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Title: History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, Volume I (of 3) - From the Earliest Times Until the Present Day
Author: Dubnow, Simon, 1860-1941
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, Volume I (of 3) - From the Earliest Times Until the Present Day" ***

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    S. M. DUBNOW







    COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY


It is not my intention to expatiate in these prefatory remarks on the
present work and its author. A history of the Jews in Russia and Poland
from the pen of S. M. Dubnow needs neither justification nor
recommendation. The want of a work of this kind has long been keenly
felt by those interested in Jewish life or Jewish letters, never more
keenly than to-day when the flare of the world conflagration has thrown
into ghastly relief the tragic plight of the largest Jewry of the
Diaspora. As for the author, his power of grasping and presenting the
broad aspects of general Jewish history and his lifelong, painstaking
labors in the particular field of Russian-Jewish history fit him in
singular measure to cope with the task to which this work is dedicated.

In what follows I merely wish to render account of the English
translation and of the form of the original which it has endeavored to

The translation is based upon a work in Russian which was especially
Those acquainted with modern Jewish literature in the Russian language
know that the author of our book has treated the same subject in his
general history of the Jewish people, in three volumes, and in a number
of special studies published by him in the periodical _Yevreyskaya
Starina_ ("Jewish Antiquity"). Upon this material Mr. Dubnow has freely
drawn for the present work, after subjecting it to a careful revision,
and so supplementing and co-ordinating it that to all intents and
purposes the book issued herewith is a new and independent publication.
Moreover, the history of Russian Jewry after 1881, comprising the
gruesome era of pogroms and expulsions, has been written by Mr. Dubnow
entirely anew, and will appear for the first time as part of this work.
The present publication may thus properly claim to give the first
comprehensive and systematic account of the history of Russo-Polish

The work is divided into two volumes. The first volume, now offered to
the public, contains the history of the Jews of Russia and Poland from
its beginnings until the death of Alexander I., in 1825. The second
volume will continue the historic narrative up to the very threshold of
the present. The book was originally scheduled to appear at a later
date. The great events of our time, which have made the question of
Russian Jewry a part of the world problem, suggested the importance of
earlier publication. In order that there might be as little delay as
possible in giving the book to the public, the maps and the
bibliographical apparatus were reserved for the second volume. The same
volume, which, it is hoped, will appear in the course of this year, will
contain also the index to the whole work.

My task as translator has been considerably facilitated by the
self-abnegation of the author, who gave me permission to act as editor
and to adapt the original to the requirements of an English version. I
have made frequent use of the privilege accorded to me, and have
endeavored throughout to bridge the wide gap which stretches between the
Russian and American reading public in matters of literary taste. This
editorial activity includes a number of changes in the framework of the
book, which was originally divided into sections of disproportionate
length, and has now been arranged in a more uniform manner. In the
course of this rearrangement, it became necessary to change the wording
of some of the headings so as to bring them into greater conformity with
English literary usage. It should be pointed out, however, that the
changes made are of a stylistic nature, or relate only to the skeleton
of the book. With the exception of a few passages, they leave the
contents untouched, and the responsibility for the latter rests entirely
with the author.

As translator I had resolved to keep myself in the background and act
solely as the interpreter of the author. Much to my regret I found
myself unable to maintain this attitude uniformly. The text was already
in type when it was borne in upon me that the subject of the book,
dealing as it does with the lands of Eastern Europe, was a _terra
incognita_ to the average American reader, and that many things in it
must perforce be wholly or partly unintelligible to him if left without
an explanation. There was nothing for me to do but to step into the
breach and supply the deficiency. I did so by adding a number of
footnotes, which, in distinction from those of the author, are placed in
brackets. With very few exceptions these notes are not of a
supplementary, but of an explanatory, nature. They are confined to such
information as the reader may need to grasp the full bearing of the
text. I trust that in some small measure these detached notes may serve
instead of a systematic account of the general development of Eastern
Europe, which, it was originally hoped, might be supplied by the
authoritative pen of Mr. Dubnow himself, as a background for the history
of Russo-Polish Jewry. An attempt in this direction, within a narrow
compass and with no pretense to completeness, has been undertaken by
the present writer in a recent publication of his own.[1]

A word must be said concerning the spelling of foreign names and terms,
which are naturally numerous in a work like the present. After
considerable deliberation I decided on the phonetic method, as being the
most convenient from the point of view of the reader. I have
consequently endeavored to reproduce, as far as possible, the original
sounds of all foreign words in English characters. In conformity with
this principle, I have adopted the spelling _Tzar_, instead of _Czar_.
As far as I am aware, the only exception is the Russian word _ukase_,
which reflects in its spelling the effect of French transmission, and is
to be pronounced _ookaz_, with the accent on the last syllable. Needless
to say I have had to resort to artificial contrivances to indicate those
sounds which are unknown in English, but I have reduced these
contrivances to a minimum. They are as follows: _zh_ represents the
Slavic sound which corresponds to French _j_; _kh_ stands for the sound
which is to be pronounced like hard German _ch_ (as in _lachen_, not as
in _brechen_); _tz_ is the equivalent of a Slavic letter which is to be
pronounced like German _z_. To avoid mispronunciation, _g_ in all
foreign words has been spelled _gh_ before _e_ and _i_. _U_ in these
words is to be pronounced like _oo_, and _a_ like French and short
German _a_. With every desire for uniformity, I have yet little doubt
that inconsistencies will be found, particularly in the transliteration
of Hebrew, which, as a Semitic idiom, is more difficult of phonetic
reproduction than are even the Slavic languages. I hope that these
inconsistencies are not numerous enough to be offensive.

The method of transliteration referred to in the foregoing presents a
special difficulty in the case of Polish names, in view of the fact that
the Polish language uses the general European alphabet, and that the
Polish spelling of such names has found access to other languages. In
some instances even the question of identity may arise. Thus, to quote
but one example out of many, the name _Chmielnicki_, written in this
form in Polish, differs considerably from the phonetic spelling
_Khmelnitzk_i, adopted in this volume. To meet this difficulty, the
index to this work will give all Polish names and expressions both in
their transliterated English forms and in their original Polish

In conclusion, it is my pleasant duty to record my appreciation of the
help rendered me in my task. I am indebted to the Honorable Mayer
Sulzberger for his great kindness in reading the proofs of this volume
and in giving me the benefit of his subtle literary judgment. Professor
Alexander Marx has assisted me by reading the proofs and making a number
of suggestions. My thanks are finally due to Miss Henrietta Szold for
her indefatigable and most valuable co-operation.

    I. F.
    NEW YORK, May 19, 1916.


[1] "The Jews of Russia and Poland. A Bird's-Bye View of Their History
and Culture" (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1915). To avoid any misconception on
the part of the reader, I desire to point out that the aim and scope of
my little volume are totally different from those of Mr. Dubnow's work.
As indicated in the title of my sketch, and as stated in the preface to
it, my purpose was none other than to present a "bird's-eye view" of the
subject, to point out the large bearings of the problem, with no
intention on my part "to offer new and independent results of
investigation." The publication is based on a course of lectures
delivered by me before the Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate
Learning in Philadelphia in March, 1915. My natural reluctance to
anticipate Mr. Dubnow's large work was overcome by the encouragement of
several friends, among them Mr. Dubnow himself, who, from their
knowledge of public affairs, thought that a succinct, popular
presentation of the destinies of the Jews in the Eastern war area was a
word in due season.


  CHAPTER                                                     PAGE

  1. The Jewish Settlements on the Shores of the Black Sea      13
  2. The Kingdom of the Khazars                                 19
  3. The Jews in the Early Russian Principalities
       and in the Tataric Khanate of the Crimea                 29

  1. The Immigration from Western Europe during
         the Period of the Crusades                             39
  2. The Charter of Prince Boleslav and the Canons
         of the Church                                          43
  3. Rise of Polish Jewry under Casimir the Great               50
  4. Polish Jewry during the Reign of Yaghello                  54
  5. The Jews of Lithuania during the Reign of Vitovt           58
  6. The Conflict between Royalty and Clergy under
         Casimir IV. and His Sons                               61

  1. Social and Economic Conditions                             66
  2. The Liberal Régime of Sigismund I.                         70
  3. Liberalism and Reaction in the Reigns of Sigismund
         Augustus and Stephen Batory                            83
  4. Shlakhta and Royalty in the Reigns of Sigismund
         III. and Vladislav IV.                                 91

  1. Kahal Autonomy and the Jewish Diets                       103
  2. The Instruction of the Young                              114
  3. The High-Water Mark of Rabbinic Learning                  121
  4. Secular Sciences, Philosophy, Cabala, and Apologetics     131

  1. Economic and National Antagonism in the Ukraina           139
  2. The Pogroms and Massacres of 1648-1649                    144
  3. The Russian and Swedish Invasions (1654-1658)             153
  4. The Restoration (1658-1697)                               158
  5. Social and Political Dissolution                          167
  6. A Frenzy of Blood Accusations                             172
  7. The Massacre of Uman and the First Partition of Poland    180

  1. Jewish Self-Government                                    188
  2. Rabbinical and Mystical Literature                        198
  3. The Sabbatian Movement                                    204
  4. The Frankist Sect                                         211
  5. The Rise of Hasidism and Israel Baal-Shem-Tob             220
  6. The Hasidic Propaganda and the Growth of Tzaddikism       229
  7. Rabbinism, Hasidism, and the Forerunners of Enlightenment 235

  1. The Anti-Jewish Attitude of Muscovy during the
         Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries                   242
  2. The Jews under Peter I. and His Successors                246
  3. Elizabeth Petrovna and the First Years of Catherine II.   254

  1. The Jews of Poland after the First Partition              262
  2. The Period of the Quadrennial Diet (1788-1791)            278
  3. The Last Two Partitions and Berek Yoselo                  291
  4. The Duchy of Warsaw and the Reaction under Napoleon       298

  1. The Jewish Policy of Catherine II. (1772-1796)            306
  2. Jewish Legislative Schemes during the Reign of Paul I.    321
  3. Dyerzhavin's "Opinion" on the Jewish Problem              328

  1. "The Committee for the Amelioration of the Jews"          335
  2. The "Jewish Constitution" of 1804                         342
  3. The Projected Expulsion from the Villages                 345
  4. The Patriotic Attitude of Russian Jewry during
         the War of 1812                                       355
  5. Economic and Agricultural Experiments                     359

  1. Kahal Autonomy and City Government                        366
  2. The Hasidic Schism and the Intervention of the Government 371
  3. Rabbinism, Hasidism, and Enlightened "Berlinerdom"        379

  1. "The Deputation of the Jewish People"                     390
  2. Christianizing Endeavors                                  396
  3. "Judaizing" Sects in Russia                               401
  4. Recrudescence of Anti-Jewish Legislation                  403
  6. The Russian Revolutionaries and the Jews                  409




From the point of view of antiquity the Jewish Diaspora in the east of
Europe is the equal of that in the west, though vastly its inferior in
geographic expansion and spiritual development. It is even possible that
the settlement of Jews in the east of Europe antedates their settlement
in the west. For Eastern Europe, beginning with Alexander the Great,
received its immigrants from the ancient lands of Hellenized Asia, while
the immigration into Western Europe proceeded in the main from the Roman
Empire, the heir to the Hellenic dominion of the East.

Among the ancient Jewish settlements in Eastern Europe the colonies
situated on the northern shores of the Black Sea, now forming a part of
the Russian Empire, occupy a prominent place.

Far back in antiquity the Greeks of Asia Minor and the Ionian Islands
gravitated towards the northern shores of the Pontus Euxinus, the
fertile lands of Tauris--the present Crimea.[2] Beginning with the sixth
century B.C.E., they established their colonies in those parts, whence
they exported corn to their homeland, Greece. When, after the conquests
of Alexander the Great, Judea became a part of the Hellenistic Orient,
and sent forth the "great Diaspora" into all the dominions of the
Seleucids and Ptolemies, one of the branches of this Diaspora must have
reached as far as distant Tauris. Following in the wake of the Greeks,
the Jews wandered thither from Asia Minor, that conglomerate of
countries and cities--Cilicia, Galatia, Miletus, Ephesus, Sardis,
Tarsus--which harbored, at the beginning of the Christian era, important
Jewish communities, the earliest nurseries of Christianity. In the first
century of the Christian era, which marks the consolidation of the Roman
power over the Hellenized East, we meet in the Greek colonies of Tauris
with fully organized Jewish communities, which undoubtedly represent
offshoots of a much older colonization.

During the same period there flourished in the Crimea and on the
adjacent shores of the Black and Azov Seas, called by the Greeks Pontus
and Maeotis, in the lands of the Scythians, Sarmatians, and Taurians, a
number of diminutive Greek city-republics--Cimmerian Bosporus, or
Panticapaeum (at present Kerch), Phanagoria (the Taman Peninsula),
Olbia, Gorgippia (now Anapa), and others. The most active of these
colonies was Bosporus-Panticapaeum, which was situated at the confluence
of the Black and Azov Seas. The kings, or archonts, of Bosporus, of the
Greek dynasty of the Rhescuporides, acknowledged the sovereignty of
Rome. They styled themselves, in accordance with the customary formula,
"friends of the Caesars and the Romans," and frequently added to their
title the Roman dynastic appellation "Tiberius-Julius." The Jewish
historian Josephus Flavius, in depicting the irresistible sway of the
Roman world-power in his time, refers to this colony in the following
terms: "Why need I speak of the Heniochi and Colchians and the nation of
the Tauri, and those who inhabit the Bosporus and the nations about
Pontus and Maeotis ... who are now subject to three thousand armed men,
and where forty long ships keep in peace the sea which before was
unnavigable, and is very tempestuous?" (Bell. Jud. II. xvi. 4.) These
words were written shortly after the downfall of Judea, about the year
80 of the Christian era.

Now from practically the same year (80-81) date the Greek inscriptions
which were discovered on the soil of ancient Bosporus in Tauris,
testifying to the existence there of a well-organized Jewish community,
with a house of prayer. The following is the text of one of these
inscriptions, engraved on a marble tablet which is kept in the Hermitage
of Petrograd:

    In the reign of King Tiberius Julius Rhescuporides, the pious
    friend of the Caesars and the Romans, in the year 377,[3] on the
    twelfth day of the month of Peritios, I, Chresta, formerly the
    wife of Drusus, declare in the house of prayer (προσευχή) that
    my foster-son Heracles is free once [for all], in accordance
    with my vow, so that he may not be captured or annoyed by my
    heirs, and may move about wherever he chooses, without let or
    hindrance, except for [the obligation of visiting] the house of
    prayer for worship and constant attendance. [Done] with the
    approval of my heirs Iphicleides and Heliconias, and with the
    participation of the Synagogue of the Jews in the guardianship
    (συνεπιτροπευούσης δὲ καὶ τῆς συναγωγῆς τῶν Ἰουδαίων).

This inscription, paralleled by a similar document of the same period,
was evidently meant to certify the act of liberating a slave, which,
according to custom, was performed publicly, in the "house of prayer,"
with the participation of the representatives of the Jewish

The contents of the inscriptions enable us to draw the following
conclusions bearing on the history of the Jews during that period:

    1. The Jewish community in Taurian Bosporus was made up of
    Hellenized Jews, who employed the Greek language in their
    religious and civil documents, and called themselves by Greek
    names (Chresta, Drusus, Heracles, Artemisia, etc.). 2. While
    assimilated to the Greeks in point of language, they were firmly
    united among themselves by the bond of religion, as is shown by
    the obligation, imposed even on the freedman, the _libertinus_,
    to visit the house of prayer for worship. 3. The Jewish
    community enjoyed a certain amount of civil autonomy, as shown
    in the case cited above, in which the community appears in the
    rôle of a juridical person, acting as the guardian of the
    liberated slaves.

It is to be assumed that similar communities of Hellenized Jews were
found in the other Greek colonies of Tauris, their population being
constantly swelled by the influx of immigrants from Asia Minor, Syria,
and Egypt, particularly from Judeo-Hellenistic Alexandria. Since these
communities of the first Christian century appear to have been
well-organized and to have possessed their own institutions, we are safe
in assuming that they were preceded by a more primitive phase of
communal Jewish life, in the shape of petty settlements and trading
stations, which must have arisen in earlier centuries.

From the first centuries of the Christian era date a number of
tombstones bearing representations of the holy candlestick, the Menorah.
The religious influence of Judaism in Tauris and in the Azov region is
attested by various other indications. The inscriptions contain several
references to "those who fear God the Most High" (σεβόμενοι θεὸν ὕψιστον),
a phrase applied in the Greco-Roman world to pagans who stand half-way
between polytheism on the one hand and Judaism or primitive Christianity
on the other.

The Judeo-Hellenistic Diaspora in Tauris, on the northern shores of the
Black Sea, was, like its parent stock in Asia Minor, the center of a
Christian propaganda. Towards the end of the third century we find in
Chersonesus, near Sevastopol, Christian bishops wielding considerable
power. The exercise of this power was evidently responsible for the
pagan rebellion of which we read in the lives of the Christian martyrs
Basil and Capiton. On the sixth of December of the year 300 the pagan
inhabitants rose in revolt against these two bishops and their
fellow-missionaries, and were joined by the Jews, whom, it would seem,
the zealots of the new faith had endeavored equally to drag into the
bosom of the Church.

The existence of a Jewish settlement in the Bosporan kingdom was also
known to St. Jerome, the famous Church father, who lived at the end of
the fourth century in far-off Palestine. On the authority of his Jewish
teacher he applied verse 20 in Obadiah, "and the captivity of Jerusalem
which is in Sepharad," to the Taurian Bosporus, the remotest corner of
the Jewish Diaspora.[5]

With the division of the Roman Empire into two halves the Greco-Judean
colonies on the Black Sea were naturally drawn into the sphere of
influence of the eastern part, the Empire of Byzantium, the capital of
which, Constantinople, was situated on the opposite coast of the Black
Sea. Commercial relations brought the Taurian colony into ever closer
contact with the metropolis of Byzantium, and the Jews vied with the
Greeks in the promotion of trade. The persecutions of the militant
Church of Byzantium under the Emperors Theodosius II., Zeno, and
Justinian, during the fifth and sixth centuries, drove the Jews from the
ancient provinces of the Empire into the Taurian colonies. In the eighth
century the Jewish population of these colonies was so numerous that the
Byzantine chronicler Theophanes places the Jews in the forefront of the
various groups of the population. "In Phanagoria and the neighboring
region," says Theophanes, "the Jews who live there are surrounded by
many other tribes."

These colonies were frequently visited by Christian missionaries, who
endeavored to convert the native population to their faith, and
incidentally also to win over the Jews. The Patriarchs of Constantinople
were then hopeful of drawing the people of the Old Testament into the
fold of the New. The Patriarch Photius, of the ninth century, writes
thus to the Bishop of Bosporus (Kerch): "Wert thou also to capture the
Judeans there, securing their obedience unto Christ, I should welcome
with my whole soul the fruits of such beautiful hopes." The "Judeans,"
however, not only did not take the bait of the missionaries, but even
managed to spoil their propaganda among the pagans. The most illustrious
of all Byzantine missionaries, Cyril and Methodius, had frequent
occasion to quarrel with "the Judeans, who blaspheme the Christian
faith," and the boastful ecclesiastic legend asserts that the holy
brothers "by prayer and eloquence defeated the Judeans [in disputes] and
put them to shame" (about 860).

The struggle between the Christian missionaries and the Jews during that
period had for its object the Khazar nation, part of whom had embraced


While Byzantium was pressing on the Euxine colonies from the west,
endeavoring to draw them, together with the adjoining lands of the
Slavs, into the sphere of Christian civilization, a new power from the
east, from the Caucasus and the Caspian region, came rushing along in
the same direction. We refer to the Khazars, or Kazars.[6] Forming
originally a conglomerate of Finno-Turkish tribes, the warlike Khazars
appeared in the Caucasus during the "migration of nations," and began to
make inroads into the Persian Empire of the Sassanids, often acting as
the tools of Persia's rival, Byzantium. The great Arabic conquests of
the seventh century and the rise of the powerful Eastern Caliphate
checked the movement of the Khazars towards the East, and turned it
westward, to the shores of the Caspian Sea, the mouths of the Volga and
the Don, the Byzantine colonies on the Black and Azov Seas, and, in
particular, the flourishing region of Tauris. At the mouth of the Volga,
where the mighty river joins the Caspian Sea, near the present city of
Astrakhan, arose the kingdom of the Khazars with its capital Ityl, the
name originally designating the river Volga. From there the bellicose
Khazars made constant raids upon the Slavonian tribes far and near, to
the very gates of Kiev, forcing them to become their tributaries.

Another Khazar center was established in the Crimea, among Byzantine
Greeks and Jews. From the Crimea the Khazars pressed forward in the
direction of Byzantium and the Balkan Peninsula, constituting a serious
menace to the Roman Empire of the East. As a rule, the Byzantine
emperors concluded alliances with the kings, or khagans, of the Khazars,
checking their unbridled energy by means of concessions and the payment
of tribute. In Constantinople the illusion was fostered that the Church,
and with it Byzantine diplomacy, were in the end bound to triumph over
all the Khazars--by converting them to Christianity. With this purpose
in view, missionaries were dispatched from Byzantium, while the local
bishops of Tauris were working zealously to the same end. But the task
proved extremely difficult, for the Greek Church found itself face to
face with a powerful rival in Judaism, which succeeded in establishing
its hold on a part of the Khazar nation.

While yet in their pagan state, the Khazars were exposed at one and the
same time to the influences of three religions: Mohammedanism, which
pursued its triumphant march from the Arabic Caliphate; Christianity,
which was spreading in Byzantium, and Judaism, which, headed by the
Exilarchs and Gaons of Babylonia, was centered in the Caliphate, while
its ramifications spread all over the Empire of Byzantium and its
colonies on the Black Sea. The Arabs and the Byzantines succeeded in
converting several groups of the Khazar population to Islam and
Christianity, but the lion's share fell to Judaism, for it managed to
get hold of the royal dynasty and the ruling classes.

The conversion of the Khazars to Judaism, which took place about 740, is
described circumstantially in the traditions preserved among the Jews
and in the accounts of the medieval Arabic travelers:

    The King, or Khagan, of the Khazars, by the name of Bulan, had
    resolved to abandon paganism, but was undecided as to the
    religion he should adopt instead. Messengers sent by the Caliph
    persuaded him to accept Islam, envoys from Byzantium endeavored
    to win him over to Christianity, and representatives of Judaism
    championed their own faith. As a result, Bulan arranged a
    disputation between the advocates of the three religions, to be
    held in his presence, but he failed to carry away any definite
    conviction from their arguments and mutual refutations.
    Thereupon the King invited first the Christian and then the
    Mohammedan, and questioned them separately. On asking the former
    which religion he thought was the better of the two, Judaism or
    Mohammedanism, he received the reply: Judaism, since it is the
    older of the two, and the basis of all religions.[7] On asking
    the Mohammedan, which religion he preferred, Judaism or
    Christianity, he received the same reply in favor of Judaism,
    with the same motivation. "If that be the case," Bulan argued in
    consequence, "if both the Mohammedan and the Christian
    acknowledge the superiority of Judaism to the religion of their
    antagonist, I too prefer to adopt the Jewish religion." Bulan
    accordingly embraced Judaism, and many of the Khazar nobles
    followed his example.

According to the Jewish sources, one of Bulan's descendants, the Khagan
Obadiah, was a particularly zealous adherent of Judaism. He
invited--possibly from Babylonia--many Jewish sages to his country, to
instruct the converted Khazars in Bible and Talmud, and he founded
synagogues, and established Divine services.

In the ninth and tenth centuries, the kingdom of the Khazars, governed
by rulers professing the Jewish faith, attained to outward power and
inner prosperity. The accounts of the Arabic writers of that period
throw an interesting light on the inner life of the Khazars, which was
marked by religious tolerance. The king of the Khazars and the governing
classes professed the Jewish religion. Among the lower classes the three
monotheistic religions were all represented, and in addition a
considerable number of pagans still survived. In spite of the fact that
royalty and nobility professed Judaism, the principle of religious
equality was never violated. The khagan had under him seven (according
to another version, nine) judges: two for the followers of the Jewish
religion, two each for the Christians and Mohammedans, and one for the
pagans--the Slavs, the Russians, and other races. Only occasionally did
the Khazar king show signs of intolerance, particularly when rumors
concerning Jewish persecutions in other countries came to his ears.
Thus, on one occasion, about 921, on being informed that the Mohammedans
had destroyed a synagogue somewhere in the land of Babunj, the Khagan
gave orders to destroy the tower (minaret) of a certain mosque and to
kill the muezzins (the heralds who call to prayer), explaining his
attitude in these words: "I should have destroyed the mosque itself, had
I not feared that not a single synagogue would be left standing in the
lands of the Mohammedans."

In the kingdom of the Khazars, favorably situated as it was between the
Caliphate of Bagdad and the Byzantine Empire, the Jews evidently played
an important economic rôle. During the ninth and tenth centuries the
territory of the Khazars was traversed by one of the great trade routes
which connected the three parts of the Old World. According to the
testimony of Ibn Khordadbeh, an Arabic geographer of the ninth century,
Jewish merchants, who were able to speak the principal Asiatic and
European languages, "traveled from West to East and from East to West,
on sea and by land." The land route led from Persia and the Caucasus
"through the country of the Slavs, near the capital of the Khazars" (the
mouth of the Volga), by crossing the Sea of Jorjan (the Caspian Sea).
Another Arabic writer, named Ibn Fakih,[8] who wrote shortly after 900,
testifies that on the route of the "Slav merchants," who were trading
between the Sea of the Khazars (the Caspian Sea) and that of Rum (the
Byzantine or Black Sea), was found the Jewish city of Samkers, on the
Taman Peninsula, near the Crimea.[9]

During this period of prosperity the kingdom of the Khazars received a
considerable Jewish influx from Byzantium, where the Jews were
persecuted by Emperor Basil the Macedonian (867-886), being forcibly
converted to Christianity, while hundreds of Jewish communities were
devastated. The Jewish emigrants from Byzantium were naturally attracted
towards a land in which Judaism was the religion of the Government and
the Court, though equal toleration was accorded to all other religions.
The well-known Arabic writer Masudi refers to this Jewish immigration in
the following passage:

    The population of the Khazar capital consists of Moslems,
    Christians, Jews, and pagans. The king, his court, and all
    members of the Khazar tribe profess the Jewish religion, which
    has been the dominant faith of the country since the time of the
    Caliph Harun ar-Rashid. Many Jews who settled among the Khazars
    came from all the cities of the Moslems and the lands of Rum
    (Byzantium), the reason being that the king of Rum persecuted
    the Jews of his empire in order to force them to adopt
    Christianity.... In this way a large number of Jews left the
    land of Rum in order to depart to the Khazars.

This testimony dates from the year 954. Contemporaneous with it is the
extremely interesting correspondence between Joseph, the Khagan of the
Khazars, and Hasdai Ibn Shaprut, the Jewish statesman of the Cordova
Caliphate in Spain. Being a high official at the court of Abderrahman
III., Hasdai maintained diplomatic relations with the emperors of
Byzantium and other rulers of Asia and Europe, and in this way came to
learn of the Khazar kingdom, through the Persian and Byzantine
ambassadors. The news of the existence of a land somewhere beyond the
seas where a Jew sat on the throne, and Judaism was the religion of the
state, filled Hasdai with joy. Firmly convinced that he had found the
clue to the lost Jewish kingdom of which popular Jewish tradition had so
much to tell, the Jewish statesman at the Moslem court felt the burning
need of getting in touch with the rulers of Khazaria, and, in case the
rumors should prove correct, of transferring his abode thither and
devoting his powers of statesmanship to his fellow-Jews. Prolonged
inquiries elicited the information that the land of the Khazars lay
fifteen days by sea from Constantinople, that it stood in commercial
relations with Byzantium, that the name of its present ruler was Joseph,
and that the safest means of communicating with him was by way of
Hungary, Bulgaria, and Russia. After several vain attempts to get in
touch with the ruler of the Khazars Hasdai finally succeeded in having
an elaborate Hebrew epistle delivered into the hands of King Joseph
(about 955).

In his epistle Hasdai first gives an account of himself and his position
at the court of Cordova, and then proceeds to beg the King of the
Khazars to inform him in detail of the rise and present status of "the
Jewish kingdom," being anxious to find out "whether there is anywhere a
soil and a kingdom where scattered Israel is not subject and subordinate
to others."

    Were I to know--Hasdai continues--that this is true, I should
    renounce my place of honor, abandon my lofty rank, forsake my
    family, and wander over mountains and hills, by sea and on land,
    until I reached the dwelling-place of my lord and sovereign,
    there to behold his greatness and splendor, the seats of his
    subjects, the position of his servants, and the tranquillity of
    the remnant of Israel.... Having been cast down from our former
    glory, and now living in exile, we are powerless to answer those
    who constantly say unto us: "Every nation hath its own kingdom,
    while you have no trace [of a kingdom] on earth." But when we
    received the news about our lord and sovereign, about the power
    of his kingdom and the multitude of his hosts, we were filled
    with astonishment. We lifted our heads, our spirit revived, and
    our hands were strengthened, the kingdom of my lord serving us
    as an answer. Would that this rumor might increase in strength
    [_i. e._ be verified], for thereby will our greatness be

After long and painful waiting Hasdai received the King's reply. In it
the ruler of the Khazars gives an account of the heterogeneous
composition of his people and the various religions professed by it. He
describes how King Bulan and his princes embraced the Jewish faith after
testing the various rival creeds, and how zealously it was upheld by the
Kings Obadiah, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Hanukkah, Isaac, Zebulun, Moses (or
Manasseh II.), Nissi, Aaron, Menahem, Benjamin, Aaron (II.), the last
being the father of the writer, King Joseph. The King continues:

    I reside [_i. e._ my residence is situated] at the mouth of the
    river Ityl [Volga]; at the end of the river is found the Sea of
    Jorjan [the Caspian Sea]. The beginning of the river is towards
    the east, at a distance of a four months' journey. Along the
    banks of the river there are many nations living in towns and
    villages, in open as well as fortified places. These are their
    names: Burtas, Bulgar, Suvar, Arisu, Tzarmis, Venentit, Sever,
    Slaviun.[10] Each of these nations is very numerous, and all of
    them are tributary to me. From there the boundary turns towards
    Buarezm [probably Khwarism], up to Jorjan, and all the
    inhabitants of the sea-shore, for a distance of one month's
    journey, are tributary to me. To the south are found Semender,
    Bak-Tadlud, up to the gates of Bab al-Abwab, which are situated
    on the coast.[11] ... To the west there are Sarkel, Samkrtz,
    Kertz, Sugdai, Alus, Lambat, Bartnit, Alubika, Kut, Mankup,
    Budak, Alma, and Gruzin.[12] All these localities are situated
    on the shores of the Sea of Kostantinia[13] towards the west....
    They are all tributary to me. Their dwellings and camping-places
    are scattered over a distance of a four months' journey.

     Know and take notice that I live at the mouth of the river
     [Volga], and with the help of the Almighty I guard the entrance
     to this river, and prevent the Russians, who arrive in vessels,
     from passing into the Caspian Sea for the purpose of making
     their way to the Ishmaelites [Mohammedans]. In the same manner
     I keep the enemies on land from approaching the gates of Bab
     al-Abwab. Because of this I am at war with them, and were I to
     let them pass but once, they would destroy the whole land of
     the Ishmaelites as far as Bagdad.... Our eyes are [turned] to
     God and to the wise men of Israel who preside over the
     academies of Jerusalem and Babylon. We are far away from Zion,
     but it has come to our ears that, on account of our sins, the
     calculations [concerning the coming of the Messiah] have become
     confused, so that we know nothing. May it please the Lord to
     act for the sake of His great Name. May the destruction of His
     temple, and the cutting off of the holy service, and the
     misfortunes that have befallen us, not appear small in His
     sight. May the words of the prophet be fulfilled: "And the
     Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple" (Mal.
     iii. 1). We have nothing in our possession [concerning the
     coming of the Messiah] except the prophecy of Daniel. May the
     God of Israel hasten our redemption and gather together all our
     exiled and scattered [brethren] in my lifetime, in thy
     lifetime, and in the lifetime of the whole house of Israel, who
     love His name.

The concluding phrases cast a shadow of doubt on the authenticity of
this epistle or, more correctly, of some parts of both epistles, which
more probably reflect the mournful Messianic temper of the sixteenth
century, when this correspondence was brought to light by Spanish exiles
who had made their way to Constantinople, than the state of mind of a
Spanish dignitary or a Khazar king of the tenth century. However, the
essential data contained in Joseph's epistle are so completely in accord
with the reports of contemporaneous Arabic writers that the substance of
this correspondence may be safely declared to be authentic.[14]

Joseph's epistle must have arrived in Spain about 960. Only a few years
later events occurred which made this King the last ruler of the
Khazars. The apprehensions, voiced in his letter, concerning the
Russians, with whom the King was at war, and who were ready to "destroy
the whole land of the Ishmaelites as far as Bagdad," were speedily
realized. A few years later the Slavonian tribes, who had in the
meantime been united under the leadership of Russian princes, not only
threw off the yoke of the Khazars, whose vassals they were, but also
succeeded in invading and finally destroying their center at the mouth
of the Volga. Prince Svyatoslav of Kiev devastated the Khazar
territories on the Ityl, and, penetrating to the heart of the country,
dislodged the Khazars from the Caspian region (966-969). The Khazars
withdrew to their possessions on the Black Sea, and established
themselves in particular on the Crimean Peninsula, which for a long time
retained the name of Khazaria.

The greatly reduced Khazar kingdom in Tauris, the survival of a mighty
empire, was able to hold its own for nearly half a century, until in the
eleventh century it fell a prey to the Russians and Byzantines (1016).
The relatives of the last khagan fled, according to tradition, to their
coreligionists in Spain. The Khazar nation was scattered, and was
subsequently lost among the other nations. The remnants of the Khazars
in the Crimea who professed Judaism were in all likelihood merged with
the native Jews, consisting partly of Rabbanites and partly of Karaites.

In this way the ancient Jewish settlements on the Crimean Peninsula
suddenly received a large increase. At the same time the influx of
Jewish immigrants, who, together with the Greeks, moved from Byzantium
towards the northern shores of the Black Sea, continued as theretofore,
the greater part of these immigrants consisting of Karaites, who were
found in large numbers in the Byzantine Empire. Even the subsequent
dominion of the Pechenegs and Polovtzis, who ruled over the Tauris
region after the downfall of the Khazars, failed to uproot the ancient
traditions, and as late as the twelfth century the name Khazaria meets
us in contemporary documents. About the year 1175 the traveler Pethahiah
of Ratisbon visited "the land of the Kedars and that of the Khazars,
which are separated from each other by a sea tongue," meaning the
continental part of Tauris, where the nomadic Polovtzis (Kedars) were
roaming about, and the Crimean Peninsula, between which two regions lie
the Gulf of Perekop and the isthmus of the same name. In the land of the
Kedars Pethahiah did not find genuine Jews, but _minim_, heretics or
sectarians, who "do not believe in the traditions of the sages, eat
their Sabbath meal in the dark, are ignorant of the Talmudic forms of
the benedictions and prayers, and have not even heard of the Talmud." It
is evident that the author is describing the Karaites.


With the growth of the Russian Principality of Kiev, which received its
ecclesiastic organization from the hands of Byzantine monks, it
gradually became another objective of Jewish immigration. The Jews came
thither not only from Khazaria, or the Crimea, but also, following in
the wake of the Greeks, from the Empire of Byzantium, developing the
commercial life of the principality and connecting that primitive region
with the centers of human civilization. The popular legend, which is
reproduced in the ancient Russian chronicles, and is no doubt tinged
with the spirit of Byzantine clericalism, makes the Jews participate in
the competition of religions for the conquest of pagan Russia, in that
famous spectacle of the "test of creeds" which took place in 986 in the
presence of Vladimir, Prince of Kiev.

    The church legend narrates that when Vladimir had announced his
    intention to abandon idolatry, he received a visit from
    Khazarian Jews, who said to him: "We have heard that the
    Christians have come to preach their faith, but they believe in
    one who was crucified by us, while we believe in the one God,
    the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Vladimir asked the Jews:
    "What does your law prescribe?" To this they replied: "To be
    circumcised, not to eat pork or game, and to keep the Sabbath."
    "Where is your country?" inquired the Prince. "In Jerusalem,"
    replied the Jews. "But do you live there?" he asked. "We do
    not," answered the Jews, "for the Lord was wroth with our
    forefathers, and scattered us all over the earth for our sins,
    while our land was given away to the Christians." Thereupon
    Vladimir exclaimed: "How then dare you teach others when you
    yourselves are rejected by God and scattered? If God loved you,
    you would not be dispersed in strange lands. Do you intend to
    inflict the same misfortune on me?"

This popular tradition is historically true only insofar as it reflects
the ecclesiastic and political struggle of the time. It was in Taurian
Chersonesus, the ancient scene of Jewish and Byzantine rivalry, that the
threads were woven which subsequently tied pagan Russia to Byzantium.
The attempts of the Taurian, or Khazarian, Jews to assert their claims
in the religious competition at Kiev were bound to prove a failure. For
community of political and economic interests was forcing Byzantium and
the Principality of Kiev into an alliance, which was finally consummated
at the end of the tenth century by the conversion of Russia to Greek
Orthodox Christianity. The alliance resulted in the downfall of their
common enemy, the Khazars, who, for several centuries, had been
struggling with the Byzantines on the shores of the Black Sea, and at
the same time had held in subjection the tribes of the Slavs. In
consequence of the defeat of the Khazars, a part of the Jewish-Khazarian
center in Tauris was transferred to the Principality of Kiev.

The coincidence of the settlement of Jews in Kiev with the conversion of
Russia to the Greek Orthodox faith foreshadows the course of history.
The very earliest phase of Russian cultural life is stamped by the
Byzantine spirit of intolerance in relation to the Jews. The Abbot of
the famous Pechera monastery, Theodosius (1057-1074), taught the
Kiovians to live at peace with friends and foes, "but with their own
foes, not with those of God." God's foes, however, are Jews and
heretics, "who hold a crooked religion." In the Life of Theodosius
written by the celebrated Russian chronicler Nestor we are told that
this austere monk was in the habit of getting up in the night and
secretly going to the Jews to argue with them about Christ. He would
scold them, branding them as wicked and godless, and would purposely
irritate them, in the hope of being killed "for the profession of
Christ" and thus attaining to martyrdom, though it would seem that the
Jews consistently refused to grant him this pleasure. Hatred against
Jews and Judaism was equally preached by Theodosius' contemporaries
Illarion and John, Metropolitans of Kiev (about 1050 and 1080).

This propaganda of religious intolerance did not remain without effect.
In the beginning of the twelfth century the Jewish colony of Kiev
experienced the first pogrom. Under Grand Duke Svyatopolk II.
(1093-1113) the Jews of Kiev had enjoyed complete liberty of trade and
commerce. The Prince had protected his Jewish subjects, and had
intrusted some of them with the collection of the customs and other
ducal imposts. But during the interregnum following the death of
Svyatopolk (1113) they had to pay dearly for the liberty enjoyed by
them. The Kiovians had offered the throne of the principality to
Vladimir Monomakh, but he was slow about entering the capital. As a
result, riots broke out. The Kiev mob revolted, and, after looting the
residences of several high officials, threw itself upon the Jews and
plundered their property. The well-intentioned among the inhabitants of
Kiev dispatched a second delegation to Monomakh, warning him that, if he
tarried longer, the riots would assume formidable dimensions. Thereupon
Monomakh arrived and restored order in the capital.

Nevertheless the Jews continued to reside in Kiev. In 1124 they suffered
severely from a fire which destroyed a considerable portion of the city.
In the chronicles of that period (1146-1151) mention is frequently made
of the "Jewish gate" in Kiev. Jewish merchants were attracted towards
this city, a growing commercial center serving as the connecting link
between Western Europe on the one hand and the Black Sea provinces and
the Asiatic continent on the other. Reference to Kiev is made by the
Jewish travelers of the time, Benjamin of Tudela and Pethahiah of
Ratisbon (1160-1190). The former speaks of "the kingdom of Russia,
stretching from the gates of Prague to the gates of Kiev, a large city
on the border of the kingdom." The latter, Pethahiah, informs us that,
on leaving his home in Ratisbon, he proceeded to Prague, the capital of
Bohemia; from Prague he went to Poland, and from there "to Kiev, which
is in Russia," whereupon he traveled for six days, until he reached the
Dnieper, and, having crossed it, finally arrived on the coast of the
Black Sea and in the Crimea.

After the Crusades, when considerable settlements of Jewish immigrants
from Germany began to spring up in Poland, part of these immigrants
found their way into the Principality of Kiev. The German rabbis of the
twelfth century occasionally refer in their writings to the journeys of
German Jews traveling with their merchandise to "Russ" and "Sclavonia"
(= Slavonia, Slav countries). The Jews of Russia, who lacked rabbinical
authorities of their own, addressed their inquiries to the Jewish
scholars of Germany, or sent their studious young men to the West to
obtain a Talmudic education. Hebrew sources of the twelfth century make
mention of the names of Rabbi Isaac of Chernigov and Rabbi Moses of
Kiev. The latter is quoted as having addressed an inquiry to the
well-known Gaon of Bagdad, Samuel ben Ali.

The conquest of the Crimea by the Tatar khans in the thirteenth century
and the gradual extension of their sovereignty to the Principalities of
Kiev and Moscow brought the old center of Judaism in the Tauris region
in close contact with its offshoots in various parts of Russia. Kiev
enters into regular commercial intercourse with Kaffa (Theodosia) on the
Crimean sea-shore. Kaffa becomes during that period an international
emporium, owing to the Genoese, who had obtained from the Tatar khans
concessions for Kaffa and the surrounding country, and had founded there
a commercial colony of the Genoese Republic. The Crimean Peninsula was
joined to the world commerce of Italy, and merchantmen were constantly
ploughing the seas between Genoa and Kaffa, passing through the
Byzantine Dardanelles. Italians, Greeks, Jews, and Armenians flocked to
Kaffa and the adjacent localities on the southern coast of the Crimea.
The Government of the Genoese Republic time and again instructed its
consuls who were charged with the administration of the Crimean colony
to observe the principles of religious toleration in their attitude
towards this heterogeneous population. If the testimony of the traveler
Schiltberger, who visited the Crimea between 1394 and 1427, may be
relied upon, there were in Kaffa Jews "of two kinds," evidently
Rabbanites and Karaites, who had two synagogues and four thousand
houses, an imposing population to judge by its numbers.

The great crisis in the history of Byzantium--the capture of
Constantinople by the Turks--affected also the Genoese colony in the
Crimea. The Turks began to hamper the Genoese in their navigation
through the straits. In 1455 the Genoese Government ceded its Kaffa
possessions to the Bank of St. George in Genoa. The new administration
set out to restore order in the colony and establish normal relations
between the various races inhabiting it; but the days of this cultural
oasis on the Black Sea were numbered. In 1475 Kaffa was taken by the
Turks, and the whole peninsula fell under Turco-Tataric dominion.

Important Jewish communities were to be found during that period also in
the older Tataric possessions of the Crimea. Two Jewish communities, one
consisting of Rabbanites and the other of Karaites, flourished, during
the thirteenth century, in the ancient capital of the Tatar khans, named
Solkhat (now Eski-Krym). Beginning with 1428, the old Karaite community
of Chufut-Kale ("the Rock of the Jews"), situated near the new Tatar
capital, Bakhchi-Sarai, grows in numbers and influence. The memory of
this community is perpetuated by a huge number of tombstones, ranging
from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century. Crimea, now peopled with
Jews, sends forth settlers to Lithuania, where, at the end of the
fourteenth century, Grand Duke Vitovt[16] takes them under his
protection. Crimean colonies spring up in the Lithuanian towns of Troki
and Lutzk, which, as will be seen later, are granted extensive
privileges by the ruler of the land.

The establishment of Turkish sovereignty over the Crimea (1475-1783)
resulted in a closer commercial relationship between the Jewish center
on the Peninsula and the Principality of Moscow, which at that time
fenced herself off from the outside world by a Chinese wall, and, with
few exceptions, barred from her dominions all foreigners and infidels,
or "Basurmans."[17] In the second half of the fifteenth century the
Grand Duke of Muscovy, Ivan III., was constrained to seek the help of
several Crimean Jews in his diplomatic negotiations with the Khan of the
Crimea, Mengli-Guiray. One of the agents of the Muscovite Prince was an
influential Jew of Kaffa, by the name of Khoza Kokos, who was
instrumental in bringing about a military alliance between the Grand
Duke and the Khan (1472-1475). It is curious to note that Kokos wrote
his letters to Ivan III. in Hebrew, so that the Muscovite ruler, who
evidently could find no one in Moscow familiar with that language, had
to request his agent to correspond with him in Russian or "in the
Basurman language" (Tataric or perhaps Italian). Another agent of Ivan
III., Zechariah Guizolfi, was an Italian Jew, who had previously
occupied an important post in the Genoese colony in the Crimea, and was
the owner of the Taman Peninsula ("the Prince of Taman"). He stood in
close relations to Khan Mengli-Guiray, and in this capacity carried on a
diplomatic correspondence with the Prince of Muscovy (1484-1500). Later
on Zechariah was on the point of taking up his abode in Moscow in order
to participate more directly in the foreign affairs of Russia, but
circumstances interfered with the execution of the plan.

During the same period there arose in Moscow, as the result of a secret
propaganda of Judaism, a religious movement known under the name of the
"Judaizing heresy." According to the Russian chroniclers, the originator
of this heresy was the learned Jew Skharia (Zechariah), who had
emigrated with a number of coreligionists from Kiev to the ancient
Russian city of Novgorod. Profiting by the religious unrest rife at that
time in Novgorod--a new sect, called the Strigolniki,[18] had arisen in
the city, which abrogated the Church rites, and went to the point of
denying the divinity of Christ--Zechariah got in touch with several
representatives of the Orthodox clergy, and succeeded in converting them
to Judaism. The leaders of the Novgorod apostates, the priests Denis and
Alexius, went to Moscow in 1480, and converted a number of the Greek
Orthodox there, some of the new converts even submitting to the rite of
circumcision. The "Judaizing heresy" was soon intrenched among the
nobility of Moscow and in the court circles. Among its sympathizers was
the daughter-in-law of the Grand Duke, Helena.

The Archbishop of Novgorod, Hennadius, called attention to the dangerous
propagation of the "Judaizing heresy," and made valiant efforts to
uproot it in his diocese. In Moscow the fight against the new doctrine
proved extremely difficult. But here too it was finally checked, owing
to the vigorous endeavors of Hennadius and other Orthodox zealots. By
the decision of the Church Council of 1504, supported by the orders of
Ivan III., the principal apostates were burned at the stake, while the
others were cast into prison or exiled to monasteries. As a result, the
"Judaizing heresy" ceased to exist.[19]

Another tragic occurrence in the same period affords a lurid
illustration of Muscovite superstition. At the court of Grand Duke Ivan
III. the post of physician was occupied by a learned Jew, Master Leon,
who had been invited from Venice. In the beginning of 1490 the eldest
son of the Grand Duke fell dangerously ill. Master Leon tried to cure
his patient by means of hot cupping-glasses and various medicaments.
Questioned by the Grand Duke whether his son had any chances of
recovery, the physician, in an unguarded moment, replied: "I shall not
fail to cure your son; otherwise you may put me to death!" On March 15,
1490, the patient died. When the forty days of mourning were over, Ivan
III. gave orders to cut off the head of the Jewish physician for his
failure to effect a cure. The execution was carried out publicly, on one
of the squares of Moscow.

In the eyes of the Muscovites both the learned theologian Skharia and
the physician Leon were adepts of the "black art," or magicians. The
"Judaizing heresy" instilled in them a superstitious fear of the Jews,
of whom they only knew by hearsay. As long as such ideas and manners
prevailed, the Jews could scarcely expect to be hospitably received in
the land of the Muscovites. No wonder then that for a long time the Jews
appear there, not in the capacity of permanent residents, but as
itinerant merchants, who in a few cases--and with extreme reluctance at
that--are accorded the right of temporary sojourn in "holy Russia."


[2] [Later on the author differentiates between Tauris and the Crimea,
using the former term to designate the northern coast of the Black Sea
in general, with the Crimea as a part of it. The modern Russian
Government of Tavrida is similarly made up of two sections: the larger
northern part consists of the mainland, the smaller southern part is
identical with the Crimean Peninsula, connected with the mainland by the
Isthmus of Perekop. In antiquity the name Tauri, or Taurians, was
restricted to the inhabitants of the mountainous south coast of the

[3] The date is that of the "Bosporan era," and corresponds to the year
80-81 of the common era.

[4] In the Greek documents of that period Synagogue signifies, not a
house of worship, but a religious community.

[5] [It is possible that the identification was suggested by the
similarity in sound between Bosporus and _bi-Spharad_, the Hebrew for
"in Sepharad."]

[6] [The Arabic and other medieval authors write the name with a _kh_ (=
hard German _ch_), hence the frequent spelling Chazars. In Hebrew
sources the word is written with a _k_ (כ), except in a
recently discovered document (see Schechter, Jew. Quart. Review, new
series, iii. 184), where it is spelled with a _k_ (ק).
Besides _Khazar_ and _Kazar_, the name is also found in the form
_Kozar_, or _Kuzar_.]

[7] According to another version of the same story, quoted by the Arabic
geographer al-Bekri (d. 1094), the Bishop who was championing the cause
of Christianity said in reply to the King's inquiry: "I believe that
Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, is the Word, and that he revealed the
mysteries of the great and exalted God." A Jew who lived at the royal
court and was present at the disputation interrupted him with the
remark: "He [the Bishop] believes in things which are unintelligible to

[8] [The author, evidently relying on the authority of Harkavy, writes
_Ibn Sharzi_. The writer referred to by Harkavy is Ali Ibn Ja`far
ash-Shaizari (wrongly called Ibn Sharzi), who made an extract from Ibn
Fakih's "Book of Countries" about 1022. This extract has since been
published by de Goeje in his _Bibliotheca Geographicorum Arabicorum_,
vol. v. Our reference is found there on p. 271. I have put Ibn Fakih's
name in the text, as there is no reason to doubt that our passage was
found in the original work, which was written more than a hundred years

[9] [See on the name of this city de Goeje's remarks in his edition of
Ibn Fakih, p. 271, note _a_.]

[10] A group of Slav nations.

[11] A group of Caucasian cities (Semender = Tarku, near
Shamir-Khan-Shur; Bab al-Abwab = Derbent).

[12] A group of Crimean cities (Kerch, Sudak, Mangup, and others).

[13] [_I. e._ Sea of Constantinople, another name for the Black Sea.]

[14] This supposition is confirmed by a recently discovered Genizah
fragment containing a portion of another Khazar epistle, which
supplements and modifies the epistle of King Joseph. See Schechter, "An
Unknown Khazar Document," Jewish Quarterly Review, new series, iii. 181

[15] [During the early centuries of its existence Russia was made up of
a number of independent principalities, over which the Principality of
Kiev, "the mother of Russian cities," exercised, or rather claimed, the
right of overlordship. From 1238 to 1462 the Russian lands were subject
to the dominion of the Tatars. During the fourteenth century, while yet
under Tatar rule, the Principality of Moscow gained the ascendancy over
the other Russian states. The absorption of the latter and the creation
of the autocratic Tzardom of Muscovy was the work of Ivan III.
(1462-1505), his son Basil (1505-1533), and his grandson Ivan IV. the
Terrible (1533-1584).]

[16] [Also written Witowt. Another form of the name is Witold.]

[17] [_Basurman_, or _Busurman_, mutilated from _Mussulman_, is an
archaic and contemptuous designation for Mohammedans and in general for
all who do not profess the Greek Orthodox faith.]

[18] [The name is derived from their founder, Carp Strigolnik.]

[19] [For later "Judaizing" tendencies in Russia, see pp. 251 _et seq._
and 401 _et seq._]




While the Jewish colonies on the shores of the Black Sea and on the
territory of modern South Russia were due to immigration from the lands
of the Greco-Byzantine and Mohammedan East, the Jewish settlements in
Poland were founded by new-comers from Western Europe, from the lands of
German culture and "the Latin faith."[20] This division was a natural
product of the historic development that made Slavonian Russia gravitate
towards the East, and Slavonian Poland turn towards the West. Even prior
to her joining the ecclesiastic organization of the West, Poland had
attained to prominence as a commercial colony of Germany. The Slav lands
on the banks of the Varta and Vistula, being nearest to Western Europe,
were bound to attract the Jews, at a very early period, in their
capacity as international traders. There is reason to believe that, as
far back as the ninth century, Jews living in the German provinces of
Charlemagne's Empire carried on commerce with the neighboring Slav
countries, and visited Poland with their merchandise. These ephemeral
visits frequently led to their permanent settlement in those strange

Information concerning the Jews of pre-Christian Poland has come down to
us in the shape of hazy legends. One of these legends narrates that,
after the death of Prince Popiel, about the middle of the ninth century,
the Poles assembled in Krushvitza, their ancient capital, to choose a
successor to the dead sovereign. After prolonged disputes concerning the
person to be elected, it was finally agreed that the first man found
entering the town the following morning should be chosen as the ruler.
It so happened that on the following morning the first to enter the town
was the Jew Abraham Prokhovnik.[21] He was seized and proclaimed prince,
but he declined the honor, urging that it be accorded to a wise Pole by
the name of Piast, who thus became the progenitor of the Piast dynasty.

Another legend has it that at the end of the ninth century a Jewish
delegation from Germany waited upon the Polish Prince Leshek, to plead
for the admission of Jews into Poland. Leshek subjected the delegates to
a protracted cross-examination concerning the principles of the Jewish
religion and Jewish morality, and finally complied with their request.
Thereupon large numbers of German Jews began to arrive in Poland, and,
in 905, they obtained special written privileges, which, according to
the same legend, were subsequently lost. These obscure tales, though
lacking all foundation in fact, and undoubtedly invented in much later
times, contain a grain of historic truth, in that they indicate the
existence of Jewish settlements in pagan Poland, and point to their
German origin.

The propagation of Latin Christianity in Poland (beginning with 966),
which placed the country under the control not only of the emperors of
Germany but also of its bishops as the representatives of the Roman See,
was bound to stimulate the intercourse between the two countries and
result in an increased influx of Jewish merchants and settlers. However,
this slow commercial colonization would scarcely have assumed any
considerable dimensions, had not exceptional circumstances forced a
large number of Jews to seek refuge in Poland. A compulsory immigration
of this kind began after the first Crusade, in 1096. It started in
near-by Slavonian Bohemia, where the Crusaders attacked the Jews of
Prague, and converted them forcibly to Christianity. The Bohemian Jews
made up their minds to flee to neighboring Poland, which had not yet
been reached by the devastating Christian hosts. The Bohemian Prince
Vratislav robbed the immigrants on the way, but even this could not
prevent many of them from leaving the country in which both people and
Government were hostile to them (1098).

Beginning with this period there was a steady flow of Jews from the
Rhine and Danube provinces into Poland, increasing in volume as a result
of the Crusades (1146-1147 and 1196) and the severe Jewish persecutions
in Germany. The accentuation of Jewish suffering in Germany during the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when the royal power was incapable of
shielding its _Kammerknechte_ against the fury of the fanatical mob or
the degrading canons of the Church, drove vast numbers of Jews into
Poland. Here the refugees sought shelter in the provinces nearest to the
Austro-German border, Cracow, Posen, Kalish, and Silesia.

The first signs of discord between Christians and Jews are to be noticed
in the second half of the twelfth century, when Poland fell asunder into
several feudal Principalities, or "Appanages."[22] The Prince of Great
Poland, Mechislav III., the Old, in his desire to enforce law and order,
found it necessary to issue, in 1173, strict injunctions forbidding all
kinds of violence against the Jews and in particular the attacks upon
them by Christian "scholars," the pupils of the ecclesiastic and
monastic colleges. Those found guilty of such attacks were to be heavily
fined. On the whole, the rulers were willing to take the Jews under
their protection. Under Mechislav the Old, Casimir the Just, and Leshek
the White, who reigned at the end of the twelfth and the beginning of
the thirteenth century, the Jews farmed and administered the mint of
Great and of Little Poland. On the coins struck by these Jews, many of
which have come down to us, the names of the ruling princes are marked
in Hebrew characters.[23] At the very beginning of the thirteenth
century (1203-1207) we hear of Jews owning lands and estates in Polish

Such was the rise and growth of the Jewish colonies in Poland. As time
went on, the commercial intercourse between these colonies and the West
led to a spiritual relationship between them and the centers of Jewish
culture in Europe. A contemporary Bohemian scholar of the Tosafist
school, Rabbi Eliezer, informs us that the Jews of Poland, Russia, and
Hungary, having no scholars of their own, invited their spiritual
leaders from other countries, probably from Germany. These foreign
scholars occupied the posts of rabbis, cantors, and school teachers
among them, and were remunerated for their services. At the same time
studious Polish Jews were in the habit of going abroad to perfect
themselves in the sciences, as was also the case with the Jewish
settlers in Russia. From the German mother country the Polish Jews
received not only their language, a German dialect, which subsequently
developed into the Polish-Jewish jargon, or Yiddish, but also their
religious culture and their communal organization. All this, however,
was in an embryonic stage, and only gradually unfolded in the following


The importance of Jewish immigration for the economic development of
Poland was first realized by the feudal Polish princes of the thirteenth
century. Prompted by the desire of cultivating industrial activities in
their dominions, these princes gladly welcomed settlers from Germany,
without making a distinction between Jews and Christians. Nor did the
native Slav population suffer inconvenience from this immigration,
which, on the contrary, brought the first elements of a higher
civilization into the country. In a land which had not yet emerged from
the primitive stage of agricultural economy, and possessed only two
fixed classes, owners of the soil and tillers of the soil, the Jews
naturally represented the "third estate," acting as the pioneers of
trade and finance. They put their capital in circulation, by launching
industrial undertakings, by leasing estates, and farming various
articles of revenue (salt mines, customs duties), and by engaging in
money-lending. The native population, which medieval culture, with its
religious intolerance and class prejudice, had not yet had time to
"train" properly, lived at peace with the Jews.

