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J. From the Pinkas [Record Book] of the Dubno community

by Ya'acov Netaneli–Rothman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The following chapter (columns 111–126) contained passages composed in a specially styled archaic Hebrew incorporating a variety of dialects, including some Yiddish and Aramaic. For the translation of these sections, we are deeply indebted to the exceptional skills and generosity of the translator, Mr. Jerrold Landau and his coordinator Ms. Anita Gabbay. Parts of this chapter can also be found in the Yiddish section (columns 577–582).

( ) note within original text
[ ] translator's comment

We find written in the Zohar, “Everything depends on luck, even the Torah scroll in the sanctuary.” – and luck indeed was on our side. For the Jews of Dubno decided to transfer a precious remnant of the past to Jerusalem even before the Nazi Holocaust – the list and memories of things of more than 250 years ago, when the community of Dubno was connected to the greater Polish Jewry – the Community Journal of Dubno.

In his book “Greater Dubno” Rabbi Ḥ. Z. Margolis, the government appointed Rabbi of Dubno, writes that he had access to the Communal Journal from the days of the Preacher (Maggid) Rabbi Ya'acov Krantz, already during the 1890s. In it was written about a decision to raise the salary of the Maggid to two zloty per week. This Journal, “with all the other ledgers and communal manuscripts” went up in flames during the great fire, in which a third of the houses of the city were burnt on 18 Iyar 5655 (1895).

However, it was not only the great fire of 5655 that destroyed the “ledgers and communal manuscripts.” The ledgers of the Chevra Kadisha (burial society), which were maintained in the city until the middle of the 19th century, and included “the enactments and customs of the society, and the procedures for the feasts that were conducted at specific times[1], as well as the memorial list of events that took place in the city” was confiscated by the government in the wake of the bitter battle that broke out within the Chevra Kadisha in the year 5610 (1850). The ledger was not returned to the Chevra Kadisha, and Ḥ. Z. Margolis testified, “When I met the court prosecutor at the beginning of the 40s of their counting[2] (the 1890s, about 40 years after the outbreak of the dispute) I asked him, “Why have you not returned the ledgers of the society to us, and where are they now?” He responded, “The ledger was condemned to be burnt as a piece of evidence of no value.”

However, one volume from the ancient Jewish archives, Pinkas Dubno, which was transferred to the National Library in Jerusalem in the year 5697 (1937), contains original authentic material. This volume has 177 large–size pages (text footnote: consisting of 354 folios), and is bound with old leather. Its reference number in the National Library is Heb. 40 – 349 M.S. 382.

The ordering of entries in the Pinkas Hakehillot Dubno is not chronological through the page numbering, indicating that the “compilers” or article writers in the ledger did not write the entries in accordance with a straightforward historical style, but rather incidentally as the events took place, or in the best–case scenario in accordance with the year alone. This led to no small amount of confusion amongst the researchers and scholars who quote citations from the ledger.

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In any case, the Ledger of the Community of Dubno is a fruitful treasury of historical–sociological material. We will include typical sections of the life of the community from it, as written, but organized in chronological order with modern script and punctuation.


The ledger opens in the year 5475 (1716) with an unsigned article stating that the heads of the community who “sit in the ranks” have reached a decision “to enact enactments on which the world will stand,” however “for unknown reasons there was not enough time to complete the task.” For it is now impossible, since we have been completely surrounded, as if with a swarm bees[3]…” This was because in that year (5475 or 5476) a court case took place in Dubno concerning two women from Vitebsk and Malecz who had converted to Judaism, and were sentenced to death by burning. The verdict was carried out[4].

The scribe of the city of Dubno writes on page 49, folio a.:

“Since every institution, building, and situation in the community is dependent on the foundation of the charter of each and every community, it is very clear, and as the sages have said, “If there is no vineyard, there is no boundary.” – the opposite is also true: “if there is no boundary, etc.; and since everything is dependent on the lions of the society who sit in the ranks, with proper and complete agreement, to enact enactments upon which the world, our community, may it continue, shall stand, and for unknown reasons there was no time to complete the work, and it now impossible to wait due to the tribulations that have surrounded us like a swarm of bees… And in places where it has been said we should shorten, we have no right to elongate: they agreed around the pure table to be patient, and to wait until next Cheshvan, may it come upon us for the good, to make the enactments. Until the time comes to make the enactments, the original ones will remain in force as appropriate, without even one point falling away. They will remain in place, with no one disputing them. To further strengthen the matters, we have come to sign: today is the 17th (day), since the good light has been put in place, 19th Iyar[5].”

