City in the Prussian district of Düsseldorf with 96,000 inhabitants (1895), including about 2,000 Jews. It developed from the convent of Essen, and until 1802 was under the rule of its abbesses. The presence of Jews in Essen is first shown in a document of Jan. 18, 1291, in which the chapter at Essen cedes the right of an esquire of the district to Count Eberhard von der Mark, the abbess Bertha II. expressly reserving for herself all rights over the Jews. This reservation was regularly made on the selection of new esquires. In 1349-50, under the abbess Katharina, the Jews were expelled from the city under the charge of poisoning the wells. In 1399 Jews are found on the tax-list, one of whom was the first Jew to be admitted (1491) to the neighboring city of Steele.
As the city's struggle against chapter and abbess became more and more successful, the Jews fell under the jurisdiction of the city, which graduallyreduced the number of Jewish residents to two families, who were subjected, especially in regard to money matters, to severe and irksome ordinances. Of the Jewish families excluded from Essen, some went to Emden, some to Halberstadt and Deutz. The "Memorbuch" of Halberstadt mentions Elijah the Great ha-Levi of Essen (d. 1690). He was the father of R. Moses Kosmann and Judah Lehmann, and grandfather of the court agent Behrend Lehmann at Halberstadt. At the beginning of the eighteenth century there were seven Jewish houses in the city; at its end there were twelve. The last patent of protection, covering nineteen Jewish families in Essen, and drawn up (1803) by King Frederick William III. of Prussia, to whose kingdom the district was annexed in 1802, is in the possession of Isaac Hirschland, president of the community. At present (1903) the community numbers 350 families (about 2,000 individuals).
In the Middle Ages the community worshiped in a hall. The first synagogue was dedicated in 1808 during the French occupation. Synagogue and school prospered under the labors (1841-94) of the able pedagogue and preacher Moses Blumenfeld, the author of several school-books. Blumenfeld rendered valuable service to the city, and on his death (1902) his name was given to one of the city's streets (comp. "Allg. Zeit. des Jud." 1902, p. 88). Since 1894 Dr. Samuel has acted as rabbi. The institutions include a Jewish elementary school, a literary club, a library, an I.O.B.B. lodge, and three charitable societies. There are also nine charitable foundations, including the Karl Beer Fund for the promotion of handicrafts.
- F. Ph. Funcke, Gesch. des Fürstenthums und der Stadt Essen, Elberfeld, 1851.