CAJS Rare Ms. 485: The Hartmannsweiller Community Record

CAJS Rare Ms. 485 is a manuscript from the Moldovan Family Judaica Collection at the University of Pennsylvania and was presented to the Penn Libraries in 2018.

The title page of the Hartmannsweiler Pinkas. Notice the note under the attribution about the lack of rabbinical position for the village.

Known by the title of Pinkas Hartmansweiller, Cajs Rar Ms 485 is a very special manuscript not only because it shows the number of ways Jewish community life developed in the Alsace,but also because, unusually, it shows a unique Jewish settlement in a rural environment.

The small size of the community is immediately apparent: very few names appear in the manuscript but they all recur frequently.

According to the title page, the name of the village was Hartmannsweiller, which was it’s  Germanic name; today it is called Hartmannswiller, and it is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department on the upper portion of the Rhine river in northeastern France. It is an idyllic village, bordering the Vosges mountain range with its own peak (called Hartmanswillerkopf).

Village crest of Hartmannswiller.
An aerial view of Hartmannswiller today.

In the Jewish community record we have from the manuscript, the first individual appearance of rural life is that the record was maintained by a rabbi from the neighboring community of Soulz-Haut-Rhin; on the attribution statement, Refa’el Wormser of Soultz (who was likely a relative of a number of community members mentioned inside) was appointed to serve as a rabbi for the Hartmannswiller community and he was the ba’al ha-pinkas (keeper of the ledger). Wormser is mentioned as the fill-in rabbi for the community because the position wasn’t there for a local rabbi.

The community leaders are named after the title, and including a list of names of the members of the committee: Yona Bacharach, identified as the official synagogue president  in Yiddish (אויפביכטס קאממיסאֶהר דער זינאגעגע), “Avraham Elias, Isak and Avraham Grumbach, Monnl Weill, Yehi’el Dreifus, Me’ir Hecker, Isak-Löb Netter, Elia Bichard, and ‘the woman’ (והאשה) Treitl Wormser, Isak Bichard’s widow.” The surnames are a mixture of German and French typical of the Alsace, which contained a influence from both countries.

In the opening leaves, there are bylaws which were written up in 1837 for the building of a synagogue in Hartmannswiller, as well as details about its construction; for example, each name for the committee is delineated, with fees also mentioned; since Treitl Wormser was prominent on the committee, she was given a seat in the men’s section of the synagogue (although most likely for her discretion and not for her to use).

Likely a loan receipt written in the Pinkas Hartmannsweiller.

The community next created a mikvah (ritual bath), a fund for the purchase of ritual items and holy books, another fund for alms for the needy, and the appointment of a synagogue watchman. Later in the manuscript, we see the appointment of a teacher for the youth and the overseeing of the study groups in the synagogue; his name was Ya’akov Ullman, cantor and schoolteacher (shats u-melamed). Ullman was also appointed minister of fines imposed for infractions, such as missing the study session in the synagogue on the afternoon of the Sabbath or missing the selihot for the eve of Rosh ha-Shanah (called Yom Kipur Katan). This portion was created in 1846.

Finally, the central theme presented in a pinkas is ritual; the themes and rules surround a theme of the religious needs of the Hartmannsweiller Jewish community. The reason may be simply because the steward of the pinkas was a rabbi, as mentioned previously, but also may be because the purpose in writing such a pinkas for an obscure hamlet such as this was to create a record of the religious observance and the institutions of community observance for Hartmannsweiler.

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