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[Page 393]

Old Szczebreszyn


Shebreshin of Long Ago

by Dr. Zygmunt Klukowski

Translated from Polish by Abraham Wolfson

Translated by Moses Milstein

The Polish physician, Dr. Zygmunt Klukowski, who lived in S. for 22 years, occupied himself greatly with the old and new history of S. We present here, with some abridgements, a chapter of his work that is distinguished by objective and scientific observations.

Various Polish archives, particularly those of the Zamoyski's in Warsaw, in Zwierzyniec, and in state archives in Lublin, and the oldest Shebreshiner city books, exist barely untouched. Researching this material is beyond my capabilities. But I used to take note of every bit of information about S. that would come my way. In this way, I was able to collect a little historical information and to acquaint myself with S's history better than most.

I used to give lectures about S. and her history. I had to prepare myself well for them. Others, who were interested in history, profited from my material.


Early history

S. is a very old city. Her first recorded date is 1352. In that year, king Kazimierz Wielki, stayed here. But the community of S. existed several hundred years prior.

The so–called zamchisk was once a fortified city, evidence for which are the remains of fortified walls and moats, and shards of pottery. Names of neighboring villages from the eleven hundreds are encountered in Nestor's Russian Chronicle. One can deduce from that that S already existed then, lying on a trade route that stretched from south to north.

In the time of Ludwik Wegierski, a large part of the Belz and Chelm district, with the spacious Shebreshiner and Torobiner estates, belonged to Dimiter of Goraj, upon whom the king, Wladislaw Jagiello, bestowed extraordinary privileges. He installed him at the head of the nobility that lived around S., creating a form of independent duchy. The “Shebreshiner Herr” had much power. At times of war, he was at the head of the entire noble class in the region. In times of peace, he was the judge, hosting the aristocracy at his Shebreshiner residence. There he was accorded great respect, and he bestowed lands with generosity. This was practically the only time that an independent duchy existed in Poland.

Dimiter of Goraj, in 1393, financed the construction of the first parish church. His heir, Jan Amor Tornowski, was very preoccupied with his properties and his subjects. He established markets, and in order to encourage merchants, he freed them of taxation. He founded various guilds, bestowing special privileges on the shoemakers guild.

Industry and trade developed to such an extent that, in 1492, king Jan Olbracht, in a special act, established which routes the Shebreshiners merchants had to travel through in Greater Poland. Many merchants travelled through S. from south to north, paying the required toll, eg, for a wagon with merchandise–2 groschen, for an ox–1 groschen, for a wagonload of salt–a measure of salt, and so on. This brought much revenue to the city.

After the death of J. A. Tarnowski in 1500, S belonged to the Tarnowskis for another 20 years. Later, it was given as a dowry to the Kmitas. Quarrels about the inheritance began between the two families, which lasted for a long time, and other magnate families made claims to S as well. In 1555, king Zygmunt August adjudged the dispute and gave the rights to S. to the family of Greater Poland.

The names of the Gorki sons, Andrzej and Stanislaw, are still remembered in the legends told by the oldest S. residents. The Gorkis confirmed the many privileges given to the city earlier. They renovated the “defence keep ,” of which there are traces remaining on the “zamchisk.” Their permanent residence was in Greater Poland, and while they were entertaining in S., the keep was tumultuous and cheerful, in the magnate custom. It was extraordinarily lively as the Gorkis were social people.

The Gorkis were greatly interested in religious matters. They bestowed freedom on all religious sects. They built a Greek Orthodox church, and they converted the parish Roman Catholic church into a Calvinist one, and opened a synagogue nearby. The well–known fighters of the Reformation, Stanker and Felix Kreutziger, who came from S., sought the protection and trusteeship of the local magnates. S. reached the highest level of development at the time.


Rise and fall

Various reasons led to the halt in development and later–a gradual decline. The terrible fire of 1583, which broke out at night in the keep, created much damage. The keep was destroyed, as well as the documents detailing the privileges from the king. The fire broke out so suddenly, that the inhabitants of the keep barely escaped with their lives.

In the same year, king Batory, as a result of the efforts of Andrzej Gorki, renewed the privileges. The Gorkis, for the good of S., confirmed and even broadened the Magdeburg laws that reigned in S. for a long time, and brought in changes that benefited all of the citizens.

The Gorkis did not rule for very long. In 1592, the last of the Gorkis, Stanislaw, died, and the Czarnkowski family took over the estates. In 1593, Jan Zamoyski, bought the city and the surrounding 35 villages, and incorporated them into his Ordinat, which was created in 1589. Subsequently, he founded a magnificent city, Zamosc, in the territory of his estates, and he was especially devoted to its development. From that time on, S lost its importance, its special character, and its decline began.

S. took on the same position as all other shtetls in the Ordinat, about which Zamoyski cared less than about his beloved Zamosc. Then he founded the Franciscan monastery, and nearby, the cloister of the Holy Trinity, today's cloister of the Holy Katarzyna near the hospital. Aside from this, he liquidated the Catholic Temple and returned to them the parish cloister.

In the 17th century, religious warfare was widespread. The Arians [1] were treated with great hatred, and excesses were committed, for example, during the funerals of the Arians. This forced Tomasz Zamoyski, in 1637, to issue a decree expelling the Arians from S., “where Arians and disciples of New–Christian sects have settled.”

The city suffered greatly from attacks by Tatars, Turks, and Cossacks. In 1672, the Tatars set fire to the city and plundered it. Masses of people suffering from various epidemics used to arrive. The dead from the plague were carried to a separate cemetery outside of town.

S. was sometimes the arena for historical events. In 1672, the so–called Shebreshiner Confederation was organized with the goal of defending the power of the Hetmans. The meetings took place in the cloister of the Holy Katarzyna, and Jan Sobiewski took part when he was still “Hetman Wielki Koronny.”

In spite of everything, many new guilds arose in the 17 century, and reached the highest level of development: bakers, barrel–makers, shoemakers, furriers, linen workers, textile workers, smiths, wheelwrights, locksmiths, sword makers, harness makers, coppersmiths, goldsmiths, brush makers, rope makers, weavers, and butchers. The names and numbers of the guilds give testimony to the high development of trade and industry in S.

The 18th century was not particularly noteworthy. The city gradually declined. S became part of Austria during the breakup of Poland. Austrian coins can still be found buried in the ground today.


New development

S. began to develop anew at the beginning of the 19th century when Zamosc was no longer the possession of the Zamoyskis, and their attention was diverted to S. which was nearer their home. In 1811, they transferred the Provincial school that had been closed in 1809. In 1812, they transferred the hospital of Holy Mercy from Zamosc to the building of the previous monastery.

The city was revitalized. New people arrived: teachers, students, and visitors. New schools and houses were built.

The health service of the Ordinat decreed that the head doctor should be located here. A hospital for venereal diseases for peasants was established since the monks opposed their admission to the general hospital. Lady Teophila Reder opened a private high school for girls offering three grades. A Sunday trade school was organized. Trade flourished. More and more people arrived. But the main role was played by the Provincial school which attracted talented teachers and students.

The Provincial school was under the direction of the influential Stanislaw Zamoyski, senator and Voivod, and it, and the hospital owe their existence to him. The numerous members of the Zamoyski family, who mostly lived in Klemensow, had a positive effect on the region. Andrzej Zamoyski organized well–attended conferences of landowners. Before the January uprising, the most important landowners of almost all Poland convened, creating an impact on the nearby shtetl.

Because of the authority of Stanislaw Zamoyski, Shebreshin and the Provincial school suffered less than other places from the Russification policy that followed the November Uprising. Nevertheless the school was closed in 1852 as inimical to the Russification policies. It was a severe blow to S.

The city markedly declined. It did not recover from this, even after liberation, and in spite of the establishment of a teacher's seminary and a high school. It never returned to its former prominence.


During the revolution

The quiet way of life was disrupted in 1831 during the November Revolution. I found a short description of the events in the memoirs of the well–known pedagogue, Vincenti David, written in 1887. The following is a short excerpt from his memoirs.

“Finally, our quiet and work–a–day lives, and our well established order in the Shebreshiner schools, were disrupted for a time. The news that a revolt had broken out in Warsaw, and that the Russians had abandoned the capital and the borders of the kingdom, elicited great joy among the population. The quiet shtetl, which knew no other politics other than the rule of the stewards, felt called upon to step out on the political arena along with the rest of the country.

In a matter of an hour, the black eagles of the city hall and other institutions were pulled down. Old swords and guns were brought out, cleaned and readied. In the smithies, the smiths worked even on holidays. Agricultural tools were modified into pikes. Scythes were mounted on poles.

The intelligentsia and even the rector called upon the students to arm themselves. They celebrated the unfurling of the flag with prayers in the school. The rector, Zenkowski, addressed the ranks of students and citizens arrayed with home–made weapons. They concluded with the singing of “Jeszcze Polska nie zginela.” This occurred in mid–December. Professor Zenkowski and a number of older students went off to the Polish military. Only the younger students remained behind.

After Christmas, the Russian military began reacting. The first to enter S. were the dragoons, with wild beards that made a frightening impression on us. We regarded with fear the giant men who camped in the same place that the students had earlier mustered.

We soon heard news of the decisive battles of the polish army and their heroic leaders on the fields of Grachow, outside Wawer. Every scrap of newspaper was passed fervently from hand to hand, and was commented on, and plans were made for the future as is common in a small shtetl. The joy was greater in the spring when our army entered Lithuania with Dembinski and Gieldung in command, when Chrzanowski and Dwernicki entered the Lublin region, marching on Wolhyn, on the other side of the Bug, while fighting along the way outside Czaczki, and Old–Zamosc.

On that great Thursday, camped in the same schoolyard, Dwernicki's Ulans [2] and the Krakusi [3] with several cannon arrayed, which, I believe, were taken at Czaczki. We dared to approach the cavalry and played with their weaponry. We brought them food and drink from the city for several days. We received them like brothers.

In the heat of spring and summer, cholera broke out in the city for the first time. Horse manure was burned in the market and streets to combat the cholera. But it was of no help. Many families left the city for the neighboring forests. Prayers were conducted in the churches to halt the epidemic, and prayers of thanks were given for any successes. The young priest, Nowokowski, a passionate speaker, after the prayers, told the congregation about the heroic deeds of the leaders. He punished and accused the youth who had not joined the army, identifying them by their names.

Zamosc, the closest fortress, and other points, were in danger of being surrounded. Many clashes occurred in Shebreshin. Cossacks entered the town, and robbed, and beat the Jews, and the townspeople. They were quickly followed by the Ulans or the Krakusi. Once, the Cossacks, as a response to the attacks, determined to take revenge on the town, and on the youth who took part in the skirmishes between the Polish army and the Cossacks. The Cossacks approached the town at night in order to set it on fire, and kill the inhabitants. Panic ensued in the town. Half the city fled to the forests. The shooting could be head in Janow.

But despair turned to wonder. The daring armed themselves. The city policeman, an old army man, and the sexton of the church, raised the alarm. Drumming on the church drum, they gave loud orders, giving the impression that they were a large military contingent. The Cossacks and the Dragoons, who were already on the outskirts, decided to withdraw. Later commands prevented them from taking their revenge.”


The national liberation movement after the January uprising reverberated more in S. than elsewhere in the Zamosc Powiat (which today encompasses 4 Powiats). S. played a special role in it.

We have very scant details about the revolution itself. Many people enrolled in the party. There was a civil organization. In 1865, the local pharmacist, Antony Topolski was arrested under the charge of leading the revolt.

The first skirmish in the planned attack on the Cossacks on the 30th of January, organized by the party of Lesznice, from the Ordinat of Henrik Gronowski, ended in failure. Many wounded rebels found themselves in the local hospital. Some were buried in the Shebreshiner parish.


Russification efforts

After the failure of the revolution, the Russian powers began to apply a strict Russification policy, trying artfully to implant everything Russian.

I tried to get the elders to write down their memories of that time, but they were mostly illiterate. Some described them to their children who, following my instructions, recorded fragments with dates and names. I had hoped by that to gather important material, but the war interrupted the work.

Those difficult times, when the weak slowly gave up, and the strong tried with all their might to resist the Orthodox priests, gendarmes, and the border police, are being slowly forgotten. Women were, in this case, stronger than the men.

Persecution of the Uniates took on dramatic forms. I will never forget my talks with an old farmer from Zurawice, who told me about the frightful scene that occurred when one of his neighbors, a Uniate, agreed to convert to the Orthodox religion in spite of his wife's objections. When all the formalities were observed, and the communion was underway, his wife went mad with despair, and fell on the priest. This had a frightful effect on her husband, and he refused to continue with the ceremony.

Fascinated by these stories, I tried to gather details about the Uniates in Shebreshin. An 1863 document points out that the Uniate parish was very poor because it had “ a very small number of adherents in Shebreshin.” In December 1877, the priest, Alexander Gorski, who, it seemed, did not belong to the resistance fighters, signed his letters as “Rector of the Shebreshiner Ortodox parish.” Then the Uniates were abolished and the Greek Catholic church was turned into an Orthodox church.

Later, the priest, Timofey Tracz, arrived as rector, and a sad chapter for the Polish Catholics, and especially for the Uniates, began. The priest was himself once a Uniate priest who freely converted to the Orthodox belief and became an ideological Russifier and disseminator of his new beliefs. He led an ascetic life, and his activities took on a fanatical character. With time he became recognized by the highest authorities and became very influential.

He instilled fear in everyone in the Zamosc area. No one opposed him. It must be said that he made great strides in spreading Orthodox beliefs. He carried out his mission without too many reservations: with promises, harassment, threats, and force.

