« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Columns 35–61 - Hebrew] [Columns 563–578 - Yiddish]

B. The Jews of Dubno

Translated by Selwyn Rose

A

The earliest reliable information we have concerning Dubno is dated from the late 14th Century, in the period of the founding of the Principality of Lithuania under the rule of Witold[1], the Grand Duke of Lithuania and a blood–relative of Jogaila the son of Algirdas the King of Poland. At that time the Principality of Wohlin constituted a part of the Principality of Greater Lithuania and three cities in Wohlin formed the southern defensive line – Lutsk, Ostróg (Ostroh), and Kremnitz; Dubno was considered a second line of defense.

Within a few years, at the beginning of the 14th Century, there were Jewish communities in the towns of Lithuania and Wohlin, in spite of the fact that Jews were not mentioned as residents of Dubno until 1530. The communities were connected with the towns of Brześć[2] Grodno, Troki and Lutsk. On 28th June 1388 the Jewish people of Lithuania in the town of Lutsk were given a notarized documentary “Bill of Rights” recognizing their existence. The document was known as “The Certificate of Troki” and it promised the Jews the following rights: unrestricted movement throughout the State; identical taxation for Jews and Christians alike; the identical rights of citizenship as the Christians (regarding the present “…lack of assistance extended to Jews in distress at night” the Christian to be punished as a thief; for breaking and entering a Jewish home or plundering, the Christian will be charged as if stealing from the Kingdom's coffers; when a Jew casts a suspicion of murder on a Christian the Duke will designate a police officer to undertake a full investigation; for murder and rape of Jews by Christians the offender will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and so on), defense of Study–Houses and Jewish cemeteries (for violating a Study–House fines will be imposed and violating a Jewish cemetery, property will be confiscated). A Jew can only be tried on the evidence of two witnesses – one Christian and one Jew “known to be faithful to his religion”. In the same “Bill of Rights” the basics of Jewish communal autonomy were laid down that confirmed the authority of the Jewish Beit–Din over the community and its members.

The few sources from which we can draw details of Jewish life in Lithuania and Wohlin in the 14th and 15th Centuries are the Jew Kalman of Breslau, Germany who visited Kamianets–Podilskyi (which belonged to Lithuania), in 1390, and found Jews there, and also the Dutch tourist Guillebert de Lannoy[3] who writes concerning his visit to Troki in 1415: “There are living here Ashkenazis (Germans), Lithuanians and a large number of Jews, all of them speaking in their respective mother–tongue”. It is also known that the Jewish people in those areas spoke “Yiddish, Byelorussian and the Tatar language.”

Suddenly in the year 1492 – the same year as the expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal – The Duke of Lithuania, Alexander Jogaila, expelled all the Jews and confiscated all their possessions. Although, ten years later in 1503 Alexander Jogaila rescinded the edict and the Jews began to return to Lithuania and re–establish themselves. On 21st March 1514 a “Bill of Rights” was given by the Duke, in Vilna, to the Jews of Troki, Grodno, Brześć, Lutsk, Pinsk and Kovrin in which he re–affirms the promise of his brother King Alexander: “…to exempt them from the obligation of supplying the army with a thousand horses and taxes paid by them will be identical to those paid by all the other citizens and they can practice arts and craftsmanship without restriction or interference.”

Additional evidence concerning the favorable situation of the Lithuanian Jews of the period can be found in the report of the Catholic Bishop Comedani who was the Pope's representative at the court of Zygmunt II August, the King of Poland at the end of the 16th Century[4]: “They are found there (Wohlin and Podolia) in considerable numbers and they do not provoke contempt as they do in other places. Generally speaking they do not make a living from despised businesses, like loans at interest and involvement in trading suspect goods, although there are among them some who are attracted to such dealings. The Jews are land–owners, traders, and dedicate themselves to study, literature, medicine and astrology. Some of the Jews are very prosperous and belong to the dignified and respected class of society. The Jews are not required to wear a yellow patch on their clothing in order to distinguish themselves from the Christians. They are permitted to carry a sword and arms and they enjoy the identical rights and privileges as the rest of the citizens.”

 

B

Jews, as residents of Dubno are mentioned for the first time in a document from 1552[5] which, among other things, discusses Jewish dealers in beef who bought bulls in Wallachia: “Michal of Vinnitsa – 2080 bulls; Issatchko of Ostróg 1500 bulls; the Jew Laschiak of Dubno bought 309 bulls. He and Michel of Ostróg have 120 bulls.”

[Columns 37–38]

Clear proof of the existence of a Jewish community in Dubno is the oldest gravestone in the old Jewish cemetery from the year 1581[6] a fact indicating that the Jewish community was so firmly established that it was able to acquire a plot of land to use as an independent cemetery. Another ancient gravestone dated 1604 is mentioned in the book by Rabbi Margalit “Greater Dubno”: “Here is interred the old woman Mrs. Khinka, daughter of Yitzhak. Passed away 5th Elul in the year 5634 (1604). May her soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.”

Evidence supporting the advancement of the Jewish community in Dubno can be found in the book “The Gate of the Letters”[7] by Hash'lah Ha–Kadosh[8]: “When I was in Wohlin, I asked those same traders if they had stocks of non–Kosher brandy in casks that they were selling to the Holy Land (to a non–Jew), before Passover: how can they do it? They said that they have been doing so for generations.” Rabbi Pinchas Pesses[9] explains: “Hash'lah the Righteous was the Rabbi in Dubno in 1600 and in Ostróg in 1603 and it appears that many years ago the expression “for generations” meant at least 100–150 years ago before the question arose – about 1450–1500, so we can assume that at that time there was a Jewish community worthy of that designation, in our town.” Thus Rabbi Pinchas Pesses relies upon the evidence of Mr. Balhass(?), the archivist of the Princess of Aratinska(?), the royal lady of Dubno at the end of the 19th Century who discovered a Latin inscription in the archive's repository referring to “…the small town of Dubno close to the County capital of Ptycha,” confirming the accepted tradition of the local Jews and that the settlement of Jews in Dubno and the surrounding area commenced in the years 1450–1500. He, too, relies on information from 1552, “…that Jews from Dubno bought 309 bulls in Wallachia”, as proof of a Jewish community in Dubno in the middle of the 16th Century.

 

C

The rights of the minority Jewish community in Wohlin during the 16th and 17th Centuries were based on the Lutsk “Bill of Rights”, Brześć and other towns, and the Jewish population did not suffer from discrimination by the princes of Lithuania, with which Wohlin was amalgamated from the middle of the 14th Century. Thanks to that lack of discrimination the Jewish communities of Lithuania and Wohlin expanded in most of the towns and cities and their economic situation was stable, although in Professor Sergei Bershadski's opinion there was much significant poverty among many Jews, as he states: “Large proprietors and exporters from among the Jews were a mere handful and for most of them the returns on their businesses and trading enterprises were small. The ‘fortune’ that most of the Jews had was a mere handful of rubles (at the 1882 exchange rate); more that that – the interest to the Tatars, farmers and the townspeople of loans was so small that the Jewish holder of a so–called ‘fortune’ was himself forced to mortgage his household goods with the priesthood, government officials and ‘nobles’ in order to obtain some cash.”

The annexation of Wohlin to the Polish kingdom by King Sigismund–August in 1569 brought with it many changes in the social and economic structure and had a decisive influence on the whole of Jewish Poland.

At that time the “Council of the Four Lands” was founded in which heads of the Jewish community of Greater Poland (Poznań), Lesser Poland (Krakow), Russia (Podolia, eastern Galicia – Lvov) and Wohlin (after the annexation to Poland). The functions of the Council were: “…to determine and mark the borders of community authority, lest one authority encroaches upon a neighboring one, to clarify and pass judgment on disputes between one community and another and between a community with an individual, to levy taxes, to arbitrate in negotiations between communities in religious, educational and economic matters, to offer counseling in lobbying nobles where necessary[10].”

Among the towns of Wohlin, the fourth of the “Council of the Four Lands” that became prominent after a while was Dubno, mentioned once in the 18th Century while Kremnitz and Ostrów were mentioned in the 17th Century although Dubno was the most important of the Jewish towns in Wohlin and was known as “Greater Dubno” in several books and in the Journal of the “Council of the Four Lands”.

Already in 1634 in the foreword to the book “Torat Hayim” by the Gaon, Abraham Hayim ben Naphtali Hirsch Schor, Father of the Rabbinical Court of the Holy Community of Stanów, printed in Krakow that same year, the following signature occurs: “A short declaration by Tzvi, known as Hirsch (son of my lord and father) the wise Rabbi Ozer (may he be remembered in the world to come), I place my standard, for the time being, here in the Holy Community of Greater Dubno, 1634.”

In 1663, the name “The young Nahman, son of our Rabbi and teacher Meir, Righteous Cohen Rapo–Port[11], may he be remembered in the world to come, who has settled in the Holy Community of “Greater Dubno”, appeared among the signatories of the “Council of the Four Lands” decision not to print “The Shulhan Aruch[12] since it had not been sufficiently edited”. And on the gravestone of the Rabbi, bar Josef of Dubno who died and was buried in Lvov in 1664 is the inscription: “And Moses went up unto G–d on the 9th day of the month Sivan 5425 (1664) being the Great Gaon and Rabbi of our Rabbi and Teacher Rabbi Josef, Father of the Rabbinical Court of Greater Dubno. He taught Torah humbly and modestly nourishing the minds of his generation. May his rest be honorable until the dead are revived.”

[Columns 39–40]

dub039.jpg
The fortress

 

“Greater Dubno”, as such, is mentioned for the first time in 1709 in an “approval” of the book “P'nei Ari Zuta[13]”: “Thus said Shmuel Avraham our Father, Teacher and Rabbi, who has transplanted the Priest from Krakow and settled him in the Holy Community of Greater Dubno, on the 5th day of Tammuz 1709.” While in 1724 one of the Dubno Rabbis together with a Rabbi from Lvov, Lublin, Opatów, Zamość and Krakow signed an approval on a book entitled “Yeffe Mareh” “The diminutive Yehoshua Herschel” our Rabbi and Teacher, the noted Rabbi Eliezer the incumbent of the Holy Community of Greater Dubno on the fourth day of Elul 1724… when the Rabbis of the Four Lands were officially registered in the office of the wise–men of Jarosław” while in the official minutes of Dubno on page 51 column 1 the year 1742 the following signature appears: “41 – Yitzhak Moshe Kahana resident in the Holy Community of Greater Dubno (May it be established on High, Amen), 1742.

We find in the statistical report of 1765 much evidence confirming the large number of Jewish citizens in Dubno, compared to other towns in Wohlin: Dubno– 2492; Lutsk– 1845; Konstantin (new and old)– 1801; Lublin (the town)– 1634; Kowal– 1516; Równe– 1422; Lubivne (Liuboml)– 1226; Kremnitz– 1029. That same year there were 6877 Jews in Brody and 6378 in Lvov.

