On 20 December 1884, the executive board of the Israelite congregation of Lübeck wrote to the Chief Rabbi of Hamburg, Anschel Stern, officially appointing him as an honorary member. The positive developments in Lübeck since the emancipation legislation, above all the formation of the most important congregation organizations and a relatively balanced budget, had only been possible thanks to the support of its Hamburg sister city. By awarding the honorary membership to Anschel Stern, the Lübeck Jewish congregation wished to gratefully acknowledge a “loyal friend and advocate.” Archive of the Hansa City Lübeck (AHL): School and Religious Administration 0904. Israelite Community, Various, 1865-1970.
The extant three page transcript forms part of a document bundle consisting mainly of official correspondence, which resides in the Archive of the Hansa City Lübeck. Within the School and Religious Administration portfolio 0904 various congregation files for the years 1865 to 1970 can be found.
The Israelite congregation of Lübeck had originated as an Orthodox uniform congregation. Its predecessors since the middle of the 17th century consisted entirely of rural Jews settled in near-by Moisling. Only after the Emancipation of 1852 were they allowed entry into the Hansa City; in the following years they completely relocated to Lübeck. Between 1870 and 1919, they were led by Rabbi Salomon Carlebach, father of the later Chief Rabbi of Hamburg, Joseph Carlebach.
Anschel Stern, also brought up in Orthodoxy, was born in 1820 in Steinbach (Electoral Hesse). In 1851 he succeeded Isaac Bernays as a rabbi in Hamburg. His early religious training was among others under Seligmann Bär Bamberger. Previously he had pursued Oriental Studies in Würzburg and subsequently worked as a rabbi and teacher of religion in Bad Homburg. In Hamburg his primary focus was on pedagogy. Stern performed noteworthy service as leader of the Talmud-Torah school, transforming it into a well-regarded modern secondary school. From 1867 until his death in 1888, Anschel Stern bore the title Chief Rabbi of Hamburg. In this capacity he supervised the German-Israelite Synagogue Association Deutsch-Israelitischer Synagogenverband, bringing together the Orthodox members of the Hamburg congregation.
When Salomon Carlebach and Esther Adler married in 1872, Stern conducted the marriage ceremony. The marriage produced twelve children, of whom five later became rabbis and three rabbis’ wives. Thus Salomon Carlebach can be regarded as the founder of one of the most important rabbinic families in Germany. His sons and sons-in-law were active as pedagogues and heads of religious communities in, among others, Leipzig, Cologne, Berlin, Bremen, Altona, and Hamburg. It was thanks to his initiative that Anschel Stern was awarded honorary membership in the Lübeck congregation.
The 1884 letter of appointment gave special attention to Anschel Stern’s service to the Lübeck congregation. It emphasized his lengthy engagement and his readiness to help in emergency situations, for example, by sending communal employees from Hamburg to the Lübeck congregation. In addition, the letter states, Stern was a faithful advisor to Lübeck’s Rabbi Salomon Carlebach and also cultivated friendly relations with his predecessor and father-in law, Alexander Sussmann Adler. Stern’s support was especially apparent when he personally took over leadership of religious services in Lübeck, filling the vacancy left by Adler’s death in 1869, and continuing until the appointment of the Orthodox affiliated Carlebach in June of 1870.
The Lübeck congregation executive board relied on an amendment to the congregation ordinance of 8 April 1868 in order to make the official appointment. Excluded only from exercising the active or passive voting rights, Stern was granted the same rights as any other dues-paying member without, however, being obliged to perform any communal duties. It was wished that the chief rabbi regard this honor “as visible testimony of the sincere gratitude by which the Israelite congregation of Lübeck paid tribute to the right honorable congregation of Hamburg and to its highly esteemed leader.” Archive of the Hansa City Lübeck (AHL): School and Religious Administration 0904. Israelite Community, Various, 1865-1970.