The instructions to maintain modesty during religious festive meals, found on page 57, folio b, were copied there by the scribe in the year 5479 (1719) from the Ledgers of the Council of the Four Lands, and rendered appropriate for the needs of the community of Dubno:

“The Council of the Four Lands opens with curses and castigations from the leaders of the Four Lands, may they continue to exist well, regarding festive meals in which literally more than a fifth goes to waste. We have already shouted out about this on several occasions, so we now come to make an enactment that is not to be changed.

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One whose assessment is a large coin[6] has the permission to invite two minyanim [i.e. 20 people] over and above the Rabbi and head of the rabbinical court, mediator, monthly administrator, cantor, and one beadle based on lottery. The celebrant has the right to register whomever he wants, even several minyanim, and the beadle will determine by lot the two minyanim, and not one person more. Someone whose assessment is greater than a large coin has the rights to invite three minyanim [i.e. 30 people] in accordance with the above procedure, over and above the Rabbi and head of the rabbinical court, mediator, monthly administrator, and one beadle in accordance with the aforementioned lottery. Someone whose assessment is greater than two large coins has the right to invite even four minyanim, aside from the aforementioned obligations, but no more. This is even the case for someone whose assessment is ten Polish large coins. For every large coin, the celebrant has the right to invite two respectable poor people. The regulation is the same for a circumcision, a wedding, or any other religious festive celebration.

All the above has been issued by us with the participation of the honorable Rabbi, the great luminary, the head of the rabbinical court, and head of the Yeshiva. It should not be changed by even one small iota, and should be maintained with full force, as is registered in this ledger on Nissan 1, 5479 of our calendar.

We have not come to block or to explain that which is written on the other page, with several points, as is explained in the older enactments – that is the enactments explained in this ledger that were enacted on Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5477 (1717) – that someone who has had one honor is not entitled to another honor that same week, even if there are other feasts that week.

Thus is spoken by the aforementioned Yehoshua Heshel, who lives here in the community of Greater Dubno.

Signed: Mordecai the son of Rabbi Shimon (Z”L).[7]
Signed: Tzvi Hirsch the son of Rabbi Yisrael Katz, the memory of the holy ones should be a blessing.
Signed: Shmuel the son of Rabbi Shimon the Levite.”

Regarding the enactments to organize education in the community and designating who is fitting to teach, the number of students that each teacher is permitted to teach, the amount of tuition, and the penalties for anyone violating these enactments, the scribe writes as follows in the year 5501 (1741) on page 68, folio a:

“Since the work of G–d is being cheated, regarding cases where teachers of children have not learned properly[8], who do everything in the name of money, who aggrandize and adorn themselves to increase their salary and to take on too many students, a large number of students for increasing their own honor,

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who puff themselves up by enlarging the number of students to increase their income – we have come to make the following restrictions, among which are:

Those teachers should follow the explanation of Tosafot[9] that one should not take on more than ten students, and that their salary should be 15 adomim (a type of gold coin) for a term, and no more. Those who teach only Gemara [i.e. higher–level teachers] may take on fifteen students, and their salary shall be 200 zloty and no more. The primary teachers may take on 25 students, and their salary may be 150 zloty and no more. It is completely forbidden for the teachers to take on too many students, or to have a salary larger than the aforementioned amounts. Every teacher is obligated to bring a roster of his students in writing to the chief and monthly administrator two weeks after the start of the term. If a teacher is found to violate the enactments and falsify his roster, he will be punished with harsh punishments for violating our decree. The fathers of the students must pay tuition on a monthly basis. If the tuition is not paid for one month, the teacher has the right to expel the son from his Ḥeder. It is forbidden for any teacher to violate any of the aforementioned in his Ḥeder. This has been determined and set by the group of leaders and chiefs of the community, with the participation of the honorable Rabbi, luminary, head of the rabbinical court and Yeshiva, may his lights shine.

Signed: Yitzhak Moshe Kahana of Greater Dubno.
Signed: Yitzhak Dovber the Levite.
Signed: Avraham the son of Rabbi Yosef, may the memory of the holy be blessed.
Signed: Yosef the son of Rabbi Ezriel, may the memory of the holy be blessed.
Signed: MenaḤem Minis the son of the leader Rabbi Avigdor of blessed memory.”

Special enactments regarding modesty in dress and jewelry were enacted in 5507 (1747) during the reign of King August III. The evaluation that was done at that time for tax purposes indicated that there were 170 Jewish “houses” in Dubno, and 1,923 individuals. These enactments were written by the scribe on page 93, folio a. The preface indicates that it is “A time of tribulation for Jacob [i.e. for the Jews”[10].

“It is a time of tribulation for Jacob, trouble for his stormy sister[11], groping like a blind person in the dark, and we continue to be diminished like sheep brought to slaughter. He placed me as the main wanderer amongst the nations, the hand of fate is upon us like a wanton person in the desert, and it would be appropriate for us to remove our decorations, wear sackcloth, and place ashes upon our heads, upon the nation holy to G–d that has fallen to the sword. We have opened our eyes to this, and have become diligent regarding the enactments of our townsfolk that we not be a source of jealousy among the nations in which we live during this bitter exile.

