The Mixed Multitude

The Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement, 1755-1816

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    The Mixed Multitude
    Book Description:

    In 1756, Jacob Frank, an Ottoman Jew who had returned to the Poland of his birth, was discovered leading a group of fellow travelers in a suspect religious service. At the request of the local rabbis, Polish authorities arrested the participants. Jewish authorities contacted the bishop in whose diocese the service had taken place and argued that since the rites of Frank's followers involved the practice of magic and immoral conduct, both Jews and Christians should condemn them and burn them at the stake. The scheme backfired, as the Frankists took the opportunity to ally themselves with the Church, presenting themselves as Contra-Talmudists who believed in a triune God. As a Turkish subject, Frank was released and temporarily expelled to the Ottoman territories, but the others were found guilty of breaking numerous halakhic prohibitions and were subject to a Jewish ban of excommunication. While they professed their adherence to everything that was commanded by God in the Old Testament, they asserted as well that the Rabbis of old had introduced innumerable lies and misconstructions in their interpretations of that holy book. Who were Jacob Frank and his followers? To most Christians, they seemed to be members of a Jewish sect; to Jewish reformers, they formed a group making a valiant if misguided attempt to bring an end to the power of the rabbis; and to more traditional Jews, they were heretics to be suppressed by the rabbinate. What is undeniable is that by the late eighteenth century, the Frankists numbered in the tens of thousands and had a significant political and ideological influence on non-Jewish communities throughout eastern and central Europe. Based on extensive archival research in Poland, the Czech Republic, Israel, Germany, the United States, and the Vatican, The Mixed Multitude is the first comprehensive study of Frank and Frankism in more than a century and offers an important new perspective on Jewish-Christian relations in the Age of Enlightenment.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0458-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Conversions to Christianity were among the most traumatic events in the history of medieval and early modern Jewish communities. Jews regarded baptism as a “betrayal of communal values, a rejection of Jewish destiny, a submission to the illusory verdict of history.”¹ Willing apostates were seen as the worst traitors and renegades, forced conversions were considered the ultimate form of persecution of Israel by the Gentiles, and, according to the common ideal, it was better to choose a martyr’s death than to submit to the power of the Church.² Each soul that Judaism lost was mourned. The dominant narrative did not...

  6. Chapter 1 In the Shadow of the Herem
    (pp. 21-40)

    Toward the end of January 1756, Jacob Frank and a group of other Sabbatians were discovered conducting a secret ritual in the little town of Lanckoronie, near the Moldavian border. The discovery set a process in motion, which led to the emergence of Frankism as a phenomenon distinct from other branches of the wider Sabbatian movement. The ensuing sequence of events included the arrest of the participants in the ritual, a series of unusually harsh punitive measures by the Jewish authorities, public clashes between Sabbatian and non-Sabbatian Jews in Podolia, the involvement of Christians in what would seem an internal...

  7. Chapter 2 The Peril of Heresy, the Birth of a New Faith
    (pp. 41-62)

    From the very outset, the Frankist case deviated from the established pattern of the rabbinic struggle against Sabbatianism in the first part of the eighteenth century. Frankism was unique in its extraordinary public profile, in the level of involvement of Gentile authorities in an ostensibly internal Jewish affair, and in the brutality of the rabbinic campaign against it. In order to understand these developments, we must extend our inquiry beyond eighteenth-century anti-Sabbatianism and retrace the strategies of opposition to Sabbatai Tsevi during his lifetime. Rabbi Jacob Sasportas (1610–98) was the principal opponent of the messianic movement that arose around...

  8. Chapter 3 Where Does Frankism Fit In?
    (pp. 63-91)

    Emden’s strategy of involving the Christians in the campaign against the Sabbatians was designed to appeal to the sentiments of the priests. The mid-eighteenth-century Polish Church, determined to wage an intense battle against the religious dissent among the country’s Christian population, could be expected to be sympathetic to an anti-heretical case. In approaching Bishop Dembowski, the rabbis counted on his concern for established religious authority. For the Sabbatians, a natural response to this strategy was to resort to the prevalent Christian stereotype of “rabbinism” as an empty shell of legalistic casuistry and present their version of Judaism as more spiritual...

