Protocols of Justice (2 vol. set) 

The Pinkas of the Metz Rabbinic Court 1771-1789


Winner of the Jordan Schnitzer Award in the category of Modern Jewish History. This award, the highest honor the Association for Jewish Studies bestows on scholarship, was established in 2008 by the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation to honor scholars whose work embodies the best in the field: rigorous research, theoretical sophistication, innovative methodology, and excellent writing.

Presented here to the public for the first time, the Pinkas of the Metz Beit Din is the official register of civil cases that came before the Metz rabbinic court in the two decades prior to the French Revolution. Brimming with details of commercial transactions, inheritance disputes, women’s roles in economic life, and the interplay between French law and Jewish law, the Metz Pinkas offers remarkable evidence of the engagement of Jews with the surrounding society and culture. The two volumes of Protocols of Justice comprise the complete text of the Metz Pinkas Beit Din, which is fully annotated by the author, and a thorough analysis of its significance for history and law at the threshold of modernity.

Through his painstaking and path-breaking treatment of this incredibly nuanced and rich text, Jay Berkovitz has placed before academics and all other interested readers a heretofore untapped resource of vast importance. His insightful and extensive introductory monograph beautifully sets the stage for scholars in a wide array of fields to mine this material, which will undoubtedly yield significant new results in the history of Jewish and non-Jewish society in eighteenth-century Europe and beyond. Ephraim Kanarfogel, E. Billi Ivry University Professor of Jewish History, Literature and Law, Yeshiva University

Protocols of Justice is a scholarly tour de force. Jay Berkovitz has not only brought to life a type of source that has been all but ignored in the study of Jewish life in Europe in the early modern period but offers a rich introduction that places the material in its historical context. This is a book that will stand the test of time and is a must for academic libraries. Edward Fram, Department of Jewish History, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

"Author Jay Berkovitz, Professor and Chair of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has painstakingly transcribed the pinkas, which provides fascinating and new insights in the lives of the Jews of Metz. Through his work, Berkovitz has opened a manuscript long gathering dust in the YIVO archives, brought it to light, and created an invaluable resource for scholars." Ben Rothke, The Times of Israel

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Biographical Note

Jay R. Berkovitz, Ph.D. (1983), Brandeis University, is Professor and Chair of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has published widely on the Jews in early modern Europe, including Rites and Passages: The Beginnings of Modern Jewish Culture in France, 1650-1860 (UPenn, 2004).

Review Quotes

"In Protocols of Justice; The Pinkas of the Metz Rabbinic Court, 1771-1789, Jay R. Berkovitz gives us both, a monumental archival source that should further the work of countless scholars in various fields of history, and a bold work of synthesis and analysis that challenges prevailing views and opens new lines of inquiry. In compiling not only the source itself but also in providing his sweeping analysis and contextual orientation, Berkovitz invites readers into a conversation at once particular and specific as well as resonant well beyond this chamber of rabbinic justice." - Patricia Behre, Fairfield University, H-France Review Vol. 16 (August 2016), No. 149.

" Protocols of Justice contributes appreciably to the efforts of scholars working in the general field of law, in Jewish law in particular, and in the history of the early modern period. It stimulates reflection on the genre of pinkassim, on the relationship of history and law, and on the importance of legal sources for social history. Augmenting our knowledge of Jewish life in France and of acculturation in the period prior to the Revolution, [ Protocols of Justice] raises questions concerning the autonomy of the early modern Jewish community. There is no doubt that Berkovitz’s important study will aid future research in the diverse subjects that emerge in the Metz Pinkas, now available in a handsomely produced and precise edition. - Debra Kaplan, Bar Ilan University, Zion (journal of The Historical Society of Israel). Translated from Hebrew.

"Berkovitz’s meticulous edition of the pinkas bet din of Metz and his illuminating discussions of its multiple areas of significance constitute a tour de force. This work will long remain vital for any discussion of the Jewish community and its place in the legal systems of premodern Europe, the process of modernization, and the questions of openness and insularity in rabbinic culture. - Elisheva Carlebach, Columbia University, AJS Review Vol. 41, Issue 2 (November 2017), pp. 478-480

"The thousand-page first volume of Protocols of Justice includes the entire, mostly Hebrew text of the Pinkas, accompanied by an introduction (in Hebrew), several useful appendices, and Berkovitz’s extensive notes,...Berkovitz’s masterful, painstaking edition of the Pinkas has for the first time made it readily accessible, if not to the world at large then at least to those scholars who are equipped to make their way through it—with his abundant assistance." - Allan Arkush, Binghamton University, The Journal of Modern History.

Table of contents

Volume 1 - English
Abbreviations used in footnotes
Chapter 1: Rabbinic Court Records: Law and Historical Narrative in the Eighteenth Century
Chapter 2: Civil Autonomy and Rabbinic Jurisdiction
Chapter 3: Legal Acculturation and Its Broader Social Foundations
Chapter 4: Overlapping Jurisdictions: Between Legal Centralism and Legal Pluralism
Chapter 5: Women, Family, and Property
Volume 2 - Hebrew
Facsimile Page from the Pinkas
Volume One, Part One: Fol. 5a-46a, July 1771– December 1774
Volume One, Part Two: Fol. 2a-54b, January 1774 – July 1777
Volume Two: Fol. 1a-147a, August 1777 – 1 July 1789
Appendix 1: Additional Cases August 1789 – January 1790
Appendix 2: List of Judges on the Beit Din
Appendix 3: Copy of consultation from Messieurs Pierre-Louis Roederer and Paquin, avocats
Appendix 4: List of Places
Appendix 5: List of Foreign (non-Hebrew) Words and Phrases
List of Abbreviations


All interested in Jewish studies, European History and Law.

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