Data from the Zwierzyniec archives show that there were no Orthodox in Shebreshin other than the officials who came to visit occasionally. Aside from the Orthodox church, which was, as mentioned, formerly a Greek Catholic church, the Catholic church near the hospital also became an Orthodox church. The number of adherents to the Orthodox parish grew relatively quickly and consisted of 486 souls at the time.

In 1905, in the first two months after the declaration of the Tolerance Manifesto, the Shebreshiner parish saw 4195 people convert from the Orthodox to the Roman Catholic religion, of which 402 were from Shebreshin and Zamosc environs. The Tolerance Manifesto was a sever setback to the priest, Tracz. All his work was undone with one blow. He could not tolerate this, and struggled with all his might to counter the desertions, but with little effect. These developments profoundly affected his health and hastened his death. He died in 1909.

During World War I, when the Russians left Shebreshin, both churches were closed. The entire Orthodox parish disappeared instantly. In order to wipe out any trace of their former beliefs, families changed the inscriptions of their kin on their tombstones from Russian to Polish. On the instructions of the mayor, someone vandalized Tracz's memorial. His coffin was transferred from near the church, and reburied in the public cemetery.

The preacher of the Roman Catholic parish was then the priest, Grabarski. He was very popular and known for his philanthropic work, even towards Jews. He was very beloved by the Jews. An elderly Jew told me that prayers were said for him for many years in the synagogue.

The era of Russian rule in Shebreshin was grey and sad. The oppression of Russian authority was deeply felt. Social and spiritual activity was minimal. Nevertheless, there was a certain measure of underground activity, such as illegal study. There were various organizations: Macierz Szkolna, N.D., P.P.S.

The external character of Shebreshin was set by the army, a Cossack battalion that was stationed here. The world war broke out, and masses of armies passed through: Russian, Austrian, then again Russian, and later, a longer period of Austrian occupation. Various orientations existed; pro–Moscow, Pro–Austrian, independence movements. Part of the youth went away to the legions.

I heard many stories about the earlier way of life, about the cholera epidemic, about the rapid organization of the Polish school system, about the first months of existence of the Polish state. I asked many people to write about their memories of the pre–war years, and the occupation. I found no one who could, or would, do this. I managed only to get a few fragments of an autobiographical nature.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. A Protestant sect Return
  2. Polish light cavalry Return
  3. Polish light cavalry Return

[Page 402]

Geographic, Ethnic, and Historic Shebreshin

Translated by Moses Milstein

Szczebrzeszyn, in documents, Scebresinum–a city on the left bank of the river Wieprz, Zamosc district, latitude 50° 41' North, and longitude 40° 37' East, on the Zawichost–Uszczilug highway, in the plain of the river, abutted on the west by the so called Shebreshiner mountains, with a sloping cliff, and the ragged valleys of the flat peaks of the Lublin mountains which reach a height of 1000 to 1500 feet above sea level between Goraj and Szczebrzeszyn. The valley of the Wieprz rises to 700 feet. At Krasnistaw, the river is navigable by ships. Outside S., the river reaches 7 fathoms. During flood periods, it covers the fields for half its width.

Two bridges connect S. with the village, Brody. In the south–west, S. is 20 verst [1] from Zamosc, from Janow–Ordinacki–42.75, Bilgoraj–32.50, Krasnistaw–40, the train station Rejowiec–59.50, Lublin–105, Zwierzyniec–12 verst.

There is a walled Catholic church, two Orthodox churches, a synagogue, and two guest houses, a hospital, Saint Katarzyna, with a resident doctor, an asylum, a preschool with two classes, a city hall, a post office, and as of 1887, a notary, a pharmacist and 38 shops.

Industrial facilities include a water mill, eight stoned; a factory of black and grey cloth for peasants. The peasants primarily occupy themselves with working the land, the Jews with trade and brokering. There are 18 shoemakers, 8 smiths, 2 dairymen, 2 furniture makers, 1 harness maker and several tailors, locksmiths, weavers, barrel makers, potters, tanners, whose output barely meets local demands.

Szczebrzeszyn lies in a picturesque verdant environment, with wooden one–story houses, some walled dwellings, with small gardens, a market, narrow streets, (Skolna, Turobinska, Klasztorna, Tserkiewna, Parkowa, Zatylna, and Bilgorajska), unpaved streets, except for Zamosc street on which the highway that connects Szczebrzeszyn with Zamosc and Zwierzyniec runs.

A tall, walled, multistoried building stands near the courthouse called Oberza. Until 1876, part of the building housed the Zamosc district court. Only ruins are left of the keep which burned down in 1840, and the city walls. The remains of the city walls were used in 1840 to build the new courthouse. Only the tower remains of the keep. The city was surrounded by ramparts. Szczebrzeszyn had the suburbs: Blonie, Zamoyski which stretched along the length of the Wieprz until the Bodaczow farm.

Szczebrzeszyn belonged to the Zamosc peace court from 1876. The city extended over 4,565 acres, of which 3,319 were farmed, fields–588 acres, unusable land–104 acres, for building–548 acres, and water–5 acres. The soil was lime over stone and chalk. There were many fields, but no forests.

In 1827, there were 499 dwellings, 3,233 residents: in 1832–5,433 residents; in 1860–4,018 residents (2162 Roman Catholics, 1683 Jews); in 1875–4,743 residents; in 1878–433 houses (66 walled) and 4750 residents.. In 1881–463 houses and 5,064 residents (2677 Jews); in 1885–433 houses (39 walled) and 5,129 residents (2,381 Jews); in 1888–488 houses (54 walled) and 5,264 residents (2,398 Jews); in 1890–5,418 residents (912 Orthodox, 2,429 Jews).

Szczebrzeszyn is one of the oldest settlements in the Chelm region. It belonged to the chain of keeps that defended the settlements along the Wieprz valley. It most probably stemmed from the time of Casimir the Great. Szczebrzeszyn is not mentioned in the act of 1377. Wladislaw Jagiello, confirming the old privileges in Krakow in 1388,bestowed by Dimitri of Goraj, decreed them eternal for Szczebrzeszyn and all its inhabitants. Paprocki stated that he saw documents, issued by the same Dimitri, which began “Nos Demetrius de Goraj et in Szczebrzeszyn haeres.” On the basis of this act, he bestowed the villages Gruszka and Zaparoze on a certain Tsedzikow Prochanski, “ratione servitii in terra Chelmensi.” (Both villages in the neighborhood of Szczebrzeszyn). After the heirs of Dimitri passed, the wealth was given to the families Leliwit of Tornow, and Rozits of Kzepic, and Toporsztik of Tenczyn, as a dowry. The city rights were probably passed to the duke, Wladislaw Opolski, during his reign in Russia.

Jagiello, confirming the edicts of Dimitri, gave the city certain freedoms. Jan Tornowski, in 1492, established a fair, freeing the merchants from paying taxes. The rights were confirmed in 1520 by the landholders of Szczebrzeszyn, Piotr and Stanislaw Kmit, Count of Szreniawa.

After them, the rulers of S. were the Gorkis. They built the Orthodox church probably on the place of the previous one. They converted the Catholic church into a Calvinist church, and established a school. Andrzej Gorki, privileged from 1560, assured the suburbs, Blonia, and Zazecze their use with the Magdeburg rights as an example for the city which had since long ago been in place, as well as the city's revenues. Andrzej of Gorki was the feudal baron of the whole area. The keep was the site where courts were held for local and city matters for the whole population and for the Powiat. The nobility, who had their estates here, were his vassals.

Feudalism was in full force until the end of the 17th century. When Jan Zamoyski received a certain village from Anna Niedzwiedzka, Countess of Gorki, she freed him from her jurisdiction, assuming the influence that Zamoyski had in the land.

In the first days of September 1583, a fire broke out at night in the keep. The fire was so intense that the Starosta [2] barely escaped with his family. All the acts and documents were destroyed. Gorki begged the king, Stefan, to reinstate his privileges, and his jurisdiction over the vassals, and supported his claims with court documents. The king was convinced of the righteousness of the claims, and on December 12, 1583, he renewed the privileges, in perpetuity, in Lublin for Andrzej Gorki, and his desendants as the owners of the keep, the city and the whole Powiat, with his jurisdiction, excluding S. from all kinds of rules, even from tribunals.

From the acts of the magistrate, we have the following privileges:

  1. Rights of Andrzej Gorki, landowner of S., declared in 1586, which renewed the Magdeburg rights of S., in place of the original document destroyed in the keep in 1583. At the same time, the residents were freed of repairing the dams and providing wheat. On the other hand, taxes were raised and the peasants were required to plow for 6 days, and to remit to nobility half of every sheaf, “in natura.” At the same time, Jews were forbidden from buying goods in the villages, and the city councilman was empowered to prosecute Jews for not participating in putting out fires, or paying debts. The elder councilmen were required to keep a record of mill production, of measures, weights and stores. The city notables were exempted from paying, “in natura.”
  2. Stanislaw Gorki, the son of Andrzej, with his privileges of January 9, 1595, confirmed the earlier privileges with a pledge to pay money.
  3. Zygmunt III forbade Jews from collecting taxes and from owning leases of liquor taxes, on March 25, 1597.
  4. The rights of Jan Zamoyski, Hetman and Chancellor, confirmed the previous privileges of the city of S., as of August 27, 1598, as well as permitting the harvesting of wood from the Shebreshiner landowners for building and heating, and repealed the levy on cooking honey and other taxes.
  5. The privileges of Tomasz Zamoyski of August 26, 1629, confirmed the earlier privileges of the city of S.
  6. In June 26, 1643, the privileges of the same Tomasz Zamoyski, permitted the residents to build on empty lots.
  7. In august 25, 1673, king Michal Korybut permitted the residents to distill and sell spirits for a small levy, and confirmed the earlier rights of the city of S.
  8. The privileges of Jan Zamoyski of May 21, 1700, permitted the residents to have businesses in private houses and to distill spirits for a levy of 3 Zl a barrel.
  9. The privilege of king August II of July, 1729 established 3 new fairs: in the name of John the Baptist, the Ascension of the Virgin Mary, and of Saint Michael.
The guilds in S. possessed prior privileges, bestowed by Jan Zamoyski in 1661 and 1694 for tailors, shoemakers and barrel makers, and detailed standards for students, apprentices and masters, and determined the procedures for acquiring master status, the fees involved, and providing penalties for non compliance and corruption. It was also permitted to collect fees during the fairs from foreign tradesmen with similar wares, and for substandard work. It was also forbidden to bring in outside products and handiwork a mile from S.

The city of S., which followed German jurisprudence, had its own courts, which consisted of appointed justices–of–the–peace, aldermen and “jos gladiyi” (sword laws). The acts of the courts have been lost.

From the Gorkis, S passed to the ownership of Jan Zamoyski, (in the years 1595 and 1598), who incorporated S. into his Ordinat.

S. and the plain which lies at its feet, and is constrained by mountains in the south west and which surround it, is mentioned in the following historical fact. When the Commonwealth was established at the Lublin pact, and the consultations carried forward to Warsaw on January 4, 1673, the victorious army of Hetman Sobieski (against the Tatars) with the king at the head, the Shebreshiner confederation was tied to the defense of the wavering Hetman reign and freedom. The act was signed by the Field–Hetman, and the son–in–law of the king, and the royal military company.


During the first partition of Poland (1772), S. came under the rule of Austria, and then the privileges of S. were repealed and carried over to Lemberg. The Orthodox church and the Roman Catholic parish were probably established by Dimitri of Goraj in 1397. The Catholic parish included the city of S. and the suburbs, Blonie, Zamoyski, and Zaszec, and the villages: Brody, Czarnystok, Deszkawice, Kaweczyn, Kulikow, Lipowiec, Michalow, Obrocz, Rudka, Sulow, Sulowiec, Topolcza, Czenszynie, Wielacza, Zwierzyniec, Zurawnica, Bodaczow, altogether 9,307 people.

The Orthodox church, Uspenya, was renovated by the government in 1868, and later in 1876. The second Orthodox church was rebuilt from the Catholic church with the name of Holy Trinity, with donations from Jan Zamoyski, who also donated a large field and a garden, and was enclosed by a high wall stretching to the river Wieprz. After the dissolution of the Franciscans, the cloister and the Orthodox church were given to the Franciscans of Zamosc, and the magnificent temple was turned into barracks during the Austrian reign.

The cloister existed for a short time, and in 1793 was abandoned. The building was near collapse, and in 1812, it and the church were given to the Sisters of Mercy, who arrived from Zamosc in 1784. (Now a city club).

The hospital named after St. Katarzyna, was small at first, in 1812, having 30 beds. In 1845, Count Andrzej Zamoyski, enlarged it, creating spacious hallrooms, one on the ground floor, and two upstairs. In 1870, the hospital was placed under the supervisory board of Zamosc, and an attendant was engaged. As of May 10, 1883, the sick were looked after by the Elizabethan Sisters. In 1879, an ambulatory service was started, and the sick were given medicine without charge. While enlarging the hospital, Count Zamoyski founded a school in two of the rooms, and allocated a room for the steward.

The existing shul–home for the old and disabled was also a gift from Andrzej Zamoyski. Poor Jews had a small commissary, run in 1880, by Itzhak and Berek Feldman, who paid a yearly fee. The well–known schools in that time were, to a certain extent, an extension of the Zamosc academy.

