Chapter 1: The Jewish Settlement its Beginnings
Translated by Myra Yael Ecker
Edited by Yocheved Klausner
|Condition of the Jews in the days of Casimir the Great [Kazimierz III]. The legal status of the community, in town and in its surroundings. Role of the Jews in transit trade, in the days of Jagiello. Wolczko and his business. The lessee Natko. Jewish occupations: Leases. Trade. Finance. Crusaders' attack on the Jews of Lwów. The struggle with the townspeople in the years 14881528. The accord between the Jews and the townspeople. The role of Josef BenSchachna. Trade relations with Turkey.|
When and whence came the Jews to Lwów? This is one of the most interesting problems in the history of the Jews in Lesser Poland which was formerly known as RedReissen [or RedRuthenia].
By the tenth century Jews had already arrived from the Byzantine Empire and Khazaria they were the trade intermediaries between the East and West on the route: Halicz [Halych]Kievthe Black Sea. In the towns of Reissen, Jews had lived long before the arrival of the German and Polish settlers. At the time, apart from the Ruthenians and the Tatars in Lwów, Jews also enjoyed some rights under the rule of the Reissen Princes. Together with the Jews, Karaites also settled in Lwów, and their synagogue stood close to where later the town's synagogue (Städtische Schul) was built. The Karaite cemetery was located not far from the Krakowite Quarter. The Jews lived at the southwestern edge of the city wall, in the direction of ZolkiewskaRynek Street, in a number of small houses with adjacent stores, stables and silos. After the new town was constructed in the middle of the 14th century, the old town turned into a suburb. In the new town apart from the Jewish community of the old town and the Karaite community a third Jewish community was also established. So that in the early period there were two Jewish settlements in Lwów: within the town lived Jews from western countries; and in the Krakowite Quarter (Krakower Vorstadt) Jews who originated in Khazaria, in eastern countries, and Karaites. These two communities were distinct from one another in their customs and in the way of life of their inhabitants.
The Jews within the town were subject to the authority and jurisdiction of Palatinus Russ [Russian palatine], and acting as his deputies and representatives were the Prince's clerk together with the elected Jewish leaders.
The Jews in the borough adjacent to the prince's palace were subject to the jurisdiction of the Palace's judge. According to Reissen Law, they could appeal against the Palacejudge's decision before the deputyStarosta, or the castellan of the castle.
The princes, keen to see the town of Lwów and its trade develop, made great effort to attract Jewish residents who willingly settled there because they enjoyed there rights which improved their living conditions. The renown of Lwów as a trade centre had reached the communities of Western Europe, and even Spain, such that the author of the Catalan Atlas (Carta Catalana), Jehuda [or Jefuda] Cresques, entered Lwów on the map as Ciutat de Leo, and noted that it was the intersection station on the trade route to the East.
With the development of settlements by Venetian and Genoese expatriates on the shores of the Black Sea, a new trade route, the Tatar route, was established to connect the settlements with the mother towns. That route carried goods to Lwów and from there, via Torun to the Baltic States, and via Krakow to Germany. Along a separate route which started in Transylvania, goods were transported via Lwów to the Black Sea and to Asia Minor.
Although the Jews were a decisive factor in that transit trade, they were faced with difficulty from the stiff competition of the Armenian and Greek traders who spared no means to concentrate all trade in their own hands. But their connections with the diaspora helped Jews to withstand their economic struggle.
In April 1340, after the death of the Ruthenian Prince Boleslaw Mazow, internal riots broke out in the country and Reissen was conquered by the king of Poland, Casimir the Great (13331370).
There was hardly any change in the situation of the Jews. The Jews received a privilege from the King which did not diminish any of their rights. The sole change was the composition of the Jewish population. As is well known, during the reign of Casimir the stream of Jewish immigration from Germany, to whom the king offered greater privileges, increased. The wave of refugees reached also Lwów. By and by the new immigrants displaced the KhazarKaraite community from its standing. Instead of the Slavic language, the GermanYiddish language now prevailed and the customs of Ashkenazi Jews took priority.
The privilege granted by Casimir the Great on the 17th June 1356, which awarded Lwów the right to adopt the Magdeburg Law, set no restrictions on its Jewish population. That privilege incorporated the rule that in case the Jews preferred to forgo the use of the Magdeburg Law, they could settle their internal affairs, autonomously, and they were allowed to adopt their particular jurisprudence. They were completely removed from the jurisdiction of the municipality, and remained under the jurisdiction of the castellan (burgrave) with the right to appeal to the Starosta, the King's representative in Reissen.
In the Town Bylaws (Wilkierz) of 1360 which King Casimir the Great approved at Krakow, and which incorporated Criminal and Inheritance Law, there was also no mention of the Jews.
In 1364, the general privilege granted to the Lwów Jews by Boleslaw the Pious in 1264 (Statuta Judaeorum), was further expanded. From then on the culture of Western Jewry was integrated, and in time the tradition of Eastern Jewry disappeared and was replaced by Ashnenazi traditions in daily life, in prayer and in community life.
After the fire of 1350, the town was rebuilt. From then on the Jews lived in two separate areas: in the urban quarter BlacharskaSerbska Street Boimow adjacent to the town market (Rynek), and termed Jewish Street [Ulica Zydowska], where the prosperous Jews lived; while in the Krakowite quarter lived the poorer members of the community.
On the 25th April 1367, at the request of the Jews of Lwów, Krakow and Samdomiez, Casimir confirmed to all the Jews in Lesser Poland, the extended and complete general privilege ratified in the Statute of 1264.
After the death of Casimir in 1370, his heir of Poland, Ludwik [Louis] of Anjou, King of Hungary, handed the rule over Reissen to his relative Wladyslaw Opolczyk [Ladislaus of Opole], an efficient administrator who included in his special interest the development of trade with the East. The life of the Jews remained unaltered. Their rights were confirmed and even expanded, and they were granted special discounts on trade with Hungary.
At the end of the 14th century and during the 15th, Lwów became a major crossing station between West and East. With the growth of the colonies of Venice and Genoa on the shores of the Black Sea, the trade route which connected these colonies with their mother towns, known as the Tatar Road, was widened. Produce and merchandise from the East continued to travel along that route via Lwów and Torun to Baltikum [Baltic States], and via Krakow to Nuremberg. Along the Moldova route, merchandise passed also through Lwów on its way to Transylvania and farther on to the Black Sea and Asia Minor.
Jews played no small part in the trading procedures. Unlike the Germans who established the town's organisational administration, and the Greeks who were very familiar with the East, the advantage of the Jews was their connections with the diaspora communities in those regions.
In the Responsa of Rabbi Israel Ben Pethahiah (Maharai Isserlein 13901460), as mentioned in the book Leket Yosher published by his pupil Yosef Ben Moshe, of Hoechstadt, the trade route from Austria to Hungary via PrzemyslLwów is discussed.
The Jews of Reissen, engaged in wholesale trade with countries in the East, established also trade partnerships. The partnership of three Jews from Lwów: Shlome, Zewia (Czewja=Zwi?) and Jakob supplied the town of Lwów, in 1383, with a large cargo of peppercorns, valued at 150 grzywny. There were also Jews who were mortgage lenders, who in their contracts imposed the right to sell the mortgaged property if the borrower did not redeem the loan on the set date.
After the death of Ludwik in 1382, his daughter Jadwiga who was crowned Queen of Poland in 1384, continued with the economic policies of Wladyslaw. In 1387, she made Lwów the centre (Emporium) for all the goods arriving from the East. In the privilege which she issued were ratified all the rights and privileges of the Ruthenian, Armenian, Saraceen and Jewish inhabitants of the town.
The Jews benefitted in particular when Lwów turned Emporium (centre for storing goods). According to the regulation all traders, be they Hungarian or Polish, who set out with their merchandise towards the East or to the land of the Tatars, were obliged to pass through Lwów; to remain there a fortnight; and to offer their goods for sale or exchange, solely to the Lwów traders. The remainder of their merchandise the traders could take with them only after paying customs fees. The 1379 trade regulations issued to Lwów, introduced no adverse changes for the Jews.
The situation of the Jews, who handled a large portion of the trade, improved considerably after the Turks had captured Constantinople in 1453. Now that Christian merchants feared to travel to lands held by the Turks, all trade with the East passed into the hands of Jewish merchants, the majority of whom were in Lwów. They traded in perfume, English and Flemish fabrics, and silk fabrics; and from Lwów they brought their merchandise also to Krakow, and through their connections with Christian traders, to the other Polish towns too. In the 15th and the 16th centuries extensive trade was also conducted with Breslau [Wroclaw]; Jewish merchants from Lwów travelled there in person, or sent their agents. As for example the Jewish trader Shlome Judaeus who did business with the merchant Spitzmar, and others. Jewish wholesalers from Constantinople had agencies in Lwów and held the monopoly on all TurkishPolish trade. One of them, David, kept his agent Josef in Lwów, and supplied via him alum (alaun) and chapti (Turkish silk fabric), wine, perfume, lemons in exchange for English fabrics. Another Turkish Jew, Moses, was agent of his brother Zachariah, and supplied goods from Turkey to Wallachia and to Suczawa [Suceava] via Lwów. Abraham, another Jewish wholesaler from Constantinople, who traded in medicaments, brought to Lwów products in the value of 2300 Florins, in a single year.
As a merchant in Lwów trading in Turkish produce, we know also of Schachna, a wholesaler in Turkish silk fabric.
The ties with the East renewed even the slavetrade via Lwów. Among the Jews one knows of the trader Izacz Sokolowicz.
During the reign of Wladyslaw Jagiello (13861434), the heads of the [Jewish] community of Lwów tried several times the first time when he was at Lwów on the 30th September 1387 to have him reconfirm the privileges which Casimir the Great had granted them in 1367, but Jagiello refused. After his Christian conversion, and influenced by the Church, he served it faithfully.
Nevertheless, all his financial affairs in Reissen, especially in Lwów, were handled by a Jewish agent, Wolczko Czolner of Lwów. Wolczko Czolner was a banker and took care of the King's accounts with the town of Lwów (he was probably from Drohobych [Drohobycz]). Apart from his financial business with members of the nobility and with high ranking officers, he also leased saltmines in Drohobych, and road taxes. He also lent the King moneys required for the King's expenses, which he deducted from the sum he owed the King for the lease as customs officer. After the Jewish taxcollector Gut, the King leased to him the tax collection at Chelm. In 1410 he underwrote the war against the Crusaders, which ended with a Polish victory at Grunwald (1410). Another Jew, Jacob Slomkowicz of Lutsk, who had business association with the Jewish banker Levko [Leib] of Krakow, lent a substantial sum to the municipality of Lwów in order to pay the levy enforced on it by the King for that war. Wolczko lent money to members of the nobility as well, and was also interested in agricultural economics. As known, Jagiello allotted large areas of Reissen to his citizens and his knights, so they would settle and found villages and towns. By an ordinance of the 17th June 1423, Jagiello also gave Wolczko a large tract of land between the Dniester and the river Szczerzec [Shchyrka], for the purpose of colonisation; granted him all the privileges and the jurisdiction over the settlers; and appointed him head of the village of Werbiz. The general purpose for giving away that tract of land was to secure income for the King. The King referred to him as agent (officialis noster); his official title was customsofficer. The King liked Wolczko and wanted him to convert to Christianity, but when he refused to give up his faith, he was made to surrender his authority over several villages to a Christian, since the clergy objected that a Jew should impose his authority over his Christian population. By and by Wolczko was obliged to sell the villages and to give up his agricultural activities. From then on he concentrated solely on commerce and tax collecting, be it state or municipal taxes, and became the greatest wholesaler. He kept also fishfarms in the vicinity of Sambor, and just at a time when Lwów was an international centre for the trade in fish and caviar (fishroe), he endeavoured to introduce into its market fish from the output of Poland. The fish was imported from the banks of the Black Sea and sent on to the rest of Europe. That trade was also in the hands of the Jews of Lwów. Wolczko owned also a house in the Jewish Quarter of Lwów, and died childless, most probably in 1441.
At the same period we know of another Jewish royal taxcollector in Lwów, named Natko. He was a cattle merchant. In 1452 King Casimir Jagiello leased to him the customs of Lwów. In the title deed of the lease dated the 2nd July 1452, the King states that the integrity, loyalty and aptitudes of the Jew Natko of Lwów, who excels in agility, reached the King's knowledge through numerous recommendations in his favour and praise, to give to him, to our Jew (Judeus noster) the customs for two years for a leasing fee of one thousand Greczybni (Greczyni = 48 Groszy), in four installments. In 1452 Natko leased also the salt mines in Drohobych, and the customs in Grodek.
Among the Jews of Lwów we know also of the wholesaler Schachna and his son Joseph. Schachna had trade relations with Jewish traders from Constantinople and Italy, who had settled in Caffa [Kefe] (Crimea) and from there conducted wide spread trade with Poland. One of them, Caleb, arrived in 1442 in Lwów where he opened a branch. In documents he was entered as Kalp Judaeus da Caffa Aliance da Liopoli (Caleb, a Jew of Caffa, as well as of Lwów).
Schachna, who was at the time the taxcollector at Lwów, granted him important easements in order that goods from the East, in the value of 2000 Gulden, be transported via the customs station at Lwów. In 1440 their relationship deteriorated after Schachna refused to pay Christophorus Guardia a debt redemption of 100 Gulden according to the guarantee of Caleb. The matter ended in a protracted trial. Caleb found himself a protector and supporter in Piotr Odrowaz the Voivode [Wojewode; governor, ‘warlord’] of Lwów, who also vouched for him; a sponsorship which earned the Voivode substantial profits. Schachna managed a variety of businesses, he lent moneys to King Wladyslaw Warnenczyk, to the Voivode of Podolia, to the castellan of Chelm, against the mortgage of houses and estates. The extent of his business forced him to accept loans from the Archbishop of Lwów. His wife Dina, and son Joseph worked together with him.
Among the professional lenders known to us during that period are Schlome, who gave more than twenty loans to the municipality of Lwów during 5 years (13821387); Izacz who mostly lent moneys to members of the nobility and to Jewish customslessees, as well as to Armenian and Ruthenian merchants. Some Jewish women were also engaged in the business of credit. In particular one knows of: Lena, Hannah, Miriam (1483), the wife of Jurden (14831487); her financial business was mostly with Armenians. A well known woman banker was Gershonova, the wife of Tuvye who was killed by the Christian Kzystof Kolar.
During the reign of Jagiello, after the unification of Poland and Lithuania, many Jews left Lwów for Lithuania. In 1388, his brother Witold [Vytautas] the Grand Prince of Lithuania, granted a charter to the Jews of Brisk and Troki, which repeated word for word the charter Casimir the Great had granted the Jews of Lwów ‘Prout in Lamburge a Judaeis Habentur’.
During this period the Jews of Lwów enlarged the cemetery and strengthened the basis of their community. In contrast with the intolerance towards the Jews which was widespread throughout Poland at the time, the situation in Lwów was tolerable and the Jews did not suffer any discriminations or religious persecution.
But the situation changed under the influence of the Catholic Church, as well as due to the envy of the Christian merchants most of whom were Germans who took a dim view of the concentration of trade, wholesale and retail, in the hands of Jews.
In 1412 the municipal council passed an antiJewish resolution according to which it was forbidden for all meadbrewers to purchase effervescent mead from Jews; anyone violating that prohibition would be charged a fine of 60 Groszy on every barrel. But the antiJewish incitement had not yet reached such a level as to worsen the condition of the Jews in Lwów, while the antiJewish atmosphere felt in the rest of Poland was not found there. The heir of Wladyslaw Jagiello, his younger son Wladyslaw III of Varna (14341444) confirmed in 1435 the trade rights of Lwów and forbade noblemen to charge on their estates, customsfees, roadtax or bridgestax from any Lwów trader, irrespective of their religion or nationality.
Even the antiJewish policy which his brother and heir Cazimir IV Jagiellon (14441492) was forced to adopt under pressure from the Catholic Church which engaged the zealot monk [John of] Capistrano, and which incited the masses against the Jews as in German towns at the time did not affect the Jews of Lwów. Cardinal Zbigniew Olesnicki, aware that the King required the Church's help in his fight against the Teutonic Knights, compelled the King, in the Nieszawa Statutes of November 1454 (in which he had conceded to the nobles a significant share in government), to annul the rights he had granted to the Jews of Greater Poland on the 13th August 1453; and to the Jews of Lesser Poland on the 24th August 1453.
Indeed, in 1455, on the death of Olesnicki, the Jews were given back part of the privileges. Due to the Jews a conflict then broke out between the Starosta of the Krakowski suburb, and the City Council. The craftsmen in the suburb paid their taxes to the Privy Purse. The Christian craftsmen in town considered them tough competitors and demanded that the town limit their numbers. In 1458 the chief Starosta of Reissen, Andrzej Odrowaz (ze Sprowy), brought about an accord accepted also by the council, according to which within the confines of the Castle's jurisdiction only a number of Jewish tradesmen were allowed to reside: one tailor, two blacksmiths, two shoemakers, apart from the craftsmen shoemakers who had plied their trades in the past. Other tradesmen were prohibited from being admitted, so as not to damage the Christian craftsmen's guilds.
It was decided that also in the future the Starosta would not permit the Jews in his jurisdiction to engage in the trade and serving of spirits.
The accord granted the municipality jurisdiction over the Armenians and other nationals, be they in the town or the suburb, except for those who had ever since resided at the foot of the Castle, as well as foreign Christian traders or Pagans. Only the Jews in the suburb remained under the judgment and protection of the royal jurisdiction. The Jews in town and in the suburb were entitled to make use of the mills of the town or those of the Starosta, except for the brewers of beer and bakers who were obliged to mill solely in the king's mills.
That accord stated, to the disadvantage of the Jews, that it was forbidden to hold the annual trade fairs within the bounds of the Starosta.
During the governance of the chief Starosta Andrzej Odrowaz, small and large towns in Reissen saw the spread of crusader gangs on their way East; crusaders who had been recruited in 1463 by Pope Pius II to assist Hungary against the Turks.
A Pole named Szczensny gathered some 12,000 men, mostly bandits and adventurers, who invaded villages and towns, robbed, looted and killed. Those residing on the outskirts of town fled from them into the town. After destroying its environs, the knights stood before the walls of Lwów and threatened to demolish the town if the Jews were not handed over to them. Fear engulfed the Jewish population but the town council declared that it did not intend to hand over the Jews; and it decided to fight. The gangs, realising the difficulty of a siege due to the shortage of food, opened negotiations which ended with the municipality handing over moneys and food. From Lwów the robbers set out towards Krakow. Krakow did not even consider the possibility of protecting its Jews, and did nothing. When the town's masses together with the gangs attacked the Jewish Quarter, they killed some 30 people. Because of this act King Casimir Jagiello punished the town.
Just at that time the number of Jews in Lwów grew as a stream of refugees escaped from Germany. Amongst them were also Jewish scholars and affluent Jews who acquired houses in the Jewish Quarter of the town.
At the end of the 15th century the Jews of Lwów expanded the trade contacts with Nurernberg, Breslau, Danzig, especially the trade in crops which was carried on the Vistula [Wisla] river. The Lwów townspeople feared that the increased Jewish trade would undermine their general existence and made every effort to halt it.
The principle that only a Christian, a RomanCatholic Christian, could be the town's citizen, determined the attitude of the townspeople towards the Jews.
In time the economic activity of the Jews increased, in investments and in their trade connections with Jews outside Poland. And just at that moment 1488 started the conflict between the townspeople and the Jews of Lwów, and the municipality began to restrict the economic transactions of the Jews.
A similar process was evident also in Krakow, where on the 6th June 1485 the municipality successfully came to an agreement with representatives of the Jewish community. Accordingly the Jews committed themselves voluntarily and not under duress to forego the rights to trade and handle work within the Krakow inner town. They were only permitted to trade in pawned objects whose repayment date had expired, or in clothes sawn by Jewish tailors and furriers. That agreement encouraged the Lwów townspeople to aim for a similar arrangement.
In March 1488, crown prince Jan Olbracht [John I Albert] following the King's instruction, invited the Jewish traders and the Lwów town advisors to appear at his castle in Belz, with the privileges, in order to reach a final settlement over the disputes. After hearing out both sides he decided in favour of the townspeople, who demanded that the Jews of Lwów should not enjoy greater privileges than the Jews of Krakow, Poznan and Sandomierz. He also restricted the trade by Jews to wholesale, and to the sale of pawned objects.
However, the Jews of Lwów did not give in as the Jews of Krakow had done; they did not want to give up their privileges. On the contrary, they fought against the decision by the crown prince which would have led to the decline in the trade by Jews. In 14901492 trials were held between the two sides the townspeople and the Jews and then, due to its anger at the Jewish stubbornness, the municipality demanded that all trade by Jews be stopped. The Jews invested their money mostly in mortgages, to a greater extent than before 1488, and therefore they did not give up their fight. On the 15th February 1493 they were granted by Olbracht a temporary (interim) agreement which indeed restricted their trade, except for two types: cattle and textile. They were entitled to bring each year to the fairs at Przemysl and Jaroslaw 1000 bulls and to sell there also 500 bales of textile. In Lwów they were allowed to sell fabric, wholesale. The townspeople were keen to keep for themselves the retail trade which commanded great profits, and to leave to the Jews the wholesale trade which was bound with dangers and with difficulties of import from eastern countries.
A short time after the 1494 accord a great fire broke out in the Jewish Quarter. Their houses were burnt down, and the neighbouring areas suffered also heavy damage. As a result, Jan Olbracht released the entire town from paying royal taxes for ten years, and those whose houses had burnt down for 15 years. Probably the hardship moved the Council to grant the Jews the right to trade in wholesale textiles with no restrictions, as well as to sell suits in fairs outside Lwów. The Christian traders who meanwhile had lost the Eastern market due to the Turkish invasions, wanted to draw their earnings from the loss of the Jews, and to seize their business. In 1497 they succeeded in prohibiting the Jews of the suburb from trading in certain goods. And yet, when in the same year they submitted the town's privileges to King Jan Olbracht for his approval, he acknowledged the rights of the Jews and the Ruthenians who resided in the suburbs, to enjoy all the free trade privileges and sale of goods, since they bore the burden of municipal taxes. In 1498, the Moldovan hospodar Stephan attacked Reissen and reached Lwów. The town's suburbs were destroyed, the town defended itself and Stephan was forced to retreat in May 1498. But the peace did not last long. In June 1498 the Tatars invaded again, and in the autumn the Turks reached the town, and although they did not succeed in conquering the town, the suburbs suffered extensive damage. Within the town, houses in the Jewish Quarter which stood adjacent to the town wall were demolished, for security reasons. In 14981500 the Jews of Lwów suffered gravely by the hands of the crusaders who passed through Reissen. Only this time the municipality of Lwów did nothing to protect them, as it had done in 1463. The situation worsened to the extent that King Jan Olbracht ordered the municipality to protect the Jews from attacks by the crusaders, but the municipality did not comply with the order.
After the death of Jan Olbracht (14921501), the Jews of Lwów lobbied his heir Alexander (15011506) to annul the 1493 restrictions on their trading. Thanks to their connections at the King's Court, their efforts succeeded. In the meanwhile they renewed their trade connections with Constantinople. At the Sejm of Radom in 1503, the King exempted the Jews of Lwów from customs payments as well as road and bridge tolls, just as the rest of the population, on the basis that they cleared taxes like the Christians.
In 1506 the Jews of Lwów complained to the King over the delays and restrictions they faced in trade and work. They secured from him an order stating that they were entitled to trade freely at fairs and markets, and to the easing of customs, road and bridge taxes, like the rest of Lwów's residents. The King reduced also their taxes from 200 Gulden to 100 Gulden for a period of four years. Indeed, the townspeople did not agree with that revised status.
Sigismund I (15061548) confirmed in 1507 the privileges granted to the Jews of Lwów by his predecessors. Meanwhile the Christian merchants of Lwów made every effort to eliminate the Jewish trade. In 1512, following their advice, Michael Lanckoronski willfully confiscated 1673 bulls from Jewish merchants. The Jews complained to the King who protected them. In 1519, he ensured parity of the Jews in the suburb and their brethren in town, with regard to their privileges of ease of commerce, and the exemption from taxes.
In 1515, after the Jews were granted by King Sigismund I the right to trade in fabrics, including retail during the fairs, and to bring 2000 bulls for sale rather than 1000, the townspeople increased their fight. The municipality of Lwów decided to grasp at any means to limit competition from the Jews; that led to efforts to create a union of the major towns in Poland. Towards the Sejm of Piotrkow in 1521 the Lwów municipality approached the municipalities of Lublin and Poznan with the suggestion to submit a joint complaint to the Sejm In the matter of the freedom of the Jews, and our hardship. We hope that a joint action against the Jews will result in the loss of their rights. In a joint action of the townspeople of Lwów, Lublin and Poznan, they sent their spokesmen to the Sejm and waited for its decision. Since the King's advisors supported their demands to suppress the trade by Jews, the King issued a regulation which annulled all privileges, which meant the destruction of the Jews of Lwów's trade. According to that Regulation:
Despite the severity of the regulation the Jews of Lwów were not shaken. On the contrary, they increased their efforts to have it annulled. On the eve of 1527, they succeeded in obtaining a new regulation which permitted them unrestricted commerce. As a result they built houses in the town suburbs, ordered large quantities of goods and greatly expanded their commerce.
The Christian merchants set up a storm. They petitioned the King that the regulation contravened their own privileges, according to which Jews and Armenians were prohibited from trading in the suburbs. The Christian merchants and town's advisors knew how to buy the hearts of the King's advisors, as well as of members of the Sejm and the Senate. Under that pressure the King annulled the last regulation on the 3rd April 1527. Nonetheless, he took into consideration the investment in goods which the Jews had made, and instructed that for the first year the Jews could trade with no restrictions, but from the second year the restriction of 1521 would apply to them. The merchants were satisfied with their victory, but the Jews did not give up. They approached the King with memorandums and explained that the matter would lead to their bankruptcy which would damage the King's treasury who was interested in maintaining their freedom of commerce. That argument hit the target and during 1527 the King issued a regulation to limit the commerce to four types as in 1521, only the number of bulls for sale was increased to 2500. To prevent Jewish retailers from selling textiles in Lwów, the King decided that the municipality's advisors be authorised to have their goods checked by a special officer appointed by the Starosta or his deputy; and the Jews would be forbidden to sell in Lwów any textiles they had left over from the fairs. Were they to contravene the prohibition, their entire stock would be seized, half to the benefit of the town and half to the King's treasury. On the 3rd June 1527 a huge fire broke out and destroyed almost the entire town, and this led the townspeople, who needed money in order to rebuild their houses, to concessions. The King sent special commissars to bring the two parties to an agreement, and he wrote to the municipality (1528) stating that it too had to make concessions to the Jews in the suburbs, but his counsel was in vain. The Jews claimed again that because of investments in stock and the expense of rebuilding houses and stores, they would have to plead bankruptcy which would greatly disadvantage the treasury. The King, keen to hinder it, informed the municipality of Lwów that he would not permit to bring destruction on the Jews and grave damage to the treasury. Therefore they were obliged to accept the situation and compromise. The letter convinced the municipality and it signed an accord with the Jews in the suburbs, giving them the same trade rights enjoyed by the Jews in town, in return for a special annual payment of 32 Gulden.
