Monday, October 6, 2014

How a Judean Family Became One of the First Ashskenazis: Kalonymos Family

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                   

Jerusalem was burning.  It was 70 CE and the Roman occupiers turned against the Jews in this famous city and took Jews as slaves and then they burned everything down.  Then they turned Jerusalem into a Roman city.
What had happened was that Roman rule was unbearable and the Jews revolted in 66.  After 3 years of independence, the city was taken over by Titus and fell despite resistance.  The Temple and most of the buildings were destroyed and a Roman garrison was built on its ruins.  The Jewish General, Bar Kochba, revolted  in 132 and fought against the Romans for 3 years, but was killed in 135.  During that period Jerusalem had been liberated.  The Roman emperor, Hadrian, rebuilt it as a Roman colony and called in Aelia Capitolina.  They forbade Jews from even approaching it under pain of death.  After that, the Roman Empire became Christian under Constantine and Jerusalem became a holy city for Christians.  The emperor's mother even came for a visit and had the Church of the Holy Sepulcher built in 335.
Rome was the city they were first taken to.  There the Arch of Titus shows how the victors came with all the artifacts they had stolen from the Temple and the slaves they had taken.  The Kalonymos family was one of the first Jewish families from Jerusalem.  They wound up in Lucca, Tuscany,  Italy.  This became a well-known Jewish family.
From the Kalonymos family of Lucca came their descendants to establish the first Jewish settlements in Germany at Mainz and Speyer.  Many of the important parts of traditional Ashkenazi liturgy of the synagogue were composed by them.

 "In antiquity Mainz, on the west bank of the Rhine River (the Rhineland-Palatinate) ,  was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire; it was founded as a military post by the Romans in the late 1st century BC and became the provincial capital of Germania Superior. The city is located on the river Rhine at its confluence with the Main opposite Wiesbaden, in the western part of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main; in the modern age, Frankfurt shares much of its regional importance. Today Mainz is the capital of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. It was the capital of the Electorate of Mainz at the time of the Holy Roman Empire.

The earliest reference to Jewish settlement along the Rhine dates from the year 321 in Cologne.   Cologne's Jewish community is the only one known in Germany during Roman times.  It was in 321 that Constantine, first Christian emperor of Rome, canceled the Jewish exemption from membership in the city council which was responsible for taxation.  At this time the Jews were already well organized. He had put out an edict of "toleration" issued in Milan in 312 which established Christianity as being the supreme religion.  By 315 his decrees became anti-Semitic.   They seem to having nothing written about them until the 11th century when Jews lived there under the protection of the archbishop and had their own quarter and synagogue.  In 1096 they were destroyed by rioters who took their property and desecrated the synagogue.  

 It is assumed that Jews also lived in Speyer, Germany  in Late Antiquity. It was a town in the Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and located beside the Rhine River.  It is 25 km south of Ludwigshafen and Mannheim.  Speyer was founded by the Romans and is one of Germany's oldest cities.   State and church rule in the Migration Period broke down the urban Roman lifestyle, and it is assumed that Jewish communities were dispersed.  

Mainz had been a wine growing region since Roman times. This has encouraged tourism.  Mainz is part of the federal state, Rhineland-Palatinate, which is the only state to have such a department with a minister just for wine.  The famous Rabbi Solomon Yitzhaki, son of ben Isaac, born in 1040 d: 1105, better known as RASHI, was a French rabbinical scholar who had studied in the Rhineland.  He was a rabbi who earned his livelihood from his vineyard.  

Speyer created a Jewish quarter by  "Bishopric of Rhenish Bavaria. The first mention of a Jewish community in Speyer occurs during the episcopate of Bishop Rüdiger, who officiated from 1073 to 1090. He admitted several Jewish refugees, and assigned them, together with the Jews already settled there, a special quarter, which he enclosed with a wall for the sake of protection. This quarter consisted of a hill and a valley outside the city proper. In order further to protect the Jews, he granted them, on Sept. 13, 1084, a special privilege on condition that they should pay 3½ pounds of Speyer money annually to the cloisters. The Jews were also allowed to trade in the harbor in all kinds of goods, and to exchange gold and silver; they received as their special property a burial-ground from the estates of the Church; the chief rabbi was given absolute jurisdiction in all cases arising among them; and they were permitted to hire Christian servants and nurses, and to sell to Christians such meat as they themselves did not use."

