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[Pages 85-86]

Chapter 5: The Community Outside the Town

Translated by Myra Yael Ecker

Edited by Ingrid Rockberger


The Karaites' community. Employment of the Jews. The division between the Jews within the town and those outside the town. The Rabbis in the years 1599–1680. The fire of 1623. The agreement of 1624 to restore the Jewish Quarter. The controversy with the Ruthenian monastery about plots of land.

As previously mentioned, the Jewish community of Lwów was first settled in the Krakowite Quarter, and only after the fire did the old town turn into a suburb.

Adjacent to the Jewish community there was also a Karaite community. The Karaites resided in the Krakowite suburb at the foot of the castle (wysoki zamek). The area was subsequently referred to as “Karaites' Street” (Ulica Karaicka). The Karaite congregation was subject to similar rights and obligations as the Jewish community lower in the town (podmiejska). Together they paid joint taxes and property taxes to the castle. On the 27th October 1475, the two communities entered into an agreement, and regularized their mutual interaction with the authorities. The Karaites undertook city patrols, special tasks for the castle, such as: obligation to escort the thieves to the castle; patrol of the castle; provide the castle and the governing officials with a supply of horses, as well as food provisions during the King's visit to Lwów. In exchange, the Jews undertook to pay in cash all the taxes owed to the King and the Starosta. Both communities paid together the payments for the fortifications; both had a single cemetery shared also by the Jewish community within the town. The Karaites enjoyed also the privileges granted to the Jews by the kings of Poland: the privilege of Casimir the Great in 1364, and of Casimir Jagiello in 1453. However, at the end of the 15th century, in 1475, the Karaites left Lwów for Halicz where a small Karaite community already existed.[1]

The Jewish community which most years grew and expanded,[2] developed also in the area of trade and craftsmanship. From the organizational–social aspect, the community formed the centre of ethnic life.

The life of the community customarily revolved around the synagogue (Vorstädtische Schul), where the community leaders and the law–court [Beth–Din] convened. In the suburb the Jews purchased plots of land and houses without special difficulties, since according to the royal privilege approved also by King Sigismund August on the 1st October 1568, they were granted the right to purchase and sell houses. The privilege was rigorously maintained by the starostas, and one of them, Boniface Mniszek, declared in a special ruling of the 18th July 1618, that the Jews of the suburb were house owners who within the Krakowite suburb were entitled to purchase houses from Christians, and Christians were equally entitled to sell property to the Jews. That ruling obliged the Jews to pay the castle only the predetermined payments.

In time a division rose between the Jews outside the town and those within it, which divided them so that they regarded one another with derision and even contempt. The Jews outside the town (Vorstädtische) called the Jews within the town (Städtische) “dumb”, and they termed the others “good–for–nothing”. The schism was further increased since the Jews outside the town had synagogues, baths

Jewish children at the beginning of the 18th century

and fairs of their own and did not need the Jews within the town.

The last Rabbi to serve both communities till 1599, was Rabbi Izak Eizyk ben Jechiel. After his demise, the joint rabbinate of the two communities ceased. Till 1680, each community was served by a Rabbi who acted as head of the rabbinic court, and each community had its own permanent ritual law–court. During that period, the community outside the town was served by Rabbi Mojzesz ben Mardochaj Askenazy (died

[Pages 87-88]

in 1620), followed by Rabbi Jakob Koppel ben Aszer HaKohen.

Soon after Rabbi Jakob Koppel took office he had a dispute with the scholars within the town, Rabbi Abraham Szrencels Rappoport (author of “Ethan Haezrachi”), and Aron Aba ben Jochanan. The issue was trees whose branches spread over the cemetery practically like a Sukkah [ritual Tabernacles hut], and the restriction on Kohanim [ritual priests] to walk under the shade of trees. He died in 1630 and the rabbinical seat was occupied by Rabbi Mardochaj ben Cwi [Tzvi]–Hirsz Askenazy who was rabbi for just six years (1636). He was followed by Rabbi Josua ben Jozef, author of “Megine Schlomoh” and of the Responsa “Pneh Josua”, who was invited to serve as rabbi at Kraków; Rabbi Meszulam Salzburg ben Abraham Askenazy, who filled important roles in the Council of the Four Lands. After his death in 1645, the elected rabbi was the son–in–law of the great scholar [HaGaon] MaHaRam of Lublin, Rabbi Jozef ben Eliakim Goetz who was a leading authority in his day. He died in 1652 and his successor was the renowned rabbi outside the town, Rabbi David ben Samuel HaLevy auther of “Turei Zahav”, son–in–law of the great scholar [HaGaon] Rabbi Joel Sirkes (author of “Bayit Chadash”), known by the people as the “T–Z” after his book “Turei Zahav”. When Sabbataja–Cwi came on the scene, he sent his son Rabbi Isajah and his stepson Rabbi Aryje Lew to test him. His sons returned enthused, but the T–Z was not impressed. The education of Sabbataja–Cwi justified his position. At the rabbinate outside the town, the successor of the T–Z was Rabbi Jehuda Judel, son of Rabbi Mojzesz of Lublin, who was the last rabbi outside the town.[3]

The Synagogue's Beadle

Starting in 1680 a joint rabbi again served the two communities.

Until 1623, the life of the community outside the town had quietly developed with no particular interference. In the same year however, a great fire broke out near the synagogue which quickly spread throughout the Quarter and also destroyed the Christians' neighbourhoods. According to the chronicler

Ritual Purim food dispatch

Zimorowicz almost 1,200 houses burnt down, including all the houses that belonged to the Jews, the synagogue in which a large library was consumed, and up to the Krakowite gate and the women's Benedictine church.

