By: Gotthard Deutsch
Formerly a German dukedom; since 1866 it has formed a part of the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau. In 1865, immediately before its union with Prussia, it had a total population of 465,636, including 6,995 Jews. Adjacent to the Rhine, upon which the oldest Jewish settlements of Germany are found, it undoubtedly had Jewish inhabitants in early medieval times. But the first positive mention of a Nassau Jew, Levi of Lorch, occurs in a document in the "Judenschreinsbuch" of Cologne, dated 1266 (Aronius, "Regesten," p. 299, No. 719). From some older documents, however, it appears very probable that Jews lived in that country before Henry of Isenburg, in 1213, transferred to two Jews to whom he owed money a claim for 230 marks due him from the Laach Abbey (Aronius, "Regesten," p. 173, No. 391). Archbishop Conrad of Cologne, in 1253, deeded to the counts Walram and Otto of Nassau the sum of 500 marks, which was in part payable from the Jew-taxes of Siegen (ib. p. 253, No. 591). Lambert of Lüttich (1169-83), in his life of St. Mathias, speaks of the miraculous cure of a man in Lahnstein who had in vain sought aid from Jewish physicians (ib. p. 143, No. 316). During the medieval persecutions the Jews of Nassau had their share of suffering. The memor-books mention Limburg (on the Lahn) as among the places where Jews were massacred during the Rindfleisch riots of 1298; Diez and Montabaur, during the Armleder persecutions in 1337; and all three places, during the persecutions at the time of the Black Death (Salfeld, "Martyrologium," Index).Restrictions.
The German king Adolph of Nassau maintained the policy of extortion begun by his predecessor by not permitting the burial of Meïr of Rothenburg until a ransom had been paid. Another Adolph of Nassau, as Bishop of Cologne, freed the Jews of his diocese from the payment of the Leibzoll (1384), not from humanitarian motives but because he had promised as much to them in return for a special contribution. The various duchies into which Nassau was divided at the beginning of the nineteenth century abolished the Leibzoll (Sept. 1, 1806; "Zeitschrift für die Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland," v. 126-145, 335-347). It was not until June 18, 1841, that the special Jewish taxes ("Schutzgeld") paid to the state were abolished; the special Jewish communal taxes ("Beisassengeld") were abolished on Jan. 18, 1843, and the Jews were allowed to participate in all communal benefits, except the privilege in regard to free wood ("Loosholz"). The law which prohibited the cession to Christians of debts due to Jewish creditors was abolished about the same time.
In the nineteenth century, like all the smaller states of Germany Nassau endeavored to organize the Jewish communities, of which there were 77 scattered among 222 towns and villages. In 1840 was issued the law which compelled Jews to adopt family names. An edict of Oct. 18, 1842, introduced the Reform services of the Württemberg prayer-book into the synagogues and created four district rabbinates (those of Weilburg, Wiesbaden, Schwalbach, Dietz; later reduced to three, those of Ems, Weilburg, and Wiesbaden); the teachers were appointed for life. A subsidized normal school for Jewish teachers was established in Langenschwalbach by the government, and the sanitary laws in cases of circumcision were enforced (July 2, 1844). Nassau was among the first German states to introduce a constitutional government (1848). Religious freedom was proclaimed March 4, 1848, but petty reactionary measures were introduced here as elsewhere in the "fifties," and not until Sept. 26, 1861, was the oath More Judaico abolished. The annexation agreement with Prussia in 1866 recognized the rights acquired by the Jews of the duchy, including exemption from the oath More Judaico, which was still in force in Prussia, but did not agree to continue the subsidies for the normal school, nor to give state support to congregational institutions. But recently (1904) the Prussian minister of public worship decided that the law declaring that only the district rabbi could solemnize marriages was abolished.
Among the rabbis of Nassau were Abraham Geiger (at Wiesbaden, 1832-38), Benjamin Hochstadter (at Ems), and R. Silberstein (at Wiesbaden). H. Herz, as early as 1820, was appointed "Medizinalrath" (health officer) in Weilburg—one of the first cases of a Jew holding a state office in Germany.
- Zeitschrift für Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland, ii. 34-35.