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[Page 91]

Chapter 6: Distinguished Families

Translated by Myra Yael Ecker

Edited by Ingrid Rockberger

 

Nachmanowicz family: Rabbi Isak ben Nachman, Rabbi Mardochaj and Nachman. “The Golden Rose”. The businesses of the Nachmanowicz family. Rabbi Izrael Eideles (Zloczowski). Attitude of the Christians. Rabbi Jakob ben Wolf Gombrycht. Rabbi Jakob Doktorowicz. Rabbi Izak ben Samuel HaLevy. The attacks by students. The issue of converts.


From the history of a number of Jewish families who, until 1647 held prominent roles in all aspects of the life of Lwów, one can also glean the development of the community and of the Jewish way of life.

From among those families the family of Rabbi Isak ben Nachmann (Nachmanowicz) stood out. He and his sons ruled the community and its institutions for some eighty years, and through their ambition and wealth they amassed a large variety of economic sectors in their hands.

It is not known whether the founder of that family, Rabbi Izak ben Nachman, was born at Lwów or whether he came from another town. He was first mentioned in a document from 1565,[1] where, as member of the religious law-court [Beth-Din] he was entered as “Doctor”. Since he was not a rabbi, he was presumably given the title as a community leader on the Reissen regional committee. He also attended the meetings of the Council of the Four Lands, at Lublin and Jaroslaw.

Izak was talented and deft in his dealings. He had financial contacts with Konstanty Korniakt, one of the wealthiest men of his generation. Rabbi Izak loaned money with interest, against bills and mortgages, his own money as well as sums which he had received from wealthy townspeople, nobles and the clergy. Besides his financial business he also leased the revenue from customs, state and local road-taxes, a flour mill and trade in merchandise from the East. His businesses included many economic sectors during his lifetime. He rose to riches, was respected by the Jews and kept in close contact with the country's notables. Due to his status, in legal trials he was not obligated to take the Jewish version of the oath, instead he was sworn in as one of the town's residents. His wife, Chawale [Chwala], known to the public as “Bogata” [“rich”] or “pani” [Mrs.], helped him in his business affairs. He was influential at the royal court of King Sigismund-August who, in 1571, helped him also obtain the house on the border of Ruska Street and the Jewish Quarter.

Rabbi Izak, who was involved in his community, also personally financed the building of a new synagogue after the old synagogue had burnt down in 1571. It was built anew, but it was too small to contain the large number of worshippers.

In 1578, he purchased Oleska Square (in the Jewish Quarter) from the municipality, and after he obtained the royal license he engaged the renowned architect, the Italian Paulus Italus [Paolo Romano]. to build the synagogue. In 1582 the building was constructed in the Gothic style. Adjacent to the synagogue, Paulus built for him a private residence which was connected to the synagogue by a single entrance-corridor. From 1604, the synagogue also served as the seat of the religious law-court and the archival storage of the community's records.

Rabbi Izak wanted to enlarge the synagogue and to add a raised gallery for a women's section, but during the preparations, in 1595, he died.

After his demise his affairs were managed by his wife, till her death in 1611, and by his two sons Rabbis Mardochaj and Nachman. His only daughter was married to the wholesaler Salomon, who conducted trade in crops with Armenians. His sons were scholars who, when not engaged in business affairs, dedicated themselves to the Torah. His assets in houses and plots of land were divided up between his sons Mardochaj and Nachman. Mardochaj received the house adjoining the synagogue, which he had enlarged by the architect Paulus.

Mardochaj who was a careful dealer with most of his business in leasing, especially the leasing of taxation, was also active in his community, and led its negotiations with the municipality about the rights of Jewish merchants. For that reason he was hated by the townspeople, and once, on his return from a fair at Sniatyn they even attacked him in the town square, during which attack he lost 500 Gulden. He did not deal in loans of any kind.

During many years he was head of the community as well as head and leader of the Land of Reissen [Ruthenia]. He represented both of those in front of the authorities and the King. He personally funded a hospital and a temple, built by Paulus. He also established a fund of “Hachnasat Kala” [ritual collection of funds for poor brides and grooms], a collection for “Gmilut Chassidim” [a ritual requirement to extend interest-free loans] (“pius mons”), clothing fund for poor boys, an alms fund for those out of work, as well as a fund for the ransom of captives. His home was open to visitors, and he always gave lodgings to Yeshiva boys, rabbis and scholars.

Unlike him, his brother Nachman was a more adventurous trader, quick-witted and undeterred even by risky business. He had strong links with the Christians who addressed him as “Mr. Nachman” Lwów resident (civis leopolensis), and in documents he was even termed “Noble Jew” (generosus judaeus). His wife Roza was known by the people as “The Golden Rose”.

The municipality treated him with admiration since the “Lwów Jew Nachman Izakowicz behaved well towards the town, and acquired major rights for the needs of the town.” More than once when the municipality was in financial difficulties, he assisted with loans, and unlike the Christian patricians, such as Kampian, who received high interest, Nachman did not press the municipality when on occasion it had failed to pay the rates, affording it an extension of time so that the municipality felt obliged to treat him fairly.

Nachman was largely engaged in the business of loans with Christians, leases and management of public revenues such as: taxes, salt mines, fish ponds, mills, forests etc. A faithful assistant in his business was his wife Roza bat Jakob, a feisty woman who, after the death of Nachman in 1616, was able to manage the business and increase the family assets. Due to her wealth and beauty she was influential among circles of the nobility and the authorities, who referred to her as “noble lady” (“szlachetna pani”), although her official title was: 'infidelis Rosa Nachmanowa', and the municipality wrote about her in the unusual form: “the citizen of our town Lwów”.

“The Golden Rose” was goodhearted and many legends about her were kept alive. She participated in the affairs of the community, contributing especially with her influence on Starosta Mniszek.

Roza played an important role in the trial between the Jesuits and the Jews, and from the legends spun about her by the people three versions remain:

  1. During the trial against the Jesuits Roza hosted a big banquet for the King and the nobles in order to win their hearts. She succeeded in receiving a written licence from the King, and when she went and handed the King's letter to the archbishop, she was killed and her body was dismembered. She had sanctified God and God will avenge her blood. (Suchystaw's version).
  2. When the Catholic clergy wanted to take the synagogue away from the Jews, the Jewish community despaired and begged God for mercy, and He helped them with the peasants' revolt against the King and the Church's influence (allusion to the Zebrzydowski rebellion), so that the Jews were able to call upon the help of the nobles. At the time a beautiful and wealthy woman named Roza lived at Lwów. She was the wife of a doctor. With her own money she engaged good lawyers, and taking advantage of the revolt she secured the return of the synagogue to the Jews by the law-court. When the priests turned the synagogue into a church, Roza found her way to the King who ordered the archbishop to give back to the Jews their prayer house. There was happiness and joy in the community, and the poet Izak, the brother of Dawid, composed a song of praise in honour of that woman.
    The Jesuits did not rest however, and blamed Roza of a crime. They tried her and sentenced her to death, and she was killed on the 26th September 1635. (the version of Natan Nata Samuely).
  3. When Roza came to see the archbishop, he demanded that she stay with him, and she replied: “I will do so as long as you first give me in writing that you are returning the synagogue to my brother, for I have no faith in you.” He fulfilled her request. She dispatched the missive to the community leaders. There was happiness and joy in the Jewish street. Indeed, she had fulfilled her role without desecrating her honour. The archbishop found her lifeless. (version of Dr. Majer Balaban).
There are other versions which ascribe the Roza affair to the period of the siege by the army of Khmelnytsky [Chmielnicki].

From these legends that have no historical basis, one can conclude that Roza was an energetic and influential woman who did many good deeds for her people.

After the demise of her husband she liquidated their financial affairs and demanded that the debtors pay off their loans. That was the background for the many legal actions brought against her, but she managed to collect the debts.

In 1625, the municipality brought a legal action against her regarding the lease of road-taxes, and accused her of exploiting the travellers and forcing them, with the aid of her servants, to pay higher rates than were set by law, and that consequently she caused price increases as well as raising the expense of the town.

After passing through all the different law-courts the case appeared in front of the King who decided that as a private person she was unable to appear before the King. The municipality realized then that it had lost the case and so withdrew its demands.

In 1635, Roza received from Starosta Mniszek plots of land in the Krakowite suburb, and wanted to build houses on them, but the municipality objected. Roza turned to King Wladyslaw IV who ordered the municipality not to interfere in the construction of her houses. Roza died on the 3rd October 1637, and left all her assets and capital to her only son Izak.

Her son Izak Nachmanowicz was also one of the prominent members of the Jewish community. A trader with initiative and deftness who was brought up in the luxury of a wealthy home, he was used to being flattered. When the nobles and the townspeople were in need of loans, they came begging to the wealthy Jew, although he slighted them. He was a typical, resolute community member. Even commissaries in the country's Treasury sought his favour, once they realized that he was a wealthy man. In the financial life of Poland he played important roles: in 1626, when the war broke out between Poland and King Gustaw-Adolf of Sweden, Rabbi Izak provided the Treasury with funds, and helped the Polish army in Prussia. Consequently, when King Wladyslaw visited Lwów in 1634, Izak and his partner Abrahamowicz received on the 20th October 1634 a privilege from him, for their services to the Polish army in Prussia and for “continually” providing for the country. The privilege recognized them as “servants of the royal-court” subject only to the King's ruling. They had the right to trade and to erect goods' sheds at Lwów without any restriction, and to trade freely in all the towns of the rest of Poland and Lithuania, and they were released from all royal and private taxes and customs. They had the right to wear expensive clothes and to adorn themselves with a sword and a gold chain, contrary to all Synods' resolutions. Rabbi Izak traded wholesale in fabrics and bulls with Germany, and for the army. Together with his mother he also leased the revenue of Lwów's administration. Imitating the habits of a Polish nobleman, he oppressed the farmers and in 1635 the farmers in the village of Kowczycach near Komarno revolted against him, and Jan, their leader was killed by Izak's servants. But already in 1635 his standing started to decline due to leasing affairs which obliged him to borrow large sums (to the nobleman Jan Gardlinski alone, he owed 17,000 Zloty). In 1643, Starosta Mniszek confiscated two of his houses in the Jewish Quarter, because he had failed to pay the Treasury the rates in accordance with to the leasing contracts. Along with the confiscation, a warrant was issued to apprehend him, and by and by the rest of the creditors put in their claims. Rabbi Izak, who still held the position of community leader however, was able to evade them. In 1645, one of his creditors stopped him in Podhajcach [Podhajce] while he had his goods with him, and he was incarcerated in the Jewish jail of Lwów. On the 9th February 1645, the Lwów community leaders released him and helped him escape, and he disappeared without trace. Thus ended the history of one of the wealthiest and most influential families of Lwów and of the whole of Poland.

The son of Rabbi Mardochaj Nachmanowicz, Izak ben Mardochaj, also dealt in leases. In 1634, he was granted by King Wladyslaw the privilege of dealer to the royal court. He too was a community leader, but he held no significant role and nothing is known of his life.

Among the distinguished families was included Rabbi Izrael Eideles who came from Zloczów and was therefore also known as Zloczowski. His business consisted of giving loans, and leases. In 1596 he leased from the nobles of Zloczów all the estates in the vicinity of Zloczów including mills, ponds, and distilleries of brandy, liquor, and dates. Although his affairs were centred around Zloczów, Rabbi Izrael lived at Lwów, where he was a community leader. He built himself a walled house, and had his daughter Bella married to the renowned great scholar [Gaon] Rabbi Jozue Falk Kohen, author of the book “Me'irath Eijnaim”. The latter managed his renowned yeshivah at Lwów, from where emerged: Rabbi Pinkas, the Rabbi of Fulda, author of “Magine Shelomo” [“Defenders of Solomon”]; Rabbi Isachar Ber ben Izrael Eilenburg [Öhlenberg] (1550-1623); and Rabbi Abraham ben Izrael Jechiel Rappoport-Szrencels [Schrenzels] author of “Ethan HaEzrachi” [“Ethan the Civilian”].

