by Rafal Mahler
Translated by Martin Jacobs
Edited by Renee Miller
Like Russia, Austria had been preparing for the partitioning of Poland years before 1772. In 1769 Austria found a threefold excuse to place soldiers on the border between Hungary and Poland: In 1768 the Confederation of the Nobles was proclaimed in Poland in the town of Bar (in Podolia), for the purpose of fighting Russia's interference in the internal affairs of Poland and defending the Catholic religion against the rights of dissenters (Eastern Orthodox and Protestants) that Russia had forced upon Poland. The Bar confederates, by the way, also entered Sącz and, as they did everywhere, carried out extensive requisitions for their needs. In the same year of 1768 Turkey declared war on Russia. Turkey was an ally of the confederates, while the Polish king was a puppet of Russia. In 1769 a cattle plague broke out in Podolia and the Carpathian region. Austria therefore maintained that it was securing the Hungarian border to protect the state from disturbances because of war and from the plague. Austria however also took this occasion to settle an old score:
In the Zips, in Slovakia, sixteen towns, including Poprad, Podoliniec, Lubowla, had been under Polish rule since 1412, when the Emperor Sigmund the Luxemburger mortgaged them to the Polish king Wladislaw Jagiello.
Since the Bar confederates had also penetrated into the region of Lubowla, Austria occupied all the towns of the Zips, ostensibly to defend them from the confederates. But this wasn't all: While garrisoning the border between Hungary and Poland the Austrians discovered that the whole region of Neumark and a great part of the Sącz region once belonged to Hungary. On this basis, on the second of August 1770, the boundary poles with the Imperial eagles were moved northwards up to the village of Mogilna. Thus, for over two years, until September 1772, the town of Nowy Sącz was under Hungarian rule, and only afterwards became a part of Galicia, which Austria occupied in the first partition of Poland.
In the first administrative division of Galicia into six areas, Nowy Sącz, as one of the krayz-distriktn, was placed under the circle of Wieliczka. In 1782 the division into circles was abolished; the whole country was divided into eighteen krayzn, among which Nowy Sącz with its environs was a krayz in itself.
After the fire of 1769 ( the town of Sącz recovered very slowly. At first only several brick and stone houses were rebuilt. In 1785 there were still only 27 brick or stone houses in the entire city, and these were very simple ones. The remaining houses were partly wooden, without chimneys, and partly clay huts. From a once prominent fortress Sącz was transformed into a modest shtetl. The population of the town, and of the Jews in it, grew very slowly up to the end of the 18th century:
According to the Austrian count, in 1785 the town of Sącz had a total of 2496 inhabitants; the number of Jews is not provided but according to a later count it can be assumed it amounted to hardly 800 persons, which is less than a third and not much more than their actual number in 1765.
According to an official table, in 1799 the town of Nowy Sącz numbered 2887 persons, of whom 832 were Jews, approximately 29 percent. The Jewish population consisted of 417 men and 415 women. There were 198 couples (this does not include widows and widowers). In the krayz of Nowy Sącz, Jews were indicated only in 19 shtetlekh [towns] and villages, among them:
|Shtetl or village||Population|
|Siedlce and Slowikowa||447||7||1|
|Dąbrowka with the Jewish colony and Bielowiec||403||54||11|
|Cieniawa and Gorzkowa||480||6||1|
|(Nay-Lentl with the Colony (near Stary Sącz))||86||2||1|
As we see, outside the town of Nowy Sącz a total of 50 Jewish families, amounting to 264 persons, lived in the krayz of Sącz in 1799. For the most part no more than 1-2 families lived in any village in the area. Only the shtetlekh Piwniczna, Tylicz, and Muszyna and the villages of Ptaszkowa and Barcice counted several Jewish families each. We will discuss later the Jewish colony in Dąbrowka, where 11 Jewish families with 54 persons lived. In the shtetl Piwniczna, where Jews were formerly not allowed to live, several Jewish families had already penetrated during the reign of the next to the last Polish king, August the Third. On the other hand, not one Jew was yet living in Stary Sącz (Old Sącz) at that time, though at the end of the 18th century it was not much smaller in population than Nowy Sącz, having 2506 inhabitants.
In the whole Nowy Sącz krayz, including the town of Nowy Sącz, the population in 117 localities that same year of 1799 amounted to 50,676 persons; of these, the Jews, who were to be found only in Nowy Sącz and another 19 localities, totaled 1096 persons, that is, less than 2.2 percent of the general population of the krayz.
At the beginning of the 19th century there did occur a relative increase both of the total population of the town of Sącz, and of the Jewish population in particular. In 1808 the town's population was 3629 persons, living in 441 houses, among who were 1138 Jews, that is, more than 31 percent. In the course of the eleven years up to 1819 the total population of the town grew to 4158, and probably the Jewish population also grew and in at least the same proportion.
