Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Kultur der Juden
[Aschkenas: A Journal of Jewish History and Culture]
Ed. by Horch, Hans Otto / Jütte, Robert / Rürup, Miriam / Wenninger, Markus J.
Elchanan Henle Kirchhan, author of the well-known ethical work Simchat ha-Nefesh, was born in 1666 as the seventh of twelve children in the Hessian town of Kirchhain near Marburg. Based on their family tree, drawn up in Hebrew letters in Hildesheim in 1812, this article follows biographical traces of his family members. It analyses the economic, spiritual and social rank of the large family within the Jewish society. The study reveals the position of many family members as leaders (Vorsteher, Parnassim) not only of the Hessian territorial Jewry (Landjudenschaft) but also of important Jewish urban communities like Halberstadt and Hildesheim during the seventeenth and eighteenth century and shows the family’s trans-regional relations. Accordingly, this article argues the Parnassim to be a »political elite« with a separate social rank, similar to the rabbinic and economic elites, within the Jewish society of their time.