KASSEL , city in Germany, former capital of the state of *Hesse-Kassel. A record of 1293 maintains that a Jewess had been in possession of some property in Kassel at an earlier date. A Jews' street was in existence in 1318. During the *Black Death persecutions (1348–49) the Jews suffered, but some managed to escape and were living in Frankfurt (1360) and Erfurt. By 1398 there was an organized community, with a synagogue and cemetery in Kassel. The Jews' street is mentioned again in 1455 and 1486 and the "Jews' well" may date from this period. In 1513 Master Falke contributed to the construction of a local bridge; in 1520 he paid the rent for the cemetery, as did his widow in 1526. Landgrave Philip of Hesse expelled the Jews from Hesse-Kassel in 1524. However, in 1530 he admitted Michel Jud of Derenburg as court agent for ten years, and in 1532 issued a Jewry toleration law, amplified in 1539. Though restrictive and ordering Jews to attend Christian sermons, it was less severe than the extreme anti-Jewish proposals of the Reformation theologian Martin *Butzer. Only a few Jews were allowed in Kassel in the period, namely a physician and several silk knitters; in 1602 the *Court Jew Hayum was admitted as mint master.
During the Thirty Years' War the Jews were compelled to leave Kassel. However the Court Jew Benedict Goldschmidt received a residence privilege in 1635, extended in 1647 to include his two sons. From 1650 to 1715 private services were held in the Goldschmidts' house, led by the rabbi of the nearby village of Brettenhausen (later part of Kassel), where a cemetery was acquired in 1621. In 1714 a synagogue building was erected and enlarged in 1755; the community had grown by then to approximately 200 persons. A *Memorbuch was begun in 1720, and a hevra kaddisha founded in 1773. In 1772 the rabbinate was tranferred from Witzenhausen, seat of the yeshivah, to Kassel.
In 1577 Landgrave William the Wise had initiated Hesse-Kassel Jewry assemblies, first held in Kassel. The kehillah Hebrew constitution papers, begun in 1633, and a pinkas (records and decisions) were ordered to be translated into German in 1734–40. Hesse-Kassel Jewry was under the civic jurisdiction of the *Fulda rabbinate until 1625, and that of *Friedberg until 1656.
From 1807 to 1813 Kassel was the capital of the short-lived kingdom of Westphalia. The emancipation law of 1808 granted civil rights to Jews and made possible the influx of Jews from other areas. A *consistory headed by Israel *Jacobson introduced synagogue and educational reforms. The government of the reestablished principality of Hesse-Kassel issued a more restrictive Jewry ordinance in 1823, which remained in force until 1866, when Kassel came under Prussian rule and Prussian emancipation laws prevailed. In 1836–39 a new synagogue was built, accommodating around 1,000 persons. An Orthodox faction separated after 1872 and built its own synagogue in 1898. The main synagogue was rebuilt in 1890–1907. The Hesse-Kassel yeshivah was transferred to Kassel as a teachers' seminary and elementary school. The community had a library of Judaica and Hebraica, and in the Landesmuseum a display of ceremonial objects as well as arts and crafts, which was restored after 1945. It also possessed an orphanage and an old age home. In 1905, 2,445 Jews lived in Kassel, 2,750 (1.62% of the total) in 1925, and 2,301 (1.31%) in June 1933.
On November 7, 1938, two days before the start of Kristallnacht, the main synagogue was set on fire, but the local firemen extinguished the blaze, something that they were explicitly instructed not to do on Kristallnacht. Two days later, the Liberal synagogue was burned down and the Orthodox synagogue destroyed, and a completed manuscript of the second volume of the history of the Jews in Kassel, prepared under community auspices, was destroyed, as later were all records on emigration and deportation. Three hundred Jews including the rabbi were sent to Buchenwald and 560 Jews emigrated over the next year. As to the remaining Jews, 470 were deported to Riga in 1941, 99 to Majdanek in 1942, and 323 to Theresienstadt that year. In 1945–46, 200 Jews (mainly Displaced Persons) lived in Kassel, 102 in 1955, 73 in 1959, and 106 in 1970. With municipal aid a synagogue with a community center was built in 1965. The Jewish community numbered about 1,220 in 2004 after the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. Since the synagogue became too small it was pulled down and the architect Alfred Jacoby designed a new one with a community center, which was consecrated in 2000. It was financed by the Jewish community of Kassel, the Association of Jewish Communities in Hesse, the Federal state (Land) of Hesse, and the city of Kassel.
R. Hallo et al., Geschichte der juedischen Gemeinde Kassel (1931); Baron, Community, 1 (1942), 341–3; H. Maor, Ueber den Wiederaufbau der juedischen Gemeinden in Deutschland seit 1945 (1961), 61, 79; Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 390; S. Steinberg, in: ZGJD, 2 (1930), 242–6; L. Munk, in: Hermann Cohen Festschrift, 337–88; idem, in: MGWJ, 41 (1897), 505–22; F. Lazarus, ibid., 58 (1914), 81–96, 178–208, 326–58, 454–82, 542–61; 78 (1934), 587–607; A. Cohn, Beitraege zur Geschichte der Juden in Hesse-Kassel (1933); L. Horwitz, Die Kasseler Synagoge und ihr Erbauer (1907); H. Schnee, Die Hoffinanz und der moderne Staat, 2 (1954), 315–52; S. Stern, The Court Jew (1950), index. add. bibliography: I. Kraeling, (ed.), Juden in Kassel 1808–1933. Eine Dokumentation anlaesslich des 100. Geburtstages von Frank Rosenzweig (1986); E. Hass, A. Link, K.H. Wegner (eds.), Synagogen in Kassel. Zur Austellung im Stadtmuseum Kassel (Schriften des Stadtmuseums Kassel, vol. 9), (2000).