The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Mannheim as a Kabbalistic Centre in South Germany in Early Modern Times

Rabbi Prof. Dr. Birgit Klein

In 1706, Kabbalistic scholars who had formerly been followers of R. Judah heHasid in Jerusalem settled in Mannheim and became members of the newly founded “Klaus”, among them his son-in law Isaiah Ḥasid from Zbarazh (17th–18th centuries). They shaped the content of the Klaus` studies and published works in the field of popular Kabbalah. In the 1720s, however, they were accused by the Frankfurt rabbis of being Shabbateans and excommunicated with the ban, which was also proclaimed in other important communities such as Altona or Mannheim. As a result of this actual or alleged Shabbatean faux pas, it was forgotten that Mannheim and its "Klaus" had once been a center of Kabbalistic studies; thus, R. Isak Unna, in his extensive account of the history of the Klaus (Die Lemle Moses Klaus-Stiftung in Mannheim, 2 vols., Frankfurt/M. 1908/1909), did not mention the Kabbalistic scholars. Other recent studies (like Monika Prueß, Gelehrte Juden. Lernen als Frömmigkeitsideal in der frühen Neuzeit, Göttingen 2007) rely on statements in the literature that are shaped primarily by the Frankfurt perspective of the time, as reflected in contemporary sources. The presentation will revisit the known sources, present the literature that emerged from the Klaus, and then ask to what extent Kabbalistic studies and popular Kabbalah influenced Jewish spirituality in southern Germany in the 18th century beyond Mannheim