Regarding the social standing and equal rights situation of Dubno's Jewish population, we learn from an order published in the name of King Wladyslaw IV in the middle of the 17th Century: “The Jews in the town of Dubno will retain the use of their synagogue and use it according to their practices, they may trade and manage their businesses and trading as they were permitted to do before–times. In addition they will pay taxes equally with other citizens since they are in business together with them derive the same benefits…”[14]

[Columns 41–42]

D

At the end of the 16th Century many Jews migrated eastwards from Poland to Ukraine and settled there, but their settlements were razed by the , during the Chmielnicki uprising that reached as far as Poland and tens of thousands of the Jews were killed during the pogroms. In the years 1648–1649 the Chmielnicki Cossacks destroyed many towns in Podolia and Wohlin among them Brześć, Pinsk and Kovrin, Brody, Dubno, Kremnitz and Ostroh and their Jewish residents were put to the sword.

Regarding the destruction of Jewish Dubno, Nathan ben Moses Hannover tells us in his book “Yeven Mezulah[15]: “…And the evil oppressor [Chmielnicki] (May his name be forever blotted out and erased), marched with his army on the Holy Community of Konstantin and from there to the Holy Community of Ostroh the capital. These communities were already destroyed by the soldiers…and from there they marched on the Holy Community of Greater Dubno. There, too, was a strong fortress unlike any in the whole state of Poland … and behold – when the Duke and Nobles fled from the war and remained in Dubno several hundred Jews who were there sought to find refuge in the fortress…and when the ruffians came close to town one prince came in to town with eighty heroic soldiers…and they closed the fortress gates and bolted them and held the fortress and refused entry to the Jews…and one thousand one hundred Jewish souls were slain in front of the fortress…” In that year according to the archives of 1650 there were 47 Jewish homes in Dubno and 141 Christian homes[16]. All the houses became fuel for fires. Additional evidence on the destruction of the Dubno community that same year can be found in the archives of the Principality of Aratinska(?) where it is written: “…the slaughter of the Jews was carried out on the heights by the fortress and on that hill of mourning the people of the G–d of Abraham fell victim to the envy of a cruel people. And the burial place of these martyrs can be found outside the city wall in the grounds of the Great Synagogue and the people of the town went there on the ninth of Av. In a house next to the synagogue was the home of Rabbi Tovia, (Z”L) the ritual slaughterer and inspector, there stands a pillar surrounded by a wooden fence about 2 feet high and it is believed here are buried a bride and groom from among the martyrs of 1649.

A tradition accepted by the Jews of Dubno relates that in that same year of 1649 the daughter, Esther, of Rabbi Meir, the son of Rabbi Moshe Katz Ashkenazi, head of the Religious Court of the Holy Community of Dannhausen, who arrived in Dubno from Mohylów and died in 1643, sister of Rabbi Shabtei Cohen, died as a martyr[17]. The noted Rabbi of that generation, Rabbi Avraham bar Shmuel Ashkenazi delivered a eulogy[18] as follows:

We searched our way and examined it:
In the Holy Community of Dubno the Capital,
As an illuminating crystal,
Replete with soul, counsel and heroism…

On the fifteenth of Tishrei, the Rejoicing of the Law,
The Children of Israel walked to the elegant synagogue
And opened their mouths in song and chant,
And in an aura to thank and praise G–d.

And they finished praying elegantly, with joy and respect
Intending to fulfill the commandment and erect their Succoth rapidly,
A threat and horrifying defilement came,
And murdered hero and heroine
With their children – their crowning glory
And not a trace of them remains…
And four thousand great and small,
Our Rabbi and Teacher, Yehuda, Master of Kabala and tradition,
Careful and quick in memory and preserving,
They bound him up as with a grape–vine…

They killed him by stoning, fire and strangulation
Who can imagine…
And put to the sword some of our Holiest expositors
And a scandal was perpetrated…

 

E

Twenty–three years after the destruction of Dubno's Jewish community by Chmielniki's Cossacks, in December 1671, a French diplomat, Ulrich von Werdum wrote about Dubno in the journal he kept of his travels[19]:

[Columns 43–44]

 

dub043.jpg
Hand–drawn map with numbered locations made by Ulrich von Werdum

1.The village of Raczyn. 2. River Ikva. 3. Convent. 4. The New Castle. 5. The Old Castle. 6. City Hall. 7. Synagogue. 8. Jewish Quarter. 9. Christian Quarter. 10. Italian Stoa. 11. Apostolic Church. 12. Russian Orthodox Church. 13. Russian Orthodox Church. 14. Gateway to the suburb of Zabramna. 15. Bernadyn Monastery. 16. Russian Orthodox Church. To the left of 13 the steep Gorbaczyno(?) slope.

(The map was copied by hand by Abba Fenichel Pinx in 1959)

[Columns 45–46]

“Dubno is a medium–sized town. Its houses are long, but narrow, wooden and over–populated. The streets of the town are straight and long and also the alleys cross them but the whole town is paved. On the edge of Dubno stands an elegant Bernadine monastery with its wide entry. Apart from the monastery there also exists a Catholic church and four Russian houses of worship and also a synagogue for the Jews, all brick–built buildings. Outside the town, on the shores of the lake, rises the monastery of the Russian monks also a brick building and on the other side of the lake opposite the monastery is a wooden convent that houses the Russian nuns.

The town and the castle stand close to the lake on a long ridge on one side of which is the lake and on the other side flows the river Ikva. The Castle is located on the highest edge of the ridge, near the exit to the town. On the widest section of the ridge, approaching the town, two trenches were dug and strong solidly–built batteries although at the extremes the construction was not so strong. Between the embankments is the elegant gateway built of stone, to the town.

“The castle is surrounded with a broad trench on the side facing the town and projections of the walls are faced with stone. The castle has a high wall with several turrets rising up above the walls. From an architectural point of view the roof is flat as is the style in Italy.

“To the left of the castle is a building in the Italian style, a stoa of columns of dwelling places. To the right is a single–storeyed building of stone also containing living quarters. At the edge of this building are a wall and a trench that give entry to the old castle where all the structures are of wood partially surrounded by a wall and towers and partially by an earthen embankment. The old castle is mainly just a pile of rubble. Neither of the castles has been maintained.

