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E. Internal Life
(From 1648 to the Second Partition of Poland)

English Translation by David Dubin

What is known about the internal life of the Jews of Kremenets between the decrees of 1648–1649 and the entry of Kremenets into the Russian realm?

We have already mentioned that the community was reestablished soon after the decrees, and in 1655 we find R' Yitschak son of Ozer's signature on a judicial ruling of the Council of Four Lands. This same R' Yitschak of Kremenets continued his public service not only in the Kremenets community and the Volin District Council, but also in the Council of Four Lands. In 1661, he signed a judicial ruling of the Four Lands regarding a refugee from Pozna.[81] He was chosen as one of the two representatives of the Volin district to the Council of Four Lands meetings to be held in Pshivorsk. At the request of the Ludmir community, his election was recorded in the municipal archives there.[82] Around 1687, we meet him again as one of the leaders of the “Volin district” in the distribution of the tax burden among the various districts during the celebrations of the Four Lands.[83]

The ancient principal communities of the council of Volin jealously guarded their positions; the strength of this stand is shown by the fact that only two additional communities – Dubna and Kovel – managed to become principal communities. Kremenets continued in its status as a principal community. One document reveals a bit of the Volin District Council's internal workings and procedures. This is the document appointing R' Fishil son of Leyb as district leader beginning in 1705. R' Fishil was a well-known civic activist from Ludmir who had worked for many years as a trustee and leader of the Four Lands and the district. Apparently, the leaders of the autonomous Jewish institutions in Poland were already heavily embroiled in difficulties by that time, and few were willing to jump into these situations. The representatives of the principal communities, among them R' Leyb son of Menashe and R' Leyzer son of Moshe of Kremenets, implored R' Fishil to take on the district leadership again, and they obligated themselves to lighten his load: “He will not have to arrange the division (of taxes) for the surroundings (settlements subordinated to the principal communities and the district), only for the principal districts along with their settlements and for the cities of our district, Volin.”[84] Kremenets also dominated a broad surrounding area, including several settlements larger than itself.

In 1720, the Volin District Council met in Kozin. The city's rabbi at that time, R' Shmuel son of Efraim of Ludmir, and R' Moshe son of Menachem Mendil Margalit participated as emissaries of Kremenets.[85]

At that time the problem of old debts owed to the community of Kremenets and several of its inhabitants arose among the leaders of the Four Lands. At that time, “R' Mikhel (of Kremenets) lent to all of the lands.” Of this amount, the leaders of the lands were obligated to pay a set sum to the community of Kremenets (325 zloty per year) and to the donor's heirs (72 zloty). The 1724 Yaroslav council expresses the view that “this debt is operative permanently, and the abovementioned payment will be assessed yearly and paid to the holy community of Kremenets without any delay or interference, and with an eternal obligation on our trustees of the Four Lands, and this judgment in the hands of the holy community of Kremenets empowers it as if it had a lien from the trustees of the lands worth 397 zloty yearly.”[86] Apparently, the R' Mikhel who is mentioned in this document is identical to “Officer Merkil,” who later traveled with his wife to the Land of Israel, and soon after the decrees of 1648 he opened a kloyz in Kremenets.

[Translator's Note: Kloyz (plural: kloyzelakh) is a Yiddish for small study hall or synagogue.]

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It was said that “he lent an enormous amount to the officers, the leaders of the Four Lands, to provide for the relatives of the poor and students, first to those nearer, and he also stipulated that they should give a yearly specified sum to the poor of Jerusalem.”[87]

The Volin District Council protected the affairs of the Jews in the district not only in the narrow range of the district itself and in relation to the Council of the Lands; it also helped the merchants of Volin in their business outside the country. In 1733 a representative specifically for the district sat in Breslau. Kremenets appears as one of the cities he represented. Its Jewish merchants apparently reached Silesia. On the power of attorney granted this representative in 1734 is the signature of “R' Barukh (apparently this should be R' Arye) Leyb the rabbi in Kremenets and the district trustee of Volin.”[88] R' Arye Leyb served as the Volin representative at meetings of the Council of Four Lands for the purposes of dividing the tax burden in 1739.[89] He apparently was very rich, and the community owed him substantial amounts. In 1750 he acquired from King August III the privilege of serving as rabbi in Kremenets and its surroundings and as district trustee and trustee of the House of Israel in the Four Lands.[90]

In 1735 and 1758, the aforementioned R' Moshe son of Menachem Margalit served as leader of the Volin district.[91]

In 1750, “Bner (Avner?) of Kremenets” signed an invitation to the community of Chernobil along with other leaders of the Volin district.[92]

In 1758, the municipal records of Kremenets record a protest by the Volin district trustees (the rabbi of Kremenets, R' Arye Leyb, and the rabbi of Ludmir, R' Shaul) against the communities of Ostra and Lutsk. The trustees claimed that the community of Ostra, “the first and the greatest of the communities of Volin,” refused to pay the expenses, which approached 38,000 gold pieces, incurred by the district trustees while they attended to the Jews' affairs in the aforementioned community. A District Council convened in Rachmanov to deal with these expenses certified their justice, but the community of Ostra did not pay even the amount that it acknowledged.[93] In that same convocation in Rachmanov, the district leader, R' Moshe son of Menachem Mendil, and the other district leaders gave power of attorney over their own affairs and the settlement of the district accounts to the abovementioned trustees. This power of attorney arranged tax collection and debt coverage for 10 years. Besides the district leader, other signatories were three other representatives from Kremenets: R' Duvid son of Yakov, Eli son of Moshe, and Leyb son of Leyb.[94] In the same year (March 25), the District Council convened in Korets and, among other things, decided that several satellites of the Kremenets community would be transferred to the community of Teofilpol. Among those signing were other delegates from Kremenets: Chanokh son of Chayim, Eli son of Moshe, and Zelig of Yampol.[95]

The Council of Four Lands was disbanded in 1764, but the District Councils continued to function even afterward.

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In 1774, we find the rabbis of Kremenets and Dubna arranging the tax burden of the Ovruch community. They voided a previous decision of the rabbis of Kremenets and Polanah.[96]

From these small amounts of information, a picture forms of the Kremenets community as active in the District Council and sometimes appointed by its members to the positions of district leader and trustee. Nevertheless, we also see the decline of Kremenets: settlements previously subordinated to its authority freed themselves and were transferred to other communities of greater note.

The first rabbi known to us after the decrees (of 1648–1649) is Nachman son of Meir Katz Rapaport, also known as Lifshits (his mother's name). He was a judge – the head of the rabbinical court in Lvov – and from there was appointed head of the rabbinical court and head of the seminary in the holy community of Kremenets. His approbation of the book Gates of Zion, by R' Natan Neta Hanover, was given in Kremenets on 17 Kislev 1662. However, the next year we find that he had already become the rabbi of the holy community of Dubna.[97]

[Translator's Note: In Hebrew, Gates of Zion is Sha'arei Tsion.]

After R' Nachman, we know that the Kremenets rabbi was the renowned Rabbi Yakov son of Eliezer Temerils of Vermayza. When he left Germany, he went to Lublin “and from there he pitched his tent, the tent of Torah, in Kremenets in the Volin district and settled there for many years and disseminated Torah in Israel overtly and covertly... and as he disseminated Torah in Kremenets, his name had already become well known by all of the exiles of Israel as a holy man of God, to the point where many of the great men of Israel would appear early at his door to bathe in the light, the dear light, and to hear enervations and discoveries about things open and hidden. Because R' Yakov was a simple man besides being a true sage in the Talmud and the rabbinical decision makers, and because his name was known in all the great gates of Jewish law for his Responsa, which he sent to those requesting his opinion on matters of Jewish law, he was also the rabbi of the entire Diaspora in the wisdom of Kabbalah, as is written in the frontispiece of his Book of Jacob's Humility, which he wrote in keeping with the ways of Kabbalah according to the writings of the ARI, of blessed memory....”[98]At the end of his life, he settled in Vienna.[99]

[Translator's Note: In Hebrew, Book of Jacob's Humility is Sifra Detseniuta deYakov. ARI is an abbreviation for the name of Rabbi Yitschak Luria.]

In the 1671 Council of the Lands during the Yaroslav fair, R' Meir son of Yitschak, “who dwells in the holy community of Kremenets,” signed approbations for books. Apparently, he is the R' Meir Kremenetser, mentioned above, who escaped to Kalish during the decrees of 1648.[100]

Rabbi Yehoshie Heshil, son of R' Tsvi Hirsh, head of the rabbinical council of the holy community of Lvov, was one of the leaders of the community of Lvov and the district of Russia and one of the directors of the Four Lands, as his father was[101]. He served as rabbi of the Kremenets community during the 1680s and 1690s. There he gave approbations for to several books between 1688 and 1695.[102]

After him, apparently, “Yakov son of my master, my father, the sage, the great teacher, Rabbi Yitschak” served in the rabbinate of Kremenets and the district.

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We know of his approval of the books City of Benjamin in 1698 and Book of Horns in 1709.[103]

[Translator's Note: In Hebrew, these book titles are Ir Binyamin and Sefer Karnayim, respectively.]

During the Council of Four Lands at the Yaroslav fair in 1718, one of the signatories on a judicial ruling was “R' Shmuel the Insignificant of Ludmir, who dwells in the holy community of Kremenets and the district [?], who is mentioned above.[104] During the same council, he signed a ban on the publication of the book The Face of Moses.[105] We know that his approbation of the book Living Torah was given in Kremenets in 1711.[106]

[Translator's Note: In Hebrew, these book titles are Pnei Moshe and Torat Chayim, respectively.]

We know that beginning in 1742, the rabbi in Kremenets was R' Arye Leyb son of R' Shmuel. As mentioned above, he served as trustee of the Volin district and participated in the Council of Four Lands' apportioning of taxes in 1739. In 1740, he received a letter of standing from August III, in which the king places him under his aegis and guards his rights to the rabbinate of Kremenets, where he had been serving for quite a while. As was the case for any rabbi of a principal city, any revenues that came to the rabbi of Kremenets would belong to him, even if he left the city. The same decree includes his appointment as trustee of the district and the Four Lands, as we have already mentioned, and a promise to appoint his son after him, if he is worthy of such. The king commands that the rabbi be paid all debts owed to him and places the responsibility for this on the heads of the community. The rabbi is also declared exempt from paying taxes and from responsibility for the community's debts.[107] It can be assumed that this privilege was given in return for a substantial payment – and to the discomfort of the community. These rabbis were generally appointed for a short time (three years) by the community leaders, but some of the more helpful rabbis tried to ensure their standing by involving the ruler. One year after receiving the privilege, R' Arye Leyb, along with the rest of the leaders of the Four Lands, signed an approbation of the Amsterdam edition of the Talmud and, in 1752, of the responsum House of Abraham.[108] He was also involved in the famous dispute between R' Yakov Emden and R' Yonatan Eybeshuts in Poland.[109] We also know of his approbations of 1746 and 1775, and it turns out that he served in the rabbinate of Kremenets for over 30 years. His son R' Shmuel served in the rabbinate of Ostra.[110] After him, R' Arye Leyb son of R' Shmuel of Pinchov held the rabbinate. One of his approbations, given in Kremenets in 1782, has been preserved.[111]

[Translator's Note: In Hebrew, House of Abraham is Bet Avraham].

Apparently, after him the rabbinate was occupied by R' Mordekhay son of Yisrael Halprin, who previously had been in Zaslav. He was the son-in-law of R' Yakovke of Brod. At the end of his life, he immigrated to the Land of Israel.[112]

At the end of the 18th century, we find in the community of Kremenets the magid R' Yakov Yisrael Halevi son of Tsvi, famous in his time, who authored the following books: A Tribe of Israel, a commentary on Psalms (Zulkva, 1772); A Bundle of Hyssop, a commentary on the Five Scrolls (Zulkva, 1782); and True Voice, a commentary on Proverbs (Lvov, 1788).

[Translator's Note: A magid is a preacher or narrator. In Hebrew, these book titles are Shevet MeYisrael, Agudat Ezov, and Sfat Emet, respectively.]

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These books depict the social and ideological upheaval that characterized the Jews of Poland in the 18th century, and it appears that in his words we can hear an echo of the local conflicts.[113] Also known to us is the Torah scholar R' Meshulam Fayvish HaLevi Horovits of the community of Kremenets, who wrote Teachings of the Sages on the Six Orders of the Mishna[114], which was published by his son shortly after his death (Ostra, 1796), with the approbation of the “Famous One in Judea” – R' Yechezkel Landa and others.

[Translator's Note: In Hebrew, Teachings of the Sages is Mishnat Chachamim. Six Orders (ShA”S, or shisha sedarim) refer to the six divisions of the Mishna (the Oral Law), which with the commentaries make up the Talmud.]

We can thus see that even in this era characterized by a lack of advancement and even relative decline, Kremenets continued to hold its central standing in the district, its civic activists worked in external affairs, and its rabbis were renowned and were Torah scholars.

 

F. Kremenets under Russian Dominion
(1793–1917)

English Translation by David Dubin

The second partition of Poland in 1793 brought Kremenets under Russian dominion. Practically speaking, this change did not affect the basic appearance of the social framework or the standing of the Jews in the annexed territories. The Russian government adopted the Poles' organizational structure and traditional relationship with the Jews along with their problems. Furthermore, the Polish delegation of responsibility in Jewish affairs was such that the Russians gave a recognizable legal standing to the regional and district councils, even though the Polish authorities did not recognize any core Jewish leadership for a few years before the partition – after the dissolution of the Council of Four Lands (1764). Thus the Russian approach was established, especially after the ascension of Aleksander I (1801), because the government had no desire to become involved in the internal affairs of the previously Polish territories or make any serious changes. In many ways, this worked to the Jews' detriment. The Russian government did not wish to shield the Jews from the landowners' accusations, which were increasing at the end of the 18th century, or from the townspeople's demands, even when they contradicted Russian law. The change in the Jews' political conditions in these territories began with the Polish uprising of 1830. The Russian authorities began to fight Polish nationalist aspirations by instituting specifically Russian structures in the territories annexed to Russia. This also left its mark on the lives of the Jews.

Immediately after the Russian annexation, the Jews were required to register in one of two categories: townspeople or merchants. However, they were doubly taxed relative to the taxes imposed on members of the same categories in other religions. According to law of 1804, the Jews were condemned to ejection from the villages, but the authorities were unable to enforce this decree. Nevertheless, this symbolizes the new legal standing and the trend at that time: loss of traditional trades and an increase in the percentage of Jews involved in specifically local finance.

After the partition of 1793, Kremenets found itself on the Russian-Austrian border. The city and its surroundings were separated from its previous economic base, which had been annexed to Austria, and, on the other hand, the proximity to the state's borders opened new financial opportunities, especially in the smuggling of people across the border. It is noteworthy that Kremenets was near Brod, the major trading city in Galicia, whose economic rise can predominantly be ascribed to its trade with Russia.

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Illegal trade between the Jews in Volin and those on the other side of the border drew the attention of the Russian government in the first years after the annexation. In 1812, the district governor of Volin suggested removing the Jews from the border region because of their smuggling of people, and the suggestion received royal approval. Similar decrees were published again in 1816 and 1821, and in 1825 they received the status of a general law, according to which Jews were only allowed to live within 50 verst of the border if they were with their belongings or in a settlement with an established community.[115] After this legal action did not bring about the results expected by the government – and apparently the smuggling continued – the government took an even more radical approach on April 28, 1843. It was decided “to remove to the interior wall Jews living within 50 verst along the entire border with Prussia and Austria, giving those with private houses the opportunity to sell them within two years and to fulfill this decree with no exceptions.”[116] It is clear that, inevitably, this decision would completely destroy the Jewish settlement on the border, including the entire Kremenets community. Although the Russian authorities were hasty in promulgating cruel decrees, it was not in their power to enforce them.

One can assume that the Jews immediately instituted great efforts to abolish the evil decree. Already in January 1844 the Senate had convened to clarify the issue and received the Czar's agreement to lighten several of the decree's clauses, among them a lengthening of the time to liquidate assets and special treatment of factory owners.[117] Also, the important roles that the Jews played for the government in the economy, and especially their well-established involvement in leasing the right to sell alcohol (known as an “excise” tax), had a great influence in easing the decree in practice. For example, at the end of 1849, the rules for tenders for the abovementioned excise taxes explicitly mention that the Jews in the border areas were allowed to participate.[118] In early 1850, Ginsberg and Landsberg, holders of the alcoholic beverage lease in Kremenets, Ludmir, and Lutsk, complained before the Senate[119] about the prohibition against border Jews selling alcoholic beverages. The Senate, however, did not accept the complaint but allowed alcoholic beverages to be sold in taverns belonging to Jews. The Senate mentions in its opinion the fact that the exile of the Jews from the border region had not been completed and, in another place, that “it has not even begun.”[120]

[Translation Editor's Note: A verst is a Russian measure of length containing 3,500 English feet. It is equivalent to 1.067 km, about two thirds of a mile.]

Despite all this, this proclamation caused the Jews to suffer, and the decree hung over their heads until 1858, when it was repealed for the Jews who were already “written” (listed in the community register) in the communities in the border region or who owned real estate in these areas. However, the settlement of Jews and new ownership of material in that region was entirely prohibited.[121] Even though this repealed the worst part of the decree for Jewish settlement in general, there were many Jews in various cities, including Kremenets, who for long periods were not listed among the communities. For them the ban was in force, even though the government apparently was not particular about it during the relatively liberal era of Aleksander II.

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The changes resulting from the ascension of Aleksander III brought about a shift in this matter. The idea remained, such that at the end of 1881 by the regional Governor published a decree exiling approximately 2,000 Jews from Kremenets who were not “listed” in the area.[122]

Kremenets' burden as a city on the border took other forms as well, and its culmination came during World War I, when residents suffered not only from the hostilities in its vicinity but because the intergovernmental agreement of 1915 meant that they had to wander further inside Russia.

Nevertheless, the Jewish population of Kremenets and its vicinity grew during this period.

Population Growth Percentage Growth
Year City Region Volin[123] Year City Region Volin
1765 1,029 4,676[124] 50,799 1765 100 100 100
1847 3,791 18,264 -- 1847 270 293 --
1897 6,539 26,965 395,782 1897 545 477 680

The greater increase in Jewish settlement in Kremenets relative to the region in general may be explained by the exile of the Jews from the villages and their banishment from travelers' inns as well as by the banishment of tenants from the border itself. The even greater increase in Volin as a whole in relation to Kremenets and its vicinity illustrates the upheavals that led these new communities to flourish because of the limitation on settlement within 50 verst of the border.

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Despite the enormous growth in the Jewish population of Kremenets, the city still had the lowest percentage of Jews of any city in the Volin district. According to the 1897 census, the city had 17,704 residents, with Jews constituting 37 percent. The mean among other cities in the district was 50.77 percent, with the high in Ostra, with 62.4 percent. It is clear that the situation in Kremenets resulted from the constraints placed on border cities by the Russian government and from the abovementioned traditional hostility of the townspeople toward the Jews.

We have already mentioned several occupations held by Jews. At the beginning of the era under discussion, their occupation was basically tenancy. Most Jews had little means. In 1800, 2,400 Jewish townspeople were listed in Kremenets, and only 33 were merchants.[125] It is worth mentioning that a net worth of 500 rubles was necessary to be listed as a merchant. Some economic encouragement was injected by the famous Polish Lyceum, which was located in Kremenets from the beginning of the century until after the 1831 Polish rebellion. Although we happen upon rich Jews in the middle of the century, like the alcoholic beverage tax lessor Landsberg, the general situation apparently can be summed up in the words of RYB”L: “Heads of families were generally indigent and downtrodden.” The reason for this, according to him, was that the city “sits in a desolate corner (see Isaiah 5:6) and far from the King's Way, without discussion or involvement with the world's large cities, and from long ago subsists with difficulty by trading tobacco, which grows surrounding the city, with the Christian inhabitants, or by selling whiskey and the like, or by trading forged documents or worthless engravings, etc.; one large part are tailors and simple craftsmen, who are the only ones who subsist on their own handiwork.”[126]

This situation and RYB”L's preaching among the inhabitants of Kremenets led 52 Jewish families living there to move inland in 1843 and request an agricultural homestead in the Kherson district. The minister gave the applicants permission to settle, but as became clear later on, for one reason or another not a single one of the families reached its goal.[127] Even so, at the end of the century, in 1897, the occupation of the Jews of Kremenets in agricultural work was notable, likely because of the influence of Zionist preaching. At that time, an agricultural school was set to open in a village near Kremenets, and several Jewish inhabitants wanted to apply to the agriculture minister to allow the children to live in the village during their studies (as Jews had not been allowed to live in villages since 1882).[128]

The great momentum given to the country's economy by the liberation of the farmers and the liberal policies of the 1860s led to far-reaching changes in the economic structure of the Jewish population. Although we have no numbers for Kremenets itself, the trend toward impoverishment of the masses due to the loss of their traditional occupations can be seen in the Volin district. The number of Jews opening manufacturing businesses rose. In 1881, 118 of the 123 factories in the district belonged to Jews, as did 60 of 82 other manufacturing businesses; of the merchants, 3,533 of 3,650 were Jews, as were 496 of 559 taverners.[129]

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According to the 1897 census, 40 percent of Volin's Jews were in commerce; 25 percent, in manual work; 10 percent, in manufacturing; 25 percent, in services and public service; 3.7 percent, in transportation; and 2.3 percent, in agriculture.[130]

Kremenets under Russian rule was challenged by all the afflictions imposed on the House of Israel in the territories that passed from Poland (not to mention exile, the Pale of Settlement, the draft, and pogroms) and was especially challenged by the burden of being a Jewish border city, whose poor inhabitants were forced into difficult and dangerous occupations and were particularly affected by the gentiles' hatred of them. In these conditions of impoverishment and struggle, RYB”L's exhortations highlighted the specific outlook of the Enlightenment and, to some extent, the objective reality.

 

G. Between Hasidism and Enlightenment: Love of Zion*

English Translation by David Dubin

*Because of the vast amounts of historical and contemporary material on the modern era discussed in the rest of the book, this is summarized very briefly.

The great excitement brought by Hasidism did not bypass Kremenets. Already in the expositions of R' Yakov Yisrael of Kremenets, we hear, apparently, echoes of its infiltration of the city. And this is no surprise, as Kremenets was a neighbor of Brod, the center of this excitement over a long period: beginning in the kloyz of the Kabbalists of Brod and ending in the well-known center of Enlightenment in this large city of finance.

We have little clear information on the relationship between the rabbis who held the seat of the rabbinate in Kremenets and Hasidism. The rabbis at those times were R' Duvid Tsvi son of Arye Leyb Averbakh[131] and R' Tsvi son of Naftali Hirts Rokeach.[132]However, in the early 19th century, Kremenets already had its own Hasidic master – R' Mordekhay of Kremenets. He was one of the five sons of R' Yechiel Mikhel, the magid of Zlochev. R' Mordekhay was the teacher of R' Meir of Premisla and father-in-law of R' Nachum of Chernobil. We see from this that he was connected to the most famous spiritual masters. He was renowned in the area, and his disciples even settled across the border in the villages of Galicia.[133] R' Mordekhay's great influence is shown by the fact that a large, important city like Ternopol turned to him when it required an additional slaughterer: “... in his opinion (of the head of the rabbinical court of the holy community of Ternopol) and by the agreement of the special leadership of the prominent members of this community, I write to his holiness (R' Mordekhay of Kremenets) and ask to him to let us know his opinion, as a wise man is more important than a prophet, and if he will agree to accept this slaughterer, all is good, and if he does not agree, then woe unto us if we accept him ....”[134] R' Mordekhay died in 1817. His influence was felt in the city even after his death, and he was a target of mockery for Enlightenment Jews like Yosef Perl and RYB”L.[135]

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R' Mordekhay's synagogue was named for him until the end and was the central synagogue for the city's Hasidim.

The first flower of the Enlightenment in the city was the plan of Tadeusz Chatski, founder of the Polish Lyceum in Kremenets and Polish Jewish historian, to found a Jewish nationalist teachers' school next to the Lyceum. In 1821, RYB”L returned to Kremenets from Galicia and settled there until his death in 1860. However, RYB”L was not immersed in the life of the community, and he similarly testifies about himself: “... I escaped to settle far from the city, once I came to live after I left the dear city of Brody; I sit alone outside the encampment and I have no involvement with anyone, and because of my illness I cannot tolerate walking or traveling and have not been inside the city these 35 years.”[136] Nevertheless, he had a great influence on the life of the city, which can be seen from his writings. In his satires Topsy-Turvy World and The Story of the Evil Mr. X, he undertakes a formidable investigation of the community and its leaders, and there is no doubt that RYB”L also used Kremenets as a background for his description of the situation. He vehemently protests the heavy burden placed on the impoverished members of the community by its leaders and notables.[137] We can also assume that the prototype of the corrupt public servants described in The Story of the Evil Mr. X is based on life in the community in which the author lived.[138]

[Translator's Note: The original book titles are Hefker Velt and Toldot Ploni Almoni Hakazbi, respectively.]

RYB”L's presence succeeded in bringing together a group of Enlightened Jews, who were financed by their esteemed neighbor's estate until the end of the 19th century. Thus, we know the names of the Landsbergs, L. Etinger, and Hirsh Hirshfeld (Noach Prilutski's teacher).[139] A second source of Enlightenment influence in Kremenets was Avraham Ber Gotlover's presence as a teacher there during the 1930s.[140] During his stay in the city, Yeshayahu Gutman studied with him, and he later wrote several expositions in Yiddish.[141]

In the 1860s a bitter dispute broke out between the city's Enlightened Jews and Hasidim regarding Mendelssohn's (Bible) translation.

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One of the Enlightened youth dared to bring the book to the study hall, the Hasidim chased him away, and a bitter fight ensued, which involved the leaders of the community; eventually the editor of Hamelits, Aleksander Tsederboym, also became involved.[142]

The following are worthy of mention among the city's institutions in the first half of the 19th century: the Hebrew press, which was only operative for a short time[143], the charitable Free Loan Society[144], and the Pursuers of Justice, of which RYB”L was a founder.[145] During the 1930s, the Great Synagogue was built with the active support of the workers and peasants in town.[146] Regarding the unique style of this synagogue, RYB”L wrote, “In general the tailors, shoemakers, bakers, butchers, and similar workers pray there, and also some householders, mostly worthy and believing, but also simple men who are not learned,” although the students of Torah and the Enlightened gathered in the study houses.[147]

The “southern storms” of 1881, which strongly affected southern Russia's important Jewish center, did not directly affect the Volin district and Kremenets. However, one of its major outcomes – the awakening of the Love of Zion movement – made its mark here, too. However, its blossoming in Kremenets was somewhat delayed, and only in the late 1880s and early 1890s were activities established here.[148] The breath of life for the movement in Kremenets was Tsvi Prilutski, who later served as editor of Moment in Warsaw. During his stay in Kremenets at the end of the 19th century, he maintained ties with the Odyssey Committee, the Yeshurun office in Warsaw, and various personalities in Lovers of Zion. Ts. Prilutski was involved in the movement's central problems, made various suggestions (that is, he was one of the first to emphasize the importance of members settling in the Land of Israel), and participated in the fight that erupted in the movement after the appearance of Achad Ha'am's article “Truth from the Land of Israel,” and so on.[149] Working alongside Prilutski was Dr. Tovye Hindes, who settled in Jerusalem in 1893, but he maintained ties with the people of Kremenets and with the brother of Yechiel Mikhel Pines, Dr. Arye Leyb Pines, who replaced Hindes.[150]

[Translator's Note: In Hebrew, Lovers of Zion is Chovevey Tsion, a 19th-century movement focused on settling Jews in the land of Israel; the original title of “Truth from the Land of Israel” is “Emet MeErets Yisrael.”]

In the early 20th century, the community's social life expanded in every avenue, and Zionist organizations appeared in their various forms in Kremenets, including the Federation of Workers, the Bund, etc. This activity continued even during World War I, and when an attempt was made to arrange attacks on the Jews of Kremenets on December 15, 1917, a Jewish self-defense was immediately organized in the city.[151]

[Page 37]

The spiritual life of these years in the city and life under the difficult conditions in the Jewish border region of Russia demonstrate the awakening of feelings of inclusion and influence, whether the ideas came from Brody, from the camp of those fighting for the Enlightenment lurking in the corners like RYB”L, or from those who latched onto general notions of Jewish society, such as Zionism and the Bund. The city was blessed with a number of outstanding personalities, such as R' Mordekhay of Kremenets, RYB”L, and Tsvi Prilutski, who managed to gather groups of civic activists around them and who founded organizations in order to mold the community in their image.

 

Addenda

Addendum 1: Announcement of the Kremenets City Secretary on
the Destruction of the City's Defenses by the Cossacks in 1648

[Translation Editor's Note: In the Yizkor Book, this addendum is in Russian (pp. 37–38), followed by a Hebrew translation (pp. 39–40). The following is an English translation of the Hebrew.]

 

[Page 39]

Translation of the Announcement

April 17, 1649

The prominent personality, the honored Lord Jan-Casimir Mesirchkov Ruzhinski, holder of specified lands found in the village of Tulichuv and Klutsk in our Volin district in the Ludmir region, and the scribe of this city appeared before the officials and recordkeepers of the castle of Kremenets who were present before the starosta and before Stanislav Kaminski, who is responsible for the castle of Kremenets, since we have managed some free time for everyone to approach the public books: [Ruzhinski demanded] in his name and the name of this city that they must guard them [the city's books] as part of the scribe's responsibilities, so that they will not be damaged by the warrior Bogdan Chmil or Chmielnitski, formerly a registered Cossack who swore allegiance to the [Polish] state and is now a leader [of the transgressors]. He must guard the books against all the rest of [Chmielnitski's] allies, whether partners or aides, and especially against those acting on his orders and guidance who spent a prolonged time here in Kremenets during the disturbances that came upon the entire state. These allies include Vasili Tripals, officer of hundreds, his unit from the Krivonos Brigade, and also Dzhadzhili, head of the Brigade, who came with 7,000 [men], and Seve Semchenko, head of hundreds, and Peter, head of hundreds of the Brigade of Chmielnitski himself.

And he [Ruzhinski] decreed that the abovementioned Chmil or Chmielnitski, along with other registered Cossacks who swore allegiance, who last year, in 1648, intentionally disregarded their oath of allegiance to all [the lands of] the Polish crown and the late Polish monarch, may he rest in peace, immediately after the tragic death of Vladislav IV, may he rest in peace, the Polish king. And for their conspiracy, evil, injustice, and bloodthirst, as he discarded behind his back all who were created with the love of God, as he forgot the love of his homeland, which nurtured him and made him into a man; and after he showed strong defiance of all taboos, [he assembled] a large crowd of various farmers; he sinned without fear of punishment and drew them to him with bribes from the plunder of the nobles' property. And he showed himself as the preeminent enemy of the state, as he called the chief enemies of the state Tatars and other heathens, several tens of thousands of people, in order to destroy the status of the knights, to strangle and devastate and ruin the freedoms of the landed nobility, with the power of arms; and with all these he invaded the country, and first and foremost he attacked the houses of the landed nobility with his rebels, destroyed various holdings and people by the sword and by fire, [and his people] killed noblemen and various people wherever they went, first and foremost torturing them in various ways; they desecrated the churches and various holy places, attacking them in order to incur the wrath of the most Exalted and Supreme Judge; they plundered the treasures of the churches; they did not allow the dead to rest in peace in their graves, plundering them without mercy; they cruelly cut off people's arms, legs, and heads throughout the Polish kingdom and in the end threw the dead out of their coffins for the dogs and animals of prey to eat, and prohibited the living from burying the dead on pain of decapitation, contravening divine and historical law.

[Page 40]

And as they did these things, their great and fearsome members, the abovementioned leaders of the brigades and of the hundreds, came to Kremenets last year, on October 30, 1648, and remained there cruelly until December 13. They attacked the welfare of many innocent Christians, spilling the innocent blood of many children and priests with their cruel swords; they tortured many until their souls desired to leave their bodies from the great pain. And finally, although now it is spoken about most prominently, they attacked the stronghold of Kremenets with fierceness and cruelty, breaking into the locked and bound cabinets in which the nation's and city's well-preserved and protected books were kept, looking for money. Some of these books, lists, and protocols had their covers looted. Others were completely torn, a third group were cut to shreds, and a fourth group of books – after they were ruined – were thrown to the wind and landed in the snow and later in the rain, where they stayed until the following April. Only a few them were found here and there, and even these were ruined.

Given that the complainant [Ruzhinski] is particular about his reputation remaining spotless, he registered a proclamation and declaration in order to assure himself of such by complaining of this well-known and infamous crime before all the inhabitants, and he requested that this be entered into the books, which I approved.

