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{Page 56}

The History of the Jews of Rzeszow (cont.)

Chapter 8: Rzeszow from 1849 to 1919

Despite all of the hopes that the Jews placed in the events of 1848, and the spirit of freedom which accompanied them, the Jews of Rzeszow for the most part remained faithful to tradition, and did not desire changes in their lives and in the life of the community according to the winds of the times, changes that were desired by the enlightened maskilim. The movement toward the influence of the progressive people in communal affairs had barely begun in Rzeszow; unlike Brody, Tarnopol or Lvov, where the progressive people and free professionals had already taken control of communal affairs.

Rzeszow was not active in national affairs, and did not participate with the community of Lvov in 1853 in its fight for the repeal of the law of October 2, 1853, which limited the rights of Jews to own property a right which was given to them in 1848.

In February 1840, the community of Rzeszow presented a complaint to the government of Vienna regarding the ban on Jews from conducting business on national holidays. Since the Jews were required to observe, aside from their own holy days, also the holidays of the Catholics and Greeks; when one factors in Sabbaths, the Jewish merchants were required to rest from work on a total of 149 days.

The Minister of the Interior Dr. Bach requested from the commissioner Goloczowski more information about this matter.

Along with the repeal of the Jewish taxes, a short period of emancipation began, which lasted until 1841. After the patent of December 31, 1851 annulled the emancipation of 1849, the question arose as to what would happen with the land and non-moveable property that the Jews acquired between 1848 and 1851. In the patent of October 2, 1853, all of the restrictions of rights that were in effect prior to 1848 came into force again.

The Earl Agenor Goloczowski, who served at that time as the commissioner of Galicia, supported the granting of full rights to the Jews of Galicia. He claimed that if a city such as London could have a Jewish mayor, with the passage of time it should be the case that a Jew could serve in this role also in Lvov. He worked to raise the societal level of the Jews, so that they would be more effective in the national economy.

Despite the law of 1849, which was more liberal, the situation of the Jews did not improve significantly. At the end of 1851 the law was repealed by Franz Josef I, and until 1859, decisive absolutism prevailed. A change for the better occurred in the wake of the defeat of Austria by Solferino. Jews were granted emancipation, and disputes broke out between the traditionalists and maskilim of the Jewish population. The Poles at first declared that the Jews were their "Israelite brethren", and looked at them as allies in the battle for a better future. Apparently due to the influence of this declaration, the "Committee for the Advancement of the Israelite Poles" was formed in Rzeszow at the end of 1848. Its mandate was to spread the knowledge of the Polish language and literature among the Jews. Due to the efforts of this committee, the "Committee of Israelite Poles" was also formed, which busied itself with establishing Polish schools for poor children.

In 1854, the community found it necessary to acquire new land for the cemetery, since the old cemetery was pretty much completely filled up. Since a large sum of money was requested for the desired place of the cemetery, the community turned in May 1851 to the district commissar, and later (February 26, 1853) to the national government, and (July 26, 1853) to the ministry and claimed that the Jews should be entitled to receive a place for burial for no cost, just as was the Catholic population entitled. If the authorities would not recognize this request, the community was prepared to pay an appropriate sum. The government issued its ruling on July 12, 1853 that, since the Jewish population is indeed a part of the civic community, they are actually "householders of civic property", and therefore the city is required to take this into account, and to placate the Jewish community, which is connected to the land of the city.

After the Jews were permitted in 1860 to acquire non-moveable property, the Jews of Rzeszow petitioned that it should be permitted for them to acquire fields, houses, lots, and land. The request of Rzeszow Jews in this matter was fulfilled: in 1861 Joachim Markus Wohlfeld; in 1863 Hirsch Reich, a builder; in 1864 F. Wachtel and Feiga Zwick; in 1864 Hass Keller; in 1865 Barron. From the documents it is known that one Jew Meir Hirsch Renczner was not permitted the right of ownership in 1863.

In 1860 the election for the position of rabbi of Rzeszow took place, and this matter was even discussed in a sitting of the government in Vienna on August 5, 1860. The situation was as follows: according to a statement of the minister of enlightenment and religion, the community of Rzeszow had presented a letter of request to the ministry not to recognize the election of Nachum Reuven Felsker as Rabbi of the District of Rzeszow, and also to remove his candidacy if he were to run a second time. The community requested that there should be a new election for the position of Rabbi of Rzeszow, with the candidates being Rabbi Tauba of Sambor, or Rabbi Dr. Krantz of Wadowice[10].

In his speech, the minister explained that after the death of Rabbi Blumenfeld, Rabbi Felsker of Sacz was appointed to take over the position of Rabbi of Rzeszow for a period of three years, without the knowledge of the head of the district and without an election. After three years the district office appointed Dr. Krantz of Wadowice as Rabbi of Rzeszow. Due to the opposition of the majority of the Jews, the government invalidated his appointment and ordered that new elections take place on October 10, 1859. The community complained about the election, and in two telegrams between October 7 and 18[11] requested that the elections not take place due to the upcoming Jewish holy days. The request of the ministry reached the national government on October 11 after the elections had taken place on the 10-11 and 12 of October, under the auspices of the district commissar. In those elections, Rabbi Felsker received 76 votes, Rabbi Tauba of Sambor 50 votes; Rabbi Prazak of Bohemia 8 votes; and Rabbi Dr. Krantz 3 votes. Since the community opposed the elections, and the district office was opposed to the election of Felsker and preferred rather to appoint Rabbi Tauba or Dr. Krantz, the national government decided to investigate the claims against Rabbi Felsker and to permit his election for the three upcoming years. However, this decision was subject to the approval of the ministry. The ministry opposed the permission for the election of Rabbi Felsker for the following reasons: a) the elections took place in a stormy fashion; b) Rabbi Felsker obtained his certificate of knowledge of German from a private institution in a dishonest fashion; c) as the director of the Jewish registry, a Jew by the name of Sobel authorized receipts for money in the name of a person who had already been dead for some time; d) he was not fit to teach religion in the gymnasia (high school), and therefore they would have to appoint another teacher; e) finally at the end of the complaint, due to his study of Talmud his intellect was stunted.

However the minister did not agree with these complaints, even though he admitted that Rabbi Felsker's intellect was small, however the fact that he was elected 'proved' that he was acceptable to the electorate. Therefore the minister advised that his election be authorized. According to a protocol of August 28, 1860, the director of the ministry of finance, Freiher von Felner pointed out that he wished to transfer to matter to the Kaiser for adjudication. However, he did not follow through with this, since the rabbi was elected through an official election. Thus did the dispute over the elections conclude, due to the decision of the ministry of religion and culture.

In addition to this matter, the community turned in January 1860 to the ministry of the interior with respect to Hirsch Weinberg, a member of the community council. According to the material that was presented to the ministry by the district office, the activities of Weinberg were beneficial to the community. The office pointed out in particular his activities in the area of social assistance. In contrast to the first statement that was full of praise for the activities of Weinberg, a second statement was issued from Krakow indicating that his activities were not acceptable, and supported the request of the community to conduct an investigation into his activities. The ministry finally agreed that the activities of Weinberg "were not completely appropriate", since there were disorderly conditions in the community with respect to the elections for the position of rabbi. Thus ended the bitter dispute over the elections, which was the cause of several government statements.

The elections for the first Galician Sejm took place in 1861. The government intended to conduct these elections without the participation of the Jews. Great feelings were aroused among the Jews of Galicia, primarily in the circles of maskilim. Through the efforts of the community of Lvov, which was controlled by the enlightened people, a meeting of communal representatives took place. This meeting established a delegation to go to Vienna, consisting of the representatives of Lvov, Przemysl, Tarnow, Krakow and Rzeszow. This delegation traveled to Vienna and attempted to intercede before the ministry. The spokesman of the delegation was Dr. Ettinger of Krakow, who was fluent in Polish and German. The minister Schmerling was persuaded by the Jews, and thanks to his intercession the Kaiser (in a proclamation of March 1, 1861) granted the Jews the right of election both actively and passively. Three Jews were elected to the Galician Sejm: Marc Dukas of Lvov, Dr. Samuelzon of Krakow, and Meir Kalir of Brody.

During the period of debate of the Jewish question in the Sejm from 1861-1868, Rzeszow maintained contact with other communities that were struggling for Jewish interests. The community of Rzeszow issued a protest, along with the communities of Stanislawow, Stryy, and Sambor, against the rules of the cities of Galicia that had been decided upon by the Sejm in 1866. Also in that year, the Lvov community issued a comprehensive memorandum to the minister Graf Belkredi. Finally, the paragraphs that were anti-Jewish were amended.

Changes in the economic realm took place for the Jews of Rzeszow in the latter half of the 19th century. Aside from the trade in grain, cloth, etc., factories and workshops were established. In particular, there was development in the area of smithing. This profession became renowned as it attracted markets in Germany, Hungary and Russia. The smiths of Rzeszow would travel far and wide they even reached Livorno and Alexandria. The gold products of Rzeszow were no worse in their fineness and shape than gold jewelry from other lands.

The number of Jews in Rzeszow continued to grow. At the beginning of the 19th century, there were 4,604 residents, of whom 1,029 were Christian and 3,575 were Jews. In 1861, there were 5,800 residents and in 1880 there were 11,166 residents, which included 5,820 Jews, 5,152 Catholics, 160 Greek Catholics, and 34 Protestants. There were 30 members of the Rzeszow town council, which included 13 Catholics, 1 Greek Catholic, 3 Evangelists and 13 Jews. According to the law of 1850, the salary of the rabbi of Rzeszow was set at 800 florin annually. The salary of the two judges was 400 florin each, and the salary of the two cantors was 415 florin each. In Rzeszow at this time there were two synagogues, four large Beis Midrashes (study halls), as well as private minyans (prayer groups).

The number of Jews increased among the free professions. For example, in 1887 there were 33 lawyers, of whom 17 were Jewish (51%). There were Jewish doctors as well. In 1868, the physicians Dr. Segal and Dr Blum, along with the teacher of religion in the Gymnasia S. Dachtelberg, founded a "casino"[12], which included two Christians among its members.

The occupations of the Jews of Rzeszow during the period of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century were as follows: a) large-scale and small-scale merchants, including those who owned stalls in the marketplace, and those who conducted business from their homes. Almost every branch of business in the city was in Jewish hands. b) Middlemen, who were for the most parts confidantes of the Polish nobility or the Austrian officials. They assisted their masters in obtaining loans and in selling their grain. c) Tax collectors of various sorts. d) Innkeepers. e) Clergy: the rabbi, judges, cantors, ritual slaughterers, sextons, etc. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Jews of Rzeszow conducted trade in cattle and horses with Germany. Manufacturing developed at the end of the 19th century. Factories for paper, envelopes, and packing paper, brick kilns, electronic workshops, as well as the electric generator that supplied light to the city were all founded. There were also factories for confections, candles, and soup. The liquor stills, coffeehouses, and beer halls were all owned by Jews, and the waiters were also all Jews. The hotels and tobacco stores were also owned by Jews.

Photo at top of page 57 small trade on market day

At the end of the 19th century, the export of eggs to Germany increased. This business was in the hands of the Jews. Hundreds of Jews were employed in this business. Jews also worked as builders, carriers of sand and gravel, builders of sidewalks, and road pavers. They worked in the production and maintenance of the sewage system. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Rzeszow had five Jewish bankers. In the 1890s, Dr. Wilhelm Hochfeld, a lawyer, served in the civic government, and also served for many years at the head of the community. Jews also worked as civic officials. Dr. Teller was the city physician. In addition to the mutual aid organizations, the community maintained a hospital, which cared for the impoverished members of the population.

At the end of the 19th century, the number of Jews of Rzeszow increased, and at the outset of the 20th century, there were many Hassidim. The elder of them was Rabbi Elazarel Weisblum, the author of the book "Mishne Lamelech", and a relative of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk. His father was Rabbi Elimelech, the rabbi of Rudnik.

At the time of communal elections, the Hassidim endeavored to have their candidates elected. Even though they did not succeed in attaining a majority, from that time on they became a decisive factor in communal elections. The community was represented on the first Day of Communities, which was set for June 1878 by the organization "Shomer Yisrael" of Lvov. The rabbi of Krakow Rabbi Shimon Shreiber, and the rabbi of Belz organized their supporters into an organization called "Machzikei Hadas"[13] in opposition to the council of communities, and conducted a rabbinical gathering on February 14, 1888. This gathering decided upon the composition of the community, and decided to remove the enlightened ones from the community. As in Hungary, they intended to cause a split and division in Galician Jewry. The community of Rzeszow along with other Galician communities protested against these decisions. Due to these protests, the communal organization decided by "Machzikei Hadas" was dismissed by the government, which opposed a split in the community. In 1890, the ministry of culture and religion issued a format for the makeup of a unified community, which was continued in force until 1927.

In 1899, 4.6% of non-moveable property in the District of Rzeszow was in the hands of Jews, 93.3% in the hands of Christians, and 2.1% publicly owned. Seven Jews owned non-moveable property in 1889, nine in 1902. 42 Christians owned non-moveable property in 1889, and 39 in 1902. In total, there were 42 registered owners of non-moveable property in 1889, and 39 in 1902. 34% of the forest area was owned by Jews in 1889, and 34.89% in 1902.

The Jewish population grew at an even pace with the general population in 1880, 1890, 1900, and 1910 (during the period of Austrian rule), as follows:

Year Total population Catholics Greek Catholics Others[14] Jews
1880 11,166 5,152 (46.1%) 160 (1.5%) 34 (0.3%) 5,820 (52.1%)
1890 11,953 5,862 (49%) 162 (1.4%) 437 (3.7%) 5,492 (45.1%)
1900 15,010 8,210 (54.7%) 420 (2.8%) 56 (0.4%) 6,324 (42.1%)
1910 23,688 13,872 (58.6%) 951 (4%) 80 (0.3%) 8,785
(37.1%)
In the first census of independent Poland in 1921, there were 24,942 residents of Rzeszow, of whom 11,361 were Jews. Their percentage grew from 37.1% to 45.5%. The population growth of Rzeszow during the period of Austrian rule was as follows[15]:
Year Total population Catholics Greek Catholics Others Jews
1881-1890 787 (7.1%) 710 (13.8%) 403 (92.2%) 381 (87.2%) 328 (5.6%)
1891-1900 3,057 (25.6%) 2,348 (40.1%) 258 (159.3%) -381 (-680%) 832 (15.2%)
1901-1910 8,678 (57.8%) 5,662 (69%) 531 (126.4%) 24 (42.6%) 2,461 (38.9%)
1881-1910 12,522 (122%) 3,720 (169.3%) 791 (494.4%) 46 (135.3%) 2,965 (50.9%)


On March 21, 1890, the Austrian parliament ratified the law of the unified communities for all provinces of Austria. According to it, the boundaries of the communities, and the jurisdiction of the committees, communal councils, and rabbis, as well as the means of maintaining the ledgers of births, marriages, and deaths (matriken) were all set out.

According to an edict of June 7, 1892, the community of Rzeszow was required to accept for a rabbi a person who was proficient in general knowledge, and to prove that any candidate for rabbi had completed gymnasia with good results.

The communal leadership was in the hands of the assimilationists until 1918. The community voted in three groupings. The first group was the wealthy people; the second was those less wealthy. For these two categories, each voter had two votes. The third group consisted of those who paid the communal tax in the range of five to 10 crowns, and they only had one vote each.

The community had institutions and groups that maintained the hospital that was headed by Dr. Teller, and that provided support for poor brides, the poor, and the sick. These institutions included "bikur cholim", "tomchei cholim", the public kitchen for the poor, and "asefat zekeinim" for looking after the elderly. The latter was a two-story house that was built in the 1890s. There were also national Zionist organizations; "Shlomit" a women's Zionist organization; "Charmonia", a union of Zionist academics; "Hashachar" of the young Mizrachi; and Poale Zion. All of these groups were active prior to 1918, and additional groups were founded during the period of Polish independence.

Jewish candidates stood for election in the town council, however it was impossible to elect a Jew to the Austrian parliament. In the 19th century, Professor Dr. Leon Bilinski, one of the leaders of the Poles and a well-known nationalist in Austria was elected.

As opposed to cities in eastern Galicia, where the Jews formed the majority of the population, the residents of Rzeszow did not attempt to stand for election in the Austrian parliament, since they were the minority in the city.

Until 1910, all of the tavern keepers were required to receive a permit from the governor of the city, as were all places of business.

In 1910 a law was issued, which was ratified in parliament due to pressure from the Polish anti-Semites, which required all taverns to be overseen by the Austrian ruler. This was opposite of the situation in Bohemia and Moravia, where the Jewish population was small, and the majority of the taverns were owned by Christians. The influence of this new law was very great in Galicia. In Rzeszow, the Jewish tavern keepers, who were 90% of the tavern keepers, presented requests to the authorities, however, 30% of the concessions were given to Christians. In the demonstration of Jewish tax collectors, which took place in Vienna with over 2,000 participants, letters of request were presented to Kaiser Franz Josef I and members of parliament. After the large demonstration, the government increased the number of concessions that were granted to Jews. In Rzeszow, nearly all of the Jewish tavern keepers received permits.

The Y.K.A. organization of Paris, founded by Baron Hirsch, opened offices for granting loans in 19 cities, in order to improve the situation of the Jews of Galicia. A Y.K.A. fund was opened in Rzeszow in June 1901.

We have the detailed accounting from 1906-1908, as follows:

1906 1907 Dec. 31, 1908
Number of members 853 900 978
Amount in the reserve fund 5,520 crowns 6,931 crowns 9.256 crowns
Loans given to members 1,564 crowns 1,695 crowns 1,854 crowns
Number of loans given to members 438 577 607
Totals 120,527 crowns 137,032 crowns 144,280 crowns
Repayment of loans 110,135 crowns 119,871 crowns 136,359 crowns
Administrative costs 2,250 crowns 2,561 crowns 2,890 crowns
From its founding in 1901 until December 31, 1908, 3,867 loans were given, for a total of 799,185 crowns. By December 31, 1908, 695,953 crowns were repaid. Loans were given in the sum of 50-500 crowns.

Aside from the Y.K.A. fund, there were also credit organizations founded according to the method of Schultz. In 1908, there were 67 such unions in the district of Rzeszow, with 56,932 members. Of these, 16 were for Christians, with 30,869 members, and 51 were of Jews with 26,063 members. On the average, each union consisted of 511 members.

In 1908, there were 35 credit unions in Rzeszow, 8 Christian, and 27 Jewish.

The haskala movement played an important role in Rzeszow. One of the first maskilim of Rzeszow, who was expert in German literature, was Dr. Wilhelm Turteltaub, who was born on March 25, 1816 in Rzeszow. He excelled in his writing at twelve years of age, and the Galician government sent him to Vienna to study at their expense. He studied medicine, and became friendly with the humorist Moritz Sapir, who published his poems and writings, and assisted him to enter the circle of writers. Turteltaub wrote several plays for the German theatre, which were performed with great success in 1859. He also organized a publication dealing with matters of the stage (Wiener Volksbuhne). Another Rzeszow native, who played important roles in the national life of the Jews of Galicia from 1848-1879, was Dr. Oswald Honigsman, who was born in Rzeszow on March 16, 1824. He died in Vienna on September 24, 1880. He was a representative to the Galician Sejm and to the parliament in Vienna. Between 1848-1866, he was a member of the city council of Lvov along with fourteen other Jewish members. In 1863, he was a member of the communal council, and even though he was a Polish assimilationist, he joined with the Jewish nationalists in 1873 in a coalition with the Ruthenians, which enabled the Jews to obtain three seats (one on Brody, one in Drohowice, and one in Kolomia, for Dr. Honigsman).

Maskilim of Rzeszow who were prominent in Hebrew literature included Moshe David Geshwind, Yitzchak Holtzer, and Abba Apfelbaum.

Moshe David Geshwind (born in 1840) participated at a young age in the Hebrew newspapers. In the 1870s he served as the secretary of the community, a position he held for more than thirty years, and he also served a translator of Hebrew and Yiddish documents for the court. In his youth, he published Hebrew poems, which were published in the newspapers of that era. In 1883, he published a collection of poems of Slowacki in Hebrew translation. He left his book "Divrei Chachamim" in manuscript form, which was a lexicon of legends of the Talmud. He died in Rzeszow in 1905. Yitzchak Holtzer (born in 1842, died on February 2, 1912 in Krakow) lived in Rzeszow for many years, and served as head of the community. He was a businessman, and was interested in Hebrew literature. He wrote articles on various topics.

Middle of page 59 title page of "Avi Hanigafim", in the wilderness of El Arish, a poem by the wise and literate author Juliusz Slowacki. Translated from Polish into Hebrew by Moshe David Geshwind, a sworn translator in the court of the Rzeszow district. Published in 5643 (1883). Printed by Zopnik and Knoller in Przemysl. I have dedicated the proceeds of this book to a good cause.

Abba Apfelbaum (born in Rzeszow in 1861 and died in 1933), conducted significant activity in the field of Hebrew literature. He wrote for various newspapers and exchanged correspondence with various Hebrew writers, in particular with Professor Avraham Berliner. Due to his influence, Abba Apfelbaum began to research Jewish writers in Italy, and in 1903 he edited the biography of Reb Yehuda Moscato, the Rabbi of Mantroa in the 17th century. One year later, in 1904, he published the biography of Azaria Figo, the author of "Bina Leatid". In 1926, he published the biography of Moshe Zacota in Lvov. Apfelbaum conducted research on Bible and Talmud. As a journalist, he also wrote in Yiddish, and was one of the founders of the newspaper "Volkszeitung" in Rzeszow, which he edited along with Naftali Glicksman and Chaim Wald. Apfelbaum was one of the founders of the first Zionist organization in Rzeszow, and served as an elected representative to the national Zionist movement. He was a teacher of Modern Hebrew, and founded the first Hebrew school in Rzeszow. It is important to make note also of Reb Hirsch Shochet of Rzeszow, who participated in the newspaper "Machzikei Hadas", and played an active role in Hassidic affairs.

Ben-Zion Fett played a great role in the development of journalism and the Zionist movement. He was an experienced journalist. He left Rzeszow during the First World War, and lived in Germany, where he worked in film production. He immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1934, and died in Adar 5620 (1960).

From among the journalists, it is important to make note of Leon Weisenfeld, who was born in Rzeszow on February 7, 1885. At age 17, he went to America, however he returned to Rzeszow in 1905, and began to publish articles in Polish on timely affairs in the general newspapers. In 1909, he founded a Yiddish newspaper "Gerechtikeit", which issued six editions. He later moved to Germany, from where he sent articles to the Yiddish newspapers of England and America. After the outbreak of the First World War, he stayed in Prague, and founded the newspaper "Praguer Yiddishe Zeitung". This newspaper ceased publication after he was conscripted into the army. When he returned after the war to Rzeszow he published the newspaper "Yiddishe Volkszeitung", which appeared for 22 months. He immigrated to America in 1920, and there he participated in the Yiddish newspapers. He also published a Yiddish novel: "Das Rebbes Tochter" (The Rabbi's Daughter), as well as the plays "Tzerisene Neshomos" (Torn Souls), and "Libe Un Yichus" (Love and Relationships).

Efraim Hirschorn, Adolf Fish, and Mendel Karp founded another Yiddish newspaper in Rzeszow, however it ceased publication after a short time due to lack of means.

On the fourth intermediate day of Passover 5651 (April 28, 1891) forty people gathered together through the efforts of the head of the community Yosef Sheinblum, the teacher Zigmund Kamerling, the Jewish writer Abba Apfelbaum, Leib Geshwind, Yosef Rappaport, Kalman Kurtzman, and Tovia Shlager and founded the organization "Chovevei Zion", whose mandate was "To issue assistance to our brethren who work the land in the Land of our Fathers, and how pleasant is it to see this great display, how men of different opinions banded together and as one gave glory and praise to this holy idea."

Zigmund Kamerling was appointed as head of this organization. This organization at first occupied itself with publicity and membership. When Dr. Natan Birnbaum conducted his tour of Galicia in 1892, he also visited Rzeszow and met with the members of this committee, and promised that upon his return to Vienna, he would call a publicity meeting, and would advise the general council that this committee should be included in "Zion" of Vienna.

Photo page 60 the editorial board of Volkszeitung, sitting from right:
Yosef Storch, the editor Leon Weisenfeld, and Pinchas Elenbogen.}

Dr. Birnbaum spoke in the meeting hall of the Jews of Rzeszow (which was founded several years previously by the academic youth in order to spread the haskala in the midst of the Jewish youth) about settlement in the Land of Israel. After his lecture, a meeting of the committee took place, and he spoke about the appropriateness of joining "Zion".

The life spirit of Chovevei Zion was Yaakov Rappaport. In 1892, he left Rzeszow, and from that time on there was a decline in the activities of the group. However, due to the influence of the students Edmond Holtzer and Yosef Shaupel, the activities renewed. On April 1, 1893, a general meeting took place, and a new committee was formed, including several energetic young people. Zigmund Kamerling was again elected chairman, however on his right hand stood the law students Edmond Holtzer as vice chairman and Yosef Shaupel as secretary. The writer Abba Apfelbaum was chosen as Hebrew secretary, Herman Zilber as treasurer, and Yosef Sheinblum and Sh. Fishbein as comptrollers. Also on the committee were the students Marcus Pletzling, Klapholtz, Aharon Blazer, Philip Neifeld, Kalman Kurtzman, Leib Geshwind, and Chaim Wang. At this meeting, they decided to affiliate with "Zion" of Vienna, and to change their charter in this direction. They also decided that the group should occupy itself with other national affairs over and above the settlement of the Land of Israel, in particular with the spread of the Hebrew language. Immediately after this general meeting, serious activities began, and the number of members increased to 160.

Despite the efforts of many who busied themselves with the Jewish meeting hall, with the passage of time, the assimilationists took control of it. Therefore a Zionist assembly hall was established, which opened on August 5, 1893. At the opening celebration, the chairman Kamerling pointed out the new tasks of the group, and the importance of the national movement, which is bringing the Jewish nation to new vistas that will improve the life of the nation. After him, the member of the community council M. D. Geshwind delivered an emotional speech about the rights of Zionism. Edmond Holtzer turned to the youth, who were present in significant numbers, with a request for them to participate in the national movement.

Aside from lectures, debates with the assimilationists about Jewish problems also took place in the assembly hall. On August 20, 1894, a large publicity meeting took place in the presence of all the honorable people of the city, lead by the head of the community Yitzchak Holtzer, the leaders of the assimilationists, and people from all segments of the Jewish population. Dr. Zaltz spoke about the state of the Jews, and Dr. M. Ehrenfreiz, who answered the question "what do the Zionists want?" spoke about the Jewish problem and pointed out the failures of assimilation. At the end of the meeting, Zigmund Bromberg turned to the youth with a call to participate in the national movement. This gathering made a significant contribution toward the strengthening of the national movement in Rzeszow.

Dr. Yaakov Cohen, who represented Galicia in the national Jewish movement, visited in November 1893 and spoke about the Jewish problem.

Forty Jewish artisans joined Chovevei Zion in 1894. Aside from publicity meetings, lectures about Jewish history were also organized. A very successful event was the celebration on August 26, 1894 in honor of the hundredth birthday of Leopold Zunz. The writer Apfelbaum spoke in Hebrew and Kurtzman in Polish about the activities and life of Zunz. David Shreiber of Lvov also spoke at that event about "Zionism as the goal of Jewish history".

The number of members reached 200 in 1894.

On October 17, 1894, the following people were elected to the committee of Chovevei Zion of Rzeszow: Zigmund Kamerling as chairman, Lindenbaum as vice chairmen, Neifeld and Grinspan as secretaries, Sh. Blumenkrantz as treasurer, C. Jezover as recorder, and D. Horn and Kalman Kurtzman as comptrollers.

Until this time the nationalist movement in Rzeszow was opposed only internally, from other Jewish camps, but starting from the end of 1894, there was opposition from external forces. The local Polish newspaper "Korier Rzeszowski" began to strengthen in its opposition, and begin to condemn the movement as an "anti-Polish" movement. These attacks were directed first and foremost against Zigmund Kamerling, who was a teacher of religion. The newspaper requested that the educational authorities put an end to his evil and damaging Zionist activities with the youth of the gymnasia. These attacks were directed by the remnants of the assimilationists, who were unable to regard positively the strengthening of the national movement. However all of these attacks did not frighten the Zionists, who continued in their work.

In 1896 the group decided to found a Galician moshav in the Land of Israel. They began to raise money from the members for this purpose, so that they would be ready at the appointed time. They arranged all matters with regard to the joining up with the "Ahavat Zion" movement of Tarnow. In a general meeting of Ahavat Zion in Tarnow on May 19 and 20, 1897, Abba Apfelbaum of Rzeszow was elected to the governing council.

The goal of this movement from its outset was the spreading of the nationalist idea, as well as the supporting of settlement in the Land of Israel.

Rzeszow immediately joined up with the Zionist movement that was founded by Dr. Herzl. In a meeting of the Zionists of Galicia which took place on July 26 and 27, 1898, Kurtzman, the representative of Rzeszow, spoke against the trend of specific groups to cut relations with the national council of Lvov and to form their own organizational council with the pretext that the national council was opposed to political Zionism.

Kalman Kurtzman was the representative to the third Zionist congress, and participated in the debate regarding the establishment of the bank. In addition to Chovevei Zion, a second Zionist group, called "Hashachar" was founded in Rzeszow.

In the gathering of students that took place on July 25, 1899, representatives of Rzeszow also took part. At the same time, on October 11, 1899, the student Leopold Sternlicht of Rzeszow recommended to the small committee of Hapoel Hazioni[16] of Vienna to publish a monthly for the academic and scholarly youth, which should appear in three languages, and should be published by the students. However, his recommendation was never put into action.

In the Zionist meeting of Galicia in 1901, it was recommended that a regional committee be established in Rzeszow, for the organization of Rzeszow had achieved renown as an active Zionist organization. The organization of workers and labor Zionists had 180 members in Rzeszow. On April 3, 1906, a regional conference took place in Rzeszow. In 1905, there were four groups in Rzeszow: 1) Chovevei Zion; 2) Shlomit (a women's organization); 3) Poale Zion; and 4) An academic movement called "Chevronia". In the national congress which took place in Lvov on October 27 and 28 1907, Dr. Avraham Zaltz was elected as vice chairman, and Dr. Weinberg as the representative from Rzeszow.

Photo on page 62 Convention of yeshiva Students organization
"Hashachar on the intermediate days of Passover 5668 "(1908).

According to a decision of the council, during the meeting of the regional council in Krakow on November 24, 11, 1907, it was decided to establish a district council in Rzeszow, consisting of five members. In 1907, the elite of the youth who studied in the Beis Midrashes, headed by Moshe Weisenfeld, a Rzeszow native, decided that it was their responsibility to leave their isolation and state of abandonment. One of them decided to establish a nationalist Zionist organization for the Talmudic youth. Therefore, on the intermediate days of Passover 5667 (1907), an organization of Talmudic youth, called "Hashachar" was established in Dembitz. The second convention of this group place took place in Rzeszow on the intermediate days of Passover in 5668 (1908). At this meeting, the locations of the regional councils were set, and one of them was Rzeszow under the direction of Naftali Driller.

In December 1908, Nachum Sokolov gave a lecture in Rzeszow. On April 8, 1909, a regional meeting took place in Rzeszow, in which the organizational progressiveness and development of Zionist life in the cities of the region were noted. In 1910, an academic organization called "Maccabia" was founded, and its representative participated in the first student's convention In Drohowice on September 15, 1912. This organization consisted of 17 members, of whom one was fluent in Hebrew and three studied Hebrew.

On May 15, 1910, the regional convention of western Galicia gathered in Rzeszow, with the participation of 30 representatives. From the accounting that was given from this meeting, it is known that the regional council conducted successful activities in all areas of Zionist life. New groups were established in several cities. Cultural activities, in the form of plays, evening classes and courses took place in the various branches, which attracted large audiences. At this convention, decisions were made to strengthen the organizational and Israel oriented work. In November 1911, the member of the council of the small committee of Hapoel Hazioni Dr. Shmaryahu Lewin spoke in Rzeszow. Several new supporters from within the Jewish intelligentsia were attracted to the Zionist movement. In a convention of students that took place in Przemysl on October 31, 1913, two representatives of Maccabi from Rzeszow, Baruch Gleicher and Marcus Wachtel took part. Wachtel was elected as vice chairman.

In the founding meeting of Hamizrachi which took place on the 2nd of Adar 5673 (1913) under the patronage of Naftali Shore, Abba Apfelbaum of Rzeszow was elected to the general council.

In January 1914, Nachum Sokolov was invited to lecture on the battle of language in the Land of Israel. The Poles did not allow him to speak in Krakow and Nowy Sacz, and they disrupted his lecture with calls of "get out of here you Litvak". They also disrupted him in Rzeszow, and Sokolov was not able to lecture. In 1908, a Jewish women's organization with Zionist leanings was founded in Lvov by Mrs. Rosa Pomerantz-Meltzer. A women's Zionist organization was established a short time later in Rzeszow.

Chaim Wald was one of the Zionist activists of Rzeszow. According to the words of a native of Rzeszow[17], Wald excelled in his sense for political matters, and he was a member of the Zionist council from the time of the founding of the first Zionist organization in Rzeszow (Chovevei Zion). He was very popular in all areas, and everyone held him in esteem. Wald was active in the political arena, however he never ran for office either in the community or in the city. He was an excellent speaker, and despite of his occupation of a storeowner, he took active interest in all areas of Jewish life. He appeared as a speaker in meetings of the Zionist movement, and he had influence also on the academics. The well-known lawyer Dr. Reich, who was the head of the community of Rzeszow, held him in high esteem.

From among the Hebrew teachers, Naftali Glicksman was very active in the Zionist movement. He was a well-known maskil, very knowledgeable in Hebrew and Yiddish literature, and the editor of the newspaper "Neie Volkszeitung" which was published in Rzeszow. He devoted much effort to the spreading of the Zionist idea in Rzeszow and other nearby cities. He was especially noted for his speeches against the assimilationists, and he assisted the Zionists in the communal elections. Naftali Glicksman came from a Hassidic family he was the grandson of the Rabbi Reb Dovidel Kriptzer. However, he began to read haskala books from age seventeen, and abandoned the Hassidic lifestyle. He was a Hebrew teacher and occupied himself in journalism. In 1908, he founded the newspaper "Neie Volkszeitung", and he also participated in "Togblat" of Lvov, and in the Hebrew newspaper "Hamitzpeh". He published a book in Hebrew "Darche Chaim" (Ways of Life). He spent his final years in the Land of Israel with his sons, who were farmers. He died in Ramat David in 5708 (1948), at age 77.

Kalman Kurtzman was also one of the first Zionists. He served as the secretary of the community. Moshe Weisenfeld was a prominent personality in the Zionist movement. In his youth he was known as an "ilui"[18], however he became associated with the haskala, and then later with Zionism. He wrote articles in "Hamitzpeh", and also wrote for Yiddish newspapers. He was a writer of "Morgan Journal". He left Rzeszow in 1913. Moshe Weisenfeld was still a member of the Talmudic students in 1907, and was one of the founders of the Hashachar organization of Talmudic students. This organization was intended to promote Zionist activity among the Orthodox and Hassidic youth. Moshe Weisenfeld was elected to the central committee, and he lived in Rzeszow. As can be imagined, the founding of this young men's organization took the academics and Hassidim by storm. They began to oppress this organization, and they did not hesitate to resort to slander, persecution and physical affliction. However all of the difficulties and fierce battles between fathers and their sons did not frighten the members of Hashachar it only strengthened their resolve and faithfulness.

Mordechai Buchbinder was one of the founders of the Poale Zion organization.

With the outbreak of the First World War and the entry of the Russian army into the borders of eastern Galicia, the Jews began to flee westward in particular to Moravia, Bohemia, Hungary, and Vienna.

As was their manner in other cities, the Russians caused difficulties in Rzeszow. After the decisive battle of Gorlice in May 1915, a large portion of Galicia was freed. The government concerned itself with the refugees of Rzeszow. The Zionist movement set up assistance organizations for the refugees.

At the time of the peace treaty of Brest Litovsk, pogrom activity began in Congress Poland, and spread from there to western Galicia. Disturbances occurred in Rzeszow during that period. On May 3, 1919, a crowd of men gathered before the city and the seat of the district governor, and complained about lack of food. The officials answered them that the Jews have an abundance of food. This was the sign of the commencement of the disturbance. The crowd fell upon the workplaces and dwelling places of the Jews. Not one Jewish store was spared.

The synagogue and large Kloiz (Hassidic prayer hall) were severely damaged. Sixty Jews were injured, many of them severely. The soldiers assisted in the plunder of the stores, and divided the spoils with the perpetrators. An emergency situation was declared in the city only after 24 hours.

Thus did the Jews of Rzeszow enter the period of free Poland.


Chapter 9: Rzeszow from 1919 TO 1939

Near the beginning of the Polish era - in 1921 - an economic investigation of all of Poland was conducted with the assistance of the Joint. According to the data formulated by the engineer Heller, Rzeszow was home to 379 manufacturing endeavors, of which 367 were in operation. 162 of these employed salaried workers, and 205 did not employ salaried workers. 12 factories were inoperative. 1,050 people in total were employed by these factories, of these 355 were the owners of the factories (33.8%), 124 (11%) were family members, 372 (35.4%) were Jewish employees. These included 260 men, 72 women, and 40 children (19%). 199 employees were non-Jewish of these there were 162 men, 34 women, and 3 children.

The factories were involved in the following areas:

1) One malt factory which employed 7 men including the owner of the factory, a relative, and 5 non-Jews.

2) In the 22 metal foundries, 94 people were employed 17 were the factory owners, 7 relatives,
27 Jewish workers (21 men, 5, women, and 1 child), 43 Christian workers (33 men, 9 women, and 1 child).

3) In the metal factories [19]: The 20 factories employed 94 people including 15 factory owners, 2 relatives,
27 Jewish workers (23 men, 1 woman, and 3 children), 46 Christian workers (46 men).

4) In the wood factories: The 16 factories employed 67 people, including 13 factory owners, 7 relatives,
21 Jewish workers (19 men and 2 children), and 27 non-Jewish workers, all men.

5) In the hide factories: The 16 factories employed 36 people, including 15 factory owners, 5 relatives,
and 16 Jewish workers (12 men and 4 women)

6) In the textile factories: The 8 factories employed 16 men, including 6 factory owners,
7 Jewish workers (5 women and 2 children), and 3 Christian children.

7) In the clothing factories: The 176 factories employed 400 people, including 175 factory owners,
37 relatives, 174 Jewish workers (89 men, 53 women, and 29 children), and 17 Christian workers
(9 men, 6 women, and 2 children).

8) In the paper factories: the 82 factories employed 35 people, including 7 factory owners,
1 relative, 18 Jewish workers (14 men and 4 women), and 9 Christian workers (8 men and 1 woman)

9) In the food factories: The 17 factories employed 206 people, including 67 factory owners,
48 relatives, 48 Jewish workers (all men), and 43 Christian workers (32 men and 11 women).

10) In the chemical factories: The 2 factories employed 8 people, including 2 factory owners,
2 relatives, and 4 Jewish workers all men.

11) In the building factories: The 26 factories employed 46 people, including 24 factory owners,
4 relatives, 16 Jewish workers (all men), and 2 Christian workers.

13) In the cleaning factories: The 10 factories employed 31 people, including 10 factory owners,
5 relatives, 12 Jewish workers (9 men and 3 children), and 4 Christian workers (1 man and 3 children).

The rest of the Jews were employed in business, served as officials, or were members of other professions. Some were also employed in profiteering.

According to the censuses that were conducted in Poland in 1921 and 1931, the population of the District of Rzeszow was as follows: in 1921 38,356 residents, including 15,011 Jews (39.1%); in 1931 - 40,067 residents, including 14,609 Jews (36.5%).

In the city of Rzeszow itself there were 24,942 residents in 1921, of whom 11,361 were Jews, who were 45.5% of the population of the city.

Until 1928, the rules for elections of the community were still those of the days of Austrian rule. However, in 1928, the law of the communities came into force after a difficult and long battle conducted by the group of Jewish representatives to the Sejm. According to this law, the elections would be conducted proportionally, carefully, and honestly. Every Jew of age 25 and up received the right to vote, whether or not he had paid the communal taxes.

Life in the community of Rzeszow returned to its normal path in the 1920s, without recognizable change. Various groups and organizations were founded. The activities of the Zionists and Zionist youth were particularly prominent. Visits by members of the movement left a large impression also on the non-Zionist part of the Rzeszow Jewish population.

Aid societies were also formed, which organized activities for the benefit of the sanitarium, and also for various other reasons. During the years of Sejm elections, the Jewish streets of the city and community were saturated with a supportive atmosphere for the benefit of the Jewish lists.

However, already by 1927, anti-Semites began to cause disturbances during the time of prayers in the synagogue. However the Jews stood up against them. The Jewish youth were organized for the most part in Zionist organizations, which established the "League for Labor in the Land of Israel".

The Jews lived in contentment until 1930. In that year changes took place which shook up the Jews. In February 1930, the Andak movement began its fierce battle against kosher slaughter (shechita).

At the end of March 1930, a mass gathering of the Jews took place to protest the anti-Semitic complaints against Jewish slaughter. With a special decision, they agreed to protect the rights of the Jews, and to present public opposition against the cutting off of rights of the Jews, who should be regarded as full citizens in all areas.

In that year (1930), civic elections took place that were full of dishonesty, and the Jews presented protests against these elections.

Since the authorities were not happy with the Zionist activities in the community, they fired the communal council members in 1930, and a commissar was appointed by the authorities to govern the community. In June 1936, communal elections took place, however those elected were invalidated, and a commissar was again appointed. This change in the community did not disrupt the communal activities of the Jews. Many philanthropic organizations were established at that time, such as: an old age home, a society for care of guests, a charitable society, a food distribution organization (which distributed 100-150 meals to the poor each day), an organization for invalids, widows and orphans, a home for children, help societies, and other such organizations.

Aside from these societies, branches of the Zionist organizations operated. The WIZO organization busied itself with assistance activities, and sent 150 children to camps each summer. The "Friends of Hebrew University" conducted special activities with the Zionist academic groups, and other cultural groups. Due to the general economic depression, assistance was required in order to maintain the various assistance organizations. To help out the Jewish hospital, a special delegation was sent to Warsaw in order to obtain money from the Joint. Despite the financial difficulties, these organizations widened their activities, and there was much activity by the credit unions as well.

However, peace and quite did not prevail in the Jewish quarter of Rzeszow. Starting from 1934, there were Hitlerist cries on the streets.

In the public schools, the teachers sang songs of praise to Hitler and to Nazi Germany. In April 1933, there was a mass meeting of the Jews, where decisions were taken protesting the persecution of the Jews of Germany.

Despite the difficult economic situation, the organizations continued their existence and conducted their activities. Even in 1938, the "Dramatic Study Group" (Studium Dramaticzna) and a Zionist club were founded. The "Organization of Jewish Merchants", the "Beit-Haam" (People's Hall), and other organizations were all active.

In November 1938, a delegation from America visited Rzeszow and was especially interested in the state of the Jewish hospital.

The schools the public school, the high school and the professional school all functioned as usual even under the pressure that was felt in the Jewish community due to the activities of the government against the Jews.

In 1939 the general situation took a turn for the worse, and the economic situation in particular declined. Nevertheless, a spirit of optimism prevailed among the Jewish population. At the beginning of June, the community protested against the "White Paper" regarding the Land of Israel, which was put out by the British government.

A few days prior to the outbreak of the world war, the Jewish youth organized a protest against the White Paper.

The German invasion of Poland came upon the Jews as thunder from heaven.


The Goldsmiths of Rzeszow

by Dr. Moshe Yaari Wald

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Starting from the 16th century, Rzeszow became known as a center of jewelry manufacturing and goldsmithing. The Germans excelled in this profession, which was brought to Poland by authority of its kings, and the Jewish and Polish smiths apprenticed with them. However, with the passage of time, the Jews of Rzeszow took control of this profession, as well as the Jews of the neighboring towns of Glogow and Strzyzow. The Jews had a special recipe for the refining of gold. This gold was known as "Rzeszow gold", and these goldsmiths were known as "alchemists". Francizek Kotula, the director of the museum of Rzeszow, wrote a historical article on the smithing profession of Rzeszow. Jewelry manufactured in Rzeszow found its way to all the lands of the east and the west. A Polish writer wrote in his diary that Jews of Rzeszow could be found in Paris and Vienna with suitcases filled with jewelry manufactured in Rzeszow. Another writer, describing his trip to Austria, wrote that he found there jewelry (rings and brooches) made from Rzeszow gold by the Jews of Galicia. From the beginning of the 19th century, only Jews worked in this trade. In the journal of the protocols of the Rzeszow court, we no longer find names of Christian smiths, but only of Jews.

Prince Jerzy Lubomirski, the owner of the city, gave permission to the smith Itzik Nochovitz to take ownership of a house in the old city in return for a large sum. In 1713, the smith Wolfe was appointed as an official appraiser of gold products. At the beginning of the 18th century, only 3 Jewish smiths are recorded in the records, however in 1757, there were already 26 Jewish goldsmiths.

In the annals of the town of Glogow, which is near Rzeszow, in 1779, the names of the Jewish smiths Itzik and Herschko are mentioned. The Jews of the village made decorations, jewelry, and settings for pearls, etc. Rzeszow was a poor and unimportant city until the end of the 16th century. Only after the ownership of the city was taken over by Mikolaj Spytek Ligenza in 1583, and during the fifty years of his reign, did the city reach its pinnacle of development.

The smiths belonged to a general "Cech"[20], which included locksmiths, blacksmiths, and manufacturers of rope, knives, weapons, etc. The trade of smithing and similar trades were also prevalent in Lancut, Przeworsk, Kanczuga, Jaroslaw, and Przemysl. However most of them disappeared, since they could not stand up to the competition of the artisans of Rzeszow. A special smiths' guild existed only in Rzeszow at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries. Rzeszow was saved from the Tatar invasion of 1624, which swept over Lesser Poland. The owner of the city, the magnate Spytek Ligenza, succeeded in pushing them away from the gates of Rzeszow. At that time the cities of Przemysl, Jaroslaw, and Lancut were destroyed, and alongside, the anvils and other tools of smithing in those cities were destroyed.

In those days, a famous smith from Lublin, Wawrzyniec Kasprowicz, arrived in Rzeszow and set up the manufacture of golden religious icons. Jewish apprentices took lessons from him.

The decline of the city of Rzeszow began at the end of the 17th century, during the rule of the Lubomirski noblemen. The historian Jan Paczkowski found in the population registers from the 18th century, that in 1705 there were still 27 Jewish smiths in the two parts of the city (the old city and the new city). This is a respectable number, and only in the period of Austrian rule did the trade of smithing cease, since the products of Austria and Czechia[21] competed with the products of Rzeszow. I still remember from my youth the family of the Shiff brothers, who were well known in all of central Galicia. The jewelry of the Shiff brothers attracted purchasers from all of the cities of the district.


Pages of History

by Dr. Henry Y. Wachtel of New York

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 66 Dr. Henry Wachtel, with his signature below.}

The history of Poland begins in the 10th century with the legendary dynasty of Mieszko Piast, the king descended from peasants who embraced Christianity. Boleslaw Chrobry (992-1025) solidified the independence of Poland. The writings of Roman Wlodzimit Halicz (1206), for the first time contain documents recording "Rex Galiciae et lodomaeriae". We also find documents mentioning Stefan II, the King of Galicia (1124).

Galicia was established as a political and geographic entity by Austria between the years 1772-1918. The name Galicia is the Latinized form of the name of the Polish Halicz dukes. The area is approximately 78,497 square kilometers.

According to statistics dating from 1910, there were 8,025,675 inhabitants of Galicia, consisting of: 3,731,569 Roman Catholics; 3,379,613 Greek Catholics, 871,895 Jews, and 34,144 Lutherans.

In historical Poland, Galicia was divided into four wojiwoda (provinces): Krakow, Stanislawow, Lvov, and Tarnopol. Rzeszow is located almost exactly in the center of southern Galicia, midway between Krakow and Lvov, in a plain reaching south the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. It was originally settled on the left bank of the Wislok River, which joins the river San on the northeast. To the west, the territory of the plain embraces the watershed of the Wislok and the Dunajec, which flows into the Wisla (Vistula) river.

The Wisla and its tributary the San form the northern boundary of the southwestern area of Galicia.

Geological evidence of human settlement prior to 2,500 years ago can be found near Rzeszow. Earthenware shards and stone axes that can be found in excavations near the city testify that people lived there already in the distant Stone Age. The residents of the area are primarily farmers, who raise sheep and cattle. Deciduous and coniferous forests cover approximately 25% of the region that is between the Dunajec and the San.