From the castle one passes over a long moat–like depression between a marsh and the lakes to the village of Rachyn that is situated on the banks of the lake. A long wooden bridge leads from the town to the moat.

“About twenty–three or twenty–four years ago the Cossacks laid siege on that castle and rained bomb–shells on it but failed to subdue and conquer it. Nevertheless those same Cossacks stormed the town, conquered it and laid waste to it. There is now no bastion to defend it other than the lake…

“We lived with a Jewish man who lighted a candle for his mother–in–law who had died the previous year on this day. Once a year he is obliged to light a memorial candle to her memory. On Friday evening, with sun–down, they lit four candles because there were two women and on the Sabbath eve the Jews are commanded to light two candles for each woman living in the house…”

 

F

65 years after the destruction, in the year 1713 the Jewish population of Dubno was greater than that of the Christians as we learn from the assertion of the noble, Prince Alexander Dominick Lubormirski who granted the city council the right to levy taxes on the Jewish residents amounting to two thirds of the total while the Christians would pay only the remaining one–third while the other obligatory civic works falling upon the citizens – like road–repairs, bridge maintenance – were shared equally among them, Jewish and Christian alike and “a fine of one–thousand Grivna will be the punishment with imprisonment for all defaulters.”

The same Prince Lubormirski issued an order in 1727 in Dubno to the council concerning the Jews specifically[20]:

“Clause 2. Disputes between the Jews and other residents will be adjudicated by the city's chief inspector and claims before the court without the intervention of the chief inspector. The guilty party will be sentenced to seven days' imprisonment under guard.

“Clause 4. The citizens will themselves elect the officers of the city and there will be one Jewish representative from the Community.

“Clause 13. Citizens will not go to the public bath–house together with the Jews but segregated and for that purpose days of the week will be designated for the separate faiths as follows: Tuesdays and Saturdays for the Christians, Thursday and Friday for the Jews. The enforcement of this arrangement will be controlled by the municipal inspectors and offenders will spend four days in the prison. The law will be written into the statute book of Dubno.”

During the reign of the Princes of Lubormirski over Dubno, the extent of Jewish settlement in the town increased and in the 17th Century the Jewish street extended in a straight line from the Zambrama Gate along the Ikva River as far as the Great Synagogue, in the year 1742 Prince Stanislaw Lubormirski sold to “…the Jew of Dubno, Yehuda Libowitz, a plot of land to build a house”[21] in a street close to the Catholic church. His grandson, Berish Roitman built his well–known hostel in 1813. On the same street, close to the same period, the houses of other families: Yoshie “the farmer” and the family home of Joel Mandelkern.

 

G

In spite of the equal rights enjoyed by the Jews of Dubno during the reign of the Princes of Lubormirski, there were, for all that, pressures from the Christian residents as is seen from the record of a trial that was held by the City Council in Dubno in 1716[22]:

[Columns 47–48]

“And this is the verdict brought in by the Magistrates of the City of Dubno, after the required investigation that was undertaken according the City prosecutor in the matter of two women suspected of the heresy of accepting the religion of Israel, on 5th March 1716. According to Dubno town's attorney the townswoman of Vitebsk, the widow Marina Davidovna Surawicza and the townswoman, the maiden Maryna Wojciechówna were taken for questioning for accepting the Hebrew religion. During the investigation the first woman stated that she was the daughter of a Pravoslav Priest of Vitebsk and was married to the Christian David Surawicz and remained with him for ten years. After his death she accepted the Hebrew faith of her own free will and without the intervention of any third party because she heard from her father the Priest what seemed like a suggestion that the Hebrew faith was superior to the Christian one. No one knew that she had converted and during the whole journey from Vitebsk to Dubno she had ridden on horses given to her by the Jews because she had told them she was Jewish and in Dubno she had slept only one night and the following day she had been arrested and brought before the court.

“On being asked: would you consider reconverting to Christianity? She replied she would not and that she would suffer agonies and die as a Jewess as a martyr in the name of the living G–d.

“When she was asked under severe tortures and one hundred and eighty lashes she repeated the words she had spoken at first…

“Maryna Wojciechówna was caught under the wedding canopy during a marriage ceremony to a Jew. She stated that in her home town, Milica, she worked as a housemaid in a Jewish home and after a time moved to another small settlement where the Jewish man, Pasternak and several other Jewish people moved her intensely to the extent that she accepted the religion.

“When asked three times under severe torture and had received sixty–six lashes she said the following and then only after receiving an additional forty–four strokes: ‘Now in my heart I hate the Jewish faith and as before I am a Christian and am prepared to suffer agonies and die for it…’

“Five other Jews were brought to the prison from under the wedding canopy: Ephraim Jacobowitz, the bridegroom of Maryna Wojciechówna; Leib Abramowitz, an inspector of the hospital in whose home the wedding was taking place, Ya'acov Barchowicz, organizer of the ceremony; Leib Mofsowitz, who traveled several days with Marina Woczkowa and Ya'acov Yuspowicz(?), who wrote the ceremonial document.

“This last said that he was ill and was not completely aware of what he was writing. When asked under torture and beaten with a strap, each one of them three times, all of them, unanimously claimed that they did not know she was Christian.

“On the basis of Common Law and the laws of “Speculum Saxonum”[23], anyone who leaves the Christian faith shall be burned with fire, the judges condemn the widow Marina Davidovna Surawicza to have her flesh torn off with pincers and to afterwards be burnt at the stake while her soul yet lives within her; and the maiden Maryna Wojciechówna they sentenced to be decapitated and her remains cremated…

“The Jews, except for the sick Ya'acov Yuspowicz(?), and those from another place, were sentenced to suffer one hundred lashes at the stake and to be banished from the town.

“The citizenry of Dubno, because of their frivolousness either deliberately or unknowingly, in allowing the apostates a place among them for a week and permitting them to carry out the religious ceremony – will pay a fine in wax and wax–candles for the benefit of every house of Christian prayer in the town of Dubno and to the State treasury, the Prince, the castle and the city council and to return to the Christian citizens of Dubno all the expenses of this trial.

“In addition, it is forbidden to the Jews to employ workers and house–servants of the Christian faith from now on and to confine a Christian who works for them to a prison, under a penalty of one hundred Grivna.”

 

H

The Jewish community of Dubno is again mentioned in 1755 at the time of the big dispute concerning the false Messiah Shabtei Tzvi in connection with the ostracism of Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschütz by Rabbi Ya'acov Emdan concerning certain supposedly heretical amulets written by the former “…in the of name of the Lord G–d and his faithful Anointed one, Shabtei Tzvi”[24]:

“With G–d's help, today Tuesday 1754, may we be increased for good, here in Dubno. Ya'acov, our teacher and Rabbi, Rabbi Ya'acov, (may his lamp illuminate us), and I stand on guard in this Holy Community of Konstantin, and afterwards I will make my way to the country of Russia.”

Dubno was also mentioned in the text of the extensive boycott and excommunication against Shabtei Tzvi and his disciples: “Whosoever, within the Holy Community of Lvov and the Holy Community of Lutsk and the Holy Community of Brad and the Holy Community of Dubno and all the associated districts… any man or woman connected with the evil ones mentioned above, making business with them or bargaining with them or eating of their food will be excommunicated as are they…”

[Columns 49–50]

And again the community of Dubno is mentioned when the representatives of the “Council of the Four Lands” congregated near Krakow on the 7th of the month of Av, 12th December 1760, to discuss the situation of the Jews at that time, after the Shabtei Tzvi affair Nathan Ha'azti and Jacob Frank[25] who did great damage to the Jewish world and the Chairmanship of Rabbi Meir ben Joel of Dubno and “…the public image of the ‘Four Lands’.”

This same Rabbi Meir ben Joel was a man of great prominence, generosity and public activity and in 1754, together with other elders of Dubno was a signatory to a decision “…in the, matter of engaging ‘ten community members to be available at all times for prayers and the reading of Psalms’” at public expense and a year later his signature appeared on the acceptance of a rabbi for Dubno.

In 1761 Rabbi Meir ben Joel of Dubno wrote several articles repudiating the blood libels against the Jews of Poland and paid 2400 florins out of his own pocket for their publication. He also made sure that copies of other important documents of the official library were made, thus turning them into official instruments requiring state and priesthood authentication. Three years previously in 1758 a special delegate, Rabbi Ya'acov Eliachim ben Asher Selig from Yampil (Yampola) representing the “Council of the Four Lands” went to Rome and met Pope Benedict XIV to protest the blood libels being carried out against the Jews of Poland[26] and to seek a Bull of protection. His mission entailed high expenses and on his return the presidential committee sat to debate how to compensate him. The receipts, totaling 3,046 Adumin(?) were presented to the committee's Elder, Rabbi Meir of Dubno. The “Council of the Four Lands” had no such sum and decided to levy a one–time tax on every Jewish family. Only the destitute and scholars were exempt and the decision was confirmed in writing on 2nd on Nisan (6th April 1761) by the treasurer of Poland Theodore Wessel.

The following summer the presidential committee of the “Council of the Four Lands” again convened in Piltza near Kraków from 8th to the 18th of Av, – July 1762 – chaired by the Committee's elder, Rabbi Meir of Dubno. Present at that meeting was the County minister as representative of the Minister of Finance Theodore Wessel. At the center of the debate was the question of the large lingering debts owed by the Committee and the Provencies and the Committee decided to reject the claim of the interest and place upon the County committees to cover the fund in four annual payments. The decision was recorded in Polish in order that the authorities will recognize the document. At that same presidential convention of the “Council of the Four Lands” a special tax for the Royal Household was also debated and “…in the presence of the noble gentleman, the Finance Minister and with his agreement…” it was decided to collect that tax and a suitable sum was apportioned to each of the Counties. Four representatives of “Greater Poland” and four representatives of “Lesser Poland” took part and one from the county of Chelm, one from Zamość and the Holy Community of Rzeszów (Reisha)…”

The expenses of the convention – rental of the hall in which the meetings took place, in the amount of 100 Florins and a “tip” for the representative of the treasurer to the amount of 370 Florins – were paid for by the Elder Rabbi Meir ben Joel of Dubno.

And yet again, a year later from 21st – 28th Elul (September 1763), another convention of the “Council of the Four Lands” took place in Piltza and again the chairman was Rabbi Meir ben Joel of Dubno. His deputy was Rabbi Haim Aaron Rappoport, Rabbi and Father of the Beit Din of the Holy Community of Lvov. The meetings confirmed the previous year's decision of paying a special tax to the Royal Household and also confirmed “…the agreement with the Holy Community of Przemyśl (Pshemishl) to return excess if the taxes levied upon them exceeded 1300 Florins. “In addition 1000 Florins were budgeted for the refurbishment of the synagogue in Piltza with the assent of the Minister of Finance who indicated that “...the ‘Council of the Four Lands’ in earlier times would donate funds for the construction of new synagogues.” Therefore “…it is also given to the ‘Council of the Four Lands’ to cover the expenses of Rabbi Meir of Dubno with a payment of 6010 Florins,”

That same meeting of the ‘Council of the Four Lands’ was the last one at which Rabbi Meir ben Joel acted as Chairman and Elder.

Less than a year later on 6th June 1764 on its 24th sitting the Sejm decided to dissolve the “Council of the Four Lands” and the Councils of the various counties and took a census of all the Jews of Poland and imposed on every Jew an annual poll–tax of two Guilders. The State Treasurer formed a “Liquidation committee” that made a demographic and financial survey of the “Council of the Four Lands” and the councils of the counties at the time of their “demise”.

In 1765 Rabbi Meir of Dubno claimed 2,400 Florins from the “Liquidation Committee” owing to him as payment for the publication of his letters four years previously protesting the blood libels and 1,390 Florins for various other expenditures of the Council of the Four Lands but the committee rejected the claim and even fined him 500 Florins for the crime of “forging and searching through public documents.”[27]

 

I

During the sixth decade of the 18th Century the sad fate of Ukrainian Jewry came to pass – the days of the terror Chmielnicki Riots that spread to the Jewish towns and villages of Poland. The Hetman Maksym Zalizniak and his Heidmak brigades raided cities and villages in Poland and carried out slaughters of Jews and Poles alike.

[Columns 51–52]

The reaction of Dubno's Jews was the declaration of a year of mourning in 1761 which was stated thus: “Our disbelieving ears have heard and our souls languish in sadness and our eyes are dimmed from the tragedies and libelous lies…we have been sent like lambs to the slaughter, debased, dishonored, shamed…therefore we place upon our souls a whole year of lamentation from today in order to mourn appropriately this great devastation. We will inflict upon our souls for a whole year the wearing of our ordinary clothes on the Sabbath, men and women, and on feast days no festive wear will be seen for this year, only Sabbath and weekday clothing. Nor will we wear silver and gold ornaments or even a bracelet, and silver– and gold–plated will be forbidden for six years.[28] Only a head–scarf will be worn by women on Shabbat, gold and silver will be plain and simple and not beaten even on festivals. All this in our community alone, but traveling we shall allow our citizens to wear the normal dress, especially for weddings. It is also forbidden to send honey in silver containers or to wear fine silk. We will not go to celebrations and even for a Mitzvah and certainly for any other gathering and we will not send friends wine or such.

“All of the above is being enacted with the agreement of the distinguished leaders of the community on this day 19th day of Tammuz ) 5521 (21st July, 1761) together with Rabbi the Gaon, lover of justice, head of the Bet–Din and Yeshiva. His honor the Rabbi and his household are not included in the prohibitions. Signed Arieh Leib and David ben Nisan and the Reverend Yehoshua Heschel and Reverend Kalonimus–Kalman…”

 

J

The liquidation of the Polish Kingdom by command of the ethnographic unit of the state following the division of the country among three of its neighbors – Russia, Austria and Prussia in the space of three years, 1772, 1793 and 1795 led to basic fundamental changes in the lives of the Jewish population and ruptured the thread of the unified and fixed life–style – habits, traditions and its deep–rooted, many–branched autonomic structure. Wohlin and with it Dubno became part of the expanding Russian empire.

For almost one–hundred and fifty years, from the days of the Chmielnicki Riots of 1648 and 1649 until the final dissolution of the Kingdom of Poland in 1795, the Jewish community of Dubno prospered and expanded and its number increased from 235 souls (47 families), in 1650 to 2525 souls (331 families), in 1788 in the town of Dubno and together with is suburbs and satellite villages 3022 souls.

The economic standing of Dubno's Jews during those years can best be illustrated by the following numbers:

In the year 1765 Dubno was owed 18,000 Polish Guilder by the Wohlin–Kiev State Council as repayment for excess taxes that had been paid to the Council.

In 1778 the Dubno community collected “a large amount of silver” as ransom to redeem “many souls” imprisoned in a private prison of Pan Wieliczka, the owner of the village Kopalnia.

In 1792, just before the second division of the Kingdom, the community of Dubno went bankrupt.

 

K

After the annexation of Wohlin by Russia Dubno became the most important commercial center in the western area of the Russian Empire. Especially prominent was the trade in agricultural products although there was significant trade in furs, hides and livestock at the “Dubno Fairs”. Jewish traders came from all parts of “old” Poland to these fairs. Dubno was also a center for the export and import trade dealing with the various Principalities of Germany and with Hungary, from where they imported wines in wholesale quantities.

Indeed, even before the annexation there were big traders in Dubno who attended famous fairs in Leipzig, Saxony and in 1728 the businessman Herschel Isaac from Dubno, accompanied by his bailiff Michael Samuel and also from Dubno the businessman Laybl Lipmann; Raphael Moshe also a trader from Dubno visited Leipzig in1755.

In 1774, two years after the annexation of Eastern Galicia and Lvov to the Kingdom of Austria the Contractors' Fair transferred from Lvov to Dubno “in consequence of which a powerful industry developed.”[29] The fair took place annually in Dubno until the annexation of Wohlin by Russia in 1794 and then transferred to Kiev and what had been called in Dubno “The Contractors' Fair” until after the First World War was nothing more than a congregation of horse dealers from Podolia as far as north Wohlin, who would meet there in July each year.

[Columns 53–54]

 

dub053.jpg
A map of the “Four Lands” – the dated is not legible

[Columns 55–56]

That same year 1794 the first Hebrew printing–house in Dubno was established by Yohanan ben Ya'acov from Wilamowice in Silesia[30] where he had been a proof–reader for the Krϋgera publishing–house in Nowy Dwór and later an agent for a commercial house in Warsaw dealing in books. The Printing–house was established with the assistance of the Master–Printer Michal Piotrowski and together they were “partners and involved in the art”.[31] The town's administrator, Prince Michael Lubormirski, granted them permission to open the printing–house and as a mark of recognition, they printed on the opening page of their books the noble Family escutcheon of his House crowned in which were intertwined the initials of the Prince M.L.

