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Rabbi

Rabbis were sometimes referred to as rebbe (spiritual masters) or teachers.
The chief rabbi or community rabbi was the ultimate religious authority in Frankfurt, and functioned as a judge in matters of Jewish law together with two dayanim.
Rabbis are not priests and have no specific role in Jewish religious worship.

From the end of the Middle Ages onwards rabbis became fulltime appointed community officials, were paid a living, and received free housing.
At the beginning of the 18th century they were paid 600 guilders a year, a very high salary.
They also received fees for performing their official duties.
Besides chief rabbis, there were also scholars with the title of rabbi living in the Judengasse, some of them with many students.

The "community rabbi" in Frankfurt was appointed and sometimes strictly supervised by the the Jewish community leadership.
Before taking office, he was obliged to swear an oath under the residence code promising obedience to the civic authority.
The influence of the rabbi operated less through the synagogue, since it was some time before sermons became part of Jewish worship.
As the highestranking judge, the "community rabbi" not only dealt with religious matters such as marriage and divorce, but also delivered rulings on all matters of Jewish jurisdiction.
From the Middle Ages until the emancipation of the Jews this extended to every area of daily life, from diet to commercial dealings.
He was also the highest authority on education, and supervised all Frankfurt community educational institutions.
The encouragement of Talmudic studies was the rabbi's central concern, since knowledge of the Talmud formed the foundation of all Jewish religious practices.

In 1694, eight rabbis lived in the Judengasse, falling to four in 1703.
The "communuity rabbi" lived in the Eichel.

Over the centuries many famous scholars lived in Frankfurt, some holding the office of chief rabbi.
Jews in other localities also frequently turned to the chief rabbi of Frankfurt in legal disputes.






© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources