Roll Out the Red Carpet: When the Royals Paid a Visit to the Jews of Amsterdam

Rare documents from the National Library of Israel show the excitement and dedication that went into the preparations for the visit of Wilhelm V and his bride, Princess Wilhelmina.

Portrait of William V, Prince of Orange

Portrait of William V, Prince of Orange by Henry Bone (1801).

The summer of 1768 proved to be an interesting time for the Jewish community of Amsterdam. The royal newlyweds, Wilhelm V, Prince of Orange and Prussian Princess Wilhelmina, were invited by the local Jewish leaders to visit the Ashkenazic congregation in the hopes of securing good ties and a solid relationship with the new couples’ court. A positive relationship with the royals was an essential factor in building and creating a favorable environment and decent conditions for the Jews living in the city of Amsterdam and in the Dutch Republic as a whole.

The Amsterdam Pinkas (Jewish community register) which is held in Amsterdam’s civic archives, details the frenzied preparations that took place ahead of the visit set for July of 1768. Included in these preparations was the creation of a compilation of prayers and psalms to be recited in honor of the visit. The prayers were carefully selected and the pamphlet was meticulously curated, detailing the order of prayers and psalms.

“Light and Happiness for the Jews”
The cover page of the pamphlet printed on satin which reads “Light and Happiness for the Jews,” printed in both Hebrew and Dutch. Click to view the full pamphlet.

The community took great care in ensuring their royal guests would be able to follow and understand the procedure and prayer services that would take place in their honor. According to the Pinkas, the prayer book was produced in three separate versions. The first version included just two special copies that were produced for the royal couple themselves. The pamphlets were beautifully bound pieces of printed satin fabric that held the texts written in both Hebrew and Dutch. The second version was printed a total of 50 times for the members of the royal court. These copies were printed in Hebrew and Dutch on paper and were bound in red satin fabric. The third version was a simpler Hebrew printing of 500 copies for the local members of the congregation who were expected to be in attendance.

“Light and Happiness for the Jews”
Click to view full pamphlet.

The prayer booklet was given the name, “Light and Happiness for the Jews,” a phrase taken from Megillat Esther, the text that is traditionally read on the holiday of Purim. The congregation leader bequeathed the two unique satin-printed copies to the royal couple during the proceedings and according to the community records the visit was considered a great success.

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Let’s flash forward a few centuries to the year 2011 at the National Library of Israel (NLI). Dr. Stefan Litt, an archival expert and Pinkas researcher at the National Library learned of this unique story while studying the community register of the Ashkenazic community of Amsterdam and wanted to know more. He set out on a mission in the hopes of finding that at least one of the prayer pamphlets produced in honor of the royal visit was still around and available for study.

“Light and Happiness for the Jews”
Psalms in Hebrew and Dutch from the satin copy of the pamphlet. Click to view the full pamphlet.

After performing a quick check in the NLI catalog, Dr. Litt found not only one, but two copies of the pamphlet preserved in the National Library stacks. The first pamphlet was a slightly faded copy of the version that was printed in Hebrew and Dutch and bound in red satin – one of the 50 copies that had been produced in honor of the visit for use by the royal entourage just as it had been described in the Amsterdam Pinkas.

This copy arrived at the National Library of Israel from the personal library of the German-Dutch researcher and rabbi, Sigmund Seeligmann.

“Light and Happiness for the Jews”

The National Library of Israel recently acquired another copy of the 50 pamphlets produced in Hebrew and Dutch, however, this copy is missing the original red satin binding. It was part of the famous Valmadonna Trust Library, which was purchased by the Library in 2017. With this addition, the NLI now has the largest number of these printed testimonies of the royal visit in the summer of 1768. They were produced by Proops, the famous Amsterdam Jewish printing house. There is only one other known copy of this printing of the pamphlet that is held in the British Library in London.

“Light and Happiness for the Jews”

As for the second copy kept at the National Library, Dr. Litt was amazed to find that it was one of the original two copies that had been beautifully printed on satin in honor of the royal couple themselves! The rare and exquisite pamphlet arrived at the NLI as a part of a large donation of books made by Dr. Joseph Chazanowicz from Poland over 100 years ago that made up the foundational collection of the Library according to the stamps located on the satin pages.

“Light and Happiness for the Jews”

You may be asking yourself – how did Dr. Chazanowicz get his hand on this extremely rare pamphlet of which only two were made? Well, in truth, we may never know. What is clear though, is that the royal couple did not seem to take much interest in this special gift. The second copy of the pamphlet produced for the couple appears to have gone missing without a trace. Even more notable is that there seems to be no remaining evidence of this historic visit in the form of pamphlets located in any of the major libraries in Holland. For now, the Jewish community’s efforts and careful planning will be held on record both in their community Pinkas and deep in the archives of the National Library of Israel.

Special thanks to Dr. Stefan Litt for his assistance in writing this article.


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The Lost World of a Wedding Comedian – The Story of Avraham Horowitz

Avraham Horowitz (Gurewitz), a wedding merrymaker by profession, wrote poems, novels and novellas in Yiddish and Hebrew. He also adapted and modified the works of others, signing with his own name or with a variety of pen names in Yiddish and Russian.


The Faust Family Jewish Klezmer orchestra, Rohatyn, 1912. (Wikipedia)

The Avraham Horowitz archive was handed over to Professor Dov Noy in 1974 by Horowitz’s grandson Meir, with the purpose of it being permanently deposited in the National Library. This was carried out only when the Dov Noy archive was transferred to the National Library in 2018. The Avraham Horowitz archive contains manuscripts, poems, novels, essays, anecdotes and other writings relating to the profession of merrymaking, as well as an autobiography and correspondence with his son Shaul-Hoshea Horowitz (1886-1956) and his family from Brooklyn.

Avraham Horowitz was born to his parents Israel and Elka on February 26th, 1863 in the city of Borisov, in the district of in White Russia. His family of nine was not wealthy. His father earned his living as a melamed (religious teacher), while his mother supplemented the family’s livelihood as a cook in the wedding kitchens of the rich.

As a young man, Avraham studied in the cheder (traditional elementary Jewish school) where his father and one of his uncles taught. Afterward, he attended the local yeshiva in Borisov for thirteen years.

Avraham was not a very diligent yeshiva student, but he liked the joyous atmosphere of the rich weddings he used to attend when he accompanied his mother in her work. There he enjoyed the cheerful atmosphere and formed an emotional attachment with the merrymakers and the Klezmer musicians. The mother made sure that his father would remain unaware of his son’s new friendships with the local comedians.

Avraham would secretly  read pulp fiction stories that he borrowed from the local book-merchant and author Hillel Klivanov. Since Klivanov had a physical disability, Avraham used to help him and write down the poems that Klivanov dictated to him.

At the age of sixteen, Avraham wrote his first poem in Yiddish, a lid fun Chaya-Rone-Meren (“A Poem about Chaya-Rona Mere”), which told the story of the boys and girls who would roam the local forest together on Sabbaths and holidays. The poem was written in a tone that was not acceptable in the society to which his family belonged. When his father found out about the poem, Avraham even received lashes for it.

When the conflict between him and his father grew worse, he left the house and lived with a relative who owned a kiosk at the train station in Borisov. Abraham worked there as a porter, carrying suitcases and unloading freight cars. Later he became a guard at a textile factory. There he had an accident. His right hand became stuck in the wheel of a weaving machine and broke in three different places. Avraham was interned in a hospital in Minsk, where the doctors had to amputate his arm past his elbow. After his release from the hospital, he returned home to his parents for recovery. There he received support and encouragement. As time passed, Avraham learned to write with his left hand. In 1881 he composed the poem der umglicklicher (“The Unlucky One”), in which he expressed strong remorse for the rebelliousness against his parents which had led him to leave the family home. This poem should not be confused with the poem der umglicklicher yidele (“The Unfortunate Jew”), written in 1884, which tackled the subject of Jewish life in the Exile.

דער אונגליכליכער יידעלע
The first of the six verses of the poem der umglicklicher yidele written in the years of the pogroms in White Russia. (To view the poem, click on the image.) Below is the first verse in my free translation from the original Yiddish:

“There, deep in the forest,

From where comes no answer,

There, where there is no rest,

My life becomes a nightmare!

There screams the Jew; He is very angry:

Why all this torture, oy?

He is frightened and shivers badly,

Now he is in Raswoy*.

Hear it! How he shrieks,

How he cries for weeks:

What is the vice for which you blame me

What have I done?

What should I’ve done?

But the Jew gets no mercy. “

(* Probably the name of a place)

View this item in the Archives of the National Library of Israel

Avraham became a wedding merrymaker (a badchan, a joke-teller or comedian) by chance. It happened once that the Klezmer musicians from the local orchestra in Borisov came to Hillel Klivanov, bringing with them the famous wedding jester known as Chaimke, who was also a member of the Klivanov family. On that day, two weddings were being celebrated at once – one in Borisov and the other in one of the neighboring villages. Chaimke the merrymaker, who had no substitute in the region, decided to perform at the wedding in Borisov. Thus, it was suggested to Avraham that he attend the wedding in the neighboring village and performing there as a jester in Chaimke’s place. Avraham agreed, since he had composed his own poems and limericks and was fairly well versed at coming up with sarcastic barbs as well.

וכך הוא היה מונה
Five out of the seven verses of the song Echad Mi Yodea? Horowitz would perform at weddings (apparently, the manuscript is not Horowitz’s own). This is a Jewish wedding folk song, which was popular at the time. The song is a combination of three different elements: a song based on the Mishnah from the Yom Kippur service, the traditional Echad Mi Yodea song from the Passover Haggadah and the Seven Blessings recited under the Chuppah (the canopy under which a Jewish couple stand during their wedding ceremony). Horowitz used many terms, phrases and even whole sentences in Hebrew. (To view the item click on the picture). Here is the sixth verse of the song in my free translation from the original Yiddish:

“And so it was, and so he counted.

Let us open with an explanation

Six, who knows?’

Let us begin to explain

Six, what can they be?

Six are the in-laws, luckily

Ready to count all their money.”

View this item in the Archives of the National Library of Israel

For the 1955 recording of the wedding song Echad Mi Yodea by Sam Trooper from the National Sound Archive, click here

Avraham bought himself a thick notebook, in which he wrote down the popular songs and the poems of the period. He compiled Hilel Klivanov’s songs and adapted them to a style acceptable for Jewish weddings. Abraham also composed poems and songs of his own, and even sang or recited them to entertain the guests of the weddings at which he performed. Apart from his performances in the city of Borisov, which was where Chaimke Klivanov usually performed, Avraham would also make appearances in the many surrounding towns and villages. Finally, he settled down in the city of Berezino (Berzin) which lacked its own comedian. He built up a local reputation, got married and remained in Berezino for the rest of his life.

He was said to have the appearance of “a quiet fool”. Behind his back, they called him “Avrahamel der marshelik” (Avraham the clown), but officially, he was called “Rabbi Avraham badchan” (Rabbi Avraham the Comedian). In the towns surrounding Berezino, he was referred to as “der Bereziner marshelik” (The clown from Berezino), or “der odnaruker”, which means “the amputee” in Russian and Yiddish.

Avraham Horowitz had a beautiful baritone voice, long hair, and on his little finger he regularly wore a thick ring and wore a short coat. His clothes were not new, but perfectly polished and clean, including his trademark short coat. Under the chuppah and in the bridal seat, Avraham would wear a silk kippah or yarmulke.

He had earned his living as a wedding merrymaker for more than thirty years, but the last twenty were difficult. The customs of the Jewish community changed, weddings celebrations grew smaller and more modest, and there was hardly any need for jesters and comedians. Therefore, to earn some extra income, Horowitz bought  in partnership with others an industrial shredder. He then opened a small grocery store and even rented an apartment out for members of the Bund (the General Federation of Jewish Workers in Russia), where they would hold their meetings. During the High Holy Days, he served as a cantor in one of the local synagogues. Following the Russian Revolution he suffered from financial distress and became a guard on a landowner’s estate.

Avraham Horowitz also wrote a poem dedicated to the memory of Theodor Herzl, marking the anniversary of the Zionist visionary’s passing:

הערצעלס יארצייט
This page includes, among other things, the song Herzl’s Yohrzeit (To view the item, click on the image) Here are the first two verses of the song in my free translation:

“Come, my people, the exile nation

Come into the  shul today, not tomorrow

Spill your tears there in lamentation

Full of grief and  sorrow.

On the  day he  died

Herzl, the hero of the nation

Zion’s light became slight

On the dead land of annihilation.”

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During his lifetime, only the first two chapters of his novel der schwartzer peltz mit’en weissen kallner (The Black Fur Coat with the White Collar) were published in Minsk in 1928. He was sixty-eight years old when he began to rewrite his works and sent them to his son Saul Hosea. On the recommendation of Dr. Yaakov Shatsky, Avraham Horowitz wrote memoirs, based on recollections of local people as well as other sources, in order to document and preserve the wedding customs of the period. This collection of memoirs was meant to be published in volume 2 of the book “Archiv far Geschichte fun Yiddishen Teather und Drame” (Archive of the History of Yiddish Theater and Drama), but the book remained unpublished due to the outbreak of World War II.