This is what has come from us, the chosen ones from amongst the people, the leaders and chiefs of the community, both new and old, in cooperation with the exceptional individuals, everyone agreed unanimously, without one absent,

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all have accepted it upon themselves and upon their children, to fulfil all that has emanated from us, without omitting a single thing.[12]
  1. The daughters of our city are forbidden to wear on weekdays any silk clothing, with the exception of vests, bodices, and short jackets which may be made of silk, as well as of old partur[13], as long as they have no covering of silver or gold. Of course, the rest of the weekday clothing must have no covering of silver or gold – whether the jacket, dress, or kerchief. However, pasiman[13] vests, which have few silver or gold threads, are permitted on weekdays, and it is permitted to encircle the weekday dress with the aforementioned pasiman one time.
  2. They should not wear any shlamin[13] clothing, fox furs, or other furs from foxes. However, it is permitted to put these at the bottom of their Sabbath clothing. One can have such furs on their weekday clothing, but from now on it is not permitted to make new fox furs unless they are worth less than four gold coins – that means that the entire garment, from top to bottom, with that fur, must all not be worth more than approximately four gold coins.
  3. Newly made Sabbath and holiday clothing is permitted to be made simply, without gold or silver ornaments; but it is forbidden to make new dreit,[13] damask, partur[13] satin, or velvet. A person who already has clothing of dreit or damask is permitted to wear such on Sabbath and holidays, but they should not be decorated with any gold or silver. And satin, silk, and partur, even old, are forbidden on Sabbath and festivals. Also, vests and jackets and bodices are permitted, even decorated ones. On Sabbath and festivals, at a festive meal of a circumcision or wedding on a weekday, it is permitted to wear Sabbath and holiday clothing, as mentioned earlier.
  4. It is not permitted to wear any type of jewelry, gold and pearls and precious stones, including the headscarf, into which no decorations have be placed, even fake ones, and it should not be worth more than five gold coins. An earring with a ruby is permitted, without anything dangling. It is forbidden to hang even one pearl. Corals are permitted, but there should not be any jewelry or decorative hanging, even fake ones.
  5. Unmarried girls are permitted to wear anything, and the abovementioned decrees do not apply to them until after they get married. This is what the jewelry of the unmarried girl should be: a chain with a value of not more than five gold coins, a binda[13] with pearls with decorations, and a konik[13], and nothing more. Also, earrings with decorations are permitted, and those who do not have a chain should wear four pearls with five strings, and no more. And all this is for Sabbath, festivals, and also for a wedding. On weekdays, their regulations for jewelry are the same as for other women.
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  1. On weekdays, men may not wear any satin clothing, and it is also forbidden to make new clothing of schlek[13] velvet for weekdays. Someone who already owns such is permitted. Only for a festive meal of a circumcision or wedding, or in honor of guest can one wear new clothing of schlek velvet. The regulations for men are the same as the aforementioned regulations for women. They are permitted to men even on weekdays, as on the Sabbath and festivals; and with the above conditions, it is permitted to make the clothing of schlek velvet even for weekdays.
  2. Sabbath and festival clothing can only be from gredtor[13]. However, one who already has satin or dreit[13] clothing can wear the headdress on a festival, but not on the Sabbath. Gabardine is completely forbidden.
  3. On cannot send any wine at all from the community to any citizen or Rabbi. The community is also not permitted under any circumstance to drink wine from communal funds, even at a party.
  4. No householder is permitted to send shalach manos [gifts/foods for Purim] to anyone in the world in a silver dish, and also not to bring the etrog [citron for Succoth] to the synagogue in a silver holder.
  5. All these regulations apply to all the residents of our city, excluding our esteemed Rabbi, his wife, and their children.
  6. It is forbidden to give out more than eight honors at a circumcision, aside from the mohel [circumcisor], kvater (person who carries in the baby before the ceremony), the sandek [person who holds the baby during the circumcision], the person who holds the baby during the blessing, and the one who brings him to that person.
  7. For a woman in childbirth, one cannot send any potion, except to the Rabbi's wife and the midwife.
  8. A householder is prohibited from housing any teaching assistant in his house who shaves his beard, and even more so does this apply to the teacher. A householder also cannot keep a servant who shaves his beard. No teaching assistant or child worker may wear a satin yarmulke, or a spodek [Hassidic fur hat] covered with satin or other type of silk.
  9. Anyone making a wedding for his daughter outside the city is not allowed to invite residents of the city via the Shamash (beadle) or his emissary, with the exception of first–degree relatives[14]. He is also obligated to give payment to the Rabbi, cantor, and Shamash who conduct the wedding ceremony in any place that is not subordinate to our community, just as he would if he were making the wedding here in our community.
These matters apply to residents of our city, young and old.

