German court agent and champion of Jewish emancipation; born in the village of Breidenbach, Hesse-Cassel, 1751;died in Offenbach Feb. 28, 1829. He went to Frankfort-on-the-Main as a poor boy, and for a time was a baḥur, being supported by others while he studied Talmud and rabbinical literature. He also secretly acquired the knowledge of Neo-Hebrew, German, and some scientific subjects, besides being the best chess-player in the town. This accomplishment attracted the attention of a wealthy nobleman, who was so impressed by the young Talmudist's intelligence and honesty that he entrusted him with the management of his financial affairs. Breidenbach proving himself astute and trustworthy, his employer lent him a large sum of money, with which he embarked in the banking and in the jewelry business. He prospered, and gained the confidence of the small German princely courts with which he had business, becoming "Hoffaktor" of the elector of Cassel, and "Kammeragent" of the prince of Isenburg, besides holding similar positions under the rulers of various other principalities.
Breidenbach used his wealth and influence to benefit his oppressed coreligionists. His untiring efforts to abolish the Jewish "Leibzoll"—an obnoxious toll which Jews had to pay on entering towns where they did not dwell or had no special privileges—place him among the foremost champions of Jewish emancipation. He effected its abolition in Isenburg April 25, 1803, and in Homburg Nov. 1 of the same year. Aschaffenburg, Schönberg, and finally Frankfort itself (Aug. 24, 1804) abolished the toll through his exertions; and the princely courts of Nassau-Usingen, Nassau-Weilberg, Löwenstein, Wertheim, Leiningen, as well as the court of Ehrbach, followed their example. In some cases Breidenbach acted as the syndic or attorney for various Jewish communities. He made an unsuccessful effort to induce the Diet of Ratisbon to abolish by a single act the "Leibzoll" in all the German states, and only succeeded in having it abrogated in that city itself and in Darmstadt (Jan. 19, 1805).
Breidenbach was the friend and protector of the grammarian and publisher Wolf Heidenheim of Rödelheim, and is said to have translated several hymns for Heidenheim's German edition of the Maḥzor.
He had three children: one daughter, Sarah, who married Abraham Gans of Cassel, and two sons, Moritz and Isaac (Julius), both of whom embraced Christianity after his death. The first was a grandducal "Ministerialrath," the second became ambassador in Stuttgart.
- Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, xi. 230et seq. and note 5;
- M. Silberstein. in Zeitschrift für Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland, v. 126, 335;
- Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. s.v. Juden, p. 92, and Judenemancipation, p. 269;
- M. Friedländer, Geschichtsbilder aus der Nachtalmudischen Zeit, iv. 25et seq., Brünn, 1887.