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The History of the Jews of Rzeszow (cont.)

Chapter 7: The period of Austrian rule, 1772-1848

The annexation of Galicia to the Hapsburg monarchy brought with it many noticeable changes to the lives of the Jews. The number of Jewish residents of Rzeszow reached 3,336 in 1790. The Austrian authorities set up a new administration, as they did in a small number of other Galician cities.

The Austrian authorities took drastic measures in order to change the situation of the Jews in a quick period, and to get them used to the new conditions. They flooded Galicia, along with its Jews, with a stream of decrees, directives, and patents[1] that caused chaos. However, after a few years, the Austrian bureaucracy in Vienna, Lvov and other areas of Galicia recognized that it was impossible to so suddenly enact changes in the lives of the Jews via directives and patents. The lot of the Jewish community of Rzeszow would be equivalent with the lot of the other Jewish communities of Galicia.

In the first patent issued by Baron Fergen concerning the Jews, a census of the Jews was ordered. The rabbis and heads of the Jewish communities were requested to give an exact description of the status of the Jews in their communities, the communal leadership, and communal enactments.

The community of Rzeszow got used to the new situation with difficulty, and finally sent a request in 1773 to Vienna asking the authorities to validate the privileges that had been granted to the owners of the city. The community was not answered, but they did not waive their request.

In 1782 Vienna issued a decision via a special directive to the governors of Lvov regarding the request of the community for the validation of its privileges. This directive stated that, due to the fact that the privileges affect civic relations between the owner of the city and the Jewish citizens, there is no reason not to be able to continue the status quo into the future without any need for government certification, as long as the privileges do not go against the laws of the government.

It is interesting to note that the author Schultz, in describing his first visit to the territories conquered by the Austrians, refers to Rzeszow as “Little Brody”, and notes specifically the profitable mercantile activity of the Jewish precious stone traders, who conduct business with Vienna, Stockholm, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Petersburg. He notes that they even reached the status of the guardians of the royal signet.

The researcher Bredetzki, who visited Rzeszow at the end of the 18th century, refers to the city as “the Jerusalem of Galicia”, however he complains that the city is dirty.

In 1779, Kiva Yaakov, Mendel Yus and Yehuda Aharon stood at the head of the community. They were the elders of the community. Rabbi Aharon served as rabbi.

From 1779, the communal registrar was Franz Elshultz, who was previously the "Dienstefuehrer"[2] of the infantry. From May 1, 1785, the treasurers of the Jewish community of the Rzeszow region were Yosef Klecker with a salary of 200 guilder, and Franz Elshultz and Franz Bosninger, each with a salary of 200 guilder, and with an additional salary of 40 florin as “Ratichwohl”[3]in the regional offices.

In 1773, Reb Wolf Mendel the “Jewish Arendatour” of Rzeszow issued a request, in which he outlined his complaints.

Already from the beginning of Austrian rule, the Jews issued written complaints about the behavior of the authorities toward them, and in particular they castigated the Kreis Hauptman[4]Von Rodheim.

Similarly, in 1785, the merchant Hershel Kalman issued a complaint to Vienna that the Kreis Amt ordered him to give over his best room to his competitor – to the "colonist". The response from Vienna was that he was required to move to the regional office.

In that same year (August 1785), the community requested the government of Vienna to annul the military mortgage which had been imposed upon it, and also to decide with regard to the complaints about the unjust taxes which Prince Lubomirski imposed. However Vienna decreed that the matter was under the jurisdiction of Lvov, and should be decided there.

The governor of Lvov decided in September 1785 that the complaints of the Rzeszow community against Prince Lubomirski should be given to the Kreiz Amt of Rzeszow for investigation.

The complaints of the community affected the payments that Prince Lubomirski demanded from the Jews in a crooked manner. The community requested that a decree be issued ordering the payment of reparations.

However, the matter was not settled. On March 29, 1787, Vienna issued a decree to the governors of Galicia that the complaint by the community of Rzeszow with regard to the unjust and illegal taxes paid to Prince Lubomirski was to be accepted under its jurisdiction.

That same month (August 1785), the community complained about the taxes requested from it in an unjust fashion[5], and requested that the payments be allowed to be stopped.

However, all of these complaints were in vain, and even the personal complaints were not answered.

For example, in such a fashion did Wolf Menczel request that Prince Georg Lubomirski return his home, and repair all the damage that he caused. Vienna transmitted his request to the governors of Galicia, and informed Wolf Menczel of such. However, it is not clear if his home was returned.

The Jews also turned to the government regarding complaints against other Jews. Thus did Danziger turn to the government regarding 600 florin that was owed to him by a Jew of Rzeszow.

On April 19, 1787, Vienna issued an edict to the governors that it was forbidden for the Jews to purchase homes from Christians that are not built of hard material.

Jews also requested permission to stockpile mead and beer in their homes for sale, however these requests were dismissed by Vienna.

A few Jews, such as Moshe Wein of Rzeszow, requested that permission (and money) be given to them to come to Vienna, in order to present financial plans to the Kaiser. Vienna decided that the Kreis Hauptman of Rzeszow should summon these Jews to him in order to check if there is any substance to their plans. In such an event, they should be given payment for their efforts.

In the meantime, the economic situation of the Jews stagnated and worsened, due to encroachment in the area of liquor production and serving.

The Jews requested that the taxes of 1772-1773 be annulled due to the worsening of their financial situation, and due to the general depression that was caused by the multiple invasions that preceded the partition of Poland. However, the government dismissed their request and ordered that the taxes be collected with full force of the law. After much intercession, a reduction of taxes and civic payments was granted in 1775.

In the first tax year of the Austrian era, the head tax was raised to 1 florin, and applied even to children from the age of one. The Jews of Galicia paid a sum of 41,178 florin in total.

In 1776 the head tax and tolerance tax was 1 florin per person, and furthermore, they were required to pay income tax and property tax at the same rate – however, with an individual rate according to their incomes. The Jewish leadership determined the allocation of taxes between the communities, as well as the amount of various payments that were imposed by the community.

Aside from these payments, the Jews were also required to pay a marriage tax and a ' toarim’ tax[6].  It is understood that all of the communal taxes, including the Korovka, remained in force, however they came under the jurisdiction of the authorities who used them to offset the debts of the communities.  According to a decree of the office of the court on August 10 1792, the Jews were also required to pay general taxes, a lodging tax in lieu of providing quarters for the army captains, as well as a property tax.

In 1784 the Austrian government wanted to institute a complete reform in the area of the taxes of the Jews.  This was caused by the misappropriation and nepotism of a few communities, as well as the unjust allocation of taxes by the head Jewish administration.  For example, when a certain community – such as Lvov in 1780 – did not have the power to fulfill their tax quote, the head Jewish administration imposed the amount upon the rest of the communities in that district.

After the passing of the regulations in 1789, the Jews paid a tolerance tax of 4 guilder per family, a tax on kosher meat (the amount depending on the type of meat), a marriage tax, a tax on the synagogues and cemeteries of 100 guilder per year, and a “quota” tax of 50 guilder per year.

In 1797 the tolerance tax and the taxes on homes and properties were repealed, and in their place there was imposed a candle tax of 2 kreitzer for each Sabbath and festival candle, 6 kreitzer for each yahrzeit candle, ½ kreitzer for each Chanukah candle, and 10 kreitzer for each Yom Kippur candle.  Due to the great tax burden, the communities were in arrears in their taxes and were in debt to the government for large sums.

In 1780 the government ordered the seizure of income of the Jews due to their non-payment of taxes.

In 1788, the Jews of Rzeszow requested along with other communities –  via the Galician Jewish representatives N. Bernstein, Chaim Margolis and Leibel Meirhoffer – that the Jewish tavern keepers who purchased fields and built houses be permitted to live in villages until the proclamation of the new “Judenfett-Ent” .

In the meantime, the Jews of Rzeszow turned to the governors with a complaint against Lubomirski, claiming that he extracted payments by threat from them that were not owing to him, and that were against the law.  They requested that he be ordered to return the money.  Vienna announced that it would conduct an inquiry about this complaint for a four-week period, and attempt to verify the reasons.  However the matter was not settled, for in June, 1792, the heads of the community Shmuel Kelerman, Marcus Sheinfeld, Shlomo Lurberstraus and Izak Romer turned to Vienna with a request to issue an edict ordering the return to the Jews of Rzeszow the money that was stolen from them unjustly.

