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104. So-Called Jewish Community Seal of Fürth

Dimensions: unknown.

Location: unknown.

Bibliography: Wuerfel, 1754, p. 71; Steinschneider, 1872, p. 92.

Moritz Steinschneider, referring to an earlier book by Andreas Wuerfel on the Jewish community at Fürth, stated that there was a Fürth seal of this community. Wuerfel’s statement was itself apparently a quotation from Jewish sources:

Since all households will have to use the community flour for their matzoh, every person should notify the Charity Collectors and pay for as much flour as needed. After payment he is to receive a note with the community seal which states how much flour the holder is to be given. The rich then pay sufficiently to let the poor have their share free of charge and to reward the Charity Trustees for their efforts.

A note after the phrase “the community seal,” however, informs Wuerfel’s reader that these seals were in reality small absorbent papers, resembling the thin cardboard beer coasters still used in Germany. On the center of these coasters, shaped like the Shield of David, the Hebrew letters (“Holy Congregation of Fürth”) were printed. The function of this “community seal,” it would seem, was as a paper charity token, similar to the metal sheḥitah tokens presented by the person bringing a fowl to the shoḥet for slaughtering. The money raised from the sale of those tokens went to the religious school or to the poor of the community. It appears certain that Steinschneider is in error; in any case, the interesting custom described was one of Andreas Wuerfel’s time, that is, the eighteenth century, and is not known in the medieval period.

E. Ammon, the present administrative head of the Fürth archives, has informed this writer that he knows of no medieval Jewish community seal, and the historical evidence seems to back up his statement. Scattered Jews appear in the records of Fürth from the fifteenth century, but it was not until the late sixteenth century that one could point to an organized Jewish community there. In fact, Fürth only started to develop as one of the great Jewish centers in Germany at about the time of Wuerfel’s study.

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