Robert S. MacLennan/Black Sea Project

“The synagogue of the Jews” will act as guardian of a newly released slave, according to the Greek text on this manumission document from the Simferopol Museum in the Crimea. Dating to about the end of the first century C.E., this marble stela, 19 inches high and 11 inches wide, stipulates that the slave—whose name is illegible—cannot be re-enslaved and is free to travel anywhere in the world, provided that he or she adheres devoutly to the proseuche, or Jewish community.

Twelve manumission documents from the Crimea region have been recovered, and a number of these documents entrust the preservation of the slave’s freedom to the Jewish community. Not only were there established Jewish communities on the Crimean peninsula by the first century C.E., but these communities commanded respect and were trusted to perform important civic functions.