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Naphtali Herz Kohen

Naphtali Herz Kohen was chief rabbi in Frankfurt from 1704 to 1711. Fire broke out at his home, the house Eichel, in 1711, and destroyed the entire Judengasse. He was a greatgrandson of "High Rabbi" Löw, chief rabbi of Prague, who according to legend had created an artificial human being, the "Golem". Kohen also came from Prague. During his youth he had been captured by Tartars, and was forced to work for them for many years as a shepherd. His marriage brought him financial security, and he devoted himself exclusively to the study of religious texts. He later became rabbi in Ostrow and Posnan.
Until the fire, he enjoyed the reputation of a great scholar in Frankfurt.He wrote a commentary on the Pentateuch (Five Books of Moses) and published a comprehensive work on the Talmud.
He was a man of great charity who even during periods of personal poverty always cared for his family and poor relations.
On 14 January 1711, the great Fire which destroyed the Judengasse broke out in his house. In the absence of an explanation for this terrible misfortune, the rumour spread that the fire had been caused by the rabbi's mystical invocations and magical practices. He was consequently held responsible for the fire.
Even though the hearings established his innocence, he remained under arrest. The small number of Christians harmed by the blaze demanded 4,000 guilders compensation from him. Rabbi Kohen failed to collect the required sum from his fellow community members. Finally, the aid of Jews from outside Frankfurt attending the trade fair brought his release from prison on 21 March 1711 on payment of bail of 1550 guilders and two clocks.
He left Frankfurt and returned to Prague with his family. He died in Constantinople in 1719 while on a pilgrimage to Palestine.




© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources