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Gemeindevorsteher

English translation: one of the leaders of the Jewish community

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16:39 Sep 2, 2006
German to English translations [PRO]
Art/Literary - Religion / Judaism
German term or phrase: Gemeindevorsteher
This is from a book of stories about the Prague ghetto, which I'm proofreading.

"Es geschah, daß am Versöhnungstage 1587 in der Altneusynagoge, wo der Rabbi Löw betete, ein **Gemeindevorsteher** die Thorarolle fallen ließ, als er sie nach der Nachmittagsvorlesung in die heilige Lade bringen wollte."

Leo gives "church warden" and Collins gives "head of the district council", neither of which fit in a Jewish context. Is there an established translation for this?
Rachel Ward
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:16
English translation:one of the leaders of the Jewish community
Explanation:
A respected man who was elected (?) to a sort of board of directors and, furthermore, on this particular Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was given this honor of carrying the Torah scroll from the rabbi's pulpit back to the ark
Selected response from:

misterherrnau
Grading comment
Thanks misterherrnau (and Armorel), that's pretty much what I thought.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
5 +1one of the leaders of the Jewish communitymisterherrnau
5Shamaslindaellen
3parnas, parnasim: councillor; elected elderman
Johanna Timm, PhD
3head/leader of the (Jewish) congregation
Armorel Young
3 -1village elder
Bernhard Sulzer


  

Answers


1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): -1
village elder


Explanation:
see links below for reference.

Bernhard


    Reference: http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=15642
    Reference: http://www.coldwarhistory.us/Exhibitions/History/Rydultau/bo...
Bernhard Sulzer
United States
Local time: 14:16
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in GermanGerman
PRO pts in category: 12

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
disagree  misterherrnau: "Village" in the context of the Prague ghetto is simply wrong and the references are not on point.
28 mins
  -> the references are on point for the term "Gemeindevorsteher." If the translator feels that "village" is not appropriate in this context, it can be left out or substituted by "elders in the community" and other terms.
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
one of the leaders of the Jewish community


Explanation:
A respected man who was elected (?) to a sort of board of directors and, furthermore, on this particular Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was given this honor of carrying the Torah scroll from the rabbi's pulpit back to the ark

misterherrnau
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4
Grading comment
Thanks misterherrnau (and Armorel), that's pretty much what I thought.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  P. Reich
21 hrs
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
head/leader of the (Jewish) congregation


Explanation:
To answer the last part of your question first, I don't think there is a standard English translation of this. I found the following:-

We received a letter from home that directed us to go to Bamberg to introduce ourselves to the local head of the Jewish congregation, Mr. Abraham Wenzedlitz.
http://www.porges.net/MosesPorgesMemoirs_English.html

Wir erhielten ein Schreiben vom Hause, in welchem wir angewiesen wurden nach Bamberg uns zu begeben und uns dem dortigen jüdischen Vorsteher, Herrn Abraham Neusedlitz vorstellen,
http://www.porges.net/MosesPorgesMemoirs_German.html

For a couple of years he was the "principal" (German: "Gemeindevorsteher") of the Mosaic Community in Copenhagen.
http://tom.brondsted.dk/genealogi/soldin.php
(I include this one just as evidence there that is no one standard translation.)

Armorel Young
Local time: 19:16
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 38
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10 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
parnas, parnasim: councillor; elected elderman


Explanation:
At the head of the communities stood the elected aldermen (parnasim), ... He confirmed the directives issued by the parnasim and the tax register prepared ...
www.nyupress.org/jewishlife/intro.html

As in the case of Jewish communal organisation in medieval Germany, historians have made an attempt to
compare Polish Jewish institutions with those of the non-Jewish town communities. Historians like Moses Schorr or Majer Ba aban identified*** the kahal with the council, the parnasim with the councillors, and the tovim with the lay assessors (‘scabini’).****

Thus, the Jewish communities had a judicial system similar to that of the town communities.[...] Originally this was the parnasim’s job, but from the beginning of the seventeenth century they were assisted by special guilds that were organised on the pattern of non-Jewish professional organisations.

In addition, at least the large communities had highly differentiated administrations. The most important
office (besides the leadership proper) that the community had to confer was that of the shamash.

Originally the synagogue’s servants, the late sixteenth-century’s shamashim had several functions, which usually were divided among a few persons. The ***shamash collected the taxes, and was responsible for implementing the parnasim’s decisions and enforcing the bet din’s judgements. Vis-à-vis the Christian authorities he functioned as a kind of community speaker or deputy of the parnasim.**** In this activity his duties intermingled with those of the shtadlan [advocate].



Johanna Timm, PhD
Canada
Local time: 11:16
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in GermanGerman
PRO pts in category: 27
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2 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
Shamas


Explanation:
If you Google Shamas + synagogue you will find various references. Shamas is more or less the Hebrew equivalent to sexton.

"In the West London Synagogue, the wardens and shamas wear top hats in keeping with those who first worshipped in the synagogue in the 19th century. .." from the website below.


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Note added at 15 hrs (2006-09-03 08:34:36 GMT)
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I agree with Johanna, it could also be parnas (singular). Now I see the translation problem as: if you want to use a Hebrew word for "local color" - then shamas or parnas is OK, since the actual job description isn't the issue. Or do you want to use an English term so that your readers understand that this person is an honored member of the community.


    Reference: http://education.guardian.co.uk/primaryresources/story/0,,10...
lindaellen
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4
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