1969), index; S. Dubnow, Pinkas Medinat Lita (1925); S. Zitron, Shtadlonim (Yid., 1926); I. Levitats, Jewish Community in Russia (1943); Halpern, Pinkas; idem, Takkanot Medinat Mehrin (1952).


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