51°15' / 22°34'
Translation of "Lublin" chapter from Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Project Coordinator and Translator
Morris Gradel z"l
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume VII, pages 13 - 38, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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.
Lublin (hereafter L), the largest town in Eastern Poland, is the main town of the region and province. It stands on the banks of the River Bystrzyca. In the 12th century it was a fortified settlement on the trade route leading to Ruthenia. In the 13th century it was destroyed several times during invasions by the Tatars, Ruthenians and Jadvingians (a Lithuanian tribe). For some time the settlement was under the ægis of the Princes of Halicz. In 1317 L was granted the Magdeburgian privileges of a town by King Wladislaw Lokietek. His son, Casimir the Great, erected a wall around the town. It was granted the privilege in 1385 of free trade with the Lithuanian Principality and in 1392 the right to store in the town goods in transit - and these advantages contributed to its rapid development. In 1474 L was the seat of the king's representative (the Woiwoda). It reached the zenith of its prosperity in the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries, when its markets attracted merchants from the whole of Poland and even beyond. The same period also saw the expansion of various trades.
In the 16th century L was also a political centre, where the nobility held its meetings; in 1578 it became the seat of the Crown Court and the Appeal Court of "Lesser Poland", and in 1569 there convened in L the Sejm that united Poland and Lithuania under one crown (this was the celebrated Polish-Lithuanian "Unia"). Resident in the town were writers and poets renowned at the time (Kochanowski, Rej and others), and a printing works and paper factory were established.
In the 16th and 17th century the population of L was more than 10,000, and embraced some suburbs. In the period of the "deluge" (the wars in the middle of the 17th century waged in Poland by the Cossacks, the Swedes and the Muscovites) L suffered heavy damage to life and property. Repairs were not undertaken for some time, and only in 1780 did work on reconstruction begin. In 1795 L passed under the sovereignty of Austria, in 1809 it formed part of the "Principality of Warsaw", and from 1815 until the rise of independent Poland in 1918 it was included in Congress Poland.
In the course of the 19th century L developed into the metropolis of the eastern part of the Polish Kingdom. Its population increased from 7,000 at the beginning of the century (during the Napoleonic Wars) to 56,000 at its conclusion. During the century it was under the "Jurisdiction of Wieniawa" (a suburban noble estate with autonomous legal status). Only late in the century did L start to develop a modern economy. After being linked to the rail network in 1877 existing industries developed and new ones were established. Concomitant with this there was cultural development and cultural and educational institutions were founded. L contained some well-known Polish writers, such as Kraszewski, Vincenty Paul and Boleslaw Prus, and many figures of the Polish national underground movement chose to settle there.
The 20th century saw no radical changes in L's economic structure, and the town remained the centre of an agricultural area. World War I had a considerable stagnating effect on local industry, and its recovery between the two world wars was protracted. In the 20s and 30s new plants connected with the aviation industry were established, as were factories for pipes, screws, tobacco and chicory (coffee substitute). The town's public services (sewage, waterworks, electric power, slaughterhouse and the like) were also developed. Nevertheless, during the whole inter-war period L was in economic decline, or at best stagnant. The number of unemployed went on increasing and with it the number of demonstrations and strikes. The process of impoverishment affected broad spectra of the population. The situation was particularly bad during the crisis of 1929-33, and even in 1933 the number of unemployed (12,000) surpassed the number in employment. There was virtually no natural increase of population in the years preceding the Second World War.
During the 19th and 20th centuries L was the scene of activity by political movements and youth organisations, both open and clandestine. In 1918, after Poland gained its independence, a council of Polish representatives assumed political control of the town and its environs.
On the very first day of World War II L suffered heavy bombardment. During the German occupation the leading Polish intellectuals were liquidated. Many people were imprisoned in the town's fortress on political grounds. In 1941 the first batch of 160 prisoners was despatched to the concentration camp at Ravensbrück. In 1941 too, an extermination camp was established at Majdanek, near L. It served at first as a camp for 2,000 Soviet prisoners of war. In Majdanek some 360,000 beings met their death, most of them Jews from Poland, but also from other parts of occupied Europe.
During the German occupation whole quarters of the town were destroyed, as was most of the infrastructure (such as roads and bridges). L became an important centre of the Polish Resistance.
On July 24th, 1944, L was liberated by the Red Army, and for seven months was the capital of the new Poland. The process of recovery was rapid: ruined factories were restored and new ones built, and L again became an important cultural centre. New institutions of higher education were set up, including the University of Marie Sklodowska Curie, as were various categories of secondary schools. The Theatre and the Philharmonic Orchestra resumed their activities. The Lupaczinski Library was expanded to contain 200,000 volumes. However, in the 60s stagnation and even recession set in, as was the case in the rest of "Socialist Poland". The crisis reached its peak in the late 80s, and even continued into the beginning of the new Polish Republic that came into being in 1990-91, following the collapse of the "Polish People's Republic".
The first Jews in L are mentioned in documents from the 15th century, though there may possibly have been some there earlier. A few Jews lived in the town itself, with the consent of the authorities, despite the royal edict of 1535 that forbad Jews to live in L. In the 15th and 16th centuries many Jews settled in the town and established a Jewish quarter to the north and north-east of the palace and the fortress. For the privilege of living there the Jews were obliged to pay a tax to the fortress administrators. In 1555 the boundaries of the Jewish quarter were extended; the Governor of Lublin, Stanislaw Winczinski, with the approval of the King of Poland, Sigismund August, granted the Jewish community three large plots of land, One of these was to contain the slaughterhouse and butcher shops; the second, on the palace hill near the old cemetery, was to serve as an additional burial-ground; and the third, on the slopes of the palace hill, was set aside for religious purposes. In return for these plots the community agreed to pay an annual tax of 12 marks and an annual sum for candle grease.
In 1557 Governor Winczinski presented Dr. Yitzhak Maj, a well-known doctor in L, a large plot (which also had a pool) and permitted him to build on it. In 1566 a synagogue was erected there in the name of the Maharashal (Rabbi Shlomo Luria), and the following year other buildings were added, in one of which a yeshiva was opened. In 1603 the merchant Yaakov ben Aharon received from Governor Firlay a plot on which to erect buildings and shops. The Jewish quarter continued to grow, from 24 houses in 1550 to 100 at the end of the century. The main street was Sieroca Street, where the activities of the community were concentrated. In addition to the Maharashal Synagogue and the Bet Midrash, there was another prayer-house, in the name of Avraham ben Chaim, one of the leaders of the Council of the Four Lands*, and the study house of the "Seer of Lublin". A third synagogue was built in Podzamcze Street - the "Leifer", associated with the name of Shaul Wahl, of whom it was said that he ruled Poland for one day, but gave up power in favour of a Pole. In 1638 Tsvi Hirsch, an agent of the royal court and a leader of the Council of the Four Lands, built a synagogue in the name of his father, Moshe Doctor ("Doctor-Shul"), this too in Sieroca Street.
In time the Jewish quarter became too restricted and some of its inhabitants tried to circumvent the rule of "de non tolerandis judais" (not to tolerate Jews within the confines of the city) implemented by watchful citizens, with a view to moving to other parts of the town. Few, however, were permitted to do so, and these only for a limited period. In 1655 a fire broke out in the Jewish quarter and most of the houses went up in flames. Reconstruction took many years. As mentioned above, after the "deluge" (the wars of 1648-60) L lost its privileged status. The Council of the Four Lands, which until then usually met in L, moved in 1680 to Jaroslaw, which was developing at the time and was an important centre of trade and markets.
In the 18th and the second half of the 19th century also, the Jews continued their attempts to be allowed to live outside the Jewish quarter, but generally without success. In 1761 Jews who were there without authorisation were expelled from the centre of town and, with a few fortunate exceptions, were compelled to return to the crowded conditions of the quarter. This state of affairs continued until the Tsar's edict of 1862 annulling the restrictions on Jewish dwellings in the Kingdom of Congress Poland.
Thanks to its status as an important commercial centre as early as the 15th century and its position at the crossroads of the trade route from Western Poland to the North and South-East of the country, the markets of L attracted large numbers of Jewish merchants from all corners of Poland and beyond. The Jews traded in almost all the wares bought and sold on these occasions. In 1530/31 Jewish merchants transported through the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce in L 136 barrels of wine, 503 oxen, 15,000 ells of cloth, 47 rolls of silk, 38,297 furs and hides, 5 wagons of iron, 82 stone of steel, 22,170 ells of fabrics, and other wares. In 1584 Jewish merchants from Krakow brought to the market in L 185 wagons loaded with goods. The communities of Poznan and Krakow even had in L brokers, whose task was to settle differences between the merchants during the markets. For their part, the merchants of L maintained contact with important merchants outside Poland.
At the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th the name of the merchant Yoska Szachnowicz of L (the father of Rabbi Shalom Shachna Hacohen) was well-known for his trading and leasing activities. Yoska was the King's excise officer and in charge of customs in Reisen and Podolia.
The markets of L, where Jewish notables from all over Poland gathered, became in time the core around which the Council of the Four Lands grew. However, before they achieved commercial status the Jews of L had to overcome many difficulties. In 1518 King Sigismund I acquiesced in the request of the citizens and town council, and ordered his representative in L, Jan of Filicia, to curtail the trading rights of the local Jews. In 1521 the king issued an edict forbidding Jewish pedlars to purchase produce brought into town by the local farmers. Two years later another order was published with a view to placing the trading rights of the L Jews on an equal footing with those of Lwow, Poznan and Krakow. This order contained a set of restrictions, mainly a ban on retail trading by Jews and a curb on their wholesale activities. The Jews of L were also forbidden to have shops, and were only allowed to set up temporary booths in their own quarter. Christians were forbidden to lease shops or stalls to Jews, infringements being punishable by fines. In spite of this, the Jews managed to rent stalls and shops during the annual markets.
In 1531 there was an action brought by the Municipality of L against the Jews concerning payment of tax on imports of woven goods. The king ruled that the Jews had to pay this tax, despite the fact that non-Jewish citizens were exempt. Contrariwise, there were instances where the Jews were freed of various taxes by royal order; for example, in 1530 the Jews were exempted from paying road tax.
Generally speaking, the Jews strove to arrive at a compromise with their non-Jewish townsmen. The Christians in the Podzamsze quarter held a monopoly on the right to produce and market wines, beer and mead; and in 1590 the king forbad the Jews to engage in these activities. They, however, managed to circumvent this ban through an arrangement whereby, cash in advance, they could sell spirits purchased from the Christians. In return for this favour, the Jews agreed to make an annual gift of 35 ells of finest quality cloth to each member of the town council, and twice a year a pound of pepper to the town clerk and the seven members of the council. The Jews were forbidden to sell bread and flour to non-Jews. This agreement was renewed by the two parties every few years, with the approval of the king. From time to time new edicts and restrictions were imposed on the Jews. In 1650, as a result of Jesuit pressure, Jewish apothecaries were forbidden to prepare or sell medicine. And four years later, in 1654, Jewish musicians were banned from appearing in public without special permission from the town authorities.
In their battle against Jewish trade the other citizens employed not only legal means, but also violence. Now and then they would burst into the Jewish quarter and kill, and loot property and wares. Such an incident occurred in 1623. There was also violence for its own sake. In 1646 pupils of the ecclesiastical "colleges" (also known as "Dzakim") fell upon the Jewish quarter. In the course of this disturbance eight Jews were killed, many injured, and 20 houses emptied of their contents. In 1598 a rumour of blood libel spread through the town; three Jews of L were accused of murdering a Christian child for ritual purposes, and the mob tried them and slaughtered them brutally. Members of the Jesuit Order in L set up a printing press and distributed leaflets with virulent accusations against the Jews.
Jewish artisans too were forced to wage a hard battle against their non-Jewish competitors for the right to engage in their trade. Even before the "deluge" the Christian artisan guilds enjoyed privileges that entailed bans or restrictions on Jewish business. In 1535, for example, the Christian tailors' guild obtained from the king an order banning Jewish tailors from engaging in their trade, and in 1595 the bakers' guild obtained a similar decree from King Sigismund III forbidding Jews to bake bread or trade in flour. This devout king also granted privileges to the guilds of carpenters, glaziers and ropemakers, according to which the guilds were excluded from accepting as members unbelievers, heretics and Jews.
The municipality, the official patron of the arts, also approved many measures directed against Jewish artisans. In the 17th and 18th centuries Christian artisans, with the approval of the municipality, adopted regulations designed to forbid the Jews to engage in various trades, or to restrict them to marginal activities. The Christian artisans also obtained from the authorities a ban on Jewish merchants supplying various trades with raw materials.
However, in not a few cases the Christian organisations waived some of the prohibitions and restrictions in return for money; a typical example of this was the agreement of 1689 with the guild of weavers of gold and silver threads, by which three Jewish weavers were permitted to work in eight workshops, and 13 Jewish brokers and suppliers in the branch were allowed to buy and sell raw materials - apart from Christian ritual articles - exclusively to non-Jewish artisans. In return the Jews consented to pay to the guild 100 guilders four times a year and to accept supervision of their workshops by the guild. Clearly the Jewish artisans could not put up with these numerous restrictions and endeavoured to circumvent them by all means possible, both legal and illegal. In 1600 a group of Christian tailors seceded from their guild and started a separate guild in Podzamcze (a residential area open to Jews). The new guild accepted 24 Jewish tailors on payment of an annual fee. Since, however, the number of active Jewish tailors far exceeded those accepted by the guild, and since this majority also had to earn a living, many of them plied their trade illegally. This led to friction and violence. In 1781 a new agreement was signed by which the number of Jewish tailors permitted to work was increased to 42; but this new arrangement also included the old restrictions and obligations incumbent upon the Jews. In 1792 the parties concerned drew up yet another agreement, but neither did this put an end to dissension. The Christian guild continued to complain that the Jews were in arrear of payments and that they employed Jewish tailors from other towns. In 1805 the two tailoring guilds of the town amalgamated, and 15 years later the number of Jewish members had surpassed that of the Christian. One restriction though still remained: Jews were not eligible for election to the guild council. But in 1832 this disability was also removed, and two Jews were elected to this body.
Similar struggles were waged by other Jewish artisans. For example, in 1595 the Christian bakers were granted by the king's representative the privilege of trading in flour and baking products - this was denied to the Jews. This right was renewed in 1611 by Sigismund III, and again several times by successive Polish kings. Yet after a difficult struggle by the Jewish bakers a breach was made; it transpired that the Jews were allowed to bake products for their own use, and they also exploited this paragraph with extra-legal activity.
The attitude of the royal authorities in the town to Jewish artisanship was far more obdurate than towards Jewish trade. The reason for this was mainly fiscal: Jewish trade constituted an important source of revenue for the king and the town, and the authorities were therefore prepared to compromise and allow Jewish trade, albeit with various restrictions. Despite such difficulties and curbs, however, Jewish workshops in L increased their activity and extended into more and more branches. According to the Census of 1764/5 there were 38 artisan workshops in all, nine of which were unspecified. Over 20 years later, in 1786, there were 30 tailor-shops (only nine were Christian); 30 shoemakers (masters only, excluding journeymen and apprentices); 30 glaziers (only one Christian); an unspecified number of jewellers (nearly all Jews - only two non-Jews are mentioned); and furriers, where Jews outnumbered non-Jews by four to one. The tinsmiths and coppersmiths were all Jews, as were the bookbinders and coopers.
In addition to trade and artisanship the Jews engaged in credit transactions and leased the right to collect national and municipal monies (taxes and public revenue). Some of the tax and rent collectors and lessees prospered greatly and accumulated much capital. Joska Szachnowicz, who lived at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century, and was the main lessee of royal revenue in "Lesser Poland" and in Reisen, has already been mentioned. After his death in 1507 his wife Golda took over his business, and she was followed by her son, Pesach Joskowicz (his younger brother, Szachna, was known as the greatest of L's rabbis). Much business in credits was carried out in the 16th century by the doctor Yitzhak Maj and his brothers Moshe and Joel. The sum of these transactions amounted to 5,000 guilders, an enormous figure for those times. In 1604 Moshe Doktorowicz (son of a doctor), a leader of the community, leased tax collection of the Jews in 20 towns in the districts of Belz and Chelm.
The struggle of the Jews to earn a living was especially difficult because of the heavy tax burden. These included royal taxes, municipal taxes, and other duties and payments, both regular and extraordinary - property taxes to estate owners (juridically included in L), and the constant need to give presents to the royal functionaries, to the artisan guilds, to priests, to the Jesuit schools, and so on and so forth.
In addition to a poll-tax (one guilder for every Jew over the age of one - this was raised to three guilders in the 18th century) the Jews of L in 1640 paid to the royal treasury (via the Starustra) 700 guilders a year. To this sum was added an annual tax to the Woiwoda (300 guilders), payments for maintenance of the royal court and entourage whenever they passed through L, and a tax called "royal szos" on houses and land. The Jews of L contributed "voluntarily" to the liquidation of the kingdom's public debts - their share sometimes amounted to as much as 60,000 guilders.
The Jews of L paid a whole series of direct and indirect taxes to the municipality and to the council of Podzamce, where the Jewish quarter lay. The shopkeepers, artisans, and house owners paid duties on goods, funeral tax, tax on drinks, market tax, import tax, and so forth. In addition to all these, the Jews also paid taxes to the community - a direct tax ("sum") and indirect taxes ("maintenance", "clientele", etc.). The burden of payments on each Jewish head of family was very heavy, and many could not meet the demand.
In times of war taxes and duties on the Jews were doubled and redoubled. The Jews paid most of the enemy's impositions on a town under siege and the conqueror's ransom money, amounting to thousands and tens of thousands of guilders. In 1676 the Jews were required to pay 8,000 guilders for military expenses. In 1698 they contributed 4,000 guilders towards renovation of the town hall. Large sums were also demanded to finance the town's water supply and other services. Contemporary documents naturally make no mention of the sums paid to officials, to merchant guilds or to artisan guilds.
The municipal taxes had no foundation in law, since the Jews were not considered citizens of the town - but the municipality and the Christian organisations took no account of this. Nor did the appeals of the Jews to the royal court help. Thus, Jewish debt grew and grew, and for many years (until the beginning of the 19th century, after the division of Poland) not only was the community unable to repay the principal - it could not even pay the interest and compound interest to be paid to its creditors (the nobility, the church, and the non-Jewish citizens).
The community of L was considered the most important in Poland, by virtue of its reputation as a centre of Jewish Law and Culture. Almost all the celebrated rabbis of the time officiated for shorter or longer periods as rabbis of L. In 1475 R. Yaakov Matrident (died 1541) arrived in L, and his presence there brought added renown to the community.
The most eminent rabbis of Poland throughout time graced the rabbinical chair in L. First there was R. Yaakov Halevi (died 1541). His successor, R. Shalom Shachna Hacohen, who had lived in L since 1520, was not only L's spiritual Jewish head, but also a man of wealth and responsible to the State for the public finances of the community. Nearly all the renowned authorities on Halacha (Jewish Law) in Poland in the 16th century studied at the yeshiva he established - among them the Rem”a (R. Moshe Isserles). In 1541 he was appointed by the king Chief Rabbi of all "Lesser Poland". His gravestone in L has remained untouched. After his death in 1559 he was succeeded by his son, Israel, who set up another Yeshiva, headed by R. Shlomo ben Yechiel Luria (the Maharashal). R. Luria's books "Yam shel Shlomo" (Solomon's Sea) and "Chochmat Shlomo" (The Wisdom of Solomon) are cornerstones of Talmud and Halacha.
Rabbis Isserles and Luria were considered the leading exegists of their time. R. Luria was one of the founders of "Nusach Polin" (the Polish Version) of Judaism. After his death in 1574, the post of Chief Rabbi went to his son-in-law, the Principal of the Yeshiva, R. Shimon Wolf Auerbach, son of R. David Teyvele - he too renowned in his time. R. Auerbach officiated as Rabbi of Prague towards the end of his life, and died there in 1632. His successor in L was R. Mordechai Jaffe, author of the Levushim, a popular exposition of Jewish Law; he too was a renowned scholar and also the founder of the Council of the Four Lands. He died in 1612. At the turn of the century until his death in 1623 the L rabbinate was occupied by R. Yitzhak ben Nute Hacohen. Also Chief Rabbi of L was R. Yehoshua Falk, a pupil of the Maharashal. Another renowned rabbi was the Maharam of L, Meir ben Gedalia, who served as Principal of the Yeshiva and Rabbi of the town (died in 1616). Other Rabbis of L in the 17th century worthy of note are Shmuel Eliezer ben Yehuda Eidles, the Maharasha (1614-25); Yoel Jaffe Sirkes; Naftali ben Yitzhak Hacohen; Efraim Zalman Shor the Elder, author of "Tvuot Shor" (Shor's Harvest) (died 1634); Avraham Halevi Epstein (1638); and Yaakov ben Efraim Naftali Hirsh.
In the second half of the 17th century too there were many eminent rabbis, amongst them: Naftali ben Yitzhak Katz, son-in-law of the Maharal of Prague (died 1650); Heshel ( son of the former Rabbi Yaakov), whose name was a symbol of Jewish wisdom and perspicacity, and who was popularly known simply as Rabbi Heshel (died 1652); Aharon Shimon Szapira (died 1680); Moshe, son-in-law of the Maharasha and author of "Mahadura Batra" (The Last Edition), and his son Israel Isser (died 1692); Tsvi Hirsh ben Zecharia Mendel (died 1690); and Mordechai Ziskind, author of "Shu"t Hamaram Ziskind" (Responsa of R. Mordechai Ziskind).
The voices of the Rabbis of Lublin within Jewish Law and Tradition echoed throughout Poland and beyond. In 1587, by special permission of King Sigismund August, there were established in L a Yeshiva and a Bet Midrash. Their first principal was R. Yitzhak Maj, who was not subject to the authority of the town rabbinate.
In all matters relating to the internal affairs of the community its leaders and rabbis followed Hebrew Law. In 1631 the Woiwoida, Petro Tarlo, confirmed the right of the Jews of L to manage their affairs on the basis of their religious laws, and to try cases involving Jews only in a Jewish court. Only in cases needing clarification, or those where one of the participants was a non-Jew, was judgment made in the court of the Woiwoida (Governor) or the king.
