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CORPORATION:

A combination of several persons, for certain purposes and under a common name, into one artificial body, which the law permits to act as a single person. In technical language there can also be a "corporation sole"; that is, one person filling a public position, who transmits the property rights and obligations of that position to his successors, as a natural person transmits his rights and obligations to his heirs.

A "corporation aggregate" is either public or private. The cities of the Holy Land were public corporations, and Jewish communities in the Exile corresponded to them (see Community, Organization of). Between the public and the private corporation stands the court () of the Mishnah, a group of houses surrounding an open place with a common entrance, the occupants of which have certain duties and corresponding rights (B. B. i. 6).

A private corporation is either eleemosynary (formed for purposes of charity) or commercial (that is, formed for the common good of the members). The former is known by the name of "ḥebra," the most important being the "ḥebra ḳaddisha" (burial gild); other ḥebras attend to the reception of travelers, the visitation of the sick, the maintenance of hospitals, etc., all more or less independent of the "ḳahal" (community). They have a common name, and a continuous life unhindered by change of members; they take property by purchase, gift, or will, and can dispose of it, and the rabbinical courts would recognize these rights; but the reported precedents are very few, and the various codes have but little to say on these points. The Shulḥan 'Aruk (Yoreh De'ah, 258, 8, 9) shows how an action may, under certain circumstances, accrue to the collectors of alms from an arrangement among the collectors, a contributor, and the latter's debtor; and similarly in other passages the right of action in eleemosynary corporations is incidentally acknowledged.

Commercial societies for various purposes, such as the caravan, and the mutual insurance company of muleteers or of shippers, are mentioned in the Mishnah (see Commercial Law). Whether they had any corporate powers or functions is not known. In later times, during the dispersion, Jews could hardly have entered corporations for profit except under the laws of the governments to which they were subject, and for many centuries there were few, if any, of these corporations in existence anywhere.

L. G. L. N. D.
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