It is difficult to determine from the documents whether the matter was settled.

The Jews of Rzeszow were required to pay their taxes, and it is important to point out that any default in tax payment caused the Jews of Rzeszow to be considered “Betel-Juda”, that is lacking the rights of sustenance and livelihood – and they would therefore be open to expulsion from Galicia.  It is no wonder that the authorities in Lvov and Vienna were flooded with endless requests to allow the tax payments to be deferred, and also with complaints about the large sums that the communities were not able to fulfill.

This situation continued for many years, and became more prominent in 1811, when new edicts were issued by the office of the treasury with respect to the division of taxation by population segment – a matter that increased the tax burden.  The situation was such that even the Galician governors in Lvov did not hesitate to point out in a special memo to Vienna that the taxes imposed on the Jews are “exaggerated”.

The prime occupations of the Jews of Rzeszow in the latter half of the 18th century were:  metal refining, leasing of liquor stills and beer breweries, tavern keeping and owning banquet halls.  At the beginning of the Austrian administration they had difficulties in this area, however in 1775, the situation changed for the better and the Jews of Rzeszow received the rights of leasing in return for annual fees.

The lessees insured the continuation of their rights and were careful that drinks should not be imported from outside the city.  The government forbade the owners of liquor stills and lessees of beer breweries to serve drinks in their stills or breweries, however they were able to sell their products in stores that were rented for such a purpose.

The authorities regarded the tavern keepers as the prime obstacle in the way of the advancement of the status of the farmers.  This judgement severely affected the economic state of the Jews of Rzeszow.  The number of Jewish tavern keepers diminished significantly, however with the passing of years, Jews returned to the occupation of leasing and tavern keeping.  It is interesting to note that according to a list from 1784, there were only four Christian merchants in Rzeszow, and of these, only one of whom was in fact a merchant.  The businesses of importing of merchandise from abroad and of exporting of grain within the country were in the control of the Jews.

Organizational changes were brought about by an edict of Empress Maria Teresa in 1776.  The Jews of Galicia were organized as a unique corpus, headed by the chief administration of Jews of Galicia.  The organization was hierarchical, with each community headed by anywhere from six to twelve parnassim (administrators).  Each community in a district – Galicia was divided into six districts, each with its own leadership – stood under the leadership of the district parnassim.  These were overseen by six country parnassim.  The six district parnassim along with the six country parnassim, headed by the overseer of the country, comprised the chief administration of the Jews of Galicia.

On March 27, 1782, the administrative system of six districts was abolished, and eighteen districts were set up in place.  Rzeszow then became its own independent district.

In 1785, the communal organization of 1776 was abolished, and no other national organization was set up in its place.  According to the new directive, only the local communal parnassim remained, with the exceptions of the communities of Lvov and Brody, which were headed by seven parnassim.  The remaining communities, including Rzeszow, were headed by three parnassim.  The role of the parnassim was to represent the community before the authorities; to concern themselves with communal affairs; to oversee, along with the rabbi, the birth, marriage and death registries;  to oversee the collection of communal taxes and the Jewish taxes; and to conduct communal affairs.  The parnassim were dependent on the district government, who regarded them as subordinate to their authority.

Aside from the communal heads, gabbaim (trustees or administrators) were appointed for the Beis Midrash, the charities, and hospitals, as well as appraisers and bookkeepers.  On the right hand of the communal leadership stood a group of officials consisting of the rabbi, judges, ritual slaughterers, sextons and undertakers.  The affairs of the treasury were conducted by the communal secretary.

The right to vote was given to heads of families who paid the candle tax for at least seven candles during the prior year.  The right to stand for election was dependent on the payment of candle tax for at least ten candles, as well as the knowledge of how to read and write German.  Each community elected six officials, and from them three were appointed to the Kreis Amt.

Aside from the difficult tax burden, many other prohibitions were placed upon the Jews.  The most difficult was the levy on marriages.  Income earners were required to pay a sum ranging from three to thirty ducats for the marriage of their sons.  Whoever would marry off their sons without a permit from the government was liable to a punishment and confiscation of property.  There was a severe fine even for attending an illegal wedding.

According to the directive that was issued by Josef II on May 27, 1795, the remaining communal autonomy was ended, and all national and judicial privileges were revoked.  The taxes were not imposed upon the community in a collective manner, but rather upon each individual Jew separately, and the duty of collection was given over to government officials.  The national character was removed from the community, which became a religious organization only.  The rabbinical courts were disbanded by a proclamation of April 9, 1789, and all the Jews came under the jurisdiction of the government courts, and with regard to policing issued – under the civic jurisdiction.

In a law of August 28, 1787, the family registration books were established, and the Jews of Galicia were required to acquire German surnames as of January.  This was supposed to push the Jews toward Germanization.  As a result of this law, the communities and the rabbis were required to maintain their books and lists only in the German language.

he issue of conscription into the army was a problem in its own right.  On March 18, 1788, the Government issued an edict that required the conscripting of Jews into the army along with the rest of the residents.  The Jews of Rzeszow did not appear for enlistment, despite the patriotic speeches of the rabbi.  According to a government judgement, 100 enlisted Jews from the regions of Tarnopol and Rzeszow were freed from service, and sent to transport service which took place in different areas.

In 1790 the situation eased, the Jews were freed from military enlistment, and were allowed to discharge their obligation of personal service by paying 30 florin for each basic unit of service.  This situation remained in force until 1804.

In 1804, the obligation of enlistment was imposed upon the Jews of Galicia, as it was for the Christian population.  The choice of monetary payment in lieu of army service was cancelled, as was the limitation that the Jewish conscripts were to be only employed in transport service.  The new regulations did set conditions which allowed for exemptions from military service under certain conditions, such as:  the rights of citizenship, the rights of artisans, as well as merchants who were permit holders.

One of the fundamental enactments that Kaiser Josef II attempted to introduce into Jewish life in Galicia was the transfer of a portion of the population to agricultural work.  From 1781, the idea arose in the upper echelons of the government in Vienna that a significant number of the Jews of Galicia should be transferred to agriculture.  The Kaiser, who was a supporter of physiocratic activity, wished to rescue the Jews who had lost their livelihood as a result of the ban on the leasing of taverns by transferring them to agricultural activity.  To encourage this, he decided to reduce the tolerance tax by 50% for the Jewish farmers, and later, he abolished it completely.  In the days of Josef II, the settling of Jews on government plots began.  In an edict of the Kaiser of July 16, 1786 to the governor of the District of Lvov, an order was given to begin to settle the dispossessed Jews.  However the conditions were not favorable, due to the dearth of government land, of which there was only enough for the German settlers who were more important in the eyes of the government than the Jews.  However, the authorities had no choice but to fulfil the request of the Kaiser, and to begin to establish Jewish settlements.  The Jews received land as well as grain for the first sowing, however the houses for themselves and barns for their animals were not built for them.  The information about government assistance for the settlers spread throughout Galicia, and thousands of Jews who had no other livelihood began to work in agriculture with some difficulty.  These edicts did not affect the Jewish lessees.

The community of Rzeszow was required to provide seventeen families toward the plan to settle 1,400 Jewish families from all of Galicia in farming settlements.  The community of Rzeszow, along with the rest of the communities in the District of Rzeszow, was not able to fill this quota that was imposed upon them in 1792.  In a special report, the governors informed Vienna that the “the Jews of the District of Rzeszow settled on a number of nine families from the city of Rzeszow toward the quota required for the plan”.

The District of Rzeszow included 11 towns:  Sedziszow, Tyczyn, Glogow, Lancut, Zolynia, Przeworsk, Lezajsk, Sokolow, Ulanow, Tarnobrzeg, and Rozwadow.  This District settled 60 families on 41 2/3 plots of land  (including 113 men, 103 women, 59 male children and 83 female children below the age of 18).  These settlers received 60 homes, 60 stables and barns, 60 farming tools, 743 ½ measures of potatoes, 95 horses, 30 oxen, and 131 cows.  38 families still had to be settled on 28 1/3 plots of land.

From Rzeszow itself, rather than the quota of 17, only 8 families were settled on eight plots of lands.  These families included 12 men, 11 women, 38 male children and only 11 female children below the age of 18.

These settlers received 8 houses, 8 stables and barns, 123 measures of potatoes, 8 farming tools, 16 horses, 2 oxen and 17 cows.  They still had to settle 9 families on 9 plots of land.  The number of settlers from the 11 cities of the district were:  Sedziszow – 4 families, Tyczyn – 6, Glogow – 9, Lancut – 8, Zolynia – 6, Przeworsk – 12, Lezajsk – 9,  Sokolow – 8,  Ulanow – 7, Tarnobrzeg – 6,  and Rozwadow – 6 families.

The required sum to cover the cost of settlement was imposed on the communities in the district of the settlements.  The amount required to settle one family was 250 guilder.  Every 25, 30, or 40 family heads were required to settle one family.

In 1882, 77 families remained in the farm settlements in the District of Rzeszow, supported by the community, as well as 9 supported by the government.  Of 98 families, 86 were finally settled.

In 1785, administrative changed took place in Galicia.  The state was divided into 18 districts, with Rzeszow being the sixth.  11 cities and towns with Jewish populations were included in the District of Rzeszow.

14 villages were affiliated with Rzeszow, and 204 villages were affiliated with the other 11 towns of the district.  Thus, there were 218 villages with Jewish populations affiliated with the District of Rzeszow.

According to an edict of May 7, 1789, a district Rabbi (Kreis Rabbiner) was appointed for each district.  In the other places, they were only allowed to have local rabbis (Religins Veizer) or cantors (Shul Zinger) only.  The Rabbis who were the heads of the communities were appointed for terms of three years. They were appointed not by members of the local communities, who were homeowners in their own right, but by all of the Jews of the district.

The rabbi of the District of Rzeszow received an annual salary of 260 florin.  Aside from this salary, he received other payments, for example, for registering births, marriages and deaths. The payments for these were according to categories:  the first category consisted of farmers, artisans, middlemen, wagon drivers, tavern keepers, and scrap dealers. The fee was 7.5 kreitzer.

The second category consisted of officials, physicians, surgeons, rabbis and sextons – the fee was 15 kreitzer.  The third category consisted of businessmen, owners of leases, factory owners, and wealthy people – the fee was 30 kreitzer.  The rabbi was exempt from the communal tax, however in the event that his wife or dependants conducted any business activities, he had to pay the regular tax for that business.  According to the law, the rabbi was forbidden to request gifts or special payment for marriages or divorces.  Aside from the district rabbi, Rzeszow also had a local rabbi with a salary of 120 florin per year.  The rabbi of Tarnobrzeg received a salary of 20 florin; of Lancut 200 florin;  of Glogow 150;  of Lezajsk and Sokolow, 100 florin.  The rabbis of Zolynia, Rozwadow, Sedziszow and Ulanow did not receive any salary; rather they supported themselves from the gifts they received.

The duties of the district rabbi were to oversee religious affairs;  to maintain the birth, death and marriage registers in German;  to oversee the clergy, cantors and sextons;  to issue excommunication decrees according to the directions of the government;  and to administer oaths to people on political matters in the synagogue.  Any excommunication under any other authority was strictly forbidden.

In 1789, a census took place in Galicia.  However, we only have the information in our hands about the Jewish population in each district, without it being broken down by city.  The District of Rzeszow with its 11 communities had a population of 193,256 Christians and 11,377 Jews.

The census information is missing facts about the breakdown by profession and business.  From various government reports we learn that the Jews of Rzeszow were occupied in business and the precious metal trade, aside from tavern keeping.  Aside from a small number of merchants and wholesalers, most of them were retailers, peddlers, and middlemen.  Very few were appointed as army suppliers.  A significant number of Jews were artisans, for the most part, tailors, furriers, upholsterers, glassmakers, engravers, bookbinders, vegetable farmers, and dairy farmers.

According to the regulations set for the Jews by Josef II in 1789, every community, including small towns, was required to maintain a public elementary school.  In the larger communities, the normal school was patterned after the public schools.  The language of instruction in every school was German.  The official name of these schools was “German Jewish School”, or “Jewish German School”.  Until 1792, there were only schools for boys.  The elementary school had only one class, and the normal school had three classes with two teachers and a principal.  The public schools were complete, that is with four classes, and a larger number of teachers.

This law forbade any Jewish child from learning Gemara until he finished his education in the beginner’s public school.  These schools were founded with money from Jews, however they were not overseen by the communities, but rather by the government.  The chief overseer who was appointed to oversee all of the Jewish schools in Galicia was a disciple of Moses Mendelsohn – Hertz Homberg.  The first teachers were from among the maskilim who knew German, primarily from Bohemia and Moravia.  A seminary for Jewish teachers was established in Lvov to train teachers.  The first school in Rzeszow was founded in 1785.  The teacher was Jonas Tausig, and later he received an assistant by the name of Mett.  The annual salary of a teacher in Rzeszow was 200 florin, and the salary of his assistant was 50 florin.

In 1802, the Jews of Rzeszow paid a sum of 1,692 florin and 6 kreitzer in salaries for the teachers of the German Jewish schools.

From the other communities in the District of Rzeszow, there were schools in:  Glogow – the teacher was Fabian Elkin with a salary of 200 florin;  Sedziszow – the teacher was Efraim Geier with a salary of 150 florin;  Lancut – the teacher was Shlomo Oestreicher with a salary of 200 florin;  Lezajsk – Nathan Kinderfreind with a salary of 200 florin;  Przeworsk – David Bonza with a salary of 200 florin and an assistant Hamburger with a salary of 50 florin;  Rozwadow – David Lichman with a salary of 200 florin;  Ulanow, Dzikow, Tyczyn and Zolynia did not have schools due to a lack of teachers.

Photo on page 51 – Chicken market

In 1788, the community submitted a request to defer for two years the actualization of the edict that forbade the employment of officials who did not know the German language;  that they should be allowed to educate Jewish children for two hours a day in secular subjects and spend the rest of the time on religion and Talmud; and that they should be allowed to appoint teachers of religion in the schools under the authority of the rabbi.

This request was given to Vienna, in order to be adjudicated according to the laws of the land.

In 1806, the network of Jewish schools was liquidated.

Louis Bernhard was employed as a registrar of the official treasury, with an annual salary of 350 florin.

In 1790, the community of Rzeszow was required to pay a protection tax of 8,400 florin  (Schutzsteuer), and an additional tax (Beitrag) of 2,100 florin, for a total of 10,500 florin.  The community sent 6,027 florin for the protection tax and 1,506 florin for the additional tax toward these accounts, for a total of 7,533 florin.  The debt of 2,373 florin remained for the protection tax, and 5,94 for the additional tax, for a total of 2,967 florin.

In the middle of the 18th century, the population of Rzeszow, including Jews, was about 3,000.  According to the census of 1790, the entire District of Rzeszow had 2,100 Jewish families.  In the city of Rzeszow itself, there were 327 houses, 453 Christian families (1,687 people), and 380 Jewish families (1,640 people), for a total population of 3,327[7].

In 1821, the population of the district was 227,780 Christians and 11,936 Jews.  In 1826, there were 246,116 Christians and 14,067 Jews.  In 1827, there were 265,182 Christians and 14,789 Jews.  From the years 1798-1827, it is important to note the increase of Jewish population of 3,412 people.  In 1828, the Jews owned more than one half of the houses in the city.

In 1790, in addition to the city itself, the following towns belonged to Rzeszow:  Staromiescie along with Mielec, Staroniwa along with Wygnaniec, Drabinianka, Powitno, Malawa along with Wielka Wies, Krasne along with Wulka.

Photo on page 52 - fruit and vegetable stands

In 1849, there were 2,407 Jewish families in the District of Rzeszow (including 80 farming families), from a total of 44,122 Jewish families in all of Galicia (including 1,184 farming families).

The Jews of Rzeszow entered a difficult economic period in the 19th century.  They amassed large debts due to the tax on meat and Sabbath candles, in addition to large debts due to the fees on the national deficit which was imposed on the Jews.  The government also cancelled most of the privileges which were in the hands of the Jews.

In the years 1819-1820, the government raised the levels of taxes significantly.  The communities in Galicia, including Rzeszow, presented requests to lower the taxes that were imposed upon them, due to the economic impoverishment.  They pointed out that the lessees of the meat and candle taxes were burdening the lives of the population.  The governor also recognized the justness of this request, for they knew very well of the economic difficulties and the struggle for livelihood which affected most of the Jews, and they attempted to intercede to waive the supplementary tax (ergentzungs steuer) for the community.  The governor pointed out in particular that the situation of the taxes and their collection would not improve unless the relationship between the amount of taxes and the income of the taxpayers was fixed.  The governor claimed at this time that the conditions and relationships between the masses and the tax lessees should be changed.

