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BISHOP OF THE JEWS (Episcopus Judæorum):

Title given to an official of the Jews in the Rhine country and in England in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. At Cologne it appears to have been used as an equivalent to "parnas," or warden of the synagogue. In England the parnas is mentioned under that name, and there appear to have been in each large community three, and three only, of these "episcopi" (for example, in the communities of London and Lincoln); and it has therefore been inferred that they were equivalent to the three dayyanim or ecclesiastical assessors who constitute the bet din in the Jewish community, known in the English records as a "chapter of the Jews" (capitulum Judœorum). Originally an official title, the name became afterward a cognomen; and in French-speaking countries several Jews are found with the name "Evesque" or "Levesc." Some Tallies of the English Exchequer have lately been discovered in which the Latin name is given as "Levesc," but is signed in Hebrew as "Cohen"; and it has been suggested that the name when used as a family name is simply equivalent to "Cohen."

Besides the bishops, there was in England a Presbyter, who appears to have been a kind of chief rabbi, associated chiefly with the treasury: he would correspond to the ab bet din.

Bibliography:
  • Höniger, Judenschreinsbuch der Laurenzpfarre in Köln, Nos. 233, 234 et passim;
  • Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England, pp. 372, 373.
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