Avraham Horowitz became blind in his old age and sought the help of doctors in Minsk, but without success. In the last two years of his life he suffered from paralysis, and died, completely blind, on December 30th, 1940, thirteen days after the death of his wife. He was buried in the cemetery in Berezino.

(The article above is based on biographical notes, written in Yiddish, by Avraham’s son Shaul-Hoshea Horowitz)

“Shabbat” – the front page of a humoristic article in Yiddish handwritten by Avraham Horowitz. (To view the item click on the picture)
View this item in the Archives of the National Library of Israel


זכור אב נמשך
“Remember, a father is drawn after you like water” – the front page of a humoristic Yiddish article handwritten by Avraham Horowitz. It was probably intended for a Bris performance. (To view the item click on the picture)
View this item in the Archives of the National Library of Israel


די פרויליכע מיידלאך
The first two pages of a three-part novel about the Polish revolt “The Happy Girl”. (To view the item click on the picture)

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מכתב אל שאול
Letter from Avraham and Ravia Horowitz to their son Shaul-Hoshea and his family in the United States (Lipshe his wife and their son Meir), 1931. (To view the item click on the picture)

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מכתב אל י' שאצקי
The first page of a letter in Yiddish by Avraham Horowitz to Dr. Jacob Shatzky, Berezino, March 6th, 1832. (To view the item click on the picture)

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מכתב דחיית השיר "האלוקים אנה לידי"
A letter rejecting the publication of the poem “God did it to my arm (?)” from the editorial board of the HaDoar weekly newspaper, June 9th, 1939. (To view the item click on the picture)

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השיר "האלוקים אנה לידי"
The poem “God did it to my arm (?)” sent by Avraham’s son, Shaul-Hoshea Horowitz, to the editorial board of the Israeli weekly “HaDoar” which was later rejected on June 9th, 1939. (To view the item click on the picture)

View this item in the Archives of the National Library of Israel

מכתבים ממאיר הורוויץ אל דב נוי
Two letters in Yiddish from Meir Horowitz (the grandson of Avraham Horowitz) from New York to Dov Noy in Jerusalem, in which he expresses his desire to permanently deposit his grandfather’s collection in the National Library. Brooklyn, October 22nd, 1974 and January 26th, 1975. (To view the item click on the image)

View this item in the Archives of the National Library of Israel


The Avraham Horowitz Archive has been reviewed and described thanks to the generous support of The Leir Foundation.

How the Antisemitic Dreyfus Affair Led to the Creation of the Tour de France

How a group of anti-Dreyfusards channeled their anger into the creation of one of the world's most popular sporting events, centered on a new invention: the bicycle.

Alfred Dreyfus, stripped of his ranks, La Petite Journal, January 13, 1895. From the National Library’s collections

Alfred Dreyfus is stripped of his ranks, La Petite Journal, January, 1895. From the collections of the National Library of Israel

This is the story of a footnote to two major events in French history – the Dreyfus Affair and the introduction of the world’s greatest bicycle race, the Tour de France, that briefly, and ever so slightly intersected in June of 1899.

Following a humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, the French Third Rebublic placed its focus on the rebuilding of national pride – Revanchism.

The newly invented bicycle quickly became a symbol of health, fitness, and modernity, and a national obsession with cycling saw races taking place all over the country by the 1890s. The insatiable appetite for cycling meant an increase in the desire for news about the sport while manufacturers of bicycles and cycling components made use of the media for advertising purposes. Competing newspapers set up races to promote themselves.

In many senses the Third Republic was progressive but it was also beset by crises. One of these, the Panama Canal scandal, fostered growth in antisemitism since two of the businessmen at the center of it, and upon whom the patriotic press focused, were German Jews. This brought monarchists into conflict with Republicans, and Catholics into conflict with secularists – antagonisms that continued with the Dreyfus Affair. Throughout the nineteenth-century Jews enjoyed a degree of emancipation and political and commercial influence, thus feeding the antisemitic “international-Jewish-lobby” trope.

The Trap set for Dreyfus​ "Dreyfus the Martyr", The Graphic London, 1899 National Library of Israel
The Trap Set for Dreyfus, “Dreyfus the Martyr”, The Graphic London, 1899. From the collections of the National Library of Israel.