The governor recommended in July 1823 the abolishment of the candle tax, the completion tax, and the special tax (extra steuer), however Vienna insisted that all of the taxes upon the Jews should remain in place until the “tax revision” is complete.  They reasoned that the blame for the situation with the taxes lies with the Jewish tax collectors who leased the taxes, and they advised that the collection of taxes be transferred to the local authorities.  The district governors were asked to give their opinion about this.

According to the census, in 1820 there were in Rzeszow:  228 storekeepers from among 3,073 Jewish storekeepers in all of Galicia; [8] cloth merchants;  50 precious stone dealers;  a fancy good dealer; and 6 merchants of pots.  In the entire district there were 628 Jewish merchants.  Aside from the small and medium scale merchants, there were 93 wholesalers, of which 89 were Jews.  Aside from these, there were 104 liquor distillers, 20 tailors, 1 mead brewer, and 2 administrators.  Of the first engravers and compounders in all of Galicia, most were in Rzeszow.  Of the 11 beret makers in all of Galicia, a few were in Rzeszow. There were 4 smiths, 4 coral shapers, 3 makers of metal plate, as well as the only boat makers in Galicia.

In 1821, the issue of the Jewish mode of dress came to the fore.  The code of Kaiser Josef II, paragraph 47, already required the Jews of Galicia, with the exception of rabbis, to change their traditional clothing, which distinguished them from the rest of the population, by 1794.  However, due to the opposition of the Jews, this edict was never put into force.

Between 1816-1820, the central government in Vienna was working on another Jewish code of rules.  With regards to this, the question arose as to whether it is desirable to forbid the Jews, by force of law, from wearing their traditional clothing.  The chief governor of Galicia, Baron Hauer, recommended instituting a clear ban on the Jewish dress.  He also had the support of many groups of Jewish maskilim.  However, when the government wished to act on his advice, an opposition movement awakened within the Jewish population.

The community of Rzeszow also registered its opposition.  It turned to the government and requested that it not forbid the traditional Jewish mode of dress for economic reasons, since the change of wardrobe would impose additional expenditures upon the Jews, which would have a negative impact on the income from the meat tax.  In addition, they claimed that there would be a great deal of merchandise in the warehouses of the cloth wholesalers that would go to waste, and that the material that was required for the German mode of dress would become more expensive.  Apparently, this complaint was well organized, since other communities presented letters of request that gave similar reasons.

In April 1821 the response came from Vienna that the change of the Jewish mode of dress in Bohemia and Moravia did not reduce the income from the meat tax.  However this did not close the matter.  Through the efforts of the communities of Galicia, merchants, furriers, and even Christian textile and silk factory owners from Austria presented petitions, in which they pointed out the material damage that would cause to the Jewish manufacturers and merchants.  These reasons influenced Vienna, and the recommendation of the Galician governors was not heeded, and was put off temporarily.

At the same time, Hassidism began its publicity in most of the Galician communities, including Rzeszow.

The number of Hassidim in Rzeszow at the beginning of the movement as very small, and did not influence the life of the community.  They were from among the students of Elimelech of Lizhensk[9], who was known as the father of Hassidism in Galicia.  His book “Noam Elimelech” became very widespread, and influenced heavily the spiritual character of the Hassidim of western Galicia.

The heads of the community, especially the rabbis, were opponents of Hassidism (misnagdim), and due to their influence, the orthodox people did not join this movement.  The influence of Hassidism grew only in the smaller towns in the vicinity of Rzeszow.

The enlightenment (haskala) also did not have much influence at this time among the Jewish youth, as it did in eastern Galicia (in Brody, Lvov, Zolochev, Tarnopol and Tysmienica).

