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OBJECT OF THE MONTH


Portrait of Rabbi David Oppenheim (1664-1736)

• Copper engraving by Johann Georg Balzer, based on a portrait by Johann Kleinhardt
• 1773
• from the collection of the pre-war Jewish Museum in Prague



This year marks the 350th anniversary of the birth of Rabbi David Oppenheim. He was born in Worms, where his father Abraham was the leader of the Jewish community. David's uncle Samuel Oppenheim was an imperial court banker in Vienna and military supplier. The father of David's first wife Gnendl, the Hanover court Jew Leffmann Behrens (Lipmann Katz), was also a financier. David gained a deep knowledge of Jewish religious law through his studies with Rabbi Gershon Ulif and Rabbi Jacob Ashkenazi Wilner. His erudition and political adeptness, together with the support of his uncle Samuel, opened the way for him to fill important rabbinical posts. In 1689–1702 he held the post of Chief Rabbi of Moravia; from the end of the 1790s he contributed to the organization and funding of Judah Hasid's messianic project, which was linked to the development of a settlement and synagogue in Jerusalem. For his efforts, he was awarded the title Nasi Erets Yisrael (Prince of the Land of Israel) and was appointed the Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem, a position he held 'from a distance'. In 1702 he became Chief Rabbi of Prague; his rabbinical ordination certificate was issued on 24 April 1702. In 1713 he became Chief Rabbi of Bohemia, a post he held at first jointly with Wolf Spira (the father of his second wife Shifra) and from 1715 on his own. David Oppenheim wrote several rabbinical treatises, including Moed David, and a collection of responsa entitled Nishal David. He was also involved in financial trade and charity work. In addition, he devoted particular attention to the acquisition of Hebrew books. His collection was kept in Hanover from 1703 onwards, as there was a danger it would be confiscated and destroyed in Prague. In 1829 the collection (about 7,000 printed books and 1,000 manuscripts) was acquired by the Bodleian Library, Oxford. In addition to this portrait and a set of rabbinical ordination certificates, the Jewish Museum in Prague has in its collections the Torah mantle and Torah Ark curtain that were donated by David Oppenheim and his wife Gnendl.

JMP 060.732
copper engraving on paper
165 x 110 mm (plate) / 198 x 137 mm (sheet)










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