The French Sanhedrin was an assembly of 71 members of the Jewish community convened in Paris during February–March 1807, at the request of Napoleon. The object of this assembly was to convert the “secular” answers given by the Assembly of Jewish Notables to the questions put to them by the government into doctrinal decisions, which would be binding on the Jews religiously, by drafting them as precepts based on the Bible and halakhah. Previously, on Oct. 6, 1806, the Assembly of Jewish Notables sent a manifesto to the Jewish communities in Europe, inviting them – in vague terms – to participate in the activities for “revival” and “freedom” which Napoleon was preparing through the Sanhedrin for the benefit of the Jewish people.
The response of European Jewry to this manifesto was exceedingly poor. The Sanhedrin was constituted of two-thirds rabbis and one-third laymen (some of the rabbis and all the laymen had been members of the Assembly of Jewish Notables), all from the French Empire and the “Kingdom of Italy.” David Sinzheim of Strasbourg, one of the eminent halakhic authorities of the day, was appointed president. The nine regulations issued by the Sanhedrin were confirmed in eight solemn and magnificent sessions. The doctrinal preamble to the regulations states that the Jewish religion comprises both religious precepts which are eternal, and political precepts which had no further validity from the time Jewry ceased to be a nation.
The regulations stated that:
D. Tama, Collection des procès-verbaux et décisions du Grand-Sanhédrin (Paris, 1807); idem, Transactions of the Parisian Sanhédrim (London, 1807); A.-E. Halphen (ed.), Recueil des lois, décrets et ordonnances concernant les Israélites (1851), 20–34; R. Anchel, Napoléon et les Juifs (1928); F. Pietri, Napoléon et les Israélites (1965), 84–115; B. Mevorah (ed.), Napoleon u-Tekufato (1968), 77–132.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.