In 1809, Zamosc was transformed into a fortress, and the buildings of the academy, and the lyceum, were taken over for military use. Count Stanislaw Zamoyski founded a school in S. that underwent a number of phases and name changes: lyceum, school of higher learning, provincial, and finally, gymnasium named after Zamoyski, which existed until 1852. The building and the garden were the property of the government and were used as barracks. Professors at the school who achieved renown were: Francziszek Kowlaski–poet and author, Adolf Kodasziewic–grammatician, Basili Kokolnik, Ignace Richter–bibliographer, Teodozi Szieroczinski–grammatician and pedagogue, Jan Zenkowski–agronomist, Josef Zochowski–naturalist.

Thanks to the low fees and the cheap living conditions, the school was always overflowing with students. The gymnasium published, in Warsaw, between the years 1834 and 1844, “ A ceremonial act for closing the school year.” At the same time, there was a private girls school of four classes run by Teofila Reder. The closing of these institutions diminished the welfare of the city.


S.is the birthplace of many scholars. Among the famous are: Wojcech Baseus–Latin grammatician of the 17th century. Josef Brand–painter, Isachar Ber Cohen–a Talmudist of the 17th century, and Jan Szieszczinski–doctor, philanthropist, pedagogue, and one of the first Polish lithographers.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Measure of distance in Tsarist Russia, equal to 1.06 km Return
  2. Village elder Return

[Page 408]

The Surroundings

by Moshe Messinger

Translated by Moses Milstein

The shtetl of Shebreshin was surrounded by beautiful villages, fields and forests. There were Jews in practically every village. Most of the buildings in the suburbs belonged to Count Zamoyski, who leased the fields to tenants. Every village had its tenant who managed the wealth of the Count. In every “court” there were several Jewish families who inherited their positions from their grandfathers.

Little by little, the number of Jews in the surrounding villages increased until there was a minyan or two of Jewish families whose only occupation was agriculture. The largest village where the largest number of Jews was concentrated, up to three minyans, was Gorajec. Jews lived there freely and independently, together with the Christian population, working their land. With the natural increase of Jewish families in the villages, the allotment of available land, which served as their livelihood, decreased. Some of them, unable to make a living from their allotment, migrated to the city.

Among the Jewish families in Gorajec was a fine family called Met, or as the head of the house was called, R' Yankel Greiyetser. He was no illiterate. He had a good knowledge of scholarly Jewish works, and served as an example for all the Jewish families in the village.

In the village of Radecznica there were about 30 Jewish families. But these were of another sort, more progressive, almost urban.

Jews also lived in the village of Zaklodzie. One of them, known as R” Dudl Zaklodzer, kept his doors open for Jewish travelers and merchants by day and by night. He was renowned for his tsedaka, not only to individuals, but also for social institutions–religious ones, it is understood. He was rich not only in fields and forests, but also in good intentions. His wealth passed to Hersh Zelig Weinblat.

I visited R' Hersh Zelig Weinblat several times. He was distinguished by his generosity just like other Jewish village families. His wife also knew no boundaries to her generosity. Their house contained not only teachers for the children, but also teachers of foreign languages. One of the children studied in Paris.

In later years, when antisemitism increased in Poland, Graf Zamoyski confiscated the wealth of all these Jews. Many of the families left for other cities. R' Hersh Zelig Weinblat wandered to Lublin, where he remained until World War II.

It is also worthwhile mentioning other villages where Jews lived, such as, Radziecin, Sulowiec, Deszkowice, Sulow, and Sanczask.


All of the aforementioned village people took part in the social life of the time. After the First World War, when the chapter of revival and political formations began in Shebreshin, the village youth joined in with the city youth.

The library, named after Mendele Mocher Sforim, served as the general meeting place for young people seeking to slake their thirst for knowledge.

The Zionist movement served as a more narrow link. Here the “pintele Yid” surfaced. The youth zealously affiliated with Zionist ideology, especially with proletarian Zionism. The rise of antisemitism between the years 1932–1935 was associated with a worsening of the economic situation. In spite of the loss of their economic positions, Jewish youth helped shoulder the burden of cultural development, and the rise of progressivism.

[Page 410]

Shebreshin in the Register [Pinkas]
of the “Council of the Four Lands”

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

The Council of the Four Lands – Greater Poland, Little Poland, Reissen (Belarus) and Lithuania – was an autonomous authority of the Jewish communities in Poland and Lithuania from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The Council was responsible for taxation, cultural and social life, and religion. Each “Land” elected 2 –3 delegates to the Council, in addition to the delegates of 3 large communities. The number of members of the Council was 25. In 1764, the Polish Sejm dissolved this organization.

