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Frankfurt University Library
The books in the Judaica Collection of the University Library at the Goethe University in Frankfurt on Main form one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. They tell fascinating stories about the life of Frankfurt Jews and their commitment to their home city. Merchant, bankers and rabbis and later politicians, intellectuals and artists played an important role in shaping the character of Frankfurt society.
Judaica Collection, Goethe University Library, Frankfurt/Main
Bertha Pappenheim. This black and white photograph is a reproduction of a painting by Leopold Pilichowski, 1925, that has been lost. © Collection of Judaica Sammlung, Universitatsbibliothek, Goethe Universitat, Frankfurt/Main
Glass Sabbath lamp, Damascus, Syria, 19th century (?) © Collection of the Jewish Museum London
Geschichte der Juden (History of the Jews) by Heinrich Graetz, Leipzig 1864.
Copper engraving of Moses Mendelssohn by A. and TH. Weger
© Collection of Judaica Sammlung, Universitatsbibliothek, Goethe Universitat, Frankfurt/Main
One of the eminent women who left an indelible imprint in this city’s history was Bertha Pappenheim, who became famous as the patient Anna O. in Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. The photograph shows Bertha Pappenheim in the guise of Glikl von Hameln, the renowned Jewish businesswoman (1646-1724). Glikl was the first woman in Germany to write an autobiography, describing her life as a mother of 12 and a successful entrepreneur. The original of her diary, written in Yiddish, is in the possession of the Frankfurt University Library. Pappenheim was a distant relative of Glikl and translated her autobiography from Yiddish into German.
Bertha Pappenheim (1859-1936) was a pioneer of social work, a feminist and a founder in 1904 of the League of Jewish Women, which later became the largest Jewish charitable organization in Germany with over 50,000 members. Pappenheim became famous for her fight against traffic in women, not shrinking from visiting brothels in Eastern Europe. She was an outstanding philanthropist, founding or initiating many organizations, including kindergartens, homes for the poor and educational institutions. She thought of the Neu-Isenburg orphanage for Jewish girls as the highlight of her life’s work. It provided a refuge for single mothers and for girls endangered by prostitution. Rooted in Orthodox Judaism, the home was run strictly according to Jewish traditions, giving full weight to the role of women.
Books describing Jewish customs
Within the Jewish family, women play a vital part in religious duties, taking care of the education of small children, keeping the dietary laws of Kashrut and celebrating the holiday traditions. Many illustrations of these can be found in the books of the Library’s Yiddish collection.
The drawing below from Minhagim (Jewish customs), printed in Amsterdam in 1722-23 shows a Jewish woman signalling the beginning of Shabbat by lighting the Shabbat lamp, one of the most important religious duties of women. The Shabbat lamp is also the most potent symbol of the Jewish home. These lamps had been popular throughout medieval Europe and were used in Jewish homes well into the modern era, often with more elaborate designs and in finer materials than their medieval precursors. However, the basic form of the lamp remained unchanged.
Minhagim, Amsterdam, 1722-23 © Collection of Judaica Sammlung, Universitatsbibliothek, Goethe Universitat, Frankfurt/Main
Women’s Bibles are another example of the importance of female education within Jewish society over the centuries. The narrative parts of the Bibles were translated into Yiddish – the daily language of the European Jews – and read for pleasure like modern fiction. Thus the stories of the Biblical figures became part of Jewish identity. Yiddish prayer books are another example of how the less educated could follow religious ritual.
Today these illustrations and texts are reprinted, translated into modern languages or published as scholarly editions. They serve not only to document the past, but also as models for forming modern Jewish identity.