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Community servant

The shames was a community servant and a lowranking employee of the community.
His original task had been to summon members of the community to the earlymorning service in the synagogue.
On the Sabbath and on holy days this was done by calling loudly outside each home, and on weekdays by knocking on the frontdoors.
In German his title was "Schulklepper" (beadle).
The number and sequence of knocks was precisely stipulated.

The shames had other duties in the community: he brought witnesses or parties in dispute before the "master builders" or rabbis, called the "master builders" to attend assizes, was present at all elections of officials, and announced details of dishonoured pledges and stolen goods.
The shames paid no house tax, but was forbidden to engage in moneychanging or moneylending.
The occupation of shames carried little social status and was poorly paid.
Most lived in the poorer houses at the southern end of the Judengasse.

In the Wilde Ente und Tannenbaum complex of buildings one family handed down the job of shames from father to son for more than two hundred years.
The family was named Schames after the occupation.

Another shames lived at the Elefant in 1694, and yet another at the Goldener Pfau in 1709.


© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources