The great European Jewish communities of yesteryear are a fascinating part of a vanished world. Molded by spiritual leaders, responsive to centuries of history and reflecting the caliber of its loyal families and guiding spirits, each Jewish kehillah had its own unique flavor. Few communities could boast the illustrious name of Frankfurt-am-Main. The names of its great rabbis begin with Rabbi Shimon Hadarshan, the early medieval compiler of the Yalkut Shimoni. He was followed by dozens of famous names whose writings are still eagerly studied in every beis midrash, such as the Pnei Yehoshua and the Haflaah. And then, in the contemporary period, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and his dynasty breathed new life and vibrancy into the legacy of Torah. Frankfurt, the largest center of commerce in post-medieval Europe, was noted for its philanthropy, and the first port of call for the representatives of Jews in Eretz Yisrael. The poor and downtrodden of many countries found relief from the wealthy and generous Jewish of Frankfurt. Frankfurt was a gathering place for the powerful rulers of the small German states. The Jews of Frankfurt were in an exceptional position to influence princes and barons to treat their Jewish subjects with tolerance. Generations of shtadlanim living in Frankfurt averted countless evil decrees for the Jews of all Germany. Nearly one thousand years of continuous Jewish presence can hardly be chronicled in one small book, but these glimpses of Jewish Frankfurt provide vignettes of some of the most important aspects of an outstanding community. This book is the second of a series about great Jewish communities, and follows the format of the highly acclaimed Glimpses of Jewish Warsaw. It is our hope that these will provide a tribute to great kehillos of old and an inspiration for the kehillos of today and tomorrow.
by Rabbi Y. Alfasi
Translated by Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Finkel