Schudt, Johann Jakob°

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SCHUDT, JOHANN JAKOB ° (1664–1722), German Christian Hebraist, pedagogue, and Orientalist from Frankfurt am Main. The son of a Lutheran priest, Schudt studied theology in Wittenberg, and in 1684 went to Hamburg to study Oriental languages, including Hebrew. In 1689 he returned to Frankfurt, where he served in different positions in the local gymnasium, becoming its rector in 1717.

Schudt devoted himself especially to the fields of Hebrew and Jewish history and antiquities. He became interested in the Jews, their customs and history through his Oriental studies and meetings with Jews in Hamburg and Frankfurt. Another factor accounting for his interest was his desire to convert Jews to Christianity. The writing of what later became his most renowned work, Juedische Merkwuerdigkeiten ("Jewish Peculiarities," 1714–18), was motivated by the great fire of the Frankfurt ghetto on Jan. 14, 1711. The work consists of four volumes. The first volume is a detailed account of Jewish communities all over the world. In the second volume, which is devoted to an ethnographic depiction of the Jews of Frankfurt, Schudt provides detailed and mostly first-hand information about their history, ways of life, customs, professions, language, and clothing. The third volume contains Yiddish poems, such as the account of the Vincent *Fettmilch disturbances, a Purim play and comedy, and legislation concerning Frankfurt Jewry. The fourth volume contains supplements to the first three.

Although Schudt stated that his aim was to seek the truth and avoid all preconceived opinion, he drew upon doubtful sources which presented the Jews in an unfavorable light, and often referred to *Eisenmenger's Entdecktes Judentum. Thus he transmitted such contemporary prejudices as that Jews were predisposed to usury and cheating, deploring their supposed insolence and pride, and their foetor Judaens ("Jewish stench"). However, he was skeptical of the *blood libel and the alleged desecrating of the *Host. When Schudt presents actual reports, especially those dealing with the Jews of Frankfurt, his books are an important historical source for the life and culture of the German Jews in the 17th century. Among his many works one should also note Compendium historiae judaicae (1700), Vita Jephtae (1701), and Juedisches Franckfurter und Prager Freuden-Fest (1716).

add. bibliography:

Y. Deutsch, "Johann Jacob Schudt – Der erste Ethnograph der juedischen Gemeinde in Frankfurt am Main," in: F. Backhaus et al. (eds.), Die Frankfurter Judengasse (2005), 57–65; C.J. Joecher, Allgemeines Gelehrten Lexicon (Leipzig 1751; repr. 1961), 368–9; H. Schreckenberg, Die christlichen Adversus-Judaeos-Texte und ihr literarisches und historisches Umfeld (13.–20. Jh.). (1994), 704–5; B. Suchy, Lexikographie und Juden im 18. Jahrhundert (1979), 12–13.

[Reuven Michael /

Aya Elyada (2nd ed.)]