The economic activities of the Jews in Sącz in the course of the first decade and a half under Austrian rule were a continuation of the situation in the last period of the former Poland. Only in the field of foreign commerce did an essential change take place in Sącz, just as in all of Galicia: because Prussia was collecting considerable customs duty on the Danzig border after it occupied Pomerania in 1772 (Danzig having remained a part of Poland), the export of produce to the port on the Baltic sea shrank greatly. We can see from the suits brought before the municipal court that the Jews of Sącz dealt in honey in order to produce mead, just as before. From Hungary Jewish merchants in Sącz brought copper as well as wine. Tenant farming flourished just as in Polish times and under the same conditions. It wasn't until the decrees of the Emperor Joseph II in 1784-1786 that the condition of the village Jews significantly worsened, and even in the towns Jewish taverns were restricted.
Despite insignificant changes in the types of occupations, the Sącz kehile was much impoverished in the early years of Austrian rule, not as yet being able to recover after the great fire of 1769 and the political unrest of that year.
For the landowners, the churches, and the priests, the kehile was nothing less than a convenient company for investing their capital. The investment was solid and the interest had to be paid on time, because if not the kehile faced severe sanctions, even including sealing up the synagogue. But just to pay off the interest on the debts new loans were indicated, and so the kehile's debts kept on growing.
The kehile in Sącz was still burdened with large special expenses, which increased the burden of its debt. The blood accusations of 1751 and 1761 without a doubt cost the kehile a considerable amount of money. The efforts to acquire a permit to build the new synagogue were related to many of the expenses. In connection with this the kehile had to defend itself in a suit with the local church and use the mediation of the Bishop of Cracow, Kajetan Soltik. And then came the great fire in April 1769, which destroyed the Jewish quarter and impoverished many of the bourgeoisie, and consequently also dried up the major source of the kehile's income. The misfortunes increased beyond measure that same year, when the Bar confederates occupied Sącz, plundered the inhabitants and levied tribute.
When Sącz was captured by the armies of Maria Teresa in the summer of 1770 and incorporated into Hungary, the kehile suffered another great loss. The Jews in Grybów, who had always been subject to the Sącz kehile as a przykahałek, now found themselves on the other side of the border, in the Kingdom of Poland. When, at the time of the first partition of Poland in 1772, Grybów, together with all of Galicia, passed under Austrian rule, the town was again administratively divided from Nowy Sącz: Grybów belonged to the krayz-distrikt of Biecz (Pilzno krayz), and not to the krayz-distrikt of Nowy Sącz.
The Jews of Grybów used the new political and administrative situation as an opportunity to tear themselves away from the Sącz kehile. Because of this the Sącz kehile suffered a great financial loss: until 1770 the Jews of Grybów paid the kehile in Sącz 155 zloty a year in tax money, 18 zloty a year for esrogim [a fruit over which blessings are said during Succos], and in addition a burial fee for every funeral, determined by separate bargaining for each instance. The Sączer Rov, who got the fees, performed all Grybów weddings and the Sączer rabbinical court heard all lawsuits by Grybów Jews, with the Sączer Rov as chief judge. The greatest loss for the Sącz kehile derived from the fact that the Grybów Jews established their own cemetery. The income from burial fees alone from the Grybów Jews amounted to about a thousand zloty a year, according to an accounting they themselves acknowledged. The situation became even more aggravated because the Sącz kehile was burdened by debts that were acquired when Grybów still belonged to the kehile. Consequently the Sącz kehile contended that the Grybów Jews must participate in paying off interest and capital on all debts. But indirectly too, the question of the Sącz kehile's debts was closely connected with the question of where the Grybów Jews belonged, because their secession diminished the income of the Sącz kehile and consequently made the possibilities of paying off its debts more difficult.
So it is no surprise that when, in 1772 the Sącz kehile came out with an application to the authorities for a moratorium on its debts, they combined with it their complaint about the Grybów separatism. The administration was occupied with the two questions together in the course of the following years, just as it was with the third burning question, the litigation with church and town for permission to build the new Sącz synagogue.
In 1772 the Sącz congregation applied to the Emperor himself, through the mediation of the Governor of Galicia in Lemberg, for a moratorium: referring to the destruction at the time of the 1769 fire and the damage which it had suffered from the rebellious residents that is, the Bar confederates, the community requested that the moratorium apply not only to the debts of the community itself, but also to the debts of individuals. At the same time the Sącz kehile sent a request to the Governor's office in Lemberg and afterwards to the Governor himself, with regard to ordering the Grybów Jews to remain attached to the Sącz kehile just as in Polish times.
