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[Page 77]

Chapter 10

The Continuation of
Oshpitzin Jewry's Exile in Galicia

Oshpitzin Jews in the maze of the edicts. – The flood of orders, regulations, and edicts. – The rise in taxation of Oshpitzin's Jews. – The city's Jews petition the Emperor. – The tax on kosher meat and candles. – The cruel exploitation through special indirect taxes. – The impoverishment of Galician Jews and the consequences. – The emigration of Jews from Galicia. – Jews mobilized into the army as of 1788. – Public schools for Jews. – The Order of Germanization of Jews. – Prohibition of Jewish dress. – A turn for the better by the Emperor in 1786. – The Revolution of 1848 arouses Jewish hope.

The initial decrees proclaimed against the Jews immediately after the conquest of Galicia by Austria, paved the way for more of them, no less severe, whose ramifications were felt, of course, in Oshpitzin as well. This may have been ameliorated owing to its location on the border of Prussia and its social and business relationships with the Silesian population beyond the border, and also with the German Jews who dwelt in the Silesian communities.

The Austrian authorities instituted drastic means in order to transform the status of Jews and to adapt them to new conditions by a single stroke. They inundated Galicia – including the Jews there – with a flood of orders, instructions, and decrees which only led to complete chaos. However, with the passage of a few years, the Austrian bureaucratic apparatus in Vienna, in Lwow, and the Galician districts came to realize that the changes in the lives of Jews could not be accomplished haphazardly by directives or “Patents”. The fate of the Jewish community in Oshpitzin was equivalent to that of all the Jewish communities in Galicia.[1]

The Austrian policies on immigration, tax collection, population, and the like, led to a decrease in the growth of the Jewish population in Galicia. In the decade, 1776-1786, the growth of the Jewish population reached 7.5%, while the Christian population climbed by 16.4%.

The indirect taxes of the Kehillot, placed on meat and foodstuffs, anciently referred to as “Krupka” [?] (in Russian, “Korovka”) were left in place, but most of the revenue was earmarked for retiring the debts of the Kehillot and partially to the Royal treasury. A special payment to the treasury was collected from the fees exacted in granting the titles “Chaver” and “Moreinu”, the founding of new cemeteries, or the expansion of existing ones. For the sake of efficiency in the collection of taxes, the government did not interfere with the autonomy of the Kehillot in that period, as such autonomy was also in vogue in the other Austrian territories. The taxes paid by Jews in Galicia were very steep and had no parallel to those current elsewhere in the empire.

The Jewish Kehilla in Oshpitzin and environs numbered 1,295 Jews, according to an extant source, and until 1780 it paid taxes of toleration and income in the sum of 1,645 Gulden and 45 Kronen. That year the administration raised these taxes to amount of 3,552 Gulden and 1.5 Kronen. The Kehilla was not able to make such a large payment, and, as a result owed back taxes, that already by 1784 amounted to 2,872 Gulden. The Myslenice governor, Von Zilli [?], threatened the most dire sanctions, and the Jews, overcome with fear and despair, petitioned the Kaiser, but to no avail.[2]

More than all, the Jewish populace of Galicia was overburdened with the special Jewish taxes: ancient taxes, that were doubled several times over during the reigns of the Empress Maria Theresa and Kaiser Josef II, and were added to as well. The tax on Kosher meat was twice as large as that of other meats, and was instituted in 1784, which was three times as much as in earlier times so that Kosher meat was thereby twice as expensive as other meat. A Christian author of the period, Professor Michael Schattner, affirms that because of this dearth, the poorer Jewish people tasted meat only very rarely. The despicable exploitation of the Jewish populace by the Catholic God-fearing monarchy was described by the well-known Viennese Jewish leader and author, Josef von Wertheimer in his book “On the Circumstances of the Jews in Austria” – which, because of the censorship, was published in Leipzig – a typical sarcastic description, as follows: “This is no longer Shylock, who by the Shakespearian libel wished to cut a pound of flesh from the body of the Christian, but hundreds of thousands of Jews, from whom the Christian monarchy's decree removes real pounds of flesh”.

Crueler and more blatant was the tax on candles which was instituted in 1797 and almost tripled in 1816. Every married woman was obliged to pay 10 Kreuzer to the tax collector for each pair of Sabbath candles, and even when she had no money to buy the candles themselves. Whoever was not punctual, the tax-farmer would break into the home on Sabbath eve at dusk and remove some of the household goods, and even the bedclothes. According to the reliable testimony of Josef Wertheimer, beggars were constantly to be found on the streets, shamefacedly requesting some pennies in order to be able to pay the collector the Shabbat candle-tax. The candle-tax disgracefully continued for some fifty years and was considered a leech sucking Jewish blood.

This system of cruel exploitation of the Jewish population through indirect taxation led to anarchy and corruption within the life of the Galician Kehillot, unprecedented even during the degenerate feudal period. The collection of both the meat and candle taxes was assigned to Jewish tax-farmers. The very idea to levy the candle tax had been broached by a Jew, Shlomo Kopler[?], a liquor tax-farmer in the city of Stanyslaw, who, in return, received for himself and his partners, the franchise for this tax over all of Galicia. The government adopted his proposal after the well-known assimilationist, Herz Homberg, advised the Kaiser that the candle tax did not represent any offense against the Jewish faith. Similar figures of Kopler's ilk, aggressive, usurers, embezzlers of public funds, informers, and thieves, were appointed as candle tax-farmers. So also were most of the tax-farmers collecting the Kosher meat taxes and their underlings, sub-franchisers and collectors, who sucked the blood and marrow of Galician Jewry in order to fill their pockets and the Royal treasury. The meat tax-farmers, and more especially the candle tax-farmers became for decades the byword for exploitation and cruelty in the daily speech of the Jewish people in Galicia.

These tax-farmers, and particularly the candle tax-farmers, became, by way of their function, the rulers of the Jewish communities in Galicia, and the government approved their status in its orders to the Kehillot. The government empowered the tax-farmers with the authority to distribute the quotas of the candle tax levies, and in that process they intimidated the oppressed masses. In several Kehillot, especially the major Kehillot, such as Lwow and Krakow, the tax-farmers themselves assumed the posts of Rosh Kehilla. Any and all complaints to the authorities by the members of the Kehillot with reference to the abusive tactics of the tax-farmers and their deceitful practices in administering the affairs of the Kehilla were to no avail.

The terrible pauperization of the Jewish population in Galicia is illustrated by the fact that the government was obliged to exempt 4,000 Jewish families from the candle tax, and to collect only 50% of it from 11,000 families. Inasmuch as the entire Jewish population amounted to some 45,000 families, it turns out that one third of the Jews were in such abject poverty, that even the cruel and reactionary authorities were compelled to make allowances. The Kehilla, as an institution, deteriorated abysmally in its corruption, having been abandoned to the candle tax-farmers. The Kehilla had become the solitary domain of wealthy Jews, and the poor had no vote or say. The right to vote in the small Kehillot was reserved only for those who regularly paid the candle tax for three or four candles, and for seven Sabbath candles in the larger Kehillot.[3]

If we turn our attention to the changes taking place in the lives of Galician Jewry in the years between 1772 and 1792, we can conclude that they were enormous. These years created a poverty in Galicia unparalleled in any other of the countries in the European Diaspora. It occasioned the much earlier emigration many years prior to that in the other Polish lands. The emigration from Galicia which began in 1776 never came to a complete end. Until 1890, the wandering Galicians settled primarily in Silesia ( principally in locations close to Oshpitzin just beyond the border), in Bukovina, and in Vienna. After 1890 the wave of emigration streamed to America and Hungary, and in the thirty years between 1880 and 1910, Galicia lost one-third of its Jewish population.

In the autumn of 1784 a senior official wrote to Vienna depicting the terrible circumstances of Galician Jewry. According to him, the number of Jewish families stood at 34,498. Of that number, 15,234 earned less that 100 Polish Zloty per annum; 17,283 earned between 100 and 400 Zloty; 1655 earned between 400 and 1200 Zloty; and 326 earned more than 1200 Zloty. The government itself was alarmed at this terrible poverty. In his own words: “The Jewish inhabitant, who is required to pay taxes, he, or a shopkeeper, or craftsman, tavern-keeper or lessor and others of this category – and they are the majority – are known as middlemen, go-betweens or peddlers, are unable to pay even the 'Toleration Tax` and live a life of extreme poverty. The shopkeeper usually gets his merchandise on consignment, and if he evaluates his property (for tax assessment) at less than its worth – then he loses the security on which his livelihood depends; and should he evaluate his property for more than its value, then he brings about his own undoing, should he be required to pay the tax on the assessment, and shortly thereafter he fails, or cannot pay the tax, in all, a difficult position. The path to a livelihood for the craftsmen and artisans, most of them semi-skilled, is blocked since they are forbidden to work for Christians. The bartender, too, gets his liquor on consignment and is nourished mostly by risky fraud [dilution], and he, generally lives in indigence”.

As a result of the equality of Jews to Christians, according to the aims of Josef II, the law of 1788 which requires Jewish young men to serve in the army should also be considered. For over a thousand years Jews had not performed required military service in any country, and small wonder that major panic resulted in the Jewish community at the publication of the law. In a number of places, Jews wanted to leave the country. The young men scattered in all directions or hid from the recruiters. About a year later, Josef wanted to ease the plight of Jewish soldiers and ordered that they be employed only as supply personnel in charge of the equipment wagons that accompanied the regiments, and that they be permitted to eat Kosher foods, and that on the Sabbaths they be required to do only those tasks which a Christian is permitted to do on his Sabbath. From a Jewish viewpoint, where the family is the fundamental bedrock of life, this relief hardly sweetened the bitterness of having the son uprooted from the family bosom and from standard Jewish practice.

In 1785, the Confederation of Kehillot was brought to an end by the 1776 regulations, and no other national Kehilla organization took its place. The new regulations left the local leaders in their posts. Their task was to represent the Kehilla before the authorities, to see to Kehilla concerns, to supervise in tandem with the Rabbi, the recording of births, marriages, and deaths, the collection of Kehilla fees, the taxes levied on Jews, and the administration of the Kehilla. The leaders were dependent on the district government who regarded them as subject to their authority. In addition to the heads of the Kehilla, there were the elected Gabbaim of the Beis Medrish, charity, hospital, assessors and accountants; assisting the Kehilla Council was a staff of officials consisting of the Rabbi, Dayanim, Shochtim, Shamashim, and gravediggers. The Kehilla office was administered by the Kehilla Secretary. [4]

According to the Jewish Ordinance of Josef II of 1789, each Kehilla, even in a small town, was required to maintain a public school. The language of instruction in each school was German. The official name of these schools was to be “German-Yiddish Schools” or “Yiddish-German Schools”. Until 1792 only schools for boys were started. The law required that each Jewish child was to begin the study of Gemara before he completed his schooling in the primary public school. These schools were founded with Jewish funds, but they were supervised by the authorities, and not by the Kehillot. The first teaching staff was recruited in the main from German speaking Maskilim from Moravia and Bohemia.

The same government, which, through its taxation sucked the blood and marrow of Galician Jewry, and outmaneuvered them with cruel decrees in their economic lives, made great efforts using all the means at their disposal to Germanize them, to utterly uproot their unique nationalistic traits, and also to abolish Yiddish from their midst. Using the methods that previously failed within the Polish and Ukrainian population, they were applied here with even greater cruel obstinacy against the Jews. The Jews, scattered in all parts of the country, were bidden to become the distributors of the German language within the general population. In 1806 the monarchy decreed that all of the larger Kehilla officials were required to know German, and other sundry decrees were published to carry out the Germanization of the Jews.

The Jewish population of Galicia was tottering under the double burden of impoverishment and the exploitative taxation and economic decrees of Austrian absolutism. At least one-third of the Jewish population were “Luftmenschen”, who did not even own a measly store. They lived from the minor profits of acting as middlemen, hawking at fairs, or had no trade, and were at times without a slice of bread. Even those who did engage in business, about one-third of all Galician Jewry, were mainly petty traders and shopkeepers. About one-fifth of the Jewish population were engaged in small industry and crafts. With their expulsion from commerce and the restrictions placed on crafts, Jews attempted to thrust themselves anywhere it was possible to earn something.

In the last years of the reign of Josef II, 1786-1790, a new turn in his policies towards Galician Jewry began, which necessitated a change in his general program of regulations in this province of his empire. The great “Patent” was preceded by a number of laws whose aim was to Germanize the Jews of Galicia and to compel them to comply with the laws equally with all the citizens. In 1786 the Jews became bound by the general law pertaining to marriages. In 1788, Jews were forbidden to wear clothes differing from the dress of the general population. That same year all Galician Jews, and all others in the Austrian territories, were obligated to do military service. Less than a year passed since the Patent for Galician Jews was announced until the death of Kaiser Josef II. With his demise the period of enlightened absolutism in Austria ended, and its place was taken by political reaction that reduced the few attainments that the Jews of Galicia had achieved through the patent. The Jews of Oshpitzin had escaped from one calamity and now were to experience other hardships, which troubled them for a long period.