The municipality wanted to take advantage of the situation and to forbid the Jews from rebuilding their houses in that Quarter, and especially the synagogue. But the Jews did not rest and their lobbying led to an agreement on the 30th April 1624, according to which the Jews were allowed to construct a new road from the Poltva [Peltew river] eastwards, in the direction of the Benedictine monastery; to rebuild the ruined synagogue, but in a new location, at the foot of the Poznan castle[a]; to vacate the plots of land near the town–walls and to acquire instead new plots according to their wishes on which to build new houses. On the 10th July 1624, the King approved the agreement.

The Jews succeeded in obtaining a permit to build a synagogue also from archbishop Jan Andrzej Próchnicki, provided that the synagogue did not have a sumptuous exterior, and that it did not differ from the other residential houses.

Soon the residential houses were built around the Krakowite square. The construction of the synagogue was delayed due to lack of funds. In order to cover the expenses, the community used penalty fees from the religious law–court of Lwów and of its adjacent communities (przykahalki). Yet in 1632 the synagogue was erected, incorporating a women's section and a hall for the law–court [Beth Din]. In the “hallway” next to the stove was a prison cell (pillory). The building existed in its entirety until the Holocaust in 1941.

The community did not remain peaceful for long, however. In 1640, after the feast of Shavuot [Pentecost], again a fire broke out at the house

[Pages 89-90]

of the cantor Mardochaj with the flames quickly spreading to the neighbouring houses. A large section of the new synagogue was destroyed.

In addition to the conflagration disaster, plots of land adjacent to the Ruthenian monastery, which had belonged to Jews for over a hundred years, were stolen from them even before the fire broke out.

All attempts were to no avail, including the ruling by King Wladislaw IV of the 17th April 1640, that the monastery return the plots to the Jews.[4] Instead, the monks from the monastery together with hundreds of students attacked the houses of the Jews. On the 24th July 1640, while everyone was attending a wedding at the house of the Jew Eliyahu, they burgled their houses and caused great damage to the synagogue which had been restored after the fire.

When they saw it, the Jews chased the rioters, and when they learnt that most of the loot was in the house of Jan Podwysocki, they entered his house and gave it a thorough search. During the search, the [Jewish] lobbyist Zelig threw a few paintings of Christian saints and also broke a crucifix. When the Armenian archbishop Torosiewicz heard of that, he went immediately to the house of Podwysocki, assembled the fragments of the crucifix, put it together on the table and lit two candles as a symbol of mourning. A mass of Christians began to assemble around the house and to threaten the Jews. A delegation of Jews went to the castle to ask for help. In order to prevent a mob outbreak the Burgrabia Gawlowski entered the house of Podwysocki, put out the candles and took with him the broken crucifix. The consistory demanded that he return the crucifix, and filed a legal case against the Jews for blasphemy.

The Voivode of Reissen, Jakob Sobieski, demanded that both parties appear at his law–court on the 8th August 1640. The monks did not appear however, claiming that they did not wish to litigate with wealthy Jews, and so the matter was dropped.

The Jews on their part submitted another court case against the monks demanding the return of their plots of land which after negotiations they got back in exchange for financial compensation. The overcrowding within the Quarter increased as did the dirt.

Due to the continual increase of population, there was unparalleled overcrowding within the houses. As the houses were built of timber, fires frequently broke out and destroyed the entire Quarter. In the Quarter within the town there was similar overcrowding, only unlike those in the Krakowite Quarter, there the houses were built of stone. The flats of the Jews were small and narrow. Due to the overcrowding and the absence of plots of land it was necessary to add further floor levels to existing houses, so that four and five stories were not uncommon sights. Flats were also formed in basements and attics, and partitions were placed inside rooms to let more families dwell there. Inevitably, even within the town under such circumstances, neither the cleanliness nor the required facilities for the health of the residents was available.

A room in a Jewish house

In the Krakowite Quarter, unlike the community within the town, lived mainly impecunious Jews, pedlars and craftsmen. A mob also assembled there, and not once were Jewish thieves caught there and even robbers such as Abraham Dankowicz, Heszel Jusko and the infamous murderer Dawid Moszkowicz Konfederat. He started off as a horse trader, later he stole horses and when he grew older he organized and led a gang of robbers who attacked merchants passing along the road to Glinyany. Izak of Lublin and Moszko “thief” who led a Jewish–Christian gang, struck fear in the Jewish Quarter and in those on the roads, and the attacks, clashes and thefts in the Quarter continued unabated.

Members of the underworld also helped the nobles to recruit new settlers for the settlements that were founded in the eastern regions of Poland.

[Pages 349-350]

Notes – CHAPTER 5
All notes in square brackets [ ] were made by the translator.
[The spelling of most personal names were sourced from reference books listed by the author.]

  1. Dr. Majer Balaban: Studja historyczne. Warszawa. 1927. pp. 15–17. Return
  2. In 1670, Ulryk Werdum wrote on his visit to Lwów: “Here (at Lwów) a great many Jews. They occupy the entire suburb West of the town, and maintain there a synagogue. In addition, Jews reside along a large street in the centre of town where they maintain another two synagogues.” Xavery Liske: Cudzoziemcy w Polsce. Lwów 1886. Return
  3. Salomon Buber: “Anshei Shem
    Dr. Jecheskiel Caro: Geschichte de Juden in Lemberg. pp. 116. 122. Return
  4. Dr. M. Balaban: Zydzi Lwowscy, pp. 224–227. Return
  5. Translation of [Wladislaw] Syrokomla: Wilno 1851, pp. 77–78.
  6. Dr. M. Balaban: Zydzi Lwowscy, pp. 499–507.

Translator's footnote

  1. It is possible that the author meant here: Lwów's High Castle, or castle hill Return


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