Jakob Josua Falk held the office of chief rabbi in Frankfurt from 1741 to 1756. During his term of office there occurred the KulpKann disputes, a bitter feud for political domination of the Jewish community between the Kann and Kulp families and their dependents.
Jakob Falk was born in 1681, the descendant of a family of scholars in Cracow, where his grandfather had been chief rabbi. On his marriage he moved to Lemberg, where he initially held the honorary position of inspector of schools. He was later made community spokesman in Lemberg, and after several years as a rabbi in smaller towns became chief rabbi in Lemberg in 1718.
By the time he was called to Frankfurt from Berlin and Metz as a sixtyyearold, he was a scholar of world reknown.
His principal work, a fundamental commentary on the Talmud with the title
"Pnei Jehoshua The View of Josua", remains a standard text for Talmudic study even today.
In Frankfurt he became embroiled in several disputes about religious law, and came into conflict with many scholars. He was drawn against his will into the KulpKann disputes, which had great significance for Jewish community politics, and was accused of partiality towards the Kanns because of his close friendship with the family rabbi, Moses Kann). As chief rabbi, he constantly tried to stand aloof from the administration of the community. He nevertheless fought with great determination against pseudomessianic heresies and against the Amulets of Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschütz, which were claimed to have magical powers. This question had grown into a fundamental dispute between the Jewish communities of central Europe. Disillusioned by attacks from outsiders, and by the lack of support from his community, Josua Falk left Frankfurt in 1750. He lived temporarily in Mannheim, Frankfurt, and Worms, and for a longer period in Offenbach, where he died in 1756, just as the Frankfurt community had resolved after much argument to recall him. He was buried in Frankfurt in the cemetery in the Battonstraße.