The Governor's office in Lemberg asked the director of the Sącz krayz-distrikt, Johann Berzewici, for an opinion in both matters. On February 27 he transmitted his expert opinion:
In order to demonstrate his skill and his great political understanding, the director of the Sącz krayz-distrikt transformed his memorandum into a would-be highly learned Latin tractate about economics and politics. The gist of his pompous hair-splitting was that the Imperial authority was obligated to protect the interests of creditors, some of whom derive their livelihood from their loans, and a reduction in debt was liable to give a bad example to all debtors, who would conclude from it that one is not necessarily obligated to pay off debts on time. In the specific case of the request by the Sącz kehile he proposed this solution: A judge is to be appointed whose task first of all will be to compile separate lists of communal and private debts. At the same time the judge is to carry out an evaluation of the fixed and movable property of each of the Jews in the Sącz kehile. The total debt of the community is to be distributed among all individuals according to each one's possessions and according to the status of his private debts. The private debts are to be collected from each debtor separately. If the creditors will wish to take account of the circumstances of the community and of the private debtors and grant a reduction they may do that at their own risk, but the authorities must not compel them to do so.[Page 142]
With regard to the Grybów question, the krayz-distrikt director leaves it to the decision of the highest governor's office, whether the Jews in Grybów are to remain attached to the Sącz kehile, or form a separate kehile, or, in any event, should be required to pay their share of the Sącz kehile debts up to that time.
On March 26, the governor of Galicia, Johann Anton Pergen, issued his decree concerning the request of the Sącz kehile. Governor Pergen was not kindly disposed to Jews, but the circumstances of the Sącz kehile were so severe that he considered it necessary to set a compromise concerning the moratorium:
The kehile got a six-year moratorium on the principal of its debts, but with the reservation that the reduction not apply to claims advanced for urgent reasons. Regarding the interest on the debts, the landowners and the church institutions have no right to demand more than a half during the six years. In this connection it is particularly emphasized that no other Jewish kehile is to benefit from this reduction. The governor decided that the Jews of Grybów must participate in paying off the debts of the Sącz kehile just as they did before 1770, and must in the future bear proportionally all its burdens; they must also make up to the Sącz kehile what they still owed for the last years.
This edict for the moratorium, as we see, only partially satisfied the request of the Sącz kehile. In addition, the edict left a series of questions unclarified: First of all, the edict made no mention of a moratorium for debts owing to the same creditors by individual Sącz Jews rather than the kehile. Second, it was not clear from the wording of the edict if the half of the interest of the six years of the moratorium was completely canceled, or if payment was merely postponed for six years. The Sącz kehile naturally interpreted the moratorium according to the former explanation and in addition it claimed that, for the same reason, namely impoverishment because of the fire and the political unrest of 1769, it should also be exempt from paying half the interest on the debts of the four years from 1769 to 1773, when the moratorium was declared. The kehile sent a detailed memorandum concerning all the questions raised by the moratorium, as well as the question of the Jews of Grybów and permission to build the synagogue, to the Galicia Governor's Office in Lemberg.
On May 5, 1774 the Governor's office sent the memorandum of the Sącz kehile on to the krayz office of Wieliczka, to which the krayz-distrikt of Nowy Sącz belonged, for an expert opinion. On May 26, 1774 the district office of Wieliczka sent the Governor's Office its Obedient Report on the moratorium: The krayz office came out against the claims of the kehile on all three questions of the memorandum.
On the ninth of July 1774, on the basis of this expert opinion, the Governor's Office decided on the following instructions for the Wieliczka krayz office: The moratorium on half the interest relates to the interest due up to the date of the moratorium and the payment of half this interest may be postponed for six years, but the moratorium absolutely does not apply to the interest accrued in the course of the six years, and it must be repaid exactly on time. No moratorium applies to the interest of the four years 1769-1773, any more than to the interest of the preceding years. In this matter the Governor's Office added a prohibition: the Sącz kehile, exactly like other communities of the krayz, must not contract any new debts. Notice of this decision by the Governor's Office was served, by way of the Wieliczka krayz office, on July 27, 1774, to the Sącz distrikt directorate, which was ordered to inform the Sącz kehile.
As we see, not only did the Governor's Office not grant the request of the Sącz kehile, but it gave it its own interpretation and even made the provisions of the 1773 moratorium more difficult. Nothing was even mentioned about a moratorium on the debts of individual Jews, and so private debts could not benefit from any moratorium. No interest was canceled and the moratorium on half the interest during the six years was interpreted as applying to the interest accrued up to the moratorium and not to the interest of the six years of the moratorium. With reference to the period from 1769 to 1773, the Governor's Office not only ignored the question of cancellation of interest, but did not even grant what the Jews of Sącz had a right to ask for according to the Governor's interpretation: four additional years of moratorium for half the interest for those first four years after the fire.
