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[Pages 491-492]

Lwów's Chazanim [Cantors]

by M. S. Geshuri [Bruckner]

Translated by Myra Yael Ecker

Edited by Karen Leon

Over the hundreds of years of Lwów's existence, many cantors and composers were associated with the town. Although some of them were renowned for their singing and for the substance of their compositions, their names fell into oblivion.

The name of one cantor was connected with the massacres at Lwów. During Lwów's 1664 conflict between the Jews and the Ruthenians, it is said that the cantor Jozef Chajes [Chajut] was killed while standing in prayer. One of the sources also recorded that the Jews of Lwów and its suburbs had a cantor who also was a children's Torah teacher. He did not receive a regular salary, but earned his living from Purim's Mishloach manot [sent offerings], gifts on Simchat Torah as well as receiving pay for performing at every celebration, wedding etc. This bears witness to the fact that the financial situation of cantors, and of other holders of public posts, was not a bed of roses. They were, at times, referred to as “enslaved.”

The typical eastern–European cantorial singing [Chazanut], known as “the Polish cantorial singing,” was also practised at Lwów. This style of Polish cantorial singing lacks the European musical meter and form. The scales follow the Gypsy scale and the soft eastern scale. Apart from the Torah reading of Song of Songs, Ruth, Ecclesiastes and Lecha Dodi [part of the Friday evening prayer] that follow the firm eastern scale, the Polish Jews did not employ the firm scale. Situated remotely from European culture and untouched by other nations or their spiritual resources, they clung to their native musical tradition. Little is known about the cantors and the Chazanut before the eighteenth century, not only at Lwów but also in all the other communities.

Jewish Lwów, steeped in tradition and nationalism, was one of the significant centres for Jewish liturgy in eastern–Europe. Cantorial singing and the fondness for emotional melodies by the greatest prayer leaders, were an integral part of this community's customs. As one of the oldest Jewish communities it upheld the traditional, devotional and spiritually uplifting ancient cantillation, in contrast to the innovation in musical arrangements adopted primarily by western European communities who introduced musical Enlightenment into Jewish liturgy.

Only 11 synagogues kept a cantor, including:


1. The Great Synagogue within the town.

i. Baruch Schorr (1823–1904)

Baruch Schorr's name is still respected and admired by Galician Jews, especially those from Lwów. Whoever heard Baruch Schorr and saw him lead the communal prayer, felt that his yearning and devotional prayer touched the Jewish heart. His pleasant renditions perfectly reflected his prayers. His composition “As Jeremiah walked on the graves of the fathers” encapsulated the destruction of Jerusalem and brought many of its listeners to bitter tears.

Among the great Chazanim who served Lwów, Baruch Schorr was the only one born at Lwów. He grew up, and was educated in Torah and the commandments among Orthodox and ultra–Orthodox Jews in the districts of Galicia, during the rise of Chassidism. He was taught Torah by his father, the fervent chassidic scholar of the Różhin [Ruzhyn] Chassidim, grandson of the Tevuot Schorr [Schorr's Crops], who served from youth till advanced age as cantor in synagogues of ultra–Orthodox Jews. In accordance with the Shulchan Aruch [abbreviated form of the Jewish ritual law], he was a most suitable prayer leader, punctiliously following the commandments, be they light or severe, while playing and composing with excellence and brilliant talent. Most of his compositions were not designed solely for his age, but for future generations too. His creativity, knowledge and talent will always surprise the listener. He adapted his accompaniment for choir renditions, and incorporated the Jewish spirit into every movement and tune. Renowned musicians, ministers and lords came to hear his singing and music, especially the Kol Nidreh prayer on the eve of Yom Kippur.

At the age of nine, he accompanied the cantor R' Bezalel Schulsinger of Odessa on his “travels.” Later, he sang with Little Jerucham [Jerucham Blinderman], and at the age of thirteen, he led the prayer and became a cantor. He was married at Iași [Jassy] (Romenia), and his well to do father–in–law sent him to Bucharest to study music. Even at that time, he was known as a composer of prayers for the Jewish High Holidays, and in particular for his sequence of prayers on Yom Kippur. In 1859 he was invited by Lwów's town synagogue.

[Pages 493-494]

Lwów's Cantors


Cantor Jakub Bachman
Cantor R' Baruch Künstler
Cantor R' Baruch Schorr


Cantor Zeidel Rovner (Maragowski)
the elder of the cantors


Cantor Izak Halpern
Cantor Jakob Kahane
Cantor Izrael Alter

[Pages 495-496]

During the thirty years' he served there, he continued to compose prayers that were distinguished by original liturgical melodies and simple structure. A selection of his prayers were published by his son, the cantor Izrael Schorr, in a prayer book for the High Holidays, titled N'ginot Baruch Schorr [Cantillations by Baruch Schorr]. He was also expert in the Torah, and wrote essays on the Torah and on the book of Ecclesiastes. The one book he published was titled Bechor Schorr [Firstborn Schorr].

An incident led to a dispute between Baruch Schorr and Lwów's community leaders. In 1890, he composed an operetta titled Shimshon HaGibor [The Mighty Samson]. He attended the operetta's performance, and in response to the enthusiastic audience he stepped onto the stage and took a bow of gratitude in acknowledgement of the cheers. For this misdemeanour, the synagogue's managers fined him and stopped him from leading the communal prayer for four weeks. Unable to bear the shame, the cantor left his town and went to the United States. With his departure, there was a cantorial void in Lwów. There was no Chazan whose prayer was accepted by the community. Eventually, a special delegation went to New York to appease him and bring him back to Lwów. From then on, and for the rest of his life, he again served his home town. He enjoyed a good life that lasted eighty–one years. He died while conducting the community prayer on the last day of Pessach. During the Mussaf prayer he began to sing in reverence “veMipney Chataenu” and when he reached the verse “Avinu Malkhenu Gale,” he fell full height to the ground. His soul departed pure, and he died a painless death.


ii. Mordechaj (Motel) Schorr

After the demise of Baruch Schorr, his son Mordechaj (nicknamed Motel) replaced him as cantor. He was the opposite of his great father. He lacked personal musical authority, his voice was not exalted, he did not compose works and he was unable to sing solo as his father did. R' Abraham Meisels, a renowned Lwów music lover used to say: Three things Gentiles are unable to understand about Jews: a. A school that did not teach writing (Cheder) ; b. A singer without a voice (many among the known Chazanim had no voice, such as Nissim Belzer with his hoarse voice, the hoarse R' Jankel etc.); c. A trader without capital. Motel's voice was not a pure tenor, it only resembled a tenor. He was cantor due to ancestral merit, having received this inheritance from his father. He sang his father's compositions. Many who remembered the pleasant prayer and the compositions of his father, came to hear him for his father's best compositions: the Lamentations on Tish'a B'Av [day on which the First and the Second Temples were destroyed] and the sequence of prayers on Yom Kippur. His choirmaster was Hellman (now in Haifa). Motel's strength lay primarily in the choir's performance. He served as acting cantor for his father at the town's [Great] Synagogue until the outbreak of the Second World War. His whereabouts are unknown since that time.


2. The Great Synagogue outside the town (the suburb's Schul)

iii. R' Zeidel Rovner (Jacob Samuel Maragowsky)

R' Zeidel Rovner was born in 1856 at Radomyśl [Radomyshl] (Russia). In 1904, on his journey from England to Russia for Pessach, he stopped at Lwów and was appointed cantor at the synagogue outside the town, where he stayed until 1911. He returned to Równe (and was thus known as “Równer [Rovner]”) where he remained for three years. Later he left for the United States where he lived for the rest of his life.

