Jacob Frank and the Heresy We Forgot
Review of Maciejko’s new book about the Frankists. It supposedly contains new info about Frankist connections to secret societies and Masonic groups as well.
Maciejko’s “The Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement, 1755–1816,” is a brilliant study of Frank and the Frankist movement. It is the product of meticulous archival research in Polish, German, Hebrew and Yiddish, and it brims with sharp observations as it sweeps through its thesis. It convincingly argues that Frankism was a far more pervasive movement in Poland than originally thought, not only in the Jewish community, but also among the Polish aristocracy and clergy. Originally from Poland, Maciejko was trained at Oxford University and is now a lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In “The Mixed Multitude” he argues that without Frank, the history of Judaism and modernity is missing a crucial chapter. The Frankists were not a marginal sectarian movement but a tremendous force in parts of Poland, a force that resulted in the conversion to Christianity of thousands of Jews in the late 18th century.
The movement attracted the attention of Polish kings, noblemen, clergy and intellectuals, and some of the greatest Jewish minds of the time. It had among its ranks such figures as the alleged Sabbatean Jonathan Eybeschutz, who was the rabbi of the prestigious Three Communities (Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbeck), and his son, Wolf, who was openly Frankist. The Frankists’ conversion to Roman Catholicism forced Jews to rethink their relationship to Christianity. For example, Maciejko suggests that Rabbi Jacob Emden’s famous positive appraisal of Christianity, where he deems the church an “assembly for the sake of heaven,” was written largely to force the Frankists — heretics who had converted but retained some allegiance to Judaism — out of Judaism. In short, more than an expression of tolerance for Christianity, Emden wanted to create an alliance between Jews and the church against the Frankists.