On June 26, 1843, the city suffered from a fire that broke out at night in an inn, and from there spread to Neistadt (the new city).  In one house, a Jewish family with five members was burnt.  Two large synagogues and two small synagogues, the Beis Midrash, the communal headquarters in which the rabbi lived, and the hospital were all burnt to the ground.  This included the well-known synagogue in Neistadt, as well as 32 Torah scrolls.  The head of the district Tadeus Von Lederer immediately organized an assistance operation.  Clothing, food, and monetary donations arrived in the city.  The city doctor Dr. Wilhelm Turteltaub, the son of the town council member Moritz Turteltaub, organized a theatrical production five days after the fire with the assistance of a theatre group that remained in the city.  The two performances brought in 450 guilder.  The Kaiser honored Dr. Turteltaub and the pharmacy owner Edward Heibel with gold medallions.  The humorist Sapir also gave over the revenue from his performance of 327 florin.  The community turned to Shlomo Von Rothschild, who donated 2,000 guilder.  From that sum, 250 florin were given to Rabbi Yechezkel Blumenfeld.  Anselm Rothschild gave 1,000 guilder of his own money.

The group for “the political and literary advancement of the Jews” in Stanislawow was the first that turned to all of the communities of Galicia, in February 1848, with a request to send to the Jewish representatives to the Austrian government statistics about the number of Jews, the taxes which they pay, and also the amounts that they pay to the local government.

The community of Rzeszow also received this request, and was requested to give the statistical information to the Jewish representative.

In a meeting of September 26, 1848, the representative Manheimer spoke in the parliament, and requested in a forceful manner that the Jewish meat and candle taxes be abolished.  In a vote of 243 to 20 on October 6, the decision was made to abolish these taxes.

Along with the rest of the communities, the Jews of Rzeszow signed a petition to parliament that was made through the efforts of the teacher Reitman of Tarnopol.  During time of prayers in the synagogue, the teacher Dachtelbaum gave an enthusiastic speech regarding equal rights.    However, even with the hope that the community placed in the events of 1848, and the spirit of freedom which they indicated, the Jews of Rzeszow remained faithful to tradition, and were not interested in the changes in their lives and in the life of the community according to the mode of the times, and the awakening of the maskilim.  The movement toward a progressive basis had barely taken hold in the community, as it did in Brody, Tarnopol and Lvov, where the enlightened people and independent professionals conducted communal affairs.

There were no recognizable changes in the life of the community prior to 1848.  As in other communities of Galicia, life continued on its normal path.

In 1847, when the heads of communities of Galicia met to present a petition to the government on the sorry state of the Jews, the representative from Rzeszow did not participate.  On account of the ban on sending a collective petition on behalf of all the communities, it was decided that each community send its own petition.  Unlike Lvov, Brody, Tarnopol, Stanislawow, Sambor, and Stryy, Rzeszow did not send out such a petition.  In the realm of the haskala as well, we do not hear much about Rzeszow.  In an expert report in the “Algemeine Zeitung Das Yudentum”   (General Newspaper of Judaism), on the state on the Jews in Galicia, it is specifically noted that the Jews of Zolochev, Tarnopol, Brody, Zolochev, Sambor, Przemysl, Lvov, Jaroslaw, Tarnow, and Halica were very much influenced by the Jewish haskala, but there is not one word about Rzeszow.  Only in 1848 did a recognizable change come to Rzeszow.  At the time of the prayers in the synagogue, the teacher Dachtelbaum gave an enthusiastic speech about the change of rights for the Jews.

The revolution of 1848, which brought national changes throughout Austria and put an end to the harsh guard of Meternich, awakened many hopes also from within the Jews for a better future in all aspects.  Along with the other communities, the Jews of Rzeszow signed a petition to the parliament, which was designed through the efforts of the teacher Reitman of Tarnopol.

Photo on page 54 A section of Mickiewicz Street.  Photo by A. Katzizna.


Translator’s Footnotes

1. A 'patent' is a decree, often conferring privileges. Back

2. A German word meaning the "leader of the service". Back

3. Seemingly some sort of additional official position occupied by the latter two. Back

4. Kreis Hauptman is the District Head.  Kreis Amt (in the next sentence) is the regional office. Back

5. The text is getting quite redundant about the nature of the complaint, which has now been repeated for the fourth time. Back

6. I am not sure what tax this refers to. Back

7. In the text, the number given is 3,3336, which is evidently an error. Back

8. This number is missing from the text. Back

9. Elsewhere in this translation, I have used the Polish spelling Lezajsk for this community, but in this context, I use the Jewish phonetic spelling, which is commonly used in literature when referring to Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk. Back

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