The typesetters were Nathan Fajtel (Z”L) the brother of Yohanan, who had been a type–setter at the Krieger printing–house in Nowy Dwór – “the type–setter who sets type so elegantly in new type – to pass on his lore to posterity”; Benjamin ben Tzvi Hirsch (Z”L) of the Holy Community of Wishnowitz (Wishnewitz, Wisnewitz, Wiśniowiec) – The press operator was Josef the son Of Shlomo from the Holy Community of Ostrów.

The process of proof–reading and editing was carried out by Yohanan the printer, himself because it was his favorite task and the “apple of his eye” and he would rid the books of errata and his first printed book “Shibolei Haleket[32] he prefaced with the following: “May the creator be blessed and eternally praised with wonderful prayers, since all beginnings are difficult especially printing with new letters {fonts? – trans.}, therefore I will make a comment lest I be accused of evil intent and my stature…it ails me that the reader of this book should find an occasional error possibly even the most minor one, therefore do not place me on the scales of demerit, for I have already expressed my apologies…may the Almighty judge us and console us with Zion and Jerusalem and bring upon us goodness without end…”

About twenty years after the annexation, 1816–1819, after Napoleon's failed attack on Russia, Dubno traders supplied textiles to the reorganizing armies of Tsar Alexander the First. From 1852–1883 in the reign of Tsar Nikolai the First, the tradesmen of Dubno were among the most important clients of the Berdyczów (Bardichev), Fair during the period when the Fair was the most important and publicized one in Russia and took a leading place together with Jewish traders from Vilna, Brest–Litovsk, Shklow (Shklov) and Ostrów as Russian exporters to Prussia and Austria.

It was during this period that the industry of fur hat–making also developed in Dubno and the products sent all over Russia The raw material – untreated sheepskin – were brought from Poltava, in Ukraine.

The economic situation of Jewish Dubno at that time was good although not always was the financial situation of the community as a whole always so. On occasion when the Community Council was short of money the Council would borrow money from the Church at low interest. It was quite regular throughout Poland at that time because Christianity did not permit the lending of money to Christians for interest according to the Papal directive therefore the Church loaned its money to the Jews and they used it either for their own needs or they re–loaned it to Christians…

 

L

The lives of the Jewish community in Dubno were well organized almost from the first days of their settlement in the town and from 1715 a “Community Journal” was kept for more than a hundred years. “The Journal” opened “with the light of day 19th Iyar 1715 as has been shown and closed “Sunday 12th Av 1823.”

The organization of the Community is described in the “Journal” on page 34 1747 as follows:

The Community Council was composed of four “Elders”, three other residents of High standing” and six from the general ranks of the citizens. Adjunct to the Council were the following treasurers: a committee of six senior treasurers, a committee of Charities and a treasury committee of the two synagogues in town each one numbering three members. In addition there were three rabbinical courts in town each one staffed by three “Dayanim” (Rabbinical judges).

Jewish artisans were organized in their own unions operating according to their internal constitutions. There were Unions for tailors, furriers, weavers, butchers, bakers and a “Company of Bartenders”.

The Community Council carried out assessments of the taxes due to the “Council of the Four Lands” and the regional councils and the community leaders had the right to execute a “Right of Exemption” to Rabbis, and wealthy benefactors of the community from these taxes and occasionally from among themselves also – a procedure that was acceptable to the ruling houses of Poland concerning “special privileges”.

One of the severest ordinances that the Community Council corrected was the “Prohibition by Boycott” that effectively stopped Jews from purchasing houses or “foreign Territory” from Christians and even to rent from them apartments and shops. It was an “ancient

[Columns 57–58]

dub057.jpg
Frontispiece of the book “The Apple of My Eye”
Printed in Dubno in the year 1798 in which appears the “Coat of Arms” of Prince Michael Lubormirski

 

[Columns 59–60]

ordinance” Exceptions were those who were able to donate to the community large sums and undertook to pay all the Council's taxes. The explanations for the ordinance were to prevent the Jews from intermingling with the Christians in order not to be liquidated in times of woe and in order to prevent Jews from evading the general levy of taxes on the Community and to preserve the purity of the Jewish family in danger of being assimilated if they lived among the Christians.

The Council preserved the fairness of trade in the market and shops and in accordance with an ordinance from the year 1717 it was forbidden to middle–men to purchase goods themselves “in order to inflate a higher price”. They were also forbidden for them to go to the shops with a Christian or his master”. In 1775 an additional ordinance was passed that forbade “market regulars” who dealt in fruit and haberdashery to return as merchants.

The Community Council also regulated public institutions – the bath–house, the ritual bath, the treasury and the cemetery; on charity – a collection–box was used every day of the year for approved necessities and especially on the eve of the Day of Atonement; on the dress of men and the adornments of women, the arrangements for parties and festivals; on the Talmud Torah, study–house for children, aid for the needy and the dowry for the bride.

There were plenty of frictions as well and in the middle of the 18th Century the Community leaders “shut down” the unions of the artisans because of their “anti–establishment” opposition. The artisans took an openly aggressive stand against the authoritarian stand of the Council's heads although they, because of their connections with the Government and especially the “lord of the town” Prince Józef Aleksander Jabłonowski, succeeded in 1765 in acquiring a dissolution order to liquidate the unions of the weavers, the butchers and bakers and forbade them to reorganize, with the claim that “the artisans suppress the needy of the community”.

Nevertheless, a year later, in 1776, the Community heads were compelled to recant because the new ordinances of the Council determined that in a special meeting three “prefects” will be elected and in their hands will be the authority to inspect the expenses and incomes of the Community heads. It was also ordained that the town elders would also be “denied the right to grant themselves a monthly salary or demand a fee for their signatures for official documents of the Community”.

