The city of Basel in the history of the Jewish People
The first Jews arrived in Basel at the beginning of the 13th century, a majority of whom came from Gerrnany and France. Their main business was money changing. After the big earthquake that shook the city of Basel in 1356, the Jewish traders were amongst the first to accelerate generous financial assistance to rebuild the city.
Over the coming generations, the Jews were expelled from Switzerland but every time returned to the area. In the 16th century, Basel was used as the publishing center of the German speaking Jewish community.
Amongst the well known publications printed there was the German T'nach which was printed in 1710 by Yohan Brandmuller Jr..
In 1805 the city of Basel opened its gates to the first Jewish settlers that arrived from Alsace. The large amount of tolerance which the inhabitants of Basel and its surroundings had for the Jews, and its attribute as first class commercial, industrial and cultural center, attracted to it many Jews from Gennany and Eastern Europe.
The Basel Haggadah which was edited by Shlomo Kashilsberg with the utmost accuracy and highly artistic standards, was printed in 1816 by the well known printing press Wilhelm Haas in Basel . It is a convincing testimony to the flourishing life of the established Jewish community in this tranquil city throughout the 19th century.
The way in which the Basel Haggadah is written, is very characteristic of the period of Enlightenment. The commentaries are given in the Ashkenazi language, but written in Hebrew letters rather than foreign letters.
At the end of the 19th century, the tranquil city of Basel was chosen by Dr. Theodore Herzl as the venue for the first Zionist Congress which was held at the Casino Hall in the city between 29th and 3 1 st of August 1897.
The Basel Plan that was passed at the Congress joined under one roof, the practical approach of most of the "Lovers of Zion" together with the political outlook of Dr. Herzl, and with this the principal was laid for the establishment of the Zionist Movement as a political movement encompassing all the different Zionist groups and organizations .
As it was said at the prelude of the Basel Plan:"Zionism openly strives to find a safe haven for the Jewish people in the land of Israel". And so the goals were set and the practical framework was established for the activities of the Zionist movement. In the following congresses that were held in Basel, the foundations were laid for both the "Otzar Le'Hityashvut Hayehudim" and the "Keren Kayemet Le'lsrael".
Thus Zionism changed from, a vision to a deed, and the name of the city of Basel was etched for eternity in the history of the Jewish people.
The Basel Haggadah is a first class spiritual and national asset and worthy of a place in every Jewish home.