The reign of Franz II, was to be for Galician Jewry, as for all the Jews of the empire, a period of increasingly severe decrees. Other than the permission for Jews to engage in commerce and handicrafts, there was almost no regulation issued by Josef II concerning Jews in which this hypocrite of a monarch had not adversely affected them. That chief proponent of European reaction, who, whether by reduction, or by complete nullification, had brought about that even the legal status of Galician Jewry current in the days of Maria Theresa was being continually eroded. Kaiser Franz, out of religious zeal, wished to denigrate the status and dignity of the Jews, the followers of a faith that he regarded contemptible. In tandem with the strengthening of the reaction in Austria in three phases – against the French Revolution, against liberalism after the Congress of Vienna – the discrimination and decrees against the Jews come in frequent succession. Kaiser Franz died in 1835, but Metternich (1773-1859), the Foreign Minister of Austria, persisted in the policies of the regime and the suppression of national and ethnic movements. It was he who organized the “Pillage of Krakow” in 1845. There were some contacts between the “Krakow Republic” and Oshpitzin, which was in the throes of various, mixed influences (Germany, Czechia, and Russia). In 1847, a mass uprising broke out against Metternich and there were “Bread Demonstrations” , and in 1848, he was forced to resign and fled to England. The 1848 Revolution brought a change in the internal policies in all of Austria, and rooted out the harsh reign of Metternich. This aroused many hopes among the Jews as well for a better future in all respects. However, despite the hopes on which the Jews relied in the wake of the events of 1848, and the spirit of freedom that ensued, the Jews of Oshpitzin, in the main, remained true to their tradition and did not strive for change in their lives or their Kehilla in consonance with the spirit of the times as were expressed by the enlightened Maskilim.

We have earlier noted the results of the census of Jews in 1773 in Galicia, Oshpitzin, and the Jewish population. In Czmerinski's [?] book (in Polish) we find the statistics of the Roman Catholic parishes and the settlements with the population according to religion (from official military sources, manuscript 525, page 363 in the Osolinski [?] Institute, formerly in Lwow, and later in Wroclaw). The following table refers to Oshpitzin.

Polish Admin. District Parishes Cities Towns Villages Houses Population Christian Jewish % of Jews

Oswiecim and Zator 54 3 4 4 16,440 106,799 106,018 781 0.73

These statistics are intended for the period after 1846, when the Galician territory was greater than it was in 1772.


  1. According to the annals of the governing body in Lwow for 1772/3 and various other books, there is a claim submitted by the Jews of Oshpitzin, who were adversely affected by the levies imposed on them to supply grain and money to the army of the Bar Confederation.Return
  2. The only document on the threat of the Myslenice authorities against the Oshpitzin Kehilla reveals only a little but says much, and illustrates the distress of the Jews that brought them to cry out against the injustice. Return
  3. Notwithstanding, there are Jewish writers who affirmed that the Austrian Kaiser was a benevolent ruler who acted not out of his vulgar personal pique but from a strong urge to lift the Jews up from their lowly status and to influence them for their greater benefit.Return
  4. The changes instituted by the government in the organization of the Kehilla and their inner lives also had a deleterious effect, and the community scoundrels made the lives of individuals troublesome and caused no end of Chillul Hashem and scandals, and the many instances of informing on and turning to the authorities [to resolve internal conflicts].Return

[Page 83]

Chapter 11

Jewish Farmers
in the Oshpitzin District

The order of 1782 to employ Jews in agriculture. – Lowered taxes for Jewish farmers. – The first Jewish agricultural settlement in Dombrowka [Dabrowka]. – The “New Jerusalem” settlement as model to others. – 8 Jewish families are engaged in agriculture in the Oshpitzin district. – 29 families in the Myslenice [?] district in 1822. – The displeasure of the townsmen at Jewish settlers. – Frankists and Karaites settle in the district. The first Jewish farmer in the Baerwald district in 1784. – Jewish innkeepers in the Oshpitzin district. – Circumvention of decrees against Jews engaged in agriculture.

