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The Commander of Imperial Jewry – Josel von Rosheim (c. 1480-1554)

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In the year 5290 (1529/30) there was a great and clamorous cry from all the nations saying that the Jews are in treasonous communication with the Turks. Calumnies of this kind finally reached the ears of our lords, the Emperor and the King, may they be exalted, whereupon we were outlawed and were not permitted to set foot in several lands (9). With the consent of the communities, I prepared and put together a booklet containing our words of apology, and, with the help of God, I presented it before the two monarchs in the city of Innsbruck. And Joseph found favour with them, for they willingly accepted our words of apology and confirmed all our former privileges.

In the same year, 5290 (1530), there was an assembly of all the princes of the Empire and the nobles, as well as countless ladies, in order to establish preventive laws and regulations, and the princes and nobles intended to abolish usury. At that time, with God's help, I stood firm, and I obtained from the Emperor the renewal of our privileges from Emperor Sigismund (10). The accusers were silent and there was peace in the land for a little while.

In the year 5291 (1530/31), the accusers were busy again, and they pursued and importuned the Emperor in Brabant and Flanders—lands not inhabited by any Jews. I came forward from the many and made the journey on horseback to those lands in order to plead our cause, with the help of God. I was at the Emperor's court from the first of Adar till the first of Sivan 5291 [18 February-17 May 1531] to work for the common good. Although the fighter Roth Royth had intended to swallow me alive—I was at the very gates of death—however, God in His great mercy sent His angel before me, and saved me from his hands and from the hands of all those who set an ambush for me. At that time I had an audience with the Emperor in his inner sanctum, and spoke to him concerning my business, and he gave me the right response. Meanwhile, as I was at leisure and secluded in my room, I composed the work entitled The Holy Path. And as this writer lives (11), I took great pleasure in those days of solitude, and I said in my heart: "Happy were those righteous men of previous generations who directed their thoughts and minds to distancing themselves from the vanities of this world and to occupying themselves with the matters of the spirit.

In the year 5292 (1531/32), I was once again obliged to have an audience with the Emperor, may he be exalted, this time at the Regensburg Reichstag (12), in order to stand guard over Israel. And God was with us on this occasion too. He preserved us from the accusations of the princes and nobles concerning usury, and gave us a means of livelihood among the nations. At that time the man from Italy, the righteous convert named Rabbi Solomon Molcho, may his soul rest in Eden, came with his alien ideas to stir up the Emperor by telling him that he had come to gather all the Jews to wage war against the Turks. When I heard about his plans, I wrote him a letter warning him not to provoke the Emperor lest we be consumed by the great fire. I left Regensburg, so that the Emperor should not say that I had a hand in his strange plans. When he came to the Emperor, he was put into chains and taken to Bologna, where he was burnt at the stake for the sanctification of God's Name and the faith of Israel. He reformed many sinners. His soul is bound up in Eden.

(9) Refers chiefly to the duchy of Württemberg.
(10) Refers to a charter of 1433 for the Jews resident in the Imperial cities of Alsace.
(11) This is a type of oath, similar to “upon my life”.
(12) The Imperial Diet of Regensburg, 1532.

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