His father-in-law, Rabbi Izrael, donated generously to synagogues and communities; founded libraries and synagogues in small towns; married poor brides and also established a fund for Eretz-Israel; and enabled his son-in-law Rabbi Jezue to devote himself, in peace and comfort, to the study of the Torah and to teaching at the yeshivah.

Rabbi Izrael died in 1616, two years after the demise of his son-in-law (Nissan 5374, March 1614)

Also his brother-in-law, Jakob ben Wolf Gombrycht, the husband of his sister Hendla, numbered among the distinguished families. Jakob Gombrycht first appeared on the public scene in 1624. He too was one of the notable lessees of the period, but he got into financial difficulties and in 1634 he was on the brink of bankruptcy. He managed to avoid his creditors only after he had received a one year “deferment letter”, from King Wladyslaw, issued during his visit to Lwów.[2] Based on that letter he was entitled to freely conduct trade throughout Poland, and during that year his creditors were prohibited from demanding any payment from him. That extension of time benefitted his financial situation, and in 1635 he tried to lease from the municipality of Lwów the roads and border fees. However, “the masses” refused to lease to Jews even a single franchise of the town.

Gombrycht also filled an important role in the life of the community, and in the years 1620-1634 he was the community leader. In 1634, he negotiated with the town Council and insisted that the Jews be released from paying taxes since the poll tax exempted them from any other tax. His son Efraim and grandson Samuel were oxen traders.

At the end of the 16th century, Jakob Doktorowicz is also a known figure. He was a tax lessee, and partner of Mardochaj ben Izak Nachmanowicz. He was in charge of the customs stations at Chelm, Krasnystaw and Potylicz where, as sub-lessee, he leased the customs from the Polish nobles Waclaw Uhrowiecki and Pawel Orzechowski. In 1595, he was accused of blackmailing the trader Sebastyan Fogt of Danzig [Gdansk], and was dismissed from his position. A short time later however, he found a new partner and he leased three mills, fish ponds, market tax and drinks tax at Lwów and Przemysl. It seems that he had amassed a wide range of businesses. He met with a tragic end: in 1607 he was attacked by his coachman Jan, and his servant Abraham, and after they killed and robbed him of everything, they fled. In 1618, his son Lewko (Levie), bought the house of the convert Jan Baptist Poletowicz, after the latter was forced to leave the Jewish Quarter outside the town.[3]

Of his generation were Rabbi Izak ben Samuel, poet and exalted scholar, and his brother Rabbi Dawid ben Samuel, author of “Turei Zahav”, the interpretation of the Shulchan Aruch [an abbreviated form of the Jewish ritual law]. Dawid who had been the pupil of his brother Izak, was Rabbi at Potylicz near Niemirów, and in 1653 of the community outside the town of Lwów. To the people he was known as “The Turei Zahav”. The Nachmanowicz synagogue was named after him “Turei Zahav”, and on the entrance gate was engraved: “This is the place of worship of Turei Zahav”. Rabbi David died in 1667.

Rabbi Izak, his elder brother, was the pupil of Rabbi Jozue Falk, and in 1609 he wrote “Shir HaGeulah” [“the Song of Redemption”], with an interpretation. That song was introduced into the prayers of the Saturday following Purim. Later, he was Rabbi at Chelmno and in 1627, head of the Yeshiva at Poznan. He also wrote an essay “Siach Jicchak” [“Isaac's Discourse”], an examination of the Hebrew grammar which was published at Basel in 1627 and at Prague in 1628. On that essay he had received the approbation of Rabbi Jom-Tob Lipman Heller, the author of “Tosafot Jomtob” [“Commentary of Yomtov”; commentaries on the Mishnah]. In 1736 the Responsa was also published.

During the years 1565-1642, these families served the community within the town as community-leaders and “good men”, together with members of the families[4]: Jakob Treych, Jakob Zyskint [Susskind], Nachim ben Baruch, Moszko, Abraham Czech. One of the lessees of Reissen's customs, Abraham Czech was one of Izak Nachmanowicz's assistants. Jointly, he paid the Starosta and the Voivode the Jewish-tax due (manus judaicum charitativum). Aron Rubinowicz, the partner of Mardochaij ben Izak Nachmanowicz, together with Rabbi Nachman ben Izak, filled an important role during the trial with the Jesuits. In February 1606, he travelled with Rabbi Nachman and the lobbyist Mendel to Warsaw, and in April 1606, to Krakow and brought the affair to an end when, on the 15th November 1613, he paid the last instalment for the release of the synagogue from the hands of the Jesuits. Izak ben Abraham, the partner of Izak Nachmanowicz, helped the Polish army in 1626, and in 1634, together with Wolf Nachimowicz, Marek Bogaty, Aron and Jakob Giec all received a special privilege from King Wladyslaw.

The attitude of the Christians towards these families was courteous and better than towards the rest of the Jewish population. However, the masses regarded them as Jewish competitors to their own trade and products. They treated differently the wealthy Jews who were also connected to the above mentioned families, through partnership and trade.

The wealthy Jews and the wholesalers suffered with the rest of the Jews from attacks by the Christian mob and students. The religious affiliation was naturally stronger at the time than the economic factor. The masses who were incited by the clergy, were more responsive to the issue of religion, and even the slightest spark sufficed to motivate them to descend on the Jewish Quarter and attack the Jews under the pretext that they had stolen “Hostia”, or charging them with blood libel. In particular, claims intensified that the Jews stole sacred vessels from churches, when they took religious objects as security against loans, making a mockery of the Church's decisions. It was also claimed that wealthy Jews kept Christian servants in contravention of the Synods' decisions. For such attacks they always found support among pupils of the Jesuits and of the Cathedral school, who hated the Jews purposefully, and who were always ready to “invade” the Jewish Quarter, to rob, plunder, beat and even kill Jews, and to punish those Christians who were in the service of the Jews. These attacks were known as “Schiler Galoif” [students' run]. The bribes and donations the Jews paid annually to the schools at Lwów in order to prevent attacks, were of no avail. But the Jews did not remain indifferent and they knew how to protect themselves, and they did not recoil from catching students, beating them up and bringing them to jail, or to organize counterattacks in the students' residences, as happened in 1592, 1613, 1642.

A particular issue were the students' attacks on Jewish funerals during the years 1572, 1592, 1613, 1640, 1641, 1642 and 1643.

The Jews suffered gravely from military men who stopped at Lwów or passed through the town and demanded accommodation and money from the community. When the soldiers did not received their salaries, they always found an opportunities to enter the Jewish Quarter and rob what they wished from shops and houses. One Saturday in 1600, the officer Albert Osiecki burst in and killed the Jew Aron Kamchan [Maczarz]. The Jews responded to the event by attacking every soldier of his company who dared come into town. In retaliation for the Osiecki affair they injured several of his soldiers,

The Jews also reacted bravely in response to attacks by adventurous nobles on the Jewish Quarter.

Special types of attacks were organized by Jewish young men on converts who dared remain in the Jewish Quarter even after their conversion. In 1613, one knows of the case of the convert Jan Baptist Poletowicz who was attacked after he continued living in the Krakowite Quarter, and despite the order by King Sigismund III, that the municipality protect the convert from “pestering by the Jews”, he was forced to sell his house to a Jew and to leave the Jewish Quarter.[5] On the 2nd September 1605, another convert Michal Michalowicz, sold the “place” he had in the synagogue outside the town, to the manager of the synagogue.

 


Notes – CHAPTER 5
All notes in square brackets [ ] were made by the translator.
[The spelling of most personal names was taken from Balaban's Zydzi Lwowscy.]

  1. Akta grodzkie i zeimskie t. X Nr. 87. Return
  2. Balaban: Zydzi Lwowscy p. 168. Return
  3. Balaban: Zydzi Lwowscy pp. 385-386; 528. Return
  4. Balaban: Zydzi Lwowscy pp. 566-568. Return
  5. Balaban: Zydzi Lwowscy p. 528. Return

 

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