Moses Porges-Spiro (1781-1870)
(from 1841: Edler [Sir] von Portheim)
About life at the Frankistenhof in Offenbach
English translation by Arnold Von der Porten
(great great grandson of Leopold Porges von Portheim)
The original manuscript,
in gothic German,
is conserved at The Leo Baeck Institute (New York)
Notes by the translator are shown in brackets
N.B. This essay is mentioned on page 11 of the book
"Frank and the
a Story about Sects During the Last Half of the Past Century"
Dr. H. Graetz (Breslau, 1868.)
was born on December 22nd, 1781.
My father, Morenu Rabbi Gabriel
Porges, was very learned in Judaism, a virtuous and righteous man.
Unlike many other learned Jews, he was also well acquainted with
the Christian teaching.
He was a pleasant, good man and he never
used corporal punishment on his children.
mother was a kindhearted woman.
She managed the business that supported
Father paid little attention to the business.
a scholar and gave lectures.
The business was the production of
rossoli and the sale of brandy.
was customary in those days, I was taught Hebrew and to translate
In my 7th year I was enrolled in the Israeli-German School.
I left it when I was only in my 11th year.
Because of my lively
temperament, my attendance at the school was not a diligent one.
In the summers I went swimming in the Moldau and in the winters
I played on the ice instead of going to school.
When I left school,
I still wanted to study but my elder brother, a philosophy student
at the time, objected and persuaded my parents so that they would
not give me permission.
Now I was without an occupation or studies.
Thanks to kindly support from my dear mother, I was placed in a
position where I could access books, such as by Lessing, Mendelsohn
and Schiller, also by Cramer, Spiess and such like, besides that
historical and geographic works.
I have to thank my self-instruction
for the little bit of knowledge that I possess.
after my 14th year my father called me into his room and asked me
in a solemn way if I believed that the Torah's revelations contained
all that was necessary for our salvation and eternal happiness here
and the life beyond.
Until this hour I had been quite a believing
Jew, even though doubts and reservations had arisen.
He told me
in a solemn tone:
There exists, besides the Torah, a holy book, the Sohar, which
reveals to us the secrets which are merely hinted at in the Torah
and which challenges us and directs us towards spiritual completeness.
It directs us as to how to achieve that goal.
There are many noble
people who have devoted themselves to this new teaching.
from mental and political pressure is their aim, it is their goal.
God has revealed Himself in long past as well as in modern times.
To you, my son, everything shall be revealed.
Mr. Noe Kassowitz,
one of our own, shall instruct you.
dissolved into tears, kissed my father's hand countless times and
I felt elevated, now belonging to a higher, nobler class of mankind.
would be superfluous to go into the details of the instructions
What is significant is that he informed me that in
recent times a messenger from God, by the name of Jakob Frank of
Czenstochau, Polish by birth but who lived quite a while in Turkey,
revealed himself as the Messiah.
He gathered about him many respected
Jewish scholars who believed in him and honored and worshipped him.
He acquired a lot of followers whom he captivated by a lot of prophecies,
promises of spiritual and physical salvation, and especially an
Officials were informed of this and sentenced
him to prison so that he spent quite a while in the fortress Czenstochau.
Finally released, he became a Christian, as did his family and a
great many of his followers.
After a while he appeared in Prosznitz
in Moravia under the name Baron Frank, in glitter and splendor.
He even had a detachment of guards who surrounded his carriage when
he went out.
It is known that Emperor Josef II visited him there.
From Prosznitz he moved to Offenbach where he moved into his own
house and gathered about him a great number of his followers, mostly
acceptance of another persuasion is an important step.
It is of
great consequence for the rest of the life of that person.
step is taken because of conviction, then that step should be termed
honorable, but if it is taken because of a delusion by a passion,
the goal of which could be reached only by that step, then it must
lead to misery and bitter reproach when eventually the passion has
dissipated and is followed by calm reasoning.After
Frank's death his daughter assumed the leadership of the faithful
under the name, "Geriza." [Chewise.]
She was no longer
She was assisted by her two brothers, Roch and Josef.
is impossible to describe the impression this revelation made on
me, a young, lively youth in search of truth.
The yearning after
the "holy camp" in Offenbach took hold of me in such a
way that I became restless and had no other thought but to undertake
the journey there.
However, how could I accomplish this, since I
lacked all means and my good father
could not provide them?
inducement was prompted by an army recruiting drive in 1798.
along with most other German States and England went to war against
France to quell the effects of the French Revolution of 1789 and
the republican zeal. After Napoleon's conquest of most of Europe,
that war ended with Napoleon's defeat at the battle of Leipzig on
October 18, 1813 and also at Waterloo in 1815.]
young men were being hauled out of their beds at night, it caused
me to hide out at an acquaintance's house (Salomon Brandeis).
escape the danger [of conscription,] it was decided after a few
weeks that I should emigrate to Germany.
Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic. During the time of
Moses Porges-Spiro, Prague was the capital of the Austrian province
Bohemia. It is interesting to note that he did not consider Austria
as part of Germany although the capital of Germany at that time
was still Vienna and the Emperor Josef II of Hapsburg was King of
Hungary, Emperor of Austria and Emperor of Germany.]
I could not emigrate legitimately, I was to accompany a merchant
by the name of Katz to Teplitz.
He was waiting for me in front of
the Strachower Gate.
When we arrived in Teplitz he directed me to
an old Jew from Soboten who spirited me across the mountains along
smugglers' paths to Saxony.
For this he wanted 2f., a "Species-Taler"
[a coin], which I gladly gave him.
I stood on the peak of Geiersberg [Vulture Mountain], a seventeen
year old youth, absolutely alone, formerly accustomed to live surrounded
by loving parents and siblings being cared for by my mother's gentle
Forsaken by everyone, I stood surrounded by forest.
however the goal of my now commenced journey, Offenbach, sustained
Should the suffering and privations which I was to overcome
be the test of my faith in the new teachings?
I had been given 60
f. in gold and silver from my family. Besides that I had 3 f. in
Zealous with faith, I vowed to spend only those last
3 f. on my journey to Offenbach, even if I were to go hungry or
would have to beg, in order to give the 60 f. as an offering to
the Divine Lady, [Geriza/Chewise.]
courage and determination I journeyed on and in the evening I arrived
in Fürstenau, a village in Saxony.
After a sparse, but much
enjoyed, supper, I was given a bed of straw in the large taproom
of the inn.
Tired, I lay down and was soon asleep. Around midnight
a lot of noise suddenly awoke me. A man, (in my fantasy, of giant
proportions,) stepped into the taproom with a powerful stick and
a pack on his back.
Behind him came another one like him and many
more, until the room was full.
My apprehension and fear were those
of an inexperienced youth of seventeen.
After an hour the men left
the room, having enjoyed a lot of beer and spirits.
Later I found
out that they were smugglers.
the morning I continued my journey to Dresden.
Overnight I rested
in a village and around midday I arrived in Dresden.
I suffered unpleasantness and insult.
I had to pay Jew tax.
the privilege of being born a Jew, just about everywhere in Germany
one had to pay body duty, just like the dear cattle.
Then my backpack
The customs officer noticed that my sleeping cap had
never been used.
I had to pay duty on it and a fine [for not declaring
That exhausted my small funds.
Jonathan Eibenschuetz had been recommended to me.
He was one of
He was a handsome young man, but he was practically deaf and
One could hardly understand him.
After he had read the
letter of recommendation, he kissed me and shook my hand and invited
me to be his guest.
While I stayed with him in Dresden he housed
me and fed me and he procured a passport showing that I was a Saxon
subject, so that I would no longer have to pay the miserable Jew
I stayed the Easter Holidays in Dresden.
When I took leave
from Mr. E. this pleasant, kindly man gave me two Reichstaler. [Talers
of the realm, quite a bit of pocket money]
glorious spring weather I left Dresden and continued my journey
on foot to Offenbach, exhilarated and full of enthusiasm that I
was going to reach my goal.
At first, because of this elation, I
progressed easily even though I had to carry a heavy pack.
evening I arrived in Meissen singing.
I enjoyed my supper and slept
on a straw bed until early morning, even though my feet hurt and
they had open sores.
I got up from the bed but I could not walk.
I could not even put on my boots.
A sad situation when one hurries
to such a goal so impatiently.
I had no choice but to continue bare
foot with swollen, painful feet, on my way to Leipzig.
in front of that city on my third day.
The previous nights I had
stayed in Oschatz and Wurzen.
was not permitted to go through Leipzig.
A policeman escorted me
around the town to the road to Weimar.
I trudged along that road
Tortured by pain and hunger, I lay down in the
road feeling discouraged and weak.
When I had lain there for about
an hour, a carriage from Leipzig came by.
As it came near, I pulled
myself together and saw that the carriage was empty.
I asked the
teamster where he was headed.
Weimar," he said.
"That is where I am going too. Would you take me along?"
"Yes," he replied.
"What must I pay you?" I asked. "I am poor, I can't
pay very much."
"Just get inside. I'm sure we'll come to some agreement."
put my pack into the carriage and got inside.
The carriage started
to move and rolled on.
What a glorious feeling, after so many torturous
pains, to ride along quickly in a comfortable carriage for more
than 12 miles! [These miles do not correspond to American miles.]
was night when we arrived at Weissenfels.
The teamster halted at
Two waiters, each with a lamp in hand, came out to lift
the newly arrived guest out of the carriage.
[Carriages in those
days had no, or next to no, springs and the roads were unpaved,
therefore guests often arrived so stiff that they could not walk
unaided for a while.]
When they saw me one of them said,
one belongs in the inn, not here!"
My kindly teamster directed
me there and promised to pick me up early [in the morning.]
consisted of a piece of black bread and a glass of beer.
without interruption on my bed of straw and woke early, refreshed
I did not have to wait long.
My travelling companion
arrived, shoved my baggage and me into the carriage and we continued
traveled all day, except at noon, when we stopped to feed the horses.
That night we stayed in a village and the next morning we traveled
At around 10 a.m. we approached Weimar.
Some distance from the
town the teamster asked me to get out.
After I had pushed out my
baggage ahead of me I hesitantly left the carriage.
What would the
teamster ask for compensation or payment?
Apprehensively I asked
what I owed.
There are no words with which I can express my joyful
surprise when this humane teamster asked for 20 kr., with the remark
that he only wanted what he had laid out for me.
walked through Weimar [Turenia] without stopping and in the evening
I arrived in Gotha.
I turned in at an inn, where I had beer and
In the adjoining room a table had been set for a large party.
It looked very festive. Various roasts, cakes, fruit and various
other dishes were laid out.
They would be celebrating the baptism
of a child.
Since I had left Dresden I had not eaten any meat.
food smelled delicious.
Then the lady of the house came to me and
"I see it in your face that you are a child of good parents,"
and she placed a plate before me with roast meat, eggs and pastry.
next afternoon I arrived at the gates of Erfurt [Turenia].
days it had an Austrian garrison.
Here I was stopped and ordered
to pay 2fl. Jew Tax.
No remonstration helped, not even my suggestion
that I wouldn't pass through Erfurt.
They impounded my baggage.
Finally the tax collector acceded to my request to be taken to see
the City Captain.
A soldier escorted me there.
He was not at home,
rather he was visiting a Baroness.
I requested to be taken there
and was admitted.
When the City Captain asked me what I wanted,
I explained to him how unjust it was to demand 2 fl. tax off a journey-man
just travelling through, simply because he happened to be of the
He replied that that was the law of the land.
"A tax-collector may say that, but he, as an enlightened
high official, would have to admit that this tax is meant for Jews
who trade and do business, but not for transient, poor, young, journey-men,
The City Captain kept insisting.
Then the Baroness spoke
up, and said in French,
"the young man is right.
It would be
cruel to demand such a considerable payment, which is so intolerant."
Then the City Captain gave me a written document that exempted me
from all such taxes.
That evening I arrived in Gotha. [the Saxe
further adventures, I continued on the road to Offenbach via Eisenach,
through Hesse to Hanau, arriving about noon.
The hope of reaching
Offenbach before evening made me walk very fast.
The mood and excitement
I experienced is impossible to describe.
meeting of the faithful in Offenbach was called "Mähne"
[camp], in remembrance of the camp of the Israelites under Moses.
That very day I hoped to arrive at this "Mähne" and
In the evening, after dark, I arrived in Offenbach,
an open city [i.e. it had no walls or gate.]
It was raining.
for the Polish Court and was directed to the other end of the city,
to a stately house.
I was in tears of religious fervor as I entered
the holy house.
I climbed a few steps and pulled the bell cord.
The door was opened.
A young man in Turkish garb received me, embraced
me and kissed me, called me brother and told me that I was expected.
Several Maminim [followers] gathered about me, among them an older
Mami [follower] of venerable appearance with already-white hair.
He wore the uniform of a colonel and called himself Consky.
led me to his room on the second floor. [in North America it would
be called the 'third floor' since in Europe the ground-level floor
is known as the 'ground floor' followed by 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.]
