At the beginning of the 16th century, in a chaotic Holy Roman Empire due to unending conflicts, wars of religion and peasant revolts, plagued by all kinds of fears, the Jews were targeted with a lot of popular hatred.
It was in this context of violence that, in the small imperial town of Rosheim, in Lower Alsace, a scholar turned pawnbroker, Yossel (1476-1554), rose to defend his persecuted Jewish brothers. He went to meet with great men of his time in order to lift the threat on his co-religionists throughout the Empire. He succeeded in placing the Jews under the direct protection of Charles V. The emperor, listening to their counsel, repeatedly defended them against the terrible decisions of the princes and cities.
Uniquely in the history of the Holy Roman Empire, the German Jews had a representative who was both invested by his brothers and recognized by the princes. Thanks to a safe-conduct from the emperor, the one who was since called “Yossel of Rosheim, commander of the German Jews” was able to travel everywhere, tirelessly defending his brothers in courts and imperial diets, and during public controversies.