The influence of the Church, on the one hand, and that of adjacent
Christian Germany, on the other, slowly undermined this patriarchal
order of things. The popes dispatched their legates to Poland to see to
it that the well-known canonical statutes, which were permeated with
implacable hatred against the adherents of Judaism, did not remain a
dead letter, but were carried out in practice. During the same period
the Polish princes, in particular Boleslav the Shy (1247-1279),
endeavored to draw German emigrants into Poland, by bestowing upon them
considerable privileges and the right of self-government, the so-called
"Magdeburg Law," or _ius teutonicum_.[24] The Germans, while settling in
the Polish cities as merchants and tradesmen,[25] and thus becoming the
competitors of the Jews, imported from their native land into the new
environment the spirit of economic class strife and denominational
antagonism. The best of the Polish rulers were forced to combat the
effects of this foreign importation, and found it necessary to encourage
the economic activity of the Jews for the benefit of the country and to
shield them against the insults of their Christian neighbors.

Boleslav of Kalish, surnamed the Pious, who ruled over the territory of
Great Poland, was a prince of this kind. In 1264, with the consent of
the highest dignitaries of the state, he promulgated a statute defining
the rights of the Jews within his dominions. This charter of privileges,
closely resembling in its contents the statutes of Frederick of Austria
and Ottocar of Bohemia, became the corner-stone of Polish-Jewish
legislation. Boleslav's charter consists of thirty-seven paragraphs, and
begins with these words:

    The deeds of man, when unconfirmed by the voice of witnesses or
    by written documents, are bound to pass away swiftly and
    disappear from memory. Because of this, we, Boleslav, Prince of
    Great Poland, make it known to our contemporaries as well as to
    our descendants, to whom this writing shall come down, that the
    Jews, who have established themselves over the length and
    breadth of our country, have received from us the following
    statutes and privileges.

The first clause of the charter prescribes that, when civil and criminal
cases are tried in court, the testimony of a Christian against a Jew is
to be accepted only if confirmed by the deposition of a Jewish witness.
The following clauses (§§2-7) determine the process of law in litigation
between Christians and Jews, involving primarily pawnbroking; the rules
prescribed there protect equally the interests of the Jewish creditor
and the Christian debtor. Lawsuits between Jew and Jew do not fall
within the jurisdiction of the general municipal courts, but are tried
either by the prince himself or by his lord lieutenant, the
voyevoda[26], or the special judge appointed by the latter (§8). The
Christian who has murdered or wounded a Jew answers for his crime before
the princely court: in the former case the culprit incurs "due
punishment," and his property is forfeit to the prince; in the latter
case he has to satisfy the plaintiff, and must in addition pay a fine
into the princely exchequer (§§9-10).

This is followed by a set of paragraphs which guarantee to the Jew the
inviolability of his person and property. They forbid annoying Jewish
merchants on the road, exacting from them higher customs duties than
from Christians, demolishing Jewish cemeteries, and attacking synagogues
or "schools" (§§12-15). In case of a nocturnal assault upon the home of
a Jew, the Christian neighbors are obliged to come to his rescue as soon
as they hear his cries; those who fail to respond are subject to a fine

The rights and functions of the "Jewish judge,"[27] who is appointed to
try cases between Jew and Jew, sitting "in the neighborhood of the
synagogue or in some other place," are set forth elaborately (§§16-23).
The kidnaping of Jewish children with the view of baptizing them is
severely punished (§27). The charter further prohibits charging the Jews
with the use of Christian blood for ritual purposes, in view of the fact
that the groundlessness of such charges had been demonstrated by papal
bulls. Should nevertheless such charges be raised, they must be
corroborated by six witnesses, three Christians and three Jews. If the
charges are substantiated, the guilty Jew loses his life; otherwise the
same fate overtakes the Christian informer (§32). All these legal
safeguards were, in the words of the charter, to remain in force "for
all time."

The Polish lawgiver was evidently anxious to secure for the Jews such
conditions of life as might enable them to benefit the country by their
commercial activity, while enjoying liberty of conscience and living in
harmony with the non-Jewish population. Boleslav's enactment expresses,
not the individual will of the ruler, but the collective decision of the
highest dignitaries and the representatives of the estates, who, as is
pointed out in the document, had been previously consulted.

Thus the temporal powers of the state, guided by the economic needs of
the country, endeavored to establish Jewish life in Poland on more or
less rational civic foundations. The ecclesiastic authorities, however,
inspired rather by the cosmopolitan ideals of the Roman Church than by
love of their native land, strained all their energies to detach the
Jews from the general life of the country. They segregated them from the
Christian population because of their alleged injuriousness to the
Catholic faith, and reduced them to the position of a despised caste.
The well-known Church Council of Breslau, convened in 1266 by the Papal
Legate Guido, had the special mission of introducing in the oldest
Polish diocese, that of Gnesen, the canonical laws, including those
applying to the Jews. The motives by which this legislation was
prompted are frankly stated in the preamble to the section of the
Breslau "constitution" which deals with the Jews:

    In view of the fact--runs clause 12--that Poland is a new
    plantation on the soil of Christianity (_quum adhuc terra
    Polonica sit in corpore Christianitatis nova plantatio_), there
    is reason to fear that her Christian population will fall an
    easy prey to the influence of the superstitions and evil habits
    of the Jews living among them, the more so as the Christian
    religion took root in the hearts of the faithful of these
    countries at a later date and in a more feeble manner. For this
    reason we most strictly enjoin that the Jews residing in the
    diocese of Gnesen shall not live side by side with the
    Christians, but shall live apart, in houses adjoining each other
    or connected with one another, in some section of the city or
    village. The section inhabited by Jews shall be separated from
    the general dwelling-place of the Christians by a hedge, wall,
    or ditch.

The Jews owning houses in the Christian quarter shall be compelled to
sell them within the shortest term possible.

Further injunctions prescribe that the Jews shall lock themselves up in
their houses while church processions are marching through the streets;
that in each city they shall possess no more than one synagogue; that,
"in order to be marked off from the Christians," they shall wear a
peculiarly shaped hat, with a horn-like shield (_cornutum pileum_), and
that any Jew showing himself on the street without this headgear shall
be subject to punishment, in accordance with the custom of the country.

The Christians are forbidden, under penalty of excommunication, to
invite Jews to a meal, or to eat and drink with them, or dance and make
merry with them at weddings and other celebrations. The Christians are
barred from buying meat and other eatables from Jews, since the sellers
might treacherously put poison in them.

These prohibitions are followed by the ancient canonical enactments
forbidding the Jews to keep Christian servants, nursery-maids, and
wet-nurses, and barring them from collecting customs duties and
exercising any other public function. A Jew living unlawfully with a
Christian woman is liable to imprisonment and fine, while the woman is
subject to a public whipping and to banishment from the town for all

The Church Council which held its sessions in Buda (Ofen), in Hungary,
in 1279, was attended by the highest ecclesiastic dignitaries of Poland.
This Council ratified the clause concerning the "Jewish sign,"
supplementing it by the following details: The Jews of both sexes shall
be obliged to wear a ring of red cloth sewed on to their upper garment,
on the left side of the chest. The Jew appearing on the street without
this sign shall be accounted a vagrant, and no Christian shall have the
right to do business with him. A similar sign, only of saffron color, is
prescribed for "Saracens and Ishmaelites," _i. e._ for Mohammedans. The
law barring Jews from the collection of customs and the discharge of
other public functions is extended by the Synod of Buda to the
"sectarians," to the Christians of the Greek Orthodox persuasion.

In this manner the condition of the Jews of Poland in the thirteenth
century was determined by two factors operating in different directions:
the temporal powers, actuated by economic considerations, accorded the
Jews the elementary rights of citizenship, while the ecclesiastic
powers, prompted by religious intolerance, endeavored to exclude the
Jews from civil life. As long as patriarchal conditions of life
prevailed, and Catholicism in Poland had not yet assumed complete
control over the country, the policy of the Church was powerless to
inflict serious damage upon the Jews. They lived in safety, under the
protection of the Polish princes, and, except for the German immigrants,
managed to get along peaceably with the Christian population. But the
clerical party was looking out for the future, taking assiduous care
that "the new plantation on the soil of Christianity" should develop
along the lines of the older plantations, and was scattering the seeds
of religious hatred in the patient expectation of a plentiful harvest.


The Jewish emigration from Western Europe assumed especially large
proportions in the first part of the fourteenth century. The butcheries
perpetrated by the hordes of Rindfleisch and Armleder, and the massacres
accompanying the Black Death, forced a large number of German Jews to
seek shelter in Poland, which was then undergoing the process of
unification and rejuvenation. In 1319, King Vladislav[28] Lokietek[29]
laid the foundation for the political unity of Poland by abolishing the
former feudal divisions, and his famous son Casimir the Great
(1333-1370) was indefatigable in his endeavors to raise the level of
civil and economic life in his united realm. Casimir the Great founded
new cities and fortified old ones, promoted commerce and industry, and
protected, with equal solicitude, the interests of all classes, not
excluding those of the peasants. He was styled the "peasant king," and
the popular commendation of his efforts in the upbuilding of the cities
was crystallized in the saying that Casimir the Great "found a Poland of
wood and left behind him a Poland of stone."

A ruler of this type could not but welcome the useful industrial
activity of the Jews with the liveliest satisfaction. He was anxious to
bring them in close contact with the Christian population on the common
ground of peaceful labor and mutual helpfulness. He was equally quick to
appreciate the advantages which the none too flourishing royal exchequer
might derive from the experience of Jewish capitalists. Such must have
been the motives which actuated Casimir when, in the second year of his
reign (1344), he ratified, in Cracow, the charter which Boleslav of
Kalish had granted to the Jews of Great Poland, and which he now
extended in its operation to all the provinces of the kingdom.

On later occasions (1346-1370) Casimir amplified the charter of Boleslav
by adding new enactments. In view of the hostility of the municipalities
and the clergy towards the Jews, the King found it necessary to insist
in particular on placing Jewish legal cases under his own jurisdiction,
and taking them out of the hands of the municipal and ecclesiastic
authorities. The Jews were granted the following privileges: the right
of free transit through the whole country, of residing in the cities,
towns, and villages, of renting and mortgaging the estates of the
nobility, and lending money at a fixed rate of interest, the last
pursuit being closed to Christians by virtue of canonical restrictions,
and therefore left entirely in the hands of the Jews. The Polish
lawgiver was equally solicitous about enforcing respect for the Jew as a
human being and drawing him nearer to the Christian in private life, in
violent contradiction with the tendency of the Church to isolate the
infidels from the "flock of the faithful." "If the Jew," runs one of
the clauses of Casimir's charter, "enters the house of a Christian, no
one has a right to cause him any injury or unpleasantness. Every Jew is
allowed to visit the municipal baths in safety, in the same way as the
Christians,[30] and pay the same fee as the Christians."

Casimir was equally interested in ordering the inner life of the Jews.
The "Jewish judge," a Christian official appointed by the king to try
Jewish cases, was enjoined to dispense justice in the synagogue or some
other place, in accordance with the wishes of the representatives of the
Jewish community. The rôle of process-server was assigned to the
"schoolman," _i. e._ the synagogue beadle. This was the germ of the
future system of Kahal autonomy.

It seems that in the fateful year of the Black Death (1348-1349) the
Polish Jews too were in great danger. On the wings of the plague, which
penetrated from Germany to Poland, came the hideous rumor charging the
Jews with having poisoned the wells. If we are to trust the testimony of
an Italian chronicler, Matteo Villani, some ten thousand Jews in the
Polish cities bordering on Germany met their fate in 1348 at the hands
of Christian mobs, even the King being powerless to shield the
unfortunates against the fury of the people. A vague account in an old
Polish chronicle relates that in the year 1349 the Jews were
exterminated "in nearly the whole of Poland." It is possible that
attacks on the Jews took place in the border towns, but, judging by the
fact that the Jewish chroniclers, in describing the ravages of the Black
Death, make no mention of Poland, these attacks cannot have been
extensive. Be this as it may, there can be no doubt that, threatened
with massacres in Germany, large numbers of Jews fled to the neighboring
towns of Poland, and subsequently settled there.

It may be mentioned in this connection that from about the same time
dates the origin of the Jewish community of Lvov (Lemberg),[31] the
capital of Red Russia, or Galicia, which had been added to his dominions
by Casimir the Great.[32] In 1356 Casimir, in granting the Magdeburg Law
to the city of Lemberg, bestowed upon the local Jews the right "of being
judged according to their own laws," _i. e._ autonomy in their communal
affairs, a privilege accorded at the same time to the Ruthenians,
Armenians, and Tatars.

Casimir the Great's attitude towards the Jews was thus a part of his
general policy with reference to foreign settlers, whom he believed to
be useful for the development of the country. This, however, did not
prevent certain evil-minded persons, both then and in later ages, from
seeing in these acts of rational statesmanship the manifestation of the
King's personal predilections and attachments. Rumor had it that Casimir
was favorably disposed towards the Jews because of his infatuation with
the beautiful Jewess Estherka. This Jewish belle, the daughter of a
tailor, is supposed to have captured the heart of the King so completely
that in 1356 he abandoned a former favorite for her sake. Estherka lived
in the royal palace of Lobzovo, near Cracow. She bore the King two
daughters, who were brought up by their mother in the Jewish religion,
and two sons, who were educated as Christians, and who subsequently
became the progenitors of several noble families. Estherka was killed
during the persecution to which the Jews were subjected by Casimir's
successor, Louis of Hungary. The whole romantic episode presents a
mixture of fact and fiction in which it is difficult to make out the

Similarly blurred reports have come down to us concerning the
persecutions by the new ruler, Louis of Hungary (1370-1382). During the
reign of this King, when, as the Polish historians put it, justice had
vanished, the law kept silent, and the people complained bitterly about
the despotism of the judges and officials, an attempt was made to rob
the Jews of the protection of the law. Nursed as he was in the Catholic
traditions of Western Europe, Louis persecuted the Jews from religious
motives, threatening with expulsion those among them who had refused to
embrace the Christian faith. Fortunately for the Jews his reign in
Poland was too ephemeral and unpopular to undo the work of his famous
predecessor, the last king of the Piast dynasty. Only at a later date,
during the protracted reign of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Yaghello, who
acquired the Polish crown by marrying, in 1386, Louis' daughter Yadviga,
did the Church obtain power over the affairs of the state, gradually
undermining the civil status of the Jews of Poland.


With the outgoing fourteenth century, Poland was drawn more and more
into the whirlpool of European politics. Catholicism served as the
connecting link between this Slav country and Western Europe. Hence the
influence of the West manifested itself primarily in the enhancement of
ecclesiastic authority, which, being cosmopolitan in character,
endeavored to obliterate all national and cultural distinctions. The
Polish king Vladislav Yaghello (1386-1434), having been converted from
paganism to Catholicism, and having forced his Lithuanian subjects to
follow his example, adhered to the new faith with the ardor of a
convert, and frequently yielded to the influence of the clergy. It was
during his reign that the Jews of Poland suffered their first religious
persecution in that country.

The Jews of Posen were charged with having bribed a poor Christian woman
into stealing from the local Dominican church three hosts, which
supposedly were stabbed and thrown into a pit. From the pierced hosts,
so the superstitious rumor had it, blood spurted forth, in confirmation
of the Eucharist dogma. Nor was this the only miracle which popular
imagination ascribed to the three bits of holy bread. The Archbishop of
Posen, having learned of the alleged blasphemy, instituted proceedings
against the Jews. The Rabbi of Posen, thirteen elders of the Jewish
community, and the woman charged with the theft of the holy wafers,
became the victims of popular superstition; after prolonged tortures
they were all tied to pillars, and roasted alive on a slow fire (1399).
Moreover, the Jews of Posen were punished by the imposition of an
"eternal" fine, which they had to pay annually in favor of the Dominican
church. This fine was rigorously exacted down to the eighteenth century,
as long as the legend of the three hosts lingered in the memory of pious

As in the West, religious motives in such cases merely served as a
disguise to cover up motives of an economic nature--envy on the part of
the Christian city-dwellers of the prosperity of the Jews, who had
managed to obtain a foothold in certain branches of commerce, and
eagerness to dispose in one way or another of inconvenient rivals.
Similar motives, coupled with religious intolerance, were responsible
for the anti-Jewish riots in Cracow in 1407. In that ancient capital of
Poland the Jews had increased in numbers in the beginning of the
fourteenth century, and, by their commercial enterprise, had attained to
prosperity. The Cracow burghers were jealous of them, and the clergy
found it improper that the doomed sons of the Synagogue should live so
tranquilly under the shelter of the benevolent Church. A silent but
stubborn agitation was carried on against the Jews, their enemies merely
waiting for a convenient opportunity to square accounts with them.

On one occasion, on the third day of Easter, the priest Budek, who had
gained the reputation of an implacable Jew-baiter, delivered a sermon in
the Church of St. Barbara. As he was about to leave the pulpit, he
suddenly announced to the worshipers that he had found a notice on the
pulpit to this effect: "The Jews living in Cracow killed a Christian boy
last night, and made sport over his blood; moreover, they threw stones
at a priest who was going to visit a sick man, and was carrying a
crucifix in his hands." No sooner had these words been uttered than the
people rushed into the Jewish street, and began to loot the houses of
"Christ's enemies." The royal authorities hastened to the rescue of the
Jews, and by armed force put an end to the riots. But several hours
later, when the bells of the town hall began to ring, summoning the
members of the magistracy to a meeting, for the purpose of punishing the
instigators of the disorders, some one in the crowd shouted that the
magistracy was inviting the Christians to another attack upon the Jews.
Thereupon the rabble came running from all parts of the city and began
to slay and plunder the Jews, setting fire to their houses. Some Jews
sought refuge in the Tower of St. Anne, but the mob set fire to the
tower, and the unfortunate Jews had to surrender. A number of them, to
save their lives, adopted Christianity, while the children of the slain
were all baptized. Many Christians, according to the testimony of the
Polish historian Dlugosh[33], grew rich on the money plundered from the

One cannot fail to perceive in all these catastrophes the influence of
neighboring Germany[34]. It was from Germany that the clerical reaction
which followed upon the struggle of the Church with the reformatory Huss
movement penetrated to Poland. The Synod of Constance, which condemned
Huss, was attended by the Archbishop of Gnesen, Nicholas Tromba, who
appeared at the head of a Polish delegation. On his return, this leading
dignitary of the Polish Church presided over the proceedings of the
Synod of Kalish (1420), which had also been convened in connection with
the Huss movement.

At the suggestion of this Archbishop, the Council of Kalish solemnly
ratified all the anti-Jewish enactments which had been passed by the
Councils of Breslau and Buda (Ofen),[35] but had seldom been carried out
in practice. These laws, as will be remembered, forbade all intercourse
between Jew and Christian, and ordered the Jews to live in separate
quarters, to wear a distinctive mark on the upper garment, and so forth.
At the same time the Jews were required to pay a tax in favor of the
churches of those diocesan districts "where they now live, and where by
right Christians ought to live," this tax to correspond to "the losses
inflicted by them upon the Christians." These injunctions were issued as
special instructions to the members of the clergy in all the dioceses.

The ecclesiastic tendencies gradually forced their way into secular
legislation. The fanatics of the Church exerted their influence not only
on the King but also on the landed nobility, the _Shlakhta_,[36] which
at that time began to take a more active interest in the affairs of the
state. At the convention of the Shlakhta in Varta[37] (1423) King
Vladislav Yaghello sanctioned a law forbidding the Jews to lend money
against written securities, only loans against pledges being permitted.
The ecclesiastic origin of this enactment is betrayed in the ugly manner
in which the law is justified in the preamble: "Whereas Jewish cunning
is always directed against the Christians and aims rather at the
property of the Christian than at his creed or person...."


An entirely different picture is presented at that time by Lithuania,
which, in spite of its dynastic alliance with Poland, retained complete
autonomy of administration. The patriarchal order of things, which was
nearing its end in Poland, was still firmly intrenched in the Duchy of
Lithuania, but recently emerged from the stage of primitive paganism.
Medieval culture had not yet taken hold of the inhabitants of the wooded
banks of the Niemen, and the Jews were able to settle there without
having to face violence and persecution.

It is difficult to determine the exact date of the first Jewish
settlements in Lithuania. So much is certain, however, that by the end
of the fourteenth century a number of important communities were in
existence, such as those of Brest, Grodno, Troki, Lutzk, and Vladimir,
the last two in Volhynia, which, prior to the Polish-Lithuanian Union of
1579, formed part of the Duchy. The first one to legalize the existence
of these communities was the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vitovt, who ruled
over Lithuania from 1388 to 1430, partly as an independent sovereign,
partly in the name of his cousin, the Polish King Yaghello. In 1388 the
Jews of Brest and other Lithuanian communities obtained from Vitovt a
charter similar in content to the statutes of Boleslav of Kalish and
Casimir the Great, and in 1389 even more extensive privileges were
bestowed by him on the Jews of Grodno.

In these enactments the Lithuanian ruler exhibits, like Casimir, an
enlightened solicitude for a peaceful relationship between Jews and
Christians and for the inner welfare of the Jewish communities. Under
the laws enacted by Vitovt the Jews of Lithuania formed a class of free
citizens, standing under the immediate protection of the Grand Duke and
his local administration. They lived in independent communities,
enjoying autonomy in their internal affairs as far as religion and
property are concerned, while in criminal affairs they were liable to
the court of the local starosta[38] or sub-starosta, and, in
particularly important cases, to the court of the Grand Duke himself.
The law guaranteed to the Jews inviolability of person and property,
liberty of religion, the right of free transit, the free pursuit of
commerce and trade, on equal terms with the Christians. The Lithuanian
Jews carried on business on the market-places or in shops, they plied
all kinds of trades, and occasionally engaged in agriculture. Men of
wealth lent money on interest, leased from the Grand Duke the customs
duties, the revenues on spirits, and other taxes. They held estates
either in their own right or in the form of land leases. The taxes which
they paid into the exchequer were adapted to the character of their
occupations, and on the whole were not burdensome. Aside from the
Rabbanite Jews there existed in Lithuania Karaites, who had immigrated
from the Crimea, and had established themselves in the regions of Troki
and Lutzk.

Accordingly the position of the Jews was more favorable in Lithuania
than in Poland. Jewish immigrants, on their way from Germany to Poland,
frequently went as far as Lithuania and settled there permanently.
Lithuania formed the extreme boundary in the eastward movement of the
Jews, Russia and Muscovy being almost entirely closed to them.


The conflict of tendencies in the Polish legislation concerning the Jews
manifested itself with particular violence in the reign of Casimir IV.,
the third king of the Yaghello dynasty. The attitude of Casimir IV.
(1447-1492), who was imbued with the ideas of the humanistic movement
then in vogue, was at first that of a wise ruler, the guardian of the
common interests of his subjects. As Grand Duke of Lithuania he had
followed the liberal Jewish policies of his predecessor Vitovt. He
protected the personal and communal rights of both the Rabbanite and
Karaite Jews--to the latter he granted, in 1441, the Magdeburg Law--and
he frequently availed himself of the services of enterprising Jewish
financiers and tax-farmers to increase the revenues of the state.

Having accepted the Polish crown, Casimir was resolved to rule
independently and to disregard the designs of the all-powerful clergy.
Shortly after his coronation, in August, 1447, while the King was on a
visit to Posen, the city was devastated by a terrible fire. During the
conflagration the ancient original of the charter which Casimir the
Great had bestowed upon the Jews was lost. A Jewish delegation from the
communities of Posen, Kalish, and other cities petitioned the King to
restore and ratify the old Jewish privileges, on the basis of copies of
the charter which had been spared. Casimir readily granted the request
of the deputies. "We desire"--he announces in his new charter--"that the
Jews, whom we wish to protect in our own interest as well as in the
interest of the royal exchequer, should feel comforted in our beneficent
reign." Corroborating as it did all the rights and privileges previously
conferred upon the Jews--liberty of residence and commerce, communal
and judicial autonomy, inviolability of life and liberty, protection
against groundless charges and attacks--the charter of Casimir IV. was a
direct protest against the canonical laws only recently reissued for
Poland by the Council of Kalish, and for the whole Catholic world by the
great Council at Basle. In opposition to the main trend of the Council
resolutions, the royal charter permitted the Jews to associate with
Christians, and exempted them from the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastic
law courts (1453).

The King's liberalism aroused the resentment of the Catholic clergy. The
leader of the clerical party was the energetic Archbishop of Cracow,
Cardinal Zbignyev Oleshnitzki, who openly headed the forces arrayed in
opposition to the King. He denounced Casimir bitterly for granting
protection to the Jews, "to the injury and insult of the holy faith."

    Do not imagine--Oleshnitzki writes to the King in May,
    1454--that in matters touching the Christian religion you are at
    liberty to pass any law you please. No one is great and strong
    enough to put down all opposition to himself when the interests
    of the faith are at stake. I therefore beg and implore your
    Royal Majesty to revoke the aforementioned privileges and
    liberties. Prove that you are a Catholic sovereign, and remove
    all occasion for disgracing your name and for worse offenses
    that are likely to follow.

In his letter Oleshnitzki refers to the well-known agitator and
Jew-baiter, the Papal Legate Capistrano, who had come to Poland from
Germany in the fall of 1453. With this "scourge of the Jews" as his ally
Oleshnitzki started a campaign against Jews and heretics (or Hussites).
On his arrival in Cracow Capistrano delivered on the market-place
incendiary speeches against the Jews, and demanded of the King
persistently to revoke the "godless" Jewish privileges, threatening him,
in case of disobedience, with the tortures of hell and terrible
misfortunes for the country.

At first the King refused to yield, but the march of events favored the
anti-Jewish forces. Poland was at war with the Teutonic Order.[39] The
first defeat sustained by the Polish troops in this war (September,
1454) gave the clergy an opportunity of proclaiming that the Lord was
chastising the country for the King's disregard of Church interests and
for his protection of the Jews. At last the King was forced to listen to
the demands of the united clergy and nobility. In November, 1454, the
Statute of Nyeshava[40] was promulgated, and by one of its clauses all
former Jewish privileges were rescinded as "being equally opposed to
Divine right and earthly laws." The reasons for the enactment, which
were evidently dictated by Oleshnitzki, were formulated as follows: "For
it is not meet that infidels should enjoy greater advantages than the
worshipers of our Lord Christ, and slaves should have no right to occupy
a better position than sons." The Varta Statutes of 1423 and the former
canonical laws were declared in force again. Clericalism had scored a

This anti-Jewish tendency communicated itself to the people at large. In
several towns the Jews were attacked. In 1463 detachments of Polish
volunteers who were preparing for a crusade against the Turks passed
through Lemberg and Cracow on their way to Hungary. The disorderly
crowd, consisting of monks, students, peasants, and impoverished
noblemen, threw itself on the Jews of Cracow on the third day of Easter,
looted their houses, and killed about thirty people. When Casimir IV.
learned what had happened, he imposed a fine on the magistracy for
having failed to forestall the riots. Similar disorders were taking
place about the same time in Lemberg, Posen, and other cities.

As far as Casimir IV. was concerned, the clerical policy, artificially
foisted upon him, did not alter his personal readiness to shield the
Jews. But under his sons, the Polish King John Albrecht and the
Lithuanian Grand Duke Alexander Yaghello, the anti-Jewish policy gained
the upper hand. The former ratified, at the Piotrkov Diet of 1496, the
Nyeshava Statute with its anti-Jewish restrictions. John Albrecht is
also credited with the establishment of the first ghetto in Poland. In
1494 a large part of the Polish capital of Cracow was destroyed by fire,
and the mob, taking advantage of the prevailing panic, plundered the
property of the Jews. As a result, the Jews, who at that time were
scattered over various parts of the city, were ordered by the King to
move to Kazimiezh,[41] a suburb of Cracow, and to live there apart from
the Christians. Kazimiezh became, in consequence, a wholly Jewish town,
leading throughout the centuries a life of its own, and connected with
the outside world by mere threads of economic relationship.

While the throne of Poland was occupied by John Albrecht, his
brother Alexander ruled over Lithuania as grand duke. At first
Alexander's attitude towards the Jews was rather favorable. In 1492 he
complied with the petition of the Karaites of Troki, and confirmed the
charter of Casimir IV., bestowing upon them the Magdeburg Law, and even
supplementing it by a few additional privileges. Various items of public
revenue, especially the customs duties, were as theretofore let to the
Jews. Alexander also paid the Jewish capitalists part of the money
advanced by them to his father. In 1495, however, the Grand Duke
suddenly issued a decree ordering the expulsion of all the Jews from
Lithuania. It is not known whether this cruel action was due to the
influence of the anti-Jewish clerical party, and was stimulated by the
news of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, or whether it was prompted
by the financial dependence of the ruler on his Jewish creditors, or by
the general desire to enrich himself at the expense of the exiles. As a
matter of fact Alexander confiscated the immovable property of the
expelled Jews in the districts of Grodno, Brest, Lutzk, and Troki, and a
large part thereof was distributed by him among the local Christian
residents. The banished Jews emigrated partly to the Crimea (Kaffa), but
the majority settled, with the permission of King John Albrecht, in the
neighboring Polish cities. However, when a few years later, after the
death of his brother, Alexander accepted, in addition, the crown of
Poland (1501), he allowed the Jews to return to Lithuania and settle in
their former places of residence. On this occasion they received back,
though not in all cases, the houses, estates, synagogues, and cemeteries
previously owned by them (1503).

By the beginning of the fourteenth century Polish Jewry had become a big
economic and social factor with which the state was bound to reckon. It
was now destined to become also an independent spiritual entity, having
stood for four hundred years under the tutelage of the Jewish center in
Germany. The further development of this new factor forms one of the
most prominent features of the next period.


[20] It need scarcely be pointed out that, in speaking of the Jewish
immigration into Poland, we have in mind the _predominating_ element,
which came from the West. It is quite possible that there was an
admixture of settlers from the Khazar kingdom, from the Crimea, and from
the Orient in general, who were afterwards merged with the western

[21] The word signifies "the powder merchant"--five hundred years before
the invention of powder!

[22] [The most important of these were: Great Poland, in the northwest,
with the leading cities of Posen and Kalish; Little Poland, in the
southwest, with Cracow and Lublin; and Red Russia, in the south, on
which see p. 53, n. 2. In 1319 Great Poland and Little Poland were
united by Vladislav Lokietek (see p. 50), who assumed the royal title.
His son Casimir the Great annexed Red Russia. Thenceforward Great
Poland, Little Poland, and Red Russia formed part of the Polish Kingdom,
with Cracow as capital, though they were administered as separate
Provinces. On the Principality of Mazovia, see p. 85, n. 1.]

[23] Some coins bear the inscription משקא קרל פולסקי, "Meshko
(= Mechislav) Król Polski," "Meshko, king of Poland," or ברכה משקא,
"Benediction [on] Meshko." Other coins give the names of the Jewish
minters, such as Abraham, son of Isaac Nagid, Joseph Kalish, etc.

[24] [_Das Magdeburger Recht_, a collection of laws based on the famous
_Sachsenspiegel_, which was composed early in the thirteenth century in
Saxony. Owing to the fame of the court of aldermen (_Schöppenstuhl_) at
Magdeburg, the Magdeburg Law was adopted in many parts of Germany,
Bohemia, Hungary, and particularly of Poland. One of its main provisions
was the administrative and judicial independence of the municipalities.]

[25] [They were organized in mercantile guilds and trade-unions
and formed the estate of burghers, called in Polish
_mieszczanie_--pronounced _myeshchanye_--and in Latin _oppidani_,
"town-dwellers," thus standing midway between the nobility, or
_Shlakhta_ (see p. 58, n. 1), and the serfs, or _khlops_.]

[26] [The word, spelled in Polish _wojewoda_, signifies, like the
corresponding German _Herzog_, military commander. The voyevoda was
originally the leader of the army in war and the representative of the
king in times of peace. After the unification of Poland, in 1319, the
voyevodas became the administrators of the various Polish provinces (or
_voyevodstvos_) on behalf of the king. Later on their duties were
encroached upon by the starostas (see below, p. 60, n. 1). With the
growth of the influence of the nobility, which resented the authority of
the royal officials, their functions were limited to the calling of the
militia in the case of war and the exercise of jurisdiction over the
Jews of their province. They were members of the Royal Council, and as
such wielded considerable influence. Their Latin title was _palatinus_.]

[27] [_Judex Judaeorum._ He was a Christian official, generally of noble
rank. See p. 52.]

[28] [In Polish, Wladyslaw. The name is also found in the forms
Wladislaus and Ladislaus.]

[29] [_I. e._ "Span-long," so called because of his diminutive stature.]

[30] A privilege denied to them by the canons of the Church.

[31] [Lvov, written in Polish Lwów, is used by the Poles and Russians;
Lemberg is used by the Germans.]

[32] [Before Casimir the Great Red Russia formed an independent
Principality (see p. 42, n. 1). The identity of Red Russia with Galicia
has been assumed in the text for the sake of convenience. In reality Red
Russia corresponds to present-day _Eastern_ Galicia, in which the
predominating population is Little Russian or Ruthenian, while _Western_
Galicia, with Cracow, formed part of Little Poland. In addition Red
Russia included a part of the present Russian Government of Podolia.]

[33] Jan Dlugosz, called in Latin Johannes Longinus [author of _Historia
Polonica_. He died in 1480].

[34] The recently published records of the court proceedings in the
Cracow pogrom of 1407 show that its principal instigators were German
artisans and merchants who resided in that city.

[35] See p. 47 and p. 49.

[36] [Written in Polish _Szlachta_, probably derived from the old German
_slahta_, in modern German _Geschlecht_, meaning _tribe_, _caste_. The
Polish Shlakhta was in complete control of the Diet, or _sejm_
(pronounced _saym_), from which the other estates, the peasants and
burghers, were excluded almost entirely. In the course of time, the
Shlakhta succeeded also in wresting the power from the king, who became
a mere figurehead.]

[37] [In Polish, _Warta_, a town in the province of Kalish. These
conventions of the nobility assumed, in the fifteenth century, the
character of a national parliament for the whole of Poland.]

[38] [Lithuania was administered by starostas as Poland was by voyevodas
(see p. 46, n. 1). The starostas--literally "elders"--were originally
nobles holding an estate of the crown, which was given to them by the
king for special services rendered to him. In the course of time they
became, both in Lithuania and in Poland proper, governors of whole
regions, taking over many of the functions of the voyevodas. The
relationship between the two officers underwent many changes. On the
effect of this change upon the jurisdiction of the Jews compare Bloch,
_Die General-Privilegien der polnischen Judenschaft_, p. 35.]

[39] [A semi-ecclesiastic, semi-military organization of German knights,
which originated in Palestine during the Crusades, and was afterwards
transferred to Europe to propagate Christianity on the eastern confines
of Germany. The Order developed into a powerful state, which became a
great menace to Poland.]

[40] [In Polish _Nieszawa_, the meeting-place of the Diet of that year.]

[41] More exactly _Kazimierz_, the Polish form for Casimir (the Great),
after whom the town was named.




In the same age in which the Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal
were wending their steps towards the Turkish East, bands of Jewish
emigrants, fleeing from the stuffy ghettos of Germany and Austria, could
be seen wandering towards the Slavonian East, towards Poland and
Lithuania, where, during the period of the Reformation, a large
autonomous Diaspora center sprang into life. The transmigration of
Jewish centers, which is so prominent a feature of the sixteenth
century, found its expression in two parallel movements: the demolished
or impoverished centers of Western Europe were transplanted to the
countries of Eastern Europe on the one hand, and to the lands of
contiguous Western Asia on the other. Yet the destinies of the two
Eastern centers--Turkey and Poland--were not identical. The Sephardim of
Turkey were approaching the end of their brilliant historic career, and
were gradually lapsing into Asiatic stupor, while the Ashkenazim of
Poland, with a supply of fresh strength and the promise of an original
culture, were starting out on their broad historic development. The
mission of the Sephardim was a memory of the past; that of the
Ashkenazim was a hope for the future. After medieval Babylonia and
Spain, no country presented so intense a concentration of Jewish energy
and so vast a field for the development of a Jewish autonomous life as
Poland in the sixteenth and the following centuries.[42]

The uninterrupted colonization of Slavonian lands by Jewish emigrants
from Germany, which had been going on during the Middle Ages, prepared
the soil for the historic process which converted Poland from a colony
into a center of Judaism. The large Jewish population settled in the
towns and villages of Poland and Lithuania formed, not a downtrodden
caste, nor a homogeneous economic class, as in Germany, but an important
social entity, unfolding its energy in many departments of
social-economic life. It was not tied down to two exclusive occupations,
money-lending and petty trade, but it participated in all branches of
industrial endeavor, in production and manufacture, not excluding rural
avocations, such as land tenure and farming. The men of wealth among the
Jews farmed the tolls (transit and customs duties) and the excise (state
taxes collected on wine[43] and other articles of consumption), and
frequently attained to prominence as the financial agents of the kings.
When, at a later date, the Jews were hampered in the business of
tax-farming, their capital found a new outlet in the lease of crown and
Shlakhta estates, with the right of "propination,"[44] or liquor
traffic, attached to it, as well as in working the salt mines, in
timbering forests, and opening up the other resources of the soil. The
big merchants were busy exporting agrarian products from Poland into
Austria, Moldavo-Wallachia, and Turkey. The lower classes engaged in
retail trade, handicrafts, farming, vegetable-growing, gardening, and,
in some places, particularly in Lithuania, even in corn-growing.

The economic activity of the Jews, entwined with the material
life of the country by numerous threads, was bound to produce a similar
variety of form also in their legal condition. Considering the peculiar
caste structure of the Polish state and the relative political freedom
enjoyed in that semi-constitutional country by the "governing
classes"--the landed nobility, the clergy, and partly the burghers--the
legal position of the Jews was of necessity determined by the conflict
of political and class interests. Bridled by an oligarchic constitution,
the royal power was bound to clash with the vast privileges of the
landed magnates, the big Shlakhta. The latter, in turn, on the one hand
fought the claims of the petty rural Shlakhta, and on the other resisted
the advance of the Christian urban estates, the business men, and
craftsmen, who were a powerful factor, owing to their municipal autonomy
and their well-organized guilds. The fight was carried on in the Diets,
municipalities, and law courts. Within this conflict of economic
interests the clergy of the dominant Catholic Church pursued its own
line of attack. Having been weakened during the Reformation, it now
renewed its strength in consequence of the Catholic reaction and the
arduous endeavors of the Jesuits.

These estates differed in their relation to the Jews, each in accordance
with its own interests. Medieval ideas had already taken such deep root
in the Polish people that, despite the constitutional character of the
country, a humane and lawful attitude towards the Jews was out of the
question. They were appraised according to the advantages they could
bestow upon this or that class, and since in many cases what was
advantageous to one class was disadvantageous to another, a conflict of
interests was unavoidable, with the result that the Jews were the
objects of protection on the one side and the targets of persecution on
the other.

The Jews of Poland were favored by two powers within the state, by
royalty and in part by the big Shlakhta. They were opposed by two
others, the clergy and the burghers. Aside from the interests of the
exchequer, which was swelled by regular and irregular imposts upon the
Jews, the kings derived personal benefits from their commercial
activities. They valued the financial services of the Jewish
tax-farmers, who paid large sums in advance for the lease of customs
duties and state revenues or for the tenure of the royal domains. These
contractors and tenants became, as a rule, financial agents of the
kings, owing to their ability to advance large sums of money, and were
incidentally in a position to exert their influence upon the court in
the interest of their coreligionists. The high nobility in turn
appreciated the usefulness of the Jewish farmers and tenants to their
estates, which they themselves, with their aristocratic indifference and
indolence, knew only how to mismanage. The protection which this class
accorded the Jews, principally at the Diets controlled by them, was in
exact proportion to the services rendered by the Jews as middlemen
between them and the peasants. The magnates accordingly were entirely
indifferent to the welfare of the rest of Jewry, the toiling masses of
the Jewish population.

Uncompromising hostility to the Jews marked the attitude of the urban
estates, the merchants and artisans of the burgher class, with a
considerable sprinkling of German settlers, whose influence was clearly
noticeable. These organized tradesmen and handicraftsmen looked upon the
Jews as their direct competitors. The magistracies, acting as the organs
of municipal self-government, placed severe restrictions upon the Jews
in the acquisition of real estate and in the pursuit of business and
handicrafts, while the trade-unions occasionally set the riotous mobs at
their heels. Still more resolute was the agitation of the Catholic
clergy, which frequently succeeded in influencing legislation in the
spirit of ecclesiastic intolerance.

The interaction of all these forces shaped the legal and social status
of the Polish-Lithuanian Jews in the course of the sixteenth and in the
beginning of the seventeenth century, at a time when Poland was passing
through the zenith of her political prosperity. The vacillations and
upheavals in the position of the Jews were conditioned by the shifting
of forces in the direction of the one or the other above-mentioned
factors in the course of history.


The opening years of the sixteenth century found the Jews fully restored
to the rights of which their enemies had attempted to rob them at the
end of the preceding century. Alexander Yaghello, the very same
Lithuanian Grand Duke who, from some obscure motive, had banished the
Jews from his dominions in 1495,[45] found it necessary to call them
back as soon as he ascended the throne of Poland, after the demise of
his brother. In 1503, "having consulted the lords of the realm," King
Alexander announced his decision to the effect that the Jews exiled from
Grodno and other cities of Lithuania should be allowed to return and
settle "near the castles and in the localities in which they had lived
formerly," and should be given back the houses, synagogues, cemeteries,
farms, and fields, which had previously been in their possession. The
reasons for this change of front may easily be traced to the vast
economic importance of the Jews of the Polish Kingdom, which had shortly
before, in 1501, entered into a closer union with Lithuania, and to the
invaluable services of the Jewish tax-farmers, on whom the royal budget
to a large extent depended.

One of these "royal financiers" was the wealthy Yosko,[46] who farmed
the customs and tolls in nearly half of Poland. To stimulate the
endeavors of his financier, King Alexander exempted Yosko and his
employees from the authority of the local administration, placing him,
after the manner of court dignitaries, under the jurisdiction of the
royal court. But, taken as a whole, the King was even now far from
friendly to the Jews. In 1505 he permitted the inclusion of the ancient
charter of Boleslav of Kalish, the _magna charta_ of Jewish liberties,
in the code of organic Polish laws, which was then being edited by the
chancellor John Laski. But he was careful to point out that he did not
thereby intend to ratify Boleslav's charter anew, but allowed its
reproduction "for the purpose of safeguarding [the Christian population]
against the Jews" (_ad cautelam defensionis contra Judaeos_).

Alexander's successor, Sigismund I. Yaghello (1506-1548), King of Poland
and Grand Duke of Lithuania, favored a more liberal policy towards his
Jewish subjects. Though a staunch Catholic, Sigismund was free from the
spirit of anti-Jewish clericalism, and he endeavored to the best of his
ability to live up to the principle proclaimed by him, that "equal
justice should be meted out to the rich and mighty lords and to the
meanest pauper." This lofty principle, so little compatible with the
policy of class discrimination, could, however inadequately, be applied
only there where the power of royalty was not handicapped by the mighty
Shlakhta and the other estates. The only part of the Polish Empire where
such a condition still existed in the time of Sigismund I. was
Lithuania, the patrimony of the Yaghellos. There the royal, or rather
the grand ducal, authority was more extensive and its form of
manifestation more patriarchal than in the provinces of the Crown, or
Poland proper. By intrusting a large part of the public tax contracts
and land leases to the Jewish capitalists, the King could feel easy in
his mind as to the integrity of his budget. The general contractor of
the customs and other state revenues in Lithuania, Michael Yosefovich
(son of Joseph), a Jew from Brest-Litovsk, exercised occasionally also
the functions of grand ducal treasurer, being commissioned to pay out of
the collected imposts the salaries of the local officials as well as the
debts of his royal master.

Prompted by the desire of rewarding the services of his financier and at
the same time putting the communal affairs of his Jewish subjects in
better order, Sigismund appointed Michael Yosefovich to serve as the
elder, or, to use the official term, the "senior," of all Lithuanian
Jews (1514). The "senior" was invested with far-reaching powers: he had
the right of conferring directly with the king in all important Jewish
affairs, dispensing justice to his coreligionists in accordance with
their own laws, and collecting from them the taxes imposed by the state.
He was to be assisted by a rabbi or "doctor," an expert in Jewish law.
Whether the Lithuanian Jews acknowledged Michael Yosefovich as their
supreme authority is open to doubt. The wealthy contractor, whom the
will of the King had placed at the head of the Jews, could not in point
of fact preside over their autonomous organization and their judiciary
and rabbinate, since what was required was not officials, but men with
special knowledge and training. All Michael could do was to act as the
official go-between, representing the Jewish communities before the King
and defending their rights and privileges as well as their commercial
and fiscal interests. In any event Michael was more useful to his
coreligionists than his brother Abraham Yosefovich, who, likewise a
tax-farmer, sacrificed his Judaism for the sake of a successful career.
King Alexander conferred upon Abraham the rank of Starosta of Smolensk,
while Sigismund raised him to the exalted position of Chancellor of the
Lithuanian Exchequer. Abraham and his offspring were soon lost in the
ranks of the higher Polish nobility.

In agricultural Lithuania with its patriarchal conditions of life the
antagonism between the classes was in its infancy, and as a result the
right of the Jews to freedom of transit and occupation was but rarely
contested. They lived in the towns and villages, and were not yet so
sharply marked off, in language and mode of life, from the Christian
population as they became afterwards. The Jewish communities of Brest,
Grodno, Pinsk, and Troki, the last consisting principally of Karaites,
who had a municipality of their own, were important Jewish centers in
the Duchy, and enjoyed considerable autonomy. The rabbi of Brest, Mendel
Frank, received from the King extensive administrative and judicial
powers, including the right of imposing the _herem_ and other penalties
upon the recalcitrant members of the community (1531).

In the large cities of Poland proper the position of the Jews was not
nearly so favorable. Here commercial life had attained a higher stage of
development than in Lithuania, and in many lines of business the Jews
competed with the Christians. Taking advantage of the autonomy granted
to the estates in the shape of the Magdeburg Law, the Christian business
men and handicraftsmen, represented by their magistracies and
trade-unions, were constantly endeavoring to restrict their rivals in
their commercial pursuits. This was particularly the case in Posen,
Cracow, and Lemberg, the leading centers respectively of the three
provinces of Great Poland, Little Poland, and Red Russia (Galicia). In
Posen the Jews were hampered by the burgomaster and the aldermen in
carrying on their business or in displaying their goods in stores
outside the Jewish quarter. When the Jews protested to the King, he
warned the authorities of Posen not to subject their rivals to any
hardships or to violate their privileges (1517). The Christian merchants
retorted that the Jews occupied the best shops, not only in the center
of the town, but also on the market-place, where formerly only
"prominent Christian merchants, both native and foreign [German], had
been doing business," and where, in view of the concentration of large
masses of Christians, the presence of Jews might lead to "great
temptations," and even to seduction from the path of the "true faith."
The reference to religion, used as a cloak for commercial greed, did not
fail to impress the devout Sigismund, and he forbade the Jews to keep
stores on the market-place (1520). The professors of Christian love in
Posen similarly forbade their Jewish fellow-citizens to buy foodstuffs
and other articles in the market until the Christian residents had
completed their purchases. A little later the King, in consequence of
the influx of Jews into Posen, gave orders that no new Jewish settlers
be admitted into the city, and that no houses owned by Christians be
sold to them, without the permission of the Kahal elders. The Jews were
to be restricted to definite quarters and to be denied the right of
building their houses among those belonging to Christians (1523).

The same was the case in Lemberg. Yielding to the complaints of the
magistracy about the competition of the Jews, the King restricted their
freedom of commerce in several particulars, barring them from selling
cloth in the whole of [Red] Russia and Podolia, except at the fairs, and
limiting their sale of horned cattle to two thousand head per year
(1515). The Piotrkov Diet of 1521 passed a law confining the trade of
the Lemberg Jews to four articles, wax, furs, cloth, and horned cattle.
These restrictions were the result of the widespread agitation which the
pious Christian merchants had been conducting against their business
rivals of other faiths. The magistracies of the three cities of Posen,
Lemberg, and Cracow, attempted to form a coalition for the purpose of
carrying on a joint economic fight against Jewry. In Cracow and its
suburb Kazimiezh[47] the Jews had to endure even harsher restrictions in
business than in the other two metropolitan centers of Poland.

Competition in business occasionally resulted in physical violence and
street riots. Anti-Jewish attacks were taking place in Posen and in
Brest-Kuyavsk,[48] and outbreaks were anticipated in Cracow.
Representatives of the last Jewish community made their apprehensions
known to the King. Sigismund issued a decree in 1530 denouncing in
vehement terms the insolence of the rioters, who were hoping for
immunity, and rigorously forbidding all acts of violence, under penalty
of death and confiscation of property. To allay the fears of the Jews he
ordered the burghers of Cracow to deposit the sum of ten thousand gulden
with the exchequer as security for the maintenance of peace and safety
in the city. The burgomasters, aldermen, and trade-unions were warned by
the King that in all their differences with Jews "they should proceed in
a legal manner, and not by violence, by resorting to force of arms and
inciting disorders."

The King was powerless, however, to shield the Jews against other
unpleasant manifestations of the Polish class _régime_, such as the
extortions of the officials. The highest dignitaries of the court no
less than the local administration were ever ready to fish in the
troubled waters of the conflict of classes. The second wife of
Sigismund, Queen Bona Sforza, an avaricious Italian princess, sold the
offices of the state to the highest bidder, while the courtiers and
voyevodas were just as venal on their own behalf. The queen's favorite,
Peter Kmita, Voyevoda of Cracow and Marshal of the Crown, managed to
accept bribes simultaneously from the Jewish and the Christian
merchants, who lodged complaints against each other, by promising both
sides to defend their interests before the Diet or the King.

During the fourth decade of the sixteenth century the Jewish question
became the object of violent disputes at the Polish Diets, the deputies
of several regions having received anti-Jewish instructions.[49] Now the
controlling factor in the Polish Diets was the Shlakhta, whose attitude
towards the Jews was not uniform. The big Shlakhta, the magnates, the
owners of huge estates and whole towns, were favorably disposed towards
the Jews who lived in their domains, and added to their wealth as
farmers and tax-payers. But the petty Shlakhta, the struggling squires,
who were looking for places in the civil and state service, arrayed
themselves on the side of the burgher class, which had always been
hostile to the Jews. This petty Shlakhta bitterly resented the fact that
the royal revenues had been turned over to Jewish contractors, who, as
collectors of customs and taxes, attained to official dignity, and
gradually forced their way into the ranks of the nobility. The income
from the collection of the revenues and the influence connected with it
this Shlakhta regarded as its inalienable prerogative. The clergy again
saw in this enhancement of Jewish influence a serious menace to the
Catholic faith, while the urban estates had a vital interest in limiting
the commercial rights of the Jews.

At the Piotrkov Diet of 1538 the anti-Jewish agitation was carried
on with considerable success. It resulted in the adoption of a statute,
or a "constitution," containing a separate Jewish section, in which the
old canonical laws cropped out:

    We hereby prescribe and decree--it is stated in that
    section--that from now on and for all future time all those who
    manage our revenues must unconditionally be members of the
    landed nobility, and persons professing the Christian faith....
    We ordain for inviolable observance that no Jews shall be
    intrusted [in the capacity of contractors] with the collection
    of revenues of any kind. For it is unworthy and contrary to
    divine right that persons of this description should be admitted
    to any kind of honors or to the discharge of public functions
    among Christian people.

It is further decreed that the Jews have no right of unrestricted
commerce, and can do no business in any locality, except with the
special permission of the king or by agreement with the magistracies; in
the villages they are forbidden to trade altogether. Pawnbroking and
money-lending on the part of Jews are hedged about by a series of
oppressive regulations. The capstone of the Piotrkov "constitution" is
the following clause:

    Whereas the Jews, disregarding the ancient regulations, have
    thrown off the marks by which they were distinguishable from the
    Christians, and have arrogated to themselves a form of dress
    which closely resembles that of the Christians, so that it is
    impossible to recognize them, be it resolved for permanent
    observance: that the Jews of our realm, all and sundry, in
    whatever place they happen to be found, shall wear special
    marks, to wit, a barret, or hat, or some other headgear of
    yellow cloth. Exception is to be made in favor of travelers,
    who, while on the road, shall be permitted to discard or conceal
    marks of this kind.

The fine for violating this regulation is fixed at one gulden.

The only articles of the "constitution" of 1538 which had serious
consequences for the Jews of the Crown--the Jews of Lithuania were not
affected by these regulations--were those barring them from tax-farming
and subjecting them to commercial restrictions. The canonical law
concerning a distinctive headgear was more in the nature of a
demonstration than a serious legal enactment, since compliance with it,
owing to the high state of culture among the Polish Jews and their
important rôle in the economic life of the country, was a matter of
impossibility. Behind this regulation lurks the hand of the Catholic
clergy, which was alarmed at that time by the initial successes of the
Reformation in Poland, and was in fear that the influence of Judaism
might enhance the progress of the heresy. The excited imagination of the
clerical fanatics perceived signs of a "Jewish propaganda" in the
rationalistic doctrine of "Anti-Trinitarianism," which was then making
its appearance, denying the dogma of the Holy Trinity. The specter of a
rising sect of "Judaizers" haunted the guardians of the Church. One
occurrence in particular engendered tremendous excitement among the
inhabitants of Cracow. A Catholic woman of that city, Catherine
Zaleshovska by name, the wife of an alderman, and four score years of
age, was convicted of denying the fundamental dogmas of Christianity and
adhering secretly to Jewish doctrines. The Bishop of Cracow, Peter
Gamrat, having made futile endeavors to bring Catherine back into the
fold of the Church, condemned her to death. The unfortunate woman was
burned at the stake on the market-place of Cracow in 1539.

The following description of this event was penned by an eye-witness,
the Polish writer Lucas Gurnitzki:

    The priest Gamrat, Bishop of Cracow, assembled all canons and
    collegiates in order to examine her [Catherine Zaleshovska, who
    had been accused of "Judaizing"] as to her principles of faith.
    When, in accordance with our creed, she was asked whether she
    believed in Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, she
    replied: "I believe in God, who created all that we see and do
    not see, who cannot be comprehended by the human reason, who
    poureth forth His bounty over man and over all things in the
    universe." "Do you believe in His only begotten Son, Jesus
    Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost?" she was asked.
    She answered: "The Lord God has neither wife nor son, nor does
    He need them. For sons are needed by those who die, but God is
    eternal, and since He was not born, it is impossible that He
    should die. It is we whom He considers His sons, and His sons
    are those who walk in His paths." Here the collegiates shouted:
    "Thou utterest evil, thou miserable one! Bethink thyself! Surely
    there are prophecies that the Lord would send His Son into the
    world to be crucified for our sins, in order that we, having
    been disobedient from the days of our ancestor Adam, may be
    reconciled to God the Father?" A great deal more was said by the
    learned men to the apostate woman, but the more they spoke, the
    more stubborn was she in her contention that God was not and
    could not be born as a human being. When it was found impossible
    to detach her from her Jewish beliefs, it was decided to convict
    her of blasphemy. She was taken to the city jail, and a few days
    later she was burned. She went to her death without the
    slightest fear.

The well-known contemporary chronicler Bielski expresses himself
similarly: "She went to her death as if it were a wedding."

During the same time there were rumors afloat to the effect that in
various places in Poland, particularly in the province of Cracow, many
Christians were embracing Judaism, and, after undergoing circumcision,
were fleeing for greater safety to Lithuania, where they were sheltered
by the local Jews. When the rumor reached the King, he dispatched two
commissioners to Lithuania to direct a strict investigation. The
officers of the King proceeded with excessive ardor; they raided Jewish
homes, and stopped travelers on the road, making arrests and holding
cross-examinations. The inquiry failed to reveal the presence of
Judaizing sectarians in Lithuania, though it caused the Jews
considerable trouble and alarm (1539).

Scarcely had this investigation been closed when the Lithuanian Jews
were faced by another charge. Many of them were said to be on the point
of leaving the country, and, acting with the knowledge and co-operation
of the Sultan, intended to emigrate to Turkey, accompanied by the
Christians who had been converted to Judaism. It was even rumored that
the Jews had already succeeded in dispatching a party of circumcised
Christian children and adults across the Moldavian frontier. The King
gave orders for a new investigation, which was marked, like the
preceding one, by acts of lawlessness and violence. The Jews were in
fear that the King might lend an ear to these accusations and withdraw
his protection from them. Accordingly Jews of Brest, Grodno, and other
Lithuanian cities, hastened to send a deputation to King Sigismund,
which solemnly assured him that all the rumors and accusations
concerning them were mere slander, that the Lithuanian Jews were
faithfully devoted to their country, that they had no intention to
emigrate to Turkey, and, finally, that they had never tried to convert
Christians to their faith. At the same time they made complaints about
the insults and brutalities which had been inflicted upon them, pointing
to the detrimental effect of the investigation on the trade of the
country. The assertions of the deputation were borne out by the official
inquiry, and Sigismund, returning his favor to the Jews, cleared them of
all suspicion, and promised henceforward not to trouble them on
wholesale charges unsupported by evidence. This pledge was embodied in a
special charter, a sort of _habeas corpus_, granted by the King to the
Jews of Lithuania in 1540.

All this, however, did not discourage the Catholic clergy, who, under
the leadership of Bishop Gamrat, continued their agitation against the
hated Jews. They incited public opinion against them by means of
slanderous books, written in medieval style (_De stupendis erroribus
Judaeorum_, 1541; _De sanctis interfectis a Judaeis_, 1543). The Church
Synod of 1542 assembled in Piotrkov issued the following "constitution":

    The Synod, taking into consideration the many dangers that
    confront the Christians and the Church from the large number of
    Jews who, having been driven from the neighboring countries,
    have been admitted into Poland, and unscrupulously combine
    holiness with ungodliness, has passed the following resolution:
    Lest the great concentration of Jews in the country lead, as
    must be apprehended, to even worse consequences, his Majesty the
    King be petitioned as follows: 1. That in the diocese of Gnesen
    and particularly in the city of Cracow[50] the number of Jews be
    reduced to a fixed norm, such as the district set aside for them
    can accommodate. 2. That in all other places where the Jews did
    not reside in former times they be denied the right of
    settlement, and be forbidden to buy houses from Christians,
    those already bought to be returned to their former owners. 3.
    That the new synagogues, even those erected by them in the city
    of Cracow, be ordered to be demolished. 4. Whereas the Church
    suffers the Jews for the sole purpose of recalling to our minds
    the tortures of our Saviour, their number shall in no
    circumstances increase. Moreover, according to the regulations
    of the holy canons, they shall be permitted only to repair their
    old synagogues but not erect new ones.

This is followed by seven more clauses containing various restrictions.
The Jews are forbidden to keep Christian servants in their houses,
particularly nursery-maids, to act as stewards of estates belonging to
nobles ("lest those who ought to be the slaves of Christians should
thereby acquire dominion and jurisdiction over them"), to work and to
trade on Catholic holidays, and to offer their goods publicly for sale
even on weekdays. It goes without saying that the rule prescribing a
distinguishing Jewish dress is not neglected.

This whole anti-Jewish fabric of laws, which the members of the Synod
decided to submit to the King, failed to receive legal sanction. Still
the Catholic clergy was for a long time guided by it in its policy
towards the Jews, a policy, needless to say, of intolerance and gross
prejudices. These restrictions were the _pia desideria_ of priests and
monks, some of which were realized during the subsequent Catholic


Sigismund I.'s successor, the cultured and to some extent liberal-minded
Sigismund II. Augustus (1548-1572), followed in his relations with the
Jews the same principles of toleration and non-interference by which he
was generally guided in his attitude towards the non-Christian and
non-Catholic citizens of Poland. In the first year of his reign
Sigismund II., complying with the request of the Jews of Great Poland,
ratified, at the general Polish Diet held at Piotrkov, the old liberal
statute of Casimir IV. In the preamble of this enactment the King
declares that he confirms the rights and privileges of the Jews on the
same grounds as the special privileges of the other estates, in other
words, by virtue of his oath to uphold the constitution. Sigismund
Augustus considerably amplified and solidified the self-government of
the Jewish communities. He bestowed large administrative and judicial
powers upon the rabbis and Kahal elders, sanctioning the application of
"Jewish law" (_i. e._ of Biblical and Talmudical law) in civil and
partly even criminal cases between Jews (1551). In the general voyevoda
courts, in which cases between Jews and Christians were tried, the
presence of Jewish "seniors," _i. e._ of duly elected Kahal elders, was
required (1556). This liability of the Jews to the royal or voyevoda
courts had long constituted one of their important privileges, since it
exempted them from the municipal, or magistrates' courts, which were
just as hostile to them as the magistracies themselves.

This prerogative--the guarantee of greater impartiality on the part of
the royal court--was limited to the Jews residing in the royal cities
and villages, and did not extend to those living on the estates of the
nobles or in the townships owned by them. Sigismund I. had decreed that
"the nobles having Jews in their towns and villages may enjoy all the
advantages to be derived from them, but must also try their cases. For
we [the King], not deriving any advantages from such Jews, are not
obliged to secure justice for them" (1539). Sigismund Augustus now
enacted similarly that the Jews living on hereditary Shlakhta estates
should be liable to the jurisdiction of the "hereditary owner," not to
that of the royal representatives, the voyevoda and sub-voyevoda. As for
the other royal privileges, they were extended to the Jews of this
category only on condition of their paying the special Jewish head-tax
to the King (1549). The split between royalty and Shlakhta, which became
conspicuous in the reign of Sigismund Augustus, had already begun to
undermine the system of royal patronage, more and more weakened as time
went on.

The relations between the Jews and the "third estate," the burghers, did
not improve in the reign of Sigismund Augustus, but they assumed a more
definite shape. The two competing agencies, the magistracies and the
Kahals, regulated their mutual relations by means of compacts and
agreements. In some cities, such as Cracow and Posen, these compacts
were designed to safeguard the boundaries of the ghetto, outside of
which the Jews had no right to live; in Posen the Jews were even
forbidden to increase the number of Jewish houses over and above a fixed
norm (49), with the result that they were obliged to build tall houses,
with several stories. In other cities, among which was included the city
of Warsaw,[51] the magistracies managed to obtain the so-called
privilege _de non tolerandis Judaeis_, _i. e._ the right of either not
admitting the Jews to settle anew, and confining those already settled
to special sections of the city, away from the principal streets, or
keeping the Jews away from the city altogether, allowing only the
merchants to come on business and stay there for a few days. However, in
the majority of Polish cities the protection of the King secured for the
Jews equal rights with the other townspeople. For, as one of the royal
edicts puts it, "inasmuch as the Jews carry all burdens in the same way
as the burghers, their positions must be alike in everything, except in
religion and jurisdiction." In some places the King even went so far as
to forbid the holding of the weekly market-day on Saturday, to safeguard
the commercial interests of the Jews, who refused to do business on
their day of rest.

With all the estates of Poland the Jews managed reasonably to agree save
only with the Catholic clergy. This implacable foe of Judaism doubled
his efforts as soon as the signal from Rome was given to start a
reaction against the growing heresy of Protestantism and to combat all
other forms of non-Catholic belief. The policy of Paul IV., the
inquisitor on the throne of St. Peter, found an echo in Poland. The
Papal Nuncio Lippomano, having arrived from Rome, conceived the idea of
firing the religious zeal of the Catholics by one of those bloody
spectacles which the inquisitorial Church was wont to arrange
occasionally _ad maiorem Dei gloriam_. A rumor was set afloat that a
poor woman in Sokhachev, Dorothy Lazhentzka by name, had sold to the
Jews of the town the holy wafer received by her during communion, and
that the wafer was stabbed by the "infidels" until it began to bleed. By
order of the Bishop of Khelm three Jews who were charged with this
sacrilege and their accomplice Dorothy Lazhentzka were thrown into
prison, put on the rack, and finally sentenced to death. On learning of
these happenings, the King sent orders to the Starosta of Sokhachev to
stop the execution of the death sentence, but the clergy hastened to
carry out the verdict,[52] and the alleged blasphemers were burned at
the stake (1556). Before their death the martyred Jews made the
following declaration:

    We have never stabbed the host, because we do not believe that
    the host is the Divine body (_nos enim nequaquam credimus
    hostiae inesse Dei corpus_), knowing that God has no body nor
    blood. We believe, as did our forefathers, that the Messiah is
    not God, but His messenger. We also know from experience that
    there can be no blood in flour.

These protestations of a monotheistic faith were silenced by the
executioner, who stopped "the mouths of the criminals with burning

Sigismund Augustus was shocked by these revolting proceedings, which had
been engineered by the Nuncio Lippomano. He was quick to grasp that at
the bottom of the absurd rumor concerning the "wounded" host lay a
"pious fraud," the desire to demonstrate the truth of the Eucharist
dogma in its Catholic formulation (the bread of communion as the actual
body of Christ), which was rejected by the Calvinists and the extreme
wing of the Reformation. "I am shocked by this hideous villainy," the
King exclaimed in a fit of religious skepticism, "nor am I sufficiently
devoid of common sense to believe that there could be any blood in the
host." Lippomano's conduct aroused in particular the indignation of the
Polish Protestants, who on dogmatic grounds could not give credence to
the medieval fable concerning miracle-working hosts. All this did not
prevent the enemies of the Jews from exploiting the Sokhachev case in
the interest of an anti-Jewish agitation. It was in all likelihood due
to this agitation that the anti-Jewish "constitution" adopted by the
Diet of 1538 was, at the insistence of numerous deputies, confirmed by
the Diets of 1562 and 1565.

The articles of this anti-Semitic "constitution" were also embodied in
the "Lithuanian Statute" promulgated in 1566. This "statute" interdicts
the Jews from wearing the same style of clothes as the Christians and
altogether from dressing smartly, from owning serfs or keeping domestics
of the Christian faith, and from holding office among Christians, the
last two restrictions being extended to the Tatars and other "infidels."
The medieval libels found a favorable soil even in Lithuania. In 1564 a
Jew was executed in Bielsk, on the charge of having killed a Christian
girl, though the unfortunate victim loudly proclaimed his innocence from
the steps of the scaffold. Nor were attempts wanting to manufacture
similar trials in other Lithuanian localities. To put an end to the
agitation fostered by fanatics and obscurantists, the King issued two
decrees, in 1564 and 1566, in which the local authorities were strictly
enjoined not to institute proceedings against Jews on the charge of
ritual murder or desecration of hosts. Sigismund Augustus declares that
experience and papal pronouncements had proved the groundlessness of
such charges; that, in accordance with ancient Jewish privileges, all
such charges must be substantiated by the testimony of four Christian
and three Jewish witnesses, and that, finally, the jurisdiction in all
such cases belongs to the King himself and his Council at the General

Soon afterwards, in 1569, the agreement known as the "Union of Lublin"
was concluded between Lithuania and the Crown, or Poland proper,
providing for closer administrative and legislative co-operation between
the two countries. This resulted in the co-ordination of the
constitutional legislation for both parts of the "Republic,"[53] which,
in turn, affected injuriously the status of the Jews of Lithuania. The
latter country was gradually drawn into the general current of Polish
politics, and hence drifted away from the patriarchal order of things,
which had built up the prosperity of the Jews in the days of Vitovt.
Sigismund Augustus died in 1572, three years after the conclusion of the
Union of Lublin. The Jews had good reason to mourn the loss of this
King, who had been their principal protector. His death marks the
extinction of the Yaghello dynasty, and a new chapter begins in the
history of Poland, "the elective period," when the kings are chosen by
vote. After a protracted interregnum, the Shlakhta elected the French
prince Henry of Valois (1574), one of the instigators of the Massacre of
St. Bartholomew. This election greatly alarmed the Jews and the
liberal-minded Poles, who anticipated a recrudescence of clericalism;
but their fears were soon allayed. After a few months' stay in Poland,
Henry fled to his native land to accept the French crown, on the death
of his brother Charles IX. The throne of Poland fell, by popular vote,
to Stephen Batory (1576-1586), the valorous and enlightened Hungarian
duke. His brief reign, which marks the end of the "golden age" of Polish
history, was signalized by several acts of justice in relation to the
Jews. In 1576 Stephen Batory issued two edicts, strictly forbidding the
impeachment of Jews on the charge of ritual murder or sacrilege, in view
of the recognized falsity of these accusations[54] and the popular
disturbances accompanying them.

Stephen Batory even went one step further in pursuing the principle,
that the Jews, because of their usefulness to the country on account of
their commercial activity, had a claim to the same treatment as the
corresponding Christian estates. In ratifying the old charters, he added
a number of privileges, bearing in particular on the freedom of
commerce. The King directed the voyevodas to protect the legitimate
interests of the Jews against the encroachments of the magistracies and
trade-unions, who hampered them in every possible manner in their
pursuit of trades and handicrafts.

Stephen Batory intervened on behalf of the Jews of Posen, who had long
been oppressed by a hostile magistracy. Setting aside the draconian
regulations of the city fathers, the commercial rivals of the Jews, he
permitted the latter to hire business premises in all parts of the city
and ply their trade even on the days of the Christian festivals.
Anticipating the possibility of retaliatory measures on the part of the
townspeople, the King impressed upon the magistracy the duty of
safeguarding the inviolability of life and property in the city, at the
risk of incurring the severest penalties in the case of neglect (1577).
All these warnings, however, were powerless to avert a catastrophe.
Three months after the promulgation of the royal edict the Jewish
quarter in Posen was attacked by the mob, which looted Jewish property
and killed a number of Jews. Ostensibly the riot was started because of
the refusal of the Jews to allow one of their coreligionists, who was on
the point of accepting baptism, to meet his wife. In reality this was
nothing but a pretext. The attack had been prepared by the Christian
merchants, who could not reconcile themselves to the extension of the
commercial rights of their competitors. Batory imposed a heavy fine on
the Posen magistracy for having failed to stop the disorders. Only when
the members of the magistracy declared under oath that they had been
entirely ignorant of the plot was the fine revoked.

As far as the Jews are concerned, Stephen Batory remained loyal to the
traditions of a more liberal age, at a time when the Polish populace was
already inoculated with the ideas of the "Catholic reaction" imported
from Western Europe--ideas which in other respects the King himself was
unable to resist. It was during his reign that the Jesuits, Peter Skarga
and others, made their appearance as an active, organized body. Batory
extended his patronage to them, and intrusted them with the management
of the academy established by him at Vilna. Was it possible for the
King to foresee all the evil, darkness, and intolerance which these
Jesuit schools would spread all over Poland? Could it have occurred to
him that in these seats of learning, which soon monopolized the
education of the ruling as well as the middle classes, one of the chief
subjects of instruction would be a systematic course in Jew-baiting?


The results of the upheaval which accompanied the extinction of the
Yaghello dynasty assumed definite shape under the first two kings of the
Swedish Vasa dynasty, Sigismund III. (1588-1632) and Vladislav IV.
(1632-1648). The elective character of royalty made the latter dependent
on the Shlakhta, which practically ruled the country, subordinating
parliamentary legislation to the aristocratic and agricultural interests
of their estate, and almost monopolizing the posts of voyevodas,
starostas, and other important officials. At the same time the activity
of the Jesuits strengthened the influence of clericalism in all
departments of life. To eradicate Protestantism, to oppress the Greek
Orthodox "peasant Church," and to reduce the Jews to the level of an
ostracized caste of outlaws--such was the program of the Catholic
reaction in Poland.

To attain these ends draconian measures were adopted against the
Evangelists and Arians.[55] The members of the Greek Orthodox Church
were forced against their will into a union with the Catholics, and the
rights of the "dissidents," or non-conformists, were constantly
curtailed. The Jesuits, who managed to obtain control over the education
of the growing generation, inoculated the Polish people with the virus
of clericalism. The less the zealots of the Church had reason to expect
the conversion of the Jews, the more did they despise and humiliate
them. And if they did not altogether succeed in restoring the medieval
order of things, it was no doubt due to the fact that the structure of
the Polish state, with its irrepressible conflict of class interests,
did not allow any kind of system to take firm root. "Poland subsists on
disorders," was the boast of the political leaders of the age. The
"golden liberty" of the Shlakhta degenerated more and more. It became a
weapon in the hands of the higher classes to oppress the middle and the
lower classes. It led to anarchy, it undermined the authority of the
Diet, in which a single member could impose his veto on the decision of
the whole assembly (the so-called _liberum veto_), and resulted in
endless dissensions between the estates. On the other hand, one must not
forget that, while this division of power was disastrous for Poland, the
absolute concentration of power after the pattern of Western Europe, in
the circumstances then prevailing, might have proved even more
disastrous. Under a system of monarchic absolutism, Poland might have
become, during the period of the Catholic reaction, another Spain of
Philip II. Disorder and class strife saved the Polish people from the
"order" of the Inquisition and the consistency of autocratic hangmen.

The championship of Jewish interests passed by degrees from the hands of
royalty into those of the wealthy parliamentary Shlakhta. Though more
and more permeated by clerical tendencies, the fruit of Jesuit
schooling, the nobility in most cases held its protecting hand over the
Jews, to whom it was tied by the community of economic interests. The
Jewish tax-collector in the towns and townlets, which were privately
owned by the nobles, the Jewish _arendar_[56] in the village, who
procured an income for the _pan_[57] from dairying, milling, distilling,
liquor-selling and other enterprises--they were indispensable to the
easy-going magnate, who was wont to let his estates take care of
themselves, and while away his time in the capital, at the court, in
merry amusements, or at the tumultuous sessions of the national and
provincial assemblies, where politics were looked upon as a form of
entertainment rather than a serious pursuit. This Polish aristocracy put
a check on the anti-Semitic endeavors of the clergy, and confined the
oppression of the Jews within certain limits. Even the devout Sigismund
III., who was subject to Jesuit influence, continued the traditional
rôle of Jewish protector. In 1588, shortly after his accession to the
throne, he confirmed, at the request of the Jews, their right of trading
in the cities, though not without certain restrictions which the demands
of the Christian merchants had forced upon him.

Nevertheless the economic struggle in the cities continues with
ever-increasing fury, manifesting itself more and more in the shape of
malign religious fanaticism. In many cities the municipalities arrogate
to themselves judicial authority over the Jews--the authority of the
wolves over the sheep--contrary to the fundamental Polish law, which
places all litigation between Jews and Christians under the jurisdiction
of the royal officials, the voyevodas and starostas. The king, appealed
to by the injured, has frequent occasion to remind the magistracies that
the Jews are not to be judged by the Magdeburg Law, but by common Polish
law, in addition to their own rabbinical courts for internal disputes. A
pronouncement of this nature was issued, among others, by King Sigismund
III., when the Jews of Brest appealed to him against the local
municipality (1592). Their appeal was supported by the head of the
Jewish community, Saul Yudich (son of Judah), contractor of customs and
other state revenues in Lithuania, who wielded considerable influence at
the Polish court. He bore the title of "servant of the king," and was
frequently in a position to render important services to his
coreligionists.[58] But where the Jewish masses were not fortunate
enough to possess such powerful advocates in the persons of the big
tax-farmers and "servants of the king," their legitimate interests were
frequently trampled upon. The burghers of Vilna, in their desire to
dislodge their Jewish competitors from the city, did not stop at open
violence. They demolished the synagogue, and sacked the Jewish
residences in the houses owned by the Shlakhta (1592). In Kiev, where
the Jews had been settled in the Old Russian period,[59] the burghers
were endeavoring to secure from the King the privilege _de non
tolerandis Judaeis_ (1619).

The hostility of the burgher class, which was made up of Germans to a
considerable extent, manifested itself with particular intensity in the
old hotbed of anti-Semitism, in Posen. Attacks on the Jewish quarter on
the part of the street mob and "lawful" persecutions on the part of the
magistracy and trade-unions were a regular feature in the life of that
city. In the case of several trades, as, for instance, in the needle
trade, the Jewish artisans were restricted to Jewish customers. In 1618
a painter employed to paint the walls of the Posen town hall drew all
kinds of figures which were extremely offensive to the Jews, and
subjected them to the ridicule of an idle street mob. Two years later
the local clergy spread the rumor, that the table on which the famous
three hosts had been pierced by the Jews in 1399[60] had been
accidentally discovered in the house of a Jew. The fictitious relic was
transferred to the Church of the Carmelites in a solemn procession,
headed by the Bishop and the whole local priesthood. This demonstration
helped to inflame the populace against the Jews. The crowd, fed on such
spectacles, lost the last sparks of humanity. The scholars of the Jesuit
colleges frequently invaded the Jewish quarter, making sport of the Jews
and committing all kinds of excesses, in strange contradiction to the
precept of the Gospels, to love their enemies, which they were taught in
their schools.

Based on malicious fabrications, ritual murder trials become endemic
during this period, and assume an ominous, inquisitorial character.
Cases of this nature are given great prominence, and are tried by the
highest Polish law court, the Crown Tribunal,[61] without any of the
safeguards of impartiality which had been provided for such cases by the
ancient charters of the Polish kings, and had been more recently
reaffirmed by Stephen Batory. In 1598 the Tribunal of Lublin sentenced
three Jews to death on the charge of having slain a Christian boy, whose
body had been found in a swamp in a near-by village. To force a
confession from the accused the whole inquisitorial torture apparatus
was set in motion, and execution by quartering was carried out with
special solemnity in Lublin. The body of the youngster, the involuntary
cause of the death of innocent victims, was transferred by the Jesuits
to one of the local churches, where it became the object of
superstitious veneration. Trials of this kind, with an occasional change
of scene, were enacted in many other localities of Poland and Lithuania.

Simultaneously a literary agitation against the Jews was set on foot by
the clerical party. Father Moyetzki published in 1598 in Cracow his
ferociously anti-Jewish book entitled "Jewish Bestiality" (_Okrucieństwo
Żydowskie_), enumerating all ritual murder trials which had ever taken
place in Europe and particularly in Poland, and adding others which were
invented for this purpose by the author.[62]

A Polish physician, named Shleshkovski, accused the Jewish physicians,
his professional rivals, of systematically poisoning and delivering to
death good Catholics, and declared the pest, raging at that time, to be
a token of the Divine displeasure at the protection granted to the Jews
in Poland (_Jasny dowód o doktorach żydowskich_, "A Clear Argument
Concerning Jewish Physicians," 1623).

But the palm undoubtedly belongs to Sebastian Michinski, of Cracow, the
frenzied author of the "Mirror of the Polish Crown" (_Zwierciadlo korony
Polskiej_, 1618). As a docile pupil of the Jesuits, Michinski collected
everything that superstition and malice had ever invented against the
Jews. He charged the Jews with every mortal sin--with political
treachery, robbery, swindling, witchcraft, murder, sacrilege. In this
scurrilous pamphlet he calls upon the deputies of the Polish Diet to
deal with the Jews as they had been dealt with in Spain, France,
England, and other countries--to expel them. In particular, the book is
full of libels against the rich Jews of Cracow, with the result that the
sentiment against the Jewish population of that city rapidly drifted
towards a riot. To forestall the possibility of excesses the King
ordered the confiscation of the book. The incendiary attacks of
Michinski also led to stormy debates at the Diet of 1618. While some
deputies eulogized him as a champion of truth, others denounced him as a
demagogue and a menace to the public welfare. The Diet showed enough
common sense to refuse to follow the lead of a writer crazed with
Jew-hatred; yet the opinions voiced by him gradually took hold of the
Polish people, and prepared the soil for sinister conflicts.

Sigismund III.'s successor, Vladislav IV., was not so zealous in his
Catholicism and in his devotion to the Jesuits as his father. He
exhibited a certain amount of tolerance towards the professors of other
creeds, endeavored to uphold the ancient Jewish privileges, and made it,
in general, his business to reconcile the warring estates with one
another. However, the strife between the religious and social groups had
already eaten so deeply into the vitals of Poland that even a far more
energetic king than Vladislav IV. would scarcely have been able to put
an end to it. Instead of harmonizing the conflicting interests, the King
sided now with one, now with another, party. In 1633 Vladislav IV.
confirmed, at the Coronation Diet,[63] the basic privileges of the Jews,
granting them full freedom in their export trade, fixing the limits of
their judicial autonomy, and instructing the municipalities to take
measures for shielding them against popular outbreaks. But at the same
time he forbade the Jewish communities to erect new synagogues or
establish new cemeteries, without obtaining in each case a royal
license. This restriction, by the way, may be considered a privilege,
inasmuch as an attempt had been made by Sigismund III. to make the right
of erecting synagogues dependent on the consent of the clergy.

Though on the whole desirous of respecting the rights of the Jews,
nevertheless, in individual cases, the King acted favorably on the
petitions of various cities to restrict these rights, and occasionally
revoked his own orders. Thus in June, 1642, he permitted the Jews of
Cracow to engage freely in export trade, but two months later he
withdrew his permission, the Christian merchants of Cracow having
complained to him about the effectiveness of Jewish competition.
Complying with the application of the burghers of Moghilev on the
Dnieper,[64] he confirmed, in 1633, his father's orders concerning the
transfer of the Jews from the center of the city to its outskirts, and
subsequently, in 1646, sanctioned the decision of the magistracy
prohibiting the letting of houses to them in a Christian neighborhood.
The law forbidding Jews to engage in petty trade on the market-place
effected in some cities a substantial rise in the prices of necessaries,
and the Shlakhta petitioned the King to repeal this prohibition for the
city of Vilna. Vladislav complied with the petition, but, to please the
Vilna municipality, he imposed at the same time a number of severe
restrictions on the local Jews, making them liable to the municipal
courts in monetary litigation with Christians, confining their area of
residence to the boundaries of the "Jewish street," and barring them
from plying those trades which were pursued by the Christian
trade-unions (1633). The same policy was responsible for the anti-Jewish
riots which took place about the same time in Vilna, Brest, and other

Nothing did more to accentuate these conflicts than the preposterous
economic policy of the Polish Government. The Warsaw Diet of 1643, in
endeavoring to determine the prices of various articles of merchandise,
passed a law compelling all merchants to limit themselves by a public
oath to a definite rate of profit, which was fixed at seven per cent in
the case of the native Christian (_incola_), five per cent in the case
of the foreigner (_advena_), and only three per cent in the case of the
Jew (_infidelis_). It is obvious that, being under the compulsion of
selling his goods at a cheaper price, the Jew on the one hand was forced
to lower the quality of his merchandise, and on the other hand was bound
to undermine Christian trade, and thereby draw upon himself the wrath of
his competitors.

As for the Polish clergy, true to its old policy it fostered in its
flock the vulgar religious prejudices against the Jews. This applies, in
particular, to the Jesuits, though, to a lesser degree, it holds good
also in the case of the other Catholic orders of Poland. A frequent
contrivance to raise the prestige of the Church was to engineer
impressive demonstrations. In the spring of 1636, when a Christian child
happened to disappear in Lublin, suspicion was cast upon the Jews, that
they had tortured the child to death. The Crown Tribunal, which tried
the case, and failed to find any evidence, acquitted the innocent Jews.
Thereupon the local clergy, dissatisfied with the judgment of the court,
manufactured a new case, this time with the necessary "evidence." A
Carmelite monk by the name of Peter asserted that the Jews, having lured
him into a house, told a German surgeon to bleed him, and that his blood
was squeezed out and poured into a vessel, while the Jews murmured
mysterious incantations over it. The Tribunal gave credit to this
hideous charge, and, after going through the regular legal proceedings,
including the medieval "cross-examinations" and the rack, sentenced one
Jew named Mark (Mordecai) to death. The Carmelite monks hastened to
advertise the case for the purpose of planting the terrible prejudice
more firmly in the hearts of the people.

Another trial of a similar nature took place in 1639. Two elders of the
Jewish community of Lenchitza were sentenced to death by the Crown
Tribunal on the charge of having murdered a Christian boy from a
neighboring village. Neither the protestation of the Starosta of
Lenchitza, that the case did not come within the jurisdiction of his
court, nor the fact that the accused, though put upon the rack, refused
to make a confession, were able to avert the death sentence. The bodies
of the executed Jews were cut into pieces and hung on poles at the
cross-roads. The Bernardine monks of Lenchitza turned the incident to
good account by placing the remains of the supposedly martyred boy in
their church and putting up a picture representing all the details of
the murder. The superstitious Catholic masses flocked to the church to
worship at the shrine of the juvenile saint, swelling the revenues of
the Bernardine church--which was exactly what the devout monks were

While the Church was engineering the ritual murder trials for the sake
of "business," the municipal agencies, representing the Christian
merchant class, acted similarly for the purpose of ridding themselves of
the Jews and getting trade under their absolute control. This policy is
luridly illustrated by a tragic occurrence, which, in the years 1635 to
1637, stirred the city of Cracow to its depths. A Pole by the name of
Peter Yurkevich was convicted of having stolen some church vessels. At
the cross-examination, having been put upon the rack, he testified that
a Jewish tailor, named Jacob Gzheslik, had persuaded him to steal a
host. Since the Jew had disappeared and could nowhere be found,
Yurkevich was the only one to bear the death penalty. But before the
execution, in making his confession to the priest, he stated--and he
repeated the statement afterwards before an official committee of
investigation--the following facts:

    I have stolen no sacraments from any church, and have never made
    my God an object of barter. I merely stole a few silver and
    other church dishes. My former depositions were made at the
    advice of the gentlemen of the magistracy. The first time I was
    conducted into the court room Judge Belza spoke to me as
    follows: "Depose that you have stolen the sacraments and sold
    them to the Jews. You will suffer no harm from it, while we
    shall have a weapon wherewith to expel the Jews from Cracow." I
    had hoped that this deposition would obtain freedom for me, and
    I did as I had been told.

But Yurkevich's statement had no effect. He was convicted on the
strength of his original affidavit, though it had been squeezed out of
him by trickery and torture, and he was burned at the stake. As for the
Jews of Cracow, they had to bear the penalty in the shape of a riot, the
mob attacking the Jewish ghetto and seizing forty Jews, who were carried
off to be thrown into the river. Seven men were drowned, while the
others saved themselves by promising to embrace Christianity (May,


[42] According to approximate computations, the number of Jews in Poland
during that period (between 1501 and 1648) grew from 50,000 to 500,000.

[43] "Wine" is used here, as it is in the original, to designate
alcoholic drinks in general.

[44] "Propination," in Polish, _propinacja_ (pronounced _propinatzya_),
from Latin and Greek _propino_, "to drink one's health," signifies in
Polish law the right of distilling and selling spirituous liquors. This
right was granted to the noble landowners by King John Albrecht in 1496,
and became one of their most important sources of revenue. After the
partition of Poland this right was confirmed for the former Polish
territories by the Russian Government. The right of propination,
exercised mostly by Jews on behalf of the nobles, proved a decisive
factor in the economic and partly in the social life of Russo-Polish

[45] See p. 65.

[46] [Popular Polish form of the Jewish name Joseph.]

[47] See p. 64, n. 1.

[48] [_I. e._ Brest of Kuyavia, a former Polish province on the left bank
of the Vistula. It is to be distinguished from the well-known
Brest-Litovsk, Brest of Lithuania.]

[49] The parliamentary order of Poland was somewhat complicated. Each
region or _voyevodstvo_ (see above, p. 46, n. 1), of which there were
about sixty in Poland, had its own local assembly, or _sejmik_
(pronounced _saymik_), _i. e._ little Diet, or Dietine. Deputies o£
these Dietines met at the respective _sejms_ (pronounced _saym_), or
Diets, of one of the three large provinces of Poland: Great Poland,
Little Poland, and Red Russia. The national _sejm_, representing the
whole of Poland, came into being towards the end of the fifteenth
century. Beginning with 1573 it met regularly every two years for six
weeks in Warsaw or in Grodno. Before the convocation of this national
all-Polish Parliament, all local Dietines assembled on one and the same
day to give instructions to the deputies elected to it.

[50] [Gnesen as seat of the Primate; Cracow as capital.]

[51] [Warsaw was originally the capital of the independent Principality
of Mazovia. After the incorporation of Mazovia into the Polish Empire,
in 1526, Warsaw emerged from its obscurity and in the latter part of the
sixteenth century became the capital of united Poland and Lithuania,
taking the place of Cracow and Vilna.]

[52] According to another version, they forged the contents of the royal

[53] [With the gradual weakening of the royal power, which, after the
extinction of the Yaghello dynasty, in 1572, was transformed into an
elective office, the favorite designation for the Polish Empire came to
be _Rzecz_ (pronounced _Zhech_) _Pospolita_, a literal rendering of the
Latin Res _Publica_. The term comprises Poland as well as Lithuania,
which, in 1569, had been united in one Empire.]

[54] They are referred to in his edicts as _calumniae_.

[55] [The Arian heresy, as modified and preached by Faustus Socinus
(1539-1604), an Italian who settled in Poland, became a powerful factor
in the Polish intellectual life of that period. Because of its liberal
tendency, this doctrine appealed in particular to the educated classes,
and its adherents, called Socinians, were largely recruited from the
ranks of the Shlakhta. Under Sigismund III. a strong reaction set in,
culminating in the law passed by the Diet of 1658, according to which
all "Arians" were to leave the country within two years.]

[56] [_Arendar_, also _arendator_, from medieval Latin _arrendare_, "to
rent," signifies in Polish and Russian a lessee, originally of a farm,
subsequently of the tavern and, as is seen in the text, other sources of
revenue on the estate. These arendars being mostly Jews, the name,
abbreviated in Yiddish to _randar_, came practically to mean "village

[57] [Literally, _lord_: the lord of the manor, noble landowner.]

[58] There is reason to believe that he is the hero of the legendary
story according to which an influential Polish Jew by the name of Saul
Wahl, a favorite of Prince Radziwill, was, during an interregnum,
proclaimed Polish king by the Shlakhta, and reigned for one night.

[59] [See pp. 29 _et seq._ Kiev was captured by the Lithuanians in 1320,
and remained, through the union of Lithuania and Poland, a part of the
Polish Empire until 1654, when, together with the province of Little
Russia, it was ceded to Muscovy.]

[60] See p. 55.

[61] [Stephen Batory instituted two supreme courts for the realm: one
for the Crown, _i. e._ for Poland proper, and another for Lithuania. The
former held its sessions in Lublin for Little Poland and in Piotrkov for
Great Poland (see p. 164).]

[62] A second edition of the book appeared in 1636.

[63] [In addition to the regular Diets, which assembled every two years
(see above, p. 76, n. 1), there were held also Election Diets and
Coronation Diets, in connection with the election and the coronation of
the new king. The former met on a field near Warsaw; the latter were
held in Cracow.]

[64] [Moghilev on the Dnieper, in White Russia, is to be distinguished
from Moghilev on the Dniester, a town in the present Government of




The peculiar position occupied by the Jews in Poland made their social
autonomy both necessary and possible. Constituting an historical
nationality, with an inner life of its own, the Jews were segregated by
the Government as a separate estate, an independent social body. Though
forming an integral part of the urban population, the Jews were not
officially included in any one of the general urban estates, whose
affairs were administered by the magistracy or the trade-unions. Nor
were they subjected to the jurisdiction of Christian law courts as far
as their internal affairs were concerned. They formed an entirely
independent class of citizens, and as such were in need of independent
agencies of self-government and jurisdiction. The Jewish community
constituted not only a national and cultural, but also a civil, entity.
It formed a Jewish city within a Christian city, with its separate forms
of life, its own religious, administrative, judicial, and charitable
institutions. The Government of a country with sharply divided estates
could not but legalize the autonomy of the Jewish Kahal, after having
legalized the Magdeburg Law of the Christian urban estates, in which the
Germans constituted the predominating element. As for the kings, in
their capacity as the official "guardians" of the Jews, they were
especially concerned in having the Kahals properly organized, since the
regular payment of the Jewish taxes was thereby assured. Moreover, the
Government found it more to its convenience to deal with a well-defined
body of representatives than with the unorganized masses.

As early as the period of royal "paternalism," during the reign of
Sigismund I., the king endeavored to extend his fatherly protection to
the Jewish system of communal self-government. The appointment of
Michael Yosefovich as the "senior" of the Lithuanian Jews, with a rabbi
as expert adviser[65], was designed to safeguard the interests of the
exchequer by concentrating the power in the hands of a federation of
Kahals in Lithuania. On more than one occasion Sigismund I. confirmed
the "spiritual judges," or rabbis (_judices spirituales_, _doctores
legis_), elected by the Jews in different parts of Poland, in their
office. In 1518 he ratified, at the request of the Jews of Posen, their
election of two leading rabbis, Moses and Mendel, to the posts of
provincial judges for all the communities of Great Poland, bestowing
upon the newly-elected officials the right of instructing and judging
their coreligionists in accordance with the Jewish law. In Cracow, where
the Jews were divided into two separate communities--one of native
Polish Jews and another of immigrants from Bohemia,--the King empowered
each of them to elect its own rabbi. The choice fell upon Rabbi Asher
for the former, and upon Rabbi Peretz for the latter, community, and
when a dispute arose between the two communities as to the ownership of
the old synagogue, the King again intervened, and decided the case in
favor of the native community (1519). In 1531 Mendel Frank, the rabbi of
Brest, complained to the King that the Jews did not always respect his
decisions, and brought their cases before the royal starostas.
Accordingly Sigismund I. thought it necessary to warn the Jews to submit
to the jurisdiction of their own "doctors," or rabbis, who dispensed
justice according to the "Jewish law," and were given the right of
imposing the "oath" (_herem_, excommunication) and all kinds of other
penalties upon insubordinates. In the following year the King appointed
as "senior," or chief rabbi, of Cracow the well-known scholar Moses
Fishel--who, it may be added parenthetically, had taken the degree of
Doctor of Medicine in Padua--to succeed Rabbi Asher, referred to
previously. Pursuing the same policy of centralization, the King, a few
years later, in 1541, confirmed in their office as chief rabbis
(_seniores_) of the whole province of Little Poland two men "learned in
the Jewish law," the same Rabbi Moses Fishel of Cracow, and the famous
progenitor of Polish Talmudism, Rabbi Shalom Shakhna of Lublin.

In the same measure, however, in which the communal organization of the
Jews gained in strength, and the functions of the rabbis and Kahal
elders became more clearly defined, the Government gradually receded
from its attitude of paternal interference. The _magna charta_ of Jewish
autonomy may be said to be represented by the charter of Sigismund
Augustus, issued on August 13, 1551, which embodies the fundamental
principles of self-government for the Jewish communities of Great

According to this charter, the Jews are entitled to elect, by general
agreement,[66] their own rabbis and "lawful judges" to take charge of
their spiritual and social affairs. The rabbis and judges, elected in
this manner, are authorized to expound all questions of the religious
ritual, to perform marriages and grant divorces, to execute the transfer
of property and other acts of a civil character, and to settle disputes
between Jews in accordance with the "Mosaic law" (_iuxta ritum et morem
legis illorum Mosaicae_) and the supplementary Jewish legislation. In
conjunction with the Kahal elders they are empowered to subject
offenders against the law to excommunication and other punishments, such
as the Jewish customs may prescribe. In case the person punished in this
manner does not recant within a month, the matter is to be brought to
the knowledge of the king, who may sentence the incorrigible malefactor
to death and confiscate his property. The local officers of the king are
enjoined to lend their assistance in carrying out the orders of the
rabbis and elders.

This enactment, coupled with a number of similar charters, which were
subsequently promulgated for various provinces of Poland, conferred upon
the elective representatives of the Jewish communities extensive
autonomy in economic and administrative as well as judicial affairs, at
the same time insuring its practical realization by placing at its
disposal the power of the royal administration.

The firm consolidation of the _régime_ of the self-governing community,
the _Kahal_, dates from that period. In this appellation two concepts
were merged: the "community," the aggregate of the local Jews, on the
one hand, and, on the other, the "communal administration," representing
the totality of all the Jewish institutions of a given locality,
including the rabbinate. The activity of the Kahals assumed particularly
large proportions beginning with the latter half of the sixteenth

All cities and towns with a Jewish population had their separate Kahal
boards. Their size corresponded roughly to that of the given community.
In large centers the membership of the Kahal board amounted to forty;
in smaller towns it was limited to ten. The members of the Kahal were
elected annually during the intermediate days of Passover. As a rule the
election proceeded according to a double-graded system. Several electors
(_borerim_), their number varying from nine to five, were appointed by
lot from among the members of all synagogues, and these electors, after
taking a solemn oath, chose the Kahal elders. The elders were divided
into groups. Two of these, the _rashim_ and _tubim_ (the "heads" and
"optimates"), stood at the head of the administration, and were in
charge of the general affairs of the community. They were followed by
the _dayyanim_, or judges, and the _gabbaim_, or directors, who managed
the synagogues as well as the educational and charitable institutions.
The _rashim_ and _tubim_ formed the nucleus of the Kahal, seven of them
making a quorum; in the smaller communities they were practically
identical with the Kahal board.

The sphere of the Kahal's activity was very large. Within the area
allotted to it the Kahal collected and turned over to the exchequer the
state taxes, arranged the assessment of imposts, both of a general and a
special character, took charge of the synagogues, the Talmudic
academies, the cemeteries, and other communal institutions. The Kahal
executed title-deeds on real estate, regulated the instruction of the
young, organized the affairs appertaining to charity and to commerce and
handicrafts, and with the help of the _dayyanim_ and the rabbi settled
disputes between the members of the community. As for the rabbi, while
exercising unrestricted authority in religious affairs, he was in all
else dependent on the Kahal board, which invited him to his post for a
definite term. Only great authorities, far-famed on account of their
Talmudic erudition, were able to assert their influence in all
departments of communal life.

The Kahal of each city extended its authority to the adjacent
settlements and villages which did not possess autonomous organizations
of their own. Moreover, the Kahals of the large centers kept under their
jurisdiction the minor Kahals, or _prikahalki_,[67] as they were
officially called, of the towns and townlets of their district, as far
as the apportionment of taxes and the judicial authority were concerned.
This gave rise to the "Kahal boroughs," or _gheliloth_ (singular,
_galil_). Often disputes arose between the Kahal boroughs as to the
boundaries of their districts, the contested minor communities
submitting now to this, now to the other, "belligerent." On the whole,
however, the moderate centralization of self-government benefited the
Jewish population, since it introduced order and discipline into the
Kahal hierarchy, and enabled it to defend the civil and national
interests of Judaism more effectively.

The capstone of this Kahal organization were the so-called _Waads_,[68]
the conferences or assemblies of rabbis and Kahal leaders. These
conferences received their original impetus from the rabbis and judges.
The rabbinical law courts, officially endowed with extensive powers,
were guided in their decisions by the legislation embodied in the Bible
and the Talmud, which made full provision for all questions of
religious, civil, and domestic life as well as for all possible
infractions of the law. Yet it was but natural that even in this
extensive system of law disputed points should arise for which the
competency of a single rabbi did not suffice. Moreover there were cases
in which the litigants appealed from the decision of one rabbinical
court to another, more authoritative, court. Finally lawsuits would
occasionally arise between groups of the population, between one
community and another, or between a private person and a Kahal board.
For such emergencies conferences of rabbis and elders would be called
from time to time as the highest court of appeal.

Beginning with the middle of the sixteenth century these conferences
met at the time of the great fairs, when large numbers of people
congregated from various places, and litigants arrived in connection
with their business affairs. The chief meeting-place was the Lublin
fair, owing to the fact that Lublin was the residence of the father of
Polish rabbinism, the above-mentioned Rabbi Shalom Shakhna, who was
officially recognized as the "senior rabbi" of Little Poland. As far
back as in the reign of Sigismund I. the "Jewish doctors," or rabbis,
met there for the purpose of settling civil disputes "according to their
law." In the latter part of the sixteenth century these conferences of
rabbis and communal leaders, assembling in connection with the Lublin
fairs, became more frequent, and led in a short time to the organization
of regular, periodic conventions, which were attended by representatives
from the principal Jewish communities of the whole of Poland.

The activity of these conferences, or conventions, passed, by gradual
expansion, from the judicial sphere into that of administration and
legislation. At these conventions laws were adopted determining the
order of Kahal elections, fixing the competency of the rabbis and
judges, granting permits for publishing books, and so forth.
Occasionally these assemblies of Jewish notables endorsed by their
authority the enactments of the Polish Government. Thus, in 1580, the
representatives of the Polish-Jewish communities, who assembled in
Lublin, gave their solemn sanction to the well-known Polish law barring
the Jews of the Crown, of Poland proper, from farming state taxes and
other public revenues, in view of the fact that "certain people,
thirsting for gain and wealth, to be obtained from extensive leases,
might thereby expose the community to great danger."

Towards the end of the sixteenth century the fair conferences received a
firmer organization. They were attended by the rabbis and Kahal
representatives of the following provinces: Great Poland (the leading
community being that of Posen), Little Poland (Cracow and Lublin), Red
Russia (Lemberg), Volhynia (Ostrog and Kremenetz), and Lithuania (Brest
and Grodno). Originally the name of the assembly varied with the number
of provinces represented in it, and it was designated as the Council of
the Three, or the Four, or the Five, Lands. Subsequently, when Lithuania
withdrew from the Polish Kahal organization, establishing a federation
of its own, and the four provinces of the Crown[69] began to send their
delegates regularly to these conferences, the name of the assembly was
ultimately fixed as "the Council of the Four Lands" (_Waad Arba

The "Council" was made up of several leading rabbis of Poland,[70] and
of one delegate for each of the principal Kahals selected from among
their elders--the number of the conferees altogether amounting to about
thirty. They met periodically, once or twice a year, in Lublin and
Yaroslav (Galicia) alternately. As a rule, the Council assembled in
Lublin in early spring, between Purim and Passover, and in Yaroslav at
the end of the summer, before the high holidays.

    The representatives of the Four Lands--says a well-known
    annalist of the first half of the seventeenth
    century[71]--reminded one of the Sanhedrin, which in ancient
    days assembled in the Chamber of Hewn Stones (_lishkath
    ha-gazith_) of the temple. They dispensed justice to all the
    Jews of the Polish realm, issued preventive measures and
    obligatory enactments (_takkanoth_), and imposed penalties as
    they saw fit. All the difficult cases were brought before their
    court. To facilitate matters the delegates of the Four Lands
    appointed [a special commission of] so-called "provincial
    judges" (_dayyane medinoth_) to settle disputes concerning
    property, while they themselves [in plenary session] examined
    criminal cases, matters appertaining to _hazaka_ (priority of
    possession) and other difficult points of law.

The Council of the Four Lands was the guardian of Jewish civil interests
in Poland. It sent its _shtadlans_[72] to the residential city of
Warsaw[73] and other meeting-places of the Polish Diets for the purpose
of securing from the king and his dignitaries the ratification of the
ancient Jewish privileges, which had been violated by the local
authorities, or of forestalling contemplated restrictive laws and
increased fiscal burdens for the Jewish population.

But the main energy of the Waad was directed towards the regulation of
the inner life of the Jews. The statute of 1607, framed, at the instance
of the Waad, by Joshua Falk Cohen, Rabbi of Lublin, is typical of this
solicitude. The following rules are prescribed for the purpose of
fostering piety and commercial integrity among the Jewish people: to pay
special attention to the observance of the dietary laws, to refrain from
adopting the Christian form of dress; not to drink wine with Christians
in the pot-houses, in order not to be classed among the disreputable
members of the community; to watch over the chastity of Jewish women,
particularly in the villages where the Jewish arendars[74] with their
families were isolated in the midst of the Christian population. In the
same statute rules are also laid down tending to restrain the activities
of Jewish usurers and to regulate money credit in general.

In 1623 the Kahals of Lithuania withdrew from the federation of the Four
Lands, and established a provincial organization of their own, which was
centralized in the convention of delegates from the three principal
Kahals of Brest, Grodno, and Pinsk. Subsequently, in 1652 and 1691, the
Kahals of Vilna and Slutzk were added. The Lithuanian assembly was
generally designated as the "Council of the Principal Communities of the
Province of Lithuania" (_Waad Kehilloth Rashioth di-Medinath Lita_). The
organic statute, framed by the first Council, comprises many aspects of
the social and spiritual life of the Jews. It lays down rules concerning
the mutual relationship of the communities, the methods of apportioning
the taxes among them, the relations with the outside world (such as the
Polish Diets, the local authorities, the landed nobility, and the urban
estates), the elections of the Kahals, and the question of popular
education. The Lithuanian Waad met every three years in various cities
of Lithuania, but in cases of emergency extraordinary conventions were
called. During the first years of its existence the Lithuanian Council
was evidently subordinate to that of Poland, but at a later date this
dependence ceased.

In this way both the Crown, or Poland proper, and Lithuania had their
communal federations with central administrative agencies. As was
pointed out previously, the Polish federation was composed of four
provinces. The individual Kahals, which were the component parts of each
of these four provinces, held their own provincial assemblies, which
stood in the same relation to the Waad as the "Dietines," or provincial
Diets, of Poland, to the national Diet of the whole country.[75] Thus
the communities of Great Poland had their own Great-Polish "Dietine,"
those of Volhynia their own Volhynian "Dietine," and so forth. The
provincial Kahal conventions met for the purpose of allotting the taxes
to the individual communities of a given province, in proportion to the
size of its population, or of electing delegates to the federated
Council. These Jewish Dietines acted as the intermediate agencies of
self-government, standing half-way between the individual Kahals on the
one hand and the general Waads of the Crown and of Lithuania on the

This firmly-knit organization of communal self-government could not but
foster among the Jews of Poland a spirit of discipline and obedience to
the law. It had an educational effect on the Jewish populace, which was
left by the Government to itself, and had no share in the common life of
the country. It provided the stateless nation with a substitute for
national and political self-expression, keeping public spirit and civic
virtue alive in it, and upholding and unfolding its genuine culture.


One of the mainstays of this genuine culture was the autonomous school.
The instruction of the rising generation was the object of constant
solicitude on the part of the Kahals and the rabbis as well as the
conventions and Councils. Elementary and secondary education was
centered in the _heders_, while higher education was fostered in the
_yeshibahs_. Attendance at the heder was compulsory for all children of
school age, approximately from six to thirteen. The subjects of
instruction at these schools were the Bible in the original, accompanied
by a translation into the Judeo-German vernacular,[76] and the easier
treatises of the Talmud with commentaries. In some heders the study of
Hebrew grammar and the four fundamental operations of arithmetic were
also admitted into the curriculum. The establishment of these heders was
left to private initiative, every _melammed_, or Jewish elementary
teacher, being allowed to open a heder for boys and to receive
compensation for his labors from their parents. Only the heders for poor
children or for orphans, the so-called _Talmud Torahs_, were maintained
by the community from public funds. Yet the supervision of the Kahal
extended not only to the public, but also to the private, elementary
schools. The Kahal prescribed the curriculum of the heders, arranged
examinations for the scholars, fixed the remuneration of the teachers,
determined the hours of instruction (which were generally from eight to
twelve a day), and took charge of the whole school work, in some places
even appointing a sort of school board (_Hevrah Talmud Torah_) from
among its own members.

The higher Talmudic school or college, the yeshibah, was entirely under
the care of the Kahal and the rabbis. This school, which provided a
complete religious and juridical education based on the Talmud and the
rabbinical codes of law, received the sanction of the Polish Government.
King Sigismund Augustus granted the Jewish community of Lublin
permission to open a yeshibah, or "gymnazium" (_gymnazium ad
instituendos homines illorum religionis_), with a synagogue attached to
it, bestowing upon its president, a learned rabbi, not only the title of
"rector," but also extensive powers over the affairs of the community
(1567). Four years later the same King granted an even larger license to
"the learned Solomon of Lemberg, whom the Jewish community of Lemberg
and the whole land of Russia[77] have chosen for their 'senior doctor'
(_ab-beth-din_, or _rosh-yeshibah_)," conferring upon him the right to
open schools in various cities, "to train the students in the sciences,"
to keep them under his control, and to inure them to a strict

In the course of time Talmudic yeshibahs sprang up in all the cities of
Poland and Lithuania. The functions of rector, or rosh-yeshibah, were
performed either by the local rabbi or by a man especially selected for
this post on account of his learning. It seems that the combination of
the two offices of rabbi and college president in one person was limited
to those communities in which the duties of the spiritual guide of the
community were not complex, and admitted of the simultaneous discharge
of pedagogic functions. In the large centers, however, where the public
responsibilities were regularly divided, the rosh-yeshibah was an
independent dignitary, who was clothed with considerable authority.
Similar to the contemporary rectors of Jesuit colleges, the
rosh-yeshibah was absolute master within the school walls; he exercised
unrestricted control over his pupils, subjecting them to a
well-established discipline and dispensing justice among them.

The contemporary chronicler quoted above, Rabbi Nathan Hannover, of
Zaslav, in Volhynia, portrays in vivid colors the Jewish school life of
Poland and Lithuania in the first half of the seventeenth century.

    In no country--quoth Rabbi Nathan[78]--was the study of the
    Torah so widespread among the Jews as in the Kingdom of Poland.
    Every Jewish community maintained a yeshibah, paying its
    president a large salary, so as to enable him to conduct the
    institution without worry and to devote himself entirely to the
    pursuit of learning.... Moreover, every Jewish community
    supported college students (_bahurs_), giving them a certain
    amount of money per week, so that they might study under the
    direction of the president. Every one of these bahurs was made
    to instruct at least two boys, for the purpose of deepening his
    own studies and gaining some experience in Talmudic discussions.
    The [poor] boys obtained their food either from the charity fund
    or from the public kitchen. A community of fifty Jewish families
    would support no less than thirty of these young men and boys,
    one family supplying board for one college student and his two
    pupils, the former sitting at the family table like one of the
    sons.... There was scarcely a house in the whole Kingdom of
    Poland where the Torah was not studied, and where either the
    head of the family or his son or his son-in-law, or the yeshibah
    student boarding with him, was not an expert in Jewish learning;
    frequently all of these could be found under one roof. For this
    reason every community contained a large number of scholars, a
    community of fifty families having as many as twenty learned
    men, who were styled _morenu_[79] or _haber_.[80] They were all
    excelled by the rosh-yeshibah, all the scholars submitting to
    his authority and studying under him at the yeshibah.

    The program of study in Poland was as follows: The scholastic
    term during which the young men and the boys were obliged to
    study under the rosh-yeshibah lasted from the beginning of the
    month of Iyyar until the middle of Ab [approximately from April
    until July] in the summer and from the first of the month of
    Heshvan until the fifteenth of Shebat [October-June] in the
    winter. Outside of these terms the young men and the boys were
    free to choose their own place of study. From the beginning of
    the summer term until Shabuoth and from the beginning of the
    winter term until Hanukkah all the students of the yeshibah
    studied with great intensity the Gemara [the Babylonian Talmud]
    and the commentaries of Rashi[81] and the Tosafists.[82]

    The scholars and young students of the community as well as all
    interested in the study of the Law assembled daily at the
    yeshibah, where the president alone occupied a chair, while the
    scholars and college students stood around him. Before the
    appearance of the rosh-yeshibah they would discuss questions of
    Jewish law, and when he arrived every one laid his difficulties
    before him, and received an explanation. Thereupon silence was
    restored, and the rosh-yeshibah delivered his lecture,
    presenting the new results of his study. At the conclusion of
    the lecture he arranged a scientific argumentation (_hilluk_),
    proceeding in the following way: Various contradictions in the
    Talmud and the commentaries were pointed out, and solutions
    were proposed. These solutions were, in turn, shown to be
    contradictory, and other solutions were offered, this process
    being continued until the subject of discussion was completely
    elucidated. These exercises continued in summer at least until
    midday. From the middle of the two scholastic terms until their
    conclusion the rosh-yeshibah paid less attention to these
    argumentations, and read instead the religious codes, studying
    with the mature scholars the _Turim_[83] with commentaries, and
    with the [younger] students the compendium of Alfasi[84]....
    Several weeks before the close of the term the rosh-yeshibah
    would honor the members of his college, both the scholars and
    the students, by inviting them to conduct the scientific
    disputations on his behalf, though he himself would participate
    in the discussion in order to exercise the mental faculties of
    all those attending the yeshibah.

    Attached to the president of the yeshibah was an inspector, who
    had the duty of visiting the elementary schools, or heders,
    daily, and seeing to it that all boys, whether poor or rich,
    applied themselves to study and did not loiter in the streets.
    On Thursdays the pupils had to present themselves before the
    trustee (_gabbai_) of the Talmud Torah, who examined them in
    what they had covered during the week. The boy who knew nothing
    or who did not answer adequately was by order of the trustee
    turned over to the inspector, who subjected him, in the
    presence of his fellow-pupils, to severe physical punishment
    and other painful degradations, that he might firmly resolve to
    improve in his studies during the following week. On Fridays
    the heder pupils presented themselves in a body before the
    rosh-yeshibah himself, to undergo a similar examination. This
    had a strong deterrent effect upon the boys, and they devoted
    themselves energetically to their studies.... The scholars,
    seeing this [the honors showered upon the rosh-yeshibah],
    coveted the same distinction, that of becoming a rosh-yeshibah
    in some community. They studied assiduously in consequence.
    Prompted originally by self-interest, they gradually came to
    devote themselves to the Torah from pure, unselfish motives.

By way of contrast to this panegyric upon Polish-Jewish school life, it
is only fair that we should quote another contemporary, who severely
criticizes the methods of instruction then in vogue at the yeshibahs.

    The whole instruction at the yeshibah--writes the well-known
    preacher Solomon Ephraim of Lenchitza (d. 1619)[85]--reduces
    itself to mental equilibristics and empty argumentations called
    hilluk. It is dreadful to contemplate that some venerable rabbi,
    presiding over a yeshibah, in his anxiety to discover and
    communicate to others some new interpretation, should offer a
    perverted explanation of the Talmud, though he himself and every
    one else be fully aware that the true meaning is different. Can
    it be God's will that we sharpen our minds by fallacies and
    sophistries, spending our time in vain and teaching the
    listeners to do likewise? And all this for the mere ambition of
    passing for a great scholar!... I myself have more than once
    argued with the Talmudic celebrities of our time, showing the
    need for abolishing the method of pilpul and hilluk, without
    being able to convince them. This attitude can only be explained
    by the eagerness of these scholars for honors and rosh-yeshibah
    posts. These empty quibbles have a particularly pernicious
    effect on our bahurs, for the reason that the bahur who does not
    shine in the discussion is looked down upon as incapable, and is
    practically forced to lay aside his studies, though he might
    prove to be one of the best, if Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, and the
    Codes were studied in a regular fashion. I myself have known
    capable young men who, not having distinguished themselves in
    pilpul, forfeited the respect of their fellow-students, and
    stopped studying altogether after their marriage.

Secular studies were not included in the curriculum of the yeshibahs.
The religious codes composed during that period allow the study of "the
other sciences" only "on occasion," and only to those who have
completely mastered Talmudic and rabbinic literature. Needless to say,
no yeshibah student could lay claim to such mastery until the completion
of the college course. Moreover, the secular sciences had to be excluded
from the yeshibah, for the external reason that the latter was generally
located in a sacred place, near the synagogue, where the mere presence
of a secular book was regarded as a profanation. Yet it occasionally
happened that young men strayed away from the path of the Talmud, and
secretly indulged in the study of secular sciences and of Aristotelian
philosophy. This fact is attested by the great rabbinical authority of
the sixteenth century, Rabbi Solomon Luria. "I myself"--he writes
indignantly--"have seen the prayer of Aristotle copied in the
prayer-books of the bahurs." This somewhat veiled expression indicates,
in all likelihood, that among the books of the yeshibah students
"contraband" was occasionally discovered, in the shape of manuscripts of
philosophic content. Unfortunately we hear nothing more definite as to
the way in which the Jewish youth of that period became infatuated with
anathematized philosophy. We have reason to assume, however, that such
deviations from the rigorous discipline of rabbinical scholarship were
few and far between.

The yeshibahs, providing as they did an academic training, were the
nurseries of that intellectual aristocracy which subsequently became so
powerful a factor in the life of Polish-Lithuanian Jewry. This
numerically considerable class of scholars looked down upon the
uneducated multitude. Yet the level of literacy even among the latter
was comparatively high. All boys, without exception, attended the heder,
where they studied the Hebrew language and the Bible, while many devoted
themselves to the Talmud. A different attitude is observable towards
female education. Girls remained outside the school, their instruction
not being considered obligatory according to the Jewish law. No heders
for girls are mentioned in any of the documents of the time. Nor did a
single woman attain to literary fame among the Jews of Poland and
Lithuania. The girls were taught at home to read the prayers, but they
were seldom instructed in the Hebrew language, so that the majority of
women had but a very imperfect notion of the meaning of the prayers in
the original. In consequence, the women began at that time to use the
translations of the prayers in the Jewish vernacular, the so-called


The high intellectual level of the Polish Jews was the result of their
relative economic prosperity. As for the character of their mental
productivity, it was the direct outcome of their social autonomy. The
vast system of Kahal self-government enhanced not only the authority of
the rabbi, but also that of the learned Talmudist and of every layman
familiar with Jewish law. The rabbi discharged, within the limits of his
community, the functions of spiritual guide, head of the yeshibah, and
inspector of elementary schools, as well as those of legislator and
judge. An acquaintance with the vast and complicated Talmudic law was to
a certain extent necessary even for the layman who occupied the office
of an elder (_parnas_, or _rosh-ha-Kahal_), or was in some way
connected with the scheme of Jewish self-government. For the enactments
of the Talmud regulated the inner life of the Polish Jews in the same
way as they had done formerly in Babylonia, in the time of the
autonomous Exilarchs and Gaons. But it must be remembered that, since
the times of the Gaons, Jewish law had been considerably amplified,
Rabbinic Judaism having been superimposed upon Talmudic Judaism. This
mass of religious lore, which had been accumulating for centuries, now
monopolized the minds of all educated Jews in the empire of Poland,
which thus became a second Babylonia. It reigned supreme in the
synagogues, the yeshibahs, and the elementary schools. It gave tone to
social and domestic life. It spoke through the mouth of the judge, the
administrator, and the communal leader. Lastly it determined the content
of Jewish literary productivity. Polish-Jewish literature was almost
exclusively consecrated to rabbinic law.

The beginnings of Talmudic learning in Poland can be traced back to the
first half of the sixteenth century. It had been carried thither from
neighboring Bohemia, primarily from the school of the originator of the
pilpul method, Jacob Pollack.[86] A pupil of the latter, Rabbi Shalom
Shakhna (ab. 1500-1558), is regarded as one of the pioneers of Polish
Talmudism. All we know about his fortunes is that he lived and died in
Lublin, that in 1541 he was confirmed by a decree of King Sigismund I.
in the office of chief rabbi of Little Poland, and that he stood at the
head of the yeshibah which sent forth the rabbinical celebrities of the
following generation.[87] It is quite probable that the rabbinical
conferences of Lublin, which afterwards led to the formation of the
"Council of the Four Lands," owe their inception to the initiative of
Rabbi Shakhna. After his death his son Israel succeeded to the post of
chief rabbi in Lublin. But it was a pupil of Shakhna, Moses Isserles,
known in literature by the abbreviated name of ReMO (1520-1572),[88] who
became famous throughout the entire Jewish world.

Moses Isserles, the son of a well-to-do Kahal elder in Cracow, became
prominent in the rabbinical world early in life. He occupied the post of
a member of the Jewish communal court in his native city, and stood at
the head of the yeshibah. This combination of scholarly and practical
activities prompted him to delve deep in the existing rabbinical codes,
and he found, as a result of his investigation, that they were not
exhaustive, and were in need of amplification.

Isserles was not even satisfied with the thoroughgoing elaboration of
Jewish law which had been undertaken by his Palestinian contemporary
Joseph Caro. When, in the middle of the sixteenth century, Caro's
comprehensive commentary on the Code _Turim_,[89] entitled _Beth-Yoseph_
("House of Joseph"), appeared, Isserles composed a commentary on the
same code under the name _Darkhe Moshe_ ("Ways of Moses"), in which he
considerably enlarged the legal material collected there, drawing from
sources which Caro had left out of consideration.

When, a few years later, the latter published his own code, under the
name of _Shulhan Arukh_ ("The Dressed Table"), Isserles called attention
to the fact that its author, being a Sephardic Jew, had failed in many
cases to utilize the investigations of the rabbinic authorities among
the Ashkenazim, and had left out of consideration the local religious
customs, or _minhagim_, which were current among various groups of
German-Polish Jewry. These omissions were carefully noted and supplied
by Isserles. He supplemented the text of the _Shulhan Arukh_ by a large
number of new laws, which he had framed on the basis of the
above-mentioned popular customs or of the religious and legal practice
of the Ashkenazic rabbis. Caro's code having been named by the author
"The Dressed Table," Isserles gave his supplements thereto the title
"Table-cloth" (_Mappa_).[90] In this supplemented form the _Shulhan
Arukh_ was introduced, as a code of Jewish rabbinic law, into the
religious and everyday life of the Polish Jews. The first edition of
this combined code of Caro and Isserles appeared in Cracow in 1578,
followed by numerous reprints, which testify to the extraordinary
popularity of the work.

The _Shulhan Arukh_ became the substructure for the further development
of Polish rabbinism. Only very few scholars of consequence had the
courage to challenge the authority of this generally acknowledged code
of laws. One of these courageous men was the contemporary and
correspondent of Isserles, Solomon Luria, known by the abbreviated name
of ReSHaL[91] (ab. 1510-1573). Solomon Luria was a native of Posen,
whither his grandfather had immigrated from Germany. Endowed with a
subtle, analytic mind, Luria was a determined opponent of the new school
dialectics (pilpul), taking for his model the old casuistic method of
the Tosafists,[92] which consisted in a detailed criticism and an
ingenious analysis of the Talmudic texts. In this spirit he began to
compose his remarkable commentary on the Talmud (_Yam shel Shelomo_,
"Sea of Solomon"[93]), but succeeded in interpreting only a few

In all his investigations Luria manifested boldness of thought and
independence of judgment, without sparing the authorities whenever he
believed them to be in the wrong. Of the _Shulhan Arukh_ and its author
Luria spoke slightingly, claiming that Joseph Caro had used his sources
without the necessary discrimination, and had decided many moot points
of law arbitrarily. In consequence of this independence of judgment,
Solomon Luria had many enemies in the scholarly world, but he had, on
the other hand, many enthusiastic admirers and devoted disciples. In the
middle of the sixteenth century he occupied the post of rabbi in the
city of Ostrog, in Volhynia. By his Talmudic lectures, which attracted
students from the whole region, he made this city the intellectual
center of Volhynian and Lithuanian Jewry. The last years of his life he
spent in Lublin, where to this day there exists a synagogue which bears
his name.

Luria and Isserles were looked upon as the pillars of Polish rabbinism.
Questions of Jewish ritual and law were submitted to them for decision,
not only from various parts of their own country but also from Western
Europe, from Italy, Germany, and Bohemia. Their replies to these
inquiries, or "Responsa" (_Shaaloth u-Teshuboth_), have been gathered in
special collections. These two rabbis also carried on a scientific
correspondence with each other. As a result of their divergent character
and trend of mind, heated discussions frequently took place between
them. Thus Luria, in spite of all his sobriety of intellect, gravitated
towards the Cabala, while Isserles, with all his rabbinic conservatism,
devoted part of his leisure to philosophy. The two scholars rebuked each
other for their respective "weaknesses." Luria maintained that the
wisdom of the "uncircumcised Aristotle" could be of no benefit, while
Isserles tried to prove that many views of the Cabala were not in accord
with the ideas of the Talmud, and that mysticism was more dangerous to
faith than a moderate philosophy.

Isserles was right. The philosophy with which he occupied himself could
scarcely be destructive of Orthodoxy. This is shown by his large work
_Torath ha-`Olah_ ("The Law of the Burnt-Offering," 1570),[94] which
represents a weird mixture of religious and philosophic discussions on
themes borrowed from Maimonides' "Guide of the Perplexed," interspersed
with speculations about the various classes of angels or the
architecture of the Jerusalem temple, its vessels and order of
sacrifices. The author professes to detect in all the details of the
temple service a profound symbolism. Notwithstanding the strange plan of
the book there are many chapters in it that show the intimate
familiarity of Isserles with the philosophic literature of the
Sephardim, a remarkable record for an Ashkenazic rabbi of the sixteenth

The intimate connection between rabbinic learning and Jewish life stood
out in bold relief from the moment the "Council of the Four Lands" began
to discharge its regular functions. The Council had frequent occasion to
decide, for practical purposes, complicated questions appertaining to
domestic, civil, and criminal law, or relating to legal procedure and
religious practice, and the rabbis who participated in these conferences
as legal experts were forced to accomplish a large amount of concrete,
tangible work for themselves and their colleagues. Questions of law and
ritual were everywhere assiduously investigated and elaborated, with
that subtle analysis peculiar to the Jewish mind, which pursues every
idea to its remotest consequences and its most trifling details.

The subject as well as the method of investigation depended, as a rule,
on the social position of the investigator. The rabbis of higher rank,
who took an active part in the Kahal administration, and participated in
the meetings of the Councils, either of the Crown or of Lithuania, paid
particular attention to the practical application of Talmudic law. One
of the oldest scholars of this category during the period under
discussion was Mordecai Jaffe (died 1612), a native of Bohemia, who
occupied the post of rabbi successively in Grodno, Lublin, Kremenetz,
Prague, and Posen. Towards the end of the sixteenth century he presided
a number of times over the conferences of the "Council of the Four
Lands." Though a pupil of Moses Isserles, Jaffe did not consider the
_Shulhan Arukh_ as supplemented by his teacher the last word in
codification. He objected to the fact that its juridical conclusions
were formulated dogmatically, without sufficient motivation.

For this reason he undertook the composition of a new and more elaborate
code of laws, arranged in the accepted order of the four books of the
_Turim_,[95] which is known as _Lebushim_, or "Raiments."[96] The method
of Mordecai Jaffe differs from that of Joseph Caro and Isserles in the
wealth of the scientific discussions which accompany every legal clause.
At first Jaffe's code created a split in the rabbinical world, and
threatened to weaken the authority of the _Shulhan Arukh_. In the end,
however, the latter prevailed, and was acknowledged as the only
authoritative guide for the religious and juridical practice of Judaism.
Apart from his code, Mordecai Jaffe wrote, under the same general title
_Lebushim_, five more volumes, containing Bible commentaries, synagogue
sermons, and annotations to Maimonides' "Guide," as well as Cabalistic

Jaffe's successor as leading rabbi and president of the "Council of the
Four Lands" was, in all likelihood, Joshua Falk Cohen (died 1616), Rabbi
of Lublin and subsequently rector of the Talmudic yeshibah in Lemberg.
He attained to fame through his commentary to the _Hoshen Mishpat_, the
part of Caro's code dealing with civil law,[97] which he called _Sepher
Meïrath `Enaïm_, "A Book of the Enlightenment of the Eyes"[98]
(abbreviated to SeM`A). He also framed, at the instance of the Waad, a
large part of the above-mentioned regulations of 1607,[99] which were
issued for the purpose of establishing piety and good morals more firmly
among the Jews of Poland.

A more scholastic and less practical tendency is noticeable in the
labors of Joshua Falk's contemporary, Meïr of Lublin (1554-1616), known
by the abbreviated name of MaHaRaM.[100] He was active as rabbi in
Cracow, Lemberg, and Lublin, delivered Talmudic discourses before large
audiences, wrote ingenious, casuistic commentaries to the most important
treatises of the Talmud (entitled _Meïr `Ene Hahamim_, "Enlightening the
Eyes of the Wise"), and was busy replying to the numerous inquiries
addressed to him by scholars from all parts (_Shaaloth u-Teshuboth
Maharam_). Laying particular stress on subtle analysis, Rabbi Meïr of
Lublin looked down upon the codifiers and systematic writers of the
class to which Isserles and Jaffe belonged. The trifling minuteness of
his investigations may be illustrated by the fact that he considered it
necessary to write a special "opinion" about the question whether a
woman is guilty of conjugal infidelity, if she is convicted of having
had relations with the devil, the latter having visited her first in the
shape of her husband and afterwards in the disguise of a Polish

In the domain of dialectics Rabbi Meïr found a successful rival in the
person of Samuel Edels, known by the abbreviated name of MaHaRSHO[101]
(died 1631), who occupied the post of rabbi in Posen, Lublin, and
Ostrog. In his comprehensive expositions to all the sections of the
Talmudic Halakha (_Hiddushe Halakhoth_, "Novel Expositions of the
Halakha"), he endeavored principally to exercise the thinking faculties
and the memory of his students by an ingenious comparison of texts and
by other scholastic intricacies. The dialectic commentary of Edels
became one of the most important handbooks for the study of the Talmud
in the heders and yeshibahs, and is frequently used there in our own
days. His commentary on the Talmudic Haggada is strewn over with
Cabalistic and religio-philosophic ideas of the conservative Jewish
thinkers of the Middle Ages.

In the middle of the seventeenth century the authority of the _Shulhan
Arukh_, as edited by Isserles, had been so firmly established in Poland
that this code was studied and expounded with even greater zeal than the
Talmud. Joel Sirkis (died 1640) delivered lectures on Jewish Law on the
basis of the _Turim_ and the _Shulhan Arukh_. He wrote a commentary to
the former under the name of _Beth Hadash_ ("New House," abbreviated to
BaH), and published a large number of opinions on questions of religious
law. He held the Cabala in esteem, while condemning philosophy
violently. His younger contemporaries devoted themselves exclusively to
the exposition of the _Shulhan Arukh_, particularly to the section
called _Yore De`a_,[102] dealing with the Jewish ritual, such as the
religious customs of the home, the dietary laws, etc. Two elaborate
commentaries to the _Yore De`a_ appeared in 1646, the one composed by
David Halevi, rabbi in Lemberg and Ostrog, under the title _Ture
Zahab_,[103] and the other written by the famous Vilna scholar Sabbatai
Kohen, under the name _Sifthe Kohen_ ("Lips of the Priest").[104] These
two commentaries, known by their abbreviated titles of TaZ and ShaK,
have since that time been published together with the text of the
_Shulhan Arukh_.

This literary productivity was largely stimulated by the rapid growth
of Jewish typography in Poland. The first Jewish book printed in that
country is the Pentateuch (Cracow, 1530). In the second half of the
sixteenth century two large printing-presses, those of Cracow and
Lublin, were active in publishing a vast number of old and new books
from the domain of Talmudic, Rabbinic, and popular-didactic literature.
In 1566 King Sigismund Augustus granted Benedict Levita, of Cracow, the
monopoly of importing into Poland Jewish books from abroad. Again, in
1578, Stephen Batory bestowed on a certain Kalman the right of printing
Jewish books in Lublin, owing to the difficulty of importing them from
abroad. One of the causes of this intensified typographic activity in
Poland was the papal censorship of the Talmud, which was established in
Italy in 1564. From that time the printing-offices of Cracow and Lublin
competed successfully with the technically perfected printing-presses of
Venice and Prague, and the Polish book-market, as a result, was more and
more dominated by local editions.


The Talmudic and Rabbinic science of law, absorbing as it did the best
mental energies of Polish Jewry, left but little room for the other
branches of literary endeavor. Among the daring "swimmers in the
Talmudic ocean," contending for mastery in erudition and dialectic
skill, there were but few with deeper spiritual longings who evinced an
interest in questions of philosophy and natural science. The only
exceptions were the physicians, who, on account of their profession,
received a secular education at the universities of that period.

Originally the Jewish physicians of Poland were natives either of Spain,
whence they had been expelled in 1492, or of Italy, being in the latter
case graduates of the Catholic University of Padua. Several of these
foreign medical men became the body-physicians of Polish kings, such as
Isaac Hispanus under John Albrecht and Alexander; Solomon Ashkenazi (who
subsequently was physician and diplomat at the court of the Turkish
Sultan Selim II.) under King Sigismund Augustus; Solomon Calahora under
Stephen Batory, and others. But as early as the first part of the
sixteenth century these foreigners were rivaled by native Jewish
physicians, who traveled from Poland to Padua for the special purpose of
receiving a medical training. Such was, for example, the case in 1530
with Moses Fishel, of Cracow, who was at once rabbi and physician. These
trips to Italy became very frequent in the second part of the sixteenth
century, and the number of Polish Jewish students in Padua was on the
increase down to the eighteenth century. It is characteristic that the
Christian Poles studying in Padua refused to enter their Jewish
compatriots upon their "national register," in order, as is stated in
their statutes, "not to mar the memory of so many celebrated men by the
name of an infidel" (1654). In the university registers the Jewish
students appeared as _Hebraei Poloni_.

As for religious philosophy, which was then on the wane in Western
Europe, it formed in Poland merely the object of amateurish exercises on
the part of several representatives of Rabbinic learning. Moses Isserles
and Mordecai Jaffe commented, as was pointed out above, on the "Guide"
of Maimonides in a superficial manner, fighting shy of its inconvenient
rationalistic deductions. The favorite book of the theologians of that
period was _Ikkarim_ ("Principles"), the system of dogmatic Judaism
formulated by the conservative Sephardic thinker Joseph Albo.
Commentaries to this book were written by Jacob Koppelman, of
Brest-Kuyavsk[105] (_Ohel Ya`kob_, "Tent of Jacob,"[106] Cracow, 1599),
and Gedaliah Lifshitz, of Lublin (_Etz Shathul_, "Planted Tree,"[107]
1618). The former, a lover of mathematics, loaded his commentary with
geometrical and astronomical arguments, being of the opinion that it was
possible in this way to prove scientifically the existence of God and
the correlation of all phenomena. The latter was more inclined towards
metaphysics and morals. How far this commentator was from grasping the
true meaning of the original may be seen from his annotations to the
introductory theses of the book. Commenting on the passage in which Albo
states that "the happiness of man depends on the perfection of his
thought and conduct," Lifshitz makes the following observation: "By
human happiness is understood the _life beyond the grave_, for the goal
of man in this world consists only in the attainment of eternal bliss
after death."

In this way the Polish rabbis fashioned philosophy after their own
pattern, and thereby rendered it "harmless." Free research was
impossible, and perhaps not unattended by danger in an environment where
tradition reigned supreme. The Chief Rabbi of Cracow, the
above-mentioned Joel Sirkis, expressed the view that philosophy was the
mother of all heresies, and that it was the "harlot" of which the wise
king had said, "None that go unto her return again" (Proverbs ii. 19).
He who becomes infatuated with philosophy and neglects the secret wisdom
of the Cabala is liable, in Sirkis' opinion, to excommunication, and has
no place among the faithful. The well-known mathematician and
philosopher Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (called in abbreviated form "YaSHaR
of Candia"[108]) who spent nearly four years in Poland and Lithuania
(1620-1624), arraigns the Polish Jews for their opposition to the
secular sciences:

    Behold--he says in Biblical phraseology[109]--darkness covereth
    the earth, and the ignorant are numerous. For the breadth of thy
    land is full of yeshibahs and houses of Talmud study.... [The
    Jews of Poland] are opposed to the sciences,... saying, The Lord
    hath no delight in the sharpened arrows of the grammarians,
    poets, and logicians, nor in the measurements of the
    mathematicians and the calculations of the astronomers.

The Cabala, which might be designated as an Orthodox counter-philosophy,
made constant progress in Poland. The founder of the Polish Cabala was
Mattathiah Delacruta, a native of Italy, who lived in Cracow. In 1594 he
published in that city the system of Theoretic Cabala, entitled "Gates
of Light" (_Sha`are Ora_), by a Sephardic writer of the fourteenth
century, Joseph Gicatilla, accompanying it by an elaborate commentary of
his own. Delacruta was, as far as the subject of the "hidden science"
was concerned, the teacher of the versatile Rabbi Mordecai Jaffe, who,
in turn, wrote a supercommentary to the mystical Bible commentary by the
Italian Menahem Recanati.

Beginning with the seventeenth century, the old Theoretic Cabala is
gradually superseded in Poland by the Practical Cabala,[110] taught by
the new school of ARI[111] and Vital.[112] The Cabalist Isaiah Horowitz,
author of the famous work on ascetic morals called SHeLoH,[113] had been
trained in the yeshibahs of Cracow and Lemberg, and for several years
(1600-1606) occupied the post of rabbi in Volhynia. His son, Sheftel
Horowitz, who was rabbi in Posen (1641-1658), published the mystical
work of his father, adding from his own pen a moralist treatise under
the title _Vave ha-`Amudim_.[114] Nathan Spira, preacher and rector of
the Talmudic academy in Cracow (1585-1633), made a specialty of the
Practical Cabala. His more ingenious than thoughtful book, "Discovering
Deep Things"[115] (_Megalle `Amukoth_, Cracow, 1637), contains an
exposition in two hundred and fifty-two different ways of Moses' plea
before God for permission to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy iii.
23). It consists of an endless chain of Cabalistic word-combinations and
obscure symbolic allusions, yielding some inconceivable deductions, such
as that Moses prayed to God concerning the appearance of the two
Messiahs of the house of Joseph and David, or that Moses endeavored to
eliminate the power of evil and to expiate in advance all the sins that
would ever be committed by the Jewish people. Nathan Spira applied to
the Cabala the method of the Rabbinical pilpul, and created a new
variety of dialectic mysticism, which was just as far removed from sound
theology as the scholastic speculations of the pilpulists were from
scientific thinking.

More wholesome and more closely related to life was the trend of the
Jewish apologetic literature which sprang up in Poland in the last
quarter of the sixteenth century. The religious unrest which had been
engendered by the Reformation gave rise to several rationalistic sects
with radical, anti-ecclesiastic tendencies. Nearest of all to the tenets
of Judaism was the sect of the Anti-Trinitarians (called Unitarians,
Arians, or Socinians[116]), who denied the dogma of the Trinity and the
divine nature of Jesus, but recognized the religious and moral teachings
of the Gospels. Among the Anti-Trinitarian leaders were the theologian
Simon Budny, of Vilna, and Martin Chekhovich, of Lublin. Stung by the
fact that the Catholic clergy applied to them the contemptuous
appellation of "Judaizers," or semi-Jews, the sectarians were anxious to
demonstrate to the world that their doctrine had nothing in common with
Judaism. For this purpose they carried on oral disputes with the rabbis,
and tried to expose the "Jewish falsehoods" in their works.

Martin Chekhovich was particularly zealous in holding theological
disputations, both in Lublin and in other cities, "with genuine as well
as pseudo-Jews." The results of these disputations are embodied in
several chapters of his books entitled "Christian Dialogues" (1575) and
"Catechism" (1580). One of his Jewish opponents, Jacob (Nahman) of
Belzhytz,[117] found it necessary to answer him in public in a little
book written in the Polish language (_Odpis na dyalogi Czechowicza_,
"Retort to the Dialogues of Chekhovich," 1581). Jacob of Belzhytz
defends the simple dogmas of Judaism, and accuses his antagonists of
desiring to arouse hostility to the Jewish people. The following
observation of Jacob is interesting as showing the methods of
disputation then in vogue:

    It often happens that a Christian puts a question to me from
    Holy Writ, to which I reply also from Holy Writ, and I try to
    argue it properly. But suddenly he will pick out another passage
    [from the Bible], saying: "How do you understand this?" and thus
    he does not finish the first question, on which it would be
    necessary to dwell longer. This is exactly what happens when the
    hunter's dogs are hounding the rabbit which flees from the road
    into a by-path, and, while the dogs are trying to catch it,
    slips away into the bushes. For this reason the Jew too has to
    interrupt the Christian in the midst of his speech, lest the
    latter escape like the rabbit as soon as he has finished

Chekhovich replied to Jacob's pamphlet in print in the same year. While
defending his "Dialogues," he criticized the errors of the Talmud, and
made sport of several Jewish customs, such as the use of _tefillin_,
_mezuza_, and _tzitzith_.

A serious retort to the Christian theologians came from Isaac Troki, a
cultured Karaite,[118] who died in 1594. He argued with Catholics,
Lutherans, and Arians in Poland, not as a dilettante, but as a profound
student of the Gospels and of Christian theology. About 1593 he wrote
his remarkable apologetic treatise under the title _Hizzuk Emuna_
("Fortification of the Faith"). In the first part of his book, the
author defends Judaism against the attacks of the Christian theologians,
while in the second he takes the offensive and criticizes the teachings
of the Church. He detects a whole series of contradictions in the texts
of the Synoptic Gospels, pointing out the radical deviations of the New
Testament from the Old and the departure of the later dogmatism of the
Church from the New Testament itself. With calmness and assurance he
proves the logical and historical impossibility of the interpretations
of the well-known Biblical prophecies which serve as the substructure of
the Christian dogma.

For a long time no one was bold enough to print this "dreadful
treatise," and it was circulated in manuscript both in the Hebrew
original and in a Spanish and German version. The Hebrew original,
accompanied by a Latin translation, was printed for the first time from
a defective copy by the German scholar Wagenseil, Professor of Law in
Bavaria. Wagenseil published the treatise _Hizzuk Emuna_ in his
collection of anti-Christian writings, to which he gave the
awe-inspiring title "The Fiery Arrows of Satan" (_Tela Ignea Satanae_,
1681), and which were published for missionary purposes, "in order that
the Christians may refute this book, which may otherwise fortify the
Jews in their errors." The pious German professor could not foresee that
his edition would he subsequently employed by men of the type of
Voltaire and the French encyclopedists of the eighteenth century as a
weapon to attack the doctrine of the Church. Voltaire commented on the
book of Isaac Troki in these words: "Not even the most decided opponents
of religion have brought forward any arguments which could not be found
in the 'Fortification of the Faith' by Rabbi Isaac." In modern times the
_Hizzuk Emuna_ has been reprinted from more accurate copies, and has
been translated into several European languages.[119]


[65] See pp. 72 and 73.

[66] [_Unanimi voto et consensu_ are the exact words of the document.
See Bersohn, _Dyplomatariusz_ (Collection of ancient Polish enactments
relating to Jews), p. 51.]

[67] [Literally, By-Kahals.]

[68] [a = short German _a_. In Hebrew ועד.]

[69] [Great Poland, Little Poland, Red Russia, and Volhynia. Volhynia at
first formed part of the Lithuanian Duchy, but was ceded to the Crown,
in 1569, by the Union of Lublin.]

[70] In the middle of the seventeenth century their number was six.

[71] Nathan Hannover, in his _Yeven Metzula_ [see p. 157, n. 1], ed.
Venice, 1653, p. 12.

[72] [A Hebrew term designating public-spirited Jews who defend the
interests of their coreligionists before the Government. In Polish
official documents they are referred to as "General Syndics." In Poland
the _shtadlans_ were regular officials maintained by the Jewish
community. Comp. the article by L. Lewin, _Der Schtadlan im Posener
Ghetto_, in _Festschrift_ published in honor of Dr. Wolf Feilchenfeld
(1907), pp. 31 _et seq._]

[73] Towards the end of the sixteenth century Warsaw, instead of Cracow,
became the residence of the Polish kings. The Jews had no right of
domicile in Warsaw, and were permitted only to visit it temporarily.
[See p. 85.]

[74] [See p. 93, n. 1.]

[75] [See p. 76, n. 1.]

[76] [The so-called _Jüdisch-Deutsch_, which was by the Jews brought
from Germany to Poland and Lithuania. It was only in the latter part of
the seventeenth century that the dialect of Polish-Lithuanian Jewry
began to depart from the _Jüdisch-Deutsch_ as spoken by the German Jews,
thus laying the foundation for modern _Yiddish_. See Dubnow's article
"On the Spoken Dialect and the Popular Literature of the Polish and
Lithuanian Jews in the Sixteenth and the First Half of the Seventeenth
Century," in the periodical _Yevreyskaya Starina_, i. (1909), pp. 1 _et

[77] [_I. e._ Red Russia, or Galicia.]

[78] _Yeven Metzula_ [see p. 157, n. 1], towards the end.

[79] [Literally, "our teacher," a title bestowed since the Middle Ages
on every ordained rabbi.]

[80] [Literally, "companion," "colleague," a title conferred upon men
who, without being ordained, have attained a high degree of

[81] [Abbreviation for Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (d. 1105), a famous
French rabbi, whose commentaries on the Bible and the Talmud are marked
by wonderful lucidity.]

[82] [A school of Talmudic authorities, mostly of French origin, who, in
the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, wrote _Tosafoth_ (literally,
"Additions"), critical and exegetical annotations, distinguished for
their ingenuity.]

[83] [Hebrew for "Rows," with reference to the four rows of precious
stones in the garment of the high priest (Ex. xxviii., 17)--title of a
code of laws composed by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher (died at Toledo ab.
1340). It is divided into four parts, dealing respectively with ritual,
dietary, domestic, and civil laws. The _Turim_ was the forerunner of the
_Shulhan Arukh_, for which it served as a model.]

[84] [Isaac ben Jacob al-Fasi (_i. e._ from Fez in North Africa) (died
1103), author of a famous Talmudic compendium.]

[85] עמודי שש, ed. Lemberg, 1865, pp. 18b, 61b.

[86] It has been conjectured that the same scholar occupied, some time
between 1503 and 1520, the post of rector in Poland itself, being at the
head of the yeshibah in Cracow.

[87] [Two of his Responsa were published in Cracow, ab. 1540. See
Zedner, Catalogue British Museum, p. 695. A new edition appeared in
Husiatyn, in 1904, together with _Hiddushe Aaron Halevi_.]

[88] רמ״א [initials of _R_abbi _M_oses _I_(א=o)sserles].

[89] [See p. 118, n. 1.]

[90] Popularly, however, Isserles' supplements are called _Haggahoth_

[91] רש״ל [initials of _R_abbi _SH_elomo _L_uria].

[92] [See p. 117, n. 4.]

[93] [Allusion to I Kings vii. 23-26.]

[94] [Allusion to Lev. vi. 2.]

[95] [See p. 118, n. 1.]

[96] [The titles of the various parts of his work are all composed of
the word _Lebush_ ("Raiment") and some additional epithet, borrowed,
with reference to the author's name, from the description of Mordecai's
garments, in Esther viii. 15.]

[97] [The _Shulhan Arukh_, following the arrangement of the _Turim_ (see
above, p. 118, n. 1), is divided into four parts, the fourth of which,
dealing with civil law, is called _Hoshen Mishpat_, "Breastplate of
Judgment," with reference to Ex. xxviii. 15.]

[98] [Allusion to Ps. xix. 9.]

[99] See pp. 111 and 112.

[100] מהר״ם [initials of _M_orenu (see p. 117, n. 1) _H_a-rab (the
rabbi) _R_abbi _M_eïr.]

[101] מהרש״א [initials of _M_orenu _H_a-rab _R_abbi _SH_emuel
_E_(א=o)dels. Comp. the preceding note].

[102] [Literally, "Teaching Knowledge" (from Isaiah xxviii. 9), the
title of the second part of the _Shulhan Arukh_. See above, p. 128, n.

[103] ["Rows of Gold," allusion to the _Turim_ (see above, p. 118, n.
1), with a clever play on the similarly sounding words in Cant. i.
11.--Subsequently David Halevi extended his commentary to the other
parts of the _Shulhan Arukh_.]

[104] [Allusion to Mal. ii. 7.--Later Sabbatai extended his commentary
to the civil section of the _Shulhan Arukh_, called _Hoshen Mishpat_
(see p. 128, n. 1).]

[105] [See p. 75, n. 2.]

[106] [Allusion to Gen. xxv. 27.]

[107] [Allusion to Ps. i. 3.]

[108] ישר מקנדיא [initials of _Y_osef _SH_elomo _R_ofe (physician)].

[109] [In his book _Ma`yan Gannim_ ("Fountain of Gardens," allusion to
Cant. iv. 15), Introduction.]

[110] [_Kabbalah ma`asith_, a phase of the Cabala which endeavors to
influence the course of nature by Cabalistic _practices_, in other
words, by performing miracles.]

[111] [Initials of _A_shkenazi _R_abbi _I_saac [Luria]; he died at Safed
in Palestine in 1572.]

[112] [Hayyim Vital, also of Safed, died 1620.]

[113] [Abbreviation of _SH_ne _L_uhoth _H_a-brith, "The Two Tables of
the Covenant" (Deut. ix. 15).]

[114] ["Hooks of the Pillars," allusion to Ex. xxvii. 11.]

[115] [Allusion to Job xii. 22.]

[116] [See above, p. 91, n. 1. There were, however, considerable
differences of opinion among the various factions.]

[117] [A town in the province of Lublin. Jacob became subsequently court
physician of Sigismund III.; see Kraushar, _Historyja Zydów w Polsce_,
ii. 268, n. 1. On his name, see Geiger's _Nachgelassene Schriften_, iii.

[118] Some deny that he was a Karaite.

[119] [An English translation by Moses Mocatta appeared in London in
1851 under the title "Faith Strengthened."]




The Jewish center in Poland, marked by compactness of numbers and a
widespread autonomous organization, seemed, down to the end of the
seventeenth century, to be the only secure nest of the Jewish people and
the legitimate seat of its national hegemony, which was slipping out of
the hands of German Jewry. But in 1648 this comparatively peaceful nest
was visited by a storm, which made the Jews of Eastern Europe speedily
realize that they would have to tread the same sorrowful path, strewn
with the bodies of martyrs, that had been traversed by their Western
European brethren in the Middle Ages. The factors underlying this crisis
were three: an acute economic class struggle, racial and religious
antagonism, and the appearance upon the horizon of Jewish history of a
new power of darkness--the semi-barbarous masses of Southern Russia.

In the central provinces of Poland the position of the Jews, as was
pointed out previously, was determined by the interaction of class and
economic forces on the one hand, and religious and political interests
on the other, changing in accordance with the different combinations of
the opposing factions. While the kings and the great nobles, prompted by
fiscal and agrarian considerations, in most cases encouraged the
commercial activities of the Jews, the urban estates, the trade and
merchant guilds, from motives of competition, tried to hinder them. As
for the Catholic clergy, it was on general principles ever on the alert
to oppress the "infidels."

As far as economic rivalry and social oppression are concerned, the Jews
were able to resist them, either by influencing the Polish governing
circles, or by combining their own forces and uniting them in a
firmly-organized scheme of self-government, which had been conceded to
them in so large a measure. At any rate, it was a cultural struggle
between two elements: the Polish and the Jewish population, the
Christian and the Jewish estates, or the Church and the Synagogue. This
struggle was vastly complicated in the southeastern border provinces of
Poland, the so-called Ukraina,[120] by the presence of a third element,
which was foreign to the Poles no less than to the Jews--the local
native population which was Russian by race and Greek Orthodox in
religion, and was engaged principally in agriculture.

The vast region around the southern basin of the Dnieper, the whole
territory comprising the provinces of Kiev, Poltava, and Chernigov, and
including parts of Podolia and Volhynia, was subject to the political
power of the Polish kings and the economic dominion of the Polish
magnates. Enormous estates, comprising a large number of villages
populated by Russian peasants, were here in the hands of wealthy Polish
landlords, who enjoyed all the rights of feudal owners. The enthralled
peasants, or khlops, as they were contemptuously nicknamed by the Polish
nobles, were strange to their masters in point of religion and
nationality. In the eyes of the Catholics, particularly in those of the
clergy, the Greek Orthodox faith was a "religion of khlops," and they
endeavored to eradicate it by forcing upon it compulsory church
unions[121] or by persecuting the "dissidents." The Poles looked upon
the Russian populace as an inferior race, which belonged more to Asia
than to Europe. In these circumstances, the economic struggle between
the feudal landlord and his serfs, unmitigated by the feeling of common
nationality and religion, was bound to assume acute forms. Apart from
the oppressive agricultural labor, which the peasants had to give
regularly and gratuitously to the landlord, they were burdened with a
multitude of minor imposts and taxes, levied on pastures, mills, hives,
etc. The Polish magnates lived, as a rule, far away from their Ukrainian
possessions, leaving the management of the latter in the hands of
stewards and arendars.

Among these rural arendars there were many Jews, who principally leased
from the pans the right of "propination," or the sale of spirituous
liquors. These leases had the effect of transferring to the Jews some of
the powers over the Russian serfs which were wielded by the noble
landowners. The Jewish arendar endeavored to derive as much profit from
the nobleman's estate as the owner himself would have derived had he
lived there. But under the prevailing conditions of serfdom these
profits could be extracted only by a relentless exploitation of the
peasants. Moreover, the contemptuous attitude of the Shlakhta and the
Catholic clergy towards the "religion of khlops," and their endeavors to
force the Greek Orthodox serfs into Catholicism, by imposing upon them
an ecclesiastic union, gave a sharp religious coloring to this economic
antagonism. The oppressed peasantry reacted to this treatment with
ominous murmurings and agrarian disturbances in several places. The
enslaved South Russian _muzhik_ hated the Polish pan in his capacity as
landlord, Catholic, and _Lakh_.[122] No less intensely did he hate the
Jewish arendar, with whom he came in daily contact, and whom he regarded
both as a steward of the pan and an "infidel," entirely foreign to him
on account of his religious customs and habits of life. Thus the
Ukrainian Jew found himself between hammer and anvil: between the pan
and the khlop, between the Catholic and the Greek Orthodox, between the
Pole and the Russian. Three classes, three religions, and three
nationalities, clashed on a soil which contained in its bowels terrible
volcanic forces--and a catastrophe was bound to follow.

The South Russian population, though politically and agriculturally
dependent upon the Poles, was far from being that patient "beast of
burden" into which the rule of serfdom tried to transform it. Many
circumstances combined to foster a warlike spirit in this population.
The proximity of the New Russian steppes and the Khanate of the Crimea,
whence hordes of Tatars often burst forth to swoop down like birds of
prey upon the eastern provinces of Poland, compelled the inhabitants of
the Ukraina to organize themselves into warlike companies, or
Cossacks,[123] to fight off the invaders. The Polish Government, acting
through its local governors or starostas, encouraged the formation of
these companies for the defense of the borders of the Empire. In this
way Ukrainian Cossackdom, a semi-military, semi-agricultural caste, came
into being, with an autonomous organization and its own _hetman_[124] at
the head.

Apart from the Ukrainian Cossacks, who were subject to the Polish
Government, there were also the so-called Zaporozhian[125] Cossacks, a
completely independent military organization which lived beyond the
Falls of the Dnieper, in the steppes of so-called New Russia, the
present Governments of Yekaterinoslav and Kherson, and indulged in
frequent raids upon the Turks and in constant warfare with the Tatars of
the Crimea. This military camp, or _syech_,[126] beyond the Falls of the
Dnieper attracted many khlops from the Ukraina, who preferred a free,
unrestricted military life to the dreary existence of laboring slaves.
The syech represented a primitive military republic, where daring,
pluck, and knightly exploits were valued above all. It was a
semi-barbarous Tatar horde, except that it professed the Greek Orthodox
faith, and was of Russian origin, though, by the way, with a
considerable admixture of Mongolian blood. The Ukrainian and Zaporozhian
Cossacks were in constant relations with each other. The peasants of the
Ukraina looked up with pride and hope to this their national guard,
which sooner or later was bound to free them from the rule of the Poles
and Jews. The Polish Government failed to perceive that on the eastern
borders of the Empire a mass of explosives was constantly accumulating,
which threatened to wreck the whole Polish Republic.

Nor could the Jews foresee that this terrible force would be directed
against them, and would stain with blood many pages of their history,
serving as a terrible omen for the future. The first warning was sounded
in 1637, when the Cossack leader Pavluk suddenly appeared from beyond
the Falls in the province of Poltava, inciting the peasants to rise
against the pans and the Jews. The rebels demolished several synagogues
in the town of Lubny and in neighboring places, and killed about two
hundred Jews. The real catastrophe, however, came ten years later. The
mutiny of the Cossacks and the Ukrainian peasants in 1648 inaugurates in
the history of the Jews of Eastern Europe the era of pogroms, which
Southern Russia bequeathed to future generations down to the beginning
of the twentieth century.


In the spring of 1648, while King Vladislav IV. still sat on the throne
of Poland, one of the popular Cossack leaders, Bogdan Khmelnitzki, from
the town of Chigirin, in the province of Kiev, unfurled the banner of
rebellion in the Ukraina and in the region beyond the Dnieper Falls.
Infuriated by the conduct of the Polish authorities of his native
place,[127] Khmelnitzki began to incite the Ukrainian Cossacks to armed
resistance. They elected him secretly their hetman, and empowered him to
conduct negotiations with the Zaporozhians. Having arrived in the region
beyond the Dnieper Falls, he organized military companies, and concluded
an alliance with the Khan of the Crimea, who entered into a compact to
send large troops of Tatars to the aid of the rebels.

In April, 1648, the combined hosts of the Cossacks and Tatars moved from
beyond the Falls of the Dnieper to the borders of the Ukraina. In the
neighborhood of the Yellow Waters and Korsun they inflicted a severe
defeat on the Polish army under the command of Pototzki and Kalinovski
(May 6-15), and this defeat served as a signal for the whole region on
the eastern banks of the Dnieper to rise in rebellion. The Russian
peasants and town dwellers left their homes, and, organizing themselves
into bands, devastated the estates of the pans, slaying their owners as
well as the stewards and Jewish arendars. In the towns of Pereyaslav,
Piryatin, Lokhvitz, Lubny, and the surrounding country, thousands of
Jews were barbarously killed, and their property was either destroyed or
pillaged. The rebels allowed only those to survive who embraced the
Greek Orthodox faith. The Jews of several cities of the Kiev region, in
order to escape from the hands of the Cossacks, fled into the camp of
the Tatars, and gave themselves up voluntarily as prisoners of war. They
knew that the Tatars refrained as a rule from killing them, and
transported them instead into Turkey, where they were sold as slaves,
and had a chance of being ransomed by their Turkish coreligionists.

At that juncture, in the month of May, King Vladislav IV. died, and an
interregnum ensued, which, marked by political unrest, lasted six
months. The flame of rebellion seized the whole of the Ukraina, as well
as Volhynia and Podolia. Bands composed of Cossacks and Russian peasants
led by Khmelnitzki's accomplices, savage Zaporozhian Cossacks, dispersed
in all directions, and began to exterminate Poles and Jews. To quote a
Russian historian:

    Killing was accompanied by barbarous tortures; the victims were
    flayed alive, split asunder, clubbed to death, roasted on coals,
    or scalded with boiling water. Even infants at the breast were
    not spared. The most terrible cruelty, however, was shown
    towards the Jews. They were destined to utter annihilation, and
    the slightest pity shown to them was looked upon as treason.
    Scrolls of the Law were taken out of the synagogues by the
    Cossacks, who danced on them while drinking whiskey. After this
    Jews were laid down upon them, and butchered without mercy.
    Thousands of Jewish infants were thrown into wells, or buried

Contemporary Jewish chroniclers add that these human beasts purposely
refrained from finishing their victims, so as to be able to torture them
longer. They cut off their hands and feet, split the children asunder,
"fish-like," or roasted them on fire. They opened the bowels of women,
inserted live cats, and then sewed up the wounds. The unbridled
bestiality of intoxicated savages found expression in these frightful
tortures, of which even the Tatars were incapable.

Particularly tragic was the fate of those Jews who, in the hope of
greater safety, had fled from the villages and townlets to the fortified
cities. Having learned that several thousand Jews had taken refuge in
the town of Niemirov in Podolia, Khmelnitzki dispatched thither a
detachment of Cossacks under the command of the Zaporozhian Gania.
Finding it difficult to take the city by storm, the Cossacks resorted to
a trick. They drew nigh to Niemirov, carrying aloft the Polish banners
and requesting admission into the city. The Jews, fooled into believing
that it was a Polish army that had come to their rescue, opened the
gates (Sivan 20 = June 10, 1648). The Cossacks, in conjunction with the
local Russian inhabitants, fell upon the Jews and massacred them; the
women and girls were violated. The Rabbi and Rosh-Yeshibah of Niemirov,
Jehiel Michael ben Eliezer, hid himself in the cemetery with his mother,
hoping in this wise at least to be buried after death. There he was
seized by one of the rioters, a shoemaker, who began to club him. His
aged mother begged the murderer to kill her instead of her son, but the
inhuman shoemaker killed first the rabbi and then the aged woman.

The young Jewish women were frequently allowed to live, the Cossacks and
peasants forcing them into baptism and taking them for wives. One
beautiful Jewish girl who had been kidnaped for this purpose by a
Cossack managed to convince him that she was able to throw a spell over
bullets. She asked him to shoot at her, so as to prove to him that the
bullet would glide off without causing her any injury. The Cossack
discharged his gun, and the girl fell down, mortally wounded, yet happy
in the knowledge that she was saved from a worse fate. Another Jewish
girl, whom a Cossack was on the point of marrying, threw herself from
the bridge into the water, while the wedding procession was marching to
the church. Altogether about six thousand Jews perished in the city of

Those who escaped death fled to the fortified Podolian town of Tulchyn.
Here an even more terrible tragedy was enacted. A large horde of
Cossacks and peasants laid siege to the fortress, which contained
several hundred Poles and some fifteen hundred Jews. The Poles and Jews
took an oath not to betray one another and to defend the city to their
last breath. The Jews, stationed on the walls of the fortress, shot at
the besiegers, keeping them off from the city. After a long and
unsuccessful siege the Cossacks conceived a treacherous plan. They
informed the Poles of Tulchyn that they were aiming solely at the Jews,
and, as soon as the latter were delivered into their hands, they would
leave the Poles in peace. The Polish pans, headed by Count
Chetvertinski, forgot their oath, and decided to sacrifice their Jewish
allies to secure their own safety. When the Jews discovered this
treacherous intention, they immediately resolved to dispose of the
Poles, whom they excelled in numbers. But the Rosh-Yeshibah of Tulchyn,
Rabbi Aaron, implored them not to touch the pans, on the ground that
such action might draw upon the Jews all over the Empire the hatred of
the Polish population. "Let us rather perish," he exclaimed, "as did our
brethren in Niemirov, and let us not endanger the lives of our brethren
in all the places of their dispersion." The Jews yielded. They turned
over all their property to Chetvertinski, asking him to offer it to the
Cossacks as a ransom for their lives.

After entering the city, the Cossacks first took possession of the
property of the Jews, and then drove them together into a garden, where
they put up a banner and declared, "Let those who are willing to accept
baptism station themselves under this banner, and we will spare their
lives." The rabbis exhorted the people to accept martyrdom for the sake
of their religion and their people. Not a single Jew was willing to
become a traitor, and fifteen hundred victims were murdered in a most
barbarous fashion. Nor did the perfidious Poles escape their fate.
Another detachment of Cossacks, which entered Tulchyn later, slew all
the Catholics, among them Count Chetvertinski. Treachery avenged

From Podolia the rebel bands penetrated into Volhynia. Here the
massacres continued in the course of the whole summer and autumn of
1648. In the town of Polonnoye ten thousand Jews met their death at the
hands of the Cossacks, or were taken captive by the Tatars. Among the
victims was the Cabalist Samson of Ostropol, who was greatly revered by
the people. This Cabalist, and three hundred pious fellow-Jews who
followed him, put on their funeral garments, the shrouds and prayer
shawls, and offered up fervent prayers in the synagogue, awaiting death
in the sacred place, where the murderers subsequently killed them one by
one. Similar massacres took place in Zaslav, Ostrog, Constantinov,
Narol, Kremenetz, Bar, and many other cities. The Ukraina as well as
Volhynia and Podolia were turned into one big slaughter-house.

The Polish troops, particularly those under the brave command of Count
Jeremiah Vishniovetzki, succeeded in subduing the Cossacks and peasants
in several places, annihilating some of their bands with the same
cruelty that the Cossacks had displayed towards the Poles and the Jews.
The Jews fled to these troops for their safety, and they were welcomed
by Vishniovetzki, who admitted the unfortunates into the baggage train,
and, to use the expression of a Jewish chronicler, took care of them "as
a father of his children." After the catastrophe of Niemirov he entered
the city with his army, and executed the local rioters who had
participated in the murder of the Jewish inhabitants. However, standing
all alone, he was unable to extinguish the flame of the Cossack
rebellion. For the commanders-in-chief of the Polish army did not
display the proper energy at this critical moment, and Khmelnitzki was
right in dubbing them contemptuously "featherbeds," "youngsters," and
"Latins" ("bookworms").

From the Ukraina bands of rebellious peasants, or _haidamacks_,
penetrated into the nearest towns of White Russia and Lithuania. From
Chernigov and Starodub, where the Jewish inhabitants had been
exterminated, the murderers moved towards the city of Homel (July or
August). A contemporary gives the following description of the Homel

    The rebels managed to bribe the head of the city, who delivered
    the Jews into their hands. The Greeks [_Yevanim, i. e._ the
    Greek Orthodox Russians] surrounded them with drawn swords, and
    with daggers and spears, exclaiming: "Why do you believe in your
    God, who has no pity on His suffering people, and does not save
    it from our hands? Reject your God, and you shall be masters!
    But if you will cling to the faith of your fathers, you shall
    all perish in the same way as your brethren in the Ukraina, in
    Pokutye,[128] and Lithuania perished at our hands." Thereupon
    Rabbi Eliezer, our teacher, the president of the [rabbinical]
    court, exclaimed: "Brethren, remember the death of our
    fellow-Jews, who perished to sanctify the name of our God! Let
    us too stretch forth our necks to the sword of the enemy; look
    at me and act as I do!" Immediately thousands of Jews renounced
    their lives, despised this world, and hallowed the name of God.
    The Rosh-Yeshibah was the first to offer up his body as a
    burnt-offering. Young and old, boys and girls saw the tortures,
    sufferings, and wounds of the teacher, who did not cease
    exhorting them to accept martyrdom in the name of Him who had
    called into being the generations of mortals. As one man they
    all exclaimed: "Let us forgive one another our mutual insults.
    Let us offer up our souls to God and our bodies to the wild
    waves, to our enemies, the offspring of the Greeks!" When our
    enemies heard these words, they started a terrible butchery,
    killing their victims with spears in order that they might die
    slowly. Husbands, wives, and children fell in heaps. They did
    not even attain to burial, dogs and swine feeding on their dead

In September, 1648, Khmelnitzki himself, marching at the head of a
Cossack army, and accompanied by his Tatar allies, approached the walls
of Lemberg, and began to besiege the capital of Red Russia, or Galicia.
The Cossacks succeeded in storming and pillaging the suburbs, but they
failed to penetrate to the fortified center of the town. Khmelnitzki
proposed to the magistracy of Lemberg, that it deliver all the Jews and
their property into the hands of the Cossacks, promising in this case to
raise the siege. The magistracy replied that the Jews were under the
jurisdiction of the king, and the town authorities had no right to
dispose of them. Khmelnitzki thereupon agreed to withdraw, having
obtained from the city an enormous ransom, the bulk of which had been
contributed by the Jews.

From Lemberg Khmelnitzki proceeded with his troops in the direction of
Warsaw, where at that time the election of a new king was taking place.
The choice fell upon John Casimir, a brother of Vladislav IV., who had
been Primate of Gnesen and a Cardinal (1648-1668). The new King entered
into peace negotiations with the leader of the rebels, the hetman
Khmelnitzki. But owing to the excessive demands of the Cossacks the
negotiations were broken off, and as a result, in the spring of 1649,
the flame of civil war flared up anew, accompanied by the destruction of
many more Jewish communities. After a succession of battles in which the
Poles were defeated, a treaty of peace was concluded between John
Casimir and Khmelnitzki, in the town of Zborov. In this treaty, which
was favorable to the Cossacks, a clause was included forbidding the
residence of Jews in the portion of the Ukraina inhabited by the
Cossacks, the regions of Chernigov, Poltava, Kiev, and partly Podolia
(August, 1649).

At last the Jews, after a year and a half of suffering and tortures,
could heave a sigh of relief. Those of them who, at the point of death,
had embraced the Greek Orthodox faith, were permitted by King John
Casimir to return to their old creed. The Jewish women who had been
forcibly baptized fled in large numbers from their Cossack husbands, and
returned to their families. The Council of the Four Lands, which met in
Lublin in the winter of 1650, framed a set of regulations looking to the
restoration of normal conditions in the domestic and communal life of
the Jews. The day of the Niemirov massacre (Sivan 20), which coincided
with an old fast day in memory of the martyrs of the Crusades, was
appointed a day of mourning, to commemorate the victims of the Cossack
rebellion. Leading rabbis of the time composed a number of soul-stirring
dirges and prayers, which were recited in the synagogues on the fateful
anniversary of the twentieth of Sivan.

But the respite granted to the Jews after these terrible events did not
last long. The Treaty of Zborov, which was unsatisfactory to the Polish
Government, was not adhered to by it. Mutual resentment gave rise to new
collisions, and civil war broke out again, in 1651. The Polish
Government called together the national militia, which included a Jewish
detachment of one thousand men. This time the people's army got the
upper hand against the troops of Khmelnitzki, with the result that a
treaty of peace was concluded which was advantageous to the Poles. In
the Treaty of Byelaya Tzerkov, concluded in September, 1651, many claims
of the Cossacks were rejected, and the right of the Jews to live in the
Greek Orthodox portion of the Ukraina was restored.[129]

As a result, the Cossacks and Greek Orthodox Ukrainians rose again.
Bogdan Khmelnitzki entered into negotiations with the Russian Tzar
Alexis Michaelovich, looking to the incorporation, with the rights of an
autonomous province, of the Greek Orthodox portion of the Ukraina, under
the name of Little Russia, into the Muscovite Empire. In 1654 this
incorporation took place, and in the same year the Russian army marched
upon White Russia and Lithuania to wage war on Poland. Now came the turn
of the Jews of the northwestern region to endure their share of


The alliance of their enemies, the Cossacks, with the rulers of Muscovy,
a country which had always felt a superstitious dread of the people of
other lands and religions, was fraught with untold misery for the Jews.
It was now the turn of the inhabitants of White Russia and Lithuania to
face the hordes of southern and northern Scythians, who invaded the
regions hitherto spared by them, devastating them uninterruptedly for
two years (1654-1656). The capture of the principal Polish cities by the
combined hosts of the Muscovites and Cossacks was accompanied by the
extermination or expulsion of the Jews. When Moghilev on the
Dnieper[130] surrendered to Russian arms, Tzar Alexis Michaelovich
complied with the request of the local Russian inhabitants, and gave
orders to expel the Jews and divide their houses between the magistracy
and the Russian authorities (1654). The Jews, however, who were hoping
for a speedy termination of hostilities, failed to leave the city at
once, and had to pay severely for it. Towards the end of the summer of
1655 the commander of the Russian garrison in Moghilev, Colonel
Poklonski, learned of the approach of a Polish army under the command of
Radziwill. Prompted by the fear that the Jewish residents might join the
approaching enemy, Poklonski ordered the Jews to leave the boundaries of
the city, and, on the ground of their being Polish subjects, promised to
have them transferred to the camp of Radziwill. Scarcely had the Jews,
accompanied by their wives and children, and carrying with them their
property, left the town behind them when the Russian soldiers, at the
command of the same Poklonski, fell upon them and killed nearly all of
them, plundering their property at the same time.

In Vitebsk the Jews took an active part in defending the town against
the besieging Russian army. They dug trenches around the fortified
castle, strengthened the walls, supplied the soldiers with arms, powder,
and horses, and acted as scouts. When the city was finally taken by the
Russians, the Jews were completely robbed by the Zaporozhian Cossacks,
while many of them were taken captive, forcibly baptized, or exiled to
Pskov, Novgorod, and Kazan.

The Jews suffered no less heavily from the riot which took place in
Vilna, the capital of Lithuania, after its occupation by the combined
army of Muscovites and Cossacks in August, 1655. A large part of the
Vilna community fled for its life. Those who remained behind were either
killed or banished from the town at the command of Tzar Alexis
Michaelovich, who was anxious to comply with the request of the local
Russian townspeople, to rid them of their Jewish competitors.

Shortly thereafter a similar fate overtook the central Polish provinces
on the Vistula and the San River, which had hitherto been spared the
horrors of the Cossacks and Muscovites. The invasion of Sweden, the
third enemy of Poland (1655-1658), carried bloodshed into the very heart
of the country. The Swedish King, Charles Gustav, reduced one city after
the other, both the old and the new capital, Cracow and Warsaw, speedily
surrendering to him. A large part of Great and Little Poland fell into
the hands of the Swedes, and the Polish King, John Casimir, was
compelled to flee to Silesia.

The easy victories of the Swedes were the result of the anarchy and
political demoralization which had taken deep root in Poland. It was the
treachery of the former Polish sub-Chancellor Radzieyevski that brought
the Swedes into Poland, and the cowardice of the Shlakhta hastily
surrendered the cities of Posen, Kalish, Cracow, and Vilna, to the
enemy. Moreover the Swedes were welcomed by the Polish Protestants and
Calvinists, who looked for their rescue to the northern Protestant power
in the same way in which the Cossacks expected their salvation from
Orthodox Russia.

The Jews were the only ones who had no political advantage in betraying
their country, and their friendly attitude towards the Swedes no more
than corresponded to the conduct of the Swedes towards them. At any
rate, their patriotism was no more open to suspicion than that of the
Poles themselves, who joined the power of Sweden to get rid of the yoke
of Muscovy. Nevertheless, the Jews had to pay a terrible price for this
lack of patriotism. They found themselves, in the words of a
contemporary chronicler, in the position of a man who "fleeth from a
lion, and is met by a bear."[131] The Jews who had been spared by the
Swedes were now annihilated by the patriotic Poles, who charged them
with disloyalty. The bands of Polish irregulars, which had been
organized in 1656, under the command of General Charnetzki, to save the
country from the invader, vented their fury upon the Jews in all the
localities which they wrested from the Swedes.