He assured me that he would always be available to give fatherly
advice and support.
He instructed me in how to act when I had the
expected audience with the holy mother.
That very evening many Maminim
[followers,] old and young, visited me.
following day I was called to the audience before the Chewise [Divine
She lived on the first floor. [2nd floor, American]
antechamber, I was received by a lady-in-waiting.
I had to wait
for a while.
How excited I was and how my heart pounded!
the door opened and I entered.
I did not dare look into the face
of the Chewise.
I knelt before her and kissed her foot, as I had
She spoke a few kindly words, praising my father
and praising my resolve to come to the court.
When I left I placed
my little bag which contained the 60 f. in gold and silver on a
table and walked backwards through the door.
The impression which
the Chewise made on me was favorable, that of an exalted person.
Her lovely face expressed kindness, understanding and dignity, her
eyes, holiness and enthusiasm.
She was advanced in age, yet still
lovely in appearance, her hands and feet charming.
As I found out
later, she had received me with grace.
I was assigned to the "Liberia,"
the highest order, namely with the mostly young people who attend
the three high persons at table, and daily when they rode out [in
a carriage] and on Sundays in Church.
We lived together in one room.
This often gave me the opportunity, especially at table, to observe
the Masters closely.
I was given a hunter's uniform and instead
of a hat, a sort of helmet of green leather with metal platelets.
It was considered a great honor to be a member of this corps.
often served at table.
My place was to stand behind the chair of
The hall, where the meals were taken, was fairly large.
Three of us were selected to serve the three Masters.
ones were detailed each day.
After their meal was finished, we ate
Since all residents of the house and also those who
did not live in the house received their midday meal from the common
kitchen and since that meal consisted of vegetables and a very poor
quality soup, I enjoyed the leftovers all the more.
Sunday there was a church parade.
We, in uniform, had to take part.
My company consisted of members of the sect only.
I was drawn especially
to the older ones.
Among those were many venerable gentlemen, some
of them quite old, such as Wolwsky, Dembitzky, Matuschewsky and
The young men, especially my roommates, according to
their expressions, were very pious, but in the manner of young people,
frivolous, and despite the proper form and manners, did not take
things too seriously.
There was no contact with the opposite sex.
Marriage was strictly prohibited.
Yes, even one morning a notice
was given that anyone who felt a yearning for a woman should ask
for 10 lashes with a switch!
Almost all of the young men had themselves
At this point I must mention that almost daily visions were
reported by the three Masters in turn.
These were entered in a book.
Copies were made of entries.
Every day we were drilled by a Polish
However, all firearms and sabers were hidden when
the French occupied Offenbach in 1799.
the summer of 1798 three sons of Jonas Wehli arrived in Offenbach.
With them came my younger brother, Juda Leopold.
The Wehlis were
well-educated and well-mannered young men.
Their names were Abraham,
Jontof and Ekiba.
They were now given the names Joseph, Ludwig and
My brother was given the name Carl the younger.
He was seventeen,
dependent on others and was instructed to learn to become a barber.
autumn that same year, my good father arrived in the company of
Mr. Jonas and Mr. Aron Bur Wehli.
I was overcome with joy to see
my dear, beloved father again.
The three highly respected and learned
men were received solemnly and ceremoniously by every one of the
Maninim [followers] and the next morning they were received by the
They laid sacrificial gifts at the feet of the Chewise,
the Wehli's in gold, which was received most joyfully.
My good father, who was not a man of means, brought
a bolt of batiste. [fine cloth.]
This present brought about the
beginning of the diminishment of my fanaticism.
In the end I became
convinced that everything about this place was a fraud and that
several hundred well-meaning people were taken advantage of by faked
religion, having been drawn here from hundreds of miles around,
to become impoverished and unhappy.
same year Mr. Salom Zerkowitz arrived in Offenbach.
He had once
been quite wealthy.
He brought with him quite a fortune, however,
he had to offer it up on command.
It consisted mostly of Austrian
State Papers, which I carried to Frankfurt where I had the old Rothschild
convert them to silver.
Mr. Zerkowitz was a good, honest man.
cried when he had to give up his last possessions.
to the dining room was the holy room.
In that room were the clothes
and the bed of the Holy Father - that is what they called Jakob
Frank, the father of the Chewise and her brothers.
That room was
kept dark, the windows were draped.
Here one prayed.
In front of
the bed, the believers knelt in deepest prayers.
