THE PORTUGUESE COMMUNITY OF HAMBURG IN THE XVIIth CENTURY

פורטוגל-מפהTHE PORTUGUESE COMMUNITY OF HAMBURG IN THE XVIIth CENTURY

by

B.Z. ORNAN PINKUS

The minute-book of the "Beth Israel" Spanish-Portuguese Jewish com­munity in Hamburg is written mainly in Portuguese, also in Spanish. Describing communal happenings from 1652 to 1681, it provides useful information on the structure of the secular leadership of the community.

The community was formed as a union of three separate congrega­tions of Jews of Spanish-Portuguese origin which were established during the first half of the seventeenth century when Jewish families of Spanish- Portuguese origin, rich merchants and financiers, settled in Hamburg. The increase in the Portuguese community and the sense of security which was derived from the sympathetic attitude of the Hamburg Senate, had effected the union into one community, named "Beth Israel". During the second half of the seventeenth century the community flourished and among its members were famous Jewish intellectuals, financiers and diplomats.

Towards the end of the century the Burgerschaft's power rose. They were hostile to Jews and imposed a heavy tax on the community. These events and the deteriorating relations between some distinguished families within the community caused several prominent families to leave the city in 1697. This led to a wave of emigration, reducing the size and quality of the community.

The unified community was headed by a sovereign body called the "Ma'amad" in charge of numerous tasks within the community, i.e. representation before the authorities, the judicial system, the inner eco­nomic system (including aid to the needy), and government of religious life and education. The "Ma'amad" supervised these aspects directly or by appointed salaried and unsalaried clerks who were totally sub­ordinate to it.

On special occasions, when the "Ma'amad" wished to let all the community participate in the decision-making, other institutions were assembled as well as the leading one. These were: Heads of Families, the Great Council and the Elders.

Many similarities were found, in a comparison which was made be­tween leadership institutions in Spanish-Portuguese communities in Western Europe (Leghorn, Amsterdam, London and Bordeaux) and Hamburg. In spite of the great similarity there were various differences among the communities in the number of "Ma'amad" members, the number of members in the electing body and in the collaboration of different groups in the leadership.

The appendices attached to this paper attempt to give a concrete description of the workings of the community, although sketchy at times. The appendix of election lists is used to give an exact description of the elections in the community.

הירשם לבלוג באמצעות המייל

הזן את כתובת המייל שלך כדי להירשם לאתר ולקבל הודעות על פוסטים חדשים במייל.

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