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FRANK, JACOB (1726-1791).

False messiah and leader of a sect that brought pain and strife during half a century of Jewish life. Jacob Frank spent the formative years of his life in Romania and Turkey. Having little education, his contact through his father with secret followers of Sabbatai Zevi, the 17th-century false messiah, proved to be a decisive influence on his unstable personality. He assumed the role of a messiah and went to Poland where he proclaimed himself a reincarnation of Sabbatai Zevi. Polish Jewry was reeling from the cruel blows of Cossack pogroms and were vunerable to the idea of a messiah who would save them. He began to teach the Kabbalah and represented himself as the reincarnation of all the prophets and messiahs who had come before him. He and his disciples outraged the Jewish community with their immoral and unorthodox behavior; finally, the local authorities banished Frank from Poland. Wherever Frank went, he brought trouble and calumny upon the Jewish people, causing a revival of the old accusation that Jews used human blood for ritual purposes. To discipline Frank and his followers, a conference of rabbis met in 1756. They banned the Frankist sect from the Jewish community and forbade the study of the Kabbalah by anyone under 30 years of age. The Frankists appealed to the Catholic bishop Dembowsky, claiming that they were Kabbalists at war with the Talmud which was full of error and blasphemy. They hinted that their beliefs resembled Christian tenets. The bishop summoned the rabbis to answer the charges against the Talmud in a public debate. As a result, thousands of copies of the Talmud were seized and publicly burned. Eventually, Frank and a thousand of his followers were baptized. Great pomp attended these baptisms, to which Frank came dressed in magnificent Turkish robes. But the Church, never trusting these converts, watched them closely and later imprisoned Frank for conversion under false pretenses. The Frankist sect survived him for a time but no longer had any importance.

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