Scandinavia SIG thanks Rigsarkivet (The National Archives), Copenhagen, for the permission to republish the English survey from the guide "Det Mosaiske Troessamfund i København med nedlagte troessamfund i provinsen - en arkivregistratur" edited by Thyge Svenstrup and Vello Helk, published by Rigsarkivet in 1993.
I. Particulars of the archives: Handover, volume, preservation.
The archives of the Jewish Community (Mosaisk Troessamfund) were handed over to the Danish National Archives (Rigsarkivet) in August 1983. The handing over took place on the initiative of Harald Jørgensen, the then chairman of Selskabet for dansk jødisk Historie (The Society for Danish Jewish History) and former head of the Provincial Archives of Sealand. In 1981 Harald Jørgensen had approached the Jewish Community with a proposal to hand over records dating back before 1946 when the administration of the community was re-adjusted in connection with the post-war reorganization.
The archive delivered has two main constituents: records of the Jewish Community of Copenhagen, and records of the fairly numerous provincial communities, whose archives appear to have been transferred to Copenhagen as these communities disintegrated, one after another, during the first few decades of the present century. The total volume of the archives amounts to c. 75 running metre. Of this the books amount to c. 25 metre or c. 840 volumes, and the records of the provincial communities to c. 5 metre.
The records of the Copenhagen community have generally been very well preserved after 1809, when a new, so-called reformist Board of Representatives took charge of the community. The records dating back before 1809, on the other hand, have only been preserved to a very limited extent, as the synagogue of that time, in Læderstræde, was wrecked in the fire of Copenhagen in 1795, and as other parts were lost in the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807.
An exception is the records related to the admission of estates. These records go back to 1760 and were stored in Antonigade at the office of the community’s supervisor of the administration of estates. Another series of records older than 1795/1807, chiefly concerning so-called private associations having developed within the community from the earliest times, can be supposed, by analogy, to have been kept by the respective members of the board. A common feature of these oldest records are that they are predominantly written in Yiddish.
II. Arrangement and inventory
When the records were handed over the greater part was unarranged. The aim of the subsequent arranging has everywhere been to reestablish the original administrative connexions. It appeared that very considerable parts of the archives were coherent and continuous, obviously a wing to the fact that these parts of the archives have been formed as a result of Government ordinances, rescripts, Chancellery letters, etc., to which have been attached authorization and supervision requirements.
In continuation of the existing arrangement material has been listed in accordance to the main organs and offices of the Community, i.e. Repræsentantskabet (The Board of Representatives) (1809ff.), Overrabbinerembedet (The Chief Rabbinate) (1828ff.), Synagogeforstanderskabet (The Directors of the Synagogue) (1832ff.) and Delegeretforsamlingen (The Assembly of Delegates) (1936ff.).
To this a separate main group must be added, consisting of the above-mentioned so-called private associations, which in their turn have been subdivided by function.
Likewise the archive of the Librarian which was formed as a part of the archive of the Board of Representatives has been listed separately, as the content of the archive does not contain administrative records proper.
The provincial communities have been listed in alphabetical order and placed at the back of the inventory.
The minutes C-K, 1856-1916, of the Board of Representatives, have been transferred to the Provincial Archives of Sealand, where they have been deposited since 1943. Unfortunately, it has been impossible to trace the first two minute-books A and B, 1809-56, of which at least A seems to have existed as late as 1946, when Arthur Henriques, former secretary of the Community, referred to it in an article.
Some pieces of printed matter, approximately one running metre, have been transferred to the Department of Judaica of The Royal Library.
The school archives of Friskolen for Drengebørn af den mosaiske Tro (The Free School for Boys of the Mosaic Faith) (1805) and of the corresponding school for girls, Carolineskolen (1810), are in the Provincial Archives of Sealand. The same is true of the ministerial registers of births, weddings and deaths within the Jewish Community of Copenhagen. However, the archives handed over to the Danish National Archives in 1983 included three volumes with registers of confirmations (1817-1914) and a so-called declaration register kept during the period 1821-99, containing declarations of births for the period 1768-1892. In the present inventory these registers have been grouped with the archives of the Chief Rabbinate.
III. Outline of the administration and organization of the Jewish Community.
A. The period before the ordinance and the regulations of March 29, 1814
In the 17th and 18th centuries the Jewish community in Copenhagen was governed by "the Elder", who administered the affairs of the community according to time-honoured practice and customs. The State granted the community a high degree of autonomy. Thus it may be mentioned that the community had its own administration of deceased persons estates, and a rabbinical court passing judgments according to Jewish laws. In consequence of this exceptional position the community was still at the end of the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century known as the Jewish "nation". Within this there was a differentiation of a German (or so-called High German) and a Portuguese (or so-called Nakskov-Portuguese) nation. This differentiation tallied with the traditional distinction between Ashkenazic (German) or Sephardic (Spanish-Portuguese) Jews.
