Q. Why do some heirloom prayerbooks bear the names Heidenheim and Roedelheim?
A. Wolf Benjamin, the son of Shimshon, born in 1757, used to call himself Ish Heidenheim, a man from Heidenheim, the village in Bavaria from which he originated. His early studies made him a passionate believer in the need for scrupulously accurate texts of Hebrew works.
By the end of the 18th century he had a printing shop in Roedelheim, a suburb of Frankfort-am-Main. Not only did he publish the works of other authors, but he produced books of his own, especially machzorim for the festivals and two editions of the daily prayer book. He was very careful with the Hebrew text and the quality of his printing.
The title page of his books bore his Hebrew signature, though this did not achieve the desired effect of preventing plagiarism or pirating of his works. Nonetheless, genuine Heidenheim/Roedelheim editions were always highly respected and found their way all over the world. As a result, there are still copies in many Jewish homes, though pirated editions betray their inauthenticity by their statement in small letters, “as correct as any edition ever printed”, followed in large print by the name “Roedelheim”.
It is said that though countless tombstones in the Jewish cemetery in Roedelheim were vandalised by the Nazis, Heidenheim’s grave survived.