Founded in 1760, the Frankfurt Bikur Cholim Society, as its name suggests, was devoted specifically to the care of ailing members of the city's Jewish community.
The present document is essentially divided into three sections:
1) A preamble which poignantly states the society's raison d'etre, the proliferation of poor sick Jews in Frankfurt who have no one to visit or care for them in their times of illness.
2) A series of 45 bylaws (takanoth) regulating the obligations and responsibilities of the members, as well as providing a code of conduct, violations of which would result in either monetary fines or exclusion from the society.
3) The signatures of more than 250 members of the society which indicated their conformity with the goals of the society, as well as their agreement to be bound by its bylaws.
The bylaws offer an incredible window into the daily workings of the society, as can be seen from a representative sampling:
#6 All society funds (including dues, fines, donations) were to be kept in a large iron box (with two locks) under control of the treasurer (the founding treasurer was the communal leader Herz Floersheim).
#14 Members are responsible for managing their visiting schedules. Two members must visit each sick person each morning, and two others must visit each afternoon.
#20 Any member of the society who falls ill will be provided with a private heated room in the hospital.
#25 Any society member who dies will have all burial expenses paid in full and at least 18 members will attend his funeral.
#31 The society will employ two physicians for the care of the sick.
#34 Any member caught gambling will have their membership revoked.
#36 The Torah Scroll donated by the Katz family to the society may not be sold.
#42 The rules of the society are not subject to change and are to remain in force for 10 years.
Notwithstanding some of the obvious material benefits which inured to society members, membership was widely recognized as a charitable act, and also considered a point of pride in the community.
It is not surprising to find that among the list of signatories, stretching across several generations, the most prominent families of Frankfurt were all represented: Adler, Ansbach, Bing, Emmerich, Floersheim, Itingen, Rothschild, Schiff, Schwab, Spier, Trier, Wahl and literally, scores more. Provenance:
Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, Printed Books and Autograph Letters, February 25, 1976, lot 371.