You were permitted
to go in anytime during the day.
In front of the entrance of the
divine room, girls were posted as sentries, wearing Amazon dress
bearing musket and sword.
Usually beautiful young girls were chosen
for this duty.
I indicated above, I was hurt by a mocking remark that Joseph made
at table in my presence, concerning the present my father had made
as it was not very valuable.
I felt that one should not judge the
man by the value of his gift.
this moment on I started to think and observe.
In the beginning
I reproached myself for the negative thoughts and considered them
Who was I to doubt what so many worthy and honorable men
I entered the holy room and felt remorseful.
I found new reasons for more doubt and relapsed.
the residents of my room there was a young man from Dresden [capital
of Saxony] by the name of Johan Hoffinger.
He befriended me at this
time and after some preparations and sounding, he allowed me to
suspect that he did not agree with all of what was going on, or
had gone on.
When he was satisfied that I would not betray him,
he finally confided in me that he had reached the conclusion, after
long probing and reasoning, that a fraud of unbelievable proportions
was being perpetrated here and that the believers, who had brought
such great offerings, could not conceive of the idea that they were
the victims of a massive swindle.
Also, that they had been robbed
of all means by which to return to their far away homes.
such conversations, which we had quite often, we finally reached
the decision to escape.
we were lacking the means and had no cash at all, Hoffinger suggested
using methods that were not honorable nor compatible with the reputation
of our families.
I therefore wrote to my brother, Dr. Porges, and
informed him of my resolve to leave Offenbach.
I asked him to let
me know of a house in Frankfurt where we would be accepted and where
we would receive the means to continue our journey.
We were not
kept waiting [long] for an answer.
The family was delighted with
our resolve and directed us to a M. Neustadel in Frankfurt where
we would receive money and a friendly stay.
Now we could plan our
escape in earnest.
I informed my brother, [Leopold] of my resolve,
showed him the letter from our brother and he at once declared that
he wanted to follow me.
Now we conspired together as to how we could
We decided on this course of action because not
much earlier a Polish member of the congregation had been caught
[trying to leave] and was punished.
Since we often had to stand
night watch, I was able to arrange that Hoffinger and I would stand
Since we did not have much baggage, all of it could
be combined into one bundle.
evening before our flight one of the ladies in waiting summoned
me to see the Chewise.
It was already getting dark.
When I entered
the reception room, her favorite dog, a greyhound, which knew me
and had never before barked at me, attacked me viciously.
hour for being called and the exceptional attack by the dog frightened
I believed we had been discovered and betrayed.
I fell on my
The Chewise admonished the dog saying,
"What is wrong
with you today? Don't you know my dear Carl?
" She then addressed
me in Polish,
"I have noticed that your uniform is getting
You can go to Frankfurt tomorrow and order a new one for
" She asked me if I had any other desires.
I was so
moved by her exceptional kindness and grace that I almost confessed
She extended her hand for me to kiss and dismissed
I was crying when I left her, for I worshipped and loved this
I was nineteen at the time.
midnight I was relieved from my post.
I lay down. Around 3 a.m.
we got up and wrapped our few pieces of clothing and underwear in
I avoided taking anything that I had not brought with me.
Hoffinger and my brother followed my example.
At 4 a.m. I resumed
my sentry duty with Hoffinger.
We brought our belongings with us.
We stood at ground level in the hallway of the living quarters of
the Masters Bert and Joseph.
When my brother came down the stairs
we leaned our muskets into a corner and entered the courtyard with
our hearts pounding with the most profound excitement.
We were exposed
to the danger that the teamster or the stable help might catch us.
From there into the garden, we climbed over a [wooden] board wall
and were free.
This so-called Polish Court lay at the outskirts
of the town.
We ran towards the nearby forest.
arrived in Frankfurt via Oberrath at around six o'clock.
whose whereabouts we found by questioning, received us very kindly.
He let us stay and fed us and gave me the money that he had received
from our family.
The very same day we obtained clothes for my brothers
and me. [The use of the term 'brother' included Hoffinger.]
next morning we took a coach to Seeligens Hof and from there through
the Spessart forest to Eselbach, where we stayed overnight.
we experienced fear of being robbed by several men who came out
of the forest in front of the coach.
Our teamster stopped the coach
and pointed tremblingly at the men who took up positions on the
Just then we heard the post coach man blow his horn behind
He quickly came up to us and the men retreated into the forest.
