Cerfberr, Herz

views updated


CERFBERR, HERZ (1726–1794), French politician and philanthropist. Born in Medelsheim, Alsace, Cerfberr prospered as an army contractor and employed his wealth and influence to promote the welfare of his community. After receiving French citizenship in 1775 "for services to the country," Cerfberr established several factories where he employed Jews. In this way he realized an ideal characteristic of the Emancipation era: to help Jews to withdraw from petty trading and to engage in manual labor. With his sons Max and Baruch, Cerfberr played a prominent part in the struggle for Jewish emancipation in France. In 1780 Cerfberr asked Moses *Mendelssohn to help him in his efforts on behalf of the Alsatian Jews. Mendelssohn referred Cerfberr to C.W. *Dohm, who included Cerfberr's memorandum in his Ueber die buergerliche Verbesserung der Juden, which had great influence in the fight for Jewish emancipation. Cerfberr had Dohm's book translated into French. These efforts brought about the appointment of a commission which was to report to the king on the legal condition of Jews, and led to the abolition of the polltax for Jews. Cerfberr was arrested and imprisoned for a year on suspicion of royalist sympathies during the Reign of Terror.


Graetz, Gesch, 11 (1900), 171ff.