The massacre of Jews began in Great and Little Poland, without yielding
in point of barbarism to the butcheries which, eight years previously,
had been perpetrated in the Ukraina. The Polish hosts of Charnetzki had
learned from the Cossacks the art of exterminating the Jews. Nearly all
the Jewish communities in the province of Posen, excepting the city of
Posen, and those in the provinces of Kalish, Cracow, and Piotrkov, were
destroyed by the saviors of the Polish fatherland. The brutal and wicked
Charnetzki, to use the epithets applied to him by the Jewish annalists,
or, to be more exact, the Polish mob marching behind him, committed
atrocities which were truly worthy of the Cossacks. They tortured and
murdered the rabbis, violated the women, killed the Jews by the
hundreds, sparing only those who were willing to become Catholics. These
atrocities were as a rule committed in the wake of the retreating
Swedes, who had behaved like human beings towards the Jewish population.
The humaneness shown by the Swedes to the Jews was avenged by the
inhumanity of the Poles.

While the bands of Charnetzki were attacking the Jews in Western Poland,
the Muscovites and Cossacks continued to disport themselves in the
eastern districts and in Lithuania. Not until 1658 did the horrors of
warfare begin gradually to subside, and only after terrible losses and
humiliating concessions to Russia and Sweden was Poland able to restore
its political order, which had been shaken to its foundation during the
preceding years.

The losses inflicted upon the Jews of Poland during the fatal decade of
1648-1658 were appalling. In the reports of the chroniclers the number
of Jewish victims varies between one hundred thousand and five hundred
thousand. But even if we accept the lower figure, the number of victims
still remains colossal, excelling the catastrophes of the Crusades and
the Black Death in Western Europe. Some seven hundred Jewish communities
in Poland had suffered massacre and pillage. In the Ukrainian cities
situated on the left banks of the Dnieper, the region populated by
Cossacks, in the present Governments of Chernigov, Poltava, and part of
Kiev, the Jewish communities had disappeared almost completely. In the
localities on the right shore of the Dnieper or in the Polish part of
the Ukraina as well as in those of Volhynia and Podolia, wherever the
Cossacks had made their appearance, only about one-tenth of the Jewish
population survived. The others had either perished during the rebellion
of Khmelnitzki, or had been carried off by the Tatars into Turkey, or
had emigrated to Lithuania, the central provinces of Poland, or the
countries of Western Europe. All over Europe and Asia Jewish refugees or
prisoners of war could be met with, who had fled from Poland, or had
been carried off by the Tatars, and ransomed by their brethren.
Everywhere the wanderers told a terrible tale of the woes of their
compatriots and of the martyrdom of hundreds of Jewish communities.

An echo of all these horrors resounds in contemporary chronicles and
mournful synagogue liturgies. One of the eye-witnesses of the Ukraina
massacres, Nathan Hannover, from Zaslav, gives a striking description of
it in his historical chronicle _Yeven Metzula_[132] (1653). Sabbatai
Kohen, the famous scholar of Vilna,[133] brought this catastrophe to the
notice of the Jewish world through a circular letter, entitled
_Meghillath Efa_,[134] which was accompanied by prayers in memory of the
Polish martyrs. In heartrending liturgies many contemporary rabbis and
writers, such as Lipman Heller, Rabbi of Cracow, Sheftel Horovitz, Rabbi
of Posen, the scholars Meïr of Shchebreshin[135] (_Tzok ha-`Ittim_,[136]
1650) and Gabriel Shussberg (_Petah Teshuba_,[137] 1653), lament the
destruction of Polish Jewry. All these writings are pervaded with the
bitter consciousness that Polish Jewry would never recuperate from the
blows it had received, and that the peaceful nest in which the
persecuted nation had found a refuge was destroyed forever.

4. THE RESTORATION (1658-1697)

Fortunately these apprehensions proved to be exaggerated. Though
decimated and impoverished, the Jewish population of Poland exceeded in
numbers the Jewish settlements of Western Europe. The chief center of
Judaism remained in Poland as theretofore, though it became the center
of a more circumscribed and secluded section of Jewry. The extraordinary
vitality of the "eternal people" was again demonstrated by the fact that
the Polish Jews were able, in a comparatively short time, to recover
from their terrible losses. No sooner had peace been restored in Poland
than they began to return to their demolished nests and to re-establish
their economic position and communal self-government, which had been so
violently shaken. King John Casimir, having resumed the reins of
government, declared that it was his inmost desire to compensate his
Jewish subjects, though it be only in part, for the sufferings inflicted
upon them and to assist them in recuperating from material ruin. This
declaration the King made in the form of a charter bestowing the right
of free commerce upon the Jews of Cracow (1661). Various privileges, as
well as temporary alleviations in the payment of taxes, were conferred
by him upon numerous other Jewish communities which had suffered most
from the horrors of the Cossacks and the invasions of the Russians and

It goes without saying that all this could only soften the consequences
of the terrible economic crisis, but could not avert them. The crisis
left its sad impress particularly upon the South, which had been the
scene of the Cossack rebellion. As far as the Ukraina was concerned,
peace was not completely restored for a long time. By the Treaty of
Andrusovo, of 1667, Poland and Muscovy divided the province between
them: the portion situated on the right bank of the Dnieper (Volhynia
and Podolia) remained with Poland, while the section on the left bank of
the same river, called Little Russia (the region of Poltava, Chernigov,
and part of the district of Kiev, including the city of the same name),
was ceded to Muscovy. However, in consequence of the party dissensions
which divided the ranks of the Cossacks, and made their various hetmans
gravitate now towards the one, now towards the other, of the sovereign
powers, the Ukraina continued for a long time to be an apple of discord
between Poland, Russia, and Turkey. This agitation handicapped alike the
agricultural pursuits of the peasants and the commercial activities of
the Jews. In Little Russia the Jews had almost disappeared, while in the
Polish Ukraina they had become greatly impoverished. The southwestern
region, where the Jews had once upon a time lived so comfortably, sank
economically lower and lower, and gradually yielded its supremacy to the
northwest, to Lithuania and White Russia, which had suffered
comparatively little during the years of unrest. The transfer of the
cultural center of Judaism from the south to the north forms one of the
characteristic features of the period.

Michael Vishniovetzki (1669-1673), who was elected King after John
Casimir, extended his protection to the Jews by virtue of family
traditions, being a son of the hero Jeremiah Vishniovetzki, who had
saved many a Jewish community of the Ukraina during the sinister years
of the Cossack mutiny. At the Coronation Diet[138] Vishniovetzki
ratified the fundamental privileges of the Polish and Lithuanian Jews,
"as far as these privileges are not in contradiction with the general
laws and customs." This ratification had been obtained through an
application of the "general syndic of the Jews," Moses Markovich,[139]
who evidently acted as the spokesman of all the Kahals of the ancient
provinces of Poland. The benevolent intentions of the King were
counteracted by the Diets, which, controlled by the clergy and Shlakhta,
issued restrictive laws against the Jews. The Diet of Warsaw held in
1670 not only limited the financial operations of Jewish capitalists by
fixing a maximum rate of interest (20%)[140]--this would have been
perfectly legitimate--but also thought it necessary to restore the old
canonical regulations forbidding the Jews to keep Christian domestics or
to leave their houses during the Church processions. In these Diet
regulations, particularly in their tone and motivation ("in order that
the perfidy and self-will of the Jews should not gain the upper hand,"
etc.), one cannot fail to perceive the venom of the Catholic clergy,
which once more engaged in its old _métier_ of slandering the Jews,
charging them with hostility to the Christians and with the desecration
of Church sacraments.

The influence of these Church fanatics upon the Polish schools, coupled
with the general deterioration of morals as a result of the protracted
wars, was responsible for the recrudescence, during that period, of the
ugly street attacks upon the Jews by the students of the Christian
colleges, the so-called _Schülergeläuf_. These scholastic excesses now
became an everyday occurrence in the cities of Poland. The riotous
scholars not only caused public scandals by insulting Jewish passers-by
on the street, but frequently invaded the Jewish quarters, where they
instituted regular pogroms. Most of these disorders were engineered by
the pupils of the Academy of Cracow and the Jesuit schools in Posen,
Lemberg, Vilna, and Brest.

The local authorities were passive onlookers of these savage pranks of
the future citizens of Poland, which occasionally assumed very dangerous
forms. In order to protect themselves from such attacks many Jewish
communities paid an annual tax to the rectors of the local Catholic
schools, and this tax, which was called _kozubales_, was officially
recognized by the "common law" then in use. However, even the ransom
agreed upon could not save the Jews of Lemberg from a bloody pogrom. The
pupils of the Cathedral school and the Jesuit Academy of that city were
preparing to storm the Jewish quarter. Having learned of the intentions
of the rioters, the Jewish youth of Lemberg organized an armed
self-defense, and courageously awaited the enemy. But the attack of the
Christian students, who were assisted by the mob, was so furious that
the Jewish guard was unable to hold its own. The resistance of the Jews
only resulted in exasperating the rioters, and the disorders took the
form of a massacre. About a hundred Jewish dead, a large number of
demolished houses, several desecrated synagogues, were the result of the
barbarous amusement of the disciples of the militant Church (1664).

Of the medieval trials of that period two cases, one in Lithuania and
the other in the Crown, stand out with particular prominence. The former
took place in the little town of Ruzhany, in the province of Grodno, in
1657. The local Christians, who on their Easter festival had placed a
dead child's body in the yard of a Jew, thereupon charged the whole
community with having committed a ritual murder. The trial lasted nearly
three years, and ended in the execution of two representatives of the
Jewish community, Rabbi Israel and Rabbi Tobias. A dirge commemorating
this event, composed by a son of one of the martyrs, contains a
heartrending description of the tragedy.[141]

    My enemies have arisen against me, and have spread their nets in
    the shape of a false accusation in order to destroy my
    possessions. They took dead bodies, slashed them, and spoke with
    furious cunning: Behold, the ill-fated Jews drink and suck the
    blood of the murdered, and feed on the children of the Gentiles.
    Three years did the horrible slander last, and we thought our
    liberation was near, but, alas, terrible darkness has engulfed
    us. Our sworn enemies dragged us before their hostile court. The
    evil-doers assembled in the week before the New Year, and turned
    justice into wormwood. A wily and wicked Gentile judged only by
    the sight of his eyes, without witnesses; he judged innocent and
    sinless people in order to shed pure blood. The horde of
    evil-doers pronounced a perverted verdict, saying: "Choose ye
    [for execution] two Jews, such as may please you." A beautiful
    pair fell into their nets: Rabbi Israel and Rabbi Tobias, the
    holy ones, were singled out from among the community.[142] These
    men saw the glittering blade of the sword, but no fear fell upon
    them. They clasped each other's hands and swore to share the
    same fate. "Let us take courage, and let us prepare with a light
    heart to sacrifice ourselves. Let us become the lambs for the
    slaughter; we shall surely find protection under the wings of
    God." On the sixth day these holy men were led out to execution,
    and an altar was erected. The wrath of the Lord burst forth in
    the year of "Recompense,"[143] on the festival of Commemoration
    [New Year]. The bitterness of death was awaiting [the martyrs]
    in the midst of the market-place. They confessed their sins,
    saying: "We have sinned before the Lord. Let us sanctify His
    name like Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah." They turned to the
    executioner, saying: "Grant us one hour of respite, that we may
    render praise unto the Lord." The lips of the impure, the false
    lips of those who pursue the wind and worship corrupt images,
    came to tempt them with strange beliefs,[144] but the holy men
    exclaimed: "Away, ye impure! Shall we renounce the living God,
    and wander after trees?"[145] The holy Rabbi Israel stretched
    forth his neck, and shouted with all his might: "Hear, O Israel,
    the Lord our God, the Lord is one." Thereupon the executioner
    stretched forth his hand to take the sword, and the costly
    vessel was shattered. When the holy Rabbi Tobias saw this loss,
    he exclaimed: "Blessed art thou, O Rabbi Israel, who hast passed
    first into the Realm of Light. I follow thee." He too exclaimed:
    "Hear, O Israel, who art guarded [by God] like the apple of the
    eye." And he went forth to die in the name of the Lord, and [the
    executioner] slew him as he had slain the first.

Another tragedy took place in Cracow, in 1663. The educated Jewish
apothecary Mattathiah Calahora, a native of Italy who had settled in
Cracow, committed the blunder of arguing with a local priest, a member
of the Dominican order, about religious topics. The priest invited
Calahora to a disputation in the cloister, but the Jew declined,
promising to expound his views in writing. A few days later the priest
found on his chair in the church a statement written in German and
containing a violent arraignment of the cult of the Immaculate Virgin.
It is not impossible that the statement was composed and placed in the
church by an adherent of the Reformation or the Arian heresy,[146] both
of which were then the object of persecution in Poland. However, the
Dominican decided that Calahora was the author, and brought the charge
of blasphemy against him.

The Court of the Royal Castle cross-examined the defendant under
torture, without being able to obtain a confession. Witnesses testified
that Calahora was not even able to write German. Being a native of
Italy, he used the Italian language in his conversations with the
Dominican. In spite of all this evidence, the unfortunate Calahora was
sentenced to be burned at the stake. The alarmed Jewish community raised
a protest, and the case was accordingly transferred to the highest court
in Piotrkov.[147] The accused was sent in chains to Piotrkov, together
with the plaintiff and the witnesses. But the arch-Catholic tribunal
confirmed the verdict of the lower court, ordering that the sentence be
executed in the following barbarous sequence: first the lips of the
"blasphemer" to be cut off; next his hand that had held the fateful
statement to be burned; then the tongue, which had spoken against the
Christian religion, to be excised; finally the body to be burned at the
stake, and the ashes of the victim to be loaded into a cannon and
discharged into the air. This cannibal ceremonial was faithfully carried
out on December 13, 1663, on the market-place of Piotrkov. For two
centuries the Jews of Cracow followed the custom of reciting, on the
fourteenth of Kislev, in the old synagogue of that city, a memorial
prayer for the soul of the martyr Calahora.

There is evidently some connection between this event and the epistle
sent by the General of the Dominican Order in Rome, Marini, to the head
of the order in Cracow, dated February 9, 1664. Marini states that the
"unfortunate Jews" of Poland had complained to him about the "wicked
slanders" and accusations, the "sole purpose" of which was to influence
the Diet soon to assemble at Warsaw, and demonstrate to it that "the
Polish people hate the Jews unconditionally." He requests his colleagues
in Cracow and the latter's subordinates "to defend the hapless people
against every calumny invented against them." Subsequent history shows
that the epistle was sent in vain.

The last Polish king who extended efficient protection to the Jews
against the classes and parties hostile to them, was John III. Sobieski
(1674-1696), who by his military exploits succeeded in restoring the
political prestige of Poland. This King had frequent occasion to fight
the growing anti-Semitic tendencies of the Shlakhta, the municipalities,
and the clergy. He granted safe-conducts to various Jewish communities,
protecting their "liberties and privileges," enlarged their sphere of
self-government, and freed them from the jurisdiction of the local
municipal authorities. In 1682 he complied with the request of the Jews
of Vilna, who begged to be released from the municipal census. The
application was prompted by the fact that a year previously they had
been induced by the magistracy of Vilna, which assured them of complete
safety, to go outside the town where the census of the Jews and the
Christian trade-unions was taken. But no sooner had the Jews left the
confines of the city than the members of the trade-unions and other
Christian inhabitants of Vilna began to shoot at them and rob them of
their clothes and valuables. The Jews would have been entirely
annihilated, had not the pupils of the local Jesuit college taken pity
on them, and rescued them from the fury of the mob. While the riot was
in progress, the magistracy of Vilna not only failed to defend the Jews,
but even looked on at the proceedings "with great satisfaction."

It is necessary to point out that such manifestation of humaneness on
the part of the Polish college youth was a rare phenomenon, indeed. As a
rule, the students themselves were the initiators of the "tumults" or
disorders in the Jewish quarter, and the scholastic riots referred to
previously did not cease even under John Sobieski. The pupils of the
Catholic academy in Cracow made an attack upon the Jews because of their
refusal to pay the so-called _kozubales_, the scholastic tax which had
been agreed upon between the Jews and the Christian colleges
(1681-1682). In 1687 the tumultuous scholars, this time in Posen, were
joined by the street mob, and for three consecutive days the Jews had to
defend themselves against the rioters with weapons in their hands. The
national Polish Diets condemned these forms of violence, and in their
"constitutions" guaranteed to the Jews inviolability of person and
property, particularly when they found it necessary to raise the
head-tax or impose special levies upon the Jews.

In reality the only defender of the Jews was the King. At his court
appeared the "general syndics," or spokesmen of the Jewish communities,
and presented various applications, which John Sobieski was ready to
grant as far as lay in his power. This humane attitude towards the
"infidels" was on more than one occasion held up against him at the
sessions of the Senate[148] and the Diets. At the Diet held in Grodno in
1693 the enemies of the court brought charges against the Jew Bezalel, a
favorite of the King and a royal tax-farmer, accusing him of desecrating
the Christian religion, embezzling state funds, and other crimes. After
passionate debates, John Sobieski insisted that Bezalel be allowed to
clear himself by oath of the charge of blasphemy, while the other
accusations were disposed of by the chancellor of the exchequer.

During the reign of John Sobieski Polish Jewry fully recuperated from
the terrible ravages of the previous epoch. Under his successors its
position became more and more unfavorable.


The process of disintegration which had seized the feudal and clerical
structure of the Polish body politic assumed appalling proportions under
the kings of the Saxon dynasty, Augustus II. and Augustus III.
(1697-1763). The political anarchy, which, coupled with the failures in
the Swedish war at the beginning of the eighteenth century, surrendered
Poland into the hands of rejuvenated Russia under Peter the Great, was
only the external manifestation of the inner decay of the country,
springing from its social order, which was founded on the arbitrariness
of the higher and the servitude of the lower estates.[149] In a land in
which every class had regard only for its own selfish interests, in
which the Diets could be broken up by the whim of a single deputy (the
so-called _liberum veto_), the Government did not concern itself with
the common weal, but pursued its narrow bureaucratic interests. In these
circumstances the Jews, being oppressed by all the Polish estates, were
gradually deprived of their principal support, the authority of the
king, which had formerly exercised a moderating influence upon the
antagonism of the classes. True, at the Coronation Diets of Augustus II.
and Augustus III. the old Jewish privileges were officially ratified,
but, in consequence of the prevailing chaos and disorder, the rights,
confirmed in this manner, remained a scrap of paper. Limited as these
rights were, their execution depended on the constant watchfulness of
the supreme powers of the state and on their readiness to defend these
rights against the encroachments of hostile elements. As a matter of
fact, the heedless "Saxon kings," being neglectful of the general
interests of the country, had no special reason to pay attention to the
interests of the Jews. The only concern of the Government was the
regular collection of the head-tax from the Kahals. This question of
taxation was discussed with considerable zeal at the "pacific" Diet of
1717, which had been convened in Warsaw for the purpose of restoring law
and order in the country, sorely shaken by the protracted war with the
Swedish king Charles XII. and the inner anarchy accompanying it. Despite
the fact that the Jews had been practically ruined during that period of
unrest, the amount of the head-tax was considerably increased.

The local representatives of the Government, the voyevodas and
starostas,[150] whose function was to defend the Jews, frequently became
the most relentless oppressors of the people under their charge. These
provincial satraps looked upon the Jewish population merely as the
object of unscrupulous extortion. Whenever in need of money, the
starostas resorted to a simple contrivance to fill their pockets: they
demanded a fixed sum from the local Kahal, and threatened, in case of
refusal, imprisonment and other forms of violence. All they had to do
was to send to jail some member of the Jewish community, preferably a
Kahal elder or an influential representative, and the Kahal was sure to
pay the demanded sum. Occasionally this well-calculated exploitation was
relieved by the aimless mockery of these despots, who were unable to
restrain their savage instincts. Thus the Starosta of Kaniev, in the
Polish Ukraina, desiring to compensate a neighboring landowner for the
murder of his Jewish arendar, gave orders to load a number of Jews upon
a wagon, who were thereupon carried to the gates of his injured neighbor
and thrown down there like so many bags of potatoes. The same Starosta
allowed himself the following "entertainment": he would order Jewish
women to climb an apple-tree and call like cuckoos. He would next
bombard them with small shot, and watch the unfortunate women fall
wounded from the tree, whereupon, laughing merrily, he would throw gold
coins among them.

The most powerful estate in the country, the liberty-loving, or, more
correctly, license-loving Shlakhta, protected the Jews only when in need
of their services. Claiming for himself, in his capacity as slaveholder,
the toil of his peasants, the pan laid equal claim to the toil of the
Jewish business man and arendar who turned the rural products of his
master and the right of "propination," or liquor-selling, into sources
of income for the latter. At one time the Polish landowners even made
the attempt to enslave the Jews on their estates by legal proceedings.
At the Diet of 1740 the deputies of the nobility brought in a
resolution, that the Jews living on Shlakhta estates be recognized as
the "hereditary subjects" of the owners of those estates. This monstrous
attempt at transforming the rural Jews into serfs was rejected solely
because the Government refused to forego the income from Jewish
taxation, which in this case would flow into the pockets of the

Nevertheless the rural Jew was to all intents and purposes the serf of
his pan. The latter exercised full jurisdiction over his Jewish arendar
and "factor"[151] as well as over the residents on his estates in
general. During the savage inroads, frequent during this period, of one
pan upon the estate of another, the Jewish arendars were the principal
sufferers. The meetings of the local Diets (or Dietines) and the
conferences of the Shlakhta or the sessions of the court tribunals
became fixed occasions for attacking the local Jews, for invading their
synagogues and houses, and engaging, by way of amusement, in all kinds
of "excesses." The Diet of 1717 held in Warsaw protested against these
wild orgies, and threatened the rioters and the violators of public
safety with severe fines. The "custom" nevertheless remained in vogue.

As far as the cities are concerned, the Jews were engulfed in endless
litigation with the Christian merchant guilds and trade-unions, which
wielded a most powerful weapon in their hands by controlling the city
government or the magistracy. Competition in business and trade was
deliberately disguised beneath the cloak of religion, for the purpose of
inciting the passions of the mob against the Jews. The Christian
merchants and tradesmen found an enthusiastic ally in the Catholic
clergy. The seed sown by the Jesuits yielded a rich harvest. Religious
intolerance, hypocrisy, and superstition had taken deep root in the
Polish people. Religious persecution, directed against all "infidels,"
be they Christian dissidents or Jews "who stubbornly cling to
irreligion," was one of the mainsprings of the inner politics of Poland
during its period of decay.

The enactments of the Catholic synods are permeated by malign hatred of
the Jews, savoring of the spirit of the Middle Ages. The Synod of Lovich
held in 1720 passed a resolution "that the Jews should nowhere dare
build new synagogues or repair old ones," so that the Jewish houses of
worship might disappear in the course of time, either from decay or
through fire. The Synod of 1733 held in Plotzk repeats the medieval
maxim, that the only reason for tolerating the Jews in a Christian
country is that they might serve as a "reminder of the tortures of
Christ and, by their enslaved and miserable position, as an example of
the just chastisement inflicted by God upon the infidels."


The end of the seventeenth century is marked by the frequency of
religious trials, the Jews being charged with ritual murder and the
desecration of Church sacraments. These charges were the indigenous
product of the superstition and ignorance of the Catholic masses, but
they were also used for propaganda purposes by the clerical party, which
sometimes even took a direct hand in arranging the setting of the crime,
by throwing dead bodies into the yards of Jews, and other similar
contrivances. Such propaganda often resulted in the adoption of violent
measures by the authorities or the mob against the alleged culprits,
leading to the destruction of synagogues and cemeteries and sometimes
culminating in the expulsion of the Jews.

The cases of ritual murder were tried by the highest court, the Tribunal
of Lublin, and, owing to the zeal of the astute champions of the Church,
frequently ended in the execution of entirely innocent persons. The most
important trials of this kind, those of Sandomir (1698-1710), Posen
(1736), and Zaslav (1747), were conducted in inquisitorial fashion.

The Sandomir case was brought about by the action of a Christian woman
who threw the dead body of her illegitimate child into the yard of a
Kahal elder, by the name of Berek,[152] thus giving the clergy a chance
to engineer a ritual murder trial. The case passed through all the
courts of law. It was greatly complicated by the fanatical agitation of
the priest Stephen Zhukhovski, who brought two additional charges of
ritual murder against the Jews of Sandomir, and published, on this
occasion, a book full of hideous calumnies. The case having ended in the
lower courts favorably for the Jews, Zhukhovski succeeded in bringing
about a new trial with the application of tortures and the whole
apparatus of the Inquisition. He finally reached his goal. The Tribunal
of Lublin sentenced the innocent Jewish elder to death; King Augustus
II. ordered, in 1712, the expulsion of all Jews from Sandomir and the
conversion of the synagogue into a Catholic chapel,[153] and the
Catholic clergy placed a revolting picture in the local church
representing the scene of the ritual murder.

To justify the miscarriage of justice, Father Zhukhovski and his
accomplices induced a converted Jew, by the name of Serafinovich, who
posed as a former Rabbi of Brest, and had testified at the Sandomir
trial against the Jews, to write a book, entitled "Exposure of the
Jewish Ceremonies before God and the World" (1716). The book, a mixture
of a lunatic's ravings and an adventurer's unrestrained mendacity,
centers around the argument, that the Jews use Christian blood in the
discharge of a large number of religious and everyday functions. The
Jews are alleged to smear the door of a Christian with such blood, to
predispose the latter in favor of the Jews. The same blood put in an egg
is given to newly-married couples during the marriage ceremony; it is
mixed in the _matza_ eaten on Passover. It is also used for soaking an
incantation formula written by the rabbi, which is then placed under the
threshold of a house, to secure success in business for the Jewish
inmate. In a word, Christian blood is used by the Jews for every
possible form of magic and witchcraft. To convict Serafinovich publicly
of lying, the Jews challenged him to attend a disputation in Warsaw in
the presence of bishops and rabbis. The disputation had been arranged to
be held in the house of the widow of a high official, and both the
Jewish and Christian participants had arrived, but Serafinovich failed
to appear at the meeting, where his trickery and ignorance would have
been exposed. The refusal of the informer to attend the disputation was
attested in an official affidavit. This fact did not prevent an
anti-Semitic monk of Lemberg, by the name of Pikolski, from republishing
Serafinovich's book twice (1758 and 1760) and using it as a tool to
conduct a most hideous agitation against the Jews.

In the large Jewish community of Posen, the slanderous accusations
against the Jews were the reflection of the inveterate hostility of the
local Christian population. Towards the end of the seventeenth century
the Carmelite order in Posen contrived a curious lawsuit against the
Jews, alleging that following upon the desecration of the hosts in
1399[154] the Jews had, by way of penance for their sacrilege, obligated
themselves to accompany the Christian processions. The Jews denied the
allegation, and the case dragged on for a number of years in various
courts of law, with the result that, in 1724, the Jews had to pledge
themselves to furnish the Carmelites with two pails of oil annually to
supply the lamp burning in front of the three hosts in the church.

But the fanaticism of the Church was on the lookout for new victims, and
it manifested itself in 1736 in another ritual murder trial, which
lasted for four years. Everything was pre-arranged in accordance with
the "rites" of the Church fanatics. The dead body of a Christian child
was found in the neighborhood of the city. There was also found a Polish
beggar-woman, who, under torture, confessed that she had sold the child
to the elders of the Posen community. Arrests followed. The first
victims were the preacher, or _darshan_, Arie-Leib Calahora, a
descendant of the martyr Mattathiah Calahora,[155] an elder (_parnas_,
or syndic) of the Jewish community, by the name of Jacob Pinkasevich
(son of Phineas), and several other members of the Kahal administration.
Further wholesale arrests were imminent, but many Jews fled from Posen,
to save themselves from the fury of the inquisitors.

On the eve of his arrest, Calahora chose for the text of his Sabbath
discourse the Biblical verse, "Who can count the dust of Jacob and the
number of the fourth part (or quarter) of Israel? Let me die the death
of the righteous!" (Numbers xxiii. 10). As if anticipating his end, the
preacher explained the text as follows: "Who can count the dust and
ashes of those that were burned and quartered for the faith of Israel?"
While being led to jail, he addressed the crowd of Jews surrounding him
with the following words: "At the hour of my death I shall not have
around me ten Jews for prayer (_minyan_). Therefore recite with me for
the last time the prayer _Borkhu_ ('Praise the Lord of Praise!')." The
forebodings of the preacher were justified. Neither he nor the elder
survived the fiendish tortures of the cross-examination. While the
preacher was tortured, his bones being broken and his body roasted on
fire, the elder was compelled to hold a lamp in his hand to give light
to the executioner. Covered with wounds and blood, in the stage of
mortal agony, they were carried to their homes, where they died in the
autumn of 1736.

The deputies of the Jewish community of Posen appealed to King Augustus
III. against the cruelty and partiality of the municipal court, and
succeeded in having the case transferred to a special judicial
commission consisting of royal officials. Although the commission
resorted equally to tortures during the cross-examination, it was not
able to wrest a confession from the innocent Jewish prisoners.
Nevertheless, being convinced in advance of the correctness of the
ritual libel, the judges sentenced them to be burned at the stake,
together with the bodies of the preacher and elder, which had to be
exhumed for this purpose (1737).

The sentence had first to be ratified by the King, and the Jewish
representatives in Warsaw and Dresden, the latter city being the second
capital of the King and the residence of the papal nuncio, employed
every possible means to bring about a reversal of the judgment. It was
difficult to influence Augustus III., the dull-witted monarch, who, in
addition, was imbued with a goodly dose of anti-Semitism. But the noise
caused by the trial at Posen and the pressure upon the King on the part
of the Jewish bankers of Vienna, particularly the banking-house of
Wertheimer, induced him to yield. After a prolonged interval and a
second revision of the case by a royal commission, the King gave orders
to free the Jews, who had languished in prison for four years (August,
1740). On this occasion he went out of his way to enjoin the magistracy
of Posen not to resort to tortures in similar trials, but he could not
refrain at the same time from prescribing to the Jews "rules of conduct"
after the medieval pattern: not to pass too frequently beyond the
boundaries of their ghetto (which had been preserved in Posen), not to
associate with Christians, nor caress Christian children, nor keep
Christian domestics, nor attend Christian patients, etc.

The favorable issue of the Posen trial was due to the fact that it took
place in a large Jewish community, whose representatives were able to
arouse the public opinion of Western Europe and secure the intervention
of influential persons. But in the distant corners of Poland, in the
obscure Jewish communities of the country, the ritual murder trials were
in the nature of ghastly nightmares. Such was the trial of Zaslav, a
town in Volhynia, which originated in 1747 as the result of a fatal
concatenation of events. In the springtime, when the snow was melting,
the dead body of a Christian was found in a neighboring village, having
been buried beneath the snow for a considerable time. It so happened
that about the same time the functionaries of the Zaslav synagogue
assembled in a neighboring Jewish inn, to celebrate the circumcision of
the new-born son of the innkeeper. A peasant who chanced to pass by the
inn informed the authorities that the Jews had been praying the whole
night as well as eating and amusing themselves, and this suggested to
the Bernardine monks of Zaslav that the celebration had some connection
with ritual murder, the victim of which was the discovered dead body.
The Jewish innkeeper, the Kahal elder, the _hazan_ (cantor), the _mohel_
(surgeon), and the beadle of the Zaslav synagogue, were indicted. The
accused, in spite of dreadful tortures, reiterated that they had
assembled to celebrate a circumcision. Only the youthful beadle Moyshe,
crazed by the tortures, began to murmur something, repeating the words
which were dictated to him by the accusers, though he afterwards
withdrew the confession thus forced from him.[156] The accused were all
sentenced to a monstrous death, possible only among savages. Some of the
accused were placed on an iron pale, which slowly cut into their body,
and resulted in a slow, torturous death. The others were treated with
equal cannibalism; their skin was torn off in strips, their hearts cut
out, their hands and feet amputated and nailed to the gallows. The
memorial prayer for these martyrs concludes with the Biblical words: "O
earth, cover not thou their blood, and let their cry have no place,
until the Lord shall look down from heaven!"

However, the cry of the Zaslav martyrs was drowned by the shouts of the
new victims of the ritual murder myth, which transformed the Christians
who consciously or unconsciously allowed themselves to be infected by
its poison into cannibals.

The Zaslav trial was followed by an uninterrupted succession of ritual
murder accusations, which in the course of fifteen years cropped up
almost annually. The most revolting among them, from the point of view
of the surrounding circumstances, were the trials of Dunaigrod[157]
(1748), Pavolochi[158] and Zhytomir (1753), Yampol[159] (1756),
Stupnitza, near Pshemyshl (1759), and Voislavitza[160] (1760). In the
Zhytomir case, twenty-four Jews were accused of having participated in
the murder of the peasant boy Studzienski. Exhausted by tortures and
prompted by the desire to hasten their end, they confessed to a crime
which they had not committed, and were sentenced to death. Eleven were
flayed alive, while the others saved themselves from death by accepting
baptism. An image of the alleged martyr Studzienski, in the shape of a
figure covered with pins, was spread by the clergy all over the region,
to intensify the hatred against the Jews. In Voislavitza, near Lublin,
the whole Kahal was charged with the murder of a Christian boy for the
purpose of squeezing out his blood and mixing it with the unleavened
bread. The spiritual leaders and elders of the Jewish community were
brought to court. One of the accused, the rabbi, committed suicide while
in jail. The remaining four were sentenced to be quartered. Before the
execution the priest, holding out the promise of leniency, induced the
unfortunate Jews, who had been crazed by their tortures, to embrace
Christianity. The leniency consisted in their being beheaded instead of
being quartered.

Terrorized by these inquisitorial trials, the Jewish communities of
Poland decided, in 1758, to send Jacob Zelig (or Selek)[161] to Rome as
their spokesman, to obtain from Pope Benedict XIV. the promulgation of a
bull forbidding these false accusations against the Jews. In the
application submitted by Zelig it is pointed out that the life of the
Jews of Poland had become intolerable, for "as soon as a dead body is
found anywhere, at once the Jews of the neighboring localities are
brought before the courts on the charge of murder for superstitious
purposes." The application was turned over to Cardinal Ganganelli,
subsequently Pope Clement XIV., who took up the matter very seriously,
and suggested that the Papal Nuncio in Warsaw, Visconti, be instructed
to submit a report of the recent ritual murder trials in Poland. When
the report arrived, Ganganelli composed an elaborate memorandum, in
which, as a result of his investigation of the whole history of the
question, he demonstrated the falsehood of the ritual murder charges
made against the Jews, which had been condemned by the popes in the
Middle Ages, particularly by the bull of Innocent IV. of the year
1247.[162] In the judgment of Ganganelli all the recent Polish trials
were devoid of any basis in fact, and the sentences pronounced by the
courts revolting miscarriages of justice.

Ganganelli's memorandum was examined and approved by the Roman tribunal
of the "Holy Inquisition," and submitted to the new Pope Clement XIII.
The Pope instructed his nuncio in Warsaw to extend his protection to
Zelig, the spokesman of the Jews, on his return to Poland. Subsequently
the nuncio informed the Polish Prime Minister Brühl, that "the Holy See,
having investigated all the foundations of this aberration, according to
which the Jews need human blood for the preparation of their unleavened
bread," had come to the conclusion that "there was no evidence
whatsoever testifying to the correctness of that prejudice" (1763). King
Augustus III. ratified in the same year the ancient charters of his
predecessors, promising the Jews the protection of the law in all ritual
murder cases. Yet it was not easy to eradicate the prejudices which had
been implanted in the minds of the people. Even the educated classes did
not escape their contamination. The contemporary writer Kitovich, in
describing Polish life during the reign of Augustus III., indulges in
the following remark: "Just as the liberty of the Shlakhta is impossible
without the _liberum veto_, so is the Jewish _matza_ impossible without
Christian blood."


Undermined by social and denominational strife, the once flourishing
country was hastening to its ruin. From the election of Stanislav
Augustus Poniatovski to the throne of Poland in 1764, Poland was to all
intents and purposes under the protectorate of Russia. Certain elements
of Polish society began to realize that only by radical reforms could
the country be saved from its impending doom. But it seemed as if the
_régime_ of social and religious fanaticism was too decrepit to pass its
own death-sentence, and awaited its fate from another hand.

In the first years of Stanislav Augustus' reign Polish politics ran in
their accustomed groove. Instead of endeavoring to effect a radical
improvement in the condition of Polish Jewry as one of the most
important elements of the urban population, the new Polish Government
thought only of exploiting them as much as possible for the benefit of
the exchequer. The Diet of 1764, which was held in Warsaw prior to the
election of the King, and discussed the question of internal reforms,
did not consider it necessary to introduce any changes in the status of
the Jews, except to alter the system of Jewish taxation. Formerly the
head-tax had been levied upon all Polish and Lithuanian Jews annually in
a round sum, which the central Jewish agencies, the Waads, or Jewish
Councils, apportioned among the separate Kahals, and the latter, in
turn, allotted to the individual members of the communities. According
to the new "constitution," however, the head-tax, to the extent of two
gulden, was to be imposed on every Jewish soul, and each Kahal was to be
held responsible for the accurate collection from its members. The only
effect of this reform was to swell the total amount of the head-tax,
which as it was weighed heavily upon the Jews, since many sources of
livelihood were closed to them at the same time.

The Shlakhta in turn zealously watched over its class interests, and in
electing the king imposed upon him the obligation of barring the Jews
from the stewardship of crown domains, state taxes, and other financial
revenues. To gratify the hereditary competitors of the Jews--the
Christian burghers and merchants--the Diet of 1768 restored the clause
of the ancient parliamentary Constitution of 1538,[163] by virtue of
which the Jews of those cities where they had not obtained special
privileges were allowed to engage in commerce only with the consent of
the magistracies, and the magistracies were made up of those same
Christian merchants and burghers.

In the meantime, among the Russian population of that portion of the
Ukraina which was situated on the right bank of the Dnieper, and was
still under the sovereignty of Poland, a popular movement arose, which
was directed simultaneously against the Poles and the Jews. It emanated
from the lowest elements of the population, the enslaved village khlops,
who had not yet forgotten the times of Bogdan Khmelnitzki. The memory of
those days when the despised khlops waded in the blood of the proud
Polish pans and the Jews was still fresh in the minds of the Ukrainians,
and made itself felt in moments of political unrest, not infrequent in
the disintegrating body politic of Poland. Fugitive Greek Orthodox
peasants from among the serfs of the pans, itinerant Zaporozhians,[164]
and Cossacks from the Russian part of the Ukraina, often organized
themselves in independent detachments of haidamacks,[165] and indulged
in looting the estates of the nobles or plundering the Jewish towns.
These incursions assumed the character of regular insurrections during
the interregnums and on other occasions of political unrest. Thus, in
1734 and in 1750, detachments of haidamacks, fully organized and led by
Cossack commanders, devastated many towns and villages in the provinces
of Kiev, Volhynia, and Podolia, slaying and robbing many pans and Jews.

The haidamack movement of 1768 was particularly furious. The Russian
Government, which, beginning with the reign of Stanislav Poniatovski,
was practically in control of the affairs of Poland, demanded that the
"dissidents," the Greek Orthodox subjects of the country, be granted not
only complete religious liberty, but also political equality. A
considerable part of the Polish Shlakhta and clergy objected to these
demands, and, seceding from the pro-Russian Government of Poland, formed
the famous Confederacy of Bar,[166] for the defense of the ancient
religious and political order of things against the encroachments of the
foreigners. While the united royal and Russian troops were fighting
against the Confederates, dissatisfaction was brewing among the Greek
Orthodox peasants of the Polish Ukraina. Agitators from among the
Orthodox clergy and the Zaporozhians instigated the peasants to rise for
their faith against the Poles, who had formed the Confederacy of Bar for
the annihilation of Greek Orthodoxy. A fictitious decree of the Russian
Empress Catherine II., known as "the golden Charter," circulated among
the people from hand to hand, giving orders "to exterminate the Poles
and the Jews, the desecrators of our holy religion," in the Ukraina.

The new haidamack movement was headed by the Zaporozhian Cossack
Zheleznyak. Beginning with the month of April of 1768, the rebellious
hordes of Zheleznyak raged within the borders of the present Government
of Kiev, murdering the pans and the Jews and devastating towns and
estates. The haidamacks were wont to hang a Pole, a Jew, and a dog, on
one tree, and to place upon the tree the inscription: "Lakh,[167]
Zhyd,[168] and hound--all to the same faith bound." A terrible massacre
of Jews was perpetrated by the haidamacks in the towns of Lysyanka and
Tetyev, in the province of Kiev.

From there Zheleznyak's hordes moved towards Uman,[169] an important
fortified town, whither, at the first rumor of the rebellion, tens of
thousands of Poles and Jews had fled for their lives. The place was
crowded with refugees to such an extent that the newly-arrived could
find no room in the town itself, and had to camp in tents outside. Uman
belonged to the estate of the Voyevoda of Kiev, a member of the famous
Pototzki family, and was commanded by a governor called Mladanovich.
Mladanovich had at his disposal a Cossack detachment of the court guard
under the command of Colonel Gonta. Despite the fact that Gonta had long
been suspected of sympathizing with the haidamacks, Mladanovich saw fit
to dispatch him with a regiment of these court Cossacks against
Zheleznyak, who was approaching the city. As was to be expected, Gonta
went over to Zheleznyak, and on June 18, 1768, both commanders turned
around and, at the head of their armies, marched upon Uman.

During the first day the city was defended by the Polish pans and the
Jews, who worked shoulder to shoulder on the city wall, fighting off the
besiegers with cannon and rifles. But not all Poles were genuinely
resolved to defend the city. Many of them merely thought of saving their
lives. Governor Mladanovich himself conducted peace negotiations with
the haidamacks, and was reconciled by their assurances that they would
not lay hands on the pans, but would be satisfied with making short work
of the Jews. When the haidamacks, headed by Gonta and Zheleznyak, had
penetrated into the town, they threw themselves, in accordance with
their promise, upon the Jews, who, crazed with terror, were running to
and fro in the streets. They were murdered in beastlike fashion, being
trampled under the hoofs of the horses, or hurled down from the roofs of
the houses, while children were impaled on bayonets, and women were
violated. A crowd of Jews to the number of some three thousand sought
refuge behind the walls of the great synagogue. When the haidamacks
approached the sacred edifice, several Jews, maddened with fury, hurled
themselves with daggers and knives upon the front ranks of the enemy and
killed a few men. The remaining Jews did nothing but pray to the Lord
for salvation. To finish with the Jews quickly, the haidamacks placed a
cannon at the entrance of the synagogue and blew up the doors, whereupon
the murderers rushed inside, turning the house of prayer into a
slaughter-house. Hundreds of dead bodies were soon swimming in pools of

Having disposed of the Jews, the haidamacks now proceeded to deal with
the Poles. Many of them were slaughtered in their church. Mladanovich
and all other pans suffered the same fate. The streets of the city were
strewn with corpses or with mutilated, half-dead bodies. About twenty
thousand Poles and Jews perished during this memorable "Uman massacre."

Simultaneously smaller detachments of haidamacks and mutinous peasants
were busy exterminating the Shlakhta and the Jews in other parts of the
provinces of Kiev and Podolia. Where formerly the hordes of Bogdan
Khmelnitzki had raged, Jewish blood was again flowing in streams, and
the cries of Jewish martyrs were again heard. But this time the
catastrophe did not assume the same gigantic proportions as in 1648.
Both the Polish and Russian troops co-operated in suppressing the
haidamack insurrection. Shortly after the massacre of Uman, Zheleznyak
and Gonta were captured by order of the Russian General Krechetnikov.
Gonta with his detachment was turned over to the Polish Government, and
sentenced to be flayed alive and quartered. The other haidamack
detachments were either annihilated or taken prisoner by the Polish

In this way the Jews of the Ukraina became a second time the victims of
typical Russian pogroms, the outgrowth of national and caste antagonism,
which was rending Poland in twain. The year 1768 was a miniature copy of
the year 1648. A commonwealth in which for many centuries the
relationship between the various groups of citizens was determined by
mutual hatred, could not expect to survive as an independent political
organism. A country in which the nobility despised the gentry, and both
looked down with contempt upon the calling of the merchant and the
burgher, and enslaved the peasant, in which the Catholic clergy was
imbued with hatred against the professors of all other creeds, in which
the urban population persecuted the Jews as business rivals, and the
peasants were filled with bitterness against both the higher and the
lower orders--such a country was bound to perish. And Poland did perish.

The first partition of Poland took place in 1772, transferring the
Polish border provinces into the hands of the three neighboring
countries, Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Russia received the
southwestern border province: the larger part of White Russia, the
present Governments of Vitebsk and Moghilev. Austria took the
southwestern region: a part of present-day Galicia, with a strip of
Podolia. Prussia seized Pomerania and a part of Great Poland,
constituting the present province of Posen. The annexed provinces
constituted nearly a third of Polish territory, with a population of
three millions, comprising a quarter of a million Jews.[170] The great
Jewish center in Poland enters into the chaotic "partitional period"
(1772-1815). Out of this chaos there gradually emerges a new Jewish
center of the Diaspora--that of Russia.


[120] [Pronounced _Ookraïna_. The spelling "Ukraine" is less correct.
The meaning of the word is "border," "frontier."]

[121] [The author refers to the compulsory establishment of the
so-called Uniat Church, which follows the rites and traditions of the
Greek Orthodox faith, but submits at the same time to the jurisdiction
of the Roman See. The Uniat Church is still largely represented in
Eastern Galicia among the Ruthenians.]

[122] [A contemptuous nickname for Pole.]

[123] [The word "Cossack," in Russian, _Kazak_ (with the accent on the
last syllable), is derived from the Tataric. "Cossackdom"--says
Kostomarov, in his Russian standard work on the Cossack uprising
(_Bogdan Khmelnitzki_, i. p. 5)--"is undoubtedly of Tataric origin, and
so is the very name _Kozak_, which in Tataric means 'vagrant,' 'free
warrior,' 'rider.'" Peter Kropotkin (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th
edition, vii. 218) similarly derives the word from Turki _Kuzzãk_,
"adventurer," "freebooter."]

[124] [Derived from the German word _Hauptmann_.]

[125] [From the Russian word _Za porogi_, meaning "beyond the Falls"
(scil. of the Dnieper).]

[126] [Literally, "cutting," _i. e._ the cutting of a forest. Originally
the Cossacks entered those regions as colonists and pioneers.]

[127] According to legend, the chief of the district had pillaged
Khmelnitzki's tent, carried off his wife, and flogged his son to death.

[128] [In Polish, _Pokucie_, name of a region in the southeast of the
Polish Empire, between Hungary and the Bukowina. Its capital was the
Galician city Kolomea.]

[129] The clause in question runs as follows: "The Jews, even as they
formerly were residents and arendars on the estates of his Royal
Majesty, as well as on the estates of the Shlakhta, shall equally be so
in the future."

[130] [See p. 98, n. 2.]

[131] [Allusion to Amos v. 19.]

[132] ["Mire of the Deep," from Ps. lxix. 3.--The Hebrew word _Yeven_ is
a play on _Yavan_, "Greek," a term generally applied to the Greek

[133] See p. 130.

[134] ["Scroll of Darkness" (comp. Amos iv. 13), with a clever allusion
to the similarly sounding words in Zech. v. 1.]

[135] [In Polish _Szczebrzeszyn_, a town in the region of Lublin.]

[136] ["Troublous Times," allusion to Dan. ix. 25.]

[137] ["Door of Repentance."]

[138] [See p. 98, n. 1.]

[139] [_I. e._ son of Mark, or Mordecai. On "syndics" see p. 111, n. 2.]

[140] [Twenty per cent was the legalized rate of interest in Italy at
the end of the fifteenth century. See Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in
the Middle Ages, p. 242.]

[141] We quote the following in abbreviated form. [For the complete text
see the article cited in the next note.]

[142] From the Hebrew text it is not clear whether they offered
themselves voluntarily as victims, or whether they were picked out by
others. According to the local tradition in Ruzhany, the former was the
case. [See Dubnow in the Russian Jewish monthly _Voskhod_, July, 1903,
p. 19, n. 1.]

[143] The corresponding word in Hebrew (שלומים), which is marked with
dots in the original, represents the year of the event: [5]420 _aera
mundi_, which equals 1659 C. E.

[144] _I. e._ they tried to convert the martyrs to Catholicism.

[145] [Allusion to Judges ix. 9, where the English version translates
differently. The Hebrew word for "tree" also signifies "wood," and is
used in polemic literature for "cross."]

[146] [See p. 91, n. 1.]

[147] [See p. 96, n. 1.]

[148] [The Senate formed the upper chamber of the Polish parliament.]

[149] In the "Political Catechism of the Polish Republic," published in
1735, we read the following: "Who is it in this vast country that
engages in commerce, in handicrafts, in keeping inns and taverns?"--"The
Jews." ... "What may be the reason for it?"--"Because all commerce and
handicrafts are prohibited to the Shlakhta on account of the importance
of this estate, just as sins are prohibited by the commandments of God
and by the law of nature."--"Who imposes and who pays the taxes?"--"The
taxes are imposed by the nobility, and they are paid by the peasant, the
burgher, and the Jew."

[150] [See above, p. 46, n. 1, and p. 60, n. 1.]

[151] [More exactly, _faktor_, Polish designation for broker, agent, and
general utility man.]

[152] [Popular Polish form of the Jewish name _Baer_.]

[153] The last order was subsequently repealed.

[154] [See p. 55.]

[155] [See pp. 164 and 165.]

[156] According to another version, he expressed his willingness to
embrace Christianity in order to escape death, but afterwards repented.

[157] [In Podolia.]

[158] [In the province of Kiev.]

[159] [In Volhynia.]

[160] [Near Lublin.]

[161] Another variant of the name is _Jelek_. [The latter form is
declared to be incorrect by A. Berliner, _Gutachten Ganganelli's_
(Berlin, 1888), p. 41.]

[162] Of all the accusations of this kind, the Cardinal recognizes the
correctness of only two, the murder of Simon of Trent in 1475 and of
Andreas of Brixen in 1462, adding, however, that even their death was
not caused by the legendary Jewish ritual, but simply by Jewish "hatred
against the Christians."

[163] [See p. 78.]

[164] [See p. 143, n. 2.]

[165] [A word of uncertain origin meaning "rebel" or "rioter." See p.

[166] [A town in Podolia.]

[167] [See p. 142, n. 1.]

[168] [See p. 320, n. 2.]

[169] [Pronounced _Ooman̄_, with a soft sound at the end. In Polish the
name is spelled _Humań_.]

[170] According to the Polish census of 1764-1766 the number of Jews in
Poland and Lithuania amounted during those years, on the eve of the
partitions, to 621,000 souls.




The fact that the Jews of Poland, despite the general disintegration of
the country, where right was supplanted by privilege and liberty by
license, were yet able to hold their own as an organized social unit,
was principally due to that vast scheme of communal self-government
which had become an integral part of Polish-Jewish life during the
preceding period. Surrounded by enemies, ostracized by all other estates
and social groups, Polish Jewry, guided by the instinct of
self-preservation, endeavored to close its ranks and gather sufficient
inner strength to offer effective resistance to the hostile non-Jewish
world. One of the appeals issued in 1676 by the central organ of Polish
Jewry, the "Council of the Four Lands," begins with these characteristic

    Gravely have we sinned before the Lord. The unrest grows from
    day to day. It becomes more and more difficult to live. Our
    people has no standing whatsoever among the nations. Indeed, it
    is a miracle that in spite of all misfortunes we are still
    alive. The only thing left for us to do is to unite ourselves in
    one league, held together by the spirit of strict obedience to
    the commandments of God and to the precepts of our pious
    teachers and leaders.

These sentences are followed by a set of paragraphs calling upon the
Jews of Poland to obey without murmuring the mandates of their Kahals,
to refrain from farming state taxes, from accepting the stewardship of
Shlakhta estates, and entering into business partnership with non-Jews
without the permission of the Kahals, for the reason that such
enterprises are bound to result in conflicts with the Christian
population and in complaints on their part about the Jews. The Council
also forbids "intrusting Jewish goods to strange hands," resorting to
the intervention of the Polish authorities for purposes injurious to the
interests of the community, generating schisms and party strife among
Jews, and similar actions.

The rabbinical Kahal administration endeavored to impose its will upon
every single member of the community by regulating his economic and
spiritual life, and to prevent as far as possible his coming in contact
with the outside world. The greatest assistance in this endeavor came
from the Polish Government. Attaching great value to the Kahal as a
convenient tool for the collection of Jewish taxes, the Government
bestowed upon it vast administrative and judicial powers. The Government
found it to its interest to deal with the Jewish communities rather than
with individual Jews. The Kahal was held responsible by the Government
for the action of every one of its members or for any inaccuracy of the
latter in the payment of taxes. The Kahal extended its influence in
proportion to its responsibility. This tutelage of the Kahal resulted in
strengthening the social organization of the Jews, while it curbed at
the same time the personal liberty of its members to a greater extent
than was demanded even by the strictest social discipline.

As far as the Polish Government was concerned, the Kahal was
particularly valued as a responsible collecting agency among the Jews on
behalf of the exchequer. At the sessions of the Waads, the wholesale
amount of the Jewish head-tax (designated as _gulgoleth_ in the Jewish
sources) was periodically fixed and apportioned among the Kahal
districts. Within these Kahal districts as well as in the individual
communities the apportionment of the taxes was the function of the local
Kahal elders, who were in charge of the tax collection, and were held
responsible for its being accurately remitted to the exchequer. In 1672
the King bestowed upon the Kahal elders of Lithuania the right of
excluding from the community or of punishing by other measures those
recalcitrant members of their Kahals who by their acts were likely to
arouse the resentment of the Christian population against the Jews. Ten
years later the Starosta of Brest issued a rescript forbidding the pans
to lend money to private persons among the Jews without the knowledge of
the Kahal elders. This was done in compliance with the request of these
elders themselves, since they were held responsible for the insolvent
debtors of their respective districts. On a previous occasion, at a
conference of the representatives of the Lithuanian communities held in
1670, it was decided to prosecute every Jew who borrowed money from the
pans or priests without the knowledge of their Kahal. The Voyevoda of
Lemberg in 1692 forbade letting the collection of various state imposts,
such as the excise on distilleries and retail sale of spirits, to Jews
unless they produced a certificate of the Kahal elders testifying to
their good conduct. The right of owning real estate or exploiting
articles of revenue (leases and land-rent) was granted to private
persons only with the permission of the Kahal (_hazaka_). Without this
license and the payment of a special tax (_hezkath yishub_) no Jew was
allowed to settle in a given locality or to enroll his name in the

The limits of Jewish communal autonomy were not precisely laid down by
the law of the state. They were enlarged or contracted in accordance
with the will of the provincial administration, the voyevodas and
starostas,[171] and the agreements between these officials and the
Kahals concerning their respective spheres of influence. The model of a
free communal constitution may be found in the statute granted by the
Voyevoda of Red Russia (Galicia) in 1692 to the central Kahal of
Lemberg. This statute authorizes the Jewish community to hold periodic
elections, to choose its elders "in accordance with its customs and
rights," without the slightest interference on the part of the local
administration. The chosen elders are recognized as the lawful officials
and judges of their coreligionists in a given locality. Disputes and
litigation between Jew and Jew are in the first instance to be settled
exclusively by the Kahal court (_beth-din_), consisting of rabbis and
elders, the latter acting as a jury. Cases between Jews and non-Jews as
well as appeals from the decisions of the Beth-Din are to be tried by
the voyevoda court and the special "Jewish judge" attached to it, the
latter being a Christian official especially appointed for such cases.
This judge is to be selected by the voyevoda from two candidates
nominated by the Jewish elders. His function is to settle disputes and
complaints "in a definite place near the synagogue" (in the "Kahal
chamber"), in the presence of the Kahal elders. In his verdicts the
"Jewish judge" is to be guided not only by the general laws of the
state, but also by the Jewish common law. The regular sessions of the
court are to take place twice a week. In special cases extra sessions
may be arranged for on any day with the exception of the Jewish
holidays. Subpoenas are issued through the synagogue beadle, or
_shamash_.[172] The protocols of the court are to be kept in the Kahal
chamber near the synagogue. The appeals from the judgments of this court
are to be submitted to the voyevoda himself.

The elections of the various grades of Kahal elders[173] were held, as
in former years, annually during the intermediate days of Passover. This
custom had legal sanction, and was enforced by the local authorities.
When, in 1719, the elders of the Kahal of Brest, prompted by personal
considerations, were, in spite of the approach of Passover, delaying the
holding of new elections, the Lithuanian hetman[174] sent an order from
Vilna branding the act of the Kahal of Brest as illegal, on the ground
that, "though obliged by law and custom to hold new elections of elders
every Passover, they have not done so, delaying the elections for their
own personal benefit."

The elections were indirect, taking place through a limited number of
electors, and only persons of fairly high financial standing, such as
house-owners or large tax-payers, were allowed to be candidates. As a
matter of fact, intellectual qualifications were no less valued than
financial standing, scholars occupying an honorable place in the
communal council.

The Kahal administration was thus oligarchic in character. The lower and
poorer classes had no representation in it, and, as a result, their
interests frequently suffered. In the eighteenth century complaints,
coming from the Jewish rank and file, are constantly heard about the
oppression of the Kahal "bosses," about the inequitable apportionment of
taxes, and similar abuses.

During the same period litigation between individual Kahals frequently
arose concerning the boundaries of their respective districts. This
litigation was due to the fact that the Jewish residents of the townlets
and villages were subject to the jurisdiction of the nearest Kahal,
whose income they helped to swell. Since, however, the Kahal districts
had never been officially delimited, several Kahals would occasionally
lay claim to the control of the neighboring townlets and settlements
(called in Hebrew _sebiboth_ and _yishubim_, and in the official
language _prikahalki_[175]). Cases of this kind were brought either
before the conferences of the District Kahals or the two central
parliamentary institutions of Polish Jewry, the "Council of the Four
Lands" and the "Council of the Principal Communities of Lithuania."

The centralization of Jewish self-government in these two Councils--that
of the Crown and of Lithuania--was one of the main factors in
stabilizing Jewish autonomy during that period of instability and
disintegration. The meetings or Diets of these Councils, which were
attended by the representatives of the Kahals and the rabbinate,
afforded a regular opportunity for discussing the questions affecting
the general welfare of the Polish Jews and for establishing well-defined
relations with the Government and the Diets of the country. Attached to
the Waads were special advocates (_shtadlans_, designated as "general
syndics" in the Polish documents), who went to Warsaw during the
sessions of the Polish Chamber for the purpose of submitting the
necessary applications in defense of Jewish rights or of presenting the
taxation lists of the Jewish communities. The Waad of the Crown
continued to meet periodically in Lublin, and Yaroslav (in Galicia), and
occasionally in other places, while the Lithuanian Council assembled in
different towns in Lithuania.