We continued our journey to Eselbach in the company of the protecting
home we had been advised to go to Fürth and there wait for
From Eselbach we walked via Würzburg to
On the road from Eselbach to Würzburg I suddenly
felt such a gnawing hunger that weakened me so terribly that I could
not continue and I had to lie down.
Fortunately some farm women
came along and gave me a piece of bread.
Later doctors explained
to me that if I had not received something to eat then, I would
never have gotten up again and I would have perished.
When we arrived
in Fürth we three took lodging at an inn.
was without any means and he was sustained by the money that we
had received from our family.
I must go into an earlier event.
the night of our flight from Offenbach, Hoffinger committed a dishonest
He absconded with the key to the safe which Joseph Wehli (Johann
Klarenberg) kept under his pillow and also the account book and
a book container.
[When I discovered this,] I made him hand the
book over to me, as he could have used it to make mischief.
Hoffinger had done in Offenbach he repeated in Fürth.
the night he took the above mentioned account book, which I had
hidden under my pillow, and he disappeared.
He sold the book to
a son-in-law of J. Zerkowitz who lived in Fürth.
did not make any harmful use of this book.
had letters of recommendation to several gentlemen in Fürth,
among them one to Mr. Moses Gosdorf.
We were most cordially received
by him and invited for dinner.
From home we had been advised to
remain in Fürth until we received orders to start our journey
Over the Whitsuntide holidays [the week beginning with Whit
Sunday, the seventh Sunday after Easter, also known as Pentecost
Sunday] we remained in Fürth [in Bavaria].
After the holidays
we were summoned by the police and were ordered to leave Fürth
within 48 hours.
I found out that this had been initiated by the
elders of the Jewish community.
Through Mr. Gosdorf, I found out
that we were being expelled because I had let myself be shaved with
No remonstrations helped.
We had to leave Fürth.
walked to a suburb of Nürnberg since Jews were not permitted
to stay in the city proper.
From there, we were able to retrieve
the letters from home that we had requested to be sent to Fürth.
Finally we were advised to start our journey home, which we did
When we arrived at the last Bavarian border town, Weithaus,
I was given a note not to cross the Austrian border as we would
run the risk of being impressed as recruits.
We were advised to
go to Bayreuth with a letter of recommendation enclosed to a Mr.
just want to mention an incident that occurred in Nürnberg's
suburb, Gostenhof, while we were having a glass of beer and a buttered
slice of bread at midday at an inn.
A guest, who was easily recognizable
as a Jew, asked whether we were Jews.
I said, "yes".
he cursed us with most profane language, that we should suffer a
miserable "Meshune," a disgraceful death, because we ate
with a knife and butter from a "Goi." [unflattering word
for a non-Jew] I called the landlord and told him that this Jew
was cursing us because we were using the landlord's knife, [and
I asked] whether it was really so unclean in the inn.
the landlord grabbed the dear Jew and threw him out.
traveled to Bayreuth at once and arrived there the next morning.
Mr. Enzel was a stately, handsome man.
He received us kindly and
after reading our letter of recommendation, he invited us to live
Two beautifully furnished rooms were offered to us and
this noble man gave us breakfast, lunch and dinner.
that he could not join us at meal times, as he was in deep mourning
over the loss of his wife.
She had been beautiful and kindly and
he had loved her with all of his heart.
He was quite disconsolate.
The stay at Mr. Enzel's suited us very well.
Our sojourn in Bayreuth
was very pleasant.
We hardly ever saw Mr. Enzel.
After a stay of
four weeks, Mr. Enzel sent for me and told me that lack of occupation
and idleness is very detrimental for such young people.
reason he had asked a friend in Hamburg on our behalf, and he had
already found employment for us and we could start at once.
thanked him for his well meaning intentions and answered that I
first had to obtain the consent of our parents.
When that consent
was not given, and we were given hope that we could soon return
home, I informed Mr. Enzel to that effect.
He declared that since
we were unwilling to take his well-intentioned suggestion, we should
leave his house.
He promised to give us a letter of recommendation
to Baron W. the owner of the estate Emet near Burgundstadt.
receive us hospitably, as he was a friend of his.
took to the road.
It was during the month of August on a very hot
Close to midday we passed Burgundstadt.
As we approached the
city I had taken off my jacket and laid it atop the backpack I was
In the jacket pocket, I had a purse containing about 40
f. From Burgundstadt to Emet one has to climb quite a steep mountain.