From c. 1785, however, the Jewish community was troubled by severe internal conflicts between, on one hand, an orthodox or at least a conservative wing and, on the other hand, a reformist opposition part of the community fighting, under the influence of Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86), the German-Jewish Enlightenment philosopher, for the Jews acquiring, by means of assimilation, equal rights with Christian citizens.
The reformist people, who made up a small, but economically prosperous minority within the community, repeatedly appealed to the Danish Chancellery, resting assured that here they would find support for their aspirations. In September 1795 a commission was set up that in the following year submitted a report on a complete reorganization of the community’s administration. However, the proposals for reform could not be realized for the time being due to vehement opposition on the part of the majority of the community, who saw the assimilation endeavours as a menace to Jewish culture.
From 1805. however. a series of important reforms within the community was effected, the driving force being Mendel Levin Nathanson (1780-1868), and overall acceptance being given by David Amsel Meyer (1753-1814), the most influential member of the older generation.
Thus the Free School for Boys of the Mosaic Faith was established in 1805, a general assessment was introduced in 1806 in order to defray the expenditure of the community, and in October 1809 a new, reformist Board of Representatives was constituted with Moses Delbanco (1784-1848) as secretary. The community began to keep ministerial registers in 1810, at which time also the Caroline School for Girls was established and a new funeral society was founded. In 1812 a new textbook of Jewish religion, later to he authorized by the Chancellery, was written at Nathanson’s request, and finally, on March 29, 1814 the foundation of the future position of the Danish Jews laid in form of an Ordinance laying down what must be observed by those professing the Mosaic religion and having their residence in the Kingdom of Denmark (Anordning, som bestemmer, hvad Bekiendere af den mosaiske Religion, der opholde sig i Kongeriget Danmark, have at iagttage) and the Regulations for the Jewish religious Community in Copenhagen (Reglement for det mosaiske Religionssamfund i Kiøbenhavn) issued under the same date and being in most fields tantamount to a confirmation of the above-mentioned commission proposals and of the reforms that had taken place in the intervening years. These two groups of statutes granted the Jews of the Kingdom of Denmark equality with other citizens in most fields. In return the community had to give up its traditional internal autonomy.
Especially important for the understanding of the formation of archives are the sections 3 and 4 of the ordinance, ordering those who profess the Mosaic religion to have all documents written and all ledgers kept in Danish or German language (not in Yiddish or in Hebrew) and in Latin or German hand, if such documents and ledgers should be valid in law. The same rules should also apply to all official registers that the authorities might order the Jewish community to keep or have kept. In addition such records had to he authorized, in Copenhagen by the Municipal Corporation, and in the rest of the country by the local prefect (amtmanden).
B. The ruling organs of the community
1. The Board of Representatives
At M. L. Nathanson’s suggestion the Chancellery constituted, by letter of October 10, 1809 to the Copenhagen Corporation, a new, reformist Board of seven members. With the cooperation of Moses Delbanco (1784-1848), who was close to Nathanson, and who had also acted as clerk to the probate court of the community since 1805, this Board of Representatives soon provided a fixed and well-regulated framework for the administration of the community. Thus a minute-book, a letter book and a journal were arranged in the same year, just as the accountancy was regulated, and the ledgers of the community were henceforward kept in Danish.
2. The Assembly of Delegates
The rules of administration were revised in 1936 after a long period of discussions. The most important innovation in this connection was the setting up of an Assembly of Delegates made up of twenty members together with the chairman of the Board of Representatives, who was also the chairman of the Assembly of Delegates.
The right of voting at the election of delegates has any person, man or woman, who belongs to the Community, who has Danish citizenship, and on whom or on whose consort contributions to the Community are chargeable, cf. Rules concerning the Administration of the Jewish Community of Copenhagen, confirmed by the Ministry of the Interior on October 3, 1936 (§ 3).
The election is by proportional representation, in accordance with lists on which specific persons are proposed for election (§ 9). The term of office of the elected is four years (§ 6).
The Assembly holds ordinary meetings three times a year, and besides when the chairman considers it to be necessary. Extraordinary meetings can be held when at least eleven of the delegates or the Board of Representatives so demand (§ 17).
At the first meeting after an election the Assembly of Delegates elects its two deputy-chairmen, who form the presidium of the Assembly together with the chairman.
Under the Assembly of Delegates belong the election of representatives, presentation of the budget drawn up by the Representatives for the coming accounting year, recommendation of assessors to the Representatives, presentation of the accounts of the past accounting year endorsed by the auditors, election of the superior officials of the Community, recommendation concerning elections of auditors, and presentation of important questions for discussion (§ 19).