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May these matters be good and pleasing to G–d, who should put an end to our tribulations, and lead us speedily and upright to our Land through the harbinger of peace [the Messiah], who will announce peace in our precincts.

All the aforementioned is enacted from today and onward for a period of three consecutive years, and applies to all residents of our city. Anyone who leaves here to go to another place may do so, and will not be obligated by the stringencies of the place that he left. [Enacted by] the 24 elected honorable leaders of the community, new and old, along with the aforementioned special individuals, with the agreement of the honorable, renowned Rabbi, the head of the rabbinical court of Chodorów (Chederev) – today, Elul 22, 5507.

Signed: Aryeh Leib the son of Rabbi Shmuel, may the memory of the righteous be blessed.
Signed: Yosef the son of Rabbi Ezriel, may the memory of the righteous be blessed.
Signed: Meir the son of Rabbi Yoel of blessed memory.
Signed: Yitzhak Izik the son of Rabbi Asher Anshel of blessed memory.”

An acknowledgment and thanks for the help for several communities of Volhynia to the community in Dubno during the days of the “burning fire” when there was a pogrom against the Jews run by the Ukrainian Haidamaks (comprised mostly of local free Cossacks, peasants, and rebels), who rose up against the Polish aristocracy – is written by the scribe in the year 5512 (1752) on pages 59, folio b:

“Their righteousness should stand for ever, as we will note those communities who committed to help out of the goodness of their hearts, and sent (provisions) to our community, after the “burning fire” that took place here on Elul 12, 5512, to be distributed to the poor of our community

The community of Konstantin – 400 zloty to the administrator of providing sustenance to the poor.

The community of Olyka – six gold coins (czerwony) in cash to dispense among the poor immediately; they also sent wagons filled with corn, bread, meat, and dishes.

The community of Kreminiec – five gold coins (czerwony) to distribute among the poor immediately.

The community of Ostroh sent a wagon of bread and foods.

The community of Brody – sent thirty–five gold coins (czerwony) to distribute among the poor …

After this, we, the leaders of the community, send ten gold coins to the emissaries of the community of Konstantin to discharge some mix–up in that city, may G–d save us. After the great fire that took place in our community, may G–d save us, we gave them 300 groszy via the emissaries of our community. We also gave them two gold coins through their emissaries to help in the completion of the building of the synagogue.”

The three entries next included here clarify the battle of the community against corruption – holding of stolen property, misappropriation of trust, drunkenness, etc.

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At the end of page 62, folio b, the following is written, without a date, but apparently from the year 5500 (1740).

“Rabbi Meir Ḥaim the son of Rabbi Mordecai did evil by supporting sinners and becoming an adjunct to them. Stolen goods have been noticed in his possession on a repeated basis, as this is now the second time that such has been found with him. It is appropriate to deal with the matter and conduct a serious trial for such wrongdoers, but we must be wary lest things get too harsh[15] by matters becoming too stringent through their (i.e. the secular) law. Our master the general gubernator has decreed that his iniquity be inscribed and sealed in the ledger, so that it not be repeated; and if stolen property is found in his possession again, his decision is firm that the verdict be carried out on his soul[16] in accordance with the ordinance of our master the gubernator, so that (it) be removed, and no one dare to perpetrate such an evil again.”

On page 59, folio b, the scribe writes about an incident that took place in the year 5518 (1758): where the cantor was removed from his post due to drunkenness, and was restored to his position after expressions of regret and taking an oath to not repeat the abomination:

“A representative who did wrong, the representative of our community[17], (is he not) (his name and the name of his father are erased) and after we saw that his behaviour was inappropriate, for he placed his eyes on the cup and did not act with propriety. Therefore, we have convened as a group, with a full table, and decided to dismiss him. He is now dismissed from his position, and Heaven forbid that we return him to his job without the unanimous agreement of the community, which can stop the judgment. (Agreed to) by all the heads and chiefs of the community, new and old together, today, Thursday 12 Nissan 5518 (1758), with the participation of the Rabbi, the renowned head of the rabbinical court and Yeshiva head of the community of Chodorów.

Signed: Aryeh Leib the son of Rabbi Shmuel, may the memory of the holy be blessed.
Signed: Yirmia the Levite.
Signed: Avraham the son of Mordecai, may G–d protect him.
Signed: Yehoshua Heshel the son of Rabbi Tz. H. may his light shine.
Signed: Tzvi Hirsch the son of Eliahu Katz.
Signed: David the son of Nisan of holy blessed memory.”

[The following is written] further on, at the time that the cantor expressed remorse, and was obligated to take an oath to not repeat his travesty:

“I, the person who signed below, have come with regret for my earlier behavior, and herby request from the leaders and chiefs of the community to accept me for the holy service of serving as the communal representative (prayer leader) of the community. I have done wrong, perpetrated a travesty, and have (now) accepted upon myself through a stringent oath

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through taking hold of a (holy) object in the presence of two representatives of the rabbinic court and the communal intercessor to adjure myself to keep away from wine and any other intoxicating drink, liquor or liqueurs. Heaven forbid that I even taste such forbidden material. I take this upon myself through an oath that applies on weekdays, Sabbaths, festivals, and even for festive religious celebrations – it is forbidden upon myself for the entire year.”

On page 27, folio b, there appears the text of a declaration through an oath regarding the evaluation of property for taxes. The declaration is written in a mixture of Hebrew and Yiddish. It is not dated, but it is surmised to be from the year 5522 (1762).

“I hereby swear with the approval of the Omnipresent and the communal trustee, and take the oath without any subterfuge or deceit, that this notice that I am giving to the communal trustees is true and correct. I claim nothing more than what is stated in this notice, and I am hiding nothing that is not in this note. I also include in my oath that I have no knowledge that my wife has money or any deposit. In my estimation, she has nothing. And I am not hiding any cash, cash equivalents, gold, or jewelry – whether beads, pearls, ovals [evidently a type of jewelry item], gold or silver chains – or merchandise or debts that I have, and which I owe to other people. I am also not hiding that which is due to me in accordance with the ordinances of the community. I have not given over, lent or deposited anything to be hidden until after the oath and then returned to me. I have also not deposited sums of cash or jewelry with our sons or daughters, and not deposited toward any inheritance or marriage contract, even for a dowry for our sons and daughters – anything that can be spoken by the mouth or thought of in the heart. Our property is no more than what is stated in the notice that I have given over to the trustees. If my oath is, Heaven forbid, not true, then may G–d not desire to forgive me and may all the curses and maledictions written in this book fall upon me[18]; and may He who exacted punishment from the generation of the flood and the generation of the dispersion exact punishment from anyone who acts with guile regarding his oath[19], and may all of Israel be free from this iniquity. If my oath is true, may G–d continue to grant me success in my endeavors, and may my curses turn to blessings, Amen.”

On page 56, folio a and b, there is a list of donations received from the heirs of “the late, scholarly, wonderful wealthy man, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman the son of the late Rabbi and wealthy man Moshe of blessed memory,” in which he allocates bequests in his will for synagogues, various institutions, poor people, redemption of captives, etc. From this list, the date of which is 5538 (1778), we

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can deduce the religious and communal activities of the Jewish community of Dubno at the end of the 18th century.

“Money has no value to a person on the day he passes from the world. The late wonderful, scholarly, wealthy man, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman the son of the late Rabbi and preacher Rabbi Moshe of blessed memory commanded his children to distribute from his fortune on behalf of his soul. The following list is what their father commanded them, and let their sons do as their father has commanded.

To the Small Kloiz, 1,000 zloty.

Regarding the above, the leaders of the community received from the trustees as was written with the signature of the leaders who gave the aforementioned sum to the Small Kloiz.

To the Chevra Kadisha (burial society), for Mishnayot in the aforementioned Small Kloiz, 100 zloty.

To the Chevra Kadisha, an eternal light in the Great Synagogue 200 zloty.

To the Large Kloiz, 400 zloty.

To the Chevra Kadisha, a prayer candle for the aforementioned Kloiz, 100 zloty.

To the sandek Society[20], 100 zloty.

Total of the above shall be given over the head, Mr. Izik the son of Reb Anshel.

For the needs of the public, 200 zloty. The aforementioned sum is given as a loan by the aforementioned Izik the son of Reb Anshel, with the will of the group, to Reb Meir the son of Reb Ḥaim Farber, through an act of acquisition[21].

For sustaining the poor, 400 zloty, discharged through a receipt.

To the Society for the Visiting of the Sick, 200 zloty, discharged by a receipt.

For the redemption of captives, 139 good and large zloty, discharged by a receipt. The sum of 60 good and large zloty still remains to be discharged in accordance with the will of the aforementioned deceased man.

To the synagogue, through a receipt from the trustees of the city, 400 zloty.

The total of what is due from the heirs of the aforementioned deceased man in accordance with the aforementioned list comes to 3,300 zloty, and was discharged as above. Still owing is the aforementioned payment of 600 zloty.

Tuesday, 11 Tammuz, 5538 (1778), as we count here in Dubno.

So that this document can be preserved, I have written it with an iron and lead pen.

Aharon the son of the great, renowned Rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael of holy blessed memory.”

