Town in the province of Hesse-Nassau, Prussia. Jews settled in the territory of the counts of Hanau in the first half of the thirteenthcentury. Reinhard of Hanau was one of the princes who pledged the king's peace in 1265, probably intending thereby to protect the Jews living within his domain. In 1277 and 1286 King Rudolph made assignments of the Jews of Hanau, and pawned the Jews of Assenheim, Münzenberg, and Nidda; in 1300 King Albert disposed similarly of the Jews of Hanau, Windecken, Babenhausen, and Steinau; and in 1310 King Henry VII. also concluded some transactions of a similar nature. In 1285 Jews of Wetterau emigrated with R. Meïr of Rothenburg in order to escape from their German oppressors. The Jews of Hanau also suffered in the general persecutions of 1337 and 1349. In 1592 they were expelled from the territory. Until 1603 there are only occasional references to Jews in the county of Hanau.
When Count Philipp Ludwig II. came into power he invited many wealthy Jews to his city (1603), permitted them to build a synagogue, and gave them a definite legal status. In spite of the intolerance of the Christian clergy the condition of the Jews was favorable, and continued so under the successive governments of the Landgraf of Hesse (1736), of France (1803), of the grand duchy of Frankfort (1810), of Hesse (1813), and of Prussia (1866). The community had a synagogue, cemetery, bakehouse, slaughter-house, hospital, and shelter for the homeless ("heḳdesh"), and its own fire-engine and night-watchman.
In 1603 the community numbered 10 persons; in 1707, 111 families; in 1805, 540 persons; in 1900, 657 persons. In 1903 there were 670 Jews there, the total population being 29,846. The town is the seat of the provincial rabbinate of Hanau, which includes 40 communities, the most important of which are Hanau, Bergen, Birstein, Bockenheim, Gelnhausen, Hochstadt, Langenselbold, Lichenroth, Schlüchtern, Sterbfritz, and Wachenbuchen. The district is subject to the Königliche Vorsteheramt der Israeliten, under the presidency of the provincial rabbi. Most of these communities, especially Hanau, have burial and philanthropic societies and memorial foundations.
The following scholars and rabbis of Hanau may be mentioned, some of whom directed the yeshibah:
- Naphtali b. Aaron Mordecai Schnaittach ("Cat. Rosenthal." p. 548).
- David Cohn ("Monatsschrift für Gesch. und Wissenschaft des Judenthums," 1897, p. 428).
- Menahem b. Elhanan (d. 1636).
- Jacob Simon Bunems (d. 1677).
- Haggai Enoch Fränkel (d. 1690).
- Maier Elsass (d. 1704).
- Moses Brod (c. 1720).
- Israel b. Naphtali (d. 1791).
- Moses Tobias Sondheim (d. 1830).
- Samson Felsenstein (d. 1882).
- Dr. Koref (successor of the preceding).
- Dr. S. Bamberger (successor of the preceding).
The grammarian Solomon Hanau was born at Hanau (1687).
- Aronius, Regesten;
- Salfeld, Martyrologium;
- E. I. Zimmermann, Hanau. Stadt und Land, Kulturgesch. und Chronik, pp. 476-521, Hanau, 1903 (contains bibliography of public records and printed works: p. 515);
- Statistisches Jahrbuch des Deutsch-Israel.-Gemeindebundes, 1903.