WESEL, BARUCH BENDET BEN REUBEN (called also Benedict Reuben Gompertz):

German rabbi and scholar; born at Wesel in the latter half of the seventeenth century; died at Breslau in the latter part of 1753 or the beginning of 1754. He was a descendant of a prominent family which had ramifications in Germany, Austria, and Holland. His grandfather, Elijah Emmerich, was a confidential adviser of the Great Elector, and knew how to use his influence in behalf of his German coreligionists. Baruch's father, Reuben, was a rich merchant of Berlin, and was closely related to wealthy families in Breslau. In 1724 Baruch was one of the three members of the Breslau rabbinical court, and in that year he approved Solomon Hanau's "Sha'are Tefillah." On Jan. 30, 1728, the Council of Four Lands appointed him rabbi (i.e., advocate) of the Polish congregation at Breslau. From his father he had inherited a fortune which made him financially independent; and he engaged in the trade of a money-broker, the rabbinate being unsalaried. Through poor business management, however, he soon lost his fortune, and in 1733 he was compelled to call a meeting of the wealthiest members of his congregation, who granted him a salary. Shortly afterward he requested the city authorities to strike his name from the tax-list of wholesale merchants, and to enroll him among the "Toleranz-Imposts," the second class of taxpayers. This petition was rejected; he was imprisoned, compelled to pay his arrears of first-class taxes, and deprived of the title of rabbi. After the issuance of the decree of expulsion by Maria Theresa (July 10, 1738), he was allowed to remain in the city as a "Plautzen Rabbiner" only. When Frederick II. invaded Silesia, Wesel wrote in his honor a eulogy, in the form of an acrostic (Breslau, 1741), of which only two copies have been preserved.

On the issuance of the new decree of May 6, 1744, which permitted only twelve families of Polish Jews, in addition to the privileged Polish merchants, to remain in Breslau, Wesel was appointed "'Landesrabbiner' without jurisdiction." In the same decree the Jews, who theretofore had buried their dead in Dyhernfurth, were ordered to purchase a site for a cemetery, but the congregation seemed unwilling to comply. Wesel thereupon suggested to the community that the money necessary for the purchase of the cemetery, as well as for the taxes on it, might be procured from a meat-tax. He died in the midst of these deliberations, and was buried in the cemetery at Dyhernfurth. His work "Meḳor Baruk," a collection of ten responsa, appeared in Dyhernfurth in 1755 (2d ed., published by his son Moses, Amsterdam, 1771).

  • Benjacob, Oẓar ha-Sefarim, p. 366;
  • Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, p. 194;
  • Zedner, Cat. Hebr. Books Brit. Mus. pp. 776-777;
  • Azulai, Shem ha-Gedolim, s.v.;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 776;
  • Brann, Gesch. des Landesrabbinats in Schlesien, in Grätz Jubelschrift, pp. 237-251, Breslau, 1887.
D. S. O.
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