LANDJUDENSCHAFT (Heb. Kehal Medinah, Benei ha-Medinah), self-governing institutions set up in almost all territories of the Holy Roman Empire where, during the second half of the 16th and the first half of the 17th century, Jewish communities either still existed or had been reestablished after the expulsions at the end of the Middle Ages. The beginnings of such institutions are already discernible in the mid-15th century (Rhineland, Franconia), but most of them disappeared during the constant migrations of the 16th century. Until emancipation, all "protected" Jews living within one of the many principalities of the Holy Roman Empire had to belong to this official Jewish corporation. In contrast with the medieval synods of rabbis and leaders from different regions in Germany, whose decisions on public matters were invested with a vast measure of spiritual-religious authority, those of the 15th and 16th centuries were largely concerned with taxation and administration. An attempt was made in *Frankfurt in 1603 to set up a permanent overall organization, based on a uniform system of taxation and a central judiciary; it failed because of the ascendancy of the princes and the waning of imperial power in Germany. However, German Jewry continued to make efforts to realize the aims embedded in the takkanot of the Frankfurt synod. The same spirit reflected in the resistance of the independent territorial authorities to extraneous intervention in their affairs, is apparent in the resistance of the autonomous Landjudenschaft to Jewish intervention in theirs. Each one was bent on developing and enhancing institutions of its own, which grew and crystallized in a slow and organic process, though of course affected by the necessity to come to terms with the new political, economic, demographic, and social conditions prevailing under the absolutist regimes. To a certain extent the Landjudenschaft was influenced by the German Landstaende. The detailed system of their statutes created a stable framework for the independent inner life of the Jewish communities, reflecting their numerical increase and stabilization.
The Landjudenschaft was essentially an association of individuals, largely combining the functions and powers of a local community with those of an "intercommunal" body which acted both internally and externally. Accordingly, its main institution was originally the Landtag (Yom ha-Va'ad) – the assembly of all heads of families of the territorial Jewish community which took place every three or four years, resulting from the necessity to cope with changes in the taxation systems of most states at that time. In territories with a relatively numerous Jewish population (e.g., Bohemia, Moravia, Alsace) only deputies of the communities met at the Landtag, while in Prussia the deputies of various provinces were summoned every five years (from 1728) to fix the tax quota for each Landjudenschaft. Initially, the functions of the Landtag covered numerous aspects of Jewish communal life – such as organization and administration, jurisdiction, and religious and social affairs – to a much greater extent than might be assumed from the official definitions and orders determining the assessment for taxation purposes, the erekh ("assessed property"). These plenary meetings passed ordinances and statutes and elected – subject to governmental approval – the chief rabbi (abad ha-medinah, abad being the abbreviation for av bet din), the provincial rabbis (dayyanei medinah), and the other officials of the Landjudenschaft who constituted the "Small Council": the chief elder (Oberparnass), provincial elders (parnasei medinah), viri boni (tovim), and associates (ikkurim), as well as the chief treasurer, tax collectors, accountants, the scribe, and the beadle. The chief elder was usually the local *Court Jew , who was appointed by the prince. Thanks to his connections with the court, he also served as shtadlan for the community. In some cases the office of Court Jew and chief elder was held within a single family for several generations (e.g., Gomperz in Cleves, Van *Geldern in *Duesseldorf , Goldschmidt in *Kassel , Baer in *Aurich ). In practice the Landjudenschaft decided on the granting of charters of protection to new immigrants. The disciplinary means at its disposal were those customary in Jewish autonomy: monetary fines, the herem, and expulsion.
The earliest, though scant, documentary evidence that regular assemblies were held every three years comes from *Hesse-Kassel (1616), the electorate of *Treves (1649), the bishopric of Paderborn (1649), Hesse-*Darmstadt (1650), the
duchy of *Cleves (1650), the electorate of *Mainz (1661), Lower Austria (1662), the margravates of Burgau (1675?) and *Ansbach (1677), the bishoprics of Bamberg (1678) and *Speyer (1682), the duchy of *Juelich-*Berg (1684), and the bishopric of Strasbourg (1694). That the institution could be set up without governmental instigation becomes apparent in *Hanau and in *Pomerania (1706), in *Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1752), and also, beyond the borders of the empire, in Holland (Meierij's Hertogenbosch, 1764). Yet right of free and independent convention had by no means been granted and the few attempts made in this direction were heavily punished.
In those territories where the Jews were permitted to resettle in the 16th century, they were allowed to elect a rabbi to act as a chief rabbi and judge, whose judicial functions were defined by the authorities. Thus, from the beginning of the 17th until the middle of the 18th century, rabbinates were established in the Teutonic Order lands; in *Mergentheim (1615), *Aderborn (1619), Hesse-Kassel (1625), *Muenster (1649), Hesse-Darmstadt (1685), the *Palatinate (end 17th century), Wied-Runkel (mid. 18th century), and Speyer (1752), thus terminating the previous links of the Jews of these states with the ancient rabbinical courts at Frankfurt, *Worms , *Friedberg , or *Fulda . At the same time rabbinates were set up in new or renewed settlements such as *Hildesheim (1607), *Bamberg (1618), *Wuerzburg (1625), Cleves (about 1650), *Halberstadt - *Minden - *Ravensberg (1650), *Hanover (1687), East-Friesland (end of the 17th century), and Juelich-Berg (1706). The actual powers wielded by the chief rabbis exceeded those vested in them by their writs of appointment; they played an active part in many spheres of administration. They were usually related, either by birth or by marriage, to the parnasim and families of Court Jews who led the communities and the Landjudenschaften. Certain rabbinates were retained within one family for several generations. Thus a closely knit circle of families linked by marriage held most leading posts in the secular and religious spheres from Austria and Bohemia in the east to Alsace in the west.
