Felix Libertate

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FELIX LIBERTATE (Lat. "Happy through Freedom"), name of a society founded in Amsterdam in February 1795 with the object of attaining Jewish emancipation in the Netherlands and spreading enlightened ideas among Amsterdam Jewry. The society was sponsored by a number of prominent – mainly Ashkenazi – Jews, including M.S. *Asser and Dr. H. de H. Lemon, who wanted to enlist opinion both inside and outside the Jewish community for obtaining full civic rights for the Jews. Leaders of Amsterdam Jewry, who did not allow them to spread their views in the synagogue, opposed their activities. Contrary to the Orangist majority of the Jewish community, the members of Felix Libertate were sympathizers of the party of the Radical Patriots. Attempts by the municipal council to intervene in the dispute were unsuccessful. One of the first acts of Felix Libertate was the translation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen into Yiddish. Felix Libertate failed to win general approval from other revolutionary societies, although one-third of the membership was not Jewish. They therefore conducted an active campaign both verbally and in print to have their resolution for Jewish emancipation accepted. Pamphlets were published by M.S. Asser and David *Friedrichsfeld, among others, stressing the competence of Jews as active citizens and a republican universalist outlook. On September 2, 1796, the National Assembly declared complete emancipation. Subsequently, Felix Libertate demanded a revision of the statutes of the Amsterdam Ashkenazi community, especially those regulating its governing body and care of the poor. When the parnasim rejected these claims, 21 members seceded from the community and founded the Adath Jessurun congregation, whose members were excommunicated by the existing parnasim. The two communities engaged in bitter controversy and both published a Yiddish journal entitled "Discourse" (Yid. דישקוהרש), one issued by the older body, the so-called "Alte Kehile" and the other by the "Naye Kehile" (1797–98). When two members of Felix Libertate, Bromet and Lemon, were elected to the National Assembly, they dismissed the parnasim with the help of the government in March 1798. However, the parnasim succeeded in having the dismissal annulled when a less extreme group came to power (June 1798). Subsequently, Felix Libertate discontinued its activities. The Adath Jessurun congregation existed until it was reunited with the old kehillah by a decree of King Louis Bonaparte in 1808.


Bloom, in: Essays … Salo Wittmayer Baron (1959), 105–22; M.E. Bolle, De opheffing van de autonomie der Kehillothin Nederland 1796 (1960); Bloemgarten, in: Studia Rosenthaliana, 1 pt. 1 (1967), 66–99, pt. 2, 45–70; 2 pt. 1 (1968), 42–65. add. bibliography: J. Michman, Dutch Jewry during the Emancipation Period 1787–1815. Gothic Turrets on a Corinthian Building (1995); J. Michman and M. Aptroot, Storm in the Community. Yiddish Polemical Pamphlets of Amsterdam Jewry 17971798 (2002).

[Jozeph Michman (Melkman) /

Bart Wallet (2nd ed.)]