The activity of these central agencies of self-government was
particularly intensified in the latter part of the seventeenth century,
when the state of communal affairs, sorely shaken during the preceding
period of unrest, had to be restored. The Government upheld the
authority of the Waads in the eyes of the Jewish population, finding it
more convenient to maintain relations with one or two central
organizations than to deal with a large number of local agencies. In
1687 the "Jewish Elders of the Crown" (of Poland proper), acting on
behalf of the Council at Yaroslav, lodged a complaint with King
Sobieski, declaring themselves unable to assume the responsibility for
the collection of the Jewish head-tax to the amount fixed by the
preceding Polish Diet, owing to the fact that many Jews in the cities
and villages, benefiting by the protection of the pans and even the
royal officials, refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the "Elders
of the Crown" and shirked their duty as tax-payers. In view of this, the
King issued a decree condemning in strong terms "such interference and
disorder," and enjoining the individual Kahals to submit to the
apportionment of taxes by the Elders of the Crown, and altogether to
acknowledge their jurisdiction in general Jewish affairs, under the pain
of severe fines for the disobedient.

The gradual deterioration of social and economic conditions in Poland
rendered the activities of the Waads more complicated. The Waads were
now called upon to regulate also the inner affairs of the communities as
well as their relations to the Government and the urban estates, the
magistracies and guilds. It cannot be said that the Waads exhibited on
all occasions an adequate understanding of the political situation, or
that they did full justice to the far-reaching demands of a truly
popular representation. They were too little democratic in their
composition to accomplish so large a task. The delegates to the Waads
were not elected by the communities with this end in view, but were
recruited from among the rabbis and elders of the principal communities,
the notables and "influential men." However, in spite of their
inadequate, oligarchic organization, the Waads were largely instrumental
in unifying communal Jewish life and in enhancing discipline in
Polish-Lithuanian Jewry.

One of the most important duties of the Waads was the maintenance of
Jewish public schools, the Talmud Torahs and yeshibahs, which at
communal expense imparted religious instruction primarily to poor
children and youths. From the minutes of the Lithuanian Waad which have
come down to us we learn of the fact that every one of its conferences
placed at the head of its enactments a number of clauses providing for
the obligatory instruction of the young in yeshibahs throughout the
country, for the maintenance of the students by the various communities
in cash and in kind, and for the formulation of the curricula and the
statutes of all these institutions of learning. No wonder that the
endeavors of the Waad were crowned with success, and that the
intellectual level of the Jews of Lithuania was very high. It must be
owned, however, that their mental horizon was not large, inasmuch as the
whole course of study, even in the highest schools, was limited to the
Talmud and rabbinic literature.

Furthermore, the Council of the Four Lands established a control over
the books issued by the printing-presses of Cracow and Lublin, or
imported from abroad. Only such books were allowed to circulate as were
supplied with a printed approbation, or _haskama_, of the Waad or some
authoritative rabbis. Very frequently the Waad also intervened in the
struggle of parties and sects which, as will be seen later,[176]
followed the rise of the Sabbatian movement.

Many public functions which lay outside the sphere of activity of the
central Waads were discharged by the local District conventions, or
"Dietines" (_waade medinah_, or _waade galil_), the latter acting as the
agencies of the Kahal federations of the given region. In official
language these District federations were often designated as
"synagogues." Especially prominent during this period were the
"Volhynian Synagogue," _i. e._ the federation of the Kahals of Volhynia,
and the "White Russian Synagogue," composed of the federated communities
of the present Government of Moghilev. The former sent its
representatives to the Council of the Four Lands, while the latter was
affiliated with the Waad of Lithuania. The periodic conventions of these
two "synagogues" not only decided the allotment of taxes within the
Kahal districts, but also took up questions of a general character, such
as the sending of advocates to the general Polish Diet, the instructions
to be given to the deputies of the central Waads, the problem of Jewish
education, the rabbinate, etc. Less noticeable was the activity of the
Kahal federations of the three "Crown provinces": Little Poland with the
central community of Cracow, Great Poland with Posen, and Red Russia
with Lemberg. We know, however, that they too assembled periodically,
either at the initiative of the Kahals themselves or by order of the
voyevoda of a given province. These conventions or "Dietines" had their
"floor leaders" or "marshals," after the pattern of the provincial
Polish Diets. At least such was the insistent demand of the voyevodas,
who preferred to transact their official business with the responsible
leaders of the conferences. The interference of the administration in
the affairs of the Jewish autonomous organization became particularly
frequent in the first part of the eighteenth century, when political
anarchy in Poland reached its climax.

The whole Kahal organization received a severe blow at the hands of the
Polish Government in 1764. The General Confederacy which preceded the
election of King Stanislav Augustus, having framed a new "constitution,"
decided to change fundamentally the system of Jewish taxation. Instead
of the former procedure of fixing the amount of the head-tax _in toto_,
and leaving its allotment to the Districts and individual communities to
the conferences of the elders and Kahals, the Diet passed a resolution
imposing a uniform tax of two gulden on every registered Jewish soul of
either sex, beginning with the first year after birth. This change was
justified on the ground that, in the opinion of the Government, the
previous wholesale system of taxation enabled the Kahals to collect from
the tax-payers a much larger sum than originally determined upon.
Moreover, simultaneously with the head-tax other imposts were levied by
the Kahals. This resulted in burdening the Jewish population and in
hiding its true tax-paying capacity from the Government, while according
to the new system the exchequer was likely to receive a much larger

To secure the accurate collection of the head-tax, a general
registration of the Jewish population in the whole country was ordered.
The taxes of each community were to be remitted by its Kahal elders to
the nearest state treasury. In consequence, the functions of the
Kahals, as far as the apportionment of the taxes was concerned, were
officially discontinued, and the Kahal elders became mere go-betweens,
who handed over the tax revenues to the exchequer. The Government ceased
to recognize the rôle of the Kahal as a fiscal agent, which it had
formerly valued so greatly, and no more considered it necessary to
uphold the authority of this autonomous organization. The whole
machinery of Jewish self-government, all these Diets and Dietines, the
Waads and District conferences, suddenly became superfluous, if not
injurious, in the eyes of the Government. No wonder then that the same
Diet of 1764 passed a resolution forbidding henceforth the holding of
conventions of District elders for the fixation or distribution of any
tax collections or for any other purpose.

This limitation of the activities of the Kahals and the entire abolition
of the central agencies of Jewish autonomy took place on the eve of the
abolition of political independence in Poland itself, eight years before
its first partition. We shall see later that the subsequent period of
unrest, marked by the transfer of the greater part of Polish territory
to the dominion of Russia, introduced even greater disorder into the
once so firmly consolidated autonomous organization of the Jews, and
robbed the Jewish people of one of the mainstays of its national


The social and economic decline of the Polish Jews, which set in after
1648, was not conducive to widening the Jewish mental horizon, which had
been sharply defined during the preceding epoch. Even at the time when
Polish-Jewish culture was passing through its zenith, Rabbinism reigned
supreme in school and literature. Needless to say there was no chance
for any broader intellectual currents to contest this supremacy during
the ensuing period of decline. The only rival of Rabbinism, whose
attitude was now peaceful and now warlike, was Mysticism, which was
nurtured by the mournful disposition of a life-worn people, and grew
into maturity in the unwholesome atmosphere of Polish decadence.

The intensive Talmudic culture, which had been fostered by many
generations of rabbis and rosh-yeshibahs was not distributed evenly. In
those parts of the country which had suffered most from the horrors of
the "terrible decade" (1648-1658), in the Polish Ukraina, Podolia, and
Volhynia, the intellectual level of the Jewish masses sank lower and
lower. Talmudic learning, which was formerly widespread among the Jews
of those provinces, now became the possession of a narrow circle of
scholars, while the lower classes were stagnating in ignorance and
superstition. A firmer position was still held by Rabbinism in Lithuania
and in the original provinces of Poland. But here too the intellectual
activity became pettier and poorer, not so much in quantity as in
quality. It is still possible to enumerate a large number of names of
great Talmudists and rabbis, who commanded the respect and admiration
not only of the Jews of Poland but also of those outside of it. But in
the domain of literary productivity these scholars did not leave so
profound an impress on posterity as their predecessors, Solomon Luria,
Moses Isserles, Mordecai Jaffe, and Meïr of Lublin.

Even within the narrow sphere of the rabbinic literary output
originality was sadly missing. The "stars" of Rabbinism who were engaged
in learned correspondence (_Shaaloth u-Teshuboth_) with one another
were, as a rule, immersed in fruitless controversies about complicated
and petty cases of religious and legal practice, frequently degenerating
into the discussion of questions which do not arise in real life. Others
wrote diffuse hair-splitting commentaries and _novellae_ (_hiddushim_)
on various tractates of the Talmud, including those which had long lost
all legal significance. Thus Aaron Samuel Kaidanover, Rabbi of Cracow,
who had narrowly escaped the massacres of 1648, commented on the section
dealing with the sacrifices and the ancient ritual of the temple in
Jerusalem (_Birkhath ha-Zebah_[177]). Still others wrote annotations and
supplements to the _Shulhan Arukh_.[178] Lithuania, in particular,
excelled by the number of its celebrities in the field of rabbinic
scholasticism, all men who refused to acknowledge any branch of secular
and even religious knowledge outside the domain of Talmudic dialectics.

A rare exception among these scholars was Jehiel Halperin (ab.
1670-1746), rabbi of Minsk, who wrote an extensive historic chronicle
under the name of _Seder ha-Doroth_, "The Order of the Generations."
Halperin's work, which is divided into three parts, narrates in the
first the events of Jewish history from Biblical times down to the year
1696. The second part enumerates, in alphabetical order, the names of
all the Tannaim and Amoraim,[179] and cites the opinions and sayings
attributed to each of them in the Talmud. The third part contains a list
of authors and books of the post-Talmudic period. The original
contribution of Halperin consists in his having systematized the
extremely complicated material, and rendered it available for a
characterization of the Talmudic rabbis. In all else he merely copied
earlier chroniclers, particularly David Gans,[180] without any attempt
at a critical analysis. He even fails to render account of such
important events of his own time as the Messianic movement of Sabbatai
Zevi. The essence of history to him is identical with the genealogies of
scholars, saints, and rabbis; the only reason for existence which in his
judgment historiography may claim is to serve as the handmaid of
Rabbinism. Even this outlook upon history, narrow though it be, was
entirely foreign to Halperin's contemporaries.

Side by side with the scholastic literature of Rabbinism flourished
popular ethical literature (_musar_[181]). Its originators were the
preachers (_darshanim_), some of whom occupied permanent posts attached
to synagogues, while others wandered about from town to town. The
synagogue sermons of that period, which have come down to us in various
collections,[182] consist of a long string of Haggadic and Cabalistic
quotations, by means of which the Biblical texts are given an entirely
perverted meaning. The preachers were evidently less anxious to instruct
their audience than to exhibit their enormous erudition in theological
literature. Some of these preachers endeavored in particular to foist
upon the people the notions of the "Practical Cabala."[183] The "secret"
writings of Ari[184] and his school were circulated in Poland in
manuscript copies, which went from hand to hand. The ideas embodied in
the Cabalistic doctrine of Ari were popularized in the shape of
"gruesome stories" concerning life after death, the tortures of the
sinners in hell, the transmigration of souls, and the exploits of

The books which endeavored to inculcate piety among the masses by means
of these stories became rapidly popular. Towards the end of the
seventeenth century, the Cabalist Joseph Dubno wrote a work in this
spirit under the title _Yesod Yoseph_, "Foundation of Joseph." Prior to
its publication, Dubno's work was utilized by Hirsch Kaidanover, a son
of the above-mentioned rabbi of Cracow, Aaron Samuel Kaidanover,[185]
and issued by him in an improved and amplified version in
Frankfort-on-the-Main, in 1705, under the name _Kab ha-Yashar_, "The
Just Measure." A few years later the book was published also in the
Yiddish vernacular, and became a great favorite among the lower classes
as well as among women.

The _Kab ha-Yashar_ breathes a spirit of gloomy asceticism, and is
expressive of a funereal frame of mind. "O man,"--the author
exclaims--"wert thou to know how many demons thirst for thy blood, thou
wouldst abandon thyself entirely, with heart and soul, to Almighty God!"
The air, according to the doctrine preached in this book, is filled with
the invisible spirits of the dead who can find no rest in the other
world, and teems with the wandering shadows of sinners and demons, who
frequently slip into living beings and force them to rage like madmen.
Scores of "reliable" stories are quoted, telling of the conflicts
between men and demons and of the exploits of miracle-workers who have
exorcised the evil spirits by means of incantations.

Prominent among these stories is an account of the expulsion of devils
from a house in Posen, which produced a great sensation at the time.
Evil spirits had been constantly haunting the inhabitants of the house.
At first they sought advice of the local Jesuit priests. When the remedy
employed by the latter proved of no avail, the inhabitants invited the
famous magician and miracle-worker Joel Baal-Shem[186] from
Zamoshch.[187] The miracle-worker subjected the demons to a regular
cross-examination, demanding an explanation why they refused to abandon
the ill-fated house. At the cross-examination the demons argued that the
house was theirs by inheritance, inasmuch as they were the legitimate
children of the former owner of the house, a Jewish artisan who had had
relations with a female devil. As a result, a conference of the rabbis
of Posen was held in the presence of the above-mentioned miracle-worker,
and their verdict was that the demons had no claim to immovable property
in places populated by human beings, but were limited in their right of
residence to forests and deserts.

Such was the spiritual pabulum on which the Jewish masses were fed by
their leaders. A writer of the beginning of the eighteenth century makes
the observation, that "there is no country where the Jews are so much
given to mystical fancies, devil hunting, talismans, and exorcism of
evil spirits, as they are in Poland." The demand brought forth a supply,
and even the celebrated rabbis frequently devoted themselves to
Cabalistic exercises. One of these was the Rabbi of Ostrog and Posen,
Naphtali Cohen (1640-1719), of whom the following curious incident is
related. After settling in Frankfort-on-the-Main, he made the people
believe that he had discovered a magic formula against fire. As luck
would have it, a fire broke out in his own house, and destroyed a
considerable part of the Jewish quarter. The ill-fated Cabalist was sent
to jail on the charge of careless handling of fire during his
pyrotechnic experiments (1711). After his release from prison Naphtali
Cohen led the life of a wanderer, entering into suspicious relations
with Hayyun, the notorious emissary of the Sabbatian sect, though
afterwards, when Hayyun's heresy had been unmasked in Amsterdam, he
renounced all connection with the heretic. During the contest which for
many years was waged by Emden against Eibeshütz and his mysterious
talismans,[188] the majority of Polish rabbis sided with Eibeshütz.
Evidently they found nothing objectionable in the attempt to cure
diseases by means of cabalistically inscribed talismans.


The mystical and sectarian tendencies which were in vogue among the
masses of Polish Jewry were the outcome of the Messianic movement,
which, originated by Sabbatai Zevi in 1648, spread like wildfire
throughout the whole Jewish world. The movement made a particularly deep
impression in Poland, where the mystical frame of mind of the
Polish-Jewish masses offered a favorable soil for it. It was more than a
mere coincidence that one and the same year, 1648, was marked by the
wholesale murder of the Jews of the Ukraina and the first public
appearance of Sabbatai Zevi in Smyrna. The thousands of Jewish captives,
who in the summer of that terrible year had been carried to Turkey by
the Tatar allies of Khmelnitzki and ransomed there by their
coreligionists, conveyed to the minds of the Oriental Jews an appalling
impression of the destruction of the great Jewish center in Poland.
There can be no doubt that the descriptions of this catastrophe deeply
affected the impressionable mind of Sabbatai, and prepared the soil for
the success of the propaganda he carried on during his wanderings in
Turkey, Palestine, and Egypt.

When, in the year 1666, the whole Jewish world resounded with the fame
of Sabbatai Zevi as the Messianic liberator of the Jewish people, the
Jews of Poland responded with particularly keen, almost morbid

    The Jews--says the contemporary Ukrainian writer
    Galatovski--triumphed. Some abandoned their houses and property,
    refusing to do any work and claiming that the Messiah would soon
    arrive and carry them on a cloud to Jerusalem. Others fasted for
    days, denying food even to their little ones, and during that
    severe winter bathed in ice-holes, at the same time reciting a
    recently-composed prayer. Faint-hearted and destitute
    Christians, hearing the stories of the miracles performed by the
    false Messiah and beholding the boundless arrogance of the Jews,
    began to doubt Christ.

From the South, the Sabbatian agitation penetrated to the North, to
distant White Russia. We are informed by a contemporary monastic
chronicler, that on the walls of the churches in Moghilev on the Dnieper
mysterious inscriptions appeared proclaiming the Jewish Messiah

In the course of the eventful year in which the whole Jewish world raved
about the coming of the Messiah and deputations arrived from all over
the Jewish world at the "Castle of Splendor," Sabbatai's residence in
Abydos, near Constantinople, a delegation was also dispatched by the
Jews of Poland. In this delegation were included Isaiah, the son of
David Halevi, the famous rabbi of Lemberg, author of the Taz,[189] and
the grandson of another celebrity, Joel Sirkis.[190] The Polish
delegates were sent, as it were, on a scouting expedition, being
instructed to investigate on the spot the correctness of the rumors
concerning the Messianic claims of Sabbatai.

When, in the summer of 1666, they were presented to Sabbatai at Abydos,
they were deeply impressed by the sight of the thousands of enthusiastic
admirers who had come from all possible countries to render homage to
him. Sabbatai handed the Polish delegates an enigmatic letter, addressed
to the Rabbi of Lemberg:

    On the sixth day after the resuscitation of my spirit and light,
    on the twenty-second of Tammuz.... I herewith send a gift to the
    man of faith, the venerable old man, Rabbi David of the house of
    Levi, the author of _Ture Zahab_--may he flourish in his old age
    in strength and freshness! Soon will I avenge you and comfort
    you, even as a mother comforteth her son, and recompense you a
    hundredfold [for the sufferings endured by you]. The day of
    revenge is in my heart, and the year of redemption hath arrived.
    Thus speaketh David, the son of Jesse, the head of all the kings
    of the earth.... the Messiah of the God of Jacob, the Lion of
    the mountain recesses, Sabbatai Zevi.

The gift referred to in the letter consisted of a shirt which Sabbatai
handed over to Rabbi David's son, with the instruction to put it on his
aged and feeble father and recite at the same time the words, "May thy
youth be renewed like that of the eagle!"

Having learned from the delegates that a Cabalistic propagandist, by
the name of Nehemiah Cohen, who predicted the coming of the Messiah, had
appeared in Poland, Sabbatai added a postscript to his letter in which
he asked that this "prophet," being the forerunner of the Messiah, be
sent to him speedily. The omniscient Messiah failed to foresee that this
invitation spelled ruin for him. It is generally conceded that the
interview between Nehemiah, the Cabalistic fanatic, and Sabbatai was one
of the causes that accelerated the downfall of the Messiah. After a
Cabalistic argument with Sabbatai, which lasted three days, Nehemiah
refused to acknowledge him as the expected Messiah. While in Adrianople
he revealed Sabbatai's plans to the Turkish authorities, and this led to
the arrest of the pseudo-Messiah and his feigned conversion to Islam.

The news of the hideous desertion of Judaism by the redeemer of the
Jewish people was slow in reaching the Jews of Poland, and when it did
reach them, only a part of his adherents felt it their duty to abandon
him. The more credulous rank and file remained steadfast in their
loyalty, hoping for further miracles, to be performed by the mysterious
savior of Judaism, who had "put on the turban" temporarily in order to
gain the confidence of the Sultan and afterwards to dethrone him. When
Sabbatai died, Poland witnessed the same transformation of political
into mystical Messianism which was taking place at the time in Western

The proximity to Turkey and to the city of Saloniki, the headquarters of
the Sabbatian sect, lent particular intensity to the sectarian movement
in Poland, fomenting a spiritual agitation in the Jewish masses from the
end of the seventeenth down to the end of the eighteenth century. The
main center of the movement came to be in Podolia, part of which had
been annexed by Turkey, after the Polish-Turkish War of 1672, and was
returned to Poland only in 1699 by the Peace Treaty of Carlowitz.

The agitators and originators of these sects were recruited partly from
among the obscure masses, partly from among the Cabalists whose minds
were befogged. At the end of the seventeenth century, a Lithuanian Jew
by the name of Zadok, a plain, ignorant man, who had been an innkeeper,
began to prophesy that the Messiah would appear in 1695. About the same
time a more serious propagandist of the Messianic idea appeared in the
person of the Cabalist Hayyim Malakh. Having resided in Turkey, where he
had been in contact with the Sabbatian circle in Saloniki, Malakh
returned to Poland and began to muddle the heads of the Jews. He
secretly preached that Sabbatai Zevi was the Messiah, and that, like
Moses, who had kept the Israelites in the desert for forty years before
bringing them to the borders of the Promised Land, he would rise from
the dead and redeem the Jewish people in 1706, forty years after his

Malakh's propaganda proved successful, particularly among the ignorant
masses of Podolia and Galicia. Malakh was soon joined by another
agitator, Judah Hasid, from Shidlovitz or Shedletz.[191] Having studied
Practical Cabala in Italy, Judah Hasid returned to his native land and
began to initiate the studious Polish youths into this hidden wisdom.
The circle of his pupils and adherents grew larger and larger, and
became consolidated in a special sect, which called itself "the Pious,"
or _Hasidim_. The members of this sect engaged in ascetic exercises; in
anticipation of the Messiah, they made public confession of their sins
and inserted mystical prayers in their liturgy. Hayyim Malakh joined the
circle of Judah Hasid, and brought over to it his Sabbatian followers.
The number of "the Pious" grew so large that the Orthodox rabbis became
alarmed and began to persecute them. Under the effect of these
persecutions the leaders of the sect started a propaganda for a
mass-emigration to Palestine, there to welcome in triumph the
approaching Messiah.

Many Jews were carried away by this propaganda. In the beginning of
1700, a troop of one hundred and twenty pilgrims started on their way,
under the joint leadership of Judah Hasid and Hayyim Malakh. The
emigrants traveled in groups, by way of Germany, Austria, and Italy,
stopping in various cities, where their leaders, dressed, after the
manner of penitent sinners, in white shrouds, delivered fiery
exhortations, in which they announced the speedy arrival of the Messiah.
The lower classes and the women were particularly impressed by the
speeches of the rigorously ascetic Judah Hasid. On the road the Polish
wanderers were joined by other groups of Jews desirous of visiting the
Holy Land, so that the number of the travelers reached 1300 souls. One
party of emigrants, led by Hayyim Malakh, was dispatched, with the help
of charitable Jews of Vienna, from that city to Constantinople. Another
party, headed by Judah Hasid, traveled to Palestine by way of Venice.

After much suffering and many losses on the journey, during which
several hundred died or remained behind, one thousand reached Jerusalem.
On arriving at their destination the new-comers experienced severe
disappointment. One of the leaders, Judah Hasid, died shortly after
their arrival in the Holy City. His adherents were cooped up in some
courtyard, and depended on the gifts of charitable Jews. The destitute
inhabitants of Jerusalem, themselves living on the charity of their
European brethren, were not in a position to support the pilgrims, who
soon found themselves without means of subsistence. Disillusioned and
discouraged, the sectarians rapidly dispersed in all directions. Some
joined the ranks of the Turkish Sabbatians, who posed as Mohammedans.
Others returned to Western Europe and Poland, mystifying credulous
people with all kinds of wild tales. Still others in their despair let
themselves be persuaded by German missionaries to embrace Christianity.
Hayyim Malakh, the second leader of the pilgrims, remained in Jerusalem
for some time with a handful of his adherents. In this circle symbolic
services, patterned after the ritual of the Sabbatians, were secretly
held, and, as rumor had it, the sectarians performed dances before a
wooden image of Sabbatai Zevi. Having been forced to leave Jerusalem,
the dangerous heretic traveled about in Turkey, where he maintained
relations with sectarian circles. After being banished from
Constantinople by the rabbis, Hayyim Malakh returned to his native
country, and renewed his propaganda in Podolia and Galicia. He died
about 1720.

The ill success of the "Hasidim" failed to check the spread of
sectarianism in Poland. In Galicia and Podolia, the conventicles of
"Secret Sabbatians," dubbed by the people "Shabsitzvinnikes" (from the
name of Sabbatai Zevi), or, in abbreviated form, "Shebsen," continued
as before. These Sabbatians neglected many ceremonies, among them the
fast of the Ninth of Ab, which, because of its being the birthday of
Sabbatai, had been transformed by them from a day of mourning into a
festival. Their cult contained elements both of asceticism and
libertinism. While some gave themselves over to repentance,
self-torture, and mourning for Zion, others indulged in debaucheries and
excesses of all kinds. Alarmed by this dangerous heresy, the rabbis at
last resorted to energetic measures. In the summer of 1722, a number of
rabbis, coming from various communities, assembled in Lemberg, and, with
solemn ceremonies, proclaimed the _herem_ (excommunication) against all
Sabbatians who should fail to renounce their errors and return to the
path of Orthodoxy within a given time.

The measure was partly successful. Many sectarians publicly confessed
their sins, and submitted to severe penances. In most cases, however,
the "Shebsen" clung stubbornly to their heresy, and in 1725 the rabbis
were forced to launch a second herem against them. By the new act of
excommunication every Orthodox Jew was called upon to report to the
rabbinical authorities all the secret sectarians known to him. The act
of excommunication was sent out to many communities, and publicly
recited in the synagogues. But even these persecutions failed to wipe
out the heresy. Secret Sabbatianism continued to linger in the nooks and
corners of Podolia and Galicia, and finally degenerated into the
dangerous movement known as Frankism.


Jacob Frank was born about 1726 in a town of Podolia. His father Judah
Leib belonged to the lower Jewish clergy, among whom all kinds of
perverted mystical notions were particularly in vogue. Judah Leib fell
under suspicion as an adherent of Sabbatianism, and was expelled from
the community, which he had served as rabbi or preacher. He settled in
Wallachia, where little Jacob grew up in an atmosphere filled with
mystic and Messianic fancies and marked by superstition and moral
laxity. From his early youth he showed repugnance to study, and
remained, as he later called himself, an ignoramus. While living with
his parents in Wallachia, he first served as clerk in a shop, and
afterwards became a traveling salesman, peddling jewelry and notions
through the towns and villages. Occasionally young Jacob traveled with
his goods to adjoining Turkey, where he lived for some time in Saloniki
and Smyrna, the centers of the Sabbatian sect. Here, it seems, Jacob
received his nickname Frank, or Frenk, a designation applied in the East
to all Europeans. Between 1752 and 1755 he lived alternately in Smyrna
and Saloniki, and came in contact with the Sabbatians, participating in
their symbolic, semi-Mohammedan cult. It was then and there that Jacob
Frank was struck by the idea of returning to Poland and playing the rôle
of prophet and leader among the local secret Sabbatians, who were
oppressed and disorganized. It was selfish ambition and the spirit of
adventure rather than mystical enthusiasm that pushed him in that

In 1755 Frank made his appearance in Podolia and, joining hands with the
leaders of the local "Shebsen," began to initiate them into the
doctrines he had imported from Turkey. The sectarians arranged secret
meetings, at which the religious mysteries centering around the
Sabbatian "Trinity" (God, the Messiah, and a female hypostasis of God,
the _Shekhinah_) were enunciated. Frank was evidently regarded as the
second person of the Trinity and as a reincarnation of Sabbatai Zevi,
being designated as S. S., _i. e._ Santo Senior,[192] "the Holy Lord."
One of these assemblies ended in a scandal, and turned the attention of
the rabbis to this new agitation.

During the fair held in Lantzkorona,[193] Frank and two score of his
followers, consisting of men and women, had assembled in an inn to hold
their mystical services. They sang their hymns, exciting themselves to
the point of ecstasy by merrymaking and dancing. Inquisitive outsiders
managed to catch a glimpse of the assembly, and afterwards related that
the sectarians danced around a nude woman, who may possibly have
represented the Shekhinah, or _Matronitha_,[194] the third person of the
Trinity. The Orthodox Jews on the market-place, who were not used to
such orgies, were profoundly disgusted by the conduct of the sectarians.
They informed the local Polish authorities that a Turkish subject was
exciting the people and propagating a new religion. The gay company was
arrested, Frank, being a foreigner, was banished to Turkey, and his
followers were delivered into the hands of the rabbis and the Kahal
authorities (1756).

A conference of rabbis was held in the town of Satanov,[195] and scores
of men and women, who had formerly belonged to the Sabbatian sect,
presented themselves to confess their sins and to repent. The sectarians
owned to having committed acts which were subversive not only of the
Jewish religion but also of the fundamental principles of morality and
chastity. The women admitted that they had violated their conjugal
fidelity, and told of the sexual excesses in vogue among the sectarians,
which were justified by mystical speculations. On the basis of all this
evidence, the conference of rabbis in Brody, which met during the
sessions of the Council of the Four Lands, proclaimed a strict herem
against all heretics who had failed to repent, and forbade all contact
with them. They also prohibited the study of the Zohar before the age of
thirty and of the Cabalistic writings of Ari,[196] which were circulated
during that period in manuscript form, before the age of forty in order
to avoid the snares of mystical heterodoxy.

It was then that the excommunicated and persecuted Podolian sectarians,
prompted by their leaders, resorted to a counsel of despair. Their
representatives appeared in the city of Kamenetz-Podolsk before the
Catholic Bishop Dembovski, and declared that the Jewish sect of which
they were members rejected the Talmud as a false and harmful work, that
they only acknowledged the Zohar, the sacred book of the Cabala, and
believed that God was one in three persons, of whom the Messianic
Redeemer was one. This declaration aroused in Bishop Dembovski the hope
of converting the sectarians to Christianity, notwithstanding the fact
that by the "Messianic Redeemer" they understood Sabbatai Zevi, or his
reincarnation, Jacob Frank. The Bishop ordered the publication of the
ambiguous confession of faith of the "Contra-Talmudists" or
"Zoharists"--as the sectarians designated themselves--and decided to
arrange a religious disputation between the Frankists and the rabbis.
The Podolian rabbis received strict orders from the Bishop to send
delegates from their midst to participate in the proposed disputation.
Their failure to appear was to be punished by fines and the burning of
the Talmud.

After considerable preparations, the disputation between the leaders of
the Contra-Talmudists and a number of rabbis took place in Kamenetz, in
the summer of 1757, in the presence of Bishop Dembovski and
representatives of the Catholic clergy. The contest lasted seven days.
The discussions centered around certain peculiar utterances in the
Talmudic Haggada, which the Frankists cited as evidence of the
"blasphemous" character of the Talmud. The rabbis retorted feebly,
hampered by their inadequate mastery of the Polish language; moreover,
when the dispute turned on the fundamental dogmas of Judaism, they
refused to discuss them in the presence of Catholic priests. The Bishop
received the impression that the Talmudists had been defeated. In the
autumn of 1757 he issued a rescript imposing a fine upon the Talmudists,
to be paid out to their opponents, for having insulted them at the fair
of Lantzkorona, and ordering that all Talmud copies found in the diocese
of Podolia be taken away from their owners and delivered to the flames.

The revolting scenes of the time of Louis IX., of France, and Pope Paul
IV. were re-enacted. Thousands of Talmud copies were taken away from the
Jews and carried to Kamenetz, where they were publicly burned on the
market-place. The sectarians witnessed their revenge on their
persecutors and triumphed. It is difficult to say how this triumph would
have ended, had not Bishop Dembovski suddenly died, in November, 1757.
The sectarians were deprived of their mainstay, and became again the
target of the Kahal authorities. In 1758 they finally succeeded in
obtaining a safe-conduct from King Augustus III., but even this could
not rescue them from the uncomfortable position peculiar to those who,
having forfeited the sympathies of their own, have not yet been able to
gain the confidence of strangers.

At that critical juncture the sectarians decided to recall Jacob Frank,
their leader, from Turkey. The latter immediately appeared in Podolia
with a new plan, which, he hoped, would at once rid him and his
adherents of all opponents. In the discourses delivered before his
followers Frank dwelt a great deal on his exalted mission and on the
divine revelations which commanded him to follow in the footsteps of
Sabbatai Zevi. Just as Sabbatai had been compelled to embrace the
Mohammedan faith temporarily, so he and his adherents were predestined
from above to adopt the Christian religion as a mere disguise and as a
stepping-stone to the "faith of the true Messiah." Filled with thirst
for revenge, the sectarians hit upon the fiendish thought of lending the
weight of their testimony to the hideous ritual murder accusation, which
was agitating the whole of Poland at that time, claiming many a victim
in the Jewish ranks.

In 1759 the Frankists were busily engaged in negotiations with the
highest representatives of the Polish Church concerning their proposed
conversion to Christianity. They requested at the same time that they be
allowed to hold a public disputation with the rabbis, whom they hoped to
expose before the non-Jews. The Primate of the Polish Church Lubinski
and the Papal Nuncio Serra received the advances of the Frankists with
considerable skepticism. But the temporary administrator of the diocese
of Lemberg, Canon Mikolski, insisted that their request be complied
with. A second religious disputation between the Talmudists and the
Frankists, presided over by Mikolski, was held in Lemberg, and took up
eleven sessions (July-August, 1759). At this disputation the Orthodox
Jews were represented by a number of Talmudists, headed by the Rabbi of
Lemberg, Hayyim Rapoport, while the cause of the sectarians was
championed by Solomon Shorr and Leib Krysa, the principal associates of
Frank, as well as several learned Catholic theologians.

The sectarians advanced seven theses as a basis for discussion. Six
dealt with the Messianic belief and the dogma of the Trinity, the latter
having been practically adopted by them in its Christian formulation.
The seventh asserted that "the Talmud considers the use of Christian
blood obligatory." The discussion about the first six clauses was rather
tame and conventional, largely owing to the fact that the rabbis, who
were afraid of offending the religious susceptibilities of the
Christians, declined in many cases to state their views. Only when it
came to the last point, the malicious accusation of ritual murder, were
the rabbis energetic in refuting it, protesting vehemently against the
Frankists, who openly appeared as the enemies of their people.

When the disputation was over, the sectarians were called upon to prove
their devotion to Christianity by immediate action. The conversion of
the Frankists began. The baptismal ceremony was performed with great
solemnity in the churches of Lemberg, members of the Polish nobility
acting as sponsors. The neophytes assumed the family names and titles of
their godfathers, and in this way received admission into the ranks of
the Polish nobility. In Lemberg alone 514 men and women, among them Leib
Krysa, Solomon Shorr, and the other fellow-workers of Frank, were
converted in the course of 1759 and 1760. Frank entered Lemberg with
great pomp, riding in a carriage drawn by six horses and surrounded by a
large body-guard. Here he submitted to a preliminary baptism, desiring
to complete the ceremony with greater solemnity in Warsaw. Having
arrived in the Polish capital, Frank petitioned King Augustus III. to
act as his godfather. The King consented, and the conversion of the
sectarian chief to Catholicism took place in November, 1759, with
extraordinary splendor, in the presence of the royal family and the
court dignitaries. At his baptism Jacob Frank assumed the name Joseph.

However, the attitude of the Polish clergy towards the newly-converted
sectarians remained as skeptical as theretofore. Frank's obscure past,
his strange manner of living, the reverence accorded to him by his
followers, who styled him the "Holy Lord"--all this was bound to arouse
the suspicion of the ecclesiastic authorities. The indiscretion of some
Frankists, or perhaps a secret denunciation, confirmed the clergy in
their suspicions. They learned that the conversion of the sectarians had
been an act of hypocrisy, that Frank continued to pose among them as
Messiah and "Holy Lord," and that the Trinity professed by them had very
little in common with the corresponding Christian dogma. They decided to
investigate the matter, and, in case their suspicion should prove true,
to indict the leaders of the sect before the ecclesiastic courts.

In January, 1760, Frank was arrested in Warsaw by order of the highest
Church authorities, and subjected to a searching cross-examination. With
all his astuteness, the chief of the Frankists failed to convince the
judges of his Christian Orthodoxy. Many of the depositions made by his
disciples or by himself only strengthened the case against him. The
ecclesiastic court, having previously ascertained the attitude of Rome
through the Papal Nuncio, sentenced Frank to imprisonment in the citadel
of Chenstokhov and to detention in the local monastery, so as to prevent
all contact with his followers.

Thirteen years (1760-1772) Frank remained in the citadel, but the
Catholic clergy failed in its purpose. The Frankists continued their
relations with the "Holy Lord," who as a suffering Messiah was now
surrounded in their eyes with a new halo. They even managed to penetrate
into Chenstokhov itself, and settled in large numbers on the outskirts
of the town, which, in accordance with old Messianic notions, they
designated as "the gates of Rome."[197] They beheld in Frank's fate a
repetition of the destiny of Sabbatai Zevi, who had been equally kept
prisoner in the castle of Abydos, near the capital of Turkey. They were
inspired by Frank's mystical discourses and epistles, the gist of which
was that their only salvation lay in the "holy religion of Edom," a term
by which he understood a strange medley of Christian and Sabbatian
ideas. The new religion was devoid of any truly religious or moral
element, and the same applies to the life of Frank, who cynically
expressed himself to his followers: "I have come to rid the world of all
the laws and statutes which have been in existence hitherto." There was
nothing reminding one of an apostle about the conduct of the "Holy
Lord," based as it was on mystification and on the endeavor to
accommodate oneself to the environment.

The first partition of Poland put an end to Frank's imprisonment in the
monastery. He was released by the commander of the Russian troops which
occupied Chenstokhov towards the end of 1772. After a brief stay in
Warsaw, where he managed to re-establish direct relations with the
sectarians, Frank, accompanied by his family and a large retinue, left
the boundaries of Poland and settled in Brünn, in Moravia (1773).

The further exploits of this adventurer were performed in a new field,
in Western Europe. In Catholic Austria, Frank assumed the rôle of a
Christian missionary among the Jews, and even succeeded in gaining the
favor of the Court in Vienna. However, his past soon became known, and
he had to leave Austria. Frank settled in Germany, in Offenbach, near
Frankfort-on-the-Main, where he arrogated to himself the title of "Baron
of Offenbach." In his new place of residence, Frank, assisted by his
daughter Eve, or the "Holy Lady," stood at the head of a secret circle
of sectarians, and, supported by his Polish and Moravian partisans, led
a life of ease and luxury.

After the death of Frank, which occurred in 1791, his sect began to
disintegrate, and the flow of gifts for the benefit of the Offenbach
Society gradually ceased. After unsuccessful endeavors to attract
sectarians, Frank's successor, Eve, found herself entangled in debts,
and, pursued by her creditors, died in 1816 in Offenbach. The Frankists
who had stayed in Poland, though outwardly Catholics, remained loyal to
the "Holy Lord" down to the day of his death. For a long time they
intermarried among themselves, and were known in Poland under the name
of "Neophytes." But by and by they were merged with the Catholic
population, gradually losing the character of a sect, and were at last
completely absorbed by their Polish environment.


Frankism proved the grave of Sabbatianism, by turning its dreamy
mysticism into mystification, and its lofty Messianism into the selfish
desire to escape Jewish suffering through disloyalty to Judaism. It was
a grossly negative, materialistic movement, which disregarded the
noblest strivings and the most genuine longings of the Jewish soul. The
need for a deepened religious consciousness, which the formalities of
Rabbinism had failed to satisfy, remained as alive as ever among the
Jewish masses. This need was bound to give rise to a positive religious
movement, which was in harmony with the traditional ideas of the Jewish

In the spiritual life of Polish Jewry the distinction between its two
ethnographic groups, the northwestern, the Lithuanian and White Russian,
and the southwestern, the Polish and Ukrainian, became more and more
accentuated. In the northwest rabbinic scholasticism reigned supreme,
and the caste of scholars, petrified in the ideas of Talmudic Babylonia,
was the determining factor in public life.

    Talmudic scholarship--remarks a contemporary Lithuanian Jew, the
    subsequently famous philosopher Solomon Maimon--constitutes the
    principal object of education among us. Wealth, physical
    attractions, or endowments of any kind, though appreciated by
    the people, do not, in its estimation, compare with the dignity
    of a good Talmudist. The Talmudist has the first claim on all
    offices and honorary posts in the community. Whenever he appears
    at an assembly, all rise before him, and conduct him to the
    foremost place. He is the confidant, the counselor, the
    legislator, and the judge of the plain man.

Matters, however, were different in Podolia, Galicia, Volhynia, and in
the whole southwestern region in general. Here the Jewish masses were
much further removed from the sources of rabbinic learning, having
emancipated themselves from the influence of the Talmudic scholar. While
in Lithuania dry book-learning was inseparable from a godly life, in
Podolia and Volhynia it failed to satisfy the religious cravings of the
common man. The latter was in need of beliefs easier of understanding
and making an appeal to the heart rather than to the mind. He found
these beliefs in the Cabala, in mystic and Messianic doctrines, in
Sabbatianism. He even let himself be carried away by teachings which
ultimately proved heterodox and subversive of the spirit of Judaism.
With the downfall of secret Sabbatianism, which had been utterly
compromised by the Frankists, disappeared the last will-o'-the-wisp of
Messianism, which had beckoned to the groping Jewish masses. It was
necessary to fill the mental void thus created, and provide new food for
the unsatisfied religious longings. This task was undertaken by the new
_Hasidism_ ("Doctrine of Piety"), originated by Besht, a product of
obscure Podolian Jewry.

Israel Baal-Shem-Tob (in abbreviated form BeSHT) was born about 1700 on
the border line of Podolia and Wallachia of a poor Jewish family. Having
lost his parents at an early age, he was cared for by some charitable
townsmen of his, who sent him to a Jewish school, or heder, to study the
Talmud. The heder-learning did not attract the boy, endowed as he was
with an impressionable and dreamy disposition. Israel frequently played
the truant, and was more than once discovered in the neighboring forest
lost in thought. The boy was finally given up as a bad case, and
expelled from school. At the age of twelve, Israel, confronted by the
necessity of earning a livelihood, became a _behelfer_, an assistant
teacher, and, a little later, obtained the post of a synagogue beadle.
In his new dignity, Besht conducted himself rather oddly. In daytime he
slept, or pretended to sleep, but at night, when all alone in the
synagogue, he prayed fervently, or read soul-saving books. Those around
him looked upon him as an eccentric or maniac. He nevertheless persisted
in his course. He delved more and more deeply in the mysteries of the
Practical Cabala, studied the "Ari manuscripts," which were circulated
from hand to hand, and acquainted himself with the art of performing
miracles by means of Cabalistic incantations.

When about twenty years of age, Israel settled in Brody, one of the
principal cities of Galicia, and married the sister of the well-known
rabbi and Cabalist of the town, Gershon Kutover. Kutover at first tried
to interest his brother-in-law in the study of the Talmud, but, finding
him entirely indifferent to this kind of mental occupation, the proud
rabbi, abashed by his relationship with such an ignoramus, advised
Israel to leave Brody. Besht followed the advice, and removed with his
wife to a village between the towns of Kuty and Kosovo. He frequently
retired to the neighboring Carpathian mountains, where in strict
solitude he fasted, prayed, and lost himself in religious speculation.
He eked out an existence for himself and his wife by digging clay in the
mountains, which his wife carried into the city for sale. According to
the Hasidic legend, Israel Besht led this kind of life for seven years.
It was a period of preparation for his subsequent calling. At the end of
his mystical exploits in the Carpathian mountains, Besht lived in the
Galician town of Tlusta, where he occupied minor ecclesiastic positions,
acting in succession as melammed, shohet, and cantor of a synagogue. He
was universally regarded as an ignoramus, no one being aware of his
innermost cravings.

At last, after reaching the age of thirty-six, Besht decided,--by
inspiration from above, as the Hasidim believe,--that the time had come
"to reveal himself to the world." He began to practice as a
_Baal-Shem_,[198] _i. e._ as a magician and Cabalist and to cure
diseases by means of secret incantations, amulets (_kameoth_), and
medicinal herbs. The figure of a wandering Baal-Shem was not unusual
among the Polish Jews of the time, and Besht chose this career, for it
subsequently proved a convenient medium for his religious propaganda. He
traveled about the towns and villages of Volhynia and Podolia, curing
with his herbs and incantations not only Jews, but also peasants and
even pans, who had great faith in magic remedies. He won the reputation
of a miracle-worker, and was nicknamed the "good Baal-Shem" (in Hebrew,
_Baal-Shem-Tob_). The Jewish masses felt that he was not the ordinary
type of conjurer, but a man of righteousness and saintliness. Besht was
frequently called upon to foretell the future, and, opening at random
the Zohar before him, made predictions as suggested by the holy book. In
curing the sick, he resorted not only to herbs and incantations, but
also to prayer. While praying, he often fell into ecstasy and
gesticulated violently.

Besht became the favorite of the masses. Warm-hearted and simple in
disposition, he managed to get close to the people and find out their
spiritual wants. Originally a healer of the body, he imperceptibly grew
to be a teacher of religion. He taught that true salvation lies not in
Talmudic learning, but in whole-hearted devotion to God, in
unsophisticated faith and fervent prayer. When he encountered men of
learning, Besht endeavored to convince them of the correctness of his
views by arguments from the Cabala. But he did not recognize that
ascetic form of Cabala which enjoined upon the Jew to foster a mournful
frame of mind, to kill the flesh, and strive after the expiation of sin
in order to accelerate the coming of the Messiah. He rather had in mind
that Cabala which seeks to establish an intimate communion between man
and God, cheering the human soul by the belief in the goodness of God,
encouraging and comforting the poor, the persecuted, and the suffering.
Besht preached that the plain man, imbued with naïve faith, and able to
pray fervently and whole-heartedly, was dearer and nearer to God than
the learned formalist spending his whole life in the study of the
Talmud. Not to speculate in religious matters, but to believe blindly
and devotedly, such was the motto of Besht. This simplified formula of
Judaism appealed to the Jewish masses and to those democratically
inclined scholars who were satisfied neither with rabbinic scholasticism
nor with the ascetic Cabala of the school of Ari.

About 1740 Besht chose for his permanent residence the small Podolian
town of Medzhibozh. The rôle of sorcerer and miracle-worker gradually
moved to the background, and Besht emerged as a full-fledged teacher of
religion. He placed himself at the head of his large circle of disciples
and followers, who were initiated by him into the mysteries of the new
doctrine, not by way of systematic exposition, but rather in the form of
sayings and parables. These sayings have been preserved by his nearest
disciples, Besht himself having left nothing in writing.

Two ideas lie at the bottom of the "Doctrine of Piety," or the Hasidism,
of Besht: the idea of Pantheism, of the Omnipresence of God, and the
idea of the interaction of the lower and upper worlds. The former may be
approximately defined by the following utterances of Besht:

    It is necessary for man constantly to bear in mind that God is
    with him always and everywhere; that He is, so to speak, the
    finest kind of matter, which is poured out everywhere; that He
    is the master of all that happens in the Universe.... Let man
    realize that when he looks at things material he beholds in
    reality the Divine Countenance, which is present everywhere.
    Keeping this in mind, man will find it possible to serve the
    Lord at all times, even in trifles.

The second fundamental idea is borrowed from the Cabala, and signifies
that there is a constant interaction between the world of the Divine and
the human world, so that not only does the Deity influence human
actions, but the latter exert a similar influence on the will and the
disposition of the Deity.

The further elements of the Besht doctrine follow logically from these
premises. _Communion with God_ is and must be the principal endeavor of
every truly religious man. This communion may be attained by
concentrating one's thoughts upon God, and attributing to Him all
happenings in life. The essence of faith lies in the emotions, not in
the intellect; the more profound the emotions, the nearer man is to God.
_Prayer_ is the most important medium through which man can attain
communion with God. To render this communion perfect, prayer must be
ecstatic and fervent, so that he who prays may, as it were, throw off
his material film. To attain to this ecstatic condition, recourse may be
had to mechanical contrivances, such as violent motions of the body,
shouts, shaking, and so on. The study of Jewish religious legislation is
of secondary importance, and is useful only when it succeeds in arousing
an exalted religious disposition. From this point of view the reading of
ethical books is preferable to the study of Talmudic casuistry and
rabbinical folios.

Contrary to the fundamental precept of the Practical Cabala, Besht
insists that excessive fasting, the killing of the flesh, and ascetic
exercises in general, are injurious and sinful, and that a lively and
cheerful disposition is more acceptable to God. What is most important
in religion is the frame of mind and not the external ceremonies:
_excessive minuteness of religious observance is harmful_. The pious, or
_Hasid_, should serve God not only by observing the established
ceremonies, but also in his everyday affairs and even in his thoughts.
By means of constant spiritual communion with God, man may attain to the
gift of clairvoyance, prophecy, and miracle-working. The Righteous, or
_Tzaddik_, is he who lives up to the precepts of Hasidism in the highest
measure attainable, and is on account of it nearer and dearer to God
than any one else. The function of the Tzaddik is _to serve as mediator
between God and the common people_. The Tzaddik enables man to attain to
perfect purity of soul and to every earthly and heavenly blessing. The
Tzaddik ought to be revered and looked up to as God's messenger and

In this way the doctrine preached by Besht undermined not only
scholastic and ceremonial Rabbinism, but also the ascetic Cabala,
emphasizing in their stead the principle of blind faith in Providence,
of fervent and inspiring prayer, and, last but not least, the dogma of
attaining salvation through the medium of the miracle-working Tzaddik.
The last-mentioned article of faith was of immense consequence for the
further development of Hasidism, and subsequently overshadowed the
cardinal principles of the new movement.

As a matter of fact, the personality of Besht as the first Tzaddik
impressed the people far more than his doctrine, which could be fully
grasped only by his nearest associates and disciples. Among these the
following were particularly prominent: Jacob Joseph Cohen, who occupied
the post of rabbi successively in Shargorod, Niemirov, and Polonnoye;
Baer of Mezherich, a Volhynian preacher and Cabalist; Nahman of Horodno,
Nahman of Kosovo, Phineas of Koretz, all of whom frequently visited
Besht in Medzhibozh. Even the former Rabbi of Brody, Gershon Kutover,
who had once looked down on his brother-in-law as an _Am ha-Aretz_,
acknowledged his religious mission.

About 1750, Besht sent to his brother-in-law Kutover, who had in the
meantime settled in the Holy Land, a kind of prophetic manifesto,
telling of his miraculous vision, or _revelation_. In it Besht asserted
that on the day of the Jewish New Year his soul had been lifted up to
heaven, where he beheld the Messiah and many souls of the dead. In reply
to the petition of Besht, "Let me know, my Master, when thou wilt appear
on earth," the Messiah said:

    This shall be a sign unto thee: when thy doctrine shall become
    known, and the fountains of thy wisdom shall be poured forth,
    when all other men shall have the power of performing the same
    mysteries as thyself, then shall disappear all the hosts of
    impurity, and the time of great favor and salvation shall

Revelations of this kind were greatly in vogue at the time, and had a
profound effect upon mystically inclined minds. The notion spread that
Besht was in contact with the prophet Elijah, and that his "teacher" was
the Biblical seer Ahijah of Shilo. As far as the common people are
concerned, they believed in Besht as a miracle-worker, and loved him as
a religious teacher who made no distinction between the educated and the
ordinary Jew. The scholars and Cabalists were fascinated by his wise
discourses and parables, in which the most abstract tenets of the Cabala
were concretely illustrated, reduced to popular language, and applied to
the experiences of everyday life. Besht's circle in Medzhibozh grew
constantly in number. Shortly before his death, Besht witnessed the
agitation conducted by the Frankists in Podolia and their subsequent
wholesale baptism. The Polish rabbis rejoiced in the conversion of the
sectarians to Catholicism, since it rid the Jewish people of dangerous
heretics. But when Besht learned of the fact, he exclaimed: "I heard the
Lord cry and say: As long as the diseased limb is joined to the body,
there is hope that it may be cured in time; but when it has been cut
off, it is lost forever." There is reason to believe that Besht was one
of the rabbis who had been invited to participate in the Frankist
disputation in Lemberg, in 1759. In the spring of the following year,
Besht breathed his last, surrounded by his disciples.


At the time of Besht's death, his doctrine had gained a considerable
number of adherents in Podolia, Galicia, and Volhynia, who assumed the
name Hasidim. But the systematic propaganda of Hasidism began only after
the death of Besht, and was carried on by his successors and apostles.
His first successor was the preacher Baer of Mezherich, referred to
previously, under whom the little town of Mezherich became the
headquarters of Hasidism in Volhynia, just as Medzhibozh had been in
Podolia. In point of originality and depth of sentiment Baer was vastly
inferior to his master, but he surpassed him in erudition. His
scholarship insured the success of the Hasidic propaganda among the
learned class, and also enabled him to become one of the main exponents
of the theory of Hasidism.[199] In the course of twelve years
(1760-1772) Baer managed to surround himself with a large number of
prominent Talmudists, who had become enthusiastic converts to Hasidism;
some of them came from arch-rabbinical Lithuania and White Russia. Baer
developed the doctrine of Besht, laying particular stress upon the
principle of Tzaddikism. He trained a staff of apostles, who eventually
became the founders of Tzaddik dynasties in various parts of Poland and
Lithuania. Tzaddikism served as a bait for the common people, who,
instead of a rational belief in certain religious truths, preferred to
put their blind faith in the human exponents of these truths--in the

The same tendency characterized the activity of another apostle of
Besht, Jacob Joseph Cohen, who paid for his devotion to Hasidism by
having to endure the persecutions of his rabbinical colleagues. Having
lost the post of rabbi in Shargorod, Cohen, with the aid of Besht,
accepted the position of preacher in Niemirov, and, after the death of
his master, acted as preacher in Polonnoye. Everywhere he was zealously
engaged in propagating the Hasidic doctrine by means of the spoken and
written word. Jacob Joseph Cohen was the first to attempt a literary
exposition of the fundamental principles of Hasidism. In 1780 he
published a collection of sermons, under the title _Toldoth Ya`kob
Yoseph_,[200] reproducing numerous sayings which he had heard from the
lips of Besht. While exalting the importance of the Tzaddiks, who were
solicitous about the salvation of the common people, Jacob Joseph
bitterly assails the arrogant Talmudists, or "pseudo-scholars," whose
whole religion is limited to book-learning, and whose attitude towards
the masses is one of contempt. Jacob Joseph's book laid the foundation
of Hasidic literature, which differs both in content and form not only
from rabbinical but also from the earlier Cabalistic literature.

In the last decades of the eighteenth century, Hasidism spread with
incredible rapidity among the Jewish masses of Poland and partly even of
Lithuania. Numerous communities saw the rise of Hasidic congregations
and the establishment of separate houses of prayer, in which services,
characterized by boundless ecstasy, violent shouts, and gestures, were
held in accordance with Besht's prescriptions. The Hasidim adopted the
Cabalistic prayer-book of Ari, which differed from the accepted liturgy
by numerous textual alterations and transpositions. They neglected the
traditional time limit for morning prayers, changed the ritual of
slaughtering animals, and some of them were in the habit of dressing
themselves in white on the Sabbath. They were fond of whiling away their
time in noisy assemblies, and frequently indulged in merry drinking
bouts, to foster, in accordance with Besht's precept, "a cheerful

The most characteristic trait of the Hasidim, however, was their
boundless veneration of the "holy" Tzaddiks. Though logically the
outcome of Hasidism, in practice Tzaddikism was in many cases its
forerunner. The appearance of some miracle-working Tzaddik in a certain
neighborhood frequently resulted in wholesale conversions to Hasidism.
The Tzaddik's home was overrun by crowds of men and women who in their
credulity hoped to obtain a cure for diseases or a remedy for the
sterility of their women, or who asked for a blessing, for predictions
of the future, or sought advice in practical matters. If, in one case
out of many, the Tzaddik succeeded in helping one of his clients, or if
one of his guesses or predictions proved to be correct, his fame as a
miracle-worker was firmly established, and the population of the
neighborhood was sure to be won over to Hasidism.

The number of Hasidic partisans grew in proportion to the number of
Tzaddiks, of whom there were a great many in the last two decades of the
eighteenth century. The most authoritative Tzaddiks came from the circle
of Baer of Mezherich. Every one of them either laid his own individual
impress upon the doctrine preached by him, or endeavored to adapt
himself to the habits of the population of his district. As a result,
the Hasidic doctrine branched out rapidly, falling into different
varieties. The principal branches of Hasidism were two: that of Poland
and Ukraina, and that of Lithuania and White Russia.

The former was represented by Elimelech of Lizno, in Galicia, Levi
Itzhok of Berdychev, Nohum of Chernobyl, and Borukh of Tulchyn, a
grandson of Besht. Elimelech of Lizno, who died in 1786, carried the
doctrine of practical Tzaddikism to its radical conclusions. He preached
that the first duty of the Hasid consists in reverence for the Tzaddik.
The Tzaddik is "a middleman between Israel and God." Through his
intercession God bestows upon the faithful all earthly blessings--"life,
children, and sustenance"[201]; if the Tzaddik wills otherwise, the flow
of blessings is stopped. The Hasid is therefore obliged to have blind
faith in the Tzaddik, to look upon him as his benefactor, and to give
him of his means. The Tzaddik should be supported by donations in cash
and in kind, so that he may devote himself wholly to the service of God
and thereby prove a blessing to mankind.

This commercial theory of an exchange of services accomplished its
purpose. The people brought their last pennies to the Tzaddik, and the
Tzaddik in turn was indefatigable in bestowing blessings, pouring forth
divine favors upon earth, healing the cripples, curing the sterility of
women, and so on. The profitable calling of Tzaddik became hereditary,
passing from father to son and grandson. Everywhere petty "dynasties" of
Tzaddiks sprang up, which multiplied rapidly and endeavored to wrest the
supremacy from one another. Such was the fate of the cult of the
Righteous taught by Besht, which now assumed gross materialistic forms.

It is fair to add, however, that not everywhere did Tzaddikism sink to
such low depths. There were Tzaddiks who were idealists, lovers of
mankind, and saintly men, however strange the forms in which these
virtues often manifested themselves. One of these men, to quote one
instance, was Levi Itzhok of Berdychev, who in his youth had been
cruelly persecuted by the Lithuanian rabbis for his devotion to
Hasidism. Towards the end of the eighteenth century he settled in
Berdychev as Tzaddik, and became tremendously popular in his new calling
on account of his saintly life and his fatherly love for the common
people. Speaking generally, however, the Ukrainian, Podolian, and
Galician Tzaddiks had one tendency in common, that of inculcating in
their followers a blind faith in the truths of Hasidism and shunning all
"speculation" as injurious to religious sentiment.

The development of Hasidism in Lithuania and White Russia was altogether
different. Whereas in the south Hasidism captured entire communities at
one stroke, meeting with feeble resistance from the dry-as-dust
representatives of Rabbinism, in the north it was forced to engage in a
bitter struggle for existence with powerful Rabbinism as represented by
the Kahal organization. At the same time it received a special coloring
there. The Hasidism of Besht, having been carried to the north by the
disciples of Baer of Mezherich, Aaron of Karlin, Mendel of Vitebsk, and
Zalman of Ladi, could not help absorbing many elements of the dominant
doctrine of Rabbinism. The principal exponent of this new teaching in
the North, Zalman Shneorsohn[202] (died 1813), of Lozno, and later of
Ladi, both in the Government of Moghilev, succeeded in creating a
remarkable system of thought, which may well be designated as "rational
Hasidism." He summed up his theory in the words: "Wisdom, Understanding,
and Knowledge."[203]

While in the main adopting the doctrine of Besht, Zalman injected into
it the method of religious and philosophic investigation. "Speculation"
in matters of faith--within certain limits, of course--was, in his
opinion, not only permissible but even obligatory. He demanded that the
Tzaddik be, not a miracle-worker, but a religious teacher. He purged
Hasidism of numerous vulgar superstitions, robbing it at the same time
of the childlike _naïveté_ which characterized the original doctrine of
Besht. Zalman's own theory was adapted to the comparatively high
intellectual level of the Jewish population of the Northwest. In the
South it was never able to gain adherents.


Rabbinism had long been scenting a dangerous enemy in Hasidism. The
principle proclaimed by Besht, that man is saved by faith and not by
religious knowledge, was in violent contradiction with the fundamental
dogma of Rabbinism, which measured the religious worth of a man by the
extent of his Talmudic learning. The rabbi looked upon the Tzaddik as a
dangerous rival, as a new type of popular priest, who, feeding on the
superstition of the masses, rapidly gained their confidence. The lower
Jewish classes abandoned the uninspiring Talmudist, whose subtleties
they failed to comprehend, and flocked to the miracle-working Tzaddik,
who offered them, not only his practical advice, but also his blessing,
thus saving soul and body at one and the same time. However, completely
defeated by Hasidism in the South, Rabbinism still reigned supreme in
the North, and finally declared a war of extermination against its

During the period under discussion, in the latter part of the eighteenth
century, the leader of the Lithuanian rabbis was Elijah of Vilna
(1720-1797), who received the ancient, high-sounding title of Gaon.[204]
He was the incarnation of that power of intellect which was the product
of subtle Talmudic reasoning. Early in his childhood Elijah displayed
phenomenal ability. At the age of six he managed to read the Talmudic
text without the aid of a teacher. At the age of ten he participated in
difficult Talmudic discussions, amazing old rabbis by his erudition. His
mind rapidly absorbed everything that came within its range. Elijah was
familiar with the Cabala, and incidentally picked up enough of
mathematics, astronomy, and physics, to be able to follow certain
discussions in the Talmud. He lived in Vilna as a recluse, leading the
life of an ascete and burying himself entirely in his books. He took
little nourishment, slept two hours a day, rarely conversed about
secular affairs, his contact with the outside world being practically
limited to the Talmudic lectures which he delivered before his pupils.

Elijah avoided the method of pilpul, which was meant to exercise the
mind by inventing artificial contradictions in the Talmudic text and
subsequently removing them. Knowing by heart almost the entire Talmudic
and rabbinic literature, he had no difficulty in solving the most
complicated questions of Jewish law, and, guided by subtle critical
observations, occasionally allowed himself to emend the text of the
Talmud. Elijah Gaon wrote commentaries and all sorts of "annotations" to
Biblical, Talmudic, and Cabalistic books, but his style was, as a rule,
careless, consisting of hints, references, and abbreviations,
intelligible only to the learned reader. In his spare moments he
occasionally wrote about Hebrew grammar and mathematical sciences.
Rabbinical learning was his native element, embodying for him the whole
meaning of religion. In questions of religious ceremonialism he was a
rigorist, adding here and there new restrictions to the multifarious
injunctions of the _Shulhan Arukh_. He was the idol of all the learned
rabbis of Lithuania and other countries, but the masses understood him
as little as he understood them. A spiritual aristocrat, he was bound to
condemn severely the "plebeian" doctrine of Hasidism. The latter
offended in him equally the learned Talmudist, the rigorous ascete, and
the strict guardian of ceremonial Judaism, of which certain minutiae had
been modified by the Hasidim after their own fashion.

As far back as 1772, when the first Hasidic societies were secretly
organized in Lithuania, and several of their leaders were discovered in
Vilna, the rabbinical Kahal court of that city pronounced, with the
permission of Elijah Gaon, the herem against the sectarians. From Vilna
circulars were sent out to the rabbis of other communities, calling upon
them to wage war against the "godless sect." In many towns of Lithuania
the Hasidim became the object of persecution. The rabbis of Galicia,
having been forewarned from Vilna, followed suit, and at a meeting held
in Brody, during the local fair, issued a most rigorous herem against
every Jew following the Hasidic liturgy, dressing in white on Saturdays
and holidays,[205] and in general participating in the conventicles of
the Hasidim.

We have already had occasion[206] to refer to the work of the Hasidic
apostle Jacob Joseph Cohen (_Toldoth Ya`kob Yoseph_), which for the
first time reproduced the sayings of Besht, and, by way of comment,
indulged in attacks upon the scholastic "pseudo-wisdom" of the rabbis.
Cohen's work, which appeared in 1780, once more stirred the rabbinical
world. From Vilna the signal was given for a new campaign against the
Hasidim. The rabbis of Lithuania, assembling in 1781 at the fair of
Zelva, in the Government of Grodno, issued appeals to all Jewish
communities, demanding the severest possible penalties for "the
dishonorable followers of Besht, the destroyer of Israel." All orthodox
Jews were called upon to ostracize the Hasidim socially, to regard them
as infidels, to shun all contact and avoid intermarriage with them, and
to refrain from burying their dead. The opponents of the Hasidim called
themselves _Mithnagdim_, "Protestants," and persecuted them everywhere
as dangerous schismatics.

The formation of important Hasidic societies in White Russia, under the
leadership of Zalman Shneorsohn, increased the agitation of the
Mithnagdim. At the rabbinical conferences held in Moghilev and Shklov
severe measures were adopted against the Hasidim, and their leader was
proclaimed a heretic. In vain did Zalman defend himself, and, in his
epistles to the rabbis, demonstrate his Orthodoxy. In vain did he travel
to Vilna to obtain a personal interview with Elijah Gaon and remove the
stain of heresy from himself and his followers. The stern Gaon refused
even to see the exponent of heterodoxy. At the very end of the
eighteenth century the strife of parties in Russian Jewry became more
and more accentuated, and finally led, as we shall see later,[207] to
the interference of the Russian Government.

While warring with one another, Rabbinism and Hasidism found a point of
contact in their common hatred of the new Enlightenment, which proceeded
from the Mendelssohn circle in Berlin. If Rabbinism opposed secular
knowledge actively, looking upon it as a competitor who contested its
own spiritual monopoly, Hasidism opposed it passively, with its whole
being, prompted by an irresistible leaning towards mental drowsiness and
"pious fraud." Hasidism and its inseparable companion Tzaddikism, the
products of a mystical outlook on life, were powerless against cold
logical reasoning. It stands to reason that the Tzaddiks were even more
hostile towards secular learning than the rabbis. True, Rabbinism had
immersed the Jewish mind in the stagnant waters of scholasticism, but
Hasidism, in its further development, endeavored altogether to lull
rational thinking to sleep, and to cultivate, to an excessive degree,
the religious imagination at its expense. The new cultural movement
which had arisen among the Jews of Germany had no chance of penetrating
into this dark realm, which was guarded on the one hand by scholasticism
and on the other by mysticism. The few isolated individuals in Polish
Jewry who manifested a leaning towards secular culture were forced to go
abroad, primarily to Berlin.

One of these rare fugitives from the realm of darkness was Solomon
Maimon (1754-1800). He was born the son of a village arendar in
Lithuania, near Nesvizh, in the Government of Minsk, where he received a
Talmudic education, and where, having scarcely reached the age of
twelve, he was married off by his old-fashioned parents. However, unlike
thousands of other Jewish lads, he managed to escape spiritual death in
the mire of everyday life. Endowed with a searching mind, Solomon Maimon
was driven constantly onward in his mental development. From the Talmud
he passed to the Cabala, in which at one time he was completely
absorbed. From the Cabala he made a sudden leap to the religious
philosophy of Maimonides and other medieval Jewish rationalists. His
youthful intellect was eager for new impressions, and these his
immediate surroundings failed to give him. In 1777 Maimon left home and
family, and went to Germany to acquire secular culture. He found himself
first in Königsberg, and then proceeded to Berlin, Posen, Hamburg, and
Breslau, enduring all kinds of suffering, and tasting to the full the
bitterness of a wanderer's life in a strange land. In Berlin he came in
contact with Mendelssohn and his circle, rapidly acquired a knowledge
of German literature and science, and made a deep study of philosophy,
particularly of the system of Kant.

The sudden transition from rabbinic scholasticism to the "Critical
Philosophy" of Germany, and from the primitive existence of a Lithuanian
Jew to the free life of an educated European, destroyed Maimon's mental
equilibrium. He fell a prey to skepticism and unbelief, denying the
foundations of all religion and morality, and led a disorderly life,
which made his best friends turn from him. In his philosophic criticism,
Maimon went much further than Kant. In 1790 he published in German "A
Tentative Investigation of Transcendental Philosophy," and this book was
followed by a number of writings dealing with metaphysics and logic.
Kant, on reading his first book, made the remark: "No one among my
opponents has grasped the essence of my system as profoundly as Maimon,
nor are there altogether many men endowed with so refined and
penetrating a mind in questions so abstract and complex." In 1792
Solomon Maimon published his "Autobiography" (_Lebensgeschichte_), a
remarkable book, in which he vividly describes the conditions of life
and the ideas prevalent among Polish Lithuanian Jews as well as his own
sad Odyssey. The Autobiography made a profound impression upon educated
Christians, among others on Goethe and Schiller. The last years of his
life Maimon spent in Silesia, on the estate of his friend Count
Kalkreuth, where he continued his philosophic studies. He died in 1800,
and was buried in Glogau. During the last years of his life Maimon was
completely estranged from Judaism. He contributed next to nothing to the
enlightenment of his fellow-Jews, the only work written by him in Hebrew
being an uncompleted commentary on Maimonides' "Guide of the Perplexed."
Having escaped the realm of darkness, he no more returned thither. Nor
perhaps was he able to do so without risking the same fate as Uriel

The time for cultural rejuvenation had not yet arrived for the Jews of
Poland and Lithuania. Least of all could such a rejuvenation have been
stimulated by the change in their external, political situation: the
transfer of the bulk of the Jewish population from the power of
disintegrating Poland to that of Russia, a country even less civilized
and built upon the foundations of autocracy and serfdom.


[171] [See p. 46, n. 1, and p. 60, n. 1.]

[172] [Generally pronounced _shammes_.]

[173] See p. 107.

[174] [_I. e._ military commander. Originally the title is found among
the Cossacks; see p. 143, n. 1.]

[175] [See p. 108, n. 1.]

[176] See pp. 204 _et seq._

[177] ["Blessing of the Sacrifice," allusion to I Sam. ix. 13.]

[178] Compare _Be'er ha-Gola_, "Well of the Exiles," by Moses Rivkes,
who fled from Vilna during the massacre of 1655; _Magen Abraham_,
"Shield of Abraham" [allusion to Gen. xv. 1], by Abel Gumbiner,
Rosh-Yeshibah in Kalish, whose parents perished during the time of
unrest, and many others.

[179] [Tannaim are the Talmudic authorities before 200 C. E.; Amoraim
are those between that date and the conclusion of the Talmud, in 500 C.

[180] [Died 1613. Author of the Hebrew chronicle _Tzemah David_, "Branch
of David."]

[181] [The word originally means "chastisement" (generally by the
father). It then signifies instruction, particularly ethical

[182] Such as _`Amudeha Shiv`ah_ ["Her Seven Pillars," allusion to Prov.
ix. 1], by Bezalel of Kobrin, 1666; _Maor ha-katon_ ["The Lesser Light,"
allusion to Gen. i. 16], by Meïr of Tarnopol, 1697; _Nethib ha-Yashar_,
"The Right Path," by Naphtali of Minsk, 1712, and many others.

[183] [See p. 134, n. 3.]

[184] [See p. 134, n. 4.]

[185] See p. 200.

[186] [On the meaning of the name see p. 223, n. 1.]

[187] [In Polish, _Zamość_, a town in the region of Lublin.]

[188] [See on this controversy Grätz's History, English translation, v.
257 f.]

[189] [See p. 130.]

[190] [_Ibid._]

[191] [In Hebrew the two names are not clearly distinguishable. The
former town, in Polish, _Szydlowiec_, is near Radom. The latter, in
Polish, _Siedlce_, is the capital of the present Russian Government of
the same name, not far from Warsaw.]

[192] [The Turkish Sabbatians, from whom this Spanish title was
borrowed, spoke the Judeo-Spanish dialect. On the abbreviation S. S.,
see Grätz, _Geschichte der Juden_, x^3, 379, n. 1.]

[193] [In Polish, _Lanckorona_, a town in Podolia.]

[194] [Literally, "the Lady," a Cabalistic term for the Divine

[195] [In Podolia.]

[196] [See p. 134, n. 4.]

[197] _Tar`ā de-Rōmēm_, the legendary dwelling-place of the Messiah.
[Comp. Sanhedrin 98a.]

[198] [Literally, "Master of the Name," a man able to perform miracles
through the Name of God.]

[199] An exposition of his doctrines may be found in the book entitled
_Maggid Debarav le-Ya`kob_ ["Showing His Words unto Jacob"--allusion to
Ps. cxlvii. 19], also called _Likkute Amarim_, "Collection of Sayings."
It was published after his death, in 1784.

[200] ["History of Jacob Joseph"--a clever allusion to the Hebrew text
of Gen. xxxvii. 2.]

[201] _Hayye, bane, u-mezone_ [allusion to a well-known Talmudic dictum;
Mo`ed Katan 28^a].

[202] [His full name was Shneor Zalman, which is used by the author
later on. Subsequently he assumed the family name Shneorsohn.]

[203] In Hebrew, _Hokma_, _Bina_, _Da`ath_, abbreviated to HaBaD, from
which the White Russian Hasidim received the nickname "Habadniks."

[204] הגר״א [_Hagro_, abbreviation of _Ha-G_aon _R_abbi _E_(א=o)lia].

[205] The custom of wearing white garments was adopted, for certain
mystical considerations, by the Tzaddiks and the most pious of their

[206] See p. 230.

[207] See pp. 377 _et seq._




The Empire of Muscovy, shut off from Western Europe by a Chinese--or,
more correctly, Byzantine--wall, maintained during the sixteenth century
its attitude of utmost prejudice towards the Jews, and refused to admit
them into its borders. This prejudice was part of the general disfavor
with which the Russian people of that period, imbued as it was with the
traditions of Tataric-Byzantine culture, looked upon foreigners or
"infidels." But the prejudice against the Jews was fed, in addition,
from a specific source. The recollection of the "Judaizing heresy" which
had struck terror to the hearts of the pious Muscovites at the end of
the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century[208] had not
yet died out. The Jews were regarded as dangerous magicians and
seducers, superstitious rumors ascribing all possible crimes to them.
The ambassador of the Muscovite Grand Duke, Basil III., at Rome,
observed in 1526 to the Italian scholar Paolo Giovio: "The Muscovite
people dread no one more than the Jews, and do not admit them into their

Jewish merchants of Poland and Lithuania visited occasionally, in
connection with their business affairs, the border city Smolensk, but
they had no permanent residence there. From time to time they would
carry their goods even into the capital, Moscow, although such daring
did not always pass unpunished. About 1545 the goods imported by Jewish
merchants from Brest-Litovsk to Moscow were burned there, on which
occasion the Muscovite ambassador called the attention of the Polish
Government to the fact that the Jews had imported forbidden merchandise
to Russia, though they had not even the right to travel thither. In 1550
the Polish King Sigismund Augustus addressed a "charter" to Tzar Ivan
the Terrible (Ivan IV.), demanding the admission of Lithuanian Jews into
Russia for business purposes, by virtue of the former commercial
treaties between the two countries. Ivan IV. rejected this demand in
resolute terms:

    It is not convenient to allow Jews to come with their goods to
    Russia, since many evils result from them. For they import
    poisonous herbs [medicines] into our realm, and lead astray the
    Russians from Christianity. Therefore he, the [Polish] King,
    should no more write about these Jews.

Ivan the Terrible soon had occasion to demonstrate concretely that he
was not inclined to tolerate Jews in his domains. When, in 1563, the
Russian troops occupied the Polish border city Polotzk,[209] the Tzar
gave orders to have all local Jews converted to the Greek Orthodox
faith, and those who refused baptism drowned in the Dvina. His attitude
towards the Poles was more indulgent. He contented himself in their case
with taking them captive and demolishing their churches. Fortunately a
few years later, in 1579, Polotzk was restored to Poland through the
bravery of Stephen Batory, the protector of the Jews.

These primitive forms of denominational politics continued for a long
time to prevail in Muscovy. The Jews of Poland and Lithuania managed,
though illegally, to visit the capital in the interest of their
business. With the influx of Poles into Moscow during the so-called
"period of unrest," the interregnum preceding the establishment of the
Romanov dynasty in 1613, a goodly number of Jews penetrated into Russia.
The Muscovites became alarmed, and their apprehensions found expression
in 1610, when the noblemen of Moscow were conducting negotiations with
Poland looking to the election of the Polish Crown Prince Vladislav to
the Russian throne. An agreement was concluded, consisting of twenty
clauses, setting forth the conditions on which the noblemen were willing
to vote for Vladislav. The fourth clause of this agreement runs as

    No churches or temples of the Latin or any other faith shall be
    allowed in Russia. No one shall be induced to adopt the Roman or
    any other religion, and the Jews shall not be allowed to enter
    the Muscovite Empire either on business or in connection with
    any other affairs.

In these circumstances the Jews were deprived of all opportunity to
develop commercial life in the reactionary Empire. Forty years later
this same Empire pushed its way into the territories of Poland and
Lithuania, which were populated by Jews, and the policy of Muscovy was
destined to reveal its creative genius in the domain of the Jewish

The first contact of the Muscovite Empire with large Jewish masses took
place when the province of Little Russia was annexed by Tzar Alexis
Michaelovich in 1654. When the Russian troops, allied with the Cossacks,
overran White Russia, Lithuania, and the Ukraina, they were struck by
the undreamed-of spectacle of cities in which entire quarters were
populated by Jews, a strange people about which the unenlightened
Muscovites knew nothing except that once upon a time they had crucified
Christ, and for this reason were not allowed to enter pious, Greek
Orthodox Russia. Alexis Michaelovich and his military commanders began
after their own fashion to play the masters in the temporarily occupied
Polish provinces. In Vilna and Moghilev the Jews were murdered, and
those who survived were expelled. In Vitebsk the Jews were made
prisoners of war, while in other cities they were assaulted and

As a result the Muscovite Empire soon found within its precincts a
strangely composed Jewish population, consisting of prisoners of war,
who had been carried off principally from the border towns of the
Government of Moghilev, and had been deported to the central provinces
of Russia, and in some cases even as far as Siberia. By the Peace of
Andrusovo, concluded in 1667 between Russia and Poland, the prisoners of
war of both countries were given their freedom, but the captive Jews
were allowed to remain in Muscovy. These Jews formed the nucleus of a
small Jewish colony in Moscow, which grew up gradually, and in which
occasionally even converts were to be found. It seems that with the aid
of these "legal" Jewish residents other "illegal" Jews, from the
neighboring regions of Lithuania and White Russia, managed to penetrate
to Moscow. A few Jewish merchants, particularly those trading in cloth,
succeeded in obtaining an official permit, the so-called "red ticket,"
to visit the capital. However, in 1676 the prohibition against Jews
entering Moscow was renewed. Only in the portion of the Ukraina which
had been annexed by Russia, in the provinces of Chernigov and Poltava,
and a part of the province of Kiev, there could still be found small
groups of Jews who had survived the Cossack massacres of 1648. Moreover,
from the Polish section of the Ukraina, Jews occasionally came on
business into these Cossack districts, notwithstanding the fact that,
according to Russian law, the Jews were barred from residing within the
borders of Little Russia.


This treatment of the Jews did not improve even in the new Russia, in
which Peter the Great, the Tzar-Reformer, "had broken through a window
into Europe." True, Peter's reforms effected a change for the better in
the attitude of the isolated, unenlightened Empire towards foreigners,
but this change did not extend to the Jews. We know of no laws enacted
during his reign which might illustrate the views of the new Government
on the Jewish question. There is reason to believe that the Tzar, in
allowing the former enactments against the admission of Jews into Russia
to remain in force, took into account the primitive habits and
prejudices of his people. A contemporary witness narrates that, in 1698,
during Peter's stay in Holland, the Jews of Amsterdam requested the
burgomaster Witsen to petition the Tzar concerning the admission of
their coreligionists into Russia. After listening to the convincing
arguments of Witsen, with whom he was on a very friendly footing, Peter

    My dear Witsen, you know the Jews, and you know their character
    and habits; you also know the Russians. I know both, and believe
    me, the time has not yet come to unite the two nationalities.
    Tell the Jews that I am obliged to them for their proposition,
    and that I realize how advantageous their services would be to
    me, but that I should have to pity them were they to live in
    the midst of the Russians.

Discounting the element of anecdote in this story, we may reasonably
assume that Peter did not think it entirely harmless for the Jewish
emigrants to settle among the benighted Russian masses, which had been
accustomed to look upon the Jew as some kind of sea-monster, and as an
infidel and Christ-killer. It is possible that Peter was prompted by
similar considerations when he refused to admit the Jews into the
central provinces of Russia.

However, from another source we learn that the "reformer" of Russia was
not free from anti-Jewish prejudices, though they were not always of a
religious nature.

    While inviting skilful foreigners from all over--says the
    Russian historian Solovyov--Peter made a permanent exception but
    for one people--the Jews. "I prefer," he was wont to say, "to
    see in our midst nations professing Mohammedanism and paganism
    rather than Jews. They are rogues and cheats. It is my endeavor
    to eradicate evil and not to multiply it. They shall not be
    allowed either to live or to trade in Russia, whatever efforts
    they may make, and however much they may try to bribe those near

Of course, only a goodly dose of anti-Semitic bias could prompt a view
which regards in this light the economic activity of the Jews among the
Russian merchants, those same merchants who had of yore given expression
to their commercial principles in the well-known Russian dictum, "If you
don't cheat, you don't sell."

It is possible that Peter was not unfamiliar with anti-Jewish prejudices
of a more objectionable kind. In 1702 reports were received in Moscow
from Little Russia, that in the town of Gorodnya, near Chernigov, "the
Jews had tortured a Christian to death, and had sent his blood to a
number of Jews in Little Russian towns." The descendants of Khmelnitzki
had evidently succeeded in importing into Russia what was at that time a
fashionable article in Poland, the charge of ritual murder, and these
obscure rumors may have affected injuriously the attitude of the Russian
Tzar towards the Jews.

On the other hand, we are informed that, during the Russo-Swedish War,
when the Russian army was operating on the Polish border territory,
populated by Jews, Peter the Great refrained from repeating the pogrom
experiments of his father, Alexis Michaelovich. In August, 1708, shortly
before the celebrated battle at Lesnaya, in White Russia, he checked a
military riot against the Jews which had been started in Mstislavl. A
brief Hebrew entry in the local Kahal journal, or _Pinkes_, runs as

    On the twenty-eighth of Elul, in the year 5468, there came the
    Cæsar, who is called the Tzar of Muscovy, by the name of Peter,
    the son of Alexis, with his whole suite, an immense, numberless
    host. Robbers and murderers from among his people fell upon us,
    without his knowledge, and it almost came to bloodshed. And if
    the Lord Almighty had not put it into the heart of the Tzar to
    enter our synagogue in his own person, blood would certainly
    have been shed. It was only with the help of God that the Tzar
    saved us, and took revenge for us, by giving orders that
    thirteen men from among them [the rioters] be immediately
    hanged, and the land became quiet.

During the last years of his reign, Peter began to admit Jewish
financial agents to his new capital, St. Petersburg. One of the most
energetic financial agents at that time was the "court Jew" Lipman Levy,
a banker from Courland, who attained to particular prominence under
Peter's successors.

Under the immediate successors of Peter the Great the "defensive" policy
towards the Jews gradually became an "offensive" one. The magnates at
the Russian court, who dominated Russia under the label of "The Supreme
Secret Council," called attention to the unnecessary proximity of the
Jewish colony in Smolensk to the center of the Empire. The district of
Smolensk bordering on Poland harbored a group of White Russian Jews, who
earned a livelihood by a trade profitable at that time, the lease of
excise and customs duties. One of these big tax-farmers, a certain
Borukh Leibov (son of Leib), even had the courage to build a synagogue
for the few Jews of the village of Zverovich. This aroused the ire of
the local Greek Orthodox priest, who in his _naïveté_ was convinced that
the establishment of a synagogue would result in diverting his flock
from the Church and converting it to Judaism. The inhabitants began to
bombard St. Petersburg with their protests, the elders of the Holy Synod
became alarmed, the specter of the "Judaizing heresy" once more flitted
across their vision, and, as a result, Empress Catherine I. issued, in
March, 1727, an ukase[211] through the Supreme Secret Council, that
Borukh and his associates be removed from their office in connection
with the excise and customs duties, and "be deported immediately from
Russia beyond the border."

A month later another even stricter ukase was promulgated by the Empress
through the Supreme Secret Council, which affected all Jews in the
border provinces, particularly those residing in Little Russia. The
ukase decreed that "the Jews, both of the male and the female sex, who
have settled in the Ukraina and in other Russian cities, be deported
immediately from Russia beyond the border, and in no circumstances be
admitted into Russia, of which fact they shall in all places be strictly
forewarned." The exiles were forbidden to carry gold and silver coins
abroad, into the Polish dominions. They were ordered to exchange them
for copper money prior to their expulsion. This ukase was a gross
violation not only of the ancient rights of the Jews who had been left
in Little Russia after its annexation by Muscovy, but also of the
autonomy of the province and its elective authorities, the hetmans, to
whom the right of initiative belonged in such cases.

The arbitrariness of the central Government called forth the protest of
the Little Russian Cossacks, who were otherwise far from friendly to the
Jews. In the name of "the Zaporozhian army on both sides of the
Dnieper"[212] Hetman Daniel Apostol addressed a petition to St.
Petersburg, pleading for the admission of traveling Jewish salesmen to
the Little Russian fairs, in view of their commercial usefulness. A
reply to this petition may be found in an ukase which the Supreme Secret
Council issued in 1728, in the name of Emperor Peter II., the latter
still being a minor. One of its clauses runs thus:

    The Jews are permitted to visit temporarily the fairs of Little
    Russia for commercial purposes, but they are only allowed to
    sell their goods wholesale, and not retail, by ells and in
    pounds. The money taken in from the sale of these goods shall be
    used to buy other goods. In no circumstances shall they be
    allowed to carry gold and silver money from Little Russia
    abroad.... The [permanent] residence of the Jews in Little
    Russia is forbidden by virtue of the ukase of the previous year,

In this way the Jews who had been illegally deported were now
"graciously" granted the right of temporary visits to the fairs.
Moreover, even this right was hedged about by severe restrictions, such
as the prohibition of retail business, and the compulsion of leaving in
the country the money taken in for their goods, for the purpose of
equalizing imports and exports.

In 1731, this act of "grace" was extended to the Government of Smolensk,
and three years later another concession was wrested from the
authorities. The representatives of the "Border Province of Sloboda,"
the present Government of Kharkov, petitioned the Russian ruler to grant
permission to the Jews visiting the fairs to sell their goods not only
wholesale but also retail, "by ells and in pounds," in view of the fact
that "in the Sloboda regiments there are few business men, and their
trade is unsatisfactory." Empress Anna complied with the request in
1774. In the same year the privilege concerning the retail trade of Jews
at the fairs was extended to the whole of Little Russia, in compliance
with a petition of its Christian inhabitants.

But this avalanche of "favors" and "privileges"--the partial restoration
of rights which had been grossly trampled upon--suddenly stopped, and
was followed by a series of cruel repressions. The change was prompted
by the Muscovite fear of Jews, the traditional dread felt by the Russian
people of the specter of "Jewish seduction." An occurrence had taken
place which was enough to strike terror to the hearts of people with old
Muscovite notions. The above-mentioned tax-farmer of Smolensk, Borukh
Leibov, who, even after his expulsion, continued to cross the forbidden
Polish-Russian frontier, had occasion, during his stay in Moscow, to
come in close contact with Alexander Voznitzin, a retired captain of
the navy, and "seduced him." Voznitzin, who was wont to speculate about
religious matters, studied the Bible under the guidance of his Jewish
friend, and his eyes were opened. He realized that the Biblical doctrine
of one God was incompatible with the dogmas of the Greek Church and with
the cult of ikons, in which he had been brought up. Voznitzin became
convinced of the truth of Judaism, and, having made up his mind to
embrace the Jewish religion, he decided to brave the difficulties and
dangers which such a step implied. He went to the little town of
Dubrovna, in the Government of Moghilev, near Smolensk, where the son of
Borukh Leibov resided, to undergo there the ceremony of circumcision and
accept the principles and practices of Judaism. Voznitzin's conversion
became known, and the Captain, together with his teacher Borukh, were
brought to justice. They were conveyed to St. Petersburg, and turned
over to the awe-inspiring "Chancellery for Secret Inquisitorial

The accused were put on the rack and confessed their "crimes." Voznitzin
admitted having embraced "the Jewish law," and having uttered
"blasphemous words against the Holy Church," while Borukh Leibov owned
that he had "seduced" Voznitzin from the path of Greek Orthodoxy. In
addition, Borukh was accused of having, "together with other Jews,"
predisposed the common people in Smolensk in favor of the Jewish
religion, and of having insulted, by word and deed, the local Russian
Pope Abramius, in connection with the establishment of a Jewish
synagogue in the village of Zverovich. The latter crimes, however, were
not investigated further in view of the fact that the conversion of
Voznitzin was sufficient to inflict the death penalty on Borukh. The
Inquisitorial Court hastened to announce its verdict, basing it upon
the "statute" of Tzar Alexis Michaelovich. The report of the Senate
elicited in 1738 an Imperial resolution,[213] decreeing that "both of
them [Voznitzin and Borukh] shall be executed and burned, in order that
other ignorant and godless people, witnessing this, shall not turn away
from the Christian law, and such seducers as the above-mentioned Jew
Borukh shall not dare to lead them astray from the Christian law and
convert them to their own laws." The _auto-da-fé_ took place in St.
Petersburg, on a public square, in the presence of a large crowd of
spectators, on July 15, 1738.

This one isolated incident was sufficient to rekindle in the Government
circles of St. Petersburg the inveterate Muscovite hatred against
"unbaptized Jews" and to justify further violence against them. It had
come to the knowledge of the authorities that, contrary to the ukase of
1727, numerous Jews were still residing in Little Russia, being employed
on the estates of the Russian landowners as arendars and innkeepers. It
had also been ascertained that the Jews who came from the Polish part of
the Ukraina to visit the fairs in many cases settled permanently in
Little Russia. The Government found such a state of affairs unendurable.
In 1739 the Senate decreed the expulsion of the Jews from Little Russia,
whither in recent years they had penetrated "from the other side of the
Dnieper." In reply to this Senatorial rescript, the Military Chancellery
of Little Russia reported that an immediate expulsion of the Jews was
fraught with danger, on account of the war with Turkey, which was going
on at that time, "since their present expulsion might be accompanied by
spying." The Cabinet of Ministers, acting upon the representation of the
Senate, passed the resolution, that "the expulsion of the Jews shall be
postponed until the termination of the present Turkish War." When the
war was over, Empress Anna issued an ukase, in 1740, ordering the
execution of the postponed expulsion. The number of Jews liable to
expulsion was found to be 292 of the male sex and 281 of the female sex,
who resided on 130 manorial estates, altogether a handful of 573 Jewish
souls, who had obtained shelter on the outskirts of Russia.


The policy of religious intolerance was practiced assiduously during the
reign of Elizabeth Petrovna (1741-1761). During the reign of this
Empress, who divided her time between church services and court-balls,
the persecutions of the adherents of other faiths were intensified. By
order of the Holy Synod and the Senate, Greek Orthodoxy began to be
disseminated among the pagan nationalities of the East, while those of
them who, under the influence of the Tatars, had embraced Mohammedanism,
were subjected to fines unless they adopted the religion of the state.
In the hope of suppressing the Mohammedan propaganda, orders were given
to demolish the mosques in many villages of the Governments of Kazan and
Astrakhan. The destruction of the mosques was stopped only by the fear
of Turkish reprisals, "in order that this rumor shall not reach those
countries in which adherents of the Greek Orthodox persuasion live in
the midst of Mohammedans, and that the churches existing there shall not
suffer oppression."

The Jews living in the border provinces were subjected to similar
treatment: they were expelled with one hand and pushed into the doors
of the church with the other. Towards the end of 1741, Elizabeth
Petrovna issued a remarkable ukase. Referring to the decree of 1727
concerning the expulsion of Jews, the Empress states that "it has now
come to our knowledge that some Jews in our Empire, and particularly in
Little Russia, continue to live there under all kinds of pretence, being
engaged in business or in keeping inns and taverns, from which
circumstance no benefit of any kind, but, coming from such _haters of
the name of our Savior Christ_, only extreme injury, can accrue to our
faithful subjects." Hence the Empress "most graciously" commands that

    from our whole Empire, both from the Great Russian and Little
    Russian cities, villages, and hamlets, all Jews of the male and
    female sex, of whatever calling and dignity they may be, shall,
    at the publication of this our ukase, be immediately deported
    with all their property abroad, and shall henceforward, under no
    pretext, be admitted into our Empire for any purpose; unless
    they shall be willing to accept the Christian religion of the
    Greek persuasion. Such [Jews], having been baptized, shall be
    allowed to live in our Empire, but they shall not be permitted
    to go outside the country.

The ukase was to be printed and promulgated in the whole Empire, so as
to gain wide circulation among the people and to inculcate in the
Russian masses the proper sentiments towards "the haters of the name of
our Savior Christ."

However, the Empress and her exalted prompters calculated wrongly. The
cruel expulsion decree did not draw a single Jew into the fold of the
Greek Orthodox Church, while the reason given in the ukase for the
expulsion, "the extreme injury" inflicted by the enemies of Christ "upon
our faithful subjects," failed to carry conviction to the latter. The
ukase had been designed in particular to "benefit" the inhabitants of
the two border provinces of Little Russia and Livonia by eliminating the
Jews from their midst. These inhabitants, however, speaking through
their local representatives, declared that such "beneficence" would only
result in ruining them. From Little Russia the Greek contractors of the
customs duties complained to the Senate that the repressions against the
Jews, which hampered their commercial visits to Poland, had caused great
losses to the state revenues by lowering the income from imported goods,
that a sudden expulsion of Jews, who were bound up with the Christian
merchants by business interests and monetary obligations, would ruin
both sides, and that it was therefore necessary to allow the Jews to
retain their former right of free admission into Little Russia for
business purposes.

Even more energetic representations were sent to the Senate from the
Baltic province of Livonia. The gubernatorial administration of the
province and the magistracy of the city of Riga stated that, in
accordance with the promulgated ukase, the Jews living in the suburb of
Riga and in the surrounding district had been ordered to leave within
six weeks, but that this expulsion was bound to cause great injury to
the exchequer and to spell ruin for the whole mercantile class. For the
Polish pans and merchants, who had their Jewish brokers in Riga, would
stop buying their goods there, and would prefer to import them, with the
aid of their expelled Jewish middlemen, from Germany, so that "trade in
Riga would fall off, and commerce might be destroyed entirely," the
Russian merchants finding themselves unable to secure customers for "the
goods imported by sea." The Livonians therefore pleaded to grant the
Jews free admission into Riga for carrying on business, though it be
only in the capacity of temporary residents.

Impressed by these representations, the Senate submitted a report to the
Empress, in which it endeavored to convince her that for the sake of
"promoting commerce," increasing the revenues of the exchequer, and
guarding the interests of the Christian population in the "border
localities," it was necessary to comply with the petitions of the
Ukrainians and Livonians and grant the Jews free admission to both
provinces and to other localities on the frontier, so that they may
carry on temporary business during the time of the fairs, this privilege
having been exercised by them in Little Russia since 1728, by virtue of
earlier Imperial decrees. Elizabeth Petrovna read these convincing
arguments of the Senate, but, blinded by religious fanaticism, refused
to pay attention to them. On the reports submitted by the Senate, she
put down, in December, 1743, the following laconic resolution[214]:
"From the enemies of Christ I desire neither gain nor profit."

The Senate could do nothing but submit to the despotic will of the
Empress. A month later, in January, 1744, an ukase was issued, demanding
that immediate steps be taken to detect the Jews in Little Russia,
Livonia, and other places, and expel all except those who were willing
to be baptized.

    Henceforward--the Senatorial decree runs--the above Jews shall
    not by any means, under any conditions, and for any purpose
    whatsoever, be admitted into Russia, though it be for the fairs
    or for a short time only; nor shall any representations
    concerning their admission be further addressed to the Senate,
    and the Senate shall be duly informed when all the above [Jews]
    shall have been expelled.

In this manner Elizabeth Petrovna cleared these provinces of their
Jewish population, where--for better or for worse--it had lived long
before their annexation by Russia. A contemporary historian calculates
that up to his time (1753) some 35,000 Jews had been banished from

The fanatical Empress searched with the vigilance of an inquisitor for
the slightest trace of Judaism in her Empire. Since 1731 there had lived
in St. Petersburg a learned physician, by the name of Antonio Sanchez,
evidently a Sephardic Marano, who professed Judaism in secret.
Originally invited from Holland, Sanchez occupied in St. Petersburg the
post of body-physician at the courts of Anna Johannovna and her
successors, and he was at the same time in charge of the medical
department of the army. He subsequently became a member of the Academy
of Sciences, and wrote a number of medical works, which drew the
attention of the scientific world to him. In 1749 Sanchez was suddenly
dismissed from the Academy of Sciences, and compelled to transfer his
abode to Paris. It seems that Empress Elizabeth had found out the secret
"crime" of her body-physician, which was none other than his loyalty to
Judaism. "As far as I am aware"--the president of the Academy,
Razumovski, wrote to Sanchez--"you have not been guilty of any
wrong-doing against her Imperial Majesty or against any of her
interests. But she finds it contrary to her conscience to tolerate in
the Academy a man who has deserted the banner of Christ, and has joined
the ranks of those who fight under the banner of Moses and the Old
Testament prophets." When the famous mathematician Euler heard of
Sanchez' expulsion, he wrote: "I doubt whether amazing actions of this
kind will contribute towards the reputation of the Russian Academy of

There was no one perhaps in the contemporary Government circles of
Russia who was so ready to condemn this malicious policy, inspired by
Byzantine clericalism, as that cultured "Westerner," Empress Catherine
II. (1762-1796). Nevertheless in the first years of her reign she found
herself unable to change a policy which had already been hallowed by
tradition, and was regarded as "national" and truly Russian. Catherine
II., in endeavoring to justify the dethronement of her husband, the
Prussophil Peter III., was bound, in the first years of her reign, to
act against her own convictions and pose as a national ruler, anxious to
follow in the footsteps of her Orthodox predecessors. We derive our
knowledge of this fact from her own memoirs, in which, speaking of
herself in the third person, she makes this confession:

    On the fifth or sixth day after her accession to the throne,
    Catherine II. arrived at the Senate. It happened that on the
    agenda of that session was the question of the admission of Jews
    into Russia. The Senators unanimously declared that their
    admission was useful, but Catherine, in view of the
    circumstances at the time, found it difficult to give her
    assent. The Senator Count Odoyevski came to her aid. He rose up
    and said: "Before making a decision, perhaps your Imperial
    Majesty will consent to see the autograph decision which on a
    similar occasion was rendered by Empress Elizabeth." Catherine
    ordered the documents to be brought, and she found that Empress
    Elizabeth, prompted by piety, had written on the margin, "From
    the enemies of Christ I desire neither gain nor profit." It is
    necessary to observe that less than a week had passed since
    Catherine's accession to the throne. She had been placed on it
    for the defense of the Greek Orthodox faith; she had to deal
    with a pious people and with a clergy to which its estates had
    not yet been returned, and which, in consequence of this
    ill-fitting measure, had nothing to live on. The minds, as is
    always the case after such a great upheaval [the violent death
    of Peter III.], were in a state of great excitement. To begin
    her reign by the admission of Jews would not at all have helped
    to pacify their minds; to declare it as injurious was also
    impossible. Catherine acted simply: when the Procurator-General
    collected the votes and approached her for her decision, she
    said to him, "I desire that this matter be postponed for another
    time." Thus it often happens that it is not enough to be
    enlightened, to have good intentions, and even the power to
    realize them.

In this way, in spite of the unanimous opinion of the Senate, that the
admission of Jews was beneficial to Russia, and in spite of her own
liberal frame of mind, Catherine II. left the Jewish question in its
former state, being afraid of arousing against her the resentment of the
reactionary element of the Russian people. In the very same year, on
December 4, 1762, the Empress, in issuing a manifesto permitting all
foreigners to travel and to settle in Russia, added the fatal formula,
_kromye Zhydov_ ("except the Jews").

Two years later, in 1764, Catherine II. received a petition from the
Little Russian nobles and elders, who, together with the hetman, pleaded
for the restoration of the autonomous "ancient rights" of Little Russia,
which had been grossly violated by the Russian Government. Out of the
twenty clauses of the document, one refers to the Jews. The
representatives of the Little Russian people declare that the law
barring Jews from entering their province had inflicted great damage on
the local trade, because the Jews, "being inhabitants of a neighboring
state, take a very large part in Little Russian commerce, buying the
goods of Little Russia at a much larger price, and the foreign goods at
a smaller price, as compared with that now prevailing." The petition
concludes with these words:

    That the above-mentioned Jews be granted domicile in Little
    Russia, with this we dare not trouble your Imperial Majesty. All
    we do is to plead most humbly that, _for the sake of promoting
    Little Russian commerce_, the Jews be allowed to visit Little
    Russia for free commercial transactions.

The petition was not granted, for even Catherine II. "dared not" repeal
the inquisitorial resolution of Elizabeth Petrovna against "the enemies
of Christ."

It was amidst conditions such as these that the event which marks a
critical juncture in the history of the Jewish people took place.
Starting with the year 1772, Russia began to acquire the inheritance of
disintegrating Poland. The country which had stood in fear of a few
thousand Jews was now forced to accept them, at one stroke, by the tens
of thousands and, shortly afterwards, by the hundreds of thousands.
Subsequent history will show in what way Russia endeavored to solve this
conflict between her anti-Jewish traditions and the necessity of
harboring in her dominions the greatest center of the Jewish Diaspora.


[208] See p. 36 and p. 37.

[209] [In the present Russian Government of Vitebsk, to be distinguished
from Plotzk, in Polish, _Plock_, the capital of the Government of the
same name in Russian Poland, on the right bank of the Vistula.]

[210] See pp. 153 _et seq._

[211] [Pronounced _ookaz_, with the accent on the last syllable. The
original meaning of the word is "indication," "instruction." It is
applied to orders issued by the Tzar himself or, in the name of the
Tzar, by the Senate.]

[212] Little Russia possessed at that time its own military
organization, consisting of regiments and "hundreds," under the command
of native officers. At the head of the organization stood the
commander-in-chief, called hetman [see p. 143, n. 1].

[213] [The term "resolution" (in Russian, _resolutzia_) is applied to a
decision written by the Tzar in his own hand on the margin of the
reports submitted to him.]

[214] [See p. 253, n. 1.]




On the eve of the great crisis which overtook the Jews of Western Europe
in the wake of the French Revolution, the vast Jewish center in Eastern
Europe was in a state of political and social disintegration. We refer
to the position of Polish Jewry during the interval between the first
partition of Poland and the second (1772-1793).

The first vivisection had just been performed on the diseased organism
of the Polish Republic.[215] Russia had chopped off one flank--the
province of White Russia[216]; Austria had seized Galicia, and Prussia
had helped herself to Pomerania and a part of the province of Posen.
Correspondingly the compact organism of Polish Jewry was divided among
the three Powers. One section of this huge mass, which lived a secluded
and thoroughly original life of its own, suddenly became the object of
"reformatory" experiments in the laboratory of Joseph II. Another
section found itself in the rôle of a "tolerated" population in the
royal barracks of Frederick II., who would fain have acquired the Polish
provinces minus their Jewish inhabitants. A third portion came under the
sway of Russia, a country which had not yet become reconciled to the
presence of a handful of Jews on the border of her Empire, in the
province of Little Russia.

What was left of Polish Jewry after the surgical operation of 1772
experienced, after its own fashion, all the pre-mortal agonies of the
doomed commonwealth, which was destined to undergo two more partitions.
Dying Poland was tossing about restlessly, endeavoring to prolong its
existence by the enactments of the Permanent Council or by the reforms
of the Quadrennial Diet (1788-1791).[217] In connection with the general
reforms of the country the need was felt of curing the old specific
ailment of Poland, the Jewish Problem. The finance committee of the
Quadrennial Diet gathered all available information concerning the
number of Jews in the reduced kingdom and their economic and cultural

The following are the results of this official investigation, as
embodied in the report of one of the members of the committee, the
well-known historian Thaddeus Chatzki, who made a special study of the
Jewish problem.

Officially the number of Jews residing in Poland and Lithuania about the
year 1788 was computed at 617,032. Chatzki, fortified by an array of
additional data, rightly points out that, owing to the fact that fiscal
considerations caused the people to evade the official census, the
actual number of Jews mounted up to at least 900,000 souls of both
sexes. This computation agrees substantially with the authoritative
statement of Butrymovich, a member of the "Jewish Commission" appointed
by the Quadrennial Diet. For, according to this statement, the Jews of
Poland formed an eighth of the whole population, the latter numbering
8,790,000 souls. The Jewish population, thus amounting to practically
one million, multiplied rapidly, owing to the custom of early marriages
then in vogue. The same custom, on the other hand, was responsible for
increased mortality among Jewish children and for an ever-growing
physical deterioration of the adolescent generation. The school training
received by Jewish children was limited to the study of the religious
literature of Judaism, particularly the Talmud.

As regards commerce, the Jews figured in it in the following
proportions: 75% of the whole export trade of Poland and 10% of the
imports lay in their hands. The living expenses of the Jewish business
man were half as large as those of his Christian fellow-merchant, which
fact enabled the Jew to sell his goods at a much lower figure.
Bankruptcy was more frequent among Jewish business men than among
Christians. In the provinces outside of Great Poland half of all the
artisans were Jews. Shoemakers, tailors, furriers, goldsmiths,
carpenters, stone-cutters, and barbers, were particularly numerous among
them. In the whole country only fourteen Jewish families were found to
engage in agriculture. Wealth among Jews was but very seldom retained
for several successive generations within the same family, owing to
frequent bankruptcy and to a propensity towards risky speculations. A
twelfth part of the Jewish population was made up of "idlers," that is,
people without a definite occupation. A sixtieth part consisted of

To these deductions, based on official findings, as well as on outside
observation, the important fact must be added that one of the main
pursuits of the Jews at that time was the liquor traffic, that is, the
keeping of taverns in the towns and villages. As far as the manorial
estates were concerned, the sale of liquors was closely connected with
land-leasing and innkeeping. In leasing from the noble landowner the
various items of agrarian wealth, such as dairies, pastures, timber,
etc., the Jew farmed at the same time the "propination," the right of
distilling and selling spirits in the taverns and inns. These pursuits
often resulted in a clash between the Jew and the peasant, that outlawed
serf who was driven to the tavern, not by opulence, but by extreme
poverty and suffering, brought upon him by the heavy hand of the
aristocratic landlord. The final stage in the economic breakdown of the
peasant was reached at the door of the tavern, and the Jewish
liquor-dealer was in consequence looked upon as the despoiler of the
peasant. This accusation against the Jews was brought forward by the
slaveholding magnates, who were the real cause of the impoverishment of
their peasant serfs, and pocketed the proceeds of the "propination"
which they let out to the Jews.

As for the Jews themselves, there is no doubt that the traffic in liquor
had a demoralizing effect upon them. The position of the Jewish arendar,
sandwiched between the spendthrifty and eccentric pan, on the one hand,
and the downtrodden khlop, on the other, was far from enviable. In the
eyes of the landowner the arendar was nothing but a servant, who
received no better treatment at his hands than the khlop. If perchance
the roads or bridges on the estate were found in bad condition, the
arendar would sometimes be subjected to corporal punishment for it.
When the pan engaged in one of his frequent orgies, the first victims of
his recklessness were the arendar and his family. A good illustration is
afforded by an entry in the diary of a Volhynian country squire, from
the year 1774:

    The arendar Hershko[218] has remained ninety-one thaler in
    arrears from last term. I was forced to attach his goods.
    According to the clause of the contract I have the right, in
    case of non-payment, to keep him with his wife and children in
    prison as long as I like, until he pays up. I gave orders to
    have him put in chains and locked up in the pig-sty together
    with the swine; the wife and the bahurs [young sons] I left in
    the inn, except for the youngest son Layze [Lazarus]. The latter
    I took to the manor, and I had him instructed in the [Catholic]
    catechism and the prayers.

The boy in question was forced to make the sign of the cross and to eat
pork. Only the arrival of Jews from Berdychev, who remitted the debt of
the arendar, saved the father from imprisonment and the son from
enforced conversion.

It is interesting to inquire into the causes which drove the Jewish
populace into the unenviable pursuits of land-leasing and rural
liquor-dealing. Although forming but one-eighth of the population of
Poland, the Jews furnished 50% of the whole number of artisans in the
realm and 75% of those engaged in the export trade--the export, be it
noted, of agricultural products, such as timber, flax, skins, and all
kinds of raw material. All these occupations were obviously insufficient
for their maintenance. In Poland no less than in Western Europe neither
the mercantile guilds nor the trade-unions, which to a considerable
extent were made up of Germans, admitted Jewish artisans and merchants
into their corporations, and as a result the sphere of Jewish activity
was extremely limited.

The same burghers and business men were also the predominating element
in the composition of the magistracies, and in the majority of cities it
lay in their power to grant or refuse licenses to their Jewish
competitors for pursuing commerce or handicrafts. The clause in the
Polish parliamentary Constitution of 1768, which placed the economic
activity of the Jews in the cities under the control of the
magistracies, might have been literally dictated by the latter. It ran
as follows:

    Whereas the Jews inflict intolerable damage upon the cities and
    the burghers, and rob them of their means of subsistence..., be
    it resolved that in all towns and townlets in which the Jews
    have no special, constitutionally guaranteed privileges, they be
    forced to conduct themselves according to the agreements entered
    into with the municipalities, and be forbidden, on pain of
    severe fines, to arrogate to themselves any further rights.

It goes without saying that these "agreements" with the Christian
business men consisted as a rule in nothing else than the prohibition or
limitation of local Jewish competition. In this manner the originators
of the parliamentary Constitution, the landed proprietors and
townspeople, were those who forced the Jews out of the cities, and drove
them into land-leasing and liquor-dealing.

The parliamentary Constitution of 1775, which was promulgated after the
first partition of Poland, and instituted a supreme administrative body,
the Permanent Council, increased the Jewish per capita tax from two
gulden to three, to be levied on both male and female, and including the
new-born. It also made the attempt, though not after the cruel pattern
of Western Europe, to place certain restrictions on Jewish marriages.
The rabbis were interdicted from performing the marriage service for the
Jews who were not engaged in one of the legitimate occupations, such as
handicrafts, commerce, agriculture, or manual labor, or who were unable
to indicate their sources of livelihood. Parenthetically it may be
remarked that this law was never applied in practice.

Ancient Poland never had a "Pale of Settlement," the Jews being merely
barred from residing in several so-called "privileged" towns. One of
these forbidden places was the capital, Warsaw.[219] The Jews had long
been refused the right of permanent settlement in that city. They were
only allowed to sojourn there temporarily during the sessions of the
various Diets, simultaneously with which the commercial fairs were
generally timed to take place.

The parliamentary Constitution of 1768, in sanctioning this "ancient
custom" of admitting the Jews temporarily into Warsaw, gave as its
reason "the common welfare and the necessity of reducing the high cost
of merchandise," this high cost resulting invariably from the absence of
Jewish competition. In the capital the following procedure became
customary: two weeks prior to the opening of the Diet the Crown Marshal
informed the inhabitants of Warsaw by trumpet blasts that visiting Jews
were permitted to engage in commerce and handicrafts, and two weeks
after the conclusion of the session of the Diet trumpet blasts again
heralded the fact that it was time for the Jews to take to their heels.
Those who were slow in leaving the city were expelled by the police. As
a rule, however, the exiles managed, under all sorts of pretexts, to
return the day after their expulsion, in the capacity of new arrivals,
and they continued to reside in the city for several weeks by
"persuading" the inspectors of the marshal. As a result, Crown Marshal
Lubomirski established a system of tickets for visiting Jews, each
ticket costing a silver groschen, which granted the right of a five
days' sojourn in the capital. Without such a ticket no Jew dared show
himself on the street. The collection from these tickets netted an
annual income of some 200,000 gulden for the marshal's treasury.

When some of the high Polish dignitaries, who owned entire districts in
Warsaw, made the discovery that it was possible to convert Jewish
rightlessness into cash, they began, for a definite consideration, to
accord permission to the Jews to settle on their estates, which lay
beyond the city ramparts. In this way there gradually came into being a
settlement known under the name of New Jerusalem. The Christian burghers
of Warsaw raised a terrible outcry demanding the literal application of
the law which barred the Jews from settling permanently in the capital.
Thereupon Lubomirski adopted stringent measures against the Jews,
notwithstanding the protests of the highly-placed house-owners and
regardless even of the intervention of the King. On January 22, 1775,
the Jews were expelled from Warsaw; their homes in New Jerusalem were
demolished, and all their goods were transferred to the armory or the
barracks, where they were sold at public auction.

This was a severe blow to the mercantile Jewish population, which was
now cut off from the political and industrial center of the country. The
Jews had to content themselves again with temporary visits during the
short term of the parliamentary sessions. In the course of time the
former evasion of the law came into vogue again. In 1784 the
administration, appealed to by the magistracy, once more undertook to
clear the capital of Jews. The situation was modified somewhat towards
the end of 1788, when the Quadrennial Diet began its sessions. The Jews
were inclined to assume that, inasmuch as the Diet was sitting
permanently, their right of residence in the capital was no longer
subject to a time limit. Accordingly the Jews began to flock to Warsaw,
and several thousands of them were soon huddled together in the center
of the city. This of course aroused the ire of the burghers and the
magistracy against the new-comers, resulting subsequently in a
sanguinary conflict.

In this manner law and life were constantly at odds, life turning law
into fiction whenever in opposition to its demands, and law retaliating
by dealing occasional blows at life.

The million Jews pressed their way into the eight millions of the native
population like a wedge, which, once having entered, could not be
displaced. For by occupying the originally empty place of the mercantile
estate, the Jews had for many centuries served, so to speak, as a tie
between the bipartite nation of nobles and serfs. Now a new wedge, the
Christian middle class, was endeavoring to displace the Jewish element,
but it failed in its efforts. For the Jewish population had become
inextricably entwined with the economic organism of Poland, though
remaining a stranger to its national and spiritual aspirations. This was
the tragic aspect of the Jewish question in Poland in the period of the

Deeply stirred by the catastrophe of 1772, Poland fell to making reforms
as a means of salvation. She was anxious to expiate her old sins and
turn over a new leaf. Here she found herself face to face with the
Jewish problem: a huge and compact population of different birth and
creed, with an autonomous communal life, with a separate language, and
with customs and manners of its own, was scattered all over the realm
and interwoven with all branches of economic endeavor. This secluded
population, which Polish legislation no less than the arrogance of the
nobility and the intolerance of the Church had estranged from political
and civil life, survived as a relic of the old order, which was now
tottering to its fall. The ruling class, which had brought about this
state of things, was naturally loth to acknowledge its responsibility
for the decomposition of Poland, and so the guilt was thrown on the
shoulders of the Jews, in spite of the fact that their position was
merely the product of the general caste structure of the nation. And
when, in a fit of repentance, Poland began to dig down into her past,
she discovered that one of her "sins" was the Jewish question, and she
was bent on solving it.

Two solutions presented themselves at that moment. The one was of a
repressive character, permeated with the old spirit of the nobility and
clergy. The other was of a comparatively liberal character, and bore the
impress of the policy of "compulsory enlightenment" pursued by the
Austrian Emperor Joseph II. The former found its expression in the
parliamentary project of Zamoiski (1778-1780); the latter was
represented by the proposals of Butrymovich and Chatzki, who submitted
them to the liberally inclined Quadrennial Diet in 1789.

