AMENITIES, COMMUNAL. From the beginnings of Jewish communal organization, the Jewish community "held nothing human to be beyond its ken." Its corporative character and national and social cohesion led to the inclusion of social services, socio-religious amenities, and even socialite institutions and mores, within the sphere of communal activity. Total care had to be taken of the community, especially of the less fortunate members. To conform to dietary requirements, the community had to provide a shoḥet to slaughter animals according to halakhic regulations. It also sometimes provided the means for cooking meat, having a cauldron at the disposal of members for wedding celebrations. Many congregations, particularly in Germany, owned a communal bakehouse, or oven, annually used for baking maẓẓot or for keeping the Sabbath meal of cholent warm on Fridays. Wealthy members sometimes paid to use the oven, while the poor could do so without charge. Occasionally baking took place in a building, or bakers' guildhall. Many French and German communities had a large communal hall above the bakehouse or nearby, which probably served both as a hostel and a dancing hall, or tanzhaus . The Tanzhaus (as it was known in Germany) was probably identical with the bet ha-ḥatunot or marriage-hall. Direct assistance to the poor (see pletten ; charity ), also a long-established tradition of the Jewish community, gave rise to several institutions which may be classified as amenities. The daily distribution of food, the tamḥui, soup kitchen, applied not only to contributions of food, such as bread or fruits, but later also to occasional relief, as distinguished from the regular relief afforded by the kuppah. The community usually took care of ritual requirements, in particular if these were expensive; it supplied at least one etrog ("citron") for general use during the festival of Tabernacles. israel isserlein relates that three tiny settlements in 15th-century Germany, unable to afford an etrog each, shared one for the celebration of the festival. In Spain similarly a communal seder for the poor was held in the synagogue on Passover. Among other civic duties,   sanitary control sometimes had to be undertaken by the community. The communities of Rome, Frankfurt, Cracow, Posen, and other large centers retained paid or honorary officials (memunnim) in charge of public safety and sanitation. The budget for sanitation was generally provided by special dues, such as the garbage tax and chimney tax, levied on every member of the community. The communal minutes often mention the problem of garbage collection, the streets of the more affluent residents usually receiving greater attention. The other main concern of the sanitary officials was to keep the water sources and conduits clean and flowing. The community also made provision for a water supply. When necessary a well was dug within the synagogue enclosure, probably to provide the water for the communal baths. These included the mikveh ("ritual bath"), usually part of the regular Jewish bathhouse which many communities also had to provide since Jews were often forbidden to bathe in the waters used by Christians. The inventory of property confiscated from the synagogue of Heidelberg in 1391 mentions a "vaulted chamber" which stood near the synagogue and served as the "Jews' bath" (balneum judeorum). The Jews of Augsburg also had a segregated public bath. No congregation was without a mikveh. Besides the mohel to perform circumcision, some communities retained physicians, surgeons, and midwives, not only to serve in communal hospitals, where these existed, but also to supervise certain general health services (see sick care ). The Spanish congregation in London, for instance, appointed as early as 1665 "a Physician of the Hebra who shall be obliged to attend the sick as soon as he shall have been informed… that visiting him he shall prescribe what is needful." The physician or physicians received an annual salary from the community, supplemented by the fees they were allowed to take (according to their contracts) from wealthier members. The deeds of contract and communal regulations repeatedly stress the physician's duty to visit the needy sick, either in a special "house for the sick" (sometimes called hekdesh ), or at home. The hekdesh, also used as a shelter where poor itinerant Jews could stay for a limited number of days, in modern times developed into a regular Jewish hospital, first in Western and Central Europe, and later in other communities. Later, the community also undertook new and more specialized duties for the benefit of its members. Some followed the example of the Salonika talmud torah, which established a circulating library. After introduction of the postal system, Jewish letter carriers in Frankfurt and Hamburg distributed, for a small fee, the mail handled by the Thurn-Taxis Company. With Jewish integration into the larger society, the tendency to retain the communal amenities conflicted with the inclination to leave such functions to the municipality or specific institutions. The change in the attitude of Jews toward this service is linked with the evolution of Jewish society in modern times. -In Muslim Lands The amenities provided in Muslim countries in the Near East, and in Spain during Muslim rule there, were determined by the form in which the society was organized. Social organization was based on family bonds or common origin; a community consisted of several kehalim ("congregations") and it was these that provided most of the amenities for their members. Sometimes even communities that were comparatively small consisted of several kehalim, each functioning as an enlarged family. The synagogue not only served as a house of prayer but also as the organizational center of the kahal. Rabbinical authorities living in Salonika in the 16th century ruled that "a synagogue is an institution which has officers, a burial society, and persons charged with the collection of taxes and charity for the daily needs and for the synagogue itself" (Adarbi, Divrei Rivot, para. 59). "Each kahal is a city unto itself " (Samuel de Medina, ḤM, para. 398). Every kahal was responsible for providing all the requirements of its members, schools for the children, a teacher for the adults, a rabbinical judge, aid for the needy and the poor, the ransoming of prisoners, the burial of the dead, etc. Samuel de Medina (ibid.) points out that a person who was not a member of a kahal was not, in fact, included in the local Jewish community and had no institution to appeal to for his needs. The custom observed in the early period of Muslim Spain, of setting up a single sukkah in the synagogue and thereby absolving the individual Jew from building his own sukkah in his home, a practice which does not have the sanction of rabbinical authorities (Sha'arei Simḥah, 1, 88–89), may have its origin in the feeling of unity prevailing among the members of each congregation. It should be pointed out, however, that in matters of common concern to the entire local community, it was the most respected rabbi who represented the community as a whole before the authorities; this applied, for example (cf. responsa David b. Zimra, 1, para. 74) to the institution of an eruv (to enable Jews to carry objects inside the city on the Sabbath), for which permission of the local authorities had to be sought. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: I. Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (19322); Finkelstein, Middle Ages; Monumenta Judaica (1963); J.R. Marcus, Communal Sick Care in the German Ghetto (1947); Baron, Community. (Emmanuel Beeri)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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