Episcopus Judaeorum

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EPISCOPUS JUDAEORUM (Lat. "bishop of the Jews"), title given by the Christian authorities in the Middle Ages to the head of the Jewish community or its rabbi. The significance of the title, which is much disputed, is sometimes clarified when Hebrew and Latin forms are found side by side. In Germany the title is mentioned in the privilege granted to the Jews of Worms in 1090, addressed to Salman the "Jews' bishop," a distinguished scholar. The "bishop" of the Jews in Worms, later called the hegmon parnas, was the permanent chairman of the community board; the last man to hold the title, Michael Gernstein, died in 1792. In Cologne the first "bishop" of the Jews is mentioned from 1135 to 1159. His successors were in office for long terms, although elections were held annually; some of them were rabbis. In Silesia, the "Jews' bishop" held the offices of rabbi, ritual slaughterer, cantor, and religious teacher in 1315. Found in England in the 12th century, the term (Eveske in Anglo-French) was sometimes equivalent to the Hebrew kohen. It is therefore impossible to maintain that in England it denoted an official rabbinical position.


Baron, Community, 1 (1942), index; R. Hoeniger and M. Stern (eds.), Das Judenschreinsbuch der Laurenzpfarre zu Koeln, 1 (1888), nos. 234–40; J. Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England (1893), 202–4, 372–3; Aronius, Regesten, nos. 171, 581; H. Stokes, Studies in Anglo-Jewish History (1913), 18–43; Roth, England, 94–95; H.G. Richardson, English Jewry under Angevin Kings (1960), 124–9.

[Isaac Levitats]