  9. Chapter 4 The Politics of the Blood Libel
    (pp. 92-126)

    In Jewish collective memory and, to some extent, in Jewish historiography, the blood accusation that was raised during the Lwów disputation in September 1759 is the best-known event associated with Frankism. The second volume of Majer Bałaban’s two-volume book on Frankism is devoted almost solely to this issue;¹ extensive discussion can be also found in Dubnow.² The unique characteristics of this accusation can best be understood if it is placed against the backdrop of similar cases, in Poland and elsewhere.

    Charges that the Jews used Christian blood for ritual purposes were first made in Western Europe in the twelfth and...

  10. Chapter 5 How Rabbis and Priests Created the Frankist Movement
    (pp. 127-156)

    The conversion of the Frankists was not an outcome of the Lwów disputation, nor did it depend on that outcome; it was the condition under which the disputation was conducted in the first place. Even before the formal end of the debate, on 16 August 1759, the administrator sede vacante of the Lwów archdiocese, Father Stanisław Mikulski, issued an edict commanding the local clergy to begin instructing those who would convert in preparation for their baptisms.¹ Each of the larger churches or monasteries in Lwów and its surroundings took up a certain number of catechumens. The first baptisms took place...

  11. Chapter 6 Ghosts of the Past, Heralds of the Future
    (pp. 157-179)

    After the conclusion of the Lwów disputation and the celebration of his baptism in the city’s cathedral, Frank, accompanied by his six closest followers and the interpreter Moliwda, departed for Warsaw. The party reached the city on 23 October 1759. Upon their arrival, the group submitted a new petition to King Augustus III.¹ In contrast to earlier supplications, which had been signed by Yehudah Leyb Krysa and Solomon Shorr, this one was signed anonymously and collectively by “the faithful subjects of Your Majesty.” It was the first official document to mention the name of Frank as leader of all the...

  12. Chapter 7 The Fall of Edom
    (pp. 180-198)

    The first two years of Frank’s stay in Częstochowa were relatively uneventful, but at the end of the Seven Years’ War, external developments began to have an impact on the prisoner. The conclusion of fighting marked a change of the political climate in Europe and the inception of a new system of alliances. Russia wanted the weakened Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to become a subsidiary ally in the great alliance of Northern powers consisting of, beside herself, Prussia and Denmark. Although such an alliance made much sense militarily and politically, it was bound to ruffle the sensibilities of many of the szlachta:¹...

  13. Chapter 8 The Vagaries of the Charlatans
    (pp. 199-231)

    To understand the development of Frankism in the 1770s and 1780s, we must first discuss Frank’s most important rival for the leadership of Eastern European Sabbatians: Wolf, the youngest son of Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschütz. The links between Wolf and the Frankists went back to 1755, the very year when Frank’s activity in Poland began. In that year, at the request of his father, Wolf, who was then fifteen years old, undertook a journey to the Balkans, Podolia, Moravia, and Hungary.¹ During his journeys, he reportedly met Frank² as well as one of the most important participants in the Kamieniec and...

  14. Chapter 9 The Ever-Changing Masquerade
    (pp. 232-264)

    The last quarter of the eighteenth century saw the decline of Frankism as it had existed during Frank’s time. Although Frankist communities survived long into the nineteenth century, the movement lost much of its homogeneity and splintered into disparate groups. At that time, Frankism had three main focal points: Offenbach, where Frank lived the last four years of his life and where he established the court that served as a pilgrimage center for followers from different countries; Warsaw, where the majority of the converted Frankists lived; and Prague, whose importance grew as that of Offenbach waned.

    Accounts pertaining to this...

  15. List of Current and Historical Place Names
    (pp. 265-265)
  16. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 266-266)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 267-324)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 325-352)
  19. Index
    (pp. 353-360)
  20. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 361-361)