Four years after Dreyfus’s original conviction based on concocted evidence, the affair rumbled on.  The real culprit, Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, had been identified but was quickly cleared by a military court determined to hold tight to the army’s position and avoid humiliation. By the time Emile Zola’s “J’Accuse” article was published, the country was deeply split between those who were for and those who were against Dreyfus.

Emile Zola’s “J’Accuse”
“J’Accuse”, Emile Zola’s famous article in L’Aurore, January 3, 1898, from the collections of the National Library of Israel.

On February 16, 1899, French President Felix Faure suffered a brain hemorrhage while in the arms of his Jewish mistress, Marguerite Steinheil. His sudden death presented an opportunity for the Dreyfusards as Faure was succeeded by Emile Loubet, a left-leaning senator from humble origins who was very much a friend of the underdog. He was popular enough with other members of the national assembly to easily beat his opponent for the Presidency, but not universally popular across the riven nation; Loubet was seen as an enemy of the anti-Dreyfusards because he supported reviews of the trials of Dreyfus and Esterhazy.

On June 3, 1899, the Supreme Court overturned the original court-martial judgment against Dreyfus and ordered a retrial. Tensions were high when, the following day, Loubet accepted an invitation to watch horse-racing at the Auteuil Race Course.

Alfred Dreyfus at his Rehabilitation Ceremony
Alfred Dreyfus at his Rehabilitation Ceremony, July 21, 1906, from the Dreyfus Family Collection at the National Library of Israel.

Unlike the Longchamp racecourse which was frequented by the lower classes, and therefore Loubet’s core support, Auteuil was the playground of the wealthy, monarchist, anti-Republican and mainly anti-Dreyfusard classes. Loubet’s presence was seen as provocative and he was confronted by hordes outraged by the order for a retrial. The demonstration turned violent almost as soon as the President took his seat. Among those who were arrested following the fracas was the wealthy industrialist Jules Albert Compte de Dion.

The pugnacious de Dion had two passions – engineering and dueling.  At one point, his automobile company, De Dion Bouton, was the largest manufacturer of cars in the world.

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Pierre Gifford, the editor of the Le Velo newspaper, criticized the demonstration, as did much of French society, appalled at the humiliating treatment of the President by these uncouth aristocrats.

Politically, Gifford was on the left and wrote scathing articles criticizing De Dion and other anti-Dreyfusards, despite many of them being important advertisers in his newspaper.  Gifford’s reporting of the demonstration incensed De Dion and others industrialists such as Eduard Michelin, a vigorous antisemite, and Gustave Clement.

The Le Velo newspaper which covered sport and politics, dominated the sports paper market, enabling it to command high advertising rates. It was also financially backed by the Darracq motor company – a rival automobile manufacturer to De Dion and Clement.

Giffard’s criticism following the Auteuil incident was the last straw.  The anti-Dreyfusard businessmen were already frustrated that Le Velo had a virtual monopoly and was controlled by one of their rivals. Dion and his allies decided to withdraw their advertising and to launch their own rival paper, L’Auto-Velo, under the editorship of Henri Desgrange, a man with significant experience in journalism and the world of cycling.

L’Auto Velo, the first edition.
L’Auto Velo, the first edition.

De Dion chose Desgrange to be his editor for his hard-headed, opinionated and autocratic style.  He left the running of the paper to Desgrange with a single instruction: to drive Le Velo out of business.

L’Auto-Velo was launched on October 16th, 1900 and was printed on yellow paper to distinguish it from the green of Le Velo, a decision that was to have lasting significance.

In November 1902, as the renamed L’Auto struggled with circulation at consistently around a quarter of that of Le Velo, Desgrange held a crisis meeting.  It was at this meeting that a young reporter by the name of Geo Lefevre, allegedly desperate to suggest something, spontaneously floated the idea of the Tour de France as a promotional enterprise.

Desgrange initially received the idea with skepticism, but after consulting his finance manager, he decided to launch the race in January of 1903. To his surprise “Le Tour” was an immediate success for the paper with circulation rising from around 25,000 to 65,000 after the first edition of the race, spelling disaster for Le Velo which ceased publication in 1904.

Le Tour de France is announced in L’Auto.

L’Auto went on to enjoy massive benefit on the back of the Tour de France, and, by the time of the 1923 tour, it was selling 500,000 copies a day during the race. Sales peaked at over 850,000 during the 1933 tour.

Desgrange stayed in charge until his death in 1940 when the paper was taken over by a German consortium.  During the war period L’Auto was not unsympathetic to the Nazis, allowing it to continue operating under the Vichy government, but after the war, it was shut down along with all other pro-German publications. From the ashes of L’Auto emerged the now popular French sports paper, L’Equipe.