When we had climbed half the distance, I asked my brother Leopold,
who was walking behind me,
"Is my jacket still lying on top
of the backpack?"
"No, you have lost it," he replied.
I was thunderstruck.
The money in the jacket was all that we had.
I threw myself to the ground.
My legs could not support me.
brother Leopold ran down the mountain, through Burgundstadt.
asked everyone he met [about the jacket] but without success.
went outside the city gate and someone asked him what he was looking
for, and when he answered him, the latter took him to a tanner who
had found the jacket.
At first the tanner tried to deny that he
had seen the jacket.
Upon the remonstrations by Leopold, and the
explanation as to how unfortunate and miserable we were, the tanner
fetched the jacket and the purse was still in the pocket.
to give a few 'gulden' to the finder.
Who can describe my joy when
I saw my brother running up the mountain holding the jacket high!
afternoon we reached Emet, a small village.
At once I went to the
manor house to deliver my letter.
I was shown into the garden.
were two gentlemen, one wearing expensive clothes and orders, the
other wearing a housecoat.
The latter asked me what I wanted.
"I have to deliver
a letter to the Baron."
took it and broke the seal.
The other gentleman came closer, looked at the letter and asked
"Who is the writer
who addresses you as `dear friend'?"
the Baron said :
"It is Mr. Enzel in Bayreuth."
"What, a Jew, dares to call you `friend'?"
is a friend of Minister Hardenberg."
Baron told me to come back the following day.
When I arrived the
next day, he reprimanded me for giving him Mr. Enzel's letter in
the presence of his brother, the Counselor of the Realm.
to me in the Jewish dialect.
Finally he said to me :
"As a favor to
my friend Enzel, who gave you the very best recommendation, I
will let you stay here.
You can build a house for yourselves,
engage in commerce, and also I shall provide a Jewish Beshaiim
[cemetery] where you can have yourselves buried."
felt quite abandoned in this little village.
There were a few poor
Jewish families there, among them a man from Bohemia who was sympathetic
Since we said that we expected letters calling us home soon,
he gave us advice to take "pletten", namely we, as destitute
indigents, should be supported by the Jewish congregation in the
After persistent repetition of that advice we promised to
Our advisor wrote down the names of the settlements where
there were Jewish communities.
Thereupon we started on our journey.
A depressing feeling of shame overcame us at our first attempt.
The hosts whom we looked up were mainly cattle dealers and not at
home during the week - all were poor people.
We were received by
the women of the house, given soup and bread in the evening and
a place to sleep.
In the morning, soup again and a few kreuzer [pennies].
We soon got tired of this and gave up.
received a letter from home that directed us to go to Bamberg to
introduce ourselves to the local head of the Jewish congregation,
Mr. Abraham Wenzedlitz.
This was in the year 1800 in September.
We were approaching the theater of war.
The French had passed Regensburg
and the Austrians stood in Bamberg.
The villages through which we
traveled were occupied by Austrian soldiers.
Late in the evening
we arrived at a fairly large village near Bamberg.
We wanted to
turn in at the first guest house but we were not admitted.
thing happened at the second one.
When we were also turned back
by the third guest house - it was an old man - we pointed out to
him what a wicked deed it was to abandon us to the night and bad
Finally after our long entreaties he said that we were
He did not believe our assurances that we were Austrians.
Now we told him :
"We are Jews."
"Show me the
could not show them to him as we did not have them. There upon the
landlord brought out a loaf of bread.
"What do you
call this in Hebrew?"
I said, and the good old man was satisfied.
relieved our hunger and thirst with lechem, butter and beer.
By the next midday we had reached Bamberg.
We went at once to Mr.
Abraham Wenzedlitz and gave him our letter of recommendation.
reading the letter, he received us cordially and invited us to stay
with him in his residence.
Mr. A. W. was an old unassuming man,
all Jewish in speech and dress, but very hospitable and charitable.
He invited us to eat with him on Saturdays and holidays.
a very pious, religious man.
The evening he came home from the synagogue
on the Day of Atonement, he invited us to go with him up into the
attic and...be 'mekadish', i.e. to sanctify the moon by prayer,
something which we had never done before.
When the good man pronounced
his ashkenazic Hebrew, we had to suppress our laughter.
he gave a hopping and skipping show with the Sholem Alechem we could
not refrain from laughing and our suppressed laughter just burst
The good, old man froze with surprise.
He left us and the next
morning we were requested to leave his house.
that time we had received a letter from home instructing us to travel
There, then, was the annual trade-show, and from there,
if possible, we should travel home.
