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OFFENBACH:

Town in the province of Starkenburg in the grand duchy of Hesse. When Fettmilch caused the expulsion of the Jews from Frankfort-on-the-Main on Aug. 22, 1614, they proceeded up the river with an armed escort; but, although they were met with hostile demonstrations at the various bridges, Offenbach was the only place which opened fire upon them, with what results is not known. The town appears in Jewish history for the second time at the end of the eighteenth century and at the beginning of the nineteenth in connection with the settlement there in 1786 of Jacob Frank. He succeeded in buying the castle from the reigning prince Wolfgang Ernst of Homburg-Birstein, who was overwhelmed by debt. In this palace, which was surrounded by a strong wall, Frank, assuming the title of "Baron of Offenbach," kept his court; and here he died (Dec. 10, 1791), being buried in the cemetery of Offenbach with great pomp. For sixteen years Offenbach maintained its importance for the Polish Jews; for from it Frank's children, Joseph Roch and Eve, sent the "red letters" to various communities, while Frank's palace and grave formed objects of pilgrimage for wealthy and influential Jews from the East.

After Frank's death and when the influx of money had ceased, the city itself suffered; for it was found that not only those citizens who had contributed money directly to Frank, but also the workmen who had performed the necessary services about his "court," had been obliged to profess themselves adherents of his doctrine. Only a public announcement on the part of his relatives that they would shortly pay his debts succeeded in pacifying the city. When, however, new complaints arose in 1817, Archduke Charles was obliged to announce that he would go in person to Offenbach to make a thorough investigation, whereupon Eve, Frank's daughter, either was spirited away or died suddenly. This episode brought great distress upon the city, since the Frankists had left debts behind them everywhere. In his later years Wolf Breidenbach (1751-1829) was a citizen of Offenbach. He was the first to induce the Duke of Isenburg-Birstein to abolish the Jewish "Leibzoll."

The present (1904) community of Offenbach, whose rabbi is Dr. J. Goldschmidt, contains 1,212 Jews out of a population approximating 60,000. It possesses, in addition to the synagogue, a ladies' club, a fraternity, a Jewish hospital, and a ḥebra ḳaddisha.

Bibliography:
  • Schenk Rink, Die Polen in Offenbach-am-Main, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1866;
  • idem, Die Frankistensekte in Offenbach, in Frankfurter Familienblätter, 1868, pp. 1 et seq.;
  • idem, Die Polen in Offenbach, in Frankfurter Journal, 1868, Supplement, pp. 31 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Frank und die Frankisten, Breslau, 1868;
  • Back, in Monatsschrift, 1877, pp. 189-192, 232-240, 410-420;
  • Kracauer, in Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, iv. 350.
J. S. O.
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