Article Index
The history of the Jews of Lublin
The 19th Century and the Interwar Period
The Holocaust and Post-War Period
All Pages

The History of
the Jews of Lublin



Author: Adam Kopciowski





1. The First Republic

The first mention of the presence of Jews in Lublin appears during the reign of King Kazimierz the Great. According to 16th-century reports, although not backed by historical sources, the king was the first to grant privileges to the Jewish community of Lublin in 1336. However, one can assume that there was already a well-organized Jewish community in Lublin by the 1450s, when Rabbi Jacob of Trent came to settle there after being accused of ritual murder in his native Germany. The choice of Lublin as an asylum would suggest that the Jewish community of the city was already well-known in Poland, as well as across Polish borders. The Catholic clergy firmly opposed the presence of the German rabbi in the city.

In the 17th century, the dynamic evolution of Jewish settlements in Lublin was mainly driven by economic factors. The favorable geographic location of the city on trade routes enticed Jewish merchants to come and settle in Lublin and to take up trading there. The Jewish community’s growth in numbers and its economic activity soon led to conflicts with the Christian middle class which, in 1518, resulted in a royal instruction that recommended that the mayor limit the “very extensive Jewish trade in the city.” In 1535, Lublin was granted the privilege of De non tolerandis Judaeis, restricting Jewish settlement within the city’s walls. On the one hand, the restriction undermined the economic foundations of the Lublin Jewish community and forced its separation from the “Christian city”; however, on the other hand, it contributed to the rapid development of Podzamcze, the Jewish district at the foot of the Lublin castle hill.

The turning point in the history of the Lublin Jewish community came in 1523, when Zygmunt the Old granted the community the same status as other communities in Poland in accordance with the general privileges granted to Jews by successive monarchs ever since the so-called Kalisz Statute of 1264. The statute included, among others, protection provided by the monarch, regulation of professional activity and the protection of religious sites. In 1556, the Jews of Lublin received an additional, special privilege confirming their internal judicial and administrative autonomy (including the right to elect community elders and officials) and their subjection to the authority of the provincial governor as a court of last resort.

The regulation of the legal situation was conducive to the comprehensive development of the Lublin community. In the second half of the 16th century, the Podzamcze district was inhabited by 840 Jews, who were eventually granted the privilege of De non tolerandis Christianis, restricting the Christian population from buying property and living within the borders of the Jewish city. Despite limitations and lively competition, Jewish trade and crafts flourished, which contributed to the growing wealth and prestige of the community and led to the development of its culture. In 1530, a great scholar, Szalom Szachna, son of the royal intercessor Josko Szachnowicz and founder of the famous center of Talmudic studies, was appointed rabbi of Lublin. The Lublin Yeshiva officially opened only after the death of Szalom Szachna and, in accordance with the royal privilege of 1567, Salomon Luria, known as the Maharshal, was appointed the first rector of the Yeshiva. The son of his successor Mordechai Jaffe, Kalonymos, contributed, in turn, to the creation of an important center of Jewish printing (one of the most important centers alongside Cracow). The publishing house he established in 1578 published hundreds of exquisitely printed works of Hebrew religious literature, distinguished by the high quality of their editing.

During the same period, the structure of the kahal was developing. The first brick synagogue, known as the Maharshal synagogue, was built in 1567 at the foot of the north side of the castle hill on Jateczna Street. Over time, an entire synagogue complex developed around it, housing the offices of the kahal, a yeshiva, a house of prayer and study (Beit Midrash), a ritual bath (mikvah) and a kosher slaughterhouse. There was most likely a Jewish cemetery situated on Grodzisko hill as early as the end of the 15th century (according to information from the 1880s, one of the gravestones read 1489/90; the cemetery itself is first mentioned in a document from 1555). An recognition of the economic, cultural and administrative significance of the city was the establishment of the so-called Council of the Four Lands (Vaad Arba Aratzot), the central authority of Jewish local governments in the Republic, by King Stefan Batory in 1580.

During the same period, the structure of the kahal was developing. The first brick synagogue, known as the Maharshal synagogue, was built in 1567 at the foot of the north side of the castle hill on Jateczna Street. Over time, an entire synagogue complex developed around it, housing the offices of the kahal, a yeshiva, a house of prayer and study (Beit Midrash), a ritual bath (mikvah) and a kosher slaughterhouse. There was most likely a Jewish cemetery situated on Grodzisko hill as early as the end of the 15th century (according to information from the 1880s, one of the gravestones read 1489/90; the cemetery itself is first mentioned in a document from 1555). An recognition of the economic, cultural and administrative significance of the city was the establishment of the so-called Council of the Four Lands (Vaad Arba Aratzot), the central authority of Jewish local governments in the Republic, by King Stefan Batory in 1580.

The wars led to the collapse of economic and cultural life and contributed to a significant drop in the population of the Jewish community. The meetings of the Council of the Four Lands were discontinued, Lublin’s famous fairs were moved to Łęczna and the few remaining inhabitants of the Podzamcze district moved into the Christian district for some time. Rebuilding the community was all but impossible in a time of a triumphal Counter-Reformation, which did not look kindly upon dissenters, and of constantly renewed economic restrictions, which stemmed from increasing competition between the Jews and the Christian middle class. The efforts of the middle class, aimed primarily at removing the Jews from within the city limits, culminated, in fact, in the expulsion of the Jewish population in 1761 and their resettlement to the Podzamcze district. Four years later, the Jewish population comprised almost 2500 people, inhabiting not only Podzamcze, but also the nearby Kalinowszczyzna region and outlying Piaski and Wieniawa.

In the second half of the 18th century, the first news of Chasidism, a Jewish spiritual movement born in Ukraine, reached Lublin. Jacob Itzhak Horowitz, known as the Seer of Lublin, a disciple of the famous Elimelech of Leżajsk, became the initiator of Chasidism in Lublin. He settled at first on an estate in Wieniawa near Lublin. Soon after, the Rebbe moved to the very center of Lublin’s Jewish district where, at 28 Szeroka Street, the first Chasidic house of prayer in the city was established in 1794. The Seer’s followers soon started to flock toward the Chasidic prayer house and word of the Rebbe quickly spread throughout the country. New Chasidic dynasties arose in many Polish cities as his students in Góra Kalwaria (the Alter family), in Belz (the Rokeach family), in Kazimierz Dolny (the Taub family), in Izbica and Radzyń (the Leiner family), as well as the Kotzker Rebbe Menachem Mendel Morgenshtern established courts of their own. After Horowitz’s death in 1815, most of the Chasidim of Lublin began following his students, because Horowitz himself did not establish a dynasty. The next outstanding rebbe, Yehuda Leib Eiger, appeared in Lublin in 1857. He moved into a house at 40 Szeroka Street where he established the Eiger dynasty of Lublin, which led the local Chasidim until the outbreak of World War II.


Notes:
  1. B. Mikulec, "Economic Activity of the Lublin Jewish Population 1815-1864," Jews in Lublin (Materials on the History of the Jewish Community of Lublin), edited by T. Radzik, Vol. I, p. 69 [Lublin, 1995].
    [Aktywność gospodarcza ludności żydowskiej Lublina w latach 1815-1864, [w:] Żydzi w Lublinie (Materiały do dziejów społeczności żydowskiej Lublina)]
  2. K. Zieliński, Jews of the Lublin Area 1914-1918, p. 15 [Lublin, 1995].
    [Żydzi Lubelszczyzny 1914-1918]
  3. K. Zieliński, In the Shadow of the Synagogue. A View of the Cultural Life of the Jewish Community of Lublin in the Years of the Austro-Hungarian Occupation, pp. 46, 100-105, 133-134, 144-145, 171 [Lublin, 1998].
    [W cieniu synagogi. Obraz życia kulturalnego społeczności żydowskiej Lublina w latach okupacji austro-węgierskiej]
  4. T. Radzik, “The Jewish Community of Lublin in the Interwar Decades. A Statistical Portrayal,” Jews in Lublin, Vol. I, p. 69 [Lublin, 1995].
    [Społeczność żydowska Lublina w międzywojennym dwudziestoleciu. Obraz statystyczny [w:] Żydzi w Lublinie]
  5. R. Kuwałek, W. Wysok, op. cit., pp. 64-72.
  6. op. cit., 16.
  7. A. Winiarz, “Lublin’s Center of Talmudic Studies in the 16th Century,” Jews in Lublin, pp. 35-39.
    [Lubelski ośrodek studiów talmudycznych w XVI wieku [w:] Żydzi w Lublinie]
  8. J. Zętar, “Hebrew Printing Presses in Lublin,” Scriptores 2003, no. 27, p. 57.
    [Drukarnie hebrajskie w Lublinie]
  9. A. Trzciński, " Historical, Religious and Artistic Values of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Lublin," The Jews of Lublin (Materials from a session devoted to the Jews of Lublin. Lublin, December 14-16, 1994), edited by W. Hawryluk and G. Linkowski, pp. 89-90 [Lublin, 1996].
    [Wartości historyczne, religijne i artystyczne starego cmentarza żydowskiego w Lublinie, [w:] Żydzi lubelscy (Materiały z sesji poświęconej Żydom lubelskim. Lublin 14-16 grudnia 1994 r.)]
  10. M. Bałaban, The Jewish City in Lublin, p. 58 [Lublin, 1991]
    [Żydowskie miasto w Lublinie]
  11. J. Muszyńska, “Jews in Lublin in the Year 1774,” Jews in Lublin, Vol. II, p. 118.
    [Żydzi w Lublinie w 1774 roku [w:] Żydzi w Lublinie]
  12. Kuwałek, R., Wysok, W. op. cit., pp. 42-46.


 
This site has been visited 128239
On-line: 1