Up to the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, the details of Jewish self-organization were of no particular concern to the authorities, except when their fiscal interests were involved. But centralized payment of taxes – by now compulsory as a result of the granting of collective charters of protection – compelled the heads of the Landjudenschaften to invoke government aid to coerce dilatory taxpayers. In the course of time, and in keeping with their centralist tendencies, the authorities exploited this dependence to extend their control over Landjudenschaft activities over wide spheres of Jewish autonomy. Gradually many functions of the leadership were transferred to the developing centralist bureaucracy, especially following the setting up of "Commissions for Jewish Affairs" in numerous states. Commissioners frequently attended the Landtag as chairmen of the meetings, and at best the Jews were able to do no more than delay the imposition of control (e.g., in the Palatinate, Upper Province of *Mainz , and *Ansbach ). Similarly, the authorities' tendency to prevent Jews from turning to foreign rabbinical courts changed in the 18th century in favor of litigation before the state courts of law, restricting the scope of Jewish jurisdiction to religious matters. The Landjudenschaft attempted to stem the tide in this respect and to a certain extent succeeded in evading the restrictive provisions (in Mainz, Hesse-Darmstadt, Fulda, *Wuerzburg , Bamerg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and Ansbach).
On the eve of emancipation the states lost all interest in the continued existence of the Landjudenschaft, except as far as their purely religious functions were concerned, for the concept of the Jewish community as a "state within a state" went against the idea of emancipation. The abolition of all such institutions was brought about by government legislation, either on the granting of emancipation in the wake of the French occupation, or as a prerequisite to it demanded by the German states.
Baron, Community, 3 (1942), index; F. Yizhak Baer, in: Korrespondenzblatt des Vereins zur Gruendung und Erhaltung einer Akademie fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums, 2 (1921), 16ff.; idem, Das Protokollbuch der Landjudenschaft des Herzogtums Kleve, vol. 1: Geschichte (1922); B. Altmann, in: JSOS, 3 (1941), 159ff. (Paderborn); G. Freund, Ein Vierteljahrtausend Hannoversches Landrabbinat: 1687–1937 (1937); H. Kraft, in: Westfaelische Zeitschrift, 94 (1938), 2, 101ff. (Paderborn); M. Holthausen, ibid., 96 (1941), 48ff. (Westfalen); D.J. Cohen, in: Sefer Yovel le-Yizhak Baer (1960), 351ff., xxiiff. (Ansbach); idem, "Irgunei 'Benei-ha-Medinah' be-Ashkenaz ba-Me'ot ha-17 ve-ha-18" (1967), includes documents and bibliography (Ph. D. thesis). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Rohrbacher, in: Juedische Gemeinden und Organisationsformen von der Antike bis zur Gegen-wart (1996), 137–49. PUBLISHED SOURCES: M. Horovitz, Die Frankfurter Rabbinerversammlung vom Jahre 1603 (1897). HESSE-CASSEL: U.F. Kopp, Bruchstuecke zur Erlaeuterung der Teutschen Geschichte und Rechte, 2 (1801), 157ff.; L. Horwitz, in: Im Deutschen Reich, 14 (1908), 499ff.; idem, in: MGWJ, 54 (1910), 513ff.; L. Munk, in: Jubelschrift I. Hildesheimer (1890), 69ff., Heb. section, 77ff.; idem, in: Festschrift S. Carlebach (1910), 339ff. MAINZ: S. Bamberger, Historische Berichte ueber die Juden der Stadt und des ehemaligen Fuerstentums Aschaffenburg (1900), 88ff. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D.J. Cohen, Landjudenschaften in Deutschland als Organe juedischer Selbstverwaltung, 3 vols. (1996–2001). BRANDENBURG-ANSBACH: D.J. Cohen, in: Kovez al Yad, 16 (1966), 457ff. PRUSSIA: S. Stern, Der Preussische Staat und die Juden (2 vols., 1925, repr. 1962). SUGENHEIM: M. Freudenthal, in: ZGJD, 1 (1929), 44ff. WIELD-RUNKEL: B. Wachstein, ibid., 4 (1932), 129ff.; idem, in: YIVO Bleter, 6 (1934), 84ff. MECKLENBURG-SCHWERIN: O.G. Tychsen, in: Buetzowische Nebenstunden, 4 (1768), 1ff.; L. Donath, Geschichte der Juden in Mecklenburg (1874). AUSTRIA: L. Moses, Die Juden in Niederoesterreich (1935). ALSACE: L. Loewenstein, in: BJGL, 2 (1901), 18ff., 28. TRÈVES: A. Kober, in: MGWJ, 77 (1938), 100ff. MORAVIA: I. Halpern, Takkanot Medinat Mehrin, 1650–1748 (1951).
[Daniel J. Cohen]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.