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KALONYMUS , one of the most eminent Jewish families in Germany which flourished from the 9th to the 13th century, especially in the cities near the Rhine. Among its members were numerous rabbis, preachers, poets, teachers, authors, moralists, and theologians, and most of the prominent communal leaders of this period came from its ranks. The origins of the family go back to eighth-century Italy, although the name Kalonymus appears in talmudic literature. The father of Onkelos, the great translator of the Bible, was, according to Avodah Zarah 11a, called Kalonymus, although other sources refer to him by a different name, e.g., Kolonikos (Git. 56b). While Kalonymus is the name of many medieval Jewish families, its appearance does not always indicate a connection with the family described here.

Two major events stand out in the family's history: the migration of the family from southern Italy to Germany in the ninth century, and their leadership of the Jews in Germany during the Crusades, especially during the massacres of 1096 (the year of the First Crusade) and the subsequent upheaval of the 12th and 13th centuries. The Kalonymus family tree, despite many attempts, has not been accurately described. The family had many branches, with the same names frequently recurring in different cities and different generations, so that it is very easy to confuse them. The best and most complete tradition regarding the history of the family is given in a small polemical work written probably around 1220 by *Eleazar b. Judah (b. Kalonymus) of Worms, the author of the Roke'aḥ. Eleazar's aim in his polemic was to prove that the version of the prayers recited by himself and his circle was the true one, as opposed to the various changes introduced by rabbis in France and England. He gave a list of his family and teachers in order to demonstrate the antiquity and reliability of his version, which was printed by Joseph *Delmedigo in his Maẓrefle-Ḥokhmah. The list also appears in other manuscripts and has been discussed at length by many scholars, especially H. Gross and A. Neubauer. The Paris manuscript, no. 772, p. 60a, gives the following version:

"I, Eleazar ha-Katan, received the true version of the prayers from my father and teacher, Rabbi Judah, son of Rabbi Kalonymus, son of Moses, son of Rabbi Judah, son of Rabbi Kalonymus, son of Rabbi Moses, son of Rabbi Kalonymus, son of Judah.

"And I also received it from *Judah he-Ḥasid, as he received it from his father, Rabbi *Samuel he-Ḥasid, as he received it from Rabbi Eleazar he-Ḥazzan of Speyer; for when Rabbi Kalonymus died, his son Rabbi Samuel he-Ḥasid was only a boy, so he gave (transmitted) it to Rabbi Eleazar he-Ḥazzan of Speyer, and when he, Rabbi Samuel he-Ḥasid, grew up, he received [the secrets] from him, as was ordered by Rabbi Kalonymus the Elder.

"And Rabbi Kalonymus the Elder received [the tradition] from his father, Rabbi Isaac; and Rabbi Isaac received [it] from his father, Rabbi Eleazar the Great, son of Rabbi Isaac, son of Rabbi Joshua, son of Rabbi Abun, the Rabbi Abun who was the grandfather of Rabbi Simeon the Great, of Mainz.

"And Rabbi Eleazar the Great was a student of Rabbi Simeon the Great. For Rabbi Isaac, the father of Rabbi Simeon the Great, and Rabbi Joshua, the grandfather of Rabbi Eleazar the Great, were brothers. This is why Rabbi Simeon was like a father to him, for when Rabbi Isaac died his son Rabbi Eleazar the Great was just a small boy, and he grew up in his house and he taught him the Torah, And he was [with] Rabbi Gershom, Me'or ha-Golah.

"Rabbi Judah ha-Kohen also transmitted his [knowledge] to Rabbi Eleazar the Great. This was Rabbi Judah ha-Kohen who wrote the book of laws; he was the father of Rabbi Abraham ha-Kohen, and Rabbi Abraham ha-Kohen was the father of Rabbi Meir ha-Kohen, who was the father of Rabbi Eleazar ha-Kohen he-Ḥasid. Rabbi Eleazar ha-Kohen he-Ḥasid was the father of Rabbi Jacob ha-Kohen he-Ḥasid, the young one.