The economic situation of Galician Jewry during the reign of Josef II continually worsened to the point of starvation of tens of thousands of Jews. At one point, Josef mulled over an idea: Wouldn't it make sense to ignore the old law, which prohibited Jews from buying fields? Why shouldn't the Jew also enrich the empire with the “gift of nature” that is going to waste over so much arable land that is lying fallow? This thought the Kaiser expressed for the first time in 1781, and he put it in writing to the governing body in Lwow in order to hear their opinion, whether it was possible to give Jews farmsteads in the government's estates and pastures that belonged to the municipal authorities, to oblige them, whether by corporal punishment or fines, to cultivate these fields with their own hands alone, and later to demand taxes, not monetary, but the produce that they themselves have raised. The response of the governing body is not known, but an order was apparently given by the Kaiser that the government should make an attempt to settle Jews on the land, since a year later (1782) we find an order that the Jewish farmers are required to pay only half of the marriage-tax. Some time later the Jewish farmers were freed completely from paying this tax. However, the matter of Jewish agriculture was forgotten by the Kaiser and not raised again for three years, and consequently forgotten by the officials as well. From the Jewish side, too, nothing had been done to exercise this privilege. When the decrees forbidding Jews to hold leases of any kind, and thousands of rural families were left without the means of support and the protests of these unfortunates came to the Kaiser's attention, he renewed the order of July 16, 1785 to help them. This ordered the immediate basis for Jewish settlement in Galicia. The order had been given by the Kaiser, and had to be followed. They began then to search for land for the Jewish farmers and found a village in the New Sondz [Nowy Sacz] district namedDombrowka[Dabrowka]. It was no trouble at all to find Jews willing to settle there, and thus the first settlement was established in the spring of 1786. The new farmers received land and seed grain for the first planting, but homes and barns for cattle and horses were not yet built for them. The Kaiser decided to grant the Jews lumber, stones, and plaster for the construction of their homes and underwrote the labor of the Christian serfs, but he refused to provide money allocations to them; the Kaiser was afraid that they would use it for commerce. Josef II instructed the officials to keep a close watch on these farmers that they should engage in agricultural work only and not in inn keeping or trade. By the winter of 1786-87 the land was already under cultivation and properly cared for. When they ran out of money before the harvest, the government showed them favor and gave each of them 50 Florins as a loan.[1]

The first Jewish farm settlement for many hundreds of years was called “The New Jerusalem” and consisted of twenty families. In the subsequent years it became the shining example of Jewish rural settlements established by the government. The report concerning Jewish farm settlements had great impact among the poor, out of work, and no steady income, and many petitions were submitted to the district governors, the governing body, and even the Kaiser, on this matter in the years 1786-1789. In the three years up to 1789 more settlements were founded on the earlier model, among them “The New Babylonia” near Bolechow consisting of a dozen families.

From the viewpoints of both the preparedness of Jews for agriculture and their desire to settle in an agricultural setting, this was a fortuitous time in the history of Galician Jewry, which was to completely transform the economic base of thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of families. The village Jews, and partly the Jews from Galician towns, had, by way of leases and inn-keeping, already been involved with farms and grazing, and some of them in bee-keeping, so that they had the experience to be able to devote themselves to farming as their main occupation. In spite of the foregoing, the project failed through governmental neglect, since the authorities were not really behind this serious endeavor, and for other reasons as well. It is no wonder, then, that in view of this attitude on the part of the Galician authorities the entire settlement project turned out to be an attempt that failed, and by 1800 there were only several dozen Jewish farm families in all of Galicia, and instead of government action, the Kehillot were obliged in 1789 to take over the Kaiser Josef's “Patent” to administer the settlement activities with their own funds. The number of required settlers was set at 1410 families. The Kehillot, however, did not want to lay out these large expenditures and most of them registered the settlers for the sake of show alone, so that the program of enlightened absolutism to transfer the Jew to agriculture went amiss.

According to the statistics published on October 8, 1776, it turns out that there were 609 Jewish families within the borders of Galicia that were engaged in agriculture, and they included only eight families in the Oshpitzin and Zator principalities. There is an opinion of a Polish historian that claims that these were not really Jews but “Karaites”, descendants of the large sect, which had split off from Judaism, who were considered rejected by the Jews and expelled from the Jewish people. In actuality, these were not only Karaites, for among the farmers there were also authentic Jews, but their number was negligible. According to the scheme for the settling of Jews on the land as farmers, the Galician districts included were Wadowice, which aside from Myslenice also included the Oshpitzin and Zator principalities. The settlement in this district reached greater dimensions than expected. While the plan had envisioned ten Jewish families to begin farming with the financial support of the Kehillot, by 1822 there were 29 families who did so at their own expense. These were well to do families with money in hand that had come there from West Austrian regions.[2]

It should be kept in mind that in the western portion of the Krakow province, such as the Wadowice, Biala, Myslenice, and Zywiec districts, Jews had featured on the Polish and Galician maps before the latter was annexed to Austria, and that only Oshpitzin and Zator were listed as Jewish communities. The traditional intolerance of Jews by the Piast dynasty who maintained anti-Semitic policies continued even after the annexation of the said principalities by the Polish kingdom (1764) and after their annexation of Galicia by the Austrians as well, and, as a result, it was rare to find a Jew in the said districts except in Oshpitzin and Zator, or a Jew en route, and Jewish settlers were not desired even in the villages. In the 1776 census, there were 1047 Jews in these districts as compared to 171,596 Christians (0.6%) and 51 Jewish houses out of a total 27,991. This is was the lowest percentage in the region in comparison with the other 18 districts of Galicia. This was only a “de facto” situation. The aforementioned townsmen, however, were dissatisfied with that and made efforts to push for exclusionary laws by the authorities that would totally forbid Jewish settlement with the pretext that the Jews were undesirable inhabitants in their domain, since they stand accused of using Christian blood for their religious rites. There were instances that solitary Jews, out of economic circumstances, were obliged to live temporarily in one of the areas where Jewish settlement was forbidden, and they would receive special approval for such purpose. Indeed, with reference to Jewish settlement in the Oshpitzin and Zator district, there had been a serious struggle between the Jews and the municipal authorities from the middle of the 17th Century until the end of the 18th Century. In several of the towns where the law forbade the settlement of Jews, Jews sought to penetrate the barrier by settling on the estates of the nobility and the clergy who were in the city limits but were not subordinate to the municipal authorities, and through this foothold did penetrate little by little into the nearby neighborhood which was within the municipal jurisdiction.

As far as purchasing real estate went – after the conquest of Galicia by the Austrians, the old Polish restrictions remained in force, by which it was forbidden for Jews to acquire land and real estate. Notwithstanding that, it was common practice for Jews to be in charge of estates according to the laws of concessionaires. The leasing of these estates to Jews was forbidden only by the Theresian “Jewish Ordinance”. This situation persisted until May 7, 1789, that is until the publication of the Josephine Jewish Ordinance, which permitted Jews to acquire entire feudal estates with all the attendant rights involved, the juridical privileges, corvee [forced labor by serfs], distilling liquors, milling, and, thanks to the laws of concession, there were also leases of aristocratic estates to Jews. This liberal period did not last long, it lasted for four years only, until the publication of the order of March 29, 1793. This order forbade Jews from acquiring land, but without overturning the privileges acquired previously. It thus turned out that all those Jews who had become estate managers before the publication of the order, namely, during the period between May 7, 1789 and March 29, 1793, were permitted to continue their holdings and even to deed them to their heirs. After the publication of the order (“Patent” in Austrian terminology) of March 29, 1793, landed estates could be owned by a Jew through auction or legacies bought by Jews. With respect to the existing situation in the Oshpitzin and Zator district legal questions were raised concerning property acquired by a Jew who attained the status of nobility.

We have already noted that in the Oshpitzin region there were also some Frankists and Karaites before it was finally decided whether they were to be considered to belong to the believers in the God of Israel, or closer to Christianity. The restrictions which came about with the “Patent” of March 29, 1793 aroused the concerns of some of those closely involved to urge that these restrictions should be applied to all Jews without reference to their status. On this question there were differences of opinion with respect to the Karaites and Frankists, as to whether the restrictions applied to them or not. As to the Karaites – the Galician authorities recognized the governing body's decision of March 16, 1790 – equating their rights to that of Christians, and they were freed from all the levies that were imposed on Jews. The status of the Frankists was more indistinct. Apparently the same treatment was accorded to the Frankist family of Gorzyn [?] which represented itself as the owner of those estates, and especially after it acquired after some time – in 1792 – Gorzyn itself.

The attitude towards Jews was slightly different with regard to farm holdings in Oshpitzin and Zator, where the farmers owned the land by legal purchase and were not bound by contractual leaseholds. One Polish author explains the low number of Jewish settlers on the land, and particularly in the district of the two principalities by reason that the laws of the Torah do not serve to attract farmers and do not assure them a decent living. For example: Jews may not plow using a mixed pair of oxen and cows harnessed together; during the first three years after planting the fields the Torah designated the fruits of the tree “Three years shall it be unto you as forbidden – it shall not be eaten” (Leviticus 19:23*) ; they are not permitted to castrate bulls, raise pigs, and every firstborn of cattle and sheep may not be shorn or used for work. In addition a Jew is required to spend time at prayer each morning and evening, but the Jewish farmer is required to refrain from work not only on the Sabbaths and festivals, but also on Sundays and Christian holidays. All of these have cooled the ardor of the Jew to work in the fields and to diminish his income by extraneous idleness as he devotes his attention and feelings to the performance of his religious duties. Instead he chose to occupy himself with tending bar, inn keeping, or the lease of concessions. Kaiser Josef ordered the authorities to ascertain that the Jewish agricultural settlers engage in farming only, otherwise they would be obliged to leave the villages.

In addition to the two main occupations of the town and city Jews who engaged in trade and crafts, the village Jews – who amounted to about one third of the Jewish population – engaged in leasing, bar tending, and inn-keeping. The innkeepers would sell beer, mead and whiskey, and many of them, in addition to the bar, also provided lodging. Inn keeping and tending bar in the villages and towns also meant providing rooms for Jewish bartenders and concessionaires. In 1776 statistics were given for taverns and inns. In the Galicia of that time there were 5,602 taverns and 5,997 inns. In the Zator district (the Oshpitzin and Zator principalities) there were 150 taverns and 284 inns, or together 434 inns. Jewish families in that district numbered 203. This illustrates, that in the Oshpitzin-Zator district, the Jews were not the majority of tavern keepers, and these occupations were mostly concentrated in the hands of non-Jewish farmers. This is further supported by the notations in the city records of Chuczyn [?] and Jaruszewicz [?], from which one gathers that these largest villages of the Baerwald district, only [non-Jewish] farmers were engaged in tavern keeping. Similar ratios existed in the Nowy Sacz district, in Wisnicz, and in Tarnow. The dispossession of Jews of their business was performed by a Royal Letter (Patent) on April 3, 1775 which bludgeoned the trade of Jews as innkeepers with the intent to diminish the influence of Jews over the peasants. This decree only harmed a few of the elite concessionaires. In the first part of the 1780's, however, the subject of the Galician village was considered in the deliberations of the government, and in 1784 an order was announced by the governing body forbidding Jews in the towns or villages to lease taverns, inns, distilleries, and beer and mead breweries from estate owners. The town Jews were not permitted to tend bar except in their homes at their own expense, and not by leasing, and only those who were engaged in it as a sideline. Only two months passed, and in the beginning of 1785, Jews were forbidden by an inclusive Royal Letter of the Kaiser in reference to Galician Jewry from dealing in all leaseholds, including the leasing of estates, running mills, collecting tolls, etc. Had this bitter decree been carried out in all its provisions, more than one hundred thousand souls would have been deprived of their means of livelihood, about half of the Jewish population of Galicia. To the satisfaction of the Jews, the authorities did not hurry to carry out the decree in all its severity, and the Austrian bureaucratic personnel in Galicia, which aside from not being amenable to leniency through bribery, did not excel in speedy efficiency. Owing to the dearth of Jewish innkeepers in the Oshpitzin-Zator district, Jews were less affected there than in other districts. In the estates of the Baerwald district there was practically not one Jew until the end of the 18th Century, and the innkeepers and millers were peasants. Scanning the village records of the population census in the Baerwald district from 1782 onwards, one cannot find mentioned among all of the names of the residents even one Jewish name, or family nickname which is recognizable as Jewish. There is but one court case brought by 16 farmers of Baerwald-Dolny against Starowiesky, in which the latter had purchase land from the farmers in 1791 and sold it to a Jew. This is the first, and only, evidence of a Jew settling on the land in the Baerwald district, which was carried out after the publication of the anti-Semitic ordinance of 1785 in an attempt to avoid expulsion, since a Jew engaged in agriculture or an allied craft was permitted to live in a village. This was a Jewish innkeeper who had been put in charge of the estate inn after a peasant innkeeper named Josef had been fired on behalf of the Myslenice administration. The estate administrator, Arzychowski [?] stated in his letter: “I stayed with the innkeeper from Baerwald in Myslenice, and after I learned that the documents were not in order, they ordered him to be expelled and I turned the inn over to the Jew …” The Jew came from Tokarnia [?] near Myslenice, as evident from the letter of complaint submitted to the court by the rebellious farmer from Baerwald named Wojzyniec [?] Szczyzycki [?], Jakob Kliszcz [?], and Lukarz Kudil, who were ordered to follow the innkeeper by wagon to Tokarnia, and never once obeyed the orders and thus they were being punished as rebellious, in accordance with the general regulations of 1775, according to which they deserved corporal punishment of five lashes… The placement of the Jewish innkeeper on the expelled farmer's land gave him a legal right and confirmed his residence at Baerwald-Dolny.

The strictures of the prohibitions concerning Jews remained on paper only, and despite the decrees Jewish innkeepers arrived at the Oshpitzin-Zator estates who made the collections [?] in the villages and they were settled there by the lords of this state manor. This is evidenced by the bill of sale of a cottage in Kuzinice [?] signed by Jan and Stanyslaw Wierczymakow [?] of 1812, which stipulates that, “the adherent of the Old Testament, Manila Leffler [?] was sold a cottage in exchange of 495 Randel [?] in bank notes, and that the seller undertook to erect the building at his own expense using the building materials supplied by the buyer. The third clause of the contract states: The merchant, Manila Leffler, will be permitted to maintain an aristocratic tavern, selling liquor and other items without objection on the part of the seller Stanyslaw Wierczymakow [?]. The sale was for a period of six years only, and after that period the two sides would decide on the ownership of the house on the lot. This was, in effect, a sale of the house and rental of the land for six years. The administration of the Zator Palace, in confirming the contract, rejected the third clause with the argument that the authority permitting a tavern was not the seller's prerogative, but belonged to the dominion.

According to the directives of the ordinance of January 24, 1785, almost entirely unchanged from the Josefine [?] Jewish Ordinance of January 1, 1788, all of the Jewish business affairs were to come to an end in all of the Galician villages, and starting from the aforementioned day, only Jews who themselves were cultivating the fields or at crafts would be permitted to live there. The “Patents” which were intended to deal a deathblow to the Jews in the villages remained on paper. Others did likewise, most of whom circumvented the prohibitions in such manner, that the estate placed a Jewish tavern keeper on the farm under the guise of a farmer who was ostensibly engaged in agriculture, and secondarily filled the role of manager of a distillery and keeper of the court tavern. In 1804 a book was published in Vienna by Ruehrer [?], a German, titled “The Experiment on the Jewish Population in the Austrian Monarchy”, in which the author maintains that the Patents indeed denied the rights of Jews to lease taverns, but the Jews certainly succeeded in circumventing the prohibitions through proxies who replaced them. This hypothesis was repeated by the author Franzos Balthazar [?] in his journal describing his journeys in Galicia during 1791-93. He, too, notes that there were prohibitions against the lease and tavern monopoly in the villages, though not enforced, and illustrates it with the examples of the purchase of a mill by the Jew Horn from Gorzyn-Dolny and the lease of a mill in Mikolaj by the Jewish Schanzer family. In circumventing the law, bribery played an important role in blinding the eyes of the Austrian bureaucracy. Not one author or scholar who examined the issue expressed any doubts on the matter.

An important service in the circumvention of the decrees against the Jews was provided by a certain institution that mediated between the two sides as a third party, similar to the well-known institutions in Germany by the name “Salman” who was a Christian, and, after agreements with Jews would purchase rights over real estate in his name, leases and the like, and would subsequently convey these assets to the Jews, and this medium protected the Jew.

We have touched here on the affairs of village Jews and how they found a remedy to circumvent the harsh decrees of the authorities. We will deal separately with the Jews in the cities.


  1. In 1815 there was not even one Jew in Dabrowka engaged in farming. In order to comply with expectations the Kehillot made attempts that some Jews be recorded as farmers, but actual Jewish farmers were really very few.Return
  2. The founding of Jewish settlements in the Oshpitzin district at the expense of the government apparently did not materialize due to the “jaundiced eye” of anti-Semitism which flourished like a plague in all of the Christian settlements in the district, and here former Jews and Karaites strove to take hold with the support of the authorities.Return
     *     [Tr. note: The text has Lev 29:13. Leviticus' last chapter is 27] Return

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