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).
Shtadlanim (plural of shtadlan) relied on many tactics to intercede on the behalf of the Jewish community. These included emotional appeals, such as begging, rational appeals such as trying to implement charters or decrees, and also gifts of money or other goods to gain favor. Elyakim Zelig from Jampol, reported specifically on the need to beg for the Pope’s favor during a mission to Rome in 1757, in which he tried to gain support for defending Jews against blood libel charges.
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.
Shtadlan played large roles in the Jewish communities, especially in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. One prominent shtadlan was Barukh ben David Yavan born in the early 1700s. Yavan was instrumental in many secret missions between the king of Poland, Augustus III and Frederick II of Prussia, helping to end the War of the Austrian Succession. Yavan was also in contact with a papal nuncio in Warsaw allowing him to save many Talmuds after the Kamieniec disputation that led to most Talmuds being burned. Jacob Teitel, born in 1851 under czarist Russian rule, is another example of an influential shtadlan. After a pogrom began in the city of Saratov, he used his connection to the regional governor to stop anti-Jewish actions from continuing.
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.
- Ury, Scott (2002). The Shtadlan of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth: Noble Advocate or Unbridled Opportunist?. Portland, Oregon: Oxford.
- "YIVO | Barukh ben David Yavan". www.yivoencyclopedia.org. Retrieved 2016-12-07.
- Horowitz, Jacob (2000). "A Portrait of a Russian-Jewish Shtadlan: Jacob Teitel's Social Solution". Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal Of Jewish Studies 18. no. 3: 1 – via JSTOR.
- 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.