The private Jewish debtors, as noted, did not even receive the modest six-year moratorium granted to the kehile. Jozef Zaręba, cited as the lessee of the Pasin estates, had the possibility of collecting all his debts with Sącz Jews  in spite of the fire. The debt of 700 zloty registered for the house of Jonah ben Joseph, who died before the time of the fire, became his widow's responsibility. Even though the house was totally destroyed in the fire of 1769, Zaręba had the empty site, with its cellar and well, appraised by a town committee in 1772. The appraisal amounted to a thousand zloty. Several months later that same year the court granted him the araynfirung* (wwiązanie) to the possession of the site.
* intermissio, Latin; intromission, English; wwiązani, Polish [editor's note: see p. 58]
In the same year he transferred the debt and the site to the Jew Simon Jakubowicz. At the same time he continued to register the site in his own name. In 1775 he raised a protest in court against Simon Jakubowicz on the grounds that he had built a Jewish temple* on the site.
The Jews of Sącz also had bad luck in their argument with the Jews of Grybów. Despite the decision of Governor Pergen of March 26, 1773, the Jews of Grybów were not willing to meet their commitments towards the Sącz kehile. When the Sącz kehile applied to Berzewici, the director of the Sącz district, to send a military force to press the Jews of Grybów, he answered that Grybów did not belong to his district. The kehile then placed the matter before General De Alton, who delegated Watowski as his commissar, but he too could not bring his plans to fruition. Under the circumstances the Sącz kehile agreed to a compromise worked out on the basis of the agreement reached by the representatives of the two sides: Sącz was represented by Rabbi Moses Yerukhem, Hershl Abramowicz, president of the kehile, and Jacob ben Simeon, probably one of the leaders of the kehile; signing for the compromise for the Jews of Grybów were the president of the Grybów kehile Benjamin ben Solomon, and an inhabitant of Grybów, Berek ben Joseph. According the agreement, signed in Sącz on July 22, 1773 the following was decided:
Even though the Sącz kehile has a loss of burial fees of about 3000 zloty since Grybów established its own cemetery, Grybów is to pay only 400 zloty for the last few years, in installments of 50 zloty each year for eight years. For the future Grybów is to pay into this account 200 zloty a year, in two installments each half year, and for this the Jews of Grybów will get the right to bury in their own cemetery. However they must not accept for burial anyone from the Sącz kehile but only from Grybów, on penalty of a 50 zloty fine. Grybów is to pay to Sącz eight zloty a year for esrogim. Fees for all marriages in Grybów belong to the religious staff of the Rabbi of Sącz. All rabbinical-court lawsuits must take place before the Rabbi or heads of kehile of Sącz. The Grybów tenant farmer and its innkeepers are to pay community taxes to the Sącz kehile and not to the Grybów kehile. Both parties obligate themselves to implement the agreement; in case of a violation of these rules a fine of 100 zloty shall be paid into the treasury of his Imperial Majesty, 50 zloty each to the starostas [provincial administrators] of Sącz and Grybów** and 100 zloty to the Sącz kehile.* Phanum Judaicum
** Until 1784 there were still starostas in Galicia as there were in Polish times.)
The compromise on the part of the Sącz kehile therefore basically consisted in giving up the community taxes from Grybów, which, according to its accounting, used to amount to 155 zloty a year, and agreeing to Grybów's having not merely its own kehile administration with its own finances, but also its own cemetery for which it set a yearly fee of 200 zloty for itself. Grybów for its part had to agree not only to this set fee in place of its burial fees, but also to paying for all religious matters for which it was dependent on Sącz: esrogim, weddings, and religious law-suits.
But the Jews of Grybów did not keep the compromise agreement, as the Sącz kehile indicated in its charge before the authorities; at the very first deadline in autumn of the same year, 1773, they failed to pay the half-year installment, 25 zloty towards the debt, and 100 zloty towards the current charge. They performed burials in their cemetery, taking burial fees from outside Jews, that is, not from Grybów. They took in Jews for the holidays, that is, country Jews who went to Grybów instead of Sącz for the High Holy Days, and in general they want to separate themselves with force from the Sącz kehile. Given that the Jews of Grybów had broken the agreement, the Sącz kehile declared that it too was withdrawing from the agreement, and demanded that the Jews of Grybów rejoin the Sącz kehile, as they had belonged in times past , in particular since this was decided in the governor's edict of March 26th of that year. To this end, the Sącz kehile insisted that the Jews of Grybów pay all fines provided in the agreement for violating it. Finally, the Sącz kehile gave a clarification, that if Grybów really went its own way and did not contribute to the Sącz kehile, the latter would not be able to pay the installments on the debt and on the interest with which it was burdened.