On page 109, folio b, there appears a directive from the year 5542 (1782) forbidding the imposition of new taxes for the building of the Great Synagogue of the city. From this we must surmise that sufficiently heavy taxes had already been imposed on the community in its time.

“With the help of G–d, since our spirit was awakened, and we set our hearts on building a great house with walls, splendid and glorious, to exalt the house of our G–d with a miniature sanctuary[22], the holy synagogue of our community may it be protected.

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Given that we now are concerned lest some leaders of the community renew some obligations on the members of the community in accordance with the tax evaluation, we state that they have no permission at all to do this. Any one of the card holders is allowed to stop things so that no obligation based on tax evaluation be imposed for the purpose of the building of the synagogue.

Signed: Ze'ev Wolf the son of our Rabbi and Gaon N. H., may the memory of the holy be blessed.
Signed: Yitzhak Izik Margolis.
Signed: David the son of Nisan, may the memory of the holy be blessed.
Signed: Shalom the son of Rabbi Sh. Zalman, may he be protected.
Signed: Meir the son of Mr. Moshe of blessed memory.
(and nine more signatures)
Today, Tuesday, 15 Sivan 5552 (1792) in Greater Dubno, with the participation of the local Rabbi and head of the rabbinical court.”

Regarding the participation of the Jews of Dubno in donations for the benefit of Ashkenazic poor of the Land of Israel during the 18th century, we can see from an entry that appears in the ledgers from the year 5543 (1783) on page 107, folio a. This is a copy of the certificate received from the rabbinical emissary from the Land of Israel:

“Today, Tevet 3, 5543 (1822), I received a holy emissary of the Four Lands of the Land of Israel[23], may it be rebuilt speedily in our days, Amen, from the heirs of the late renowned MenaḤem Manes of blessed memory a sum of 400 gold coins for the poor of the Ashkenazim of the Holy Land, may it be speedily rebuilt. From the aforementioned sum, I am obligated to give the sum of 42 Polish zloty to the widow of the late famous Ḥassid, Mrs. Freidel of blessed memory[24], who is a relative of the deceased of blessed memory – over and above the distribution of money for the Land of Israel that is due to her from the distribution of the Ashkenazic sages of the Holy Land, may it be speedily rebuilt, Amen.

As a proof, I am signing, today, on the aforementioned date, Eliezer Zisman the son of Rabbi Yitzhak, may he be remembered for life in the World to Come, the head of the rabbinical court of the two communities of Safed and Tiberias, may they be speedily rebuilt, Amen.”

The entry on page 113, folio b is especially interesting. It is also from the year 5543 (1783), and deals with changes in the collection of taxes, “to reduce and not to add in accordance with the needs of the times.” These changes include reductions in tax owing granted to merchants, shopkeepers, and tradesmen, as detailed here:

“The owners of rented shops and stores, not “ones they own”; the shopkeepers who receive their merchandise on credit, and the merchants who maintain property – houses, shops, stores, and stalls –

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whether “by contract” or “by rent”; small–scale tradesmen (“household servants will give nothing”), sellers of salt in wagons and blocks; importers of wine from Hungary to sell wholesale; makers of “malts” to put in beer, as well as anyone who “wishes to tell their choice” in the Kloiz or the shtibel. Only [three types of payment listed here][25] must be given by everybody” …

The entry concludes as follows:

“All the aforementioned has been agreed by all of us, the enactors of enactments who were chosen by the community, the merchants, tavern keepers, and estate owners, with the authorisation of the great master, the Commissar, may his glory be raised. It has been enacted and concluded for the benefit of the community on Tuesday, 17 Iyar 5543 (1783).

Ze'ev Wolf who lives here in Greater Dubno.

Signed: David the son of Nisan of blessed memory.
Signed: Chain the son of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch of blessed memory.”

An enactment related to leasing the meat taxes for a group of Jews, including two people not from Dubno, enacted in Elul 5553 (January 1793)[26], during the time of the Second Partition of Poland, which was a time of tribulations and lack of political and economic stability. It was decided from the outset that a change in the situation of the butchers who leased the tax, resulting from the economic situation, will be dealt with by the heads of the community regarding paying of the lease fees, as is related on page 139, folio a and b:

“We, the communal leaders who signed below, convened and leased the tax of ritual slaughter to the wealthy people Tz. H. Charta'z, Fishel Bara'n, Itzin of Zloczów, and Y. Tzvi Hirsch the son of Fishel of Kremeniec for the duration of an entire year, that is from the 25th of Elul 5553 until the 25th of Elul 5554, for the sum of 350,000 zloty as explained on the next page. The communal leaders are obliged to receive it when the aforementioned discharge their obligation. If, Heaven forbid, some sort of scandal or any other issue arises regarding the aforementioned taxes, everything is the responsibility of the leaders of the community. Similarly, if the scarab[27] affects the cattle, this too will be the responsibility of the communal leaders.

As a proof, the leaders who own the aforementioned tax themselves sign below on Tuesday, 25 Elul 5553, here in Greater Dubno.”

In the year 5564 (1804), after the Russian conquest, the residents of Dubno were ordered to provide residence (“quarters”) for the occupation soldiers. The task of

[Column 123]

allocating the soldiers to the houses of the Jewish residents fell upon a Shamash [communal worker] named Ya'acov. He apparently favored the wealthy, and, in exchange for gifts and bribes, did not house the soldiers with them. After the facts were brought before the heads of the community, the Shamash Ya'acov was dismissed from his position forever, and it was decided to not give him any communal work or position. This is described on page 173, folio b.

“Behold, we have seen the great obstacle that stemmed from Mr. Ya'acov the Shamash regarding the allocation of lodging for soldiers in our community. He had been responsible for the determination of lodging. The aforementioned Mr. Ya'acov acted deceitfully, favored the wealthy, received gifts from them, and placed the soldiers only with the middle–class and poor of the city. The house of anyone who gave him a bribe was free from soldiers. He did not good amongst his people, for he stole from the masses. Who can close their ears from hearing the cries of the poor people who shouted out that the aforementioned Mr. Ya'acov demanded from them and from all their neighbors every month, “give, give, lodging money.” After an investigation and inquiry, it became clear to us that he was guilty of theft from the public, that he continued to sin, and acted brazenly with brazen forehead in front of a table full of the communal leaders.

Regarding this, the leaders and heads of the community have agreed that, from this day forward, the aforementioned Mr. Ya'acov will be permanently dismissed, and he will have no position or tasks from the communal leadership under any circumstance. This will be enacted with strength and force.

These are the words of the honorable leaders and heads of the community, today, Thursday 8 Adar, 5564 (1804).” (no signatures)

It seems that eleven years later, in the year 5575 (1815)[28], two Shamashim (communal workers) from Dubno, who were in charge of housing Russian soldiers in the homes of the residence, once again corrupted their duties. When the matter was brought before the communal leaders, the leaders found it appropriate to dismiss them from their positions and to forbid their future employment in communal affairs “with a strong ban, for all the generations of the world.” However, due to a command of the Russian police chief in the city, apparently issued in writing, the heads of the community lifted the ban on one of the Shamashim after two months and returned him to his position. This is noted on page 171, folio a:

“The people of the community, may it be established, came to us with a great complaint regarding the Shamashim of the housing commission of this community, Reb Avraham Jaszikisz and Mr. Yosef the son of Gershon, and stated how those Shamashim assign housing to soldiers in an unjust manner in accordance with their will. This has caused a dispute, resulting in the dismissal of the aforementioned Shamashim. Therefore, we have accepted their words and issued a stringent decree that from today and onward, for all the generations of the world, the two aforementioned Shamashim were sentenced to

[Column 124]

permanent dismissal. They will never be permitted again to serve, and no permit will ever be of benefit to them, and nobody can prevent this. Other Shamashim, who will be acceptable to everyone, shall be immediately appointed in their place. If it happens that those new Shamashim also act improperly, they will also be sentenced to dismissal. As proof, we, the honorable leaders and chiefs of this community have signed, together with the deputy of the commission as well as with honorable Rabbis of renown, the righteous rabbinical judges of this community. We have signed on Monday, 4 Tammuz 5575 (1815).

Signed by Ari Leib son of Rabbi Hillel of blessed memory; signed by Yosef the son of Y. Gabmo of blessed memory; signed by Ya'acov Mordecai Halperin, signed by Shimon the son of Reb A. deputy, signed by Yisrael the head of all to organizations. There is a permission that comes from the ban. Since, on account of disputes and strife, we have installed new Shamashim to the housing committee, and since we have seen that the new Shamashim are not able to act appropriately in providing housing, and furthermore, we have received a command from the police chief that we specifically employ the original Shamashim, we have lifted the aforementioned ban with a complete permit, and have accepted Reb Avraham Szajikisz as a Shamash in the housing committee as previously, for the majority of the residents of our city have requested this from us. This shall be established with power and authority, today, Sunday 19 Elul 5575 (1815).
Signed: Aryeh Leib son of Reb Sh. Of blessed memory.”

From what is stated on page 132 it seems that the community of Dubno was diligent in the support of the Jews of the Land of Israel, for we find details regarding the donation that was given in the year 5583 (1823) to the “emissary from Hebron in the Holy Land”:

“Today, the emissary from the holy city of Hebron came here, with a roster of donors from several cities who agreed to send donations every year. It is clear from that roster that 200 zloty have been pledged annually. After we have seen that the emissary has the permission from the people of Hebron to act on their behalf, we have compromised with the aforementioned emissary and have discharged our obligation from the past to the present, in a manner than from this day forward, the leaders of our community are free from the aforementioned donation forever. The aforementioned emissary has signed this compromise with his own signature in the aforementioned roster today, Sunday, 12 Av 5583 (1823).”

The Jews of Dubno did not use family names until the beginning of the 19th century. They sufficed themselves with their first names, their descriptions, and the names of their fathers. Very few family names appear in the Ledgers of the Community of Dubno until the year 5591 (1831), even though an edict of the Russian authority obligated them in this already from the year 5573 (1813).

[Column 125]

On page 171, folio a of the ledger, the first lengthy list appears of signatories with surnames appears, in an entry regarding the giving of vessels of silver and gold to the scholarly young man Mr. Shimon the son of Reb Yeshaya of blessed memory. The protocol was written on Wednesday, 14 Iyar 5591 (1831) here in Greater Dubno.


Hand–written page from Dubno p. 349–4
The Israel National Library and Hebrew University

[Column 126]

“Signed by Jarasz Baskis, Ziskin Optyk, Avraham the son of Reb M. P. Chawkin, Yisrael Hirsch Baskis, Shmuel Ajzenhart, Zalman Parnas, Rafael the son of Reb M. Rafalowicz, Berish Feuersztajn, Kalonymus Kalman the son of Reb D. Mraszolkewicz, Yisrael the son of Reb Z. Parnas, Yosef Manilsohn.”

Translator's footnotes:
  1. It is the general custom of Chevra Kadishas [burial societies] to observe a fast day on a certain date, which varies between communities, to be followed by a major gala feast. Return
  2. I am unsure as to what this date reference means. The 1890s would correspond to the 5650s in the Jewish calendar. From the context, it seems to refer to some court counting from the beginning of the case. Return
  3. Based on Psalms 117:11–12, recited as part of the Hallel service, referencing a person being surrounded by enemies, like trapped bees. Return
  4. There is a text footnote here: see Tur 48. Return
  5. The next three words are a partial quote of a Biblical phrase (with the first word slightly misspelled). This type of phraseology is used as a mnemonic code for a specific year. Return
  6. There is a text footnote here: “Large” refers to a coin of specific value (Groszy); Assessment – his evaluation, according to which the taxes that he must pay to the community is determined – based on is economic situation. Return
  7. The term Rabbi used in the signatures may not be literal. The term “our teacher the rabbi” is often used as an honorific for an honorable, respectable person. That appears to be the style in the signatures in this ledger. Return
  8. There is a footnote in the text here: Regarding those teachers of children who had not learned themselves, and are not appropriately exacting. Return
  9. Tosafot is a set of commentaries on the Talmud. Return
  10. Based on Jeremiah 30:7. Return
  11. Jacob here refers to the Jewish people, and the sister refers to Jewish women. Return
  12. I based the translation of many of these protocols from the analogous article from column 577. The Hebrew version had more detail, so I modified and added to the translation as necessary. Return
  13. I could not find the meaning of these textiles or garments. Return
  14. Relatives whom one is forbidden to marry by Torah law (parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, in–laws, etc.). Return
  15. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: We must be wary that things do not become more severe than they should be. (Translator's note: a secular court would deal with this more harshly than a Jewish court, and the community evidently felt that there is reason to avoid such.) Return
  16. I believe, but am not 100% certain, that this is a reference to the death penalty. Return
  17. Shliach Tzibur – communal representative – is a term referring to a prayer leader or cantor who represents the community in prayer. Return
  18. Some of this is paraphrased from Deuteronomy 29. Return
  19. A paraphrase of the Mi Shepara curse imposed upon those who do not fulfil their words (Mishna Baba Metzia 4:2). Return
  20. Seemingly a society for the provision of funds for circumcision ceremonies for the poor. Return
  21. Literally: Kinyan Sudar, a transaction enacted by picking up an object of some small value, usually a piece of cloth. Return
  22. A term for a synagogue, as opposed to the Holy Temple (which would be the Great Sanctuary). Return
  23. There is a footnote in the text here: the four lands of the Land of Israel are Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias. Return
  24. The “of blessed memory” seems out of place here, and likely applies to the late husband. There seems to be a mis–ordering of clauses, which is not uncommon in such documents. Return
  25. Kumin gelt’ – possibly arrival money; ‘pagloni’ – unsure of the meaning; ‘shnit gelt’ – probably money for tailoring. Return
  26. Seemingly an error here, as Elul is August / September, and not January. Return
  27. I am unsure what this means in this context, but likely refers to some cattle disease (the transliteration is skarb). Return
  28. The text indicates 1875, but either the Hebrew or, more likely the secular date provided is in error. Return



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