"They all received the secret of the true version of the prayers, teacher from his teacher, up to Abu Aaron, the son of Rabbi Samuel ha-Nasi, who came from Babylonia because of a misadventure, and had to wander from place to place [as a punishment], until he came to the country of Lombardy, to a city named Lucca, where he found Rabbi Moses [son of Kalonymus], who wrote the piyyut, Eimat Norotekha, and he [Abu Aaron] transmitted to him all his secrets. And he was Rabbi Moses, son of Kalonymus, son of Rabbi Judah. He was the first who left Lombardy, he and his sons, Rabbi Kalonymus and Rabbi Jekuthiel, and his relation Rabbi Ithiel, and other important persons; for the king Charles brought them with him from the country of Lombardy, and settled them in Mainz, and there they multiplied and flourished very much; until God's fury hit all the holy communities in the year 1096. And then we were all lost, all perished, except very few who were left from our kinsmen. [Rabbi Kalonymus] the Elder who transmitted [the Torah] to Rabbi Eleazar he-Ḥazzan of Speyer, as we have written above, and Rabbi Eleazar he-Ḥazzan transmitted it to Rabbi Judah he-Ḥasid, and from him I, the small one, received the secrets of the prayers and other secrets."

This list is as close to a Kalonymus family tree as exists today, though many more members of the family are known from other sources (see below). It is evident that the family originally flourished in southern Italy, from where some of its members were moved by one of the Carolingian emperors to the Rhine cities in Germany. There was some controversy among scholars as to the identity of this ruler; some texts explicitly named Charlemagne as the king responsible for the move, but this seems to be a later emendation to the text. It is now accepted that it must have been Charles the Bald, who lived in the second half of the ninth century.

It should be noted that Eleazar of Worms stresses the fact that the family received "secrets" orally from the Babylonian scholar, Aaron son of Samuel. Generally, the Jewish communities in southern Italy were under the influence of the center of learning in Palestine, and not in Babylonia. It seems, therefore, that the traditions transmitted from generation to generation within the Babylonian and Palestinian elements of the family were fused together into one whole which gave the members of the family stature and importance among the scholars in Germany. No clear connection has been established between the Kalonymus family and another family which received secret traditions from Abu Aaron, and which is described in the Megillat*Aḥima'aẓ as an Italian family of the 8th to the 11th centuries.

The Kalonymus family provided the Jews in Germany with leaders of the communities, as attested by the chronicles describing the massacres of the crusaders from 1096 to the middle of the 13th century (see A.M. Habermann, Gezerot Ashkenaz ve-Ẓarefat, 1945). Their leadership extended to cultural fields as well. It is probable that more than a dozen prominent paytanim, who wrote of the sufferings of German Jewry during this period, belonged to this family. Many of the most prominent halakhists and talmudic scholars of the time were also members of the Kalonymus family. The *Ḥasidei Ashkenaz were led and directed by members of the family, who formulated their esoteric theology, and created their code of ethical, pious behavior – Sefer *Ḥasidim. Furthermore, the political and cultural life of the Jews in Germany between the 9th and 13th centuries was dominated by the family.

Among the prominent members of the Kalonymus family in Italy and Germany were kalonymus of lucca, a paytan, who lived in Italy probably in the ninth century; *moses ben kalonymus, a paytan, who lived in Italy but who moved to Mainz, and influenced the early paytanim in Germany, especially *simeon ben isaac; kalonymus ben judah ha-baḤur (the Younger), a paytan in Mainz at the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th, who witnessed the persecutions of 1096 and who wrote of them in many liturgical poems; kalonymus ben moses of lucca, a talmudic scholar, halakhist, and author of many responsa, who probably also emigrated to Mainz; kalonymus ben meshullam ha-parnas, the leader of the Mainz community during the persecutions of 1096, who was martyred with his whole community; kalonymus ben isaac ha-zaken (the Elder), a communal leader and halakhist, and the founder of the branch of the Kalonymus family which most influenced German Jewry during the 12th and 13th centuries; his son *samuel ben kalonymus he-Ḥasid, the founder of the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz, author of a part of Sefer Ḥasidim and other works; Samuel's son, *judah b. samuel he-Ḥasid, who was the principal leader of the Ḥasidei Ashkenaz and the author of Sefer Ḥasidim. Other descendants of Kalonymus ha-Zaken were *judah b. kalonymus b. meir of speyer, author of the monumental talmudic lexicon, Seder Yiḥusei Tanna'im ve-Amora'im; and *judah b. kalonymus b. moses of mainz, a talmudic scholar and a poet, who was the father of *Eleazar of Worms. Eleazar's children were murdered by the crusaders, probably terminating his family line. The descendants of Judah b. Samuel he-Ḥasid, however, carried on for at least three more generations, giving rise to such scholars as moses zaltman, son of Judah, who wrote a commentary on the Torah; *Eleazar b. Moses ha-Darshan, author of mystical and theological works; and moses b. eleazar, great-grandson of Judah he-Ḥasid. kalonymus ben gershon, a halakhist, also flourished in the 13th century. Among other paytanim of the Kalonymus family were *Meshullam ben Moses of the 11th century; moses ben meshullam of lucca (probably the ninth century); kalonymus ben meshullam of mainz, c. 1000; and notably *Meshullam b. Kalonymus of Rome of the tenth century, a paytan and halakhist who had contact with Gershom b. Judah, Me'or ha-Golah.