After the application of the Sącz kehile to the Governor's office concerning the Grybów matter, along with the matter of the moratorium and of being able to complete construction of the synagogue, the Wieliczka krayz office issued a statement about Grybów at the insistence of the Governor's office, on May 26, 1774: Since Grybów belongs to the Biecz distrikt in the krayz of Pilzno, and it has not yet been decided if the Biecz distrikt is to be incorporated into the krayz of Wieliczka, of which the Sącz distrikt is a part, the Jews of Grybów may separate from the Sącz kehile only on two conditions: First, they must not set up their own kehile , but they may join a kehile of the Pilzno krayz second, they are obligated to bear proportionately the share of the debts and interest which burden the Sącz kehile to which they had belonged until recently. The Wieliczka krayz office therefore had nothing at all against Grybów's no longer belonging to the Sącz kehile, as long as the creditors, the landlords and priests, not suffer a loss from this.
However, the Governor's Office did indeed consider it necessary not to deviate from the edict of Governor Pergen, and on July 9, 1774 it sent word to the Wieliczka krayz office that Grybów, while belonging for administrative purposes to the Pilzno tsirkl, must remain annexed to the Sącz kehile, so as to avoid various disputes, in particular over repaying or liquidating the (Sącz) kehile debts. Indeed, the Jews of Grybów are to be sharply reprimanded for having permitted themselves to establish their own cemetery without a permit from the Governor's Office.
For now the controversy with Grybów ended in favor of the Sącz community. With the new division of Galicia into krayzn in 1777 and 1782, and still more on the basis of the patent of Joseph II for the Jews in Galicia in 1789, the question of the dependence of the smaller communities on the krayz communities, among which was the community of Sącz, was automatically settled.
It must be admitted that the conditions in which the small congregation of Jews in the shtetl in the Carpathian Mountains fought for their substitute temple [mikdosh me-at, a reference to Ezekiel 11:16Translator's note] were in a way even more difficult than in ancient times when the Temple was built for the entire people. The Persian monarchs were in general tolerant and granted full religious freedom to their subjects, whereas the fanatical Catholicism of the Austrian ruler Maria Teresa was not far removed from the anti-Semitism of the priests. And yet the spirit of the times was on the side of the Jews of Sącz, the spirit of enlightenment, which was also beginning to penetrate the Austrian absolute monarchy. Among the high officials of the Galician administration were persons imbued with the ideas of rationalism, who examined the rotten tricks of the clerical camp and recognized the justice of the defensive struggle of the Sącz community.
After the fire of 1769, in which the old 17th century wooden synagogue, which had stood on the property of the royal castle, also burned down, the community was of course no longer able to put off building the new synagogue, for which it had previously made such great efforts to get a permit. Work began at the assigned site on Shpitalne Street, near the town wall. But no sooner had digging begun to lay the foundation than the town council drove them off, probably with the same claim which the town was later to use again and again, that the site belonged to the town. Jan Lassota, abbot of the Premonstratensian monastery, emerged as principal opponent. He maintained that the synagogue was being built much further from the town wall than was permitted by the bishop's 1763 permit and consequently would also come out too close to the monastery. It appears that in connection with these disruptions the community sent a delegation to Vienna in 1772, but it was unsuccessful.
At any rate the community recognized the necessity of putting a stop to the complaints of the council and the church, and, despite the great cost of such an undertaking, decided to move the structure to a place nearer the town wall. The place was soon found: The Jonasowa site (the house had been destroyed in the fire of 1769), which had been mortgaged for 700 zloty by two Jews to the Pasin lessee Józef Zaręba since 1758 and 1762, in 1772 passed by way of an intromission into the possession of that landowner. On June 11, 1773 Zaręba ceded the debt and the mortgaged site to Simeon ben Jacob, a Jew of Sącz. On this site, which was 24 ells closer to the town wall than the previous, the community began anew to build the synagogue, bringing over from the previous site the building materials they had assembled there.
This immense exertion on the part of the community also came to naught, and the Sącz collegiate church lodged a protest with the same complaints which the Abbot had brought against the previous site, namely that the new site likewise was not the one permitted by the Bishop of Cracow and that it was too close to the Christian quarter. The collegiate church added new complaints to this: The synagogue was to be of brick or stone, while the permit only called for a wooden one; both the length and breadth were more splendid than what was decided, etc.
