¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 That vague rumours of a potential Messiah in a faraway land could cause such a sudden flicker of messianic fever in otherwise sensible individuals suggests the presence of a latent redemptive hope. Redemption for the Jews is not necessarily to be understood in the Christian sense as God’s coming Judgment. Rather, it is the utopian triumph of good over evil, all life forms living in peace, Jews returning to the Holy Land, and the Temple rebuilt.66
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 But for some Jews overcome by the seeming futility of this hope, a crossing over the interconfessional boundary to Christianity was still tempting. At a practical level, it appeared to promise an end to discrimination and persecution, as well as easier access to occupational and social advancement. However, it seems surprising how few of Stühlingen’s Jews chose this path. No baptisms of Jews were recorded prior to 1720; but in that year the missionary zeal of the young prince Joseph Ernst Wilhelm imbued his administration. A special file was created in the Princely Archives: “Politica; Div. I (Jews); Subdiv. 4 (Conversion to the Catholic Faith).” This file contains records relating to three conversions before 1733; another three conversions between 1729 and 1740 emerge from the Stühlingen record analysis. Altogether, six Stühlingen Jews were baptized: two brothers, small boys forcefully removed from their family, two young women on the rebound from broken engagements, and two grown men who converted for different reasons.
About fourteen days ago came Sara, the sister of the local protected Jew Long Josel Gugenheimb (), together with two in Philipsburg baptized Jews from Donaueschingen, – where she had been a servant the Stühlingen parish priest. She asked for instruction in the Catholic faith and promotion to baptism. The chief bailiff was at first cautious and interrogated the two companions. Since their account seemed correct, and he found nothing suspicious, he sent them home and secured Sara in the home of an upstanding citizen to protect her from the evil machinations of the Jews. That man praised her good intentions and zeal. He reported that her familiarity with Christian teaching had reached the point, where he could fully recommend her baptism right after Pentecost.67
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 The baptism was promptly celebrated with great pomp, in front of a multitude on Trinity Sunday (May 26, 1720). Father Augustine and the parish priest of Grafenhausen gave moving sermons. After the event, the ecclesiastic and secular dignitaries retired to the town manse for a big feast. The cost for the baptismal dress and accompanying festivities was duly accounted in detail at 48 fl. 19 kr. . The prince had promised the newly baptized Carolina Antonia Hoffer a generous stipend. Within two years she was married to the tanner Franz Anton Keller in Engen. Since her two brothers, Josel in Stühlingen and Seligmann (G22.214.171.124.2) in Gailingen, had previously (March 1718) together pledged a dowry of 250 fl. on the occasion of her engagement to Marum, son of Josef Mayer in Emmendingen, her new husband now demanded this dowry as his due. Josel’s half was collected easily by the Stühlingen bailiff without excessive resistance. But Seligmann’s half was considered lost, since the Fürstenberg authorities had no jurisdiction in Gailingen.68
66Buber, “Good and Evil.”; Buber, “I and Thou.”; Cf. Isa. 11:6; Pss. 122, 137, 138.
67Rosenthal, “Die Judenmission vor 200 Jahren (I).”