The name Kalonymus appears also among some families in Provence, where several great scholars and writers bear that name, for example the 13th-century writers Kalonymus ha-Nasi of Beaucaire and Kalonymus ben Kalonymus of Arles, author of Even Boḥan. However, it is not known whether the Provençal rabbis of this name were connected with the Italian-German family.


Zunz, Gesch, 104ff.; Landshuth, Ammudei, passim; S. Buber (ed.), Shibbolei ha-Leket (1887), introd.; Graetz, Gesch, 5 (18953), n. 12, 383–94; M. Guedemann, Ha-Torah ve-ha-Ḥayyim be-Arẓot ha-Ma'arav, 1 (1896; repr. 1968); J.A. Kamelhar, Ḥasidim ha-Rishonim (1917); J. Freimann, Mavo le-Sefer Ḥasidim (1924); J. Kamelhar, Rabbenu Eleazar mi-Germeiza (1930); Germ Jud; A. Aptowitzer, Mavo le-Sefer Ravyah (1938), 308ff.; A.M. Habermann, Piyyutei Rabbi Shimon ben-Rabbi Yiẓḥak ve-Rabbi Moshe ben-Rabbi Kalonymus (1938); idem, Gezerot Ashkenaz ve-Ẓarefat (1945); idem, Shirei ha-Yiḥud ve-ha-Kavod (1948); idem, Sefer Zekhirah le-Rabbi Efrayim ben Ya'akov (1970); B. Klar (ed.), Megillat Aḥima'aẓ (1944); G. Scholem, Reshit ha-Kabbalah (1948), 195–238; A. Epstein, Kitvei …, 1 (1950), 245–68; idem, Mi-Kadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim (1957), 211ff.; Urbach, Tosafot, 164f., 301f.; idem (ed.), Arugat ha-Bosem, 4 (1963), passim; Baron, Social2, 4 (1957), 46, 103f., 145, 273; 5 (1957), 60f.; J.L. Maimon, Sefer Yiḥusei Tanna'im ve-Amora'im me'et Rabbi Yehudah be-Rabbi Kalonymus mi-Speyer (1963); Roth, Dark Ages, index; J. Dan, Torat ha-Sod shel Ḥasidei Ashkenaz (1968), 14ff., 50–51; I. Perles, in: mgwj, 25 (1876), 372ff.; idem, in: Jubelschrift… H. Graetz (1887), 17ff.; A. Neubauer, in: rej, 23 (1891), 230–7; idem, in: jqr, 6 (1893/94), 348–54; D. Kaufmann, ibid., 4 (1892), 20–22; H. Gross, in: mgwj, 49 (1905), 692–700; M. Szulwas, in: Alummah, 1 (1936), 152–3; A.J. Bruck, in: hj, 9 (1947), 159–77; A.J. Zuckerman, in: paajr, 33 (1965), 51ff.; M. Grabois, in: Tarbiz, 36 (1967), 49ff. add. bibliography: K.R. Stow, in: Cross Cultural Convergences in the Crusader Period (1995), 319–34.

[Joseph Dan]