A shtadlan was an intercessor figure starting in Medieval Europe, who represented interests of the local Jewish community, especially those of a town's ghetto, and worked as a "lobbyist" negotiating for the safety and benefit of Jews with the authorities holding power. The process of Jewish intercession is known as shtadlanus (Yiddish pronunciation: shtadlonis).
Typically, a Jewish community (qahal) governed its own internal affairs. The interactions with the outside society, such as tax collection and enforcement of various restrictions and compulsions imposed on the community, were arranged by an internal governing board.
The shtadlan emerged to prominence in 17th century Europe, with the rise of absolutism, as an intermediator between the resident Jewish community and the monarchical government in control of the region. The position was appointed by the government, and could even be named as a royal official. Although he officially represented the Jewish community only, the shtadlan became a tool of the government.
During the late 19th century, the use of the press and public opinion as leverage for shtadlanus activity became the most important change in the work of the shadlan, becoming closely associated with relief efforts for victims of pogroms in Russia as well as the early foundings of Political Zionism.
- Francois Guesnet, Jewish political culture between East and West: Isaak Ruelf and the Transformations of intercession (shtadlanus) in the 19th century.
- See Tosafot Yom Tov on Pirkei Avos 2:3 where Rabbi Yom-Tov Lipmann Heller compares those who work on behalf of the community to intercede with the ruling power to the likes of Mordecai in the Book of Esther and to Rabbi Judah HaNasi, codifier of the Mishna.