Chief town of a district of the same name in the Prussian province of Brandenburg, and situated on the left bank of the River Oder. It is very likely that the fairs held in the city drew a number of Jews there at an early date. Obscure though their early history may be, it is at least known that there was an organized community in Frankfort in the fifteenth century; for in 1506 the Frankfort synagogue was affiliated with a university founded there in that year under Elector Joachim I. Later, in the sixteenth century, the Jews of Frankfort obtained certain privileges from Elector Joachim II., in spite of the opposition of the town council, the members of which were antagonistic to the Jews. Thus in 1546 the elector ordered the council to permit the Jew Simon to slay animals according to the Jewish rite for himself and his family. In 1551 by an edict of the elector the Jews were granted free access to a fair called "Reminisceremesse," and the council was directed not to impose a too burdensome taxation upon the Jews. The council, however, resented with much indignation an edict which allowed Jews from abroad to come to Frankfort, while it wished to get rid even of those already there. Not desiring to set the council against him, the elector explained his edict to mean that while the foreign Jews might deal at the fairs of Frankfort they might not settle there. Still in the following year by another edict the council was again ordered not to tax the Jews too heavily. This edict was due to a complaint made by the Jews that the council required them to pay, in addition to the annual protection-fee of 30 gulden, 60 gulden per annum as revenue; the Jews were willing to pay only half of that sum. From time to time the elector granted permission to other members of the Jewish race to settle at Frankfort. In 1568 the inhabitants of that town petitioned the elector to expel the Jews from Frankfort, charging them with exorbitant usury and with blasphemy in their synagogues against the Christian religion, but the petition had no effect.
It was about this time that there lived at Frankfort the rich Michael Juda, who, owing to his immense wealth, afterward became the subject of legends. He is supposed by some to have been a knight or a count, and by others to have been an officiating rabbi at Frankfort.
The Jews did not long enjoy their privileges. By command of the elector John George all the Jews of Brandenburg were compelled to leave the country in 1573. As the inhabitants of Frankfort were more prejudiced against the Jews than were those of any other town, not one Jew was allowed to remain, even under secret protection, nor were the Jews soon readmitted, as was the case in other towns of Brandenburg. The elector Frederick William permitted some rich Jews of Hamburg, Glogau, and other towns to settle in Brandenburg in 1671, and these founded the new communities of Frankfort-on-the-Oder and Landsberg. Frederick William carried his liberality further by ordering the authorities of the University of Frankfort to admit to the lectures two Jewish students, Tobias Cohen and Gabriel Felix Moschides, allowing them an annual subsidy. The community of Frankfort soon came into conflict with that of Landsberg on account of a certain Ḥayyim, rabbi of Neumark, whose friends worked for his election as chief rabbi of Brandenburg. Notwithstanding the liberality of the elector, the inhabitants of Frankfort were not less averse to the Jews than they had been in former times, for in 1688 they again petitioned the elector to expel them from Frankfort, alleging sixteen reasons for such a course. The result of this petition was that the dishonoring "Leibzoll," from which the Jews had formerly been exempt, was imposed. This Leibzoll, or poll-tax, was repealedin 1787, and strangers (who, as may be seen clearly from the "Memoiren" of Glückel von Hameln [pp. 222, 233], were allowed to frequent the fairs soon after the readmission of the Jews to Frankfort) were also exempted from it. The number of the Jews of Frankfort in 1688 was twenty authorized and twenty-three unauthorized. The Jewish population of Frankfort-on-the-Oder in 1890 was 775 in a total population of 55,738.
- Grâtz, Gesch. 2d ed., xi. 146;
- 3d ed., x. 243;
- Ad. Kohut, Geschichte der Deutschen Juden, pp. 298, 476, 540-544, 612.
Hebrew printing at Frankfort-on-the-Oder began toward the end of the sixteenth century. In 1595-96 the Bible was printed by Joachim and Friedrich Hartmann, and in 1597 Hai Gaon's "Musar Haskel," by Eichhorn. But Hebrew printing proper dates only from 1677, in which year the Bible and two works of Shabbethai Cohen, "Toḳpo Kohen" and "Neḳudat ha-Kesef," were printed; in 1679 appeared Joseph Darshan's "Yesod Yosef," without printer's name. From 1681 onward the owners of the printing establishments were Christians, mostly professors at the university, who left the actual work in care of Jewish typesetters and correctors. The first owner was Joseph Christian Beckmann, who opened his printing-house in 1681 with the "Arba' Ḥorashim" of Issachar Bär b. Elhanan. In 1695 Michael Gottschalk became possessor of the printing-house, and continued with the same type till 1732. The most important works produced by Gottschalk were the Talmud (1698) and Midrash Rabbah (1704). The print was not particularly good, being in many places faint; the type was small and plain, the paper gray. Professor Grilo owned a printing-house from 1740 (in which year he printed the Zohar) till 1767, when it was continued by his widow (1767-88) and afterward by his daughter (1792-97). Then it passed to Professor Elsner, who conducted it till 1818, when Frankfort-on-the-Oder lost both its university and its Hebrew printing establishments. Among the Jewish type-setters special notice must be given to a young girl Ella, daughter of Moses, who worked with Gottschalk on the Talmud edition and other books printed in 1700. She is mentioned in the colophon to the treatise Niddah.
- Steinschneider and Cassel, Jüdische Typographie, in Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section ii., part 28, p. 88;
- Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 2885;
- Ad. Kohut, Gesch. der Deutschen Juden, p. 476.