We have the family tree of the Kalonymos family starting from 900 CE.  Kalonymos ben Jechutiel b: 900-d: 960 was a descendant of Meshulam born in 780.  During the Middle Ages, prominent rabbis produced their trees.  Yeshivas in Israel have been able to procure such trees and make them available.  This particular tree was followed to a woman named Guetlin b: 1328-1417, the wife of Baruch ben Meir Zurich b: 1319-1382.  Baruch was also a man with a tree, the Ulmo tree which is also available to see.

The Kalonymos family of Lucca had an ancestor who saved the life of the Germany emperor, Otto II.  This was after the battle of Cotrone in Calabria in 982.  For doing this, they were able to settle down in Mayence, where the family had extensive privileges.

By the 12th century, the community appears in literature with Abraham ibn Ezra, who lived in Lucca for a time while writing his grammatical Hebrew works of "Yesod" and "Sefat Yeter," as well as his commentary on the Pentateuch and on Isaiah.  He was giving instruction here in Hebrew grammar and Biblical science.  One of his pupils was Chayyim that he mentioned by name.  The community was not a large one at that time.  We know this because the famous Jewish traveler, Benjamin of Tudela,  visited it in 1165 and found only 40 Jews under the leadership of Rabbi David Samuel and Rabbi Jacob.  By 1904 there were 30 Jews still living in Lucca.  A sad note is that a Nazi concentration camp was built in Mainz, a few miles above Pisa.  This probably took place in 1940.  

The Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have been doing an excellent job in re-interesting people to their genealogy which has become an important part of the Mormon religion.  We Jews found it necessary back in the days that Moses started writing his 5 books.  Genealogical material is embodied in the Bible, mainly in the Pentateuch and Chronicles.  It demonstrates the descent of the Jewish people from the patriarchs and actually from Adam, first man.

The priests came from Aaron, brother of Moses.  Their genealogies were maintained in 2nd Temple times.  In the talmudic age, the tradition weakened.  Supposedly the patriarchs and the exilarchs in Babylonia were believed to have unbroken descent from King David ( 1010 BCE-970 BCE).  This was kept to the 13th century.  Later, there were families who claimed descent from David, but origin, authentic genealogies bridging the ages were unknown.  In the medieval and post-medieval period, descent from famous scholars was prized.  Today we know from DNA that David would have had the DNA haplotype of J1, the Cohen gene from Aaron.  Direct descendants would have this also.

Recent historians pay attention to genealogy on the basis of communal records, inscriptions, etc and have traced certain families back for some centuries such as the Gompertz, Montefiore and Rothschild families. It was thought that the genealogy of any Jewish family today can be demonstrated authentically beyond the late Middle Ages, but the scientific discovery of DNA and autosomal DNA testing is changing this.

In the case of my own family, we have been found to share segments of our chromosomes with others who have been traced back to the Rabbi of Worms, Germany who was known to be connected to RASHI who studied in Worms from 1055 to 1065, and his oral tradition was of course to have been connected to King David, youngest son of Jesse and born in Bethlehem. Worms had become a famous center of Jewish scholarship in the Medieval Period.  It's figured that Jews had arrived here in the 10th century which would have been in the 900's.

 The distance from Speyer to Worms is only 28.9559 miles or 46.6km.  The distance from Mainz to Worms is only 38 miles or 61km.  Both are in the Rheinland-Pfalz area. 
 David had married Michal, the daughter of King Saul.  At one time David had settled in Hebron and declared himself king of Judah, but he later became king of Israel, which later divided and the southern part, Judah, did become a separate kingdom.  He had wives and sons.  King Solomon (961 BCE-920 BCE) whose mother was Bathsheba, was one and he had  at least 1,000 wives and concubines  in his harem. This was one way he solved his political problems.  He married daughters of other rulers.  His realm, thanks to his father, went from Egypt to the Euphrates river in the East, possibly the largest in the region.  Culture developed in the arts of historiography, parable and elegant writing were developed.  Biblical  writings of the Song of Songs, Ecclesiates, Psalm 72 were later attributed to Solomon who had a reputation for his wisdom.

This is how Jews went from Jerusalem to Italy and then to Germany.  Actually, they were following the Romans all the way.  Perhaps they had even been slaves with the Romans during earlier times and knew the land.

Resource:  AVOTAYNU magazine, Volume XXVII, Number 2, Summer 2011
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia  to Kalonymos family

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