If impossible, then we should
go to Frankfurt on the Oder, where we had relatives.
early the next morning, we started our journey.
We planned to reach
Bayreuth by nightfall.
That same evening we succeeded to reach the
last village before Bayreuth.
There, in front of his inn stood the
landlord. He advised us not to go any further as a thunderstorm
We thanked him for his good advice and, as we believed
that he wanted us to become paying guests, we continued on our journey.
We had hardly walked for another one and a quarter hours when the
weather burst upon us with all its fierceness.
It had become so
dark that we strayed from the road and found ourselves in a little
forest in which trees had been dug up.
We stumbled into holes and
were up to our waist in water.
Besides being soaked through from
falling into the holes, the cloud burst drenched us from the top.
We were lost for quite a while when at last we noticed a light in
We hurried there.
When we came closer we found it
was a guest house where lively music was playing.
who met us in the hall, refused to let us in.
She had no room for
us and besides there wouldn't be any quiet, as they were celebrating
a wedding which would last all night.
She suggested that we walk
on some distance where we could stay at the "Fantasy."
There we would find a restful night.
The "Fantasy" is
an entertainment center not far from Bayreuth.
When we arrived there
we found the landlord all alone because his family was in town and
he had no guests.
We were, as mentioned before, completely drenched.
I asked the landlord to heat the oven.
As there was
nothing else prepared, I ordered bread, butter and a glass of beer.
My brother Leopold did not want to eat anything.
He preferred to
I had hardly started to eat a few bites when I heard
I turned around and saw my brother lying on the floor.
He was unconscious. I called the landlord and asked him to call
We carried my unconscious brother one flight up into a
We undressed him and had to cut his boots off his feet.
story ends here.]
Hannah Rochel Verbermacher, a Hasidic
holy woman known as the Maiden of Ludmir, was born in early-nineteenth-century
Russia and became famous as the only woman in the three-hundred-year
history of Hasidism to function as a rebbe--or charismatic
leader--in her own right. Nathaniel Deutsch follows the traces
left by the Maiden in both history and legend to fully explore
her fascinating story for the first time. The Maiden of Ludmir
offers powerful insights into the Jewish mystical tradition,
into the Maiden's place within it, and into the remarkable
Jewish community of Ludmir. Her biography ultimately becomes
a provocative meditation on the complex relationships between
history and memory, Judaism and modernity.
History first finds the Maiden in the
eastern European town of Ludmir, venerated by her followers
as a master of the Kabbalah, teacher, and visionary, and
accused by her detractors of being possessed by a dybbuk,
or evil spirit. Deutsch traces the Maiden's steps from Ludmir
to Ottoman Palestine, where she eventually immigrated and
re-established herself as a holy woman. While the Maiden's
story--including her adamant refusal to marry--recalls the
lives of holy women in other traditions, it also brings to
light the largely unwritten history of early-modern Jewish
women. To this day, her transgressive behavior, a challenge
to traditional Jewish views of gender and sexuality, continues
to inspire debate and, sometimes, censorship within the Jewish
Nathaniel Deutsch, The Maiden of Ludmir
A Jewish Holy Woman and Her World
An S. Mark Taper Foundation Book in Jewish Studies
Moses and his younger brother, Leopold, eventually settled in Prague
where they successfully established the first local factory to manufacture
cotton cloth. Until then, cotton cloth had been imported from England.
For this, in 1841, the brothers were knighted by Kaiser Franz Joseph
I, Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Emperor of Germany.
Henceforth these two brothers were known by the title Edler (Sir)
von Portheim. Leopold became an extremely wealthy man.
He was the great-great-grandfather of the translator, Arnold Von
Arnold Von der
Porten is the author of the Nine Lives of Arnold
Arnold, son of the prominent Dr. Paul Maximilian
and Martha Dora von der Porten, was born in Hamburg, Germany.
He saw the rise of Hitler.
Several of his relatives were murdered by the Nazis during
Arnold escaped as his father sent him from Germany with 100
Reichmarks and a trunk full of clothes.
He went to England, then Jamaica, British West Indies, and
finally to the United States.
This is the story of the struggle of a refugee through hardships,
poverty, internment in Jamaica, and eventual success.
Arnold's memoirs give a personal account of historical events
from 1917 to 1953.
1stBooks Library, 5/31/2001
More about Jacob Frank and
the Frankists, here