The community again turned to Bishop Soltik and asked for a confirmation enabling them to build the synagogue without being disturbed. Without a doubt this time also the request to the Bishop was accompanied by an appropriate bribe. Yet the bishop adopted a delaying tactic; on July 22, 1773 he gave the two canons of the Sącz collegiate church, Józef Markewicz and Wojciech Mroziński, the following instruction: The representatives of the collegiate church are ordered to go down, on a suitable occasion, to the site where the synagogue was being built and ascertain then and there what materials were being used, to measure the length and breadth of the walls, and to estimate, as much as was now possible, the appearance and the splendor that the synagogue will have when it is completed. After receiving all the particulars the bishop would render his decision.
When they received the bishop's letter, the collegiate church of Sącz at first attempted to use the method which it had tried in 1765, that is, to use its influence on the town council to bring its own protest against the construction of the synagogue, as a matter which affected the town's rights. Only such organized cooperation with the collegiate church can explain why barely five days after the date of the bishop's letter, on July 27, 1773, there appeared before the town administration of Sącz six people, among them the mayor of Sącz, Jan Mydowicz, the bailiff Antony Cybulski, and two councilmen, and both in their own name, and the name of the town council, they brought a protest against that unbeliever, the Rabbi, the officers, and the whole synagogue of Nowy Sącz on account of their usurping a municipal site without the knowledge of the town, and preparing to build not only houses but a synagogue on this site.
Immediately after this protest by the town council, the collegiate church set about the work in full force. It summoned the parneysim [leaders] of the kehile and ordered them to show all documents of privilege giving Jews the right to live in the town and build a synagogue for themselves.
The leaders explained that these documents were destroyed in the fire of 1769, and only the latest royal document of privilege, issued by King Stanislaw August Poniatowski in 1765, and the Cracow bishop's 1763 permit to build the synagogue, were rescued. The collegiate church then mobilized everyone who had any complaint at all against the building of the synagogue: the abbot of the Premonstratensian Order in Sącz, Jan Szczakowski-Lassota, who complained that building the synagogue in the vicinity of his monastery was a source of disturbance for his monastery, because the synagogue would disturb the monks in their service of God; two representatives of the Franciscan monastery, who calculated the great damage the monastery suffered during the fire of 1769, which the Jews started; the rector of the Sącz Academic Colony, the doctor of theology Martin Witowski, who furnished an accounting of the debts which the community owed the Colony; the bailiff, mayor, and two of the town's councilman, who complained about all the wrongs done by the Jews and their attempts to reduce the town's privileges, and also provided copies of the royal documents of privilege for Nowy Sącz, which assured the town the same rights (with regard to Jews) as Warsaw.
On Friday night, September 27, 1773, the Jews in Sącz witnessed a spectacle which sent a shudder through them: The two representatives of the Sącz collegiate church, canons Jozef Markiewicz and Wojtiech Mrozinski, had arranged a kind of black committee, which descended in a body on the place where the synagogue was being built, in order to carry out an on-the-spot inspection and take all the measurements called for by Bishop Solnik of Cracow. In addition to the two leading priests, an entire congregation of Premonstratensians, the two leaders of the Franciscan monastery, the rector of the Academic Colony, and the four members of the town council marched to the synagogue site, a committee of ten in all.
The committee left the Premonstratensian monastery, later to be the Jesuit monastery, taking natural, slow, human steps. It calculated that from the last Catholic house up to the wall of the synagogue, which was in the midst of being built, was not more than 23 steps. After that it measured the length of the walls, on which work had begun, which came to thirty and a half ells, and the breadth, 29 and a quarter ells. The height of the walls so far reached only something over an ell and a half and its thickness two and a quarter ells. According to the plan, however, the walls were to reach nine ells, since this was what the community had contracted with the mason. Two master builders, whom the committee had brought with them as experts, calculated the depth of the foundation at three ells. These masters also testified that, when completed, the synagogue, with its roof, would tower too much over the public road which it would face.
The committee also discovered that a deep cellar, which was a fright to see, had been dug under the walls of the synagogue, and that there were two deep wells in the cellar.
Under these circumstances the committee also looked into the Jewish cemetery, lying not far from the synagogue site, and determined that one of its three gates, the one facing the Catholic houses, blocked the road.
After this on-the-spot inspection, the two representatives of the collegiate church summoned representatives of the town council in order to find out if the synagogue was really being built on the permitted site. Three members of the town council, the mayor, the bailiff, and one of the councilmen, showed up, and they stated that according to the bishop's 1763 permit the synagogue should have been set up close to the city wall, at the Cracow tower, and was now being built further away from the wall; it was also far from the site at which the Jews had at first set about digging, from which they were driven away by the town council. The town councilmen thought it necessary to mention this old sin; although the bishop had ordered the destruction of the old synagogue within twenty days of his issuance of the permit for a new synagogue, they continually dragged their feet on this, and the old synagogue would be standing even now if it had not been destroyed in the fire four years before.