L plays an important role in the annals of the Hebrew press in Poland. As early as 1547 sacred Hebrew books were printed there at the works founded by the Shachor family. The first printer in the town, Josef, bequeathed his printing works to his daughter Chana and her husband Yitzhak. In 1559 these two were granted the royal privilege of a monopoly on the publishing and distribution of Hebrew books. Despite this privilege, however, another press was set up near L, in Konskowola. Neither of these two printers survived long. In 1566 two Jews, Eliezer ben Yitzhak and Josef, were in turn given the royal privilege of starting a printing press, but this too had a brief life. In 1578 Klonimus Jaffe, son of R. Mordechai Jaffe, obtained permission from King Stefan Batory to set up a printing press. This works was passed on by Klonimus Jaffe to his descendants, and, with short intervals, was still operating at the beginning of the 19th century. Between 1550 and 1690 it published no less than 103 books. The presence of many printing works in L is evidence of the community's status as an important Jewish cultural centre in Poland.
L was the home of doctors renowned in Poland and beyond. At the beginning of the 16th century there was a Jewish doctor there called Yechezkiel who, in return for his services, was exempted by King Alexander Jagiello from all taxes. Another Jewish doctor, Yitzhak Maj, occupied a prominent position in the community. As mentioned above, in 1557 he was granted a plot of land on which to build a house of prayer and a yeshiva. One of his contemporaries in L was Dr. Moshe Doktor. His son, Tsvi Hirsz was a leader of the community and an agent at the courts of the kings Sigismund III and Wladislaw IV. At the end of the 16th century there lived in L the doctors Shlomo Luria (a relative of the Maharashal), author of the medical book "Luach Chaim" (Table of Life); Shmuel ben Matatyahu; and Moshe Montalto, the descendant of a well-known Marrano family from Portugal, bearer of the title "Medical Adviser to the King of France". He died in 1637, and his gravestone still stands in L. His father, Eliezer, returned to Judaism and served as doctor to the French kings Henri IV and Louis XIII. In the 17th century the doctor Chaim (Felix) Vitalis was renowned in L. He had studied In Padua and served as doctor to the court of King Mikael Wisnowiecki. This king invested him with the authority to test all the Jewish doctors. In the second half of the 17th century some of the members of the Jewish community of L went to study medicine in Padua. The best-known of these were Avraham Szapira and Moshe Izrael Polak ben Yitzhak.
Within the community there arose organisations and commitees concerned with welfare and mutual help, as well as with education and culture. In L, as in the other Jewish communities in Poland, the foremost among these was the Chevra Kadisha. This was a closed and privileged body, not open to everybody. In its hands, and through it the community, lay the authority to impose on the Jews discipline and moral precepts. It was enough for the Chevra to threaten an offender to be placed on its black list (i.e., when his time came they would not arrange his burial) for him to repent. The offences recorded in this connection were slander, infringement of the rights of possession, contact with non-Jewish legal instances, etc. Among its other tasks the Chevra took upon itself reception of the emissaries, expounders of the Torah, preachers, writers and contractual experts from many countries who came to the community in L; and it also administered the Hospice for the Needy. In the period 1690 to 1760 the records of the Chevra name guests from Italy, Turkey, Prague, Moravia (Mahren), Belgrade and Budapest, in addition to those who came from all parts of Poland. As well as the Chevra Kadisha, documents of the 18th century mention the institutions "Ner Tamid" (Eternal Light), "Bikur Cholim" (Visiting the Sick), "Rodfei Tsedaka" (Seekers of Charity), and " 7 Kruim (The 7 Guests)". Ner Tamid was to be found in every prayer-house.
The Jewish children were taught in the Cheder by private teachers. There was a Yeshiva in L, headed by the town rabbi and supported by the community council. The Yeshiva students, some of whom were not from L but who came from all parts of Poland, were supported by the "houseowners", lived in their houses, and ate daily at their tables - each day in a different house.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the Council of the Four Lands convened in L, but moved in 1680 to Jaroslaw. The Rabbi of L, Yehoshua Falk-Cohen, was the leader of the Council and the author of its set of rules. L was also the seat of the Jewish Rabbinical High Court in Poland, among whose duties was granting permission for the publication of Hebrew books. One of the latter was the edition of the Babylonian Talmud (1559-80), that was published to meet the needs of the Torah schools and other Jewish schools (cheders and yeshivas) in Poland.
In 1655 Lublin was attacked by the Cossack hetman, Zoltarnko, and the Muscovite Voivoda, Piotr Ivanovitch. The town was occupied after a long siege. The conquerors imposed a tribute of 10,000 guilders on the town, in return for which they promised not to inconvenience the citizens. They did not, however, honour this pledge. First of all, they burst into the Jewish quarter and slaughtered some 10,000 Jews, among them refugees from the surrounding area who had sought refuge in the fortified city, and plundered whatever they could find. A group of Jews wrapped themselves in their prayer-shawls and asked their tormentors to bury them alive in the Jewish cemetery (so that they would be sure to be interred in Jewish soil); the butchers acceded to this request. The names of the victims are engraved on the wall surrounding the cemetery. A description of these events is given in the book "Hesed Shmuel" (The Mercy of Samuel - Amsterdam 1699), written by Szmuel ben Dawid. The massacre took place during the Feast of Succot, and for many years it was the custom in L to mourn in this period.
The damage wrought on L by the Cossacks was not repaired for some time, and only at the beginning of the 19th century did the population return to its former level, before the "deluge", i.e. 4,000 souls. The economic derpression that followed in the wake of the Cossack aggression continued till the middle of the 19th century, when the town began to recuperate.
On the conclusion of the bloodbath, as was the custom of the times, the king promulgated a number of orders designed to alleviate the plight of the victims, and the Jews were included in these. A decree of 1669 allowed them to trade inside and outside the walls. Permission was likewise given for the Jews to acquire houses and building plots. In 1679 King Jan Sobieski replaced this decree with one that still allowed the Jews to do business within the walls, except on Christian Holydays. In 1675 the Satrusta Danilowicz issued a decree placing the Jews of L and the "little they possessed" under his protection. In 1696 the king renewed the right of the Jews to trade within the walls, like the Christian merchants.
However, these days of clemency did not last. During the "Catholic Reaction" in the first half of the 18th century, the non-Jewish citizens renewed their efforts to eject the Jews from business activity, and even to expel them from the town. There were again calls for rigorous measures against them. In 1720 King August II issued an ordinance accusing the Jews for economic and religious reasons, as it were, of mocking the Christian religion, and forbad them completely to engage in commerce; he further ordered them to leave the dwellings they had rented "by guile" from the Christians of the town.
The last king of the Kingdom of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, confirmed, however, in 1769, the "privileges" granted to the Jews of L in the past - only in 1780 to issue a decree forbidding them permanently to live or engage in trade in L and its suburbs. This situation prevailed until the town was occupied by the Austrians in 1795.
The period under review was also marked by a decline in the internal affairs of the Jewish community in L, which was enmeshed in debts and unable to pay the interest and compound interest on the loans taken, and certainly unable to repay the principal. The status of the community declined drastically, and individuals and groups began to act with an irresponsibility that bordered on anarchy. Many stopped paying their taxes to the community and avoided payment of sums the community had undertaken to pay to the authorities. Nor did they honour the code of conduct in business and crafts, with the result that unrestrained competition was rampant, and this seriously affected the livelihood of many of their fellows. These miscreants placed their trust in the hands of the estate owners near the town, on whose land they settled. The Community Council complained to King August III about this situation; and he empowered it to exercise force and even to impound possessions in order to collect the outstanding taxes. The Chevra Kadisha issued a proclamation warning the Jews of L that it would use all its power to combat disturbers of the peace, slanderers, and Jews having recourse to non-Jewish instances. Here too, as in the past, the Chevra threatened to blacklist their names: they would not be given a Jewish burial, and the protection of the nobility would not help them.
The second half of the 18th century heralded the spread of Chassidism. At its beginning the rabbis who officiated in L were "mitnagdim", like Yaakov Chaim (died in 1769), son of the great mentor R. Avraham ben Chaim, who was the leader of the Council of the Four Lands, and examined the learning abilities of the Baal Shem Tov. After R. Yaakov came R. Shaul Margules (died 1788), who was not a Chassid himself, but whose father, R. Meir Margules, belonged to the circle of the Baal Shem Tov. There is no doubt that only in the time of the latter was R. Yitzhak Horowitz, the "Seer of Lublin", able to fix his place of residence in L and to make it the "Jerusalem of Chassidism". Large numbers converged on hsi Bet-Midrash, and the whole following generation of holy men in Poland were his students. The "Seer" taught and inspired many renowned "Admorim" (Chassidic Rabbis) and Heads of Chassidic dynasties throughout Poland, among them the Heads of the Dinover dynasty, R. Tsvi Elimelech Szapira, and his son, R. David; R. Shalom Rokeach, Head of the Admorim of Belz; and many others.
Opposed to the Chassidim was the Rabbi of the Community, R. Azriel Horowicz, known as “der ayzerner kop" (died in 1819). The struggle between Mitnagdim and Chassidim weakened the community. With the death of the "Seer" the position of L as a centre of Chassidism declined.
In the period under review many different rulers held sway over the area which included L; but the legal and civil status of the Jews hardly changed. Neither the Austrians nor the authorities of the "Principality of Warsaw", which spoke in its constitution of equality for all its subjects, granted equal status to the Jews, or alleviated their restrictions. The period of a "decade", during which equal rights for the Jews were postponed "until they mended their ways", lasted till 1862. The regime of Congress Poland that followed made no changes in the legal status of the Jews in that kingdom, including the Jews of L. The so-called privileges granted by August II (in 1720) and Stanislaw August Poniatowski (in 1780), according to which the Jews were permitted to live permanently in the "Jewish town" of Podzamsze and in other quarters separated from the Christian sections of the city, remained in force until all restrictions on Jewish residence in Poland were annulled by the Tsarist Decree of June 1862.
During the Polish uprising of 1863 Jewish inhabitants of the town sided with the insurgents.
From 1765 until the 50s of the 19th century the Jewish population of L increased fivefold or more. Most of this was due to natural increase, though part was also explained by Jewish migration - legal and illegal - from nearby provincial towns. From the annulment decree of 1862 to the end of the 19th century the number of Jews in L grew from 8,747 (1857 figure) to 23,586 in 1897. An additional increase took place in the first two decades of the 20th century, numbering in 1921 37,337, or more than a third of the total population.
In the second half of the 19th century the Jews of L began to settle in the "old town" within the walls. In the course of time, as the Poles preferred to move outside the walls, the Jews formed a majority and the "old town" thus became a new ghetto.
During this period the Jews of L earned their living mainly by petty trade and artisanship. There were times when the number engaged in the latter surpassed that of those engaged in the former. The area around L was agricultural. Until 1864 most of the villagers were poor serfs tied to the soil, and their purchasing power was thus very limited. Most of them lived off their own produce and had little need to buy goods. One of the branches that depended on the peasants of the area was the production and sale of strong drinks, and here there was competition between the Jewish lessees and the declining nobility. The few implements needed by the peasants, mainly of iron, were not enough to warrant the establishment of industry or the development of trade.
The main agricultural product was corn, and trade in it gave a living to many Jews. They bought the produce at markets, or through the middlemen and distributors of the estate owners, and sold it in Warsaw, or shipped it on rafts to the port of Danzig (Gdansk), with a view to export abroad. Other important products traded in were hides, pig bristles (for brush-making), and wood felled in the surrounding forests. These goods too were sold in Warsaw or exported abroad.
The majority of Jewish merchants, however, were merely small shopkeepers or pedlars who wandered round the villages with their merchandise (haberdashery, i.e. needles, buttons, and the like, cheap cloth, etc.). In return they bought in the villages eggs, poultry, feathers, etc. The impoverished rural surroundings were the deciding factor in the miserable situation of the Jewish merchant in L and the extent of his business. No significant change took place in this situation after the emancipation of the serfs. The tiny plots of land given to the latter were insufficient to produce an agricultural surplus for sale.
Under these conditions no real industry developed in L, and the share of the Jews in what little manufacture there was remained small: of the 27 larger industrial plants only three were in Jewish hands. Most of these local industries were engaged in processing the agricultural produce.
In contrast, the number of Jewish artisans in L increased. Proof of this was the continued existence of craft branches begun in the preceding centuries.The most prominent, as far as numbers and organisation were concerned, were the tailors and furriers. Towards the end of the 19th century the salesmen were almost as numerous. There was considerable Jewish representation in all artisan branches; and in general non-Jews were in a minority in them.
In the last two decades of the 19th century three provident funds were established in L. In 1906 they embraced 1,200 members (artisans and small traders) and their equity capital amounted to 91,000 roubles. The clerks and petty traders set up a similar organisation, called "Igud Le'ezra Hadadit shel Pekidim Usocharim Zeirim Bnei Dat Moshe" ( The Mutual Aid Society of Clerks and Small Traders of the Mosaic Faith).
As stated, in the second half of the 18th century the situation of the Jewish Community Council in L deteriorated as a result of growing debt, and thus led to growing dependence on the local authorities, who were also the main creditors of the community. The interference of the Woiwoda and the Starusta in its activities was a frequent occurrence. The collection of community taxes was subject to the approval of the Woiwoda.
Within the community itself conflicts erupted that often involved non-Jewish mediation.
There was constant friction between the affluent merchants (who were dominant in the council) and the lesser merchants and artisans. Even the Rabbinate, which, as mentioned, was one of the most important in Poland, was not spared the animosity of these conflicts, and its incumbents were the subject of quarrels without end. The diagreements that arose out of the difficult financial situation grew even worse with the advent of Chassidism.
The propagator of Chassidism in L was, as stated, the Seer of Lublin, R. Yaakov Yitzhak Horowicz. During his tenure the community split into two: to begin with the Mitnagdim were in the ascendant, under the leadership of R. Azriel Horowicz, (der ayzerner kop) (died in 1819); but after his death the Chassidim grew stronger, and they determined the choice of the Chassid R. Yehoshua Heshel, Head of the Rabbinical Court at Tarnopol, as Rabbi of L. He was not, however, well received by the Jews of the town: three brothers, prominent members of the community, and Mitnagdim, instituted a campaign against him, and in 1826 he was forced to resign. From that year until his death in 1843 the Rabbi of L was Meshulam Zalman Ashkenazi, who was a Mitnaged, but conciliatory towards the Chassidim. On his death the struggle for the rabbinate was renewed - and this time too the mitnagdim carried the day. The new Rabbi chosen was Dov Berish Ashkenazi from the faction "Noda Beshearim" (Known in the Gates). He followed in his predecessor's path, and enjoyed general support in the town. During his term of office the new "Parnas" Bet Midrash was built and its activities recorded. Upon his death in 1852, his son, Yaakov Heshel Ashkenazi was chosen as Rabbi, and he fought a bitter war against Chassidism, which had once more established itself in L with the arrival of R. Yehuda Leib Eiger, who established a new dynasty in the town. This dynasty continued until the Holocaust through his son, R. Avraham Eiger, and his grandsons, R. Azriel Meir and R. Shlomo. The last two perished under the German occupation, the former in 1940 and the latter in 1941.
In 1868 the Chassidic Rabbi, Shneur Zalman Ladjer, author of "Torat Chesed" (Torah of Mercy), was appointed Rabbi of L. In 1892 he left for Palestine, and was replaced by a Mitnaged - R. Hillel Aryeh Lifszyc, who maintained good relations with the Chassidim. Two Chassidic candidates stood against him - R. Gershon Chanoch of Radzin and R. Meir Yechiel of Ostrowiec, but R. Lifszyc won; he was also a man with a more liberal educational background.
During this period several Admorim settled in L, among them R. Tsadok Hacohen, who inherited some of the disciples of R. Yehuda Leib Eiger and was renowned as a great Jewish thinker; R. Moshe Mordechai Twerski, author of "Maamar Mordechai" (The Sayings of Mordechai); and many others.
In 1910 R. Eliahu Klackin (the father of Professor Yaakov Klackin) was chosen Chief Rabbi. He emigrated to Palestine in 1925 and settled in Jerusalem, where he died in 1932. He wrote several important books, that are mentioned in his last work, "Dvarim Achadim" (A Few Things").
In addition to the community institutions, organisations and synagogues mentioned above, note should also be made of other institutions that arose and operated in the 19th century. In 1886 a Jewish hospital was opened, and at the end of the century it contained 90 beds. The community also had an Old Age Home and an Orphanage, and in almost every Jewish quarter there were various charitable organisations alongside the local prayer-houses.
Towards the end of the century the children of the community - 800 boys and 100 girls - were studying in 43 private cheders. The community also ran a Talmud-Torah for children of the poor. During this period non-Jewish private schools also sprang up in the town, first for girls and afterwards for boys. Their language of instruction was Russian or Polish. They also had Jewish pupils. In the 1890s a government school for Jewish children was established in the Catholic Cathedral building, and the language used here was Russian. At one time it had some 300 pupils; but it closed when the Russians withdrew from the town in 1915. In 1897/8 two elementary schools were opened, with Hebrew as the language of instruction, based on the system "Hebrew through Hebrew". One of them, the Pines School, functioned until 1907; the other until the First World War. 1913 also saw the establishment of the "Yavneh" school, which closed in 1927 for lack of money, and after the headmaster, Szmuel Rotensztajn, had emigrated to Palestine.
In addition to the above there were also government elementary schools for Jewish children, beginning with the Austrian occupation and continuing into the 1930s. They were closed on Sabbaths and Holydays, and were therefore known as "Szabsuvka".
An important many-sided cultural institution was "Hazamir" (The Nightingale), established in 1908 with the aim of fostering a love of Hebrew songs and literature among the young. Hazamir also possessed a library of Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian and Polish books - the first modern Jewish public library in L; and it also boasted an orchestra, and a drama group, that gave performances of Jewish classical plays in L and the nearby provincial towns. The rooms of Hazamir were also the setting for lectures on current and Jewish subjects, with some speakers coming from as far away as Warsaw. In 1910 the organisation "Chovevei Sfat Aver" (Lovers of the Hebrew Tongue) was founded; it held Hebrew courses and published Hebrew books. During the First World War, however, this organisation folded, and its assets, including the library, passed into the hands of the "Bund".
At the end of the 19th century the first groups of "Chovevei Zion" (Lovers of Zion) appeared; to begin with their activities were more social than political. At the beginning of the 20th century small groups of the "Bund" appeared on the L scene; in 1903 its first pamphlets were distributed; and in the following year a branch was officially established. In 1905, the year of revolution, the Bund attracted many members, who organized demonstrations and strikes. Activity also increased of the Jewish groups affiliated to the PPS, the Polish Socialist Party. Folders and booklets in Yiddish were distributed in the streets. A small group of Jewish anarchists also came on the scene. The activities of the Bund resulted in some of its members being exiled to Siberia. A Jewish police agent was murdered, and during his funeral disturbances ensued and the Cossacks were called upon to restore order.
The outbreak of the First World War brought with it clear signs of antisemitism by the Russian rulers, who accused the Jews of treachery and aiding the enemy.The Cossacks of the garrison were permitted to plunder Jewish property and to forego payment for goods acquired from Jewish merchants. Some of the town's Jews were exiled to the depths of Russia. Another affliction that affected many Jewish families was forced military conscription. Many young Jews were mobilized, and soon messages began to arrive of their dear ones being killed or wounded in battle. As the front drew near many refugees streamed to L, the economy of the town stagnated, and many Jews were left without work or livelihood.
In July 1915 the Russians withdrew from the town and gave way to the Austrians. Before the retreat the Russian commander summoned the engineer Tomorowicz, one of the leading citizens, and ordered him to organize a militia to guarantee order in the town. Tomorowicz was a known liberal, and he also saw to it that a militia was formed in the Jewish quarter ("the Sixth Commissariat"). The head of this militia was Bernard Glowinski. It numbered some 200 men aged 18 and above, and who had an unblemished record. Its members were armed with revolvers. A tribunal was also set up with judges from among reputable Jewish lawyers in the town. This militia, which consisted only of volunteers, carried out its duties impeccably and to the satisfaction of the citizens. At the end of November 1915, however, it was disbanded and replaced by professionals, but many of the Jewish militiamen joined the new body.
During the Austrian occupation the existing Jewish political organisations increased their activities, and new ones were founded, including youth movements and groups.
The Jewish community and the various organisations of the time opened public soup kitchens that provided warm meals and food to the needy, and especially to children.
With the cessation of hostilities and the proclamation of the independent state of Poland in November 1918, the Jews of L, and Poland in general, hoped for a better future in the new nation. They set about repairing the ravages of war and looked forward to a normalisation of economic, political and social life.
However, as early as 1919 events took place in the town that cast a shadow over the community. On a Thursday, which was the market day, Polish army recruits ran amok, attacked Jewish passers-by, destroyed and even looted Jewish shops. Jewish youngsters organised self-defence, and to begin with even managed to repulse the rioters; but in the afternoon there burst onto the scene in Lubartowska Street gangs of butchers and simple trouble-makers, with butchers' knives, iron bars, and other weapons, and began a pogrom that went on until evening. The police did not interfere. The leaders of the Jewish community met with the Mayor, and only then were the police ordered to stop the pogrom. The results of these disturbances were 60 injured Jews, of whom three died, and widespread damage to shops and houses. Thus was Jewish L included in the many Jewish communities in Poland that were victims of the riots of 1918-19, after Poland's resurgence.
When the disturbances were over the Jews began to reconstruct their businesses and the institutions of the community. Their first concern was the wretched economic situation following the war. In 1921, after two years of rehabilitation, there was still no renewal of activity in 57 of the 1,714 Jewish-owned workshops and businesses, some of which did not employ hired labour. The units that did begin to operate, 1,657 in number, were mostly small businesses that all in all employed 4,871 persons, half of whom (2,366 - or 48.5%) were the owners and their families. The remainder were employees (2,068 Jews and 437 non-Jews). Most of these businesses made clothing (made -to-measure and ready-made), and hats (to order and for shops); there were also furriers, shoemakers, and leather workshops. Together these employed 2,444 persons, of whom 1,031 were workshop owners, 394 were members of their families, and 997 Jews and a mere 22 non-Jews were hired workers. The next largest group were 139 food businesses, employing 804 persons, more than half of them (424 Jews and 129 non-Jews) employees. The remaining plants and workshops were engaged in a variety of manufactures - timber, building, etc., with a small number of participants compared to the leading segments of clothing and food. Most of the workers in production, particularly the hired ones, were men; a few of the hired workers were children (116 Jews and 34 non-Jews). Most businesses were only active part of the year (construction work lay dormant in the winter, and the manufacture of clothing was also seasonal). In the "dead" periods the unemployed and their would-be employers waited for "better times". In the larger plants there were few Jews employed, partly because they were not welcome, and partly because the Jews themselves did not want to work in them (since work continued on the Sabbath and Jewish Holydays). Jews were not employed in government offices or the municipality, in public transport, or even in cleaning the streets.
The most important sphere after crafts and minor industry were the various forms of trading - wholesale, retail, peddling, and market stallholding. Most of those involved were petty traders, who set up market stalls or peddled their wares in the streets of the town or in the surrounding villages. Their volume of goods and of course their turnover were limited. Their customers were the Polish peasants or the labourers, who were economically poorly off and also subject to unemployment. Most of the peasants had smallholdings that supplied nearly all their needs, though there were articles they had to buy outside, such as tobacco, salt, spirits and matches, all of which were state monopolies. Government policy was to squeeze Jewish traders out of this monopoly sector.
One branch was a kind of Jewish monopoly: the leather industry. In the years preceding the Second World War some 95% of production and tanning of hides was in Jewish hands. In 1939 150 workers, 75 of them Jews, were employed in the large tanning plant in the town. The annual turnover of this branch amounted to 20 million zloty (about 4 million dollars). Under Jewish ownership were also a brandy distillery, a brewery, brickworks, flour mills, and a cigarette and tobacco factory, established in 1860 and at its peak employing 400 workers, all of them Jews. After the war, however, this factory was taken over by the State Monopoly and its Jewish workers dismissed.
Branches employing a majority of Jews were the ones to suffer most in times of crisis. Usually it was not only Jewish apprentices and salesmen who became unemployed, but also the workshop owners, most of whom were self-employed. These latter were not entitled to unemployment benefits, nor were they registered in a sick fund, and they and their families were thus unable to receive medical treatment.
In the early years of the 20s the Jews of L, as in other places, set about restoring the mutual aid societies that had existed before the war, and establishing new ones. In the inter-war period there were in L ten provident funds affiliated to the prayer-houses and the political organisations and trade unions. The largest of them was set up immediately after the war by the "Va'ad Hahatsala" (Rescue Committee), and its equity capital amounted in the 30s to 140,000 zloty, and its annual turnover to more than 11 million zloty. This fund gave loans at a low rate of interest, and sometimes at no rate of interest, mainly to workshop owners and petty merchants. These loans were often the only way in which shopkeepers and pedlars could replenish their stocks or replace workshop equipment.
In this period too ten Jewish banks were established, the first of them, "Kupat Halvaa Uchisachon" (Loan and Savings Bank) at the end of the 19th or the beginning of the 20th century. Later there appeared "Chevra Le'ezra Hadadit Lefkidei Mischar Usocharim Ze'irim Bnei Dat Moshe" (Mutual Aid Society of Trading Clerks and Small Traders of the Mosaic Faith); "Habank Harishon Levaalei Mlacha" (First Bank for Artisans); "Bank Hasocharim" (Merchants' Bank); "Bank Baalei Batim" (Householders' Bank); and "Bank Shitufi" (Cooperative Bank). The employees too established their own mutual aid societies in conjunction with the trade unions. Other bodies were set up at the beginning of the 20th century within the framework of existing organisations. In the 20s there was widespread organized professional activity, embracing most of the Jewish workers. One of the most prominent organisations, in terms of number of members and level of activity was the Union, or Guild, of Needleworkers, founded as early as 1915. Other unions of considerable size followed, such as those of the cobblers, printing workers, tanners, carpenters, butchers, porters, and bakery workers. The largest of them, "Haigud Hameuchad shel Poalei O'r" (The United Guild of Leather Workers) counted some 500 members; while the Textile Workers' Guild numbered some 200 members.
The community of L was blessed with many institutions of welfare, charity and aid. Especially renowned was the society "Achiezer" (Brotherly Aid), which on the threshold of Sabbaths and Festivals distributed food to hundreds of the needy. Money for its activities came from contributions from members of the community (at Purim, on the Eve of Yom Kippur and at weddings). The institution also ran a kitchen for the poor. The organisation "Linat Tsedek" (Hospice for the Poor) provided the sick and destitute with medical care and drugs free of charge, and its members helped their families stand watch by the bedside of the ill. In 1919 the organisation "Zichron Nes" ( Token of Miracle) was inaugurated with the aim of helping war invalids, bereaved parents, and orphans. It was financed from the sale of the privilege of being called to the Torah ("Kearot Nedava" - Collections of Charity) on the occasion of weddings etc. Members of the "Shabta Tava" (Good Sabbath) society were wont to walk through the streets on a Friday to collect chalot (Sabbath bread) for the needy. The society "Hachnasat Orchim" (Hospice) opened a lodging for indigent travellers: each night tens of them were accommodated. In addition to all these bodies other groups of community volunteers were active, for example, in visiting the vick, supporting the poor, collecting a dowry for penniless brides, and other causes.
In 1923 a branch of "TOZ" (Polish initials for the Jewish Health Organisation of Poland) was established in L. Its activities were many and varied: in its clinics there were 22 doctors and X-ray and radiography facilities. TOZ ran an advice service for women and a child care centre, and even supported Jewish sports organisations and provided them with training areas. Each summer TOZ organised camps for school pupils. In 1924, the first year these took place, 300 children participated; in 1939 this number reached 1,200.
Another institution the community boasted was the Jewish Hospital, opened, as stated, in 1886, but not allowed to function during the Great War. Afterwards, however, it quickly resumed and expanded its activity, with the support of former residents of L in the USA. It contained 30 beds for men and 26 for women, and had an X-ray department, a bacteriological laboratory, and a clinic for quartz radiation. In the late 30s a children's department was opened, and became known for its high professional standard; and an Institute for Hydrotherapy was also inaugurated. Every week the hospital held lectures and symposia, with the participation of doctors from L and the vicinity.
The inter-war years saw increased activity by the Jewish political parties and youth movements. Prominent among the parties were the various Zionist factions. Zionist activities in L began, as stated, with the groups of "Chovevei Zion" that sprang up at the end of the preceding century. The Zionist Federation crystallised in L during the Austrian occupation (1915-18), and its activity increased following the Balfour Declaration in 1917. When the Mandate for Palestine was decided upon there was much celebration in the community, and all the Jewish shops were closed. At the same time the young people set up "Tseirei Zion" (Youth of Zion), which existed until it split into "Socialist Zionist Youth" and "Poalei Zion Smol" (Leftist Workers of Zion). In 1920 a branch of "Hechalutz" (The Pioneer) was set up. In the Zionist Federation building in L lectures and evening classes were held. The Zionists in L were active in all speheres of the political and social life, took part in elections to the Polish parliament, were represented on the Town Council, and of course in the Community Council.
1924 saw the establishment of "Haliga Lema'an Eretz-Izrael Haovedet" (The League for Labour Israel), with the participation of Socialist Poalei Zion, Hashomer Hatsair, Hechalutz Hatsair, Dror (Freedom), and Hapoel. In 1929 the organisation "Haoved" (The Worker) was launched in L, consisting of the workshop owners, and particularly those who intended to emigrate to Palestine. After the schism in "Poalei Zion" in 1921 the majority of the members of the L branch remained loyal to the left wing of the party. This party exercised much influence among students and pupils; its youth movement, "Jugent", had some 140 members in L. In the late 30s, when the atmosphere in the whole of Poland was permeated with national-fascist ideas, the party was persecuted by the authorities, who regarded members of Left Poalei Zion as clandestine communits, and in 1936-37 some of them were even arrested. Prominent among the Zionist youth movements was "Hashomer Hatsair" (The Young Watchman). The L cell was set up in 1916, and between the two world wars its membership and activity increased, and a kibbutz training farm was even established. There was also in L a large branch of "Hanoar Hazioni", the youth movement of the General Zionists. In 1927 was founded the children's organisation in the name of Borochov, called "Jungbor", which was active in the fields of education, information and scouting.
The L branch of "Hamizrachi" was founded in 1903, and was reorganized at the end of the Great War. Its activities were centred on the Mizrachi Synagogue in Novorowna Street, while for its lectures and discussions it rented the "Hazamir" hall once a week. Its members opened the "Yavneh School" in L, which turned out several graduation classes. Hamizrachi's youth movement (Tseirei Mizrachi) established several training centres outside the town. In the early 20s branches of "Hapoel Hamizrachi" and "Hechalutz Hamizrachi" were also set up.
The Revisionist Movement was active in L from 1925 on. The first branch to be set up was "Hashachar" (The Dawn), and a year later saw the arrival of the youth movement "Beitar" (Covenant of Josef Trumpeldor). The Revisionist movement in L and district expanded, and in 1934 had some 50 branches. In the same period one of its important fractions, called "Brit Hachayil" (Covenant of Strength), also developed. Beitar ran several amateur groups - drama, literature, etc., as well as a brass band. Each year it organised summer camps, where the young boys and girls received instruction with regard to emigrating to Palestine. To the congresses of the L branch of the Revisionists there came speakers from the national Polish and the world organisation (including Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin) and their meetings attracted a large audience.
Nevertheless, not all the Jews of L belonged to the Zionist camp. Up to 1914 the "Bund" operated clandestinely, but renewed its public activities during the Austrian occupation of 1915-18. During the war there was a shortage of food bordering on famine, and the members of the Bund therefore opened a kitchen and set up cooperatives of consumers and a bakery, which employed ten workers. Bund members were also active in the field of culture, and among other things established a library (in the name of Groser), a choir, and a drama group. In 1917 was held the L Congress, where it was decided to sever all connection with the Bund of the Russian Empire and to maintain an independent Polish section. In November 1917, after the October Revolution in Russia, a Workers' Council was set up in L, also with the participation of the Bund. At this time there were attacks on the Jews in L, and to counter them a militia of Polish and Jewish members of the Polish Socialist Party was formed. In 1920 during the Polish-Soviet War the Polish authorities arrested some of the active leaders of the Bund in L. After the war the Bund played an influential role in the Central Committee of the Jewish trade unions in L, with five representatives; and in most of the individual unions it formed a majority, while Poalei Zion and the communists usually had only one representative. The youth and children's movements of the Bund in L - "Zukunft" (The Future) and "Sakif" ( Threshold ?? ) - had large and active branches.
Some L Jews were members of the Communist Party, which operated several illegal cells in the town. These members often infiltrated the other Jewish workers' parties (Poalei Zion and Bund). They were mainly active in organising strikes and demonstration and in spreading propaganda. During the 30s some active Jewish communists were arrested and imprisoned; and the threat of imprisonment impelled others to flee abroad, particularly to France, where they continued to maintain contact and help one another.
Also present in L were "Agudat Israel", its labour faction "Poalei Agudat Israel", and its youth movement "Tseirei Agudat Israel". Most members of Aguda were to be found among the various Chassidic groups; and their field of action was within the Community Council and in religious education.
Up to 1932 the majority in the community council were religious representatives, and only a few came from among the "Neurim" (The Enlightened or Illuminati), as secular Jews were then called. The council consisted of the general body, or council, and the executive committee. In the inter-war period elections to the council were only partly democratic; women were not eligible to vote, and there were also restrictions with regard to age and economic status. From 1932 on the elections were held on the basis of party lists, and in that year all the parties that had branches in L participated, with the exception of the Bund, which boycotted the elections. Five representatives of Agudat Israel and the Chassidim were elected, together with two from the Artisan List, and one each from the General Zionists, Socialist Poalei Zion, Left Poalei Zion, Mizrachi, the "People's Party", and the "Assimilationists". At first the Chairman chosen was the lawyer M. Alten, but the Polish authorities withheld their approval, and his place was taken by Y. Zilber. As Chairman of the executive committee, the "assimilationist", the lawyer A. Levinsohn, was chosen. He held this post for only a year, when he resigned, and his place was taken by S, Halberstadt from Agudat Israel.
In 1930 R. Meir Shapira (1886-1933), one of the leaders of Agudat Israel, was elected Chief Rabbi of L. He established the largest Yeshiva in Poland, "Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin" (The Yeshiva of the Wise Men of L). R. Shapira was a brilliant speaker, and was a member of the Polish parliament (Sejm). He initiated learning of the ”Daf Hayomi" (The Daily Page) throughout the Diaspora. On his death there were no more chief rabbis in L, and the community contented itself with dayanim (judges).
The closing years of the 20s and the beginning of the 30s found the community in grave circumstances. It was weighed down with heavy debts, and its income, mainly accruing from schechita (ritual slaughtering), payment for burial plots, and direct taxes, did not cover expenditure, viz., wages in the religious sector (in the Rabbinate there were a rabbi, five dayanim, and a number of "minor" rabbis in the suburbs); allocations to various religious institutions and a Talmud-Torah, to the Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin, to the orphanage, to schools where the language was Yiddish; and so forth. Due to the economic problems these allocations were not made on time. and the institutions of the community therefore operated at a low level. The orphanage, for example, was almost without supervision, the children were neglected, and some of them became subject to bad influences, The cemetery too was neglected, and sometimes waterlogged, and there was no vacant ground for new burials.
In 1932, following election to the new council, its members set about a thorough reorganisation. Hours of work and reception times for the public were scheduled; the collection of taxes came under strict control; renovations were carried out on the synagogues, especially that of the Maharashal; and the amount and times of payment for allocations to the various institutions were laid down.
In the elections of 1939 members of the Bund were also represented. The community faced a crisis, when the authorities insisted on the shochtim (ritual slaughterers) being given functionary status. These schochtim exploited the situation by refusing to pay slaughtering fees to the community, and this seriously undermined its finances. One of the last decisions of the community before the Holocaust was that of August 7th, 1939 - to grant the Jewish Hospital an allocation of 6,000 zloty, and to issue bonds to the samount of 30,000 zloty to ensure normal operation of the council and its subsidised institutions.
The Jews of L were represented in the town council via the party lists. In the elections of 1927 16 Jews (most of them from the Bund) were elected to the council, i.e. a third of all its members. At its meetings they put forward the claims of the Jewish institutions and of the Jews of L in general, and protested against all forms of discrimination.
From earliest times there were in L cheders, where Chumesh, Mishna and Talmud were studied. Poor children went to the Talmud Torah, subsidized by the community. Older boys studied at Batei Midrash; and in the evenings, by candlelight, lessons were held in Gemara, Mishna, or the weekly passage of the Torah for adults and married men - and there were among these some veritable scholars.
In the inter-war period L, as in other parts of Poland, possessed some state elementary schools for Jewish children - the Szabasuvka. After Polish independence three additional schools of this type were opened.
* For explanations of these and other organisations and movements mentioned in this survey readers are kindly referred to more detailed reference works. Back
Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2021 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 10 Apr 2004 by LA