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19 th century stories
The first Jews of Dorsten
Dorsten 1820: "Violence in
the synagogue itself"
Eisendrath Family in Dorsten
The family name
Julia Eisendrath - portrait of
a Jewish Mama
Eulogy at the grave of
Julia Eisendrath
Jewish real property in Dorsten
Nathan Eisendrath emigrates
David Samson Eisendrath
Establishing in the USA
Migration of Jews from Europe
to North America
20 th century stories
Visits to Europe since the 1920s
1933: A Protest Letter to
President Hindenburg (1933)
The Letter in full text
The Eisendrath branch in Zaandam/Netherlands
The last jewish place in Dorsten
Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath
Charles R. Eisendrath: An
identity and family history that
are inextricably linked (1999)
21 st century stories
Adam Eisendrath: The German Heritage Quest - February 2000
Dorsten contacts and
visits 2001-2007
Family Reunion 2010
The journey of two prayer books
Who and why?
The Dorsten research group
and the Jewish Museum
of Westphalia
 
* The signature in the header above
is that of Samson Nathan Eisendrath
(from the year 1840)
 
 
The first Jews of Dorsten

In 1932 a newspaper article reported that in the 13th century there were already Jews in Dorsten. It said: „They were wealthy, respected and very religious.” But up to now we have not been able to confirm this first evidence of Jews in Dorsten. Despite the fact that the Jews were very much liked by their fellow citizens, in the 16th century the bishop in Münster ordered officials to drive away all Jews from the diocese of Münster. In the following years entry permits were only rarely granted. In 1628 there was a plot of land that was called the „Jewish field”. In 1790/91 this plot was called the „Jewish graveyard”. Records show that in 1815 a burial took place there. There are not many records for the time before 1800.

In1808 the first Jews received permission to settle and establish businesses in Dorsten. It was the 45-year-old butcher David Moyses from Wesel, who later took the name Perlstein, and 43-year-old Michel Samuel from Muelheim/Ruhr, also a butcher, who later took the name Grünebaum.

Saveguard certificate of the Bishop of Muenster for the Jews of his territory (1784)

From 1810-1812 five more families followed including the merchant Samson Nathan (Eisendrath), 37 years old, from nearby Haltern. Within four to five years a small Jewish community consisting of eight families formed in Dorsten. This small community did not only have the problems of existing that come when something new is established, but these problems were particularly bad in an atmoshphere in which Jews were not only regarded as „strangers” but in this small, strictly Catholic town also as religious outsiders.

The everyday language of the Dorsten Jews was Yiddish, so-called „Jewish German”, as letters from this time in incomprehensible German show. Two parties soon formed in Dorsten: on the one hand there were the „progressives” with Samson Nathan Eisendrath and on the other the orthodox or „zealots” to which the founders of the community belonged: David Moyses Perlstein and Michel Samuel Grünebaum.

From 1808 the men met in a prayer room, set up as prescribed, which they called „synagogue”. The warden was the merchant David Moyses. But at Easter 1820 Samson Nathan’s group also organised their own room which they called „synagogue”. This split, caused by a dispute between orthodox and progressive Jews, brought the danger of the community breaking up completely as even before the synagogue dispute, minions never came about because the prescribed quorum of ten men was not achieved. There were only eight men who for prayer depended on the participation of men from outside. As a result of the split there were only four men in each of the conflicting groups.

Samson Nathan Eisendrath enjoyed importance and a voice in the small community in which from 1817 he was the synagogue warden. But times were difficult. Tradition was no longer taken for granted: the slowly progressing emancipation of the Jews led to changes which questioned the past and present concept of the community.

 

It was too difficult for the Mayor of Dorsten, Mr. Gahlen, to mediate and he called on the regional rabbi Abraham Sutro of Münster. As there had now been „assaults and even in the synagogue” Abraham Sutro went to Dorsten.
But his attempts at mediation failed.

(Portrait of Rabbi Abraham Sutro (1784-1869))

It was only with the Prussian law of 23 July 1847, which stated that every Jew had to belong to the community and pay taxes, which amounted to a certain percentage of his income, that the Jewish community of Dorsten was able to develop a working administration. It remained orthodox. It is not known, however, whether the many years of conflict were connected with the general religious differences among German Jewry.

After the introduction of compulsory education in Prussia, the authorities made sure that Jewish children also received proper schooling. They were allowed to attend lessons at Christian schools if Jewish communities were unable to set up their own schools. But the Jewish community was responsible for religious education.

 

In 1820 Rabbi Sutro had already demanded that a Jewish community teacher be employed for the children of the eight Jewish families in Dorsten. However they refused to pay for the teacher’s salary and food because most of them were poor. After a dispute lasting three years, the following was agreed on: With the help of two house and family fathers, who were to be elected, Samson Nathan Eisendrath was appointed to engage a teacher, collect school fees and decide on the order in which families would take it in turns to provide accommodation and food for the teacher.

(Havdala goblet belonging A. Sutro)

But in the next twenty years there were still problems in the Dorsten community and things finally came to a head on 14 April 1844 when Samson Nathan Eisendrath resigned from the position which he had held for 27 years. Unfortunately no precise reasons for this can be found but probably the conflict between the „law-abiding” Jews and the „modernisers” had escalated. Three years later, on 23 April 1847, Eisendrath told the community that he was leaving the synagogue community. „I hereby announce that I and my four sons David, Moses, Cosmann & Osea (Oscar/Asser) are leaving the local Jewish church”. He and his sons still wanted to attend synagogue but „voluntarily” when they wanted to without them being counted on to form a minion.

Internal disputes were probably the reason for his leaving the synagogue. Eisendrath was accused of having refused to supply reports and accounts on income and expenditure and allegedly „taking home without authority” the torah scroll acquired by him.

As warden and treasurer Eisendrath was also responsible for the wordly affairs of the community. He was, for example, responsible for the finances of the community which was so poor that contributions often did not cover expenses. He was also responsible for the negotiations with the Marks-Haindorf-Foundation in Münster, an „Association for the Promotion of Jewish Artisans and the Establishment of a School”. Eisendrath endeavoured to establish apprenticeships for young Jews.

In December 1869 the Jewish community acquired a house at 24 Wiesen Strasse that had belonged to its members Moses Hess and Moises Eisendrath. The four-axis timber-framed house located on a 2625 square foot plot of land was built in the 18th century and was just like any other normal house. The house first had green plastering and from 1920 white plastering. Over the front door there was a Star of David. The right-hand side of the house was always let to non-Jews. On 23 March 1945 this house in Wiesen Strasse was hit by a bomb and completely destroyed.

In the later part of the 19th century and with more and more Jews from Dorsten emigrating, the Dorsten community grew smaller and smaller and less and less important. From around the turn of the century the emerging communities in the Ruhr such as Gelsenkirchen, Gladbeck and Bottrop were regarded as much more attractive than rural Dorsten. In 1925 the Jewish community in Dorsten only had 25 members; in 1932 there were 47 members. In 1932 its status as a central synagogue community was lifted and it was decided to separate the communities of Buer, Horst, Westerholt, Gladbeck, Bottrop and Osterfeld.

On 23 January 1942 the last 12 Jewish citizens of Dorsten were deported to the Riga ghetto. That was the end of the Jewish community in Dorsten – up to today.

 
   
 

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