SOEST (Latin, Susatum):
City in the province of Westphalia, Prussia. As early as the middle of the thirteenth century Jews of Soest are mentioned, e.g., Meyer and his wife, Betzel, who resided in Cologne from 1248 to 1255 (Höniger, "Das Judenschreinsbuch der Laurenzpfarre zu Köln," Nos. 38, 40, 56, 73, Berlin, 1888). The Jews of the city were obliged to pay 8 marks annually to the Archbishop of Cologne (Seibertz, "Urkundenbuch für Westfalen," i. 484, 621), and it may be assumed that their number was large as long as they were under his protection, despite the terrible persecution from which they suffered at the time of the Black Death in 1349 (Salfeld, "Martyrologium," pp. 84 [Hebr.], 286 [German]). At a later time, however, when the control over the Jews became a municipal privilege, the council watched with great vigilance to prevent more than two Jewish families from living in the city.
In 1510 several Jews who were passing through Soest were imprisoned; at the petition of Meister Solomon, a local Jewish physician, they were, however, released after taking an oath to abjure all vengeance, and after the baptism of Saul, one of their number. After this incident the council enacted that the physician, his daughter, and his servant should wear yellow badges. In 1541 the Jews Nathan and Bernd were authorized to remain in Soest for a period of ten years, in consideration of the immediate payment of 100 gulden (gold) and an annual tribute of 10 gulden; and in 1554 the permission was extended for a similar period on the payment of 300 thaler. They were enjoined, however, not to engage in the butcher's trade, and they were forbidden to charge within the city limits a higher weekly interest than 6 verings (1½ pfennigs) per gulden, or 3 verings (¾ pfennig) per mark (= 27½ per cent). In 1566 Nathan was expelled from the city as he had remained after having been notified that his permit had expired, and also because he was suspected of having circulated spurious coin. In the middle of the sixteenth century a Jewish physician named Meister Benedictus entered the service of the city of Soest, being obliged, in consideration of free lodgings, and exemption from all municipal taxes and services to which other Jews were liable, to maintain in his dwelling at the cost of a hundred gulden (gold) an apothecary's store. When he left the city in 1545 he received a notable testimonial from the city council. In 1652 the council of Soest assigned to Abraham Selke, for use as a burying-ground, a place in front of the Grandweger Thor which "from olden times was called the Jewish cemetery."
Thirteen years later (1665) the Elector of Brandenburg forbade the city to exercise any further control over the Jews, claiming that the latter stood under the sovereign's immediate protection. On Oct. 5, 1689, the Jewish physician Solomon Gumpertz, who apparently had remained in Soest after the expiration of his safe-conduct, was ordered by the council to leave the city within twenty-four hours; but when his house was entered by soldiers on the following day, the government at Cleves took his part, and issued a manifesto, dated Nov. 9 of the same year, enacting that he should "remain undisturbed in the practise of medicine." In 1697 Abraham Meyer, a Jew of Soest, attended the fair at Leipsic ("Monatsschrift," 1901, p. 507); and the names of Süsskind and his wife, Zipporah, who were likewise residents of the city, occur in the genealogical table of the Geldern family (Kaufmann, "Aus Heinrich Heine's Ahnensaal," p. 298). As the residence of the president of the high consistory, L. L. Hellwitz, who had gone thither from Werl (Zunz. "G. V." 1st ed., 1852, p. 465), Soest became the chief center of the ritualistic Reform movement during the nineteenth century.
At present (1905) the Jewish community of Soest numbers about 300, and has a social club and a public school.
- Aronius, Regesten, Nos. 607, 608, 650, 663;
- Zeitschrift für die Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland, iii. 243;
- Gierse, Die Geschichte der Juden in Westfalen, Naumburg, 1878;
- Wiener, in Rahmer's Jüd. Lit.-Blatt, 1879, viii., No. 2, p. 8;
- Vogeler, in Zeitschrift des Vereins für die Geschichte von Soest und der Börde, 1881-1882, pp. 69 et seq.; 1882-1883, pp. 5, 7, 9, 13 et seq.;
- Kohut, Geschichte der Deutschen Juden, pp. 219, 267, 338 (note);
- Hellwitz, Die Organisation der Israeliten in Deutschland, Magdeburg, 1819;
- Die Deborah, 1902, p. 50;
- Statistisches Jahrbuch des Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeindebundes, 1903, pp. 60 et seq.