During the seven years R' Zeidel officiated at Lwów he was well liked by the community, especially by the Great Synagogue's regular worshippers. Many among the congregation outside the town were music lovers. The post of community prayer–leader suited R' Zeidel well. He was an ultra–Orthodox upright Jew, learned, of advanced age and accommodating, and his teaching was fine and tempered with wisdom. He was aware of the importance of his mission and was an expert in his art. He is one of the few great cantors [Chazanim] whose name will always be mourned.

R' Zeidel stepped into the cantorial world by chance, or miracle. He became cantor by authorisation of the Tzadik R' Jakob–Izak of Makarov [Makariv], after the latter had prophetically detected that he was born for it, and he ordered him to become a cantor. At the “Makarov” Kloyz he absorbed the lugubrious tune of the Torah study, on the one hand, and the cantillation of the Tzadik's yard, on the other. Whether it was the tune that expressed the outpouring of the excess spirit at “Bnei Hechla” [twilight] during the Shabbat's third meal, or the excitement of the joyful Chassidic dances, his cantillation melded with the Chassidic prayer styles. The Rabbi's gentle and pleasant rendition at the Shabbat table, High Holidays and holidays, as well as Jewish wedding tunes, especially the playing of the then renowned violinist Aron Mojzesz Podhorcer of Berdyczów [Barditchev], were merged and blended in his soul. All of these elements were given expression by his talent in his personal style. His lengthy compositions excelled in rich Jewish melodies combined with Chassidic lyrical motives accompanied by major scale overtone. R' Zeidel sang his compositions and performed them with a band of performers, in addition to his choir. These concerts were known throughout the diaspora. At Lwów he had a great many admirers who, following the prayers at their prayerhouses, flocked to delight in his “truth and faith” of the evening prayer, or the morning prayer of “Mizmor Shir leYom HaShabbat,” or the “Malchuyot” on Rosh HaShana [Jewish New Year]

[Pages 497-498]

that lasted hours. His renditions had a wide spread influence on his generation's Chassidic music. The length of his compositions was not a drawback in those days; on the contrary, it marked the measure of a Chazan.

His pleasant alto solo singing of the chant “veYehi Noam” during the Omer [the seven weeks leading to the Festival of Weeks], or of his compositions for the Holidays and the High Holidays, were well known. By combining the movements and altering the scales, then returning to the original scale, his performances were wonderful.

He became a renowned conductor through his work with singers and musicians. His choir was made up of singers of all ages: children, youths and adults who were arranged by the colour of the tones: sopranos, altos, tenors and basses. Their singing was faithful to the utmost precision, and the singing was performed perfectly and on key. Only a talented conductor such as R' Zeidel could have shaped them all into such a wonderful ensemble. The period of his tenure at Lwów, and his synagogue service are well described by the Lwów born S. Z. Javetz (Beit Haknesset, Tel–Aviv, pamphlet 3–4, Kislev–Tevet 5707 [Dec.1946–Jan.1947]). He too focused on R' Zeidel's choir that gladdened the heart. As a Chazanut enthusiast he depicted, in the words of an amateur, the impression the choir had made on him.

R' Zeidel's compositions were created in a specific style, independent fashion and typical form. Most of the compositions he created during his tenure at Lwów, were enjoyed by most Jewish communities in eastern and western Europe as well as in the United States. Even though he had not attended an art institute or conservatoire, and had not been taught musical arrangement or code, his compositions successfully combined features, characteristics and outlines, full of beauty and grace, splendour and goodness.

He officiated for seven years at Lwów before leaving for Równe, and from there to the United States. Observations and memories from his life story and his revelation in the Chazanut are consigned to folktales.


iv. R' Baruch Künstler (Konstantiner)

Two cantors were known as Künstler. One officiated as Chazan at Karlin–Pinsk, and the other came from Konstantin in Russia to Lwów, and was accepted to serve at the synagogue outside the town, following R' Zeidel Rovner. The period when he officiated at Lwów was exceptional in the history of cantorial singing in the town. Three great cantors officiated at Lwów: Baruch Schorr at the synagogue inside the town, Baruch Künstler at the synagogue outside the town, and Izak Halpern at the Temple.

Künstler, who composed cantorial works, performed only his own compositions. As a conductor, he closely observed the purity of the choir's sound, to which he dedicated his best efforts. The choir rehearsed each of his compositions for three to six months. His singers excelled and some of them became world renowned cantors. Baruch Künstler officiated as Chazan at Lwów until he lost his voice. He remained at Lwów until his demise a few years later. He was treated with respect in his advanced age. His choir's grace was not forgotten.


v. R' Zysza Harer

He was followed by Zysza Harer who officiated at the synagogue outside the town from 1918. In just a few years he reached his peak as cantor, along with his choir, composed of exceptionally talented singers. Harer excelled particularly as a composer and choirmaster, notwithstanding his pleasant tenor voice. He succeeded in attracting Lwów's best singers to his choir. The notes flowed as calm waters or poured like an agitated and stormy cascade. Once the troupe of exceptional singers dispersed, and he was unable to replace them with singers of the same calibre, the status of the choir declined in the public's mind. Harer was familiar with musical literature and harmonic theory. Professors from the conservatoire used to consult him. Among the singers in his choir were Zew [Zeev] Richter (now a cantor at Haifa), tenor; Izak Szrager (nicknamed Icchele); a youth named Alter Kimmer, a child prodigy with an alto voice. The cantor wrote many solo scores for him, and he was much admired by the community. He wrote and composed works for the entire year, for the Shabbath, Holidays and the High Holidays, and introduced his own compositions into prayers. All of his compositions were traditional in spirit, but he never published any of his great works with their charm and beauty. Zysza Harer became a “byword” for Lwów's Chazanut. He employed all of his inborn musical gifts for “prayer and glory,” and his name is remembered with reverence and delight even today.


vi. Aron Szalom Schierman

Aron Szalom Schierman served as second cantor at the synagogue outside the town. Born in Russia, he was a great music–player and a good musician. He wrote many excellent scores for Jewish compositions, and he was much admired by his audiences. He died in Lwów, aged 54.


vii. Izrael Hakohn Schorr

Izrael Hakohn Schorr (who was not related to Baruch Schorr) was born at Chyrów [Khyriv], Galicia, to a well to do and prominent family. He received an ultra–Orthodox education and even in his youth he was granted the honour

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of singing at the tables of the great Admorim, and conducting part of the prayers [Mussaf] on the High Holidays at the Admor of Rymanów and Czortków. At the age of eighteen, he married a woman from Bircza, Galicia. Starting in 1909, he officiated as the town cantor of Przemyśl [Pshemishl], but did not remain there for a long time. Lwów's synagogue, outside the town, invited him to serve as cantor, where he officiated until the outbreak of the First World War, in 1914. He went to Brno, Moravia's capital, where he was engaged as cantor at the great synagogue, and then he returned to Lwów, where he remained until the end of the war. He moved to Kraków and was accepted as cantor at the old synagogue in place of the well known cantor Leisor Goldberg. He became ill, there, and convalesced at the summer–resort PiešŇ•any [Pieszczany; Pistyan], where he served as cantor. From there he travelled on a concert tour throughout Austria and Hungary and reached Zurich, Switzerland, and then to the United States. In 1923, he served as cantor and led prayers at Chicago, Boston and other cities. Schorr was also learned in the Torah [Talmid Chacham], was deeply god–fearing, and like a family member he frequented the houses of the Admorim and the Rabbis who greatly appreciated him. He recorded many of his cantorial songs, in the United States, and his records were much appreciated. He died aged 50 from a heart disorder.