The source reflects the close relationship between the Jewish congregations of the sister cities Hamburg and Lübeck. Furthermore, it also reveals the influence of Chief Rabbi Anschel Stern beyond the confines of Hamburg. The Lübeck Jewish congregation’s award of honorary membership to Anschel Stern was intended to give symbolic expression to its connectedness to the neighboring community. Frequently, Lübeck, with scarcely 700 members as of 1895, oriented itself to the big city Jewish congregation of Hamburg. An example of this relationship can be seen in the statutes of the two Jewish congregations, especially in their statements regarding congregation membership. With the statutes that went into effect in Hamburg on 7 November 1867, the congregation had transformed and democratized itself in several respects. One congregation was created under the roof of which two religious associations were initially constituted: the liberal Temple Association Tempelverband and the orthodox Synagogue Association Synagogenverband. The separation of religious practice from administration, later designated as the “Hamburg System,” was new to Germany, with a similar system to be found only in Breslau. Moreover, in 1867, Hamburg was the only German Jewish congregation that constituted itself as a religious association with voluntary membership. It was not until 1876, on the basis of the Law of Withdrawal, that parochial compulsion was lifted (also in Prussia), affording members the possibility of leaving a Jewish congregation for religious reasons. Lübeck’s first organizational statutes had been adopted in 1865 and held firmly to the principle of compulsory membership. In the 1868 amendment to those statutes, the Hamburg example was followed, allowing new arrivals voluntary admission into the congregation as well as withdrawal from it for religious reasons. In a fresh motion to change the statutes put before the Lübeck Senate in 1889, the Hamburg ordinances were referenced as a model for these principles. Archive of the Hansa City Lübeck (AHL), New Senate Archive (NSA) 05880, Letter from the Community Executive Board to the Senate, March 4, 1889. Another indication of the intensive relations at the congregation level was the establishment of a Lübeck Talmud-Torah school and religious clubs, such as the Israelite Scholarship Association Israelitischer Stipendienverein, both on the Hamburg model. In addition there occasionally took place an exchange of congregation staff members from Hamburg to Lübeck and vice versa. As a result, Stern’s leadership of the Orthodox Synagogue Association Synagogenverband, within the German-Israelite congregation of Hamburg, functioned as a role model for Lübeck. Intimate relations between the two congregations were also fostered by the fact that several Jewish families, especially those that were well-off, frequently moved from Moisling and Lübeck to Hamburg, often for economic reasons. Nonetheless these families maintained contacts with their original communities, supporting them with religious donations and bequests. Archive of the Hansa City Lübeck (AHL), Schul- und Kultusverwaltung 0910, Legat Heymann Joseph Hess, 1873-1884.
The expression of thanks conferred by the honorary membership on Anschel Stern, his wife, and their young children was at first disallowed by the Lübeck Senate because its prior consent had not been sought. Thereupon, the executive board of the Israelite congregation of Lübeck formally petitioned the Senate for its retroactive approval. To this end a copy of Stern’s letter of appointment was attached, which can be found among the official documents of the Hansa City Lübeck. As a result, at the beginning of 1885, the Senate granted permission to the Israelite congregation to bestow honorary membership upon Hamburg’s chief rabbi. This was probably a singular event within the Israelite congregation of Lübeck, for no further awards of honorary membership are recorded. Anschel Stern’s response to the honor is not known.
Although the source alludes to the special role of Chief Rabbi Stern, it primarily demonstrates the influence of Hamburg’s Orthodox Synagogue Association Synagogenverband on the smaller Lübeck congregation. It also makes clear that close relations between Jewish communities already existed before the establishment of various amalgamated rabbinic organizations and associations. Above all, smaller communities, such as Lübeck’s, showed interest in interacting with big city communities regarding matters of religion and organization and in order to avoid isolation. An informal, personally-based network of Orthodox congregations and their rabbis had come into existence in the middle of the 19th century – at a time when Orthodox Jews were becoming a minority nationally.
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Nadine Garling, M.A., born 1980, realizes her PhD thesis in modern history at the University of Hamburg. She deals with the history of the Jewish community in Lübeck during the late 19th and early 20th century. Before she worked for the Jewish Museum Berlin. Her research interest covers German-Jewish history in the 19th and early 20th century, especially the process of religious pluralization and the history of Jewish communities in Northern Germany as well as the development of German Zionism.
Nadine Garling, Appointment of Chief Rabbi Anschel Stern of Hamburg to Honorary Membership in the Israelite congregation of Lübeck (translated by Richard S. Levy), in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, September 07, 2017. <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:article-16.en.v1> [September 27, 2021].