So, if we look back and connect the dots, we can see that, if it wasn’t for Alfred Dreyfus and his antisemitic ordeal, there would be no Tour de France.

This post was written as part of Gesher L’Europa, the NLI’s initiative to connect with Europe and make our collections available to diverse audiences in Europe and beyond.


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The “New Haman” of Frankfurt

The Jews of Frankfurt established a second Purim in 1616 in celebration of the downfall of a new Haman who tried to eradicate the local Jewish community.


Postcard from the end of the 19th-century featuring an illustration by Hermann Junker of a Jewish family in Germany celebrating Purim. Image from the Folklore Research Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

My grandfather’s book collection was impressive. With him, it was hard to play the usual game of guessing someone’s personality through their selection of books because he spent the later decades of his life as a bookbinder in Jerusalem and had a love for the physical material of books. His bookshelves included all sorts of books that people had left him or that he had found and fixed. That being said, I can’t be sure that the old siddur I have from him is the one that he actually used.

The Sfas Emes siddur is fairly famous in Germany. It was first published in Rödelheim by Rabbi Wolf Heidenheim in 1799 and is still being re-published in the German-speaking Jewish world today. Almost every page makes mention of the special liturgical traditions of Frankfurt. In Frankfurt, one says such and such, in Frankfurt one changes the order, in Frankfurt this word is omitted.

I was using my copy of the siddur that I got from my grandfather for a while, trying to get the feel of it, when I noticed an interesting note. Within the list of ‘happy’ days – days of celebration and holidays on which it is inappropriate to say the penitential prayer called Tachanun, the note adds “In Frankfurt-am-Main, also Frankfurter Purim [is celebrated] on the 20th of Adar.”

I’m a big fan of regular Purim but had never heard of Frankfurter Purim. I decided to do a bit of research and this is what I learned.

purim frankfurt
A book from the National Library collection on Jewish customs in Frankfurt, published in 1723. These pages describe the customs of Purim Vintz.

Frankfurter Purim, also called Purim Vintz, celebrates a local miracle on the 20th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, just six days after the holiday of Purim. In 1614, a local baker and troublemaker named Vincent Fettmilch who considered himself to be the “New Haman” lead the city guilds in an uprising against the new Emperor. Included in their demands for lower taxes were also demands for fewer Jews in town and lower interest rates on Jewish loans.

When the Emperor ignored or rejected the demands of the city guilds, Fettmilch led a mob to ransack the Jewish quarter of Frankfurt, burning, fighting, and pillaging until the entire Jewish population was forced to flee. Two years later, in February of 1616, Emperor Matthias had Vincent Fettmilch and five of the other rebels hanged, and the Jews were allowed to safely return to the city. The proximity of the hanging to Purim that year, as well as the resonances of the Purim story, encouraged the community to celebrate the return as a mini-redemption, with special songs and a long poetic retelling of the story in Judeo-German called “Megillat Vintz.”

purim vintz
This 18th-century calender mentions Purim Vintz. From the National Library archives.

Frankfurt is not alone. In many Jewish communities throughout history, local episodes of near-destruction and sudden salvation have been marked along the lines of Purim. Reading through the history books and discovering hints of Purim Narbonne, Cairo Purim, Purim Hebron, Purim of Saragossa and the four Purims of Ancona, Italy, to mention just a few, is a fascinating experience.

The echoes of these celebrations are still felt today. In his latest halachic (Jewish law) treatise, Peninei Halacha, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed defends the religious obligation to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day), despite voices that claim that creating holidays after the destruction of the Temple is forbidden, by citing the precedent of Purim Frankfurt.

purim vintz
A closer view of the 18th-century calendar mentioning Purim Vintz. The calendar shows that a fast was held on the 19th day of the Jewish month of Adar ahead of the holiday that was held on the 20th. From the National Library archives.

For me, now, living and continuing my rabbinical studies in Berlin, these stories of local Purims bring life and complexity to the country I now live in, connecting me to libraries and synagogues in Frankfurt and Jerusalem. Nobody in Frankfurt today celebrates Purim Vintz, as far as I know, and since my grandfather z”l has passed away, I cannot ask whether this was the siddur he grew up with. The Jewish story is colorful and complicated, and having a story like Purim being retold and made continually relevant is an inspiration for me today.



This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to connect with people, institutions and communities across Europe and beyond, through storytelling, knowledge sharing and community engagement.