In 1543 the King exempted the Jews from the payment of tax in parity with the rest of the Christian population. Despite that improvement the town's municipality demonstrated its hatred of the Jews with its resolution of 1534, that any Christian acting as advocate for a Jew in a trial, would be boycotted. The same resolution determined that Catholics would take the oath in court, Armenians and Ruthenians in their churches, only the Jew, were he to commit perjury, would be sworn in, in accordance with Boleslaw's Statute of 1264, wrapped in a tallit [prayer shawl] and kittel, and standing barefoot on a chair while being subjected to terrible curses.
The peace did not last long. The town's people continued to petition the King with complaints and demanded to check whether the Jewish cattle traders did not exceed their quota. In 1537 Sigismund I ordered all governors of the provinces, heads of towns and owners of villages, to detain any Jew of Lwów who exceeded the permitted quota, and to expropriate his merchandise. But the order remained unexecuted. Although according to the agreement of 1527 the Jews were permitted to sell 20002500 oxen, they did not keep meticulously to those numbers. It is known that in 1533/34 through the Krzepice customs office alone, the Jews of Lwów transported 2004 oxen out of the 20,057 which passed through that station; in 1548, at the customsoffice of Grodek, 3023 oxen out of a total number of 18,056; in 1549, 3482 out of a total number of 16,803 oxen. Indeed in the years 15461547 the numbers went down so that there were in 1546 2294 oxen out of 20,083, and in 1547 only 1718 out of a total number of 15,122. On the other hand, Jews brought from Podolia and Lithuania a large number of oxen to sell.
In 1546, the municipality of Lwów lobbied King Sigismund I for new privileges that would include restrictions regarding the Jews. In his statute the King restated the prohibition to keep taverns, shops and workshops at the foot of the palace, or to hold weekly fairs there. The following year (1547) the King affirmed the privilege of the Christian textile traders that they alone had the right to sell fabric by the cubit [yard] or by the piece.
During that period many Jews who had been expelled from the Czech lands (1541) [lands which for long were under diverse rulers, including those of Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary and Austria], streamed into Lwów, and the townspeople feared new competition which would further increase the existing Jewish trade and thus compromise their livelihood. The townspeople succeeded in having the King issue a command (1543) to the Starosta Odnowski to extend to the municipality every help in the search and expulsion of the Jewish refugees. But the municipality's efforts were in vain. The number of foreign Jews and their trade grew, especially after Jewish merchants from Turkey arrived in Lwów. The trade from Lwów by Jews also increased despite the restrictions. They brought large quantities of goods: leather, Zuechten (dyed goats' leather), velvet, silk, textiles, furs, blankets, carpets, iron goods, milk, Turkish pitchers, perfumes, raisins, plums, mead, honey, fish, peppercorn, ginger, hops, and also wine from Hungary, Italy and from countries in the East. The Jewish trade comprised all branches of the economy, despite the prohibitions and restrictions of 1521 and 1527. The Jews of Lwów expanded their trade also to the other towns of Poland. In the period 15191531 many Jewish merchants from Lwów came to Poznan..
Although the town's advisors made efforts to restrict the trade by Jews, they did not fail to safeguard the town's interests and its rights at trade centres. On the 18th March 1512 they gained an order from the King which was distributed to all the Voivodes, Castellans and Starostas. It stated explicitly that all Jewish merchants, wagoners from Reissen and Podolia who transported goods to Krakow, Lublin and other towns, and who bypassed the trade centre of Lwów, had to respect its rights in the future. In 1537 a similar dispute arose with Lublin, regarding the merchants who arrived from Turkey, merchants who were forbidden by the Lwów municipality from going to the Lublin fairs. This time King Sigismund ruled in Krakow on the 27th February 1538, that Lwów's townspeople were entitled to coerce Turkish, Tatar and Wallachian merchants to store their merchandise at the Lwów trade centre but without prejudicing the Lublin merchants. All the restrictions remained unimplemented since the Jews were supported by Polish noblemen who then acquired for them citizenship of the city, so that they numbered among the patrician strata. Probably under their influence the relationship improved between the townspeople and the Jews. Despite any improvement the struggle continued for decades, with both sides engaging the authorities in appeals, objections and trials. That situation continued till 1578, when the sides agreed to postpone any legal actions till the Sejm's Court convened.
But the matter was not brought to the agenda of the Sejm's Court. When its turn for deliberation had arrived, the Jews had a chance of winning. The municipality hesitated as it well knew that even if it were to win in court the Jews would always find ways and means to hold on to the trade. It thus preferred to enter into direct negotiation with the Jews in order to arrive at a mutual agreement. The municipality's efforts resulted in a compromise which was signed on the 20th January 1580.
In that struggle with the municipality one Jewish wholesaler excelled in particular, Josef Ben Schachna (Yosko Szachnowicz), the son of the taxcollector Schachna. His father, who was from Hrubieszow, settled in Lwów in the middle of the 16th century, and occupied an important role in the life of the Jewish Community. Josef inherited from his father a large estate, and in the years 14841487 he himself leased the customs at Hrubieszow, Lublin and Belz, and later also at Lobachev, Lwów and Chelm. His multiple incomes made him one of the money magnates who influenced the economies of Reissen and Wolyn [Volhynia]. The townspeople hated him and envied his status. In 1504 they plundered his mansions and houses, and on the 19th December 1504 he was released from his payments for 3 years. At the same time the King gave him the leases on transitgoods payments, and bridgetolls in Podolia, Halicz, Lwów, Sanok, Przemysl, Belz and Chelm, against the payment of 400 Marks, and granted him all the rights awarded to a king's lessee. He was also exempted from the regular jurisdiction. In 1505 the Sejm at Radom decided to forbid the Jews from leasing any public revenue, so Yosko gave up all leasing, moved to Lublin and turned instead to banking. He died in 1507. His wife, Golda Yoskova, maintained trade relations with King Sigismund's court, and remained in Lublin. Their son Pessach managed his father's affairs, and his younger brother Shalom Schachna went to Krakow to study at the Yeshiva of Rabbi Jacob Pollack. After completing his studies he returned to Lublin where he was elected rabbi and in 1541 he was appointed, together with Dr. Moshe Fischel, as chief rabbi of Lesser Poland. He died in Lublin, in 1559.
In 1548 King Sigismund I died and his successor Sigismund August (15481572), a Renaissance man, was tolerant regarding religions, and a peace lover. He treated the Jews fairly and maintained amicable relations with Jewish doctors and bankers. He invited the renowned Jewish doctor, Amatus Luzitanus, a Portuguese Marrano, to be his physician; after the latter declined the invitation the King invited Dr. Solomon Ashkenazi of Udine. Once Dr. Ashkenazi left for Turkey, Dr. Solomon Calahorra, another exile from Spain who had settled in Krakow, was appointed in his place.
SigismundAugust confirmed at the Sejm at Piotrkow (1548) the privileges which the Jews were granted by Casimir the Great.
In 1568 a fire broke out in Lwów which destroyed the documents detailing the Privileges granted to the Jews, and when the Jews approached the King to renew their privileges, he acceded to their request and on the 1st October 1568 he granted them in Warsaw the Privilege of the Jews of Lwów (Privilegium Judaeorum Leopoliensium). That Privilege entitled Jews to keep realestate in perpetuity, a right of which they may not be denied, and even any future royal decree obtained against them, would be legally invalid. Any issues concerning the dividing up of plots of land, whether for sale or as realestate gifts, had to be regulated by the Voivode [district governor] of Reissen, since the Jews were his subjects and had to be registered with him, in the Jews' book of certificates. Taxes, rents and all payments to the Palace and the town, the Jews would pay according to the regulations. At the end of the Privilege, an instruction was given to the authorities and the clerks in charge, and especially to the castellan of Przemysl and the Starosta of Lwów, as well as to the town's authorities, to implement those rights.
Sigismund August maintained particularly the rights of those Jews whose services he required: Izaac Nachman (Nachmanowitz) wanted to build a house on the Street of the Jews, on a plot which bordered on Ruska Street which lay outside the Jewish Quarter. The plot on Ruska Street belonged to a Christian widow who did not wish to sell it even at a high price. In 1571, in a personal letter to the municipality of Lwów, the King ordered the appropriation of at least half the widow's plot, and in order to settle the matter he sent his clerk Jacob Szabinski of Warsaw, and the Jew was given the plot for the building.
In 1571 a great fire broke out in the Jewish Quarter within the town, and destroyed almost all the houses in the Quarter as well as the neighbouring houses on RuskaBlacharska Street, the Dominicans' Square with the old Ruthenian Church (Cerkiew Woloska). With no regard to the great disaster the municipality wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and end the struggle against the Jews by forcing them inside the city walls.
In their despair the Jews turned to Sigismund August, and on the 15th June 1571 he ordered the town's mayor not to abuse the Jews, and permit them to build their houses on the previous plots, be they wood or stone houses, according to their choice.
In a separate regulation he freed the Jews from paying taxes due to the damage they had suffered in that fire, and he appointed the Starosta Mikolaj Herburt of Felsztyn to implement his order with rigour.
The Jews rebuilt their Quarter and moved even closer to the city wall.
The struggle with the townspeople was not in vain. The Jews took advantage of the short period during which they benefitted from free trade, to renew their trade contacts with Constantinople, contacts which had come to a halt at the end of the 15th century.
Lwów turned again into one of the major stations on the trade routes to the East, where also Turkish Jews brought their goods to sell. Moshe, one of them, was accused of acts of espionage by the Lwów townspeople, whose jealous competition led to his incarceration in 1502. He died in jail. The matter led to the diplomatic intervention of Sultan Bayezid II, regarding the return of Moshe's goods which had been confiscated before his incarceration.
The citizens of Lwów spread rumours that the Jewish immigrants, from both Poland and Constantinople, were traitors and spies for Turkey. But the townspeople's schemes bore no fruit. The Jews emerged innocent of those accusations and continued the TurkishPolish trade in both directions. That trade circuit grew further with the trade accords that the Jagiellonians reached with Turkey in 1519, 1523, 1553, 1560 in which Jews played a decisive role.
In 1531 the Jews Nathan and Moshe managed a large volume of trade with Turkey via Suczawa. And in 1532, Moshe, together with Schlome of Lwów, were given by the King of Poland a protection missive to pursue free trade with Turkey.
Among the Turkish Jews who settled and established trade agencies in Lwów were the agents of Joseph Nasi, Duke of Naxos. The townspeople who worried about the new competitors began to persecute them, but King Sigismund August curbed their opposition. Just then he was keen to maintain good relations with Turkey and with Joseph Nasi, Duke of Naxos, who was in charge of the admittance of foreign envoys into the Sultan's court. As a result, on the 22nd January 1567 the King permitted Joseph Nasi, who has always helped us and our envoy and stood by him at every opportunity, to establish in Poland winestorehouses, and to send his two agents Chaim Cohen and Abraham deMosso for that purpose. They were granted the right to trade everywhere and especially in Lwów, and to transfer their goods without payment of any tax. They were also not subject to the jurisdiction of the town or the Voivode. They had to report solely to the King or to his commissars. These agents, Jews from Portugal, arrived in Lwów in May 1567 and immediately started trading. The municipality did all it could to remove the undesired competitors, and did not recoil even from annulling the King's privilege. But the King stood fast and sent a severe warning to the town threatening a fine of 2000 Florins if they disregarded his rulings. In that instant the municipality was even assisted by the town's Jews who saw in the agents unwanted competitors to themselves, and for a reason.
In the years 15671569 Joseph Nasi's agents, Chaim Cohen and Abraham deMosso sold in Lwów proper 377 barrels of Malmsey wine, in the value of 30,000 Florins; 212 barrels of Muscat wine and goods in the value of 5,000 Florins; and during one year (25.5.156925.5.1570) 374 barrels of Malmsey wine and 70 barrels of Muscat wine. After the death of Abraham deMosso, his two sons Moses and Mordechai deMosso took over the management of his business. Don David Passis from Pera (a suburb of Constantinople) worked together with them. Jacob Sidis, another Portuguese Jew, also joined the partnership. The team of merchants, who took over the entire wine trade, worried not only the Christian merchants but also the Jews. All the attempts to be rid of those merchants were in vain since the Franks as they were termed by Jews, were protected by the chancellor [Kanclerz] Jan Zamoyzki. In 1570 that partnership sold 230 barrels of Malmsey wine for 6,900 Thalers, which arrived on two boats via the Black Sea. Apart from that partnership there was in Lwów another Portuguese Jew, Jacob Ben Raphael, and a group of Jews from Venice, who conducted wholesale trade.
In 1605, after the death of their protector, the chancellor Jan Zamoyzki, they all disappeared from the trading scene of Poland.
The extent of the money business by Jews increased also in exchange for promissory notes, mortgages and collaterals. The business was conducted principally at the Lwów fair on Agnieszka [Agnes] Day celebrated on the 21st January, which was attended by traders from all over Poland, but especially from the eastern regions. Here loans were extended also by Jewish lenders who lent small sums to Christian traders, and to craftsmen against securities. In the main they added the interest to the capital; otherwise they deducted it right away.
One of the most interesting transactions was the loan extended by a Jew, Israel Ben Jacob, to the Ruthenian printer Iwan Fedorowicz, against the mortgage of a printing house. In 1584, Yisrael demanded the ownership of the printing house and 140 printed books, since the debt had not been paid off. The Ruthenian Bishop of Lwów, Gedeon Balaban, made every effort to extract the printing house from the hands of the Jew. Reb Israel demanded the capital with interest of 1500 Zloty. Since the bishop did not have the funds, he sent a monk to collect from his devotees the sum required to clear the debt.
The authorities came out strongly against Jews who took gold and silver vessels, as mortgages from churches, and in 1641 the Sejmik at Wisznice demanded to expel the Jews from any town where such practice had taken place.
Apart from trade, the Jews engaged also in different crafts. A certificate from the year 1460 mentions that a number of Jews were tanners of reddyed skins, a field which they had developed since. In 1445, Jews are mentioned in Lwów as being engaged in working Kamkas (Chinese or Turkish silk fabrics for suits, introduced into Poland in the 15th century). Isaac (Izacz Kamkars) is known in particular. There were also Jewish glaziers: in 14991500 one knows of the glaziers YomTov and Jacob. In the middle of the 16th century, there were also Jewish goldsmiths who owned workshops (oficjalne safonarka): best known in 1552, was the goldsmith Israel.
The condition of the Jewish craftsmen was not easy, faced as they were with Christian craftsmen who by the middle of the 15th century were already organised in 25 guilds. The Christian craftsmen, especially tailors and furriers, tried to limit the free actions of the Jews. In 1543 the Christian tailors and furriers of Lwów managed to obtain from King Sigismund a prohibition, stopping Jewish craftsmen from sewing suits, especially village garments, and to sell those at the fairs. The prohibition was ineffective and in 1548 the craftsmen's guilds asked again for the King's help against the Jewish competition.
Despite the efficient organisation and the rivalry from the Christian craftsmen, the Jews managed to endure due to the quality of their work and their inexpensive products.
In the middle of the 16th century (15579) King SigismundAugust (15721548) permitted spirits to be distilled and served, exclusively in the town of Lwów and its suburbs. A year later (1558), the municipality leased the privilege to Israel Ben Yona for three years, at the cost of 80 Gulden a year. That trade remained in Jewish hands for many years.
Among other professions, we know in Lwów only of three Jewish doctors: Izaac (Isaazc Medicus) who, apart from his medical activities (1496) was also involved in financial businesses lending for mortgages which he sold off after their redemption date, and he was known also as a realestate agent. The second was Doctor Simeon, of whom little is known other than that he worked as a doctor in Lwów in 1468, and that he owned a house in the Jewish Quarter of Lwów. The third was Aharon, a specialist doctor (known as Ahron Doctor Medicinis). In 1570 he bought a house from the Christians Jan and Agnieszka Schulz, for 200 Polish Zlotys.
Till the 16th century there were no significant changes in the development of the Jewish economy, apart from trade and handcrafts. The population grew, especially that outside the town. In 1550 there were 52 houses and 559 persons. The synagogue built on Krakow Square (Krakowskie Plac) was burnt down together with the entire Quarter in 1623. The new Quarter built in 1632, a little farther north, together with the new synagogue which till the end of the 18th century served as fortress, existed till the outbreak of the Second World War (1939).
The community within the town increased also, especially after the great fires of 1527 and 1571. In 1550 there were 20 houses in the Jewish Quarter with 352 inhabitants, which indicates the congestion the Jews lived in, at the time. But in the years 15801582 the Jews succeeded in purchasing new plots and expanding the area of their settlement.
In the Jewish Quarter within the town stood the old synagogue, which was beautifully decorated. Opposite the synagogue were food shops and goods storages. The Jewish Quarter conjoined the Christian town via a gate at the corner of Ruska Street.
All notes in square brackets [ ] were made by the translator.
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