The collection of documents connected with the Council of the Four Lands was published by the name “ The Pinkas [register] of the Council of the Four Lands, a Collection of Regulations, Writings and Records, Arranged and Explained by Israel Halperin,” Jerusalem, Mossad Byalik, Jerusalem 1945 (Acta Congressum Generalis Iudeorum Regni Poloniae, 1580–1764).

Shebreshin is mentioned 23 times in the Pinkas (Zamosc – 34 times). It is clear that Shebreshin occupied an important place in the organization. The town is mentioned in particular in the context of approbations to publish books (obviously, in the spirit of the times, mostly religious books and various commentaries).

The Rabbi, R'Chaim Rogovin, resident of San–Francisco, was asked by R'Baruch Bibel to “help save from historical oblivion the scholars and illustrious people of this hometown, Shebreshin.” Rabbi Rogovin prepared a comprehensive work based on the work by Israel Halperin (mentioned above), and other sources. We present here a short summary, written in the style of the author, R'Chaim Rogovin.


An Important Community

The first official document of the Council of the Four Lands that we received was from 1579. However, according to some sources the Council was established in 1570. The documents, recorded in the Pinkas of the Council, are reliable sources of the history of our people in Poland in those days. They reflect the problems of the times concerning the relationship with Christians, as well as internal Jewish affairs; they also echo the reaction of the Jewish leaders to the persecutions, accusations and violent incidents. The specifically Jewish social and spiritual problems facing the leaders, scholars and rabbis of Polish Jewry can also be found in the documents.

The positive indication, that the Shebreshin Jews sent their delegates to the Council at the beginning of the 17th century, points to the fact that it was already an important community at that time. In about 25 documents, we found the signatures of Shebreshin delegates.

The first such document is from 1617 – an approbation of a book. Writing approbations posed not only intellectual problems, but also economical questions, which arose in connection with the spiritual ones,

[Page 411]

in particular problems of plagiarism. A person, who has not worked and has made no effort, would print and sell the fruit of the pen and spirit of a scholar who worked for many years without reward, and sometimes lost the sums that he had invested in paper and printing. The Council of the Four Lands made great efforts to correct this situation.

The swindlers also appropriated books that were public property, such as prayer books, although the author had spent time and energy to make corrections of language and version, and had added explanations and commentaries. The prohibition of use was for a limited time, to enable the author to enjoy the fruit of his work.

Three types of books were given approbations: 1. Popular books, such as siddurim [prayer books], and mahzorim [High Holiday prayer books], where explanations and commentaries were added. 2. Original works, written mostly for the average learner, such as Bible commentaries, Midrash, Ethics and religious books. 3. Original works – innovations and commentaries on the Talmud and its Commentators, on the Shulchan Aruch [codex of law] and its Commentators – written for scholars knowledgeable in “Talmud and Codifiers” and authorized to teach the Law, and for professional ordained rabbis.


Approbations of Popular Books [Page 412]

Approbations of Books for Scholars

The rabbis and other respected personalities in Shebreshin have signed approbations for another type of book – books that were written for scholars, learned in Talmud and Midrash. These were mostly summaries of famous books which had been printed before, but for which buyers were few, as well as books of ethics and faith, and sermons. There was no fear of plagiarism concerning these books, and the approbations served mostly as moral support.

The following signed approbations of books of this type:

[Page 413]

Approbations of Original Works

Following are approbations of the third type of book – books written not for regular scholars, but for outstanding students and scholars, and for renowned rabbis. Two of them were from Shebreshin; their names were already mentioned above, but their signatures here emphasize their greatness and erudition in Torah, Talmud, and Codifiers.

In the introduction to his work, the author explains why he had chosen the title Turei Zahav: “In this work I shall comment on the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch, and the gimatria [numerical values of letters] of my name equals the gimatria of the word Zahav,” meaning that he chose this title for his work, because in addition to the commentary of the Shulchan Aruch, by Yosef Karo, he explains issues in the Tur by R'Yakov Ben Asher, and the gimatria of the second word of the title, Zahav, is 14, as is the gimatria of his name, David.

R'Shabtai ben R'Meir the Kohen, who has written a book titled Siftei Kohen (was known by the acronym of the title, the SHACH), disagreed with the TAZ, and wrote a book in which he enumerated his criticisms. The book was completed in 1848, the year of the Khmelnitsky's pogroms, and was printed 14 years after the death of the author (who died in 1667) by his son, R'Moshe, thus carrying out the will of his father.

The controversy between the two great men was an important factor in publicizing the Shulchan Aruch, which penetrated the study rooms of the Yeshivot in Poland and Lithuania, and the scholars of all generations, to this day, wrote commentaries on it.


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