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[Pages 137-138]

Chapter 9: The Situation in the 18th century

Translated by Myra Yael Ecker


The conflict with the municipality. The outset of the Frankist Movement. The debate at Lwów (1759). The conflict of the townspeople against the Jewish trade. The intervention of chancellor Andrzej Młodziejowski. The Jewish craftsmen and their organizations. The relationships within the community. The conflicts between the community elders. The election war. The accusations and lawsuits. The community–leader Moszka ben Icek–Mękis [Menkis] and his seizure of power. Disagreements and confusion within the communities.


In the 18th century a sharp decline occurred in the life of the town and the Jewish community. The municipality which had sunk into heavy debts did not take care of such essential needs as: the repair of roads and the town–walls, cleanliness and so on. The sanitation was in a deplorable state and endangered the health of the inhabitants. All building control was also suspended. The economic and cultural status was low and even renowned merchants and townspeople were illiterate.[1]

Due to the wars, many from the privileged sections of society left the town for towns in the East which had developed economically, such as Brody, Żółkiew and Buczacz. The town's poor state worried even King August III who, on the 7th December 1735, ordered the Starosta and the municipality to investigate the reasons for the decline, and to start repairing the dilapidated buildings and roads. 300 houses had been abandoned by their owners due to the burden of taxes. As encouragement, the King reintroduced the freedoms and privileges of the townspeople, but to no avail. The municipality leaders continued to be occupied with court–cases against the Jews at vast expense.

On the 11th February 1735, during August III's visit to Lwów, they obtained from him an order which severely charged the Jews to clear all roads outside the Jewish Quarter. Indeed, they were still granted to sell merchandise on Ruska Street for one whole year .

Concurrently a special committee was appointed to force the Jews to sign a suitable contract with the municipality. But the Jews refused to negotiate a new contract with the municipality on that occasion, as it did not offer them the freedom to trade, which they already had. They were aware that the municipality whose income declined daily, had no power to harm them.

Despite its weakness, the municipality continued its battles against the Jews, with the struggle reaching its peak in 1759. For the Jews of Lwów it proved to be a disastrous year during which negotiation with the municipality and the craftsmen's guilds about their right to live and trade in the town, had come to an end. As previously said, there were only 49 plots of land in the Jewish Quarter and the congestion increased daily.

Despite the prohibition forbidding Christians from selling to Jews real–estate outside the [Jewish] Quarter, in 1660 Jews purchased a large building at the corner of Serbska [Street] and “Szockim Targu” (Boimów No. 23–25) from Jakób Leszczyński, and managed to have their property registered with the land–registry. In 1692, once they had paid the relevant taxes, the property was registered in the names of his heirs, Symche Libermanowicz and Icko [Izak] Moszkowicz. Half the property passed down to Chaim, and later to Anczel Jakubowicz, who also purchased the other half, in 1751.

In 1742, the Drohobych [Drohobycz] Jew Abraham purchased (for 36,000 Gulden) the building on the corner Blacharska–Ruska, adjacent to the Jewish Quarter, from the nobleman Waclaw Karsza, It had been built by the Ruthenian Piotr Siemionowicz Affendyk (“kamieniczki Affendykowskie” [old Affendyk]). That caused an uproar within the municipality. In August 1745, a special committee ruled that the Jews had to vacate the building immediately, but Abraham of Drohobych who counted on his relationship with the nobles, did not move out. On the 6th February 1750, the community–leader Lewko Bałaban purchased the third house outside the Quarter, No. 7 Serbska Street.

The municipality pursued lawsuits over the title of those properties. The cases lasted for years. Investigative committees were launched, enquiries were conducted, the Jews submitted appeals and always succeeded in “settling their affairs”, with the help of the Voivode, and Prince August Czartoryski.

In 1757, decided to bring the matter to an end to its advantage, the municipality sent to Warsaw two representatives, Tomasz Frank and Franciszek Solski. According to them, money was required to placate the nobles, and so, on the 12th December 1757 the municipality decided to levy a special tax on the townspeople in order to pay for all the expenses related to those lawsuits.

The Jews engaged the lobbyists from the Council of Four Lands,

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to influence members of the “asesoria królewska”[2] (the royal court of appeal at Warsaw). And it was decided to send to Lwów a delegate with the authority to reach a final decision, with no right of appeal by either side.

At the beginning of 1758, a royal commission headed by Feliks Czacki, royal cupbearer and Starosta of Nowogród,[3] arrived at Lwów. Azryel and Szlomą Malowany appeared for the Jews. After collecting evidence from the townspeople and the Jews, sentence was passed on the 12th February 1759,[4] compelling the Jews to vacate their accommodations and shops located outside the Jewish Quarter. Jewish house owners were ordered to sell their houses to Christians, within six months. A special committee was also appointed to supervise the execution of the sentence, by the 12th June 1759.

That sentence hit also hard the trading rights which the Jews had had, since they were now obliged to limit their trade and work. In accordance with contracts with the municipality, the Jews were permitted to trade solely in four types of merchandise, and craftsmen were almost forbidden from following their crafts.

Naturally, jubilation spread among the townspeople, and the municipality published its sentence to commemorate the complete downfall of the Jews.

The Jews did not surrender and took measures to delay meanwhile the execution of the sentence. Besides the house owners, the community also lobbied on the issue. On the 17th March 1759, Jan Krogulski representing the community, submitted a lawsuit against the municipality and its institution. Then, on the 17th April 1759, an appeal was lodged with the court of appeal on the grounds that the verdict, to the detriment of the Jews, relied on false information.

Meanwhile, Lewko Bałaban and Aron Abrahamowicz attracted supporters and interceders among the nobility, and the Lwów lobbyist Reb. Chaim Kormisz[5] travelled to Warsaw to represent the community.

Fearing that the Jews might be successful in having the implementation postponed, the municipality sent a special representative to Warsaw.

Immediately after the publication of the verdict however, and enraged over the Frankist libel claiming that Jews used Christian blood at Passover [Pessach], the Christian mob celebrated its victory and burst into Jewish shops, raided, robbed property and destroyed houses. On the 13th March 1759, the community–leaders submitted a memorandum describing the riots and damages which amounted to 247,901 Gulden.

The municipality was right to be concerned. The Jews did not move and did not consent to vacating the houses and shops. A whole host of new lawsuits ensued, which passed down to the Austrian rule.[6]

After that calamity, a serious crisis related to the dispute with the Frankists befell the Jews of Lwów, in 1759. It was spread over seven meetings in July, August and September of 1759.

The Frankist movement took no roots within the Lwów community although Frank's devotee, Lejb Krysa, had arrived there and started his propaganda in 1754. He did succeed however in attracting a number of believers who welcomed Frank on his arrival at Lwów in December 1755. Among those was a twenty years old man who had taken 50 Ducats from his parents in order to purchase honey, but then travelled to Salonika with Frank. At Lwów, Frank resided in a house near the Halicz [Halych] gate, known to the Jews as “house of darkness”, and it was hard to tell what went on there. According to evidence he held there lewd gatherings.

Some of his sympathizers dared provoke the anger of the Jews with their actions. On a Saturday, one of them rode his horse in front of the house of Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, the town rabbi, and lit his pipe. Such misbehaviour angered the Rabbi and the Jews, and they complained to the archbishop, and asked for permission to punish the offender harshly. With his permission, the offender was placed in a pit according to the testimony of the Rabbi from Biala Podlaska. According to another version, he was sentenced to death and was not interred in the Jewish cemetery but under a tree on the highway.[7]

Due to the Jews' anger it appears that Frank was obliged to leave Lwów and go to Dawidow. His departure brought joy and satisfaction, and according to Birkenthal they were rid of a malignant disease, and the “house of darkness was burnt down to the ground and the woman who participated in the lewd acts died in her sin, while the house owner re–embraced Judaism and accepted penance for his sins.”[8]

Faced with the mood of the Christian masses in 1759, and following the judgement by the royal commission, the community–leaders lobbied Lwów's priesthood, the nuncio and even behind the scenes, in order to delay the debate with the Frankists. And that, since the Frankists' representatives had declared their desire to prove openly and clearly from the Talmud, that Jews required Christian blood and used it.

Some 600 of Frank's sympathizers arrived from all over Poland, Podolia, Ukraine, Wallachia, Hungary and some even from Turkey. They were poor and barefoot, and Frank intended

[Pages 141-142]

to convert them to Christianity, but for the Jews they were like explosives.

Fear befell the Jews in the weeks between the debates, and especially prior to the debates of the 27th August and 10th September. In these the Frankists claimed that “the Talmud teaches of the need for Christian blood, and anyone believing in the Talmud is obliged to use it”. Consequently, the town governor stationed military guards around the Jewish Quarter.

The peace was further disturbed when Frank arrived in town with all his possessions, on Sabbath the 25th August. On Sunday, the Church beadle invited Rabbi Chaim Rapoport and his associates to come to a debate, the following day. Directly after, the generals, the counts and the leaders of both communities of Lwów assembled and decided to declare a public fast on the Monday “Everyone, down to suckling babes will fast without redemption”. They all agreed to the fast, but the debate was postponed to the 10th September. The Jews were glad that the storm they had feared did not materialise. The Frankists were convinced that the debate on the use of Christian blood would provoke the Christians to riots, so to confront the evil and its danger, Lwów's community–leaders assembled in the Rabbi's house on the 28th August 1759,[9] and decided to resort to bribes since they realized that they would not convince the priests of the truth, through argument.

The community members spent 1,026 Gulden on the debate with the opponents of the Talmud, a sum with which the Land's Council reimbursed the community when debts were settled in 1765.

The controversy with the Frankists aroused great interest in Lwów. Many Christians paid 15 Groszy entrance fee to attend those debates.[10]

1759 passed with only minor crises, but the struggle with the municipality over trade and dwelling rights, resumed. Not content with its 1759 victory, the municipality joined Poland's other towns in actions against the Jews. In March 1765, the municipality of Lwów together with the municipalities of Kraków, Poznan, Lublin etc., submitted a petition to the Sejm at Warsaw over the destruction of the town and its economics due to the trade, crafts and leasing by Jews.

Based on the petitions, the 1768 Sejm focused on the towns' problem.

The noblemen were unwilling to make concessions to the townspeople, and the Sejm increased further the starostas' authority over finance and jurisdiction. In order to compensate the townspeople for curtailing their authority, the Sejm agreed a statute forbidding the Jews to trade, distill or engage in any craft other than those within the framework of the agreements. Towns which had no agreements with the Jews were to follow earlier town agreements. That statute encouraged farther Lwów's townspeople to fight the trade and crafts by Jews, to confiscate their goods, to close down their shops and so on.

Despite the royal commission's ruling, the struggle continued between the townspeople and the Jews who did not easily surrender to it, and who found stratagems to continue their trade as before.

The Christian tradesmen and shop owners were naturally interested in eliminating the Jewish trade, and limiting it solely to the Jewish Quarter. But yet again they achieved no significant results. The wealthy merchants insisted on the rights they had been granted in the privileges, which permitted Jews to trade solely in merchandise not available in Christian shops. In particular, they were forbidden to trade in fabric, especially if sold by the cubit.

The Jews took no heed of that. In 1744, in its lawsuit against the Jewish wholesalers Dawid Heszles and Izak [Icek] (of Brody), however, the municipality was granted a decision by the podvoivode's law–court,[11] stating that they had to sell the entire fabric stock or remove it from Lwów by a set date. They were forbidden to bring any more fabric into town or into the suburbs to sell by the cubit. Their demand to prevent the Jews from any trade or sale was rejected by the law–court on the grounds that the Jews had debts and that they had to be given the opportunity to clear them. Also, preventing trade would damage the Orders and the creditors of the Jews. The Jews, just at that point, had bought silk fabrics, pearls, corals and goods from the East, and they were travelling back and forth to towns and small towns in Wolyn [Volhynia] and Ukraine.

The merchants' guild (confraternity) established at Lwów in 1767, had its regulations approved by King Stanislaw Poniatowski on the 26th September 1767. It was set up to secure advantages of import for its members, and it continued to oppose Jewish trade which it considered damaging. The merchants were particularly keen that any imports the Jews received from abroad – Frankfurt am Main, Danzig [Gdańsk], Leipzig, Breslau [Wroclaw] or Hungary – be sold retail to the town's Christian merchants, and not wholesale. According to their suggestion the goods should have been confiscated from the offenders, with half given to the treasury and half to the merchants' guild.

A special article (§24) discusses the Jewish merchants who had destroyed the Christian trade, and that consequently the Jews should be forbidden from trading within the town, unless, with the guild's agreement they would sign a contract (pact) with the municipality.

[Pages 143-144]

With no signed contract, all goods and objects should be confiscated from any Jew who dared trade within the town, except for on days of a fair.[12]

Article (§31) stated that the trade in grains, timber, dates and leather was permitted solely to the guild's members, apart from a quantity of skins which they would contractually allow Jews.[13]

The townspeople were unsuccessful in their attempts to eliminate the Jewish trade. And that, since the nobles and the clergy to whom Jewish individuals and communities owed vast sums – (in 1765, the Lwów community's debt to noblemen, clergy and Orders, amounted to 381,999 Gulden)[14] – were interested in collecting the capital as well as the interest. To this end, they tended to side with the Jews and enabled them to continue in their practices.

In the middle of the 18th century spiteful suits were brought against Jewish mediators (barysznicy) by Christian retailers, according to whom Christian trade was harmed and the price of goods increased. In 1742, a ruling reduced the number of mediators who required a joint license from the congregation and the deputy–voivode's authorities.[15]

The wholesale merchants who were interested in Jewish agents and mediators, for their own trade with foreign merchants, held a different view.

Since the Jews were also moneychangers, and they were blamed for distributing counterfeit coins,[16] the deputy–voivode [podvoivode] demanded from the community that only people known for their uprightness be permitted to be moneychangers.[17] The authorities announced that they would severely punish any Jewish moneychanger caught swindling.

Without a contract with the municipality in place, the economic life was in a strange state. Admittedly however, the authorities, especially the deputy–voivode's law–court, showed understanding for the resulting situation. When lawsuits were brought against Jewish merchants over illegal trading, the authorities took into consideration the debt burden of the Jews, and that they had no option but to deal[18] in any trade in order to make a living.

Shortly before the first partition of Poland, the relationship between the municipality and the Jews deteriorated again, on account of a special tax of 5,115 Gulden. The community–elder Zelman Pinkas submitted a letter in the name of Lwów's Jews, to Andrzej Młodziejowski, the chancellor of the Crown at Warsaw, complaining against the municipality, its treatment and the unbearable tax burden.

On the 7th January 1771, the chancellor [Kanclerz], instructed the Starosta to investigate the matter, since “the Jews are our colleagues and it is improper to demand unfair things from them.” In his letter to the Lwów municipality he recommended they stop the special tax levy since the Jews were already burdened with heavier taxes than the rest of the town's population. Aware that the Jews did not lack patronage, the municipality had to pursue a sensible policy to prevent them from calling upon their protectors.[19]

In the 18th century, Lwów remained one of the principal Jewish trade centres. According to a census from 1764,[20] a fairly accurate list remains of the occupation of Lwów's Jews:

Of the 6,142 souls, 3,060 were men, of whom 1,460 were qualified to work. In fact, there were 834 breadwinners (57.3%), while 626 men (42.7%) were unemployed.

78 Jews (5.3%) were employed in trade and industry; 335 (22.9%) in crafts, 17 (1.1%) distillers and lessees; 295 (20.2%) employees, servants, coachmen, porters, assistants; 109 (7.8%) community clerks and various professions.

In 660 villages within the entire Lwów region, there were 6,783 Jews, of whom 3,400 were men, with 1,400 of them qualified to work. 1035 (69%) men were engaged in work: 764 (51%) of those were distillers and lessees; 14 (0.9%) in trade and industry; 29 (2.5%) in crafts; 190 (12.7%) in house and farm services; 38 (2.5%) Torah teachers and similar.

At the fairs, the Jews facilitated barter and leasing with estate owners. The trade in wine brought from Hungary through Lwów, was of great significance.[21]

The 18th century saw improvement in the organization of Jewish craftsmen's associations. Apart from the associations which had long existed, in 1727 were also established the Jewish tinsmiths', and glaziers' associations. The pedlars also gathered in an organization when their standing worsened.

On the 21st May 1754, the regional rabbi together with the leaders of the two communities, composed a special amendment to the satchel pedlars' association[22] (cechu torbiarze) to regulate their affairs and relationships.

In their satchels the pedlars carried panels, edging ribbons and haberdashery, on commission from traders. There were also women pedlars.

In 1761, the association's regulation was approved by the deputy–voivode's Office.

The congregation–elder Moszko Mękis [Menkis] was nominated association patron. In line with the practices of the craftsmen's associations, until the election the following were appointed association–leaders: Kisiel [Jekutiel] Kisielowicz, Abraham Józefowicz, Giecel Dawidowicz and Jakób Jankielowicz

All financial matters they litigated before the rabbi or the urban prefect, and all other issues, before the patron

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and the association–leaders. Any appeals were brought to the deputy–voivode's Office.

Article 3 of the regulation warned the pedlars against unfair competition by reducing the price of goods. It was also prohibited to send women to sell goods.

Pedlars who had business and income, were removed from the association's list.

The organization of the craftsmen's associations was also established.

All internal disputes were settled by an internal law–court led by a patron. His judgement could be disputed at the law–court of the deputy–voivode who also oversaw the craftsmen's associations. Disputes between craftsmen and their apprentices exceeded the association's jurisdiction and were subject to his authority.

Whenever patrons exploited their position to the detriment of the association, the decision rested with the deputy–voivode's law–court. One knows for example of the 1770 case, when the furriers' association blamed its patron, Moszko Landys, for taking payments contrary to the association's custom: three Gulden for canopies used in Jewish weddings, and eight Gulden for letter writing. The matter was noted as gross extortion, besides the corruption he perpetrated for his own gratification. The law–court dismissed the patron and instructed the association, in accordance with the regulations, to elect another patron from among Lwów's citizens.[23]

The patrons and association–leaders paid strict attention to the maintenance of internal discipline and the association's authority, ensuring that no meeting took place without their knowledge, and no work was undertaken surreptitiously. In the tinsmiths' association, for example, it was customary for any work above 40 Gulden to be distributed among the craftsmen, by lot. The association–leaders safeguarded that craftsmen kept to producing products in their own craft and not subsidiary products.[24]

Indeed, the conflicts with the Christian guilds that were interested to undermine the existence of the Jewish craftsmen, increased.[25]

Trials against the Jews brought to the deputy–voivode's law–court by the guilds of leather workers, tanners, carpenters, glaziers and barbers are mentioned in documents.[26] The relationship with the tanners in particular was increasingly fraught. The Christian tanners accused the Jewish ones of illegally exporting leather abroad, and thus pushing up prices. In 1754, they sued the merchant Eliasza Moszkowicz, on the grounds that he bought and sold abroad all the leather.[27]

In general, the Christian craftsmen's guilds were keen to secure low–cost raw materials for their members, and were therefore interested to secure a ban over export.

On the other hand, they persecuted their colleagues who did not join guilds and produced shoddy work without permission. They adopted particularly stringent measures against the “non–experts” (partacze), persecuting especially the textile workers (“Flickschneider”) who helped the Jewish craftsmen.

With the decline and corruption in Poland generally during the Saxon dynasty, things did not run smoothly within the community either.

The Lwów community Council was made up of 4–8 leaders and 3–6 good–men; each great synagogue had 3–5 managers; 3–4 judges acted in the law–court; there were 3–6 appraisers; 5–6 arbitrators were elected to levy the Rabbi, cantor or judge. Apart from them there were 5 managers of the Eretz Israel [Erec Izrael] fund.[28] In the 1740s, the community–leaders were: Józef Cymeles, Józef Rabinowicz, Szmujł Dups and Icek [Izak] Minceles.

Rather than looking after the community's needs, they exploited their position to their own advantage. That was brought to a halt by the community treasurer Lewko Rawski, who filed a protest and complaint against them at the deputy–voivode's law–court since they had brought the community to bankruptcy.[29]

In 1742, the deputy–voivode's law–court was compelled to threaten the community–leaders Izrael Szmuklerz and Litman to relieve them of their office and fine them for the mismanagement they had introduced into the community administration, when they took for themselves 6,000 Gulden which they had received, on loan, to clear the community's debts.

In 1743 and 1745, Icek Minceles was accused of taking loans in the name of the community [30]without permission from the deputy-voivode, and was thus dismissed from his office of community–leader. Persistent disputes occurred between the community and the deputy–voivode's Office, which complained that the community did not observe its control and disparaged its orders. On occasion, it was even announced in the synagogue that anyone “who followed the deputy–voivode's instructions should be strangled, poisoned, and excommunicated so that they did not mingle with the community. His property and life should even be endangered, rather than surrender to the orders of Mr. deputy–voivode.”[31]

When in 1743 the community–leader Józef Rabinowicz did not respond to the order to appear at the deputy–voivode's Office, he was dismissed from his post for three years.

[Pages 147-148]

One knows that the deputy–voivode's Office filled roles which affected most areas of Jewish life, and that the community contributed substantially towards his expenses.

According to the 1692 regulation, the community paid the Voivode 4,000 Gulden annually, 1,000 to the deputy–voivode, as well as to the Starosta. Besides supervising the community affairs, the election of the leaders and the supervisors, raising taxes and accounting, the deputy–voivode's Office had to supervise public order and security, as well as trade and crafts issues.[32]

The elections burdened the Office with quite a few problems. Nearly every election period gave rise to complaints against the ruling community–leaders, and against the rabbis who got involved and lobbied for their supporters. At times, the Office was obliged to intervene even in disputes between the community–leaders and the rabbis who overstepped their powers as defined in the 1726 ruling. The Office supervised all the community activities and its leaders, and did not shy away from taking severe legal steps against them.

In order to organize the community, when expenses were not correctly entered, and when people were relieved of their debts after a say so by the elders without the consent of the Office, the entire community was given 100 fines [grzywny], and the leaders were jailed for a week.[33]

With the rise of corruption cases, the community–leaders were forced to swear allegiance to the authorities that they would act in the public interest, that they would fulfill their duties honestly and that they would not relieve themselves,[34] their relatives or their friends of the payment of taxes. That seems to have been to no avail, since in 1745, Józef Rabinowicz and Herszko Cymeles (condemnation) were convicted by the law–court which removed them from the post of leaders,[35] and ordered that they never again be elected to any community office.

The number of accusations increased to such an extent that the officers could no longer cope with the complaints of the Jews. The prosecutor Ulanowski was also obliged to act against the mischief of the community–governors, to cancel elections and to remove the leaders from their posts.

In May 1743, the deputy–voivode accused the regional rabbi, Rabbi Chaim ben Symche (Rapoport), that on his initiative all those elected as leaders were his supporters, that he did not let Jews use the appeal courts, and that he boycotted those who did. He accused him generally of irregularities in the community, and of refusing to take part in meetings about the clearing of taxes.

Rabbi Chaim was also accused of inciting his supporters to submit applications to the Starosta, and that when the emissaries of the deputy–voivode's office came to the Jewish Quarter, he instructed to have them beaten up and to drive them out. He was further accused that “in one lawsuit (presided by the Rabbi), two contradictory verdicts were passed after he had received a bribe.” [36]

Even Dov Ber Birkenthal [of Bolechów], his contemporary and assistant in the Frankists lawsuit at Lwów, wrote that he had heard complaints against him but did not believe them “when they say that they hate him, they freely discredit him out of jealousy. And when he was old, I held him as artless and honest, loved and accepted by most of the community. But now, with his disgrace revealed, we discover the truth that his misdemeanours during his rabbinate far exceeded those, so that he has no option but to flee Lwów” as he would be obliged to sue him.

The merchant Izrael Peyses's 1747 complaint against the verdict handed to him at Lwów, illustrates how severe the Rabbi's rule was over his flock. It was not impossible that the disagreements between him and the congregation, including individual members, drove Czartoryski, the Voivode of Reissen, to issue new regulations on the 3rd November 1751, and on the 1st January 1752. The preface specified that as a result of acts by the congregation, the Rabbi and the crowd were against the law and conscience, and in order to avoid incongruity and to maintain justice throughout, he reconfirmed the authority of Lwów's chief rabbi as set by Voivide Jabłonowski in the rule of the 20th July 1726. In fact, his ruling restated the 1726 ruling, leaving out Article 10 which considered the leave to appeal to the regional committee or to the deputy–voivode's Office, against the verdict of the rabbis, the community–leaders and their instructions. It stressed also that the Land rabbi and the house–owners had to act jointly, and obey the authorities.

Another Article (§16), forbade the rabbi from accepting gifts from the community members, or from organizing a reception at his own behest, paid for from the public purse.[37] On the 31st December 1771, a few months before the First Partition of Poland [1772], the Voivode Czartoryski introduced 7 additional Articles (§§ 17–23), which limited the authority of the rabbis: The rabbis are forbidden from granting the title “Our teacher [Morenu]” without a written approval from the congregation (§17); the rabbis and judges are forbidden from issuing a house–purchase certificate, without confirmation from the community treasury that house–tax was paid (§18); it is forbidden to marry anyone without a certificate from the community treasury, and the community–leader (§ 19); the regional rabbi is forbidden from providing any recommendation letter on innovations, to the towns or the villages, without first consulting and receiving written confirmations from both communities (§ 20).

In earlier years, the regional–leaders were elected from among Lwów's men, and they signed the summons.

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As that privilege was repealed, the regulations stated that the regional–rabbi was forbidden from issuing summons to his law–court without signatures of the two community–leaders (§ 21). In a special register (“dekretarz”), the rabbi and the community–leader had to record all regulations passed by the rabbi, which will only be valid if entered in that register. In a second register the rabbis had to record every verdict, concession, payment, certificate and any legal negotiations (§ 22). Every three months these registers had to be submitted to the Voivode's law–court, otherwise a 100 fines [grzywny] would be levied (§ 23).[38]

Despite it all, the authorities were unable to improve the management or teach the community–leaders discipline.

Due to the reduced circumstances, the number of disputes and lawsuits rose, especially against the community treasurers for inaccurate accounting, collection of taxes and accounting on the settlement of debts. The Voivode's law–court was busy with cases of that controversy, which led it to dismiss treasurers and community–leaders for their actions.

In 1763, in between trials, the community treasurers were typically engaged in the following:

The deputy–voivode's office claimed that the community–leaders and elders appointed unqualified treasurers who did not manage the accounts, were not punctilious in settling the interest on time, and just caused confusion. The law–court decided to dismiss them and have them replaced by the previous treasurers: Szmelkę Moszes, Moszko Manelowicz, Azryel Złoczowski, Marko Boruchowicz, Lewko Malowany–Mizes and Izrael Reis, who pledged to register the incomes and expenses, and meticulously to collect the taxes.[39]

In 1764, at the behest of prosecutor Ulanowski, the law–court's clerk criticised the community–leaders – Reb. Józef Cymeles outside the town, and Moszka Menkis within the town – for collecting tax on account of the Jesuit Order, and using it without the knowledge or consent of the Voivode's Office. The community–leaders and the supervisors received a financial penalty.[40]

Some extraordinary charges were laid against the appointed community appraisers who had reduced their own, their friends' and their relatives' taxes.[41] The instructions and orders which obligated the appraisers to be punctilious in the tax evaluation, had been in vain.

The podvoivode's jurisdiction can be gathered from a case of 1771. The prosecutor sued Icek Jakóbowicz, who had been fined by the congregation and by the town rabbi for having had a well dug on his property on Yom Kippur [the Day of Atonement]. Icek responded that at the houses of the community–elders, Christian tradesmen also worked on the Sabbath. The law–court determined that the accused had to admit, in the synagogue, that he had desecrated the Jewish custom, and that as ransom he had to donate 100 Gulden to the synagogue and the hospital. At the same time, the law–court warned the communities against acts of revenge or zealousness.[42]

The relations between the communities within, and outside the town, formed a special chapter.

The community members outside the town disregarded the authority of the community–leaders within the town. In particular, they objected to the portion of the taxes they were asked to pay, and evaded paying them. To justify their refusal they even laid serious allegations that the community–leaders used community funds for their own use and businesses.

For the community–leaders such actions manifested overt rebellion. They announced in the synagogues that the accusers should appear before the rabbis and prove, in the presence of those accused, the veracity of their accusations. In such a case, they would avoid any punishment. But were the result negative, the accusers would be punished and legal action would be taken against them at the deputy–voivode's office, for defamation of character and the spread of lies and deceit.[43]

The depleted status of the community's leadership is noted from the community elections of 1763, when Marko Wrocławski served as community–leader within the town, and Moszka ben Icek Mękis [Menkis], outside the town, as well as from the 1766–68 elections.

Moszko Menkis was a bartender, lessee and owner of a beer brewery. He was born at Brody, and through his connection with men of authority he rose to “prominence”, became patron of the “backpack merchants”, and knew how to surround himself with men who obeyed all his wishes and commands. Although he was an ignoramus, due to his connections with the authorities he was elected community–leader and ruled cruelly over his congregation. They endured his authority since not many sought the status of community–leader, considering the debt with which the community was burdened. In 1761, when the debt repayment was due, the coffers were empty. Mękis [Menkis] then took out a 20,000 Gulden mortgage on the synagogue, to general relief. Rumours spread within the community, however, that the community–leaders also benefitted from the loan, rumours which the community–leaders refuted while demanding that the “rebels” present proof to the rabbis. Menkis and his associates were convinced no one would dare openly rebel against them, but on that occasion they had miscalculated.

Leading the rebellion against Menkis was his competitor, the bartender and beer brewery owner, Dawid ben Eleazar Soboliszyn,[44] of Tyśmienica. As adventurous and uncivil as Menkis, his sole ambition was to be the congregation–leader. During Shavuoth [the Jewish Feast of Weeks], at the synagogue outside the town, Dawid Soboliszyn

[Pages 151-152]

did not permit to read out the congregation–leader's declaration. He and his gang ran riot and shouted against the congregation and brought to a halt the reading of the proclamation.

On the 28th May 1762, after the Holidays, Menkis and Mordechaj Wrocławski went to the deputy–voivode's office and submitted a complaint against those who provoked the riot.[45] Thus began the struggle for the congregation's governance, which lasted five years and unsettled the foundation of the communities' autonomy.

Moszka Menkis was a vengeful man who bore grudges, and he decided to mercilessly crush Dawid Soboliszyn who considered him a very dangerous opponent.

His revenge, assisted by the community–leader within the town, began by increasing the taxes. Dawid Soboliszyn and his faction remained silent while awaiting the 1763 election. Meanwhile, searching for those dissatisfied with Menkis – who was not much liked by the community – he recruited the distinguished families: Mizes, Lewkowicz, Byk, who had long wished to replace the community–leader.

Moszka Menkis, on the other hand, depended on his connections with the deputy–voivode who supported him. Despite it, however, Menkis did not achieve the total victory he had expected. Soboliszyn had failed, nevertheless, two of his men were elected. On the 20th April 1763, Soboliszyn's men submitted a protest to the deputy–voivode, regarding the arbitrators who had elected community–leaders who had failed to pay, or had paid reduced taxes. And that, despite the provision that the position of hospital leaders and collector–of–dues be open only to those candidates who had paid at least 75 Gulden in tax.[46]

The discussion over the election of the appraisers led to a dispute within the congregation. Menkis demanded that the previous appraisers, Szmul and Moszko Monyszowicz – who were his men – be reappointed. Neither of them was elected, but Menkis stubbornly obtained their endorsement from the deputy–voivode's law–court, dated the 25th August 1763. It included however an addendum he did not care for: that four inspectors from the opposing camp be appointed to assist them, Azryel Złoczowski and Marko Boruchowicz representing the town community, and Lewko Malowany–Mizys and Srul [Izrael] Rais from outside the town.[47]

The relations within the congregation had worsened. Informing, complaints and charges were made which eventually reached the deputy–voivode's law–court. These were directed against Zelman Pinkas Rabinowicz, previously the community–leader who had been accused by Dawid Soboliszyn, Froimem [Ephraim] Daches, Lewko Byk, Mordechaj Fayglis, Aron of Drohobycz, Mordechaj Korzennik, Dawid Heszles and others, that during his leadership he indulged in: “financial intrigues of the elders, and did not account for his actions”.

During the lawsuit the deputy–voivode ordered to inspect all the congregation's operations undertaken during the period of Zelman Pinkas Rabinowicz, and three years subsequently, since order in the community's economy was essential for the greater good.[48] The communities agreed, and even Menkis was satisfied since he believed the inspection would go solely in his favour.

The Pessach 1764 election was a total failure for Menkis. All those

elected to manage the congregation were his opponents: Dawid Soboliszyn, Szlomą Mizes, Lewko Mizes, Lewko Byk, Reis [Rais; Rays] and others.

Menkis did not dispair, He managed to obtain a decision from the deputy–voivode's law–court that due to irregularities in the election the new management was not approved, and that the previous community–leaders remained in their posts.

The elderly Józef Cymeles Mękis [Menkis] was appointed community–leader within the town. Outside the town, Libra Rabinowicz, Menkis's assistant, was appointed community–leader, as was the rest of the previous management members.[49] The issue was thus settled, but the people were angry and threatened the community–elders who feared assaults.

Total confusion reigned in both communities, and in the absence of anyone caring, not even the dead were buried.

The town rabbi tried to mediate between the sides, and succeeded in obtaining consent from the opposition to accept Cymeles as well as Rabinowicz as community–leaders. Shortly after, however, the controversy broke out again.

During Easter, the community–leaders bearing gifts, paid a courtesy visit to the Christian burgrave. Suddenly, the community–elders and the new (annulled) congregation representatives headed by Dawida Soboliszyn, appeared. Both delegations met, and when they left the castle Soboliszyn shouted at Rabinowicz: “Why are you following us, after all you are not the congregation–leader”. It was only due to Menkis's intervention that no melee broke out.[50]

Rabinowicz was taken ill from irritation, and after lobbying by the burgrave, the prosecutor sued Soboliszyn. On the 17th May 1764, the verdict issued dismissed Szlomą Mizes from his post as elder for two years, and Dawida Soboliszyn, for one year; Jakób Byk was fined (three red Gulden). Izrael Reis and Lewko Mizes were released.[51]

The opposition surrendered and Menkis ruled again. The 1765 elections passed smoothly, and Menkis's entire roll was elected. Soboliszyn did not despair however, and after recovering from his setback he decided to get closer to Menkis, and turned into one of his frequenters. In 1766, he was elected as community–elder. His principal aspiration to become community–leader was yet distant, but he was slowly getting

[Pages 153-154]

there. 1765 was the third year of Menkis's community–leadership, and according to the rulings anyone who had served for three years had to vacate the post and could not even be elected community–elder.

At the time, Lewko Bałaban was community–leader within the town, and the elders who served with him were: Zelman Elowicz, Aron of Drohobycz, Mordechaj Boruchowicz, Anczlem Jakubowicz, Józef Cymeles, Boruch Mędlowicz [Mendelowicz], Izrael Józefowicz, Joelo [Joel] Moszkowicz, Efroim Abramowicz and Elą [Eliahu] Ablowicz.[52] Their relationship did not run smoothly either.

In 1766, a disagreement broke out between the community–leader Lewko Bałaban and the community–elder Eliahu Ablowicz.[53] It resulted from an altercation at the synagogue during Simchat–Torah [the last day of the Tabernacles Holiday], when Ablowicz insulted Bałaban. On the 7th October 1766, the law–court [Beth–Din] decided to remove Ablowicz temporarily from his office as community–elder until the final verdict. Bałaban accused Ablowicz that he divulged community secrets to the authorities, and based on his knowledge, the authorities imposed orders on the community, thus harming the community's existence.

Without contacting the congregation outside the town, Bałaban instructed that the law–court's directive be read out at the synagogues within the town, as well as outside Ablowicz's house. The following day, Eliahu Ablowicz submitted a lawsuit against him at the deputy–voivode's office.

The case against the Rabbi and the congregation whose verdict was illegal, took place on the 10th October 1766.

The deputy–voivode's decision confirmed the removal of Eliahu from his office as community–elder. In addition, he was fined 10 grzywny for offending Bałaban, and he had to apologise. Lewko Bałaban was imprisoned inside the synagogue's tower for two days and one night as punishment for accusing Eliahu that he had divulged secrets. The elders who took part in the judging were each sentenced to spend one day within the synagogue's tower.

Bałaban appealed the verdict in front of the deputy–voivode, as it debased the authority of the congregation–leader. The outcome of that appeal is unknown.

In 1767, the elections of the communities drew near. Soboliszyn took advantage of the opportunity and came to a compromise with Lewko Bałaban, contacted the Mizes family and the opponents of Menkis, and was successful. The arbiters led by Rachmil Mizys, elected the congregation made up of Soboliszyn's and Mizes's men alone.

Menkis did not rest, and on the 13th may 1767 two elders from his faction, Moszka Landys and Mędla [Mendla] Michlowicz, protested to the deputy–voivode against the elections.[54] They reasoned that a Jew from the congregation outside the town could not be elected arbitrator, unless he had lived within the town for ten years, while Rachmil Mizys had only lived in town one year. Soboliszyn, on the other hand, was not the right choice since he had leased taxes without the communities' knowledge. Their protest included also an appeal against the election of Lewko Bałaban since he had already served three years thus bringing his service to an end.

Soboliszyn's men submitted a counter protest in which they refuted all of the appellants' claims.

Soboliszyn was elected to lead the congregation. On the 1st July 1767, the deputy–voivode's law–court approved the elections despite the legal shortcomings. Instead of Soboliszyn however, the elder Józef [Joslem] ben Aron Nechles was declared the congregation–leader.[55] After five years of tense struggle, peace returned to the communities.[56] Nevertheless, the chapter of complaints over the validity of the elections did not end. Until 1772, after nearly every election period, the deputy–voivode's office received complaints and accusations over the elections and the unjust acts of the arbitrators.[57]

A dispute also broke out over the office of the rabbinate within the town. It had stood vacant since the demise of Rabbi Aryeh Loeb, the son of the great scholar [Gaon] Rabbi Symche Rapoport in 1759. Ulanowski, the deputy–voivode's prosecutor, found it even necessary to submit a complaint against the congregation–leaders Zelman Pinkas and Moszke Mękis [Menkis], as well as against the elders Azryel Złoczowiski, Dawid Heslis, Józef Cymeles, Izrael Reis, Jakób Lewkowicz, Herszko Hulis, Marko Boruchowicz, Anczlem Korzennik and Major Rawski, for not following rules and postponing the election of the rabbi, a deferral which adversely affected the community's management. As a result of his complaint the elders of both communities were fined 50 Gulden for the treasury, and 100 fines [grzywny] for the law–court.[58]

On the 30th June 1765, Voivode Czartoryski appointed Berk Lewkowicz (Dov–Ber of Rzeszów [Raisha]) Rabbi within the town for the following six years, provided that he were subject to the deputy–voivode's jurisdiction.

On the 3rd May 1771, in recognition of his good tenure and his honest judgement, his appointment was extended by six years.[59]

The two communities, their elders, leaders and rabbis sank among fights and disputes. The situation weighed heavily on the people who struggled for survival amid a hostile population aiming to suppress them financially. Internally – division and battles among family–factions that clung to the control of the community's governance; perpetual lawsuits against the community by creditors; expropriations and ostracism. Such was the Jewish Lwów of the second half of the eighteenth century, and the image was very grim.


[Pages 355-356]

Notes – CHAPTER 9
All notes in square brackets [ ] were made by the translator.
[The spelling of most names were sourced from books cited by the author, especially those of Pazdro and Bałaban.]

  1. Ptasnik op. cit. p. 392. Return
  2. The High–Court of Justice which dealt with the municipal law–courts' appeals in the matter of privileges, boundary disputes and the royal estates, the nobles and the Church, was led by the chancellor [Kanclerz], while members of the law–court were referendar senators and managers of the King's Office. Return
  3. Dr. M. Bałaban: Studja historyczne. Warszawa 1927, pp 112–126.
    Dr. M. Bałaban: Dzielnica zydowska we Lwowie. pp. 49–51.
    Dr. M. Bałaban: LeToldot HaT'nua HaFrankit. [History of Frankism]. p. 214. Return
  4. Decretum Sacrae Regiae Majestatis Commisxoriale inter nob–ac spect. proconsulem civitatis Leopoliensis ab una atque infidels seniores totasque synagogs Judaeorum leopolienses anno 1759, prolatum. Return
  5. See his letter to Rabbi Dov–Ber [Birkenthal of] Bolechów, dated 23rd Elul [20.9.] 1802, published in my article “Three documents on the history of Frankism in Poland”, in “Zion” (Jerusalem) Year 2, Bk. 3–4, p. 328. Return
  6. Arch. Namiestnictwa Lwów. Castr. leopol. t. 604; p.2036–2127. Return
  7. Ber Birkenthal: “Divreh Binah” [Words of Wisdom] (Dr. Brauer) “HaShalach” 33, p. 384. Return
  8. Rabbi Jakób Emden relates the case in Sefer Shimush, sheet 2, sheet 3, column 1; sheet 19, column 2. Return
  9. Dov Ber of Bolechów's words of wisdom, by Dr. Brauer, “HaShalach” 1921, p.236. Return
  10. See my above mentioned article in “Zion” (Jerusalem) year 2, Book 3–4; pp. 331, 332. Return
  11. Pazdro: op. cit. pp. 198–199, No. 26. Return
  12. i.e. on the 23rd January. Return
  13. Dr. Stanislaw Lewicki: Konfraternia kupiecka we Lwowie za Stanislawa Augusta Lwów 1910. pp. 34–36; 40. Return
  14. Archiwum glówne Warszawa. Taryfy zyd. pogl. t. 64. Return
  15. Pazdro: op. cit. pp. 192–193 No. 19. Return
  16. On forgery and the trimming of coins and gold in those years, see: Memoires of Dov Ber of Bolechów, pp.32–33. Return
  17. Pazdro: p. 193, No. 20. Return
  18. Pazdro: p. 199, No. 26. Return
  19. Pazdro: pp. 276–277, Nos. 86–87. Return
  20. Archiwum glówne. Taryfy zyd. pogl. t. 64. Return
  21. Memoires of Dov Ber of Bolechów, p. 29. Return
  22. Dr. M. Schorr: Organizacja Zydów w Polsce. Lwów 1899. pp. 94–95. No. VIII. Return
  23. Pazdro: pp. 257–260, No. 72. Return
  24. Pazdro: p. 201, No. 29; p. 201, No. 34. Return
  25. Pazdro: pp. 211–213, No. 37. Return
  26. Pazdro: pp. 229–230, No. 51. Return
  27. Pazdro: p. 207, No. 34. Return
  28. Dr. M. Bałaban: Ustrój gimpy zed. Gmina zed. , Warszawa 1937, No. 5, p,103, Return
  29. Pazdro: p. 190, No. 16. Return
  30. Pazdro: p. 196, No. 23 (1743). Return
  31. Pazdro: p. 192, No. 19 (1742). Return
  32. According to Stefan Czarniecki's regulation of the 17th March 1660, Article 8. Return
  33. Despite the regulations (porządki) the Voivodes set for the congregation's election procedures, conflicts broke out as to who was entitled to be elected according to the census. The census, as known, was set in accordance with the person's property and scholarship. According to a 1763 regulation, the community tax and the census cost to a community–leader candidate was 75 Gulden, and 50 Gulden to a collector–of–dues candidate. Return
  34. Pazdro: p. 195, No. 22. (1743) Return
  35. Pazdro: p. 200, No. 27. Return
  36. Dov–Ber of Bolechów, Memoires, pp. 33–37. It discusses the verdict passed by Rabbi Chaim Kohen Rapoport about the estate of a wealthy Jew at Komarno. Return
  37. Pazdro: pp. 181–88, No. 14. Return
  38. Pazdro: pp. 188–189, No. 15. Return
  39. Pazdro: p. 220, No. 44. Return
  40. Pazdro: pp. 230–231, No. 52. Return
  41. Complaints against the collector of dues, in 1771:
    Pazdro: pp. 261–263, No. 73, 7; p. 269, No. 81, pp. 270–271, No. 82. Return
  42. Pazdro: pp. 271–273, Nos. 83–84. Return
  43. In 1762, for example: [Buber] Anshei Shem [Men of Renown] p. 60, Article 140. Return
  44. Pazdro: pp. 216–218, No. 41. Return
  45. Pazdro: pp. 216–218, No. 41. Return
  46. Pazdro: p. 219, No. 43. Return
  47. Pazdro: p. 220, No. 44. Return
  48. Pazdro: pp. 222–224, No. 47. Return

[Pages 357-358]

  1. Pazdro: pp. 226–229, No. 50. Return
  2. Pazdro: p. 227, No. 50. Return
  3. Pazdro: p. 228, No. 50. Return
  4. Dr. M. Bałaban: Z historji Zydów w Polsce, Warszawa 1920. p. 162. Return
  5. Pazdro: pp. 240–243, No. 62. Return
  6. Pazdro: pp. 243–244, No. 63. Return
  7. Buber: Anshei Shem [Men of Renown], p. 95, Section 234. Return
  8. Pazdro: op. cit. pp. 245–247, No. 65.
    see also: Dr. Izak Lewin: Przycznyki do dziejów i literatury Zydów w Polsce. Lwów 1935, pp. 27–35. Return
  9. Pazdro: pp. 283–285. No. 92. Return
  10. Pazdro: pp. 232–234. No.56. Return
  11. Pazdro: pp. 237–238. Nos. 59, 60. Return


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