The genteel and respectable town provisioners also came to the collegiate church hearing with accusations against the Jews which had nothing to do with the building of the synagogue, but were an acknowledgement of wrongs the collegiate church had itself fixed upon the Jews: In opposition to the ban on keeping Christian servants, the Jews hired such servants for a year and kept them for years; on certain days they superstitiously sold Christians brewing and distilling licenses and equipment with a deed of purchase; they very often desecrated Catholic holidays; they arranged very noisy weddings, with music, and clowned around during the 40 days of Lent and in Advent*, disturbing worship services in the nearby Franciscan monastery. During the processions on Corpus Christi (Boże Ciało) and when the holy sacrament was brought to sick people they didn't conceal themselves and didn't run home to close their doors and windows; on the contrary, they would sneak close to the Catholic market and look on, all together, with the greatest disrespect, and stand nearby with their heads covered.
*Advent four weeks before Christmas
On the three holy days before Easter they had a habit of going around the market and the Catholic houses as much as possible. Their houses were separated from the Catholic houses neither by a wall nor by a ditch, which could lead to much harm.
The councilors of Sąndz were also seeking a way to buy back those sites of theirs that Jews were occupying, such as the site on which the Jews were now beginning to build their synagogue.
Thus the Sąndz collegiate church, on the occasion of the measuring of the synagogue, dusted off all the decrees of the dark Middle Ages, not even omitting the requirement of separating the Jewish quarter with a wall or a moat, a decree which the Polish church had enacted at its synod in Wroclaw half a millennium earlier, in 1266!
Of all the investigations by the Collegiate church, the Sąndz kehile correctly saw the greatest danger for itself in the claim of the church and of the town that the synagogue was not being built at the permitted site. The officers of the community asked the Collegiate church to hear testimony under oath and to let the community present counter-testimony. The Collegiate church rejected the request on the pretext that when it comes to the obvious, previous testimonies are reliable and counter-testimonies are from the outset not allowed since they are false; it was obvious that the synagogue was being built on a site seventy pace from the Cracow gate, whereas the permit spoke of a site at the gate.
The two representatives of the collegiate church communicated all this in their answer to Bishop Soltik, which they dated the same day, September 7, 1773.
After such an answer from the collegiate church Bishop Soltik forbade any further building of the synagogue and on the basis of his decision the building was interrupted by force; it appears that the clergy and the town council together drove off the craftsmen and would not allow any building to continue.
In addition to the questions of the moratorium and Grybów, as we have mentioned, the community, in its memorandum to the Governor's office of May 2, 1774, also included the request to complete the construction of the synagogue. On May 5, 1774 the Governor's office transmitted the Sąndz community's petition to the Wieliczka krayzamt [district office] for an expert opinion and on May 26 the opinion was sent out. On the basis of the district directorate of Sandz' opinion of that the claims of the Sąndz clergy had no foundation, the krayzamt held that consent must be given to the Jewish community to continue the construction of the synagogue. In connection with this the krayzamt remarked characteristically: In any event if the question of whether Jewry in the kingdoms of Lodomer and Galicia is to be maintained or diminished is decided in favor of their being maintained, the local krayzamt is inclined to the opinion of the directorate in favor of the construction of the synagogue .
On July 9, 1774 the Governor's office instructed the krayzamt of Wieliczka to allow the completion of the synagogue on the basis of the expert opinion of the krayzamt, and added another consideration, that this was a matter of the completion of a building which had already been started and which had already cost three thousand Rhenish gilden. On July 27 the Wieliczka krayzamt informed the district directorate in Sąndz of this, as well as the decision on the question of the moratorium and Grybów.
After such a decision by all divisions of the Galician administration, the church in Sąndz decided to appeal to the Empress herself. On April 17, 1775 such a petition was sent to the Empress, in the German language, signed by the Abbot of the Premonstratensian monastery Jan Lassota, and three other leaders of the monastery, the prior, the subprior, and the churchwarden, in their own name and in the name of the whole Sąndz canonicate.
The praiseworthy zeal of her Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty in preserving the esteem of the one beatific religion and keeping it untainted gave the petitioners the courage to seek the one remaining protection from the arrogant Jewry of Nowy Sącz at the Imperial throne. Not enough that the Jews of Sąndz recently grew so numerous that they already amounted to more than half the town's population; not enough that, according to the attached certificate, they seized town sites in order to expand their dwellings; they also began to build a synagogue without regard to all the protests from the town and its citizens, on a site belonging to the town. The synagogue was being built so close to the monastery that their screaming and uproar would soon disturb prayer and other spiritual practices; the holy Catholic religion would be exposed to their ridicule and mockery and to their contempt. This was all happening despite the complaints and protests that the Christian Consistory of Sąndz, the nobles, and the town council sent to Governor's office. The petitioners ended by requesting the Empress to take seriously the arrogance, most worthy of punishment, of the Nowy Sącz Jewry on the one hand, and maintaining undisturbed the esteem of our Christian Catholic religion on the other.
