Paris: Chez Rondonneau, 1808. First edition. Hardcover. Quarto. 2pp. (double-sided broadside). Bound in modern marbled paper boards, with gilt lettering over leather on the spine. Edges of the document are uncut. This the 590th Imperial decree of the French empire, was issued on October 19th, 1808, reaffirming the establishment of Central Consistory of French Jewish leaders, and newly detailing the necessary procedures for the installment of its members.
This decree came in the wake of the initial emancipation of French Jews (1790), the creation of the Assembly of Jewish Notables (April, 1806), the convening of the Grand Sandhedrin (aka the Napoleonic Sandhedrin, Feb-March ,1807) and was directly preceded by the three decrees (including the so-called "Infamous Decree") issued on March 17, 1808. At as result of previously mentioned developments, the Jews of the French Empire had now been emancipated and were being increasingly integrated into French society at large. They had chosen community representatives to speak on their behalf to the French government, and had created a sanctioned Jewish legal framework under which they would behave within the context of and in cooperation with the French legal system and society. The first two of the March 17th decrees established the Central Consistory of the Jews which would be serve as the hierarchy under which French Jewish religious activities would be organized. This governing body would consist of three rabbis and two lay members selected upon recommendation of the Jewish community authorities. The five individuals finally chosen were: Rabbis David Sintzheim (1745 – 1812) Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg, Abraham de Cologna (1755 – 1832), the rabbi of Mantua and Salvatore Segre (1729–1809) rabbi of Vercelli, all three of whom had previous served on the Grand Sanhedrin, and finally to Jewish lay persons Baruch Cerf Berr, who was Sinzheim's nephew, and successful Parisian jeweler Jacob Lazard.
The decree of October 1808 itself is divided into three articles and states that the members shall be sworn in to their positions by the Minister of Religion by placing their hands on a bible and take the oath of office by pledging their loyalty to the French Empire. The oath also states that these Jewish leaders will also promise to report "all that I will learn that is contrary to the interests of the Sovereign or the State." This important document records the beginning of the first official sanctioning and organizing of Jewish worship in the empire and the cooperation of Jewish leaders as officials of the Republic.
The official headpiece of the legal repository in Paris located at the top of the page is a detailed copperplate engraving showing symbols of the French Revolution, a book stating "8th year", and the Scales of Justice.
Text in French.
Binding with some light rubbing and bumping to the extremities, with much of the gilt lettering on the spine rubbed off. Interior with minor age toning to the modern endpapers. Decree with some staining along the edges and light foxing. Binding in very good-, document in good condition overall. Extremely scarce. g to vg-. Item #48781
Bibliographic Reference: Szajkowski 133. Schwarzfuchs, "The Jews and the Sanhedrin" (1979).