In continuation of the struggle between the artisans and the Community heads, in 1781 and again in 1793, a correction was made to the system of payment of the special taxes for Kosher meat and the system of payment by the community “in order to prevent more shouts of despair from the poor and to lighten the load of the people”. In 1793 an ordinance was enacted obliging the residents to pay a slaughtering fee and the special tax “even if they are not coming to town during the High Holydays”.

 

M

In conclusion, it is interesting to present a few details on the growth of the Jewish population in Dubno during two periods: The Polish authority during the years 1650–1788 and that of Russia from 1796–1897.

According to the Polish census the Jewish population of Dubno numbered as follows:

1650 47 Jewish homes and 470 souls[33] 144 Christian homes 1440 souls
1765 178 Jewish homes and 1795 souls 391 Christian homes
1788 321 Jewish homes and 252 souls 106 Christian homes.

In 1796 the Russian authorities declared Dubno to be the County capital and the Jewish urban population numbered as follows:

1797 Urban Jews – 2780 souls
1799 2799 souls
1803 2784 souls
1847 6339 souls
  Urban Christians – 7149 souls
1897 Urban Jews 7108 souls

The number of Dubno Jews after the First World War in 1921 was 5315 souls.

 

Translator's Footnotes
  1. Vytautus (Lithuanian)– 1350–1430 Return
  2. Brest, Brest–Litovsk, Brisk–de–Lita {Brisk (of) Lithuania – Yiddish}. Return
  3. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillebert_de Lannoy Return
  4. From the book “A Study of the History of the Jews and the Karaite sect” by Thaddeus Chaczyk, this appeared in 1807 and quoted Bishop Comedani's book of 1614, published in Paris. Return
  5. Prof. Sergei Aleksandrovich Bershadski “The Jewish–Russian Archive” Petersburg, 1882, Vol. A', pp184–185. Return
  6. Mentioned in the book “The Town of Dubno and her Sons” by Rabbi Pinchas bar Yesheyahu Pesses of Dubno, Krakow 1902 Return
  7. Translator's comment: A thorough search of many relevant sources on the internet both Hebrew and English failed to discover any book of that name, especially not one ascribed to this renowned and holy author or his equally illustrious family. However the Rabbi is known to be the author of a book entitled “The Gates of Heaven” that he wrote as a testament and willed to his children which is still today a much acclaimed spiritual guide and it is possible that our present writer made an error when writing the title – unless itself is a chapter in “The Gates of Heaven”. Return
  8. An acronym derived of the words Shtei Luchot Ha–Brit which means “Two Tablets of the Covenant ” the nickname of the author himself Rabbi Isaiah bar Avraham Ha–Levi Horowitz known for his book:“The Tablets of the Covenant” Return
  9. In his book “The Glory of the Levites” Warsaw 1902. Return
  10. Prof. Tzvi Hirsh Graetz: “Chronicles of Israel” Vol. 7: pp351–352. Return
  11. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rappaport Return
  12. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shulchan_Aruch Return
  13. Printed in Wilmersdorf, Germany, in 1680 Return
  14. Matthias Barzon “Diplomacy” Return
  15. “The Abyss of Despair” Published by the United Kibbutz Movement, 1944. See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_ben_Moses_Hannover Return
  16. South–West Russian Archives Year ‘B’, vol. 42. Return
  17. Shabtei Cohen (1621–1662), Rabbi and expounder of the Talmud, one of the greatest such of his generation. He was a noted Dayan (Judge), in Vilna and later a Rabbi in Dreznitz and later Holešov. He described the riots and pogroms of 1648–9 in his book “Megillah Afah”. There are those who believe that his sister Esther was the basis for Shaul Tchernichovsky's heroine in the ballad “The Rabbi's daughter” during the riots that opens “Let the youth of Dubno be praised…” Return
  18. The eulogy can be found in the book “Treasures of Literature” by Isaac Shaltiel Graber, Krakow (1888) and also in Haim Yona Gorland's book: “History of the (Chmielnicki pogroms) Edicts”. Return
  19. Translated in its entirety to Polish and appearing in the book “Foreigners in Poland” by Ksawery Liske, Lvov 1876. The [Hebrew] translation presented here is from that work pp167–168. Return
  20. From the book “Greater Dubno” by H.Z. Margoliot, p. 11. Return
  21. According to an original document, written on parchment signed and sealed with heavy wax seal “Guardian of the Great Seal; Military Commander of His Highness the Prince Stanislaw Lubormirski”. Return
  22. Op. Cit., H.Z. Margoliot. Return
  23. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sachsenspiegel and also: https://www.wdl.org/en/item/11620/ et. al. Return
  24. Rabbi Ya'acov Emden “Edut be–Ya'acov” p. 55; col. A. See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Emden et. al. Return
  25. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Frank and http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6279–frank–jacob–and–the–frankists Return
  26. See: https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tje/e/eliakim–ben–asher–selig.html Return
  27. Most of the material cited in this section was extracted from “Journals of the ‘Council of the Four Lands’” pps 416–440. Return
  28. Author's own footnote suggests that the statement was intended to read “six months.” Return
  29. “Greater Dubno” by Rabbi Haim Mordecai Margoliot Return
  30. May years previously he had also been a resident of Dubno and from 1768–1782 was a distinguished “Elder”. Return
  31. See the excerpts in columns 111–112 in the “Journal of Greater Dubno” Return
  32. Rabbi Zedkiyahu ben Avraham Harofeh (13th Century) Return
  33. From the national census carried out on the number of houses, estimating an average of ten souls per dwelling. Return

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Dubno, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Binny Lewis
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 16 Jun 2019 by MGH