3. “Gal–Ed [Gil'ad; Monument]” Synagogue

viii. Dov Ber Lejbowicz

Dov Ber Lejbowicz arrived at Lwów from Congress Poland. Earlier, during 1923–1930, he officiated at the Temple. He had a slight tenor, with a thin voice of two octaves. “Quality over quantity” characterised his singing with his excellent soft and pleasant voice. He was fluent in all the branches of music. His praying embraced and excited his listeners. As a Maskil he also wrote articles in Hebrew on the issues of Jewish music. However he did not want to remain in one place for long. A strained relationship between him and the preaching rabbi at the Temple led to his resignation, after which he officiated as cantor at the Gal–Ed synagogue for two years. Here too, disputes between him and the synagogue manager resulted in his dismissal. He moved to Łódź [Lodz] to the Great Synagogue. During the two years Lejbowicz officiated at the Łódź Great Synagogue he created the right atmosphere for quiet prayer, and the Jews of Łódź flocked to the Great Synagogue every Sabbath and Holiday to hear his musical interpretations. Here again, he quarrelled with the synagogue manager and eventually left this post as well.


ix. Mendel Pinster–Rokach

The cantor Mendel Pinster–Rokach, a grandson of the Admor of Belz, was born in Galicia in 1906. Together with the cantor Izrael Meisels of Lwów, he studied at Vienna under the renowned cantor, Juda Leib Miller. With his lyric baritone voice he officiated as cantor at Stanislawów [Stanislau], received a stipend and studied at the conservatoire. Learned in the Torah and secularly educated, he officiated as cantor at Lwów's Gal–Ed synagogue during 1935–1937. From there he moved to Rotterdam. When the Nazis occupied the town, he, his wife and their two children were sent to Poland's extermination crematoria.


x. Dawid Kacman [Katzman]

Dawid Kacman was born into an Orthodox family in Ukraine. His father was a great Torah scholar, well educated and a renowned prayer leader. Due to the 1920 pogroms he left Russia for Lwów, where he was accepted as cantor at the synagogue known as the “Beautiful Schul” or Sykstuska Synagogue. He had a lyric tenor voice and received a musical education. The renowned cantors Gershon Sirota and Yossele Rosenblatt who came to Lwów as visiting cantors and led the prayer, did not overshadow him. Kacman's pleasing prayer attracted many worshippers. He officiated as cantor at Lwów until 1926. From there he moved to Vilnius [Vilna], to the Great Town Synagogue, to Białystok and wandered farther to Canada and the United States. There he has officiated as cantor till now [The date of this article is not clear. He died in 1959].


xi. Jakob Koussevitzky

Jakob Koussevitzky, one of the Koussevitzky cantorial brothers, was born at Vilnius and came to Lwów in 1926, to replace Kacman at the Sykstuska synagogue. After some time, he arranged for his brother David, to be choirmaster. Jakob was a second rate tenor and a good lecturer. From there he moved to the Gal–Ed Synagogue, and later to London.


xii. Jozef Idelson

Jozef Idelson, born at Vilnius, had a tenor voice, officiated at Lwów's Gal–Ed Synagogue during 1930–1939, was much loved by the public. He is now in the United States.


xiii. Cantor Kruszewski

Cantor Kruszewski officiated as cantor at the Gal–Ed Synagogue. From Lwów, to moved to the United States.


xiv. Zeev Richter

Zeev Richter sang in the choir of Zysza Harer who wrote works suited to his tenor voice. After

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leaving Lwów he went to Australia, and from there to Haifa, where he officiates as cantor at the synagogue on Josef Street.


4. Sykstuska Synagogue.

xv. Cantor Dawid Packer


5. Turei Zahav [Golden Columns] Synagogue

xvi. Samuel Kantorof

Samuel Kantorof was born at Kremeńczug [Kremenchuk], Poltva province. His father was head of the town's rabbinical court and he received a religious education, studied at the Chofetz Chaim Yeshivah of Raduń [Radin] and of Lyubavitsh [Lubawicze] and was ordained rabbi. He had a beautiful lyric tenor voice. His first post as cantor was at Lwów's Turei Zahav Synagogue, the oldest of Lwów's synagogues. He went on to officiate at Beit Shlomo Synagogue, Tel–Aviv, and emigrated to the United States.


6. Or HaYashar Mefarsheh Yam Synagogue.

xvii. Chaim Wallfisch

Chaim Wallfisch was born at Brody in 1886. His father, R' Mojzesz was an ardent Torah scholar. His passion for Chazanut was so great that he walked on foot to Lwów in order to see, and to learn in the shadow of the great cantor, Baruch Schorr. At the age of ten, he was accepted by Schorr and sang with his choir for eight years. His first post as cantor was at Lwów's Or HaYashar Mefarsheh Yam where he remained for two years. He moved to Budapest and officiated as cantor for two years. At the G'milut Chassadim Synagogue of Vienna's 17th district, he officiated for eight years. He had a beautiful lyric tenor voice and a good musical knowledge, having absorbed a great many renditions from others in the pulpit. In July 1921, he left Europe and settled in the United States.


7. At the Temple of the Enlightened

xviii. Ozjasz Heszel (Pitsi) Abras (1820–1896)

Pitsi Abras was a great cantor and composer. At the age of six, he already showed a strong inclination for music and singing at the synagogue of Joseph Perl. During 1837–1844, he was a cantor at Tarnopol. He studied a few years at Vienna under Sulzer, at Lwów with the renowned cantor Model and with Bezalel Odesser. He wrote compositions in the style of the Italian old masters. While in Lwów, he was able to develop his musical–cantorial talent. Abras wrote a string of compositions and recitatives, and his name was known worldwide. His baritone, solo voice, like a magical bass, was exceptionally noticeable. At times, his voice reached the lowest tones, or rose up the coloratura with his clear and polished embellishments, thus exciting and astounding his audience. The renowned cantor Pinkas Minkowski said of him: “I was more than once moved by Abras's singing. With a moderate temperament, without fervour, but with the power of a marvellous voice and a strong larynx reaching to heaven, he soared like an eagle and from his throat trills of pure silver and gold surged effortlessly.”

His book Zimrat Yah [God's Music] was used by many communities in Russia and Poland. During 1844–1860 Pitsi officiated as cantor at Lwów. From there he moved to Odessa and reached old age (over eighty years), and unlike other cantors he was also wealthy. He had a daughter who was a first–rate opera singer.

He was followed at the Temple by the cantor Mojzesz Roman (1860–1862), and Oswald Weiss of Szegedyn [Szeged] (1862–1873).


xix. Jacob Bachman (1846–1905)

Jacob Bachman, one of nineteenth–century's renowned cantors, was known throughout Europe as a “star” of song and prayer, and for his wonderful voice and vocal range. He was born at Lugin (Wołyń). His musical talents were already evident in his childhood, and he sang under the town cantor Pasternak, at the Berdyczów Synagogue. On the advice of a friend, he travelled to Saint Petersburg and studied under the great musician Anton Rubinstein, who was at the time director of the conservatoire. He excelled in his studies and became the top student. He even gave concerts in Russian towns, accompanied by his teacher Rubinstein. But he was drawn to cantorial singing rather than to Opera and secular music. He left the capital and officiated as cantor at Rostov–on–Don and at Berdyczów. In 1873 he was appointed the cantor of Lwów's Temple. In 1879 he moved to Odessa, where he founded a mixed choir, and started to compose his famous works that he published in 1884 in the book Schirath Jacob [Jacob's Song]. He became a professor of music. He composed a cantata celebrating the crowning of the Russian Tsar, and was rewarded with a letter of thanks signed by the Tsar.

Bachman published articles on cantorial singing and on music, and he wrote words of appreciation about Sulzer, Nowakowski, Löwenstein and others. He was an educated man, with knowledge of language and books.


xx. Izak Hirsch HaLevi Halpern

Izak Hirsch HaLevi Halpern was born at Žytomierz [Zhytomyr] in 1854. He was accepted as singer, while still a child, under the cantor, Jecheskiel Feinsinger, and was third in line in traditional liturgy, after Little Jerucham and Nissim Belzer. Halpern was taught Torah by the renowned cantor, Wolf Spitzberg, who had learnt

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traditional singing under Little Jerucham, the master of ancient song, and later, the prayer chants by Sulzer. With his baritone voice and his warm temperament, he resembled his mentor Sulzer, and the singers termed him “the Russian Sulzer.” Halpern was appointed cantor at the Nikolayev Temple of Cherson [Kherson].

Halpern came from Cherson to Lwów and on 18 August 1886, he was accepted as the Temple's cantor, where he officiated for some twenty–five years, and was greatly respected and loved by the community and his friends. Halpern knew Hebrew, German and French, provided musical notations, and wrote Yiddish lyrics with renditions. He was a classical cantor, and published a collection of songs Der Liederkranz [Wreath of Songs], Odessa, 1889.

After serving at Lwów for 25 years, he quarrelled with one of the Temple's managers, left Lwów and returned to Russia. In 1891, he came back to Lwów and was again appointed chief cantor and officiated until 1911. Due to family disputes, he submitted his resignation in the summer of 1911, with the proviso that he would receive 6,000 Crowns as compensation. During the dispute, Halpern printed a lampoon in Yiddish, titled: “The secrets of the Voltaver Kloyz, formulated by Choglah, daughter of Zelophehad, a weak woman who wants to bring before the prayer leader, Shalmiel, to manage all the evil people seeking sins with their rabbi, R' Katriel: you had a blindfolded Rabbi in all the land that is under you and all present here at Voltaver in (5672)” (Lwów 1911).

From Lwów he moved to Vienna. During the first World War he suffered hardship and was supported by the community. He died in Vienna in 1927.


xxi. Pinkas Minkowski

Pinkas Minkowski came to Lwów in 1885 and was accepted as cantor at the Temple. He had heard of the available post while in Odessa. However, his wife refused to remain in Lwów and so he left.


xxii. Cantor Darewski (Kowner)

The cantor Darewski officiated at the Temple. He was born in Lithuania and was well versed in the Torah. He studied opera singing in Italy, and dubbed himself “Prince of Singing,” “Prime Italian Tenor” etc. He had a pleasant voice, but despite his good–looks, and big talk, he remained a singer unable to properly read a line of musical notation.


xxiii. Mojzesz Jehoszua Seitz

Mojzesz Jehoszua Seitz was accepted as cantor at the Temple, on 19 May 1912. He was one of the cantors who excelled in the Torah and in secular knowledge, in music and in the art of singing. He was born to Chassidic parents, at Savran, district of Podolia, in (5640) 1880. At the age of eight, he began to sing, and at thirteen he led the prayers for the first time. Until he was twenty–two, he sang under different cantors, such as Zeidel Rovner, Schneor, Schalom Grünspan and others. He officiated as cantor in the Russian towns: Ekaterinoslav [now Dnipro], Zvihil [actually Novograd Volynsk], Boryslaw, Warsaw, and Berdyczów.

At the Temple he officiated for nine years, and in 1921 he moved to the United States.


xxiv. Hermann Bornstein

Hermann Bornstein, who came from Warsaw to Lwów to replace Dov Ber Lejbowicz, officiated as the Temple's cantor during 1922–1932. Born at Kalisz, Poland, he sang under the renowned cantor, Noach Lieder (Zaludkowski), and studied music at Berlin. He also performed an international, classical repertoire with his dramatic tenor, but not cantorial renditions. He was much admired by the public that always filled the synagogue to hear him pray and sing.

The much reduced financial situation of Lwów's community in his day, forced it to decrease the salaries of synagogue assistants. Consequently, he resigned and moved to Budapest where he was accepted as cantor at the Rumbach Synagogue. He was much appreciated there and served until 1937. When he received a deportation order from the authorities, he moved to Liverpool, England, where he remains to date.


xxv. Azriel Samuel Schneider

Cantor Schneider did not have a big voice. He remained in his role until the outbreak of the Second World War and was probably murdered in the Holocaust.


xxvi. Eliasz Körner

One principal cantor and three deputies served at Lwów's Temple. Eliasz Körner, who during 1879–1929 served as a deputy cantor at the Temple, was familiar with all the styles of Chazanut, had a good Torah reading voice and was much appreciated by the public.


xxvii. Mendel Schein

Another native of Lwów, he officiated as deputy cantor at Lwów's Temple since 1920. He was very accomplished in praying with a choir and knew his way around the cantorial renditions. He was very knowledgeable in the field of music.

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xxviii. Salomon Edelstein

Salomon Edelstein had previously been a singer under Zysza Harer, a status that conferred a badge of honour on its bearer. He had a low voice, but he prayed tastefully and with feeling, and those who heard him enjoyed his warm prayer. He was appointed deputy cantor in 1931.


xxix. Alter Kimmer

Alter Kimmer, a native of Lwów, was a child prodigy and was accepted as an alto singer under the cantor Zysza Harer. When his voice change to that of a tenor, its quality was not he same. He studied at Vienna, and moved to Yugoslavia where he officiated as cantor. He vanished during the Holocaust.


8. Various Synagogues

xxx. Mejer Körner

Mejer Körner was invited to Lwów to officiate as cantor, and after the demise of Baruch Schorr he was asked to replace him. His trial prayer filled everyone with delight, but Körner declined to manage a choir and to take the place of such a great and renowned musical cantor as Baruch Schorr. He served as cantor for a short while and left for the United States. His compositions for synagogue prayers were novel in style and traditional in their structure.


xxxi. Mardojai Schnurmacher

Mardojai Schnurmacher was born at Drohobycz [Drohobych] in 1882. At ten years of age, he started to sing under different cantors. He moved to Lwów and for three years he sang under the cantor Alter Baumann (later, his father–in–law). He spent several years at Tarnopol, where he studied music with the great musician Markus Wolfsthal. He returned to Lwów, studied harmony, orchestration and different branches of music with Bernstein, the conductor of Lwów's town orchestra. He studied in Germany and moved to the United States.


9. Lwów–born Cantors.

xxxii. Jakub Warmann

He served in Lwów as a singer without officiating as cantor. He studied cantorial singing with the renowned cantor Juda leib Müller, at Vienna, and sang there. Müller wrote a special composition titled Ribono Shel Olam [The Almighty] for the Yom Kipur Hakatan [Lesser Day of Atonement] prayer, to suit Warmann's voice.


xxxiii. Izrael Meisels

Abraham, his father, was also from a family of cantors, and was a tenor in Baruch Schorr's choir. He was a cantor in Hungary. He returned to Lwów, but not as cantor. A great Torah scholar and significant music lover, his opinion was consulted in the examinations of Lwów's cantors.

In his youth he sang alto under Zysza Harer, but his voice broke and turned into a tenor. He studied music at Lwów's conservatoire. In 1929 he moved to Vienna where he continued his music studies at the conservatoire, and cantorial singing under Müller. He officiated as cantor at the small synagogue Mikdash Katan [small Sanctuary] in Vienna's second district, and later at Pressburg [Bratislava] and Debrecen. In 1937 he received an expulsion order issued by the state authorities. He moved to England and officiated as cantor at Southport for three years and was invited to the Great Synagogue in Manchester. From there, he moved to Eretz Israel and is officiating as cantor at the Yeshurun Synagogue, Jerusalem.


xxxiv. Izrael Alter

Izrael Alter, a great–grandson and grandson of a distinguished Lwów family (associated with Turei Zahaw), was born in 1901 (5661). He sang as cantor at Lwów, and at the age of seventeen he moved to Vienna and studied cantorial rendition under the renowned cantor Müller. His first post as cantor was at the Talmud Torah Synagogue on Vienna's Malzstrasse, and later at the Temple in the 20th district of the same town. During 1925–1936, he officiated with honour as cantor at the Great Synagogue of Hanover, Germany. He visited the community centres of western and eastern Europe, and sang not only cantorial songs, but also Jewish folk songs. On his visits, Alter appeared together with the renowned cantor Mosze Kusewicki, who said at the time that both sang in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel (Mosze Kusewicki and Izrael Alter). From 1936, Alter officiated as principal cantor at Johannesburg, South Africa. He composed many cantorial pieces, including the famous work: Akavia ben Mahalal El omer, Ribono shel Olam for the Lesser Day of Atonement, that were published and recorded by the cantor Mosze Kusewicki. Alter is busy publishing all his works, at present.


xxxv. Moses Morgenstern

He sang under Lwów's cantors, but never officiated there as cantor.


xxxvi. Jakob Kahane

He was educated in the spirit of the Torah and tradition at his parents' home. He had a pleasant voice and sang with a dramatic lyric tenor

under cantors. He counted among the Husiatyn Chassidim and Lwów's young

[Pages 507-508]

cantors. He went to Vienna where he studied at the conservatoire, and in 1938 he arrived in Canada. He was accepted as cantor at the Young Israel Synagogue, Montreal, Canada.


10. Ceirej Gilead [Tzeirei Gilead; Young Gilead] Synagogue

The cantors who officiated at this synagogue were: a. Cantor Szerman, who came to Lwów from Harbin, Manchuria; b. Cantor Chemalnicki, of Równe [Rovno], Poland; c. Cantor Sunikantz, a kabbalist from Wołyń [Volhynia]. There are however no details of their works.


11. Kove'a Itim LeTorah [Time setter for Torah] Synagogue

Cantor R' Oswald [Issachar] Weiss who came to Lwów from Szegedyn, Poland, officiated at this synagogue.


12. Choirmasters

The choirmasters at the traditional synagogues were: a. Icchak Heilaman (nowadays choirmaster at the Haifa synagogue); b. Schwarzmann; c. Landman.

On the other hand, at the Temple the choirmasters who officiated were: a. Abraham Kaplan (1874–1916); b. Mojzesz Schneider (1916–1920); c. Fajwiszis (1920–1924); d. Becalel Kinstler, the son of the cantor R' Zeidel Rovner at the town synagogue (1924–1932); I. B. Gimpel (1932–1939).

Most of the cantors and choirmasters who officiated at Lwów at the outbreak of the war, were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.


The cantor Samuel Schneider
The choirmaster Adolf Gimpel


The cantor Eliasz Körner
The cantor Mendel Schein
The cantor Salomon Edelstein


All notes in square brackets [ ] were made by the translator.

[Pages 509-510]

The Jewish neighbourhoods

by Dr. N. M. Gelber

Translated by Myra Yael Ecker

Edited by Karen Leon

When Lwów was first settled, the town extended between Wały Hetmańska [Hetman's Embankments] and Żółkiewska Street. At its heart was the old market, Stary Rynek, and the boundary of the town wall was close to the Castle Mound (góra zamkowa). At the crossroads of Żólkiewska Street and Bożnicza Street, was a ditch that stretched as far as the town square with a bridge above it, known colloquially as: Auf der Brück [on the bridge]. West of the ditch, in the direction of the Poltva [Pełtew] River (prior to 1939, between Solski Square and Poltva [Pełtewna] Street), lay the suburban ghetto (ghetto przedmiejskie).

After the great fire of 1350, the affluent Jews resided in the south–eastern part of the new town, in a trapezoid formed by the Hetmańska Embankments, [ulica] Sobieskiego Street, the Austrian Governor's Embankments and [ulica] Skarbkowska Street.

This is where the community hall inside the town stood. Communitas infidelium Judaeorum intra moenia civitatis habitantium.

The majority of the population remained in the suburb and had their own community, Communitas infidelium Judaeorum in suburbio a Cracovia dicto.

Lwów was the only town with two independent [Jewish] communities, each with its institutions and rights. One community lay within the town and the second was located in the suburb. In time, the two communities separated completely. The residents of the community within the town considered themselves superior to the residents of the suburb. Nevertheless, despite their differences they assisted one another in the hour of need.


I. The community within the Town

The Jewish Street [ulica Żydowska], founded in 1387, that was named Blacharska Street from 1871, lay to the right of the market (rynek). This street narrowed at its end. In between the two facing rows of houses, propped up on the two corner–houses, the Korkes house on the right and the Michalewicz house on the left, rested the Jews' Gate (Porta judaeorum) or Der Tojr in Yiddish. The second gate was located at the other end, at Halicka Street (Haliczer Gasse), which faced the town. One could enter the ghetto only through these gates. The gates were locked in the evenings and in times of danger and onslaught, such as threatening peasants leaving the nearby church, or menacing soldiers or students.

The Jewish Street connected to Boimów Street, was also called Jewish Street. After the Austrian occupation in 1772, it was known as The New Jewish Street (Żydowska Nowa; [Neue Judengasse, in German]). Later, it was named ulica Wekslarska [Wechslergasse] (Money–changers' Street) as well as Boimów. The Boimów and Serbska crossroad, was a dead end known as Dus Roisenlükel, surrounded by the town–wall. At the corner stood a tower that was generally leased to a Jew. Adjacent to the wall, in the vicinity of the arsenal (Zbrojownia) built in 1555, stood two timber houses leased to Jews for dwellings and trade. Most of those who owned the houses were Ruthenians.

The houses of the Jews were connected to one another by joint yards and party–walls, a situation that led to continuous disputes and litigations amongst the residents.

Due south–east lay the ghetto surrounded by the town–wall, superimposed by turrets, one of which was occupied by the town's hangman and his assistants, neighbours who could cause much harm. The Jews lobbied the municipality to remove him from this dwelling. In 1619, the municipality accepted this request.

The high housing density, the narrow streets and the population growth, led to an appalling state of hygiene, a situation that the poet [Sebastjan] Klonowicz described, in 1584, in a special verse.[1]

The fires of 1571 and 1616 almost destroyed the entire ghetto and the Ruthenians' neighbourhood.

At the time, a large number of building plots owned by Christians were abandoned after the houses were destroyed by fires. The Jews were able to overcome difficulties in obtaining municipal building permissions, as many homeless, affluent buyers were willing to pay any price for the plots.

[Pages 511-512]

In the 15th century, the Jews could purchase plots and houses as long as they were in the permitted quarters. The townspeople, the nobles and also the leading clergy, such as Archbishop Grzegorz [Gregory of Sanok], sold houses to the Jews. The nobles even offered residences to Jews outside the specified quarters. They sold houses to the Jews and leased apartments to them in their dwellings in town, at high prices.

The Christian tradesmen's approach to the issue was entirely different. When they sold a house to a Jew, they would set an explicit condition that no trade could be undertaken in it.

As the municipality, was laden with debt and needed money, it was quite content to sell vacant plots to Jews, especially those plots close to the town wall, including the turrets and fortresses.

Jews also bought the plot on which a brothel had stood before the fire. After the fire, the brothel was moved to the torture tower (Wieza Tortur). The community elder, Rabbi Izak ben Nachman (Nachmanowicz), put all his efforts into lobbying to acquire the tower and move the brothel away from the ghetto. They succeeded in leasing the tower, in perpetuity, for a one time payment of 200 Gulden and an annual fee of two Grzywny.

By and by the entire ghetto area was owned by Jews, particularly by the family of Izak ben Nachman. Inside the area they erected three–story buildings, and also constructed buildings inside the courtyards.

Nevertheless, overcrowding increased daily. The Jews even filled apartments on Ruska Street which bordered the ghetto and ran parallel to Żydowska nowa, on Szkocka Square (later Serbska Street), on Zarwańska Street, on the lower part of Boimów Street and on Różana Street. There were shops throughout the Jewish Quarter, but the congestion drove these also beyond its boundaries, though not fronting the street (Rynek), but at the back of houses. This angered the Christian traders and led to legal actions. There were instances in the 17th century when the nobles and the townspeople flouted the restriction and sold houses to Jews. In 1660, for example, Jakób Leszczyński sold the house at the corner of Serbańska Street and Szkocka Square–Boimów No. 23–25. The Jews rented apartments under the jurisdiction of the Benedictine Order, on plots of land that belonged to the Jabłońowski family. Leasing shops outside the Quarter was more difficult as the Christian traders and craftsmen considered every Jewish shop as competition and a threat to their livelihoods. They resorted to all means to obtain an explicit prohibition, and their efforts worked. On 27 May 1656, King Jan Kazimierz issued an edict that forbade the renting and leasing of Catholic houses to Jews, as the issue was “an insult to God and a legal transgression.” In case the prohibition were violated, the Jews would be removed from the house and the house–owner would be fined.

The prohibition was to no avail, however. Twenty one years after its publication, a municipal agent protested that Jews did not only lease Christian plots and houses, but even purchased properties. After disputes and an attempt ot force eviction, all the town's Classes and Nations issued a regulation in 1909, declaring that Christian citizens were forbidden from leasing apartments and shops to Jews. The regulation was approved by King Augustus II, on 11 April 1710.


King Sobieski's House, Rynek No. 10


An explosion at the arsenal near the town wall inside the ghetto, on 23 November 1703, and the Swedish invasion of 1704, destroyed several houses in the ghetto and the Jews had simply no place to live. Jewish trade increased and there was a need for warehouses and shops. Indeed, in 1708, the authorities' assessment concluded that the town market (Rynek), including the King's house (No. 10), were fully occupied by Jewish shops, not only the ones in the courtyards but also those facing the street. Jews occupied apartments and workshops in every house on Ruska Street.

It just so happened, that the majority of the house–owners were members of the town council, and they defied the regulation and leased houses to Jews, who were ready to pay as much rent as was asked of them.

The Jews continued to occupy the shops despite the prohibition and the threat of fines. As their numbers grew, there were 71 Jewish shops without a licence, in 1738 .

In the year 1738, the King appointed a special committee to investigate the situation. On 21 June 1740, an agreement was signed in which the Jews committed themselves to conduct their business in the spirit of the 1592 agreement. The issue of vacating the shops was not raised.

In 1757, however,

[Pages 513-514]

under pressure from the poorer townspeople, the municipality restarted its pursuit to remove the Jews and return them to the ghetto. On 12 February 1759, they were successfully granted the decree of King Augustus III, to expel the Jews from all Christian Quarters. The debate with Jakób Frank [the “messiah”] was held at Lwów in the same year, and in the atmosphere that ensued, the masses led pogroms against the Jews. The Szlachta, that so far had sided with the Jews, also turned against them.

The Jews' housing difficulty in the town continued also under the Austrian rule. On 20 November 1772, the Governor issued a ruling according to which, as of 1 December 1772, each week six Jewish families had to vacate apartments from Christians houses, the house–owner had to reimburse the tenants with the rent they had prepaid.

The Jews appealed to the Vienna authorities and the matter dragged on until 1793. The Vienna central authorities issued two rulings, on 12 December 1793, and on 1 May 1797: i. The Jews are permitted to reside inside the town only on the Jewish Street, Zarwańska and Ruska, and in the Krakowski and Żółkiewski suburbs. ii. Well–to–do Jews who sold goods from Austria, were entitled to reside outside the ghetto, but only with approval from the royal–court (Hofkanzlei). The rulings were reissued in 1804 and in 1811, and eventually the Jews were evicted from the prohibited streets.[2]

The community administration continued in its struggle with the Vienna authorities. The municipality persisted in its objection to enlarge the ghetto. During the years 1846–1855, the ministry of the interior tasked Lwów's governorship with resolving the matter. A vote on the matter resulted in an equal number of those cast for, and against changing the ghetto. The Governor, Agenor Gołuchowski, ruled against the Jews. On 11 January 1863, the community submitted a new appeal, but it was in vain.[3]

Indeed, as the 1868 Constitution granted Jews equal rights, there was a ruling in their favour. The ghetto was abolished and since then the Jews resided in every part of the town with no hindrance. Nevertheless, most of them crowded together on Sykstuska and Kopernika streets, colloquially known as Die Neue breite Gasse [The New Broad Street], parallel to Breite Gasse in the town centre.

The houses on the Jewish Street were as follows:

  1. The building nearest the gate of the ghetto was Michalewiczowska house, as previously mentioned. The first house owner was the Ruthenian, Stefan Chomic, and his wife Helena. From 1617 until 1706, the house belonged to the community–elder Mardochaj [Marek] ben Izak (Izakowicz). From 1706 until the end of the 19th century, it was owned by the Sternbach family. In 1907, a new building was erected in its place.
  2. Adjacent to this building stood the house of King Jan Sobieski's physician, Dr. Simche–Menachem ben Johanan–Baruch de–Jona, known as “Kamienica Doktorowska [the Doctor's house],” a three–stories building with a narrow, Renaissance facade. It was one of the most beautiful and magnificent buildings in the ghetto. In 1767, it passed to the lessee of the community's tax–collector, Izrael ben Józef. During the Austrian rule, the building was under the conservation of the inspector of ancient monuments. However, during works to realign the road a few years before the outbreak of the First World War, the house–owner, Mrs. Sassow, had it demolished and a new building was erected in its place.
  3. The adjoining house, built in the 16th century, was acquired by Szlome Krochmal (it was consequently termed “Kamienica Krochmalowska”). In the 19th Century, the building was owned by Mrs. Schönblum. After a grave dispute with the inspector of ancient monuments, she had the house demolished and built a new one in its stead.
  4. No. 28, Leyzor [Eliezer] house, “Kamienica Leyzorowska.” In the 18th century the house passed to the community and served as the law–court of the deputy–Voivode [deputy district governor]. The house was then known as “Kamienica Podwojewodzinska,” and by the people as Dem Schofetshaus [the judge's house]. At the end of the 18th century, the Austrian authorities sold the house to Leyzor [Eliezer] Boruchowicz.
  5. No. 25, Krywes House, was built by the Ruthenian, Kost. In 1601, the building was acquired by Aron ben Rubin. After 1704, the house was sold to the community leader, Zelman ben Pinkas.
  6. No. 27, the community committee's house, contained the community's offices and its courtyard was a passage to the Turei Zahaw synagogue. According to Rabbi Dawid Halewy, author of Turei Zahaw [commentary on the Shulchan Aruch] and the community Rabbi, during 1652–1667, weddings were held in the courtyard, and during the pogroms it served as shelter from the rioters.
    In 1704, the Swedes placed a gallows in the courtyard. The community elders were threatened with hanging unless the Jews filled the baskets placed under the gallows with gold and silver. The synagogue was erected in 1582 by Rabbi Izak ben Nachman, who was the head of the community, and in 1589 served as chairman of the Council of Four Lands, at Lublin. A women's section was added to the building in 1594. The synagogue was constructed in the Gothic style by the architect Paulus Italus [Paolo Romano] who also built the Woloska [Wallachian] church on Ruska Street. There is a story about the synagogue. In 1603, King Sigismunt III granted the plots and the entire area to the Order of the Jesuits. After debates and legal trials, the Jews were forced to hand over the synagogue and its surroundings, practically the entire Jewish Street, to the Jesuits. However, access to the synagogue was available only through Mardochaj [Marek] ben Izak's house, and he did not permit such access. The Jesuits had to forgo the synagogue and all the surrounding houses, and return them to the Jews.
    The synagogue was inaugurated on the Sabbath after the Purim festival (5369) 1639, and Izak Halewy composed the Shir HaGeula [Song of Redemption] that was annually recited on the Sabbath after Purim.
    At this very synagogue, in the middle of the 18th century, the Catholic Clergy held a debate with the Jews, forcing them to attend
[Pages 515-516]
    the clergymen's sermons, and it was here that Poland's rabbis declared a boycott on Jakob Frank and his faction. In the courtyard stood The Turei Zahaw Synagogue was located in the courtyard.
  1. On the right hand side, near the synagogue, stands the Sokołowski house. Before 1571, it belonged to the municipality. In 1604, the community elder, Mardochaj ben Izak, purchased the plot and established the Hekdesh that was later moved to the last building on Boimów Street. At the end of the 1th century, the community leader, Józef Cymeles [Zimeles] bought the house.
  2. In 1588, the Jews purchased the house on the “Płaczek” plot (No. 31) from the municipality. In the 18th century, the house was bought by Chaim Czopownik (alcoholic drinks' tax–collector). In the 19th century, the house belonged to the community's hospital.
  1. Across the road, opposite Nos. 1–7, at the corner of Ruska Street (Blacharska 20), stood the first building, the “Kamienica Korkesów [Korkes House].” In the 17th century the house belonged to the Nachmanowicz family, and in the mid–18th century until 1914, to the Ablowicz family. During the Austrian rule it was named Korkes.
  2. The adjacent house (No. 22), was separated from the Korkes house by a courtyard at the front. In the 18th century the building belonged to Mardochaj ben Abraham Feigeles. Later, the Korkes family purchased the house and also constructed the facade.
  3. The house at 24 Blacharska Street was the home of R' Nachman ben Izak, the husband of die goldene Rojze [the Golden Rose]. On their demise, the house passed to their son Izak ben Nachman, and his heirs.
  4. The house at 26 Blacharska Street was the house of Awner Celnik [Zelnik].
  5. The house at 28 Blacharska Street was the property of the Żółkiewski family. In 1590, the building was bought by Izrael ben Józef Eideles, where he established a Yeshivah. The Yeshivah was led by R' Jozue Falk ben Aleksander HaKohn. Ever since, the house was known as the Rabbi's house (Kamienica Rabinowska). In the 18th century, the house was in the hands of the Carmelite Order, but in 1788 it was bought from them by the community leader, Süssman Leib Balaban. The house burnt down in 1837.
  6. After the fire in the 18th century, the house at 30 Blacharska Street was owned by the Dominicans. Izrael ben Pinkas bought it from them and built a new house on the plot.[4]
There is history behind the houses on Zerwańska (Serbańska) Street. From 1871, the street was named [ulica] Wekslarska [Wechslergasse; Money–changers' street], or The New Jewish Street (Żydowska nowa [Neue Judengasse]), and from 1888 until 1939, the street was known as Boimów, and it the oldest street in the Jewish Quarter. There, in the south–eastern corner, the Jews settled after the 1552 fire, and founded the synagogue that was the heart of the community until 1604. Its importance waned after Rabbi Izak ben Nachman's synagogue was constructed. During 1799–1801, the community erected the Great Synagogue.

Until nearly the end of the 19th century, most of the houses in the street were still standing. After the town walls were demolished, four houses were also demolished in order to pave the square named after Nowa, later Plac Sobieskiego.

  1. Next to the synagogue stood the house at 52 Boimów Street. According to a register from 1767, it belonged to the goldsmith Boruch ben Wolf [Ze'ev].
  2. The neighbouring house, No. 50 (Kamienica Koplowska), belonged to the wife of the goldsmith Mojżesz Kopol. Later on the house passed to the ownership of the community.
  3. No. 48 was the house of Moszke Ber ben Zelman.
  4. No. 46 belonged to the Mizes [Mizys] family, “Reb Majer Miżys Haus.” In 1767, it was purchased by Szlome Pinkas, the father of Rachmiel Mizes. At the start of the 19th century, the Mizes family moved to No. 18, Rynek, and the house passed to Rabbi Józef Saul Natansohn.
  5. No. 44, the house on the corner of Plac Wekslarski [Square], belonged during 1730–1750 to Icek Brodzki, and was later passed to his heirs.
  6. The houses Nos. 40 and 38 (Lapidea Gdalowska) belonged in the 18th century to the tailor Hersz and to Fiszl ben Wolf.


The Fish Market in the Jewish Quarter


  1. The adjoining house, No. 36, was the house of Landys [or Landes], one of the wealthiest men in the community. It was purchased by the Carmelites in the mid–18th century.
  2. Houses Nos. 34, 32, 30 were urban shacks that around 1632 were sold by the municipality to the community elder, Jakób Gombrycht. He demolished the shacks and constructed a large house in its stead. In 1648, Gombrycht's heirs sold the house No. 32 to the Jew, Zelman. The house No. 34 belonged to Salomon Frydman.
In the 18th century the municipality filed legal actions against the house owners, under the pretext that the plot had never been sold. In 1708, the town's financial management sold all three houses to Dawid ben Szmerl, for the sum of 600 Gulden. In the 19th century, the house No. 34 belonged to Jakób Mendel Schütz and to S. Bernstein. The house No. 30 was acquired in the mid–18th century by Izak and Dawid Markowicz. Until 1939, the house was known as dem Parnas Haus [the elder's house](in memory of the community–elder Gombrycht).

[Pages 517-518]

In Różana Alley (Roisenlükel) that separated the Jewish Street from Serbska Street, stood the “Kłopotowski” house (No. 28). In 1648 it was leased to Lewko, who was killed during the 1664 pogroms. The house was damaged. In 1691 after undergoing repairs, it was leased to Hersz Lewkowicz, Samuel Lejzor and to Hersz Chaimowicz. In 1788, the house was owned by Mendel Futernika, who was a furrier.

The opposite side of the New Jewish Street starts with the house on Serbska Street [corner] Boimów 23. The house collapsed in 1862, and after it was rebuilt, it was purchased by Joel Todresa and the heirs of Schwarzwald.

The adjacent house, No. 27, belonged to Berko [Berek] Monyszowicz, and in the 19th century it belonged to L. Nossig. Next to it stood the houses (29, 31, 33) that belonged to Mendel ben Joel, Berek Danczes and to the renowned community leader Süssman Lew (Lewko) Balaban.

The block of houses Nos. 35–45 underwent different fates. In 1788, timber houses stood on that spot, among them a Torah–study school at No. 41, prayer–houses, and craftsmen's organisations (tinsmiths, upholsterers, weavers). In addition to the residential houses there were 17 butcher shops, a bathhouse, a prison and other shops. This street bordered on the Alley Za Zbrojownia [behind the armoury], where there were three houses that belonged to Eizyk Faktora, Majer [Szkolnik] the caretaker, and to the community prison.

This timber block of houses was in a very dilapidated state by the end of the 18th century, and the Governor ordered to have them demolished, including the Torah–study school.

They were replaced by the building No. 39 and by a new Torah–study school at No. 41. The end building, No. 43, was a school for girls named after the preacher Abraham Kohn. After the Jewish schools' educational network was reorganised in 1860, No. 43 was used as a general elementary school, and in 1899 as a girls' elementary school. This school was led by the renowned, scholarly headmaster, Dr. Henryk Biegeleisen (grandson of Nachman Krochmal), and later, until 1914, by the headmistress Mrs. Joanna Planerow.[5]

Before 1914, the building also contained a state institute for the training of Jewish teachers of religion.

The last house on Za Zbrojownia Alley was the community prison. Later, a bathhouse and a Mikveh were erected there.

Around the First World War, the neighbouring houses were demolished and were replaced by the building of the Ukrainian insurance company, Dnister.


II. The community in the Krakowski suburb

The Kraków suburb, to the north of the town, was the location of the community outside the town. A few Jews, spirits merchants and other shop owners, also lived in the Haliczki (Gliniański) suburb. Jewish and Christian houses leased to Jewish tenants sprawled from the Krakowski Gate and the fortress embankment in the direction of Żółkiewska Street. The Jews termed these streets, “in front of the gate.” The suburb proper extended from Kleparowska Street and St. Anna Church, at the one end, to the bridge over the Poltva River, at the other. The river split the suburb in two, both administratively and judicially. The area on the Poltva's right bank was under the jurisdiction of the castle, and that on the left bank, under the jurisdiction of the municipality. The Jewish residents were subject to the Starosta's jurisdiction. As subjects to his rule, they also benefitted from his protection, and were permitted to reside in the vicinity of his castle. Lwów's Jewish community had its roots in the first synagogue in the area from the Poltva to the old market (Stary Rynek), and later on from Żółkiewska Street, Bożnicza [Sinagogen Gasse], and between Zbożowy Square and Krakowski Square. The first cemetery was situated at Podzamcze, and the second (1300–1855) in the area between Szpitalna and Rappaporta Streets, part of which was the Karaites' cemetery.

In the 16th century, the overcrowding and squalor inside this Quarter increased. In his epic poem Roxolania, written in Latin, the Polish poet Sebastian Fabian Klonowic, who was a municipality clerk, depicted the Jewish Quarter in the town's suburbs as follows:[6]

“Tu na przedmiejskich kałużach się wioda

“Chałupy Zydów obdartych nędzarzy

“Kazdy jak kozieł aszpecony broda

“Z wieczna bladoscia na usciech i twarzy.”

The Jewish community congregated on the right bank of the Poltva, from the Krakowski Gate to the Ruthenian Church named after Mikołaj. The few Jews who resided on the left bank were of the lower strata of society, such as horse thieves and other adventurers. The heart of the community was the synagogue outside the town (die vorstädtische Schul) situated in between the streets Bożnicza, Cehulna and Owocowa, near the town walls. A square with shops and small huts faced the synagogue. Near the stone–built synagogue was a house with a courtyard and gardens that had belonged to a Jewish family ever since 1462. To the East of the building stood houses that were either let or sold to Jews. Here, the Jews were allowed to construct and to purchase

[Pages 519-520]

plots and houses. They were granted that right after the 1623 great fire that began in the synagogue and destroyed 1,200 houses, including all of the Jews' houses (according to [Józef Bartłomiej] Zimorowicz).

In 1632, the synagogue was rebuilt close to the Poznański yard. The entire area was referred to by the people as “far der Schul [in front of the synagogue].”

In 1640, a fire again broke out almost destroying the entire suburb. The synagogue and the houses were rebuilt, but they were damaged during the wars in the 1640s. During the period of peace and quiet, the Jewish community and its houses expanded. A Torah–study school was constructed next to the Great Synagogue , that included a great library and prayer–houses for the craftsmen's organisations. A Chassidim Synagogue (Chassidim Schul) stood at the junction of Bożnicza and Łazienna Streets. Next to the synagogue was the Jewish market.

During the Austrian rule, the area expanded in the direction of [Tzebulna] Cebulna[7] – Plac Strzelecki, as far as Żółkiewska Street– Podzamcze, [św.]Marcina [St. Martin] Street at one end, in the direction of Kleparowska, to Kazimierzowska Street and Janowska, at the other end.

Early in the 19th century, the Jewish community expanded particularly on Kazimierzowska [street], known by the Jews as Die Brejte Gass. Here, families Berger, Birnbaum, Mittelmann, Hescheles built large residential houses, the earliest in the Jewish Quarter.

The printer Abraham Józef Madfes, who came from Holland, Salomom Buber, Dr. Ehrenpreis, Dr. Braude and Lejbowicz who participated in the 1863 uprising, lived on Kazimierzowska.[8]

Despite the freedom to live in any part of the town, which was granted under the 1868 Constitution, most of the Jews kept to their streets and did not move from their apartments in the suburb.

All notes in square brackets [ ] were made by the translator.
[The spelling of names was taken from publications by Dr. M. Balaban]

  1. See Chapter 2 of my articles: History of the Jews of Lwów Return
  2. [Michael] Stöger: [Darstellung der gesetzlichen Verfassung der galizischen Judenschaft (1833)] Vol. I, p. 32. Return
  3. G[erschon] Wolf: “Zur Lage der Juden in Galizien” [Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums] 1867; p. 203. Return
  4. Dr. M. Balaban: Dzielnica Żydowska, Lwów 1909; pp. 55–57. Return
  5. Dr. M. Balaban: Dzielnica Żydowska, Lwów 1909; pp. 73–87. Return
  6. Polish translation by W. Syrokomla, Vilnius 1851, pp. 70–77. Return
  7. The house of Rabbi Izak Rappoport, the brother of Shir [Salomon Jehudah Rappoport], and son–in–law of the great scholar R' Jakub Jüttes, stood at the beginning of the street. The house was known as “Leben Gitalen.” Also living in the house were his nephew Izak, R' Dawid and the poet Dr. Moritz Rappoport.
    After 1920, the house belonged to Róża Melcer [Melzer]. Return
  8. Dr. Jakób Schall: Przewodnik po zabytkach [Żydowskich miasta] Lwowa. Lwów 1935.
    Deborah Vogel: “Lwowska Juderia” Almanach i leksykon. Lwów 1937 pp. 89–98.
    Dr. M. Balaban: “Die brejte Gass” Chwila [Zionist daily], Lwów 1925, 1926. Return


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