Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


MEMORBUCH, a community prayer book once common in Jewish communities throughout Central Europe. It consisted of three major parts:

(1) a collection of prayers usually intoned by the reader while standing at the almemar (see *Bimah) such as the order of blowing the shofar and reading the Scroll of Esther, different forms of the Mi She-Berakh prayer, etc;

(2) a necrology of distinguished persons, either of local or of general Jewish importance;

(3) a martyrology of persons and places.

The last has been subjected to minute research by scholars, particularly by S. *Salfeld. According to one view the Memorbuch received its name from being placed, for the convenience of the reader, on the almemar, while another holds that it is derived from the Latin memoria.

The custom of reading the names developed after the massacres of the *Rhine communities during the First Crusade; to this list were added the names of the martyrs of the *Rindfleisch massacres and other catastrophes. The list of martyrs who perished during the *Black Death persecutions (1348–49) was of such magnitude that mainly names of places were recorded. It became the custom to read off the list of thousands of names in ceremony on the Sabbath before Shavuot (when the massacres of the First Crusade took place); at a later date it was also read off on the Sabbath before the Ninth of Av although the author probably intended it to be read in part each Sabbath. Rabbi Jacob b. Moses Levi of Mainz (see *Moellin), the codifier of the Ashkenazi minhag, made the reading of the full list obligatory for Rhenish communities while non-Rhenish ones were to read only the list of places. The Memorbuch of the Mainz community, begun by Isaac b. Samuel of Meiningen in 1296, was supplemented and became the complete and authoritative version for all other copies. (Salfeld considered the early version to be that of the Nuremberg community, a view not accepted by M. Weinberg, a later authority.) It was updated by mention of the catastrophes of 1492 in *Mecklenburg, and 1510 in *Brandenburg, and by the names of communities which perished in the *Chmielnicki massacres (1648). As no community could be complete without the Memorbuch, it was frequently copied in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Memorbuch was expanded in the different localities to include names of esteemed local personages, lists of deceased, as well as prayers of purely local use and origin. It was therefore never printed and gradually fell into disuse in the mid-19th century, through the unification and standardization of services and ritual.

The earliest Memorbuecher (excluding that of Mainz) appeared in about 1600, but between 1650 and 1750 a large number were commenced (based on that of Mainz), for many communities were established in this period. The Memorbuch reflected the religious life of the community and accompanied it in its tribulations and migrations; refugees from Vienna (1670) continued using their Memorbuch in Fuerth; refugees from Fulda (1671) took theirs with them to Amsterdam and subsequently back to Fulda. Some communities had more than one Memorbuch (Fuerth Jewry had five complementary ones). Memorbuecher were particularly common among communities in rural areas; it is estimated that there were about 150 in Bavaria alone and a few hundred more in *Baden, *Wuerttemberg, *Hesse, *Alsace, and *Switzerland. The Memorbuch continues to serve the historian as an important source for the social and religious history of the Jews and is frequently cited.


M. Weinberg. Die Memorbuecher der juedischen Gemeinden in Bayern (1938); idem, in: JJLG, 16 (1924), 253–320; 18 (1926), 203–16; C. Duschinsky, Gedenkbuecher "Memorbuecher" von Offenbach a. M. und anderen deutschen Gemeinden (1924): A. Neubauer, in: REJ, 4 (1882), 1–30; Salfeld, Martyrol; W.H. Lowe, The Memorbuch of Nuremberg (1881); L. Loewenstein, in: ZGJD, 1 (1887), 195–8; 2 (1888), 86–99. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Purin (ed.), Buch der Erinnerung (1999); A. Pomerance, in: Erinnerung als Gegenwart (2000), 33–53.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.