The priests of Sąndz were right in counting on the Catholic fanaticism of the pious Maria Teresa. On May 3, 1775 the following decree of the court was sent to the Galician Governor's office from the Viennese court chancery in the name of the Empress: The governor's office is directed to investigate the complaint of Lassota, the Premonstratensian Abbot of Sąndz, in regard to the construction of the Sąndz synagogue, which is taking place against the protests of the monastery and the town council.
The Governor's office is also obliged to explain within six weeks why until now it has not undertaken any steps in this important matter, although according to the Abbot's petition protests from the Consistory and the town council were sent to the Governor's office: And considering that it is the all-highest will of Her Majesty to restrict the increase of the Jewish population and the spread of their faith, the Governor's office is immediately to interrupt the construction of the Sąndz synagogue, awaiting a further decree.
On May 16, 1775 the Governor's office sent the requested report to the Empress. Incensed at the deceitful tactics of the representatives of the Sącz church, which invented protests to the Governor's office which had never been sent there, and also kept quiet about the explicit permission from the Governor to build the synagogue, the Governor's office begins the report with the following remark: However much the Governor's office is accustomed to various untruths with which it is always occupied, would that everyone had restrained himself from advancing something so unacceptable before the throne of her Majesty, but would at least that we could expect such an undertaking on the part of the clergy. The Governor's office proves, according to the documents that it attaches to the report, that it could not be accused of not having undertaken steps in the question of the construction of the Sandzer synagogue. Neither the Cracow consistory, nor the abbot of the Premonstratensian monastery, nor the Sandzer town council, has ever turned to the Governor's office with a complaint about the construction of the synagogue. On the other hand, the Sandzer Jewish community on May 12, 1774 did send a petition about the matter, told of interference from the clergy, and asked for protection in order to continue the construction of the synagogue. The report of the Sandzer district director to the Wieliczka krayzamt [county office] shows that the Jews of Sandz are entitled by the royal charters and by permission of the bishop of Cracow to build the synagogue. The Sandzer community had come to an understanding with the Premonstratensian abbot and the town council. Ironically, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, the Governor's office notes here that the only crime which the other side had brought out in the agreement was the inherited prejudice that on the site of the synagogue a well was discovered into which the Jews had allegedly thrown Christian children which they had caught . . .
The site of the synagogue is on the edge of the town, completely set apart, and is so far from the Premonstratensian monastery that even a person's loudest screaming cannot carry up to the monastery. Here another characteristic detail comes out: The synagogue was at first begun on a site which was somewhat nearer to the monastery, but when the abbot protested the Jews moved the structure, despite the great cost, although the foundations had already been laid.
At the time of the on-site inspection the abbot had not brought any special complaints on his part, other than just the complaints of the Sanzder Collegiate church. And yet (after the bishop's reply of 1773) the construction of the synagogue was interrupted by the clergy and the workmen were driven off.
The Sąndzer district directorate and the krayzamt of Wieliczka have thus acted reasonably when they proposed to the Governor's office that the continuation of the construction of the synagogue be permitted, and the Governor's office did indeed issue such permission on July 9, 1774.
As regards the All-highest Imperial will that Galician Jewry not spread, the Governor's Office holds that permission to build the Sącz synagogue does not contravene these instructions, since a synagogue has already existed in Sącz. And in general the Governor's office remarks, since the Revindication (boundary restoration) the local (i.e. Galician) Jewish community has been sufficiently held back above all by the limitation on their marriages.
The report of the Governor's Office to the Empress concludes with the most humble announcement that in view of the above conditions, and after the Governor had given his consent to build the Sącz synagogue last year, the Governor's Office did not carry out the command in its strictest sense and did not call for the construction to be interrupted.
The Court Chancery in Vienna, however, did indeed insist on the strictness of the command and in its order of June 14, 1775 ordered the Governor's Office to stop the construction of the Sącz synagogue for the time being and to carry out an investigation of the dispute. Again the Sącz community was compelled not only to bear the great expense of a lawsuit with the church and the town council, but also to suffer great losses due to the fact that the synagogue building remained uncompleted, such a situation having lasted close to two and a half years.
The Governor's Office appointed a committee in the summer of 1775 for the investigation. Its chairman was Josef von Baum, district chief of the Wieliczka krayz, of which the Sandzer district was a part. Both sides were required to submit their claims and documentary evidence to this committee.
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