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Justice /Punishment

The Jewish community had the right to handle internal affairs largely autonomously in other words, without the intervention of the Frankfurt city council, the emperor or the Christian church. This autonomy included a restricted judicial autonomy, with the right to impose penalties on community members. Except for major crimes such as murder or manslaughter, which had to be reported to the city council,
violations of law, order or morality in the Jewish community were prosecuted and punished by the "master builders", community rabbis and the rabbinic judges. The basis of this jurisdiction was the Jewish religious code as stated in the Talmud. This law is a highly selfcontained system which covers both criminal and civil law without distinction and applies equally to religious and secular actions. Violations of Jewish ritual, for example the diet laws, were accordingly dealt with by the rabbinical court in just the same way as commercial offences. Punishments ranged from secular penalties such as fines or withdrawal of the right of residence, through to very delicate religious penalties, including for example exclusion from honoured functions such as reading from the Torah in the synagogue. The heaviest penalty was anathema: this came in two forms, mild and severe. The mild form involved being called out in the synagogue and required the offender to refrain from eating meat, drinking wine or marital relations with his wife. The severe anathema meant the "social death" of the offender, who was expelled from the community and cut off from all contact with its members. The link between secular and religious jurisdiction is demonstrated by the use of the severe anathema to punish bankrupts, truant debtors and those who committed fraud in commercial dealings. In fact this punishment was only rarely used, although in the mid18th century it was imposed on Isaak Beer Löb Kann, one of the most powerful men in the community.




© Jüd. Museum Frankfurt 1992-2002 /  Sources