For the Jews of Frankfurt, a Second Purim Once Celebrated a 17th-Century Anti-Semitic Riot

Feb. 26 2019

Few Jewish communities managed to preserve and document their local customs as thoroughly as did the community of Frankfurt-am-Main, one of the oldest in northern Europe. Among these customs is the celebration of a second Purim, just six days after the regular holiday. Josh Weiner writes:

In 1614, a local baker and troublemaker named Vincent Fettmilch, who, [in the Jews’ telling] considered himself to be the “New Haman,” led the city guilds in an uprising against the Holy Roman emperor Matthias. Included in their demands for lower taxes were also demands for fewer Jews in town and lower interest rates on Jewish loans.

When the emperor ignored or rejected the demands of the city guilds, Fettmilch led a mob to ransack the Jewish quarter of Frankfurt, burning, fighting, and pillaging until the entire Jewish population was forced to flee. Two years later, in February 1616, Emperor Matthias had Vincent Fettmilch and five of the other rebels hanged, and the Jews were allowed to return to the city in safety. The proximity of the hanging to Purim that year, as well as the resonances of the Purim story [which ends with the hanging of the wicked Haman after his plan to slaughter Persian Jewry], encouraged the community to celebrate the return as a mini-redemption, with special songs and a long poetic retelling of the story in Judeo-German called Megilas Vints [the “Scroll of Vincent,” after the Hebrew term for the book of Esther, read on Purim].

Frankfurt is not alone. In many Jewish communities throughout history, local episodes of near-destruction and sudden salvation have been marked along the lines of Purim. Reading through the history books one discovers hints of Purim Narbonne, Cairo Purim, Purim Hebron, Purim of Saragossa, and the four Purims of Ancona, Italy, to mention just a few.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, German Jewry, Purim, Religion & Holidays


Understanding the Background of the White House Ruling on Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Act

Dec. 13 2019

On Wednesday, the president signed an executive order allowing federal officials to extend the protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to Jews. (The order, promptly condemned for classifying Jews as a separate nationality, did nothing of the sort.) In 2010, Kenneth Marcus called for precisely such a ruling in the pages of Commentary, citing in particular the Department of Education’s lax response to a series of incidents at the University of California at Irvine, where, among much elase, Jewish property was vandalized and Jewish students were pelted with rocks, called “dirty Jew” and other epithets, and were told, “Jewish students are the plague of mankind.”

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, U.S. Politics