3. The Directors of the Synagogue
The conflagration of Copenhagen in 1795 also destroyed the synagogue, which was in Læderstræde at that time. As a consequence service was held, during the period 1795-1833, in 10-15 private homes and in rented rooms.
The lack of a common synagogue contributed to the intensification of the internal religious controversies vexing the community during this period. In order to end these conflicts a commission was appointed by Royal decision of January 20, 1818. The commission should prepare a draft of a ritual for use at the service (cf. the present inventory I, 20, a), but its recommendations were never of any practical importance.
On the other hand, the plans of building a new common synagogue were speeded up when Abraham Wulff (1801-91), the new Chief Rabbi of the community, had come to the city at the beginning of 1829. A committee was appointed by Chancellery letters of August 4, 1829 and May 1, 1830 with the object of attending to the economic aspect of the building of a new synagogue (cf. the present inventory I, 20, b). The still existing synagogue in Krystalgade was inaugurated in 1833.
At the request of the Board of Representatives a direction for the synagogue was decreed by letter of October 30, 1832 from the Chancellery to the Copenhagen Corporation. The direction was called "Forstanderskabet for den mosaiske Synagoge" and was made up of the Chief Rabbi, the seven representatives and four male members elected by male members of the community having completed their 25th year and having a stand in the synagogue. Its duty was to attend to the religious ceremonies during the service as well as to all matters concerning the synagogue. According to the 1814 regulations (§ 10), these duties were outside the province of the Representatives, being left to the director of any synagogue together with the priest.
In connection with the reform of the community’s administration in 1936 the name of the direction was changed to "Synagogeforstanderskabet", which should in future be made up of seven male members of the community: the representative for affairs of the synagogue, four members elected by men having stands in the synagogue, and two elected by the Assembly of Delegates from men having stands in the synagogue. The Chief Rabbi attends the meetings of the direction of the synagogue without being a member.
4. The Chief Rabbinate
By the ordinance of 1814 it was laid down that at every synagogue there should be engaged a "priest" appointed under the Royal warrant, and that the Jewish community in Copenhagen should have a "supreme priest", to whom the priests of the provincial communities should be subordinated in all matters related to their office (§ 10).
However, Abraham Gedalia (1793-1827), the then Chief Rabbi of the community, failed to attain more than a temporary appointment as Chief Rabbi because of his opposition to the reformist activities of the Board of Representatives and the Chancellery.
More precise rules concerning the Chief Rabbinate were therefore not conceived out until the impending accession of the new Chief Rabbi, Abraham Wolff, cf. the Chancellery letter to the Board of Representatives of October 14, 1828 and Chancellery notice of the same date.
The provincial rabbinates contemplated in the 1814 ordinance all remained vacant. By Royal decision of December 11, 1816 it was provided that, for the moment, four catechists should be appointed within certain specified districts in the province. By Chancellery notice of October 14, 1828 the discharge of their office was placed under the supervision of the Chief Rabbi. Meanwhile Isac Noa Mannheimer, by Royal ordinance of July 17, 1816, had been appointed catechist for Copenhagen and Sealand with a view to attending to the preparation for confirmation etc., cf. below.
However, the contemplated catechist arrangement never was carried out completely. In consequence, from 1867, rabbinates were set up in a number of provincial communities. In this connection a committee was appointed by letter of January 1, 1878 from the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and Public Instruction. The committee should work out a proposal for a better organization of an examination for candidates for Jewish benefices in the province (cf. in addition the representation of April 4, 1867 from the same ministry to the King, concerning various modifications of the rules applying to the provision of the Jewish communities with priests, and also the letters of the same ministry to the priest of the Jewish Community of Copenhagen of June 24, 1876 and January 25, l877).
A. Ministerial registers
At the request of the Board of Representatives it was declared by rescript of May 29, 1810 that an authorized register of births, deaths and weddings should in future be kept in the community (§ 1) together with a so-called declaration register containing the same ministerialia of the period before 1810 (§ 2). The legal adviser of the community, Moses Delbanco, High Court attorney, should keep the register (§ 3).
By the ordinance of 1814 it was furthermore ordered that both boys and girls of the Mosaic faith should pass a public examination in religion with subsequent confession of faith (§ 14). The examination took place on the basis of a textbook in Jewish religion, brought about in 1812 by M. L. Nathanson and later on authorized by the Chancellery.
This so-called confirmation exam - which was completely alien to Judaism - might be held in May and November (§ 16) in the synagogue by the Rabbi or another whom the Chancellery had authorized (§ 15). The examiner should also keep a register of the confirmed persons (§ 18 with a form appended).
The first confirmation in the Copenhagen community took place on May 19, 1817, the examiner being catechist Isac Noa Mannheimer.
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