 

Addendum 2

The Trial for Blood Libel in Kremenets*

English Translation by Thia Persoff and Aya Betensky

[Translator's Note: In Addendum 1, the author notes that the priest wanted to make sure that the account of this case was preserved as a warning. – AB]

*Recorded from a copy in the Vatican's Polish-Russian collection. Our thanks to the administration of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, which gave us access to this document. Translated by D. Ploser.

Summary No. 3. Extract from the books of the castle of Kremenets in the Year of Our Lord 1753, the 16th day in the month of April.

In my official presence under the currently constituted Acts (Laws) of the castle of Kremenets, and with Antonio Michael Ceceniowski, the hunter and tenant of Ciechanovie Burgrabiatus of Kremenets, appearing in person in front of me: the well-known Joannes Paw³owicz, Pro-Consul, and Michael Jurkiewicz as witnesses for themselves and for the whole court of Magdeburg and court of justice of Kremenets, and also the Hebrew infidel Wolf Laybowicz Cantor as witness for himself and in the name of the whole synagogue of Kremenets, for the sake of taking note of an undeserved trouble, an unlawful attack, and an abuse against this state, in the presence of the defendant named by the Noble Court of Justice mentioned above, in which for the sake of winning a conviction and obtaining complete official exoneration, they are diligently making a complaint against the noble Borscowski of whatever name he may have and are bringing to bear evidence against him. They claim that this noble Borscowski, wanting to make constant trouble for the above-said State, and wanting even more to bring final destruction to the Jews, in order to cause great harm, in the depth of night, while outside of the villa Piszczatyniec, falling upon his own baby, a girl called Maryam Anna, he attacked her, thrusting a knife once under her eye and twice in both feet, wounding her. Then, wanting to hide this baby daughter so that the infidel head of the household Leyzerowicz would not see her dead, he tied her in a sack, put her into [Leyzerowicz's?] stable, and left. The wounded girl, making no sound throughout the night, spent the whole night in the stable. But her father, when he got up at the height of the morning, being hungry to kill his baby girl, took her from the stable and placed her under the Xenodochum Religious Fathers' Reformatory and then immediately left Kremenets.

[Page 41]

The well-known Wasgh Kochan, citizen of Teofilpolis, will testify about this. He saw this baby lying like this in the stable with his own eyes and saw the same father take his own baby daughter from there, carry her, and say in the presence of this citizen, “I am carrying her to the doctor,” but, in fact, took her out of the aforementioned stable and put her under the Xenodochum Religious Fathers' Reformatory.

[Translator's Note: Evidently the intent was to put the blame for the girl's injury and eventual death on the Jewish family who owned the stable. But then why take her to the reformatory? – AB]

Wanting to counter such a troubling insult and deceit, the whole synagogue of Kremenets presented this daughter in the court of Magdeburg and in the Kremenets castle court, accusing this man of unlawful and abusive actions and strongly urging that this discovery be made public, which was granted. Joannes Pawlowicz, Pro-Consul; Michael Jurkiewitz, the lawyer, stamped the seal of the holy cross; Wolf Laybowicz.

[Translator's Note: These may represent signatures. – AB]

And in a restrained manner Palatinus Woshynik agreed personally for the Minister General and the others, the prudent Stephanus Papayuck, who firmly acknowledged his true and faithful report openly, publicly, and freely; that he himself on April 16 in the present year of 1753, in judicial examination of the well-known citizens of Kremenets, of the whole court, of the court of Magdeburg, of the whole synagogue of Hebrew infidel citizens, and of inhabitants of Kremenets standing by the faith of the worthy noble people, Francisci Kobecki and Jacobi Piotrowski, thanks to good and clear testimony, these people came up to him as witnesses to this act in the civic praetorship of Magdeburg, and there prominently with the abovementioned nobles, he saw and observed the baby, clearly laid out and placed by the hands of this very father himself at the Xenodochum Religious Fathers' Reformatory. This baby called Maryam Anna, more than three years old, was wounded by her own father once beneath her left eye with a small knife and also on her feet, to which the girl testified against her own father that she had this scar from him, speaking in her own infant voice and showing how miserable she was, with terrible consumption. I saw this and explained it clearly to the abovementioned nobles participating in the trial. Returning from there, in my official presence he [Stephanus Papayuck] gave his true eyewitness account of this matter and authenticated it.

With the same Minister General presiding, he [the witness], not knowing how to write, stamped the seal of the cross on this report, and from these books and Acts that extract was narrated and written under the seal of the castle of Kremenets.

[The place of the seal]

Authority having been granted to me in the castle of Kremenets as Apostolic Notary Public, I hereby witness that the whole original document, safe and undamaged, with no suspicious sign, has been presented to me, and it agrees word for word. Leopol Day 22 January AD 1754. So witnessed, Joseph Augustinowicz, Doctor of both Law and Philosophy, Public Notary with Holy Apostolic authority.

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