November 16, 2018

A Window into History: Takanot for Members, Frankfort am Main 1740 by Isaac Pollak


Takanot Document 1740

Frankfort am Main Takanot 1740

An analysis of the Takanot of the Bikur Cholim Society of Frankfurt am Main of 1740

[Ed. Note: This is an examination of the rules set forth for members of the Bikur Cholim (caring for the ill) society of Frankfort am Main in 1740. Historically, the work of the Chevrah Kadisha could, and did, overlap with the work of those who cared for the sick. Today the two functions are often separated, but that was not always the case as seen here, and in the earlier published work, Ma’avor Yabbok (1626). — JB]

I recently examined this document. I had a chance to examine this same document about 20 years ago, and when it came up on the market recently, I examined it again, but it was a bit too pricey to purchase.

While it’s a Bikur Cholim document, it refers to Chevrah Kadisha issues as well. It includes approximately 280 signatures of several generations of society members. It’s written in Ashkenazi square and semi-cursive script in Yiddish and German (I read both, albeit with a bit of difficulty). It’s referred to in Jacob Rader Marcus’s book, Communal Sick Care in the German Ghetto. This was in the period of the early enlightenment, when Moses Mendelssohn, an early proponent of the Haskalah movement, rose to prominence.

Below are some of the highlights of the 45 by-laws (Takanot) regulating the obligations and responsibilities of its members, as well as providing a code of conduct, violations of which would result in either monetary fines, or, if offenses were repeated, exclusion from the society.

The Document

There is a preamble which states that the purpose of this organization was to address the proliferation of poor sick Jews in Frankfurt who had no one to visit or care for them when they were ill.

Visiting the sick

  • Two members must visit each sick person each morning and two others each afternoon.
  • A member who falls ill is entitled to a private heated room in the hospital with expenses paid by the society.
  • The society will employ two physicians for the care of the sick.

Funds , Rules

  • All society funds including annual dues, fines, and donations were to be kept in a large iron box with two locks under the control of the treasurer.
  • All rules of the society must remain in force for 10 years.


  • Apparently gambling was the worst possible offense as it is signaled out for immediate revocation of membership for anyone caught gambling.


  • Any member who dies will have all burial expenses paid in full.
  • At least 18 members must attend the funeral of the deceased member.

It’s an incredible window into the daily workings of a society that was formed to fill a gap.

[Ed. Note: an old response to a problem that may still exist; perhaps it offers some ideas for consideration today. — JB]

Isaac Pollak is the Rosh/Head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC and has been doing Taharot for almost 4 decades. He is fascinated by and a student of customs and history concerning the Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish burial and mourning ritual. He is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, with over 300 historical artifacts in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC, and is CEO of an International Marketing Company. He is a student and participant in Gamliel Institute courses.

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak



In 2017, Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute are again sponsoring a six part “Taste of Gamliel” webinar. This year’s topic is From Here to Eternity: Jewish Views on Sickness and Dying.

Each 90 minute session is presented by a different scholar.

Taste of Gamliel Webinars for this year are scheduled on January 22, February 19, March 19, April 23, May 21, and June 25. The instructors this year are: Dr. Dan Fendel, Rabbi Dayle Friedman, Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, Rabbi Richard Address, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, and Dr. Laurie Zoloth.

This series of Webinar sessions is free, with a suggested minimum donation of $36 for all six sessions. These online sessions begin at 5 PM PST; 8 PM EST.

Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions, and will also receive information on how to access the recordings of all six sessions.

The link to register is:

More info – Call us at 410-733-3700   

Click the link to register and for more information. We’ll send you the directions to join the webinar no less than 12 hours before the session.



Plan to join us June 18-20, 2017 for the 15th annual Kavod v’Nchum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference. Register, and make your hotel reservations and travel plans now!

15th Annual North American Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference At Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, California June 18-20, 2017
Registration is now open. Group discounts are available.
The conference program will include plenaries and workshops focused on Taharah, Shmirah, Chevrah Kadisha organizing, community education, gender issues, cemeteries, text study and more.

The conference is on Sunday from noon until 10pm, on Monday from 7am to 10pm, and on Tuesday from 7am to 1pm. In addition to Sunday brunch, we provide six Kosher meals. There are many direct flights to San Francisco and Oakland, with numerous options for ground transportation to the conference site.

We have negotiated a great hotel rate with Embassy Suites by Hilton. Please don’t wait to make your reservations. We also have home hospitality options. Contact us for information or to request home hospitality. 410-733-3700,





Gamliel Institute will be offering course 2, Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah, online, afternoons/evenings, in the Fall semester starting September 5th, 2017.


The course will meet on twelve Tuesdays (Thursdays in those weeks with Jewish holidays during this course). There will be an orientation session on Monday, September 4th, 2017.  Register or contact us for more information.


You can register for any Gamliel Institute courses online at A full description of all of the courses is found there.

For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or look at information on the Gamliel Institute at the Kavod v’Nichum website or on the Gamliel.Institute website. Please contact us for information or assistance. or, or call 410-733-3700, or 925-272-8563.



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If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email We are always interested in original materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, Shomrim, funeral providers, funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.