Rings that were discovered in 1953 prove that the Roman influence reached Rzeszow, Zmigrod, Boguchwala, Grabownici, Przemysl, and Pilzno.

Rzeszow was founded in approximately 1365. It was known as Reishov in 1390. Rzeszow was one of the prettiest cities in Galicia, and third in strategic importance. During the days of Austrian rule, a rail line was built that joined Rzeszow to Vienna via Krakow. This line extended eastward to Lvov.

There were two marketplaces and seven public gardens in Rzeszow. The "Rathaus" (town council building) was in the main square. The older and most beautiful part of Rzeszow was built on a hill, with the Farni Church and the tower from the 17th century on top. Primarily gentiles originally settled this part of the city. Panska street, whose name was changed in 1896 to the Street of the 3rd of May, was lined with shady trees, and led to the Bernardine Church, which was built in the 17th century, as well as to the civic garden (a public garden).

On the Street of the 3rd of May, near the old the Gymnasia, stood the Pierrist Church, which was built in the 17th century and turned into the library of the civic archives during the days of Kaiser Josef II. The "Rathaus" was rebuilt in the 19th century. On the Street of the 3rd of May, beside the Pierrist Church, stood the building of the city treasury; behind "Pod Kastanami" was the old palace from the 17th century that was built by Prince Mikolaj Ligenza. This building was fortified on a hill, surrounded by a protective moat filled with water and traversed by a bridge, and faced the Wislok River. It was renovated during the days of Jerzy Lubomirski in the middle of the 18th century. The Austrian government purchased the palace at the beginning of the 19th century for 65,000 zloty and turned it into a courthouse and jail.

The portion of the city in which Jews first settled in 1447 was below the hill, near the old quarter beside the Wislok, on the east, with a stone bridge leading to the direction of Lancut, constructed by the Germans.

To the west of Rzeszow was Sedziszow, to the southeast was Przeworsk, Czudec to the northeast, and Tyczyn to the southwest.

In 1880, about 13,000 people resided in Rzeszow, half of whom were Jews. In 1924, the District of Rzeszow (the "Powiat"), had 100,000 residents, of whom 30,000 lived in Rzeszow itself, half of whom were Jews. At that time, Rzeszow had ten physicians, seven midwives, and two pharmacies. The civic hospital was near Mieczkowicz Square. There was a Jewish hospital, which was completed in 1937 partially through he assistance of the Rzeszow Relief Committee of New York "The Rzeszow Young Men's Organization and Rzeszow-Korczin Synagogue of America". There were two public schools in Rzeszow, two gymnasia, a seminary, a Bernardine school, a school for girls, and a dormitory for non-Jewish students near the Bernardine Monastery.

A document from the year 1390 describing Erich the Bishop of Przemysl, mentions Rzeszow as an affiliated city, and refers to it by the name Rezhov or Reishov. Starcinski surmises that the name "Reishov" originates from the German word "Reichshauf", and only in 1375 was the name of the city established as Rzeszow. From 1354 the city is referred to in documents as "Oppidum Rzeszoviense".

The oldest document that mentions Rzeszow is the privilege issued by King Kazimierz the Great on January 19, 1351. He grants Rzeszow and its environs, an area covering 30 square miles, to Jan Pakoslaw De Strozysk, in return from his service to the king as an emissary to the Tatars.

The engineer Mikolaj Rzeszowski built the first bridge over the Wislok in 1569. This bridge was built of wood.

In 1767, Schultz describes Rzeszow as "little Brody" and he praises the craftsmanship of the Jewish smiths of Rzeszow, who conduct business with Vienna, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Petersburg. The Jews also produced the royal signets. In the book of his travels (Eine Reise, 1803), Brodalski refers to Rzeszow as "the Jerusalem of Galicia".

Rzeszow played an honorable role among the cities of Galicia from a cultural perspective. Administratively, the District of Rzeszow included Lancut, Ropczyce, Kolbuszowa, and Tarnobrzeg.

In the vicinity of Rzeszow, cattle, wheat, sugar beets, and rye were grown. Alcohol, bricks, earthenware vessels and textiles were manufactured.

As has been mentioned, the Jews settled in Rzeszow at the foot of the hill, between the Right Bank of the small river Mikoszka and the Left Bank of the Wislok. The Mikoszka, which flowed into the Wislok, served as the drainage conduit of the upper portion of the city, as well as the Jewish slaughterhouse. It connected to the Wislok near the railway line on the other side of the city, to the northeast. Between the Mikoszka and the left bank of the Wislok, the Jewish communal buildings could be found: the old synagogue, the Beis Midrash (study hall), the Klaus (Hassidic prayer hall), the slaughterhouse, and three cemeteries. All of these served as the central point of Jewish life in olden days. Behind the old synagogue and near the Beis Midrash was the small cemetery, with less than 100 graves. Nearby is "Tepper Gas" (the street of the potters), and "Melamdim Gas" (the street of the teachers), as well as many wooden houses which were inhabited primarily by Jews. With the passage of time, as the Jewish population increased, numerous small houses of prayer (shtibelach), and school halls were founded.

Between the years 1757-1765, there were 27 Jewish goldsmiths, silversmiths and watchmakers in Rzeszow, who employed many workers and brought their craft to a very high level of craftsmanship and style, to the point where their wares became famous throughout Europe. Many Jews were ring makers, and engravers of gold and silver (whose work was displayed in 1894 in an exhibition in Lvov). In 1765, we also find four Jewish musicians in Rzeszow, who were granted the right to ply their trade by the elders of the city.

Since the Jewish settlement in Rzeszow and the synagogues were outside of the city boundary, the Jews were required to protect the synagogue and the Jewish residents from attacks by non-Jewish residents or external enemies, similar to the obligation that was placed upon the Christian residents of the city. The old synagogue in Rzeszow was built for defensive purposes, and had a small tower and ramparts. There was a small jail in its basement, where transgressors were imprisoned (according to the historian Balaban).

Rzeszow also developed due to the discovery of oil nearby, as pits of petroleum were discovered in Gorlice and Limanow. Jewish merchants and bankers assisted in the development of the first oil refinery, which was build in 1853.

The petroleum industry assisted in the development and expansion of tile and brick manufacturing, as well as wood engraving, trades which occupied people in Kolbuszow which was nearby to Rzeszow (according to Ribak Ludmir, "Rzeszow", 1954).


Translator's Footnotes

10. Just out of interest, this is the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. Back

11. Yom Kippur of 1859 fell on October 7 at night, and October 8. Sukkot would have been from October 13-21. Back

12. I am not sure to what this refers. It is most likely not a gambling casino. It may refer to a cassa. Back

13. The upholders of the faith. Back

14. I rectified some of the percentages in this column (in particular the negative one). Back

15. This table lists the growth from the beginning to end of each time period. Back

16. Probably a reference to the highest leadership committee, consisting of very few members. Back

17. The footnote mentions the source as Tzvi Simcha Leder, in his book “Reisher Yidn” 1953, page 54. Back

18. A term used for a young and promising Torah scholar. Back

19. Presumably the factories of metal products, as opposed the producers of the metal itself. Back

20. Polish word for guild or professional organization. Back

21. The Austrian provinces of Bohemia and Moravia (now the Czech republic). Back

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