One of the Polish historians rightly observes that "the celebrated
ex-Chancellor [Andreas Zamoiski] drafted this law more for the purpose
of getting rid of the Jews than of bringing about their amalgamation
with the national organism [of Poland]." Zamoiski's project is
semi-clerical and semi-bureaucratic in character. The Jews are to be
granted the right of residence in those towns into which they had been
admitted by virtue of former agreements with the municipalities, while
other places are to be open to them only for temporary visits, to attend
markets and fairs. In the cities the Jews are to settle in separate
streets, away from the Christians. Every Jewish adult is to present
himself before the local administration and produce a certificate to the
effect that he is either a tradesman owning property of the minimum
value of a thousand gulden, or an artisan, arendar, or agriculturist.
Those who cannot prove that they belong to one of these four categories
shall be obliged to leave the country within a year. In case they refuse
to leave voluntarily, they are to be placed under arrest, and sent to a
penitentiary. Moreover, the author of the project, repeating the old
ecclesiastic regulations, proposes to bar the Jews from those financial
and economic functions, such as the leasing of crown lands, public
contracts, and collection of revenues, in which they might exercise some
form of control over Christians. For the same reason the Jews are to be
interdicted from keeping Christian help, and so forth. Compulsory
conversion of Jews is to be discountenanced; yet those already converted
are to be removed from their old environment, and not to be allowed even
to see their former coreligionists, except in the presence of

The Catholic clergy was so well pleased with Zamoiski's project that the
Archbishop of Plotzk attached his signature to it. Having fortified
himself by ecclesiastical and police safeguards, Zamoiski was at liberty
to pay a scant tribute to the spirit of the age by including in his
project the principle of the inviolability of the person and property of
the Jew. After binding the Jew hand and foot by these draconian
regulations there was indeed no necessity for further insulting him.

An entirely different position is taken by the anonymous author of a
Polish pamphlet which appeared in Warsaw in 1782 under the title, "On
the Necessity of Jewish Reforms in the Lands of the Polish Crown." The
writer, who disguises his identity under the pseudonym "A Nameless
Citizen," is opposed to retrogressive measures, and favors legislation
of an utilitarian and enlightened character. As far as the Jewish
religion is concerned, he is willing to let the Jews keep their dogmas,
but deems it necessary to combat their "harmful religious customs," such
as the large number of festivals, the dietary laws, and so forth. It is
important in his opinion to curtail their communal autonomy by confining
it to religious matters, so that the Jews shall not form a state within
a state. In order to stimulate the amalgamation of the Jews with the
Polish nation, they are to be compelled to adopt the Polish language in
their business dealings, to abandon the Yiddish vernacular, and to be
interdicted from printing Hebrew books or importing them from abroad. On
the economic side the Jews are to be barred from keeping inns and
selling liquor in them, only handicrafts, honest business, and
agriculture being left open to them. In this way the project of the
"Nameless Citizen" seeks to render the Jews "innocuous" by compulsory
amalgamation, just as the preceding project of Zamoiski endeavored to
attain the same end by compulsory isolation. After having been rendered
"innocuous," the Jew may be found worthy of receiving equal rights with
his Christian fellow-citizens.

It is not difficult to discern in this project the influence of Joseph
II.'s policy, which similarly sought to effect the "improvement" of the
Jew through compulsory enlightenment and his amalgamation with the
native population, as a preliminary for his attainment of equal rights.
It seems that the project met with a friendly reception in the
progressive circles of Polish society, which were animated by the ideas
of the eighteenth century. The anonymous pamphlet appeared in a second
edition in 1785, and a third edition was published in 1789 by
Butrymovich, a deputy of the Quadrennial Diet, who added comments of his
own. A year later Butrymovich extracted from his edition the project of
Jewish reform, and laid it before the committee of the Diet, which was
then meeting amidst the uproar of the great French Revolution.[220]

As for the inner life of this Jewish mass of one million souls, it
displays the same saddening spectacle of disintegration. The social
rottenness of the environment, the poison of the decaying body of
Poland, worked its way into Jewish life, and began to undermine its
foundations, once so firmly grounded. The communal autonomy, which had
been the mainstay of public Jewish life, was unmistakably falling to
pieces. In the southwestern region, in Podolia, Volhynia, and
Galicia,--the last having been annexed by Austria,--it had been
shattered by the great religious split produced by Hasidism. The Kahal
organization was tottering to its fall, either because of the division
of the community into two hostile factions, the Hasidim and Mithnagdim,
or because of the inertia of the Hasidic majority, which, blindly
obeying the dictates of the Tzaddik, was incapable of social
organization. In the northwestern region, in Lithuania and White
Russia,--the latter having become a Russian province--the rabbinical
party, going hand in hand with the Kahal authorities, was superior to
the forces of Hasidism. Nevertheless the Kahal organization was infected
by the general process of degeneration, which had seized the country at
large in the partition period. The Jewish plutocracy followed the
example of the Polish pans in exploiting the poor laboring masses. The
rabbinate, like the Polish clergy, catered to the rich. The secular and
the ecclesiastic oligarchy, which controlled the Kahal, victimized the
community by a shockingly disproportionate assessment of state and
communal taxes, throwing the main burden on the impecunious classes, and
thus bringing them to the verge of ruin. The _parnasim_, or wardens, of
the community, as well as the rabbis, were occasionally found guilty of
embezzlement, usury, and blackmail.

The oppression of the Kahal oligarchy went to such lengths that the
suffering masses, unmindful of the traditional prohibition to appeal to
the "law courts of the Gentiles," frequently sought to obtain redress
from the Christian administration against these Jewish satraps. In 1782
representatives of the lower classes, principally artisans, of the
Jewish population of Minsk, lodged a complaint with the Lithuanian
Financial Tribunal against the local Kahal administration, which "was
completely ruining the community of Minsk." They alleged that the Kahal
leaders embezzled the receipts from taxation, and misappropriated the
surplus for their own benefit, that by means of the herem
(excommunication) they squeezed all kinds of revenues from the poor and
appropriated their hard-earned pennies. The complainants add that for
their attempt to lay bare the misdoings of the Kahal before the
administration, they had been arrested, imprisoned, and pilloried in the
synagogue by order of the Kahal wardens.

In Vilna, the capital of Lithuania, celebrated on account of its
aristocracy of mind as well as its aristocracy of birth, a split
occurred within the ranks of the Kahal oligarchy itself. For nearly
twenty years there was a conflict between the Rabbi, a certain Samuel
Vigdorovich (son of Avigdor), and the Kahal, or, more correctly, between
the rabbinical party and the Kahal party. The Rabbi had been convicted
of corruption, drunkenness, biased legal decisions, perjury, and so on.
The litigation between the Rabbi and the Kahal had, at an earlier stage,
been submitted to a court of arbitration as well as to a conference of
Lithuanian rabbis. Since the strife and agitation in the city did not
subside, both parties appealed, in 1785, to Radziwill, the Voyevoda of
Vilna, who decided in favor of the Kahal, and dismissed the Rabbi from

The common people, standing between the two belligerent parties, were
particularly bitter towards the Kahal, whose abuses and misdeeds
exceeded all measure. A little later, between 1786 and 1788, a champion
of the people's cause appeared in the person of Simeon Volfovich (son of
Wolf), who, acting as the spokesman of the Jewish masses of Vilna, had
to struggle and suffer on their behalf. To ward off the persecution by
the Kahal, Volfovich managed to obtain an "iron letter" from King
Stanislav Augustus, guaranteeing inviolability of person and property to
himself and to the whole Jewish commonalty, "which the tyranny of the
Kahal had brought to the verge of ruin." This did not prevent the Kahal
authorities from subjecting Simeon to the herem and entering his name in
the "black book," while the Voyevoda, who sided with the Kahal tyrants,
sent the mutinous champion of the people to the prison of Neswizh
(1788). From there the prisoner addressed his memorandum to the
Quadrennial Diet, emphasizing the need of a radical change in the
communal organization of the Jews, and urging the abolition of the Kahal
power, which pressed so heavily upon the people. This struggle between
the Kahal, the rabbinate, and the common people shook to its foundations
the social organization of the Jews of Lithuania shortly before the
incorporation of this country into the Russian Empire.

A somber picture of the conduct of the communal oligarchy is supplied by
one of the few broad-minded rabbis of the period:

    The leaders [rabbis and elders] consume the offerings of the
    people, and drink wine for the fines imposed by them. Being in
    full control of the taxes, they assess and excommunicate [their
    opponents]; they remunerate themselves for their public activity
    by every means at their disposal, both openly and in secret.
    They make no step without accepting bribes, while the destitute
    carry the burden.... The learned cater to the rich, and, as for
    the rabbis, they have only contempt for one another. The
    students of the Talmud despise those engaged in mysticism and
    Cabala, while the common people accept the testimony of both,
    and conclude that all scholars are a disgrace to their
    calling.... The rich value the favor of the Polish pans above
    the good opinion of the best and noblest among the Jews. The
    rich Jew does not appreciate the honor shown to him by a
    scholar, but boasts of having been allowed to enter the mansion
    of a Polish noble and view his treasures.

The rabbi complains in particular that the well-to-do classes are
obsessed by a love of show; that the women wear strings of pearls around
their necks, and array themselves in many-colored fabrics.

The education of the young generation in the heders and yeshibahs sank
to ever lower depths. Instruction in the elements of secular culture was
entirely out of the question. The Jewish school bore a purely rabbinical
character. True, Talmudic scholasticism succeeded in sharpening the
intellect, but, failing to supply concrete information, it often
confused the mind. Hasidism had wrested a huge piece of territory from
the dominion of Rabbinism, but, as far as education was concerned, it
was powerless to create anything new. The religious and national
sentiments of Polish Jewry had undergone a profound transformation at
the hands of Hasidism, but the transformation lured the Jews backward,
far into the thickets of mystical contemplation and blind faith, both
subversive of rational thinking and of any attempt at social reform.

In the last two decades of the eighteenth century, when the banner of
militant enlightenment was floating over German Jewry, a bitter warfare
between the Hasidim and Mithnagdim was raging all along the line in
Poland and Lithuania, with the result that the consciousness of the
political crisis through which Polish Jewry was then passing was dimmed,
and the appeal from the West calling to enlightenment and progress was
silenced. The specter of German rationalism, which flitted across the
horizon of Polish Jewry, produced horror and consternation in both
camps. To be a "Berliner" was synonymous with being an apostate. A
Solomon Maimon was forced to flee to Germany in order to gain access to
the world of new ideas, which were taboo in Poland.


The first year of the French Revolution coincided with the first year of
Polish reform. In Paris the _états généraux_ were transformed, under the
pressure of the revolutionary movement, from a parliament of classes
into a national assembly representing the nation as a whole. In Warsaw
the new reform Diet, styled the Quadrennial, or the Great, though
essentially a parliament of the Shlakhta, and remaining strictly within
the old frame of class organization, reflected nevertheless the
influence of French ideas in their pre-revolutionary aspect. The third
estate, that of the burghers, was knocking at the doors of the Polish
Chamber, demanding equal rights, and one of the principal parliamentary
reforms consisted in equalizing the burghers with the Shlakhta in their
civil, though not in their political, prerogatives.

Two other questions affecting the inner life of Poland claimed the
attention of the legislators touched by the spirit of reform: the
agrarian and the Jewish question. The former was discussed and brought
to a solution, which could not be other than favorable to the interests
of the slaveholding landowners. As for the Jewish question, it cropped
up for a moment at the tumultuous sessions of the Quadrennial Diet, and
like an evil spirit was banished into the farthest corner of the Polish
Chamber, into a special "deputation," or commission, where it stuck
forever, without finding a solution.

It would not be fair to ascribe this failure altogether to the
conservative trend of mind of the rejuvenators of Poland. There was an
additional factor that stood in the way of radical reforms. Over the
head of Poland hung the unsheathed sword of Russia, and Russia was
averse to the inner regeneration of the country, which, having undergone
one partition, was expected to furnish a second and a third dish for the
table of the Great Powers. The Quadrennial Diet was a protest against
the oppressive patronage of Russia, which was personified by her
Resident in Warsaw, and had for its main purpose the preparation of the
country for the inevitable struggle with her powerful neighbor. The
"estates in Parliament assembled" had to think of reorganizing the army
and filling the war chest rather than of carrying out internal reforms.

But outside the walls of the Chamber the current of public opinion was
whirling and foaming. Side by side with the legislative assembly, a
literary parliament was holding its deliberations, the famous pamphlet
"literature of the Quadrennial Diet," reflecting the liberal currents of
the eighteenth century. The "Kollontay smithy"[221] alone, which was,
so to speak, the publishing house of the reformers, flooded the country
with pamphlets and leaflets touching upon all the questions connected
with the social reorganization of the Polish body politic. Scores of
pamphlets dealt partly or wholly with the Jewish question. The
discussions on the projects of "Jewish reform" were conducted with
intense passion, taking the place of parliamentary debates.

The impulse to the literary discussion of the Jewish question came from
a pamphlet previously referred to, which had been published by
Butrymovich, a representative of the city of Pinsk in the Diet, who
stood out as the principal champion of the renaissance of Polish Jewry.
The publication consisted of a reprint of the well-known pamphlet of "A
Nameless Citizen," which had been circulated in two editions.[222]
Butrymovich supplied the pamphlet with a new title ("A Means whereby to
Transform the Polish Jews into Useful Citizens of the Country"), and
garnished it with comments of his own. In this way the popular member of
the Diet put the seal of his approval upon the reform project, which was
based on the assumption that the Jews in their present state were
detrimental to the country, not because of their intrinsic make-up, but
on account of their training and mode of life, and that their political
and spiritual regeneration had to precede their association with civil
life. The proposed reforms reduced themselves to the following measures:
to promote useful pursuits among the Jews, such as agriculture and
handicrafts, and to remove them from the obnoxious liquor traffic; to
combat their separateness by curtailing their Kahal autonomy; to
supersede the Yiddish dialect by the Polish language in school and in
business; to prohibit the wearing of a distinctive costume and the
importation of Hebrew books from abroad. This reform project was
supplemented by Butrymovich in one particular: the Jews were not to be
admitted to military service in person, until enlightenment had
transformed them into patriots ready to serve their fatherland.

Yet even this project, imbued though it was with the spirit of
patronage and compulsory assimilation, was deemed far too liberal by
many representatives of advanced Polish society. One of the progressive
Polish journals published "Reflections Concerning the Jewish Reform
Proposed by Butrymovich" (December, 1798). The writer of the
"Reflections" concedes a certain amount of "political common sense" in
the project, but criticizes its author, because, "in his great zeal to
preserve the rights of man, he shows too much indulgence towards the
defects of the Jews." The anonymous journalist in turn demands the
complete annihilation of the Kahal and limits the action of the Jewish
communities to the exercise of a purely congregational autonomy. He also
considers it necessary to restrict retail trade among the Jews in the
cities, so that, having been dislodged from commerce, they might be
induced to engage in handicrafts and agriculture.

Several magazine writers spoke far more harshly of the Jews, and adopted
a tone bordering on anti-Semitism. The famous prelate Stashitz, the
author of "A Warning to Poland" (Warsaw, 1790), who enjoyed the
reputation of being a democrat, styles the Jews "a summer and winter
locust for the country," and voices the conviction that only in an
environment in which idleness is fostered could this "host of parasites"
find shelter, entirely forgetting that these "parasites" had created
the commerce of the country riven between nobles and serfs.

The majority of these vilifiers agreed in one point, that the defects of
the Jews could be cured only by "reforming" their life from above. An
ancient historic nation, which had for centuries managed its own
affairs, was represented as a kind of riffraff, whose life could be
easily recut after a new pattern. To achieve this end, all that was
necessary was to let the Polish language take the place of Yiddish, to
substitute the official Polish school for the traditional Jewish school,
the magistracy for the Kahal, handicrafts and agriculture for commerce.
The authors of the various schemes disagreed merely as to the extent to
which the radical and compulsory character of these reforms should be
pursued. Some suggested abolishing altogether the communal autonomy of
the Jews (Kollontay); others would merely confine it to definite
functions, and place the Kahal under the supervision of the Government
(Butrymovich and others). Still others proposed to shave off the Jews'
beards and earlocks, to burn the Talmud, and reduce the number of Jewish
religious festivals. Others again were content with prohibiting the
traditional Jewish costume and shutting down the Jewish
printing-presses, proposing at the same time "to encourage the
translation of Jewish religious literature into the Polish language."
The plan of limiting the number of Jewish marriages after the
Austro-Prussian model, by requiring a special permit of the police and a
certificate testifying to the ability of the candidate to provide for
his family and to his compliance with certain standards of general
education, appealed to all the reformers. Several writers injected into
the discussion of the Jewish question the specific problem of the
Neo-Christians, the converts from among the Frankist sect, who, having
been merged with the Polish gentry and burgher class, were yet treated
by them as strangers, and stood aloof equally from Christian and Jewish
society. The majority of Polish writers endorsed the contemptuous
attitude of Polish society towards these converts, who in point of fact
fostered their old sectarian leanings, traveled abroad to do homage to
Frank, and supplied him with money.

In the babel of voices condemning the entire Jewish population of the
country and dooming it to a radical "refitting" by means of police
measures, only one solitary Jewish voice made itself heard. Hirsch
Yosefovich (son of Joseph), a rabbi of Khelm, published a pamphlet in
Polish, under the title "Reflections Concerning the Plan of Transforming
the Polish Jews into Useful Citizens of the Country." While giving
Butrymovich full credit as an enlightened well-wisher of the Jews, the
Rabbi expresses his amazement that even cultured men indulge in a
wholesale condemnation of the Jewish people, and charge the misdeeds of
certain individuals among them to the account of the whole nation, which
is endowed with so many virtues, and is of benefit to the country in so
many respects. The author emphatically protests against the proposed
abolition of the Kahals and against outside interference in the
religious affairs of the Jews, in a word, against the projects tending
to assimilate the Jews with the Poles, which assimilation "was bound to
result in the complete destruction of Judaism." As an Orthodox rabbi he
refuses to budge an inch, even in the matter of a change in dress, slyly
observing that once the Jews are put in the category of malefactors, it
seems preferable to allow them to retain their traditional garb, so as
to mark them off from the Christians.

At that time Warsaw evidently did not yet possess the type of cultured
Mendelssohnians--they appeared in that city shortly thereafter, under
the Prussian _régime_--who might have been in a position to engage in a
literary discussion of the proposed reforms from the Jewish point of
view. "Enlightenment" was then the exclusive privilege of a small number
of Jews who, as agents or as purveyors of the Crown, came into contact
with the Court or the Government. The project of one of these "advanced"
Jews, the royal broker Abraham Hirschovich (son of Hirsch), has been
preserved in the archives. In this project, which was submitted to King
Stanislav Augustus during the sessions of the Great Diet, the author
suggests some of the patent remedies of the Polish reformers: to induce
the Jews to engage in handicrafts and agriculture "in the deserted
steppes of the Ukraina" and to forbid early marriages. With regard to
the change in dress, he advises beginning with the prohibition of
luxurious articles of wear, such as silk, satin, velvet, pearls, and
diamonds, the chase after finery having a ruinous effect on men of
moderate means. Rabbis, in the opinion of Hirschovich, ought to be
appointed only in the large cities, and not in the smaller towns, for
the reason that in these towns, which are generally owned by the
squires, the rabbis purchase their office from the latter, and then ruin
their congregations by all kinds of assessments. The Kahals should be
spared, except that the Government ought to maintain order in them,
since the Jews themselves, on account of their differences of opinion,
"cannot institute reasonable rules of conduct for themselves." The whole
plan reflects the spirit of flunkeyism, ever obsequiously willing to
yield to the powers that be in the matter "of eradicating the prejudices
and misconceptions of an erring people."

During the year 1789 and the first half of 1790 the Jewish question did
not come up at the sessions of the Quadrennial Diet. In the midst of the
passionate debates raging around the supremely important bills involving
the whole future of the body politic, the Diet remained deaf to the
repeated reminders of Butrymovich, who demanded the same urgency for the
proposed Jewish reform. Neither did the heated literary discussions
centering on the Jewish question prompt the popular representatives to
take it up more speedily. But at this juncture ominous shouts from the
street began to penetrate into the Chamber of Deputies, and the Diet had
to bestir itself.

The metropolitan mob had made up its mind to solve the Jewish question
after its own fashion. To the Christian tradesmen and artisans of Warsaw
the Jewish question was primarily a matter of professional competition.
During the first two years of the Great Diet the old law which confined
the Jewish right of residence in Warsaw to temporary visits during the
brief sittings of the Diets, had automatically fallen into disuse. The
Diet having prolonged its powers for a number of years, the Jews thought
that they too had the right to prolong their term of residence.
Accordingly an ever-growing wave of Jewish tradesmen and artisans in
search of a livelihood began to flow from the provinces into the busy
commercial emporium, and this new influx could not fail to affect the
Christian middle class, inasmuch as the new-comers diverted purchasers
and customers from the native tradesmen and artisans, who were
affiliated with the guilds and trade-unions.

The privileged burghers, who by that time were on the point of being
equalized with the Shlakhta in their rights, raised a cry of
indignation. In March, 1790, a crowd of incorporated artisans, among
them a particularly large number of tailors and furriers, surrounded
the town hall, and vowed to murder all Jews, should the magistracy
refuse to expel them from Warsaw. John Dekert, a well-known champion of
the burgher class, who was mayor at the time, immediately brought this
demonstration to the notice of the Diet, and the latter dispatched two
of its members to pacify the crowd. When asked by the deputies about the
motive of the gathering, the artisans declared that the newly-arrived
Jews made life intolerable by wresting the last earnings from the
Christian tailors and furriers. The deputies promised to look into the
matter. Accordingly, on the following day, the Jewish artisans and
street venders were ordered out of the city, and only the merchants who
had stores or warehouses were permitted to remain.

Penniless and homeless, the exiled Jews could do nothing but return
surreptitiously to Warsaw soon afterwards. The agitation among the
Christian population commenced anew, and on May 16, 1790, it vented
itself in a riot. A certain Fox, a member of the tailors' union,
happened that day to meet a Jewish tailor on the street who was carrying
a piece of work in his hand. He suddenly attacked him, and began to pull
the parcel out of his hands. The Jew tore himself away, and managed to
escape. The shouts of Fox attracted a crowd of Christian artisans. Some
one spread the rumor that the Jews had killed a Christian tailor. At
once the cry for vengeance went up, and a riot began. The mob rushed
into Tlomatzkie Street, but was beaten off by the Jews, who had taken
shelter behind a fence. In the adjacent streets, however, "victory"
perched on the banner of the mob. They looted private residences as well
as stores and warehouses belonging to Jews, carrying off whatever was
valuable, and throwing the rest into wells. The municipal guards, which
came rushing along, were met by a hail of stones and bricks. Only when
a detachment of soldiers on foot and on horse appeared was the crowd
dispersed and order restored.

Stirred by these events, the Diet gave orders to investigate the matter
and bring the guilty to justice. Justice in the case of the Christian
malefactors amounted to the arrest of Fox and the imprisonment of some
of his accomplices. As for the Jews, severe administrative measures were
adopted: any peddler or artisan found on the street with goods or orders
was to be conveyed to the marshal's guard-chamber, punished with rods,
and expelled. In such manner were Jewish artisans dealt with at a time
when the projects for reform were full of eloquent phrases about the
necessity of attracting the Jews to handicrafts in particular and
productive forms of labor in general.

The agitation in Warsaw led moreover to consequences of a more serious
nature. The Diet realized that further delay in considering the Jewish
question was impossible now that the street had begun to solve it by its
own simplified methods. On June 22, 1790, the Diet appointed a
"Commission for Jewish Reform," which was composed of the deputies
Butrymovich, Yezierski, the Castellan of Lukov,[223] and others.
Yezierski, who soon became the chairman of the Commission, was an
advocate of radical reforms, and as such came nearer than any of his
colleagues to a just estimate of the economic aspect of the Jewish
problem. In opposition to the current formula of "transforming the Jews
into useful citizens," he declared in the Diet that in his opinion the
Jews as it was were useful, because for a long time they had constituted
the only mercantile element in Poland, and had rendered valuable
services by exporting abroad the products of the country and thus
enriching it. Hence the favorable financial position of the Jews would
be tantamount to a stronger position of the state finances and an
increase by many millions in the circulation of money. The Commission,
guided by Yezierski and Butrymovich, labored assiduously. It examined a
number of reform projects submitted by Butrymovich, Chatzki, and others.
Butrymovich's project was an extract from his own publication referred
to previously. Similar in essence was the project of the well-known
historian and publicist Thaddeus Chatzki, the guiding spirit of the
finance committee of the Quadrennial Diet.[224]

In the beginning of 1791 the Commission of the Diet finished its labors
on the Jewish reform project, and submitted it to the Diet for
consideration. The project of the Commission, the text of which has not
come down to us, was doubtless based on the proposals of Butrymovich and
Chatzki. The Diet, completely absorbed in arranging for the promulgation
of the Constitution of the third of May, was not in a position to busy
itself with the Jewish question. Only after the Constitution had been
promulgated in the session of May 24 was the Jewish reform project
brought up again by Butrymovich, who claimed urgency for it. But at that
juncture there arose another member of the Jewish Commission, by the
name of Kholonyevski, a deputy from Bratzlav in Podolia, and announced
that he considered the project of the Commission, with its extension of
the commercial rights of the Jews, prejudicial to the interests of
Little Poland, and therefore moved to recommend his own proposals to the
attention of the House. The Diet was glad of an excuse for postponing
the consideration of this vexatious problem. Soon afterwards, in June,
the Diet was adjourned, and it did not reassemble until September,

In this way the _magna charta_ of Polish liberty--the Constitution of
May 3, 1791--was promulgated without modifying in the slightest degree
the status of the Jews. True, the new Constitution did not in any way
alter the former caste system of the Polish Republic itself--the
feudalism of the nobility, the servitude of the peasantry, and the
privileges of the gentry. Nevertheless it conferred civil equality on
the burgher class, and placed the representative institutions on a
somewhat more democratic basis. Only the Jew, the cinderella of the
realm, was completely cut off in this last will of dying Poland.

The sessions of the Diet, which were renewed in the fall of 1791, were
surrounded by a particularly disquieting political atmosphere. The
opponents of the new Constitution fomented an agitation in the country.
Civil strife and war with Russia were imminent. Nevertheless the
indefatigable Butrymovich had the courage to remind the Diet once again
of the necessity of extending the protection of the Government to "the
unfortunate nationality which is not in a position to effect its own
rescue, and is not even aware of the direction in which the betterment
of its lot may be found." He demanded that the Commission revise the
project formerly elaborated by it, with a view to submitting it anew to
the House, with such amendments as were "called forth by present-day
circumstances." Butrymovich was warmly seconded by Yezierski, who in the
same session (December 30) voiced the above-mentioned "radical" idea,
that in his opinion the Jews were even now "useful citizens," and not
merely likely to be "useful" in the future. The Diet adopted the
motion, and the Commission once more resumed its labors.

The results of these labors were minimal. After protracted deliberations
the Commission arrived at the following conclusion:

    In order to improve the status of the Jewish population, it is
    necessary to regulate its mode of life. Such regulation is
    impossible unless that population is relieved from its Kahal
    indebtedness, which relief cannot be brought about until the
    finance committee has taken up the question of liquidation.[225]

The Commission accordingly felt that, before taking up the projected
reforms, the Government should first point out ways and means of
liquidating the Kahal debts. The resolution of the Commission was
cheerfully passed in a plenary session of the Diet. A burden had been
lifted from its shoulders. There was no more need of bothering about
"Jewish reform" and "equality." It was enough to instruct the local
courts to fix the extent of the Kahal debts and authorize the finance
committee to wipe them off with moneys taken from the available Kahal
funds or other special sources. Thus it came about that, under the
pretext of liquidating Jewish debts, "Jewish reform" itself was

Having been passed over by the Constitution of May 3, the Jews, if we
are to believe the accounts of several contemporaries, made an attempt
to influence the Government and the Diet through the instrumentality of
King Stanislav Augustus, approaching the latter with the help of their
connections at court. Jewish public leaders are said to have assembled
in secret and elected three delegates, who were to enter into
negotiations with the King looking to the amelioration of the condition
of the Jews. The three delegates carried out their mandate, towards the
end of 1791 and the beginning of 1792, with the help of the Royal
Secretary Piatoli as their go-between. Shortly thereafter they were
received by the King in special audience, with great solemnity, the
King, as the story has it, being seated on his throne during the
reception. The Jews pleaded for civil rights as well as for the right of
acquiring lands and houses in the cities, the preservation of their
communal autonomy, and exemption from the jurisdiction of the
magistracies. The story goes that the Jewish delegates held out the
promise of a gift of twenty million gulden to pay the royal debts.
Several leaders of the Diet, among them Kollontay, a radical, were
initiated into the secret. The King, according to this report,
endeavored to push the Jewish reform project through the Jewish
Commission and the Diet, but failed in his efforts. The problem of ages
could not be disposed of at this anxious hour when the angel of death
was hovering over Poland, while the unfortunate land was exhausting its
strength in a final dash for inner regeneration and outer independence.


The death struggle of Poland was approaching. The opponents of the May
Constitution among the conservative elements of the country joined hands
with the Russian Government, which in its own sphere of influence had
always been a baneful stumbling-block in the path of progress. The
result was the formation of the Confederacy of Targovitza[226] and the
outbreak of civil war (summer, 1792). Though severed from political
life, the Jews nevertheless showed sympathy here and there with the men
that fought for the new Constitution. The Jewish tailors of Vilna
undertook to furnish gratis two hundred uniforms for the army of
liberty. The communities of Sokhachev and Pulavy contributed their mite
towards the patriotic funds. The Jews of Berdychev took part in the
deputation of the local merchants which went to meet Joseph Poniatovski,
the commander-in-chief of the Polish army, and presented him with new
instruments for the regimental music bands. On many an occasion the
Jewish communities of Volhynia and Podolia were the victims of enforced
requisitions from both belligerent armies. The community of Ostrog had
to undergo the bombardment of the city by the Russian army in July,

The year 1793 saw the second partition of Poland, between Russia and
Prussia. Russia annexed Volhynia, with a part of the province of Kiev,
Podolia, and the region of Minsk. Prussia, in turn, acquired the other
part of Great Poland (Kalish, Plotzk,[227] etc.), with Dantzic and
Thorn. Once more an enormous territory, with hundreds of thousands of
Jews, was cut off from Poland. The unfortunate nation, seized with a
paroxysm of pain at this new amputation, burst forth against its
torturers. The Revolution of 1794 took its course.

At the head of the uprising stood Kosciuszko.[228] Having been reared in
the atmosphere of two great revolutions--the American and the French--he
had a loftier conception of civic and political liberty than the
liberalizing host of the Polish Shlakhta. He was aware that no free
country could exist without first abolishing the serfdom of the peasants
and the inequality of the citizens. Even in the heat of his struggle for
the salvation of the fatherland, the Polish leader occasionally gave
proof of his democratic tendencies, and the oppressed classes could not
but feel that this revolution was more than merely an affair of the

The enthusiasm for liberty communicated itself to several sections of
Polish Jewry. It was manifested during the prolonged Russo-Prussian
siege of Warsaw in the summer and autumn of 1794, when the whole
population was called to arms to defend the capital. The very same Jews
who but a little while ago had been attacked on the streets of Warsaw by
the burghers and artisans, and were mercilessly driven from the city by
order of the administration, now, in the moment of danger, fought in the
trenches shoulder to shoulder with their persecutors, digging ditches
and throwing up earthworks. Frequently at an alarm signal the volunteers
would rush out to fight back the besiegers. Amidst the whistling of
bullets and bursting of shells they repulsed the enemies' attacks side
by side with the other Varsovians, furnishing their quota in wounded and
killed, and yet keeping up their courage. Among the Jews defending
Warsaw the plan was conceived of forming a separate Jewish legion to
fight for the country. At the head of this patriotic group stood Berek

Born about 1765 in the little town of Kretingen,[230] Berek had
traversed the thorny path that led a poor Jewish boy from the Jewish
religious school (heder) to the post of a pan's agent. He entered the
employ of a high noble, the Bishop of Vilna, by the name of Masalski,
and was thereby launched upon his remarkable career. Masalski often went
abroad, especially to Paris, and always took his Jewish agent with him.
During these travels young Berek early acquired the French language, and
observed the life of the Parisian salons in which the master moved. The
plain Polish Jew perceived a new world, and he could not help scenting
the new tendencies floating about in the air of the world's capital on
the eve of the great Revolution.

During the years of the Quadrennial Diet Berek, who had given up his
position with Masalski, and had married in the meantime, lived in Praga,
a suburb of Warsaw. In the atmosphere of patriotic excitement, the vague
impressions which his contact with the Polish nobility and his foreign
travels had left upon his mind came to maturity. The heroic figure of
Kosciuszko and the siege of Warsaw gave these vague sensations a
concrete form. He realized that it was his immediate duty to fight for
the freedom of the country, for the salvation of the capital, where
Poles and Jews were equally shut off and cooped up by the hand of the
enemy. Now was the time to prove that even the stepchildren of the
nation knew how to fight in the ranks of her sons, and that they
deserved a better lot.

Accordingly, in September, 1794, at the very height of the siege, Berek
Yoselovich, conjointly with Joseph Aronovich (son of Aaron), a
fellow-Jew of like mind, applied to Kosciuszko, the commander-in-chief,
for permission to form a special regiment of light cavalry consisting of
Jewish volunteers. Kosciuszko immediately complied with their request,
and announced it joyfully in a special army order, dated September 17,
extolling the patriotic zeal of the originators of the plan, "who
remember the land in which they were born, and know that its liberation
will bestow upon them [the Jews] the same advantages as upon the
others." Berek was appointed commander of the Jewish regiment. An appeal
was issued calling for recruits and for contributions towards their
equipment. Berek's appeal to his coreligionists was published in the
official "Gazette" of Warsaw on October 1. It was written in Polish,
though couched in the solemn phraseology of the Bible:

    Listen, ye sons of the tribes of Israel, all ye in whose heart
    is implanted the image of God Almighty, all that are willing to
    help in the struggle for the fatherland.... Know ye that now the
    time hath come to consecrate to this all our strength.... Truly,
    there are many mighty nobles, children of the Shlakhta, and many
    great minds who are ready to lay down their lives!... Why then
    should we who are persecuted not take to arms, seeing that we
    are the most oppressed people in the world!... Why should we not
    labor to obtain our freedom which has been promised us just as
    firmly and sincerely as it has been to others? But first we must
    show that we are worthy of it.... I have had the happiness of
    being placed at the head of the regiment by my superiors. Awake
    then, and help to rescue oppressed Poland. Faithful brethren,
    let us fight for our country as long as a drop of blood is left
    in us! Though we ourselves may not live to see this [our
    freedom], at least our children will live in tranquillity and
    freedom, and will not roam about like wild beasts. Awake then
    like lions and leopards!

Berek's language is crude and naïve, and so is his political reasoning.
While calling upon the Jews to join "the mighty nobles" in fighting for
liberty, he evidently overlooked the fact that the liberty of the Jews
was far from being secured by the liberty of the nobles, among whom men
with the humanitarian tendencies of a Kosciuszko were few and far
between.[231] Berek, however, found solace in the hope that the
participation of the Jews in the struggle for Polish independence would
bring about a change. He lived at a time when the Jews of Western Europe
were eager to display their patriotic sentiments and civic virtues.
Before his mind's eye there probably floated the figures of Jews who,
since 1789, had served in the _garde nationale_ of Paris.

Berek's enthusiasm succeeded in attracting many volunteers. In a short
time a regiment of five hundred men was made up. The Jewish legion,
which was hastily equipped with the scanty means supplied by the
revolutionary Government and by voluntary contributions, had the
checkered appearance of militia. Yet the consciousness of military duty
was keen in these men, many of whom carried arms for the first time in
their lives. The Jewish regiment displayed its dauntless and
self-sacrificing spirit on that fatal November fourth, the day of the
terrible onslaught upon Praga by the Russian troops under Suvarov. Among
the fifteen thousand Poles who lost their lives in the intrenchments of
Praga, in the streets of Warsaw, or in the waves of the Vistula, was
also the regiment of Berek Yoselovich. The bulk of the regiment met its
fate at the fortifications, being killed by Russian shells or bayonets.
Berek himself survived, and fled abroad with General Zayonchek,
Kosciuszko's comrade in arms, Kosciuszko himself having been made a
Russian prisoner somewhat earlier. Berek was at first arrested in
Austria, but he managed to escape and reach France, where he found
himself among the Polish revolutionary refugees.

The third partition of Poland, which took place in 1795, transferred to
Russia the backbone of the former Jewry of Poland, the dense masses of
Lithuania, the provinces of Vilna and Grodno. Prussia absorbed the
remainder of Great Poland, including Warsaw and Mazovia,[232] as well as
the region of Bialystok. Austria rounded off her possessions in Little
Poland by adding the provinces of Cracow and Lublin. Henceforward
the fortunes of the Polish Jews are identical with those of their
brethren in these three countries, and exhibit a "tricolored"

However, even the third partition of Poland was not final as far as the
political distribution of territory is concerned. For a short interval
the ghost of a semi-independent Poland dances fitfully about. Twelve
years after the third partition, Napoleon I., in juggling with the
political map of Europe and calling mushroom states into being, snatched
the province of Great Poland from the grasp of Prussia, and turned it
into the Duchy of Warsaw, a small Polish commonwealth under the rule of
the Saxon King Frederick Augustus III., a grandson of Augustus II., the
last Polish King of the Saxon dynasty. This took place in 1807, after
the crushing blow which Prussia had received at the hands of Napoleon
and after the conclusion of the Peace of Tilsit. Two years later, in
1809, when Napoleon had shattered Austria, he tore off a section of her
Polish dominions, and joined them to the Duchy of Warsaw.


Warsaw, having been cleared of the Prussians, once more became, after an
interval of twelve years, the capital of a separate Polish state,
resuscitated under the patronage of Napoleon. The Duchy of Warsaw, which
was made up of the ten "departments," or districts, of Great and Little
Poland, received from her French master a fairly liberal Constitution,
two legislative chambers (the Diet and the Senate), and the "Code of
Napoleon," which had just been introduced in France. The fundamental
laws proclaimed the equality of all citizens; serfdom was abolished, and
all class privileges were abrogated.

The Jews too cherished hopes for a better future. The nimbus of Napoleon
as the originator of the "Jewish Parliament" and the Parisian
Synhedrion, had not yet faded from the minds of the Jews, and they
cherished the hope that the Emperor would extend his protection to the
Polish Jews as well, but they were grievously disappointed.

The first year of the Duchy of Warsaw (1807-1808) coincided with a
critical turn in Napoleon's own policy towards the Jews of France. The
"Great Synhedrion" was disbanded, and its disbandment was followed by
the humiliating Imperial decree of March 17, 1808, which for a decade
checked in almost the entire French Empire the operation of the law
providing for Jewish emancipation. This reactionary step was grist to
the mill of those sinister forces in Poland which had learned nothing
from the violent upheavals their country had undergone, and even now
were not able to reconcile themselves to the idea of granting equality
to the unloved tribe.

In the spring of 1808 the Government of the Duchy was forced to pay
attention to the Jewish question, in consequence of a petition for civil
rights presented by the Jews, and in connection with the impending
elections to the Diet. The Council of Ministers, which had already been
informed of Napoleon's decree, clutched at it as an anchor of salvation.
A report was submitted to Duke Frederick Augustus, in which it was
pointed out that "a somber future would be in store for the Duchy if the
Israelitish nation, which is to be found here in vast numbers, were
suddenly to be allowed to enjoy civil rights," the reason being that
this people "cherishes a national spirit alien to the country," and
engages in unproductive occupations. The Council of Ministers pointed to
Napoleon's decree suspending the Jewish question for a time as a
convenient means of evading the clause of the Constitution granting
equal rights to all citizens.

To make sure of Napoleon's approval in this matter, the Government of
Warsaw conducted negotiations with its agents in France and with the
French minister Champagny, who was a Jew-hater. Napoleon's sympathetic
attitude towards this anti-Jewish policy having been ascertained, the
Duke promulgated on October 17, 1808, a decree to the following effect:

    The inhabitants of our Varsovian Duchy _professing the Mosaic
    religion_ shall be barred for ten years from enjoying the
    political rights they were about to receive, in the hope that
    during this interval they may eradicate their distinguishing
    characteristics, which mark them off so strongly from the rest
    of the population. The foregoing decision, however, will not
    prevent us from allowing individual members of that persuasion
    to enjoy political rights even before the expiration of said
    term, provided they will prove themselves worthy of our high
    favor, and will comply with the conditions which will be set
    forth by us in a special edict concerning the professors of the
    Mosaic religion.

In this way the Government of Warsaw in politely couched terms, phrased
after the modern French pattern, managed to rob all the "professors of
the Mosaic religion" of the rights of citizenship which the Constitution
had granted them. It is true that the decree uses the words "political
rights," but in reality the Jews were divested by it of their elementary
civil rights. In November, 1808, they were forbidden to acquire
patrimonial estates belonging to the Shlakhta. The humiliating
restrictions attaching to the right of domicile in Warsaw were restored,
and were embodied in a decree issued in 1809 which ordered the Jews to
remove within six months from the main streets of the capital, except a
few individuals, such as bankers, large merchants, physicians, and
artists. There was a general tendency to return to the anti-Jewish
traditions of the Old Polish and Prussian legislation.

The Jewish community became alarmed. By that time Warsaw already
possessed a goodly number of "advanced" Jews, who had acquired the new
culture of Berlin, and had divested themselves of the distinguishing
marks in dress and outward appearance for which the Jews were penalized
with the loss of rights. Relying upon the second clause of the ducal
decree, which provided for the exceptional treatment of those who shall
have "eradicated their distinguishing characteristics," a group of
seventeen Jews of this type made representations to the Minister of
Justice in January, 1809, to the effect that, "having endeavored for a
long time, by their moral conduct and modern dress, to come into closer
touch with the rest of the population, they are now certain that they
have ceased to be unworthy of civil rights." To this flunkeyish petition
the Minister of Justice, Lubenski--one of the "constitutional" ministers
who managed to promote the interests of despotism under the cloak of
liberalism--retorted with coarse sophistry, that constitutional equality
before the law did not yet make a man a citizen, for only those could
claim to be citizens who were loyal to the sovereign, and looked upon
this country as their only fatherland. "Can those"--added Lubenski--"who
profess the laws of Moses look upon this country as their fatherland? Do
they not wish to return to the land of their fathers?... Do they not
regard themselves as a separate nation?... The mere change of dress is
not yet sufficient." The Polish minister had, it would seem, made a
thorough study of Napoleon's catechism on the Jews.

Aside from the representatives of this sartorial culture, who looked
after their own personal advantage, there were among the Jews of Warsaw
followers of the Berlin "enlightenment," who considered it their duty to
make a stand for the rights of their people. On March 17, 1809, five
representatives of the Jewish community of Warsaw submitted a memorandum
to the ducal Senate, in which not only the note of entreaty but also the
undertone of indignation could be discerned.

    Thousands of _members of the Polish nation of the Mosaic
    persuasion_, who, by virtue of having dwelt in this country for
    many centuries, have acquired the same right to consider it
    their fatherland as the other inhabitants, have hitherto,
    without any fault of theirs, to the damage of society and as an
    insult to mankind, for reasons that no one knows, been doomed to
    humiliation, and are groaning under the load of daily

Contrary to the enlightened spirit of the age and "the wisdom of the
laws of Napoleon the Great"--the petitioners go on complaining--the Jews
are denied civil rights, have no one to defend them in the Diet or the
Senate, and sorrowfully anticipate that even "their children and
descendants will not live to see happier times."

    We carry a heavier burden of taxation than the other citizens.
    We are robbed of the gladsome opportunity of acquiring a piece
    of land, of building a little house, of founding a household, of
    erecting a factory, of engaging in commerce unhampered, in a
    word, doing that which God and nature hold out to man. In Warsaw
    we are even ordered out of the main streets. And what shall we
    say of those blessed liberties which citizens value most
    highly--the right of electing their superiors and of being
    elected by their compatriots, so as not to be as a dead body in
    the civic life of the nation? Is the land in which our fathers,
    paying heavily for this privilege, saw the light of the world,
    always to remain strange to us? Gentlemen of the Senate, we lay
    before you the tears of the fathers and of the children and of
    the coming generations. We beg you to hasten the happy day when
    we may enter upon the enjoyment of the rights and liberties with
    which Napoleon the Great has endowed the inhabitants of this
    country, and which our beloved country recognizes as the
    possession of her children.

To this petition of the Jews, who classed themselves as "members of the
Polish nation," and were ready to renounce their own national
characteristics, the Senate replied by presenting the Duke with a
heartless report, in which it was pointed out that the Jews had brought
upon themselves the "curtailment of their rights" by their "dishonest
pursuits" and by "their mode of life, subversive of the welfare of
society." It was necessary first to reform the life of the Jews and to
appoint a committee to elaborate plans of reform. It may be remarked
parenthetically that a committee of this kind had been in existence
since the end of 1808, and had worked out a "plan of reform" akin in
spirit to the projects of the Quadrennial Diet and the Parisian
Synhedrion. But all these committees were in reality nothing but a
decent way of burying the Jewish question.

At the very time when the Government of the Varsovian Duchy rejected the
Jewish appeal for equality, under the pretext that the Jews lacked
patriotism, there lived and worked in Warsaw a shining example of Polish
patriotism, Berek Yoselovich, the hero of the Revolution of 1794. After
roaming about for twelve years in Western Europe, where, having enlisted
in the ranks of the "Polish legions" of Domvrovski, he took part in many
Napoleonic wars, Berek returned home as soon as the Duchy was
established, and received an appointment as commander of a detachment in
the regular Polish army. The dream of the old fighter had failed to come
true. In vain had his "Jewish regiment" filled the trenches of Praga
with their dead bodies. Twelve years later the brethren of those who had
sacrificed their lives for their fatherland had to beg for the rights of
citizenship. But Berek seems to have forgotten his former ambition on
behalf of his fellow-Jews, having in the meantime become a professional
soldier. It was solely Polish patriotism and personal bravery that
prompted the last military exploits of his life. When, in the spring of
1809, war broke out between the Duchy and the Austrians, Berek
Yoselovich, at the head of his regiment, rushed against the enemy's
cavalry near the town of Kotzk.[233] He fell on May 5, after a series of
heroic deeds.

The papers lamented the loss of the hero. A representative of the Polish
aristocracy, the proud Stanislav Pototzki, devoted a special discourse
to his memory at a meeting of the "Society of the Friends of Science" in

    Thou hast saddened--thus spoke the orator--the land of heroes,
    thou valiant Colonel Berek, when unmeasured boldness drove thee
    into the midst of the enemy.... Well doth the fatherland
    remember also thy old wounds and thy former exploits, remember
    eternally that thou wast the first to give thy people an
    example, an example of rejuvenated heroism, and that thou hast
    resuscitated the image of those men of valor over whom in days
    gone by wept the daughters of Zion.

The Polish nation remembered, and that for a short time only, the one
Berek; but the thousands of his oppressed brethren were forgotten. The
only way in which the gratitude of the "fatherland" manifested itself
was a special order of the Duke granting permission to Berek's widow,
who found it difficult to live and bring up her children on her scanty
pension, to reside in the streets of Warsaw from which the Jews were
barred, and "to engage there in the sale of liquor." Other civil
privileges the Jews could not hope for, even by way of exception.

This state of affairs could not very well inspire the Jewish population
with a great love for military service, although the Jews had been
graciously permitted to discharge it in person. With few exceptions, the
Jews preferred to pay an additional tax rather than spill their blood
for a country which offered them obligations without rights. The decree
of January 29, 1812, legalized this substitution of personal military
service by a monetary ransom, the grand total of which amounted to
700,000 gulden a year.

On the brink of destruction, during the war tempest of 1812, the Duchy
of Warsaw still found leisure to strike an economic blow at the Jews. At
the suggestion of Minister Lubenski, a ducal decree was issued on
September 30 forbidding the Jews, after the lapse of two years, to sell
liquor and keep taverns, which meant, in other words, that tens of
thousands of Jewish families were to be deprived of their livelihood.
Secretly the Government justified this measure by the impending
augmentation of the territory of the Duchy and the restoration of Old
Poland, where strict economic measures were necessary to keep the
returning Jewish population in bounds. But the confidence reposed in the
power of Napoleon was not justified. The idol was overthrown. The Duchy
of Warsaw, the pale specter of an independent Poland, vanished into air,
and the fate of the country again lay in the hands of the three Powers
that had divided it, particularly Russia. The millions of Jews in
Russian Poland were well aware of what they had to expect at the hands
of their new rulers.


[215] [On this expression see p. 88, n. 1.]

[216] [It consisted of the present Governments of Moghilev and Vitebsk.]

[217] [After the first partition of Poland the Government of the country
was placed in the hands of a Permanent Council consisting of thirty-six
members, who were to be elected by the Diets, and were to take charge of
the five departments of the administration: foreign affairs, police,
war, justice, and finance. The king was to be the president of the
Council. The Diet, which assembled on October 6, 1788, abolished this
Permanent Council, and set out to elaborate a modern Constitution, which
was finally presented on May 3, 1791. While, according to Polish law,
the Diets met only once in two years for six weeks (see above, p. 76, n.
1), the Diet of 1788 declared itself permanent. It sat for four
years--hence its name, the Quadrennial Diet--until the adoption of the
new Constitution in 1791 led to civil war and to the intervention of

[218] [Popular Polish form of the Jewish name _Hirsch_.]

[219] [See p. 85.]

[220] See p. 280.

[221] [Kollontay (in Polish, _Kollontaj_) was a radical member of the
Polish Chamber. See p. 291.]

[222] See p. 272 and p. 273.

[223] [Lukov (in Polish, _Lukow_) is a district town in the province of
Shedletz, not far from Warsaw. Castellan is the Polish title for the
head of a district.]

[224] Chatzki's project is reproduced in his famous book _Rozprawa o
Zydach_, "Inquiry Concerning the Jews" (edition of 1860), pp. 119-134.

[225] The Jewish communities of Poland were burdened with enormous
debts, representing loans made by them in the course of many years, to
pay off their arrears in taxes, to meet extraordinary expenditures, and
so on. The creditors of the Jews were the municipal magistracies, the
Catholic monasteries, as well as private persons. The question of
liquidating these debts cropped up time and again at the sessions of the
Polish Diets during the latter half of the eighteenth century.

[226] [In Polish, _Targowica_, a town in the Ukraina.]

[227] [See p. 243, n. 1.]

[228] [More exactly, _Kościuszko_, pronounced _Koshchushko_.]

[229] [_Berek_, or _Berko_, popular Polish form of the Jewish name
_Baer_.--Yoselovich, in Polish _Joselowicz_, son of Yosel, or Joseph.]

[230] In the province of Zhmud [or Samogitia, corresponding practically
to the present Government of Kovno.]

[231] That the habits of the Shlakhta were but little changed by the
revolution may be gauged from the fact that in 1794 the revolutionary
Central Council passed a law ordering the sale of crown lands for the
purpose of paying the national debt, but limiting this sale to persons
of the Christian faith.

[232] [See p. 85, n. 1.]

[233] [In Polish, _Kock_, near Warsaw.]




The quarantine which Russia, prior to Catherine II., had established for
the "enemies of Christ," was broken through in 1772 by the first
partition of Poland. At one stroke the number of Russian subjects was
swelled by the huge Jewish masses of White Russia. The Russian Empire
was augmented by a new province adjoining its central possessions, and
together with the new region and its variegated population it acquired
hundreds of thousands of subjects of the kind it had hitherto ruthlessly
driven beyond its borders.

What was to be done with the unwelcome heritage bequeathed by Poland?
The primitive policy of an Elizabeth Petrovna might have dictated some
barbarous measure, such as the wholesale expulsion of the Jews from the
newly-acquired territory. But the statesmanlike intellect of a Catherine
could not, during the formulation of the liberal "Instructions,"[234]
admit such barbarism, which moreover would have been incompatible with
the new pledges the Russian Government had found it necessary to give to
the heterogeneous population of White Russia at the time of annexation.
In the "Placard" issued on this occasion by Count Chernyshev, the first
Governor-General of White Russia, all residents, "of whatever birth and
calling," were "solemnly assured by the sacred name and word of the
Empress," that their religious liberty as well as their personal rights,
and the privileges attaching to property and estate, would remain

This "assurance" included the Jews, though not without qualification, as
is shown by this passage:

    From the aforesaid solemn assurance of the free exercise of
    religion and the inviolability of property for one and all, it
    follows of itself that also the Jewish communities residing in
    the cities and territories now incorporated into the Russian
    Empire will be left in the enjoyment of all those liberties
    which they possess at present, in accordance with the [Russian]
    law and [their own] property. For the humaneness of her Imperial
    Majesty will not allow her to exclude the Jews alone from the
    grace vouchsafed to all and from the future prosperity under her
    beneficent rule, so long as they on their part shall live in due
    obedience as faithful subjects, and shall limit themselves to
    the pursuit of genuine trade and commerce according to their

To be sure, the Jews, in contradistinction to the rest of the
population, are promised the high Imperial favor on condition of "due
obedience." Yet the inviolability of their former rights was solemnly
guaranteed, and Russian politics had henceforward to be guided by it.

Immediately on the annexation of the new province a general census was
ordered. According to the testimony of a contemporary, the number of
Jews in White Russia was found to amount to over forty thousand
families, about two hundred thousand souls. An ukase of 1772 imposed
upon them a _per capita_ tax of one rubel (50c.). The annexed territory
was divided into two Governments, those of Moghilev and Polotzk, or, as
it is called at present, Vitebsk. In the interest of the regular
collection of taxes, the administration from the very beginning gave
instructions "to have all Jews affiliate with the Kahals and to
institute such [Kahals] as the governors may suggest or as necessity for
them may arise."

The problems connected with the inner organization of the Jews were of a
more complicated character. Far-reaching changes were taking place at
that time in the provincial and the social organization of the Russian
Empire. In 1775 was promulgated the "Regulation Concerning the
Governments."[235] In 1785 was issued the "Act Concerning Municipal
Administration,"[236] and the authorities were confronted by an
alternative: either to place the Jews under the general laws, according
to the estate to which they belonged (in the cities the mercantile
class, the burghers, and the trade-unions), or, in view of their
peculiar conditions of life and the Kahal autonomy inherited from
Poland, allow them to retain their own institutions as part of their
communal and spiritual self-government. It was a difficult problem, and
Russian legislation at first wavered between these two ways of solving
it, with the result that matters became muddled. The interference of the
local administration and the old rivalry among the various estates made
confusion worse confounded.

The ukase issued by the Senate in 1776 sanctioned the existence of the
Kahal, regarding it primarily as a fiscal and legislative institution,
which the Russian administration found convenient for its purposes. At
the instance of Governor-General Chernyshev, the Jews of White Russia
were set apart as a separate tax-unit and as an estate of their own.
They were to be entered on special registers in the towns, townlets,
villages, and hamlets, wherever a census was taken. The instructions
read that

    in order that their taxes may be more regularly remitted to the
    exchequer, Kahals shall be established in which they [the Jews]
    shall all be enrolled, so that every one of the "Zhyds,"[237]
    whenever he shall desire to travel somewhere on business, or to
    live and settle in one place or another, or to take anything on
    lease, shall receive a passport from the Kahal. The same Kahal
    shall pay the head-tax, and turn it over to the provincial

Thus, as regards the payment of taxes, and the rights not only of
transit but also of business, every Jew was placed in the same position
of dependence on his Kahal as under the old Polish _régime_. At the same
time the Kahal was endowed with certain judicial functions. District and
Government Kahals, the latter conceived as courts of appeal, were
established for cases between Jews, each of these Kahals being assigned
a definite number of elective judges. Only lawsuits between Jews and
non-Jews were to be brought before the general magistracy courts.

But a few years later the Government was shaken in its resolve to uphold
the former Kahal organization to its full extent. In 1782 an inquiry was
addressed by the Senate to Passek, the new Governor-General of White
Russia, as to the legality of establishing special Jewish law courts. A
year later the Government took a decided step in the opposite direction.
It recognized the rights of Jews registered in the merchant class to
participation in the general city government, to elect and to be elected
on equal terms with the Christian members of the magistracies, town
councils, and municipal courts. The realization of this reform was
greatly hampered by the opposition of the Christian merchants and
burghers, who hated the Jews, and could not reconcile themselves to the
municipal equality of their competitors. Having accustomed themselves to
look down upon the Jews as citizens of an inferior grade, the Christian
city officials assumed a hostile attitude towards their Jewish
colleagues who had been elected to public posts, and by electioneering
methods managed to reduce their numbers in the city corporations to a
minimum. The interests of the Jews were bound to suffer, particularly as
far as the administration of justice was concerned.

On the other hand, the administration itself began to oppress them. The
liberal Chernyshev was superseded by the anti-Jewish Passek, who did his
utmost to restrict the Jews in their economic activities, to the obvious
advantage of their competitors in the ranks of the Shlakhta and the
Christian merchants.

    The Jews--a contemporary who had himself been affected by these
    measures informs us--were driven from their breweries and
    distilleries, their toll-houses, hostelries, etc., which formed
    their principal means of livelihood. Thousands of families were
    reduced to beggary. In addition, new restrictions were
    introduced affecting business, handicrafts, and so forth.

The acuteness of the economic and social crisis among the Jews of White
Russia during that period of transition is evidenced by the petition
which their delegates submitted in 1784 to Catherine II.

The petition, consisting of six points, is permeated with a profound
feeling of despair. The Jews complain that the administration has
deprived them completely of their main sources of income: distilling,
brewing, and liquor-selling in the cities. They furthermore point out
that Governor-General Passek has forbidden the landed proprietors to
lease the inns on their estates to Jews, and that in consequence a large
number of families, who depended for their livelihood on some form of
liquor-selling and innkeeping, had been brought to the verge of ruin.
They also contend that the Jews had not reaped the expected benefits
from the equal municipal rights conferred upon them, for where the Jews
are in a minority not a single Jewish candidate is admitted to a
municipal or judicial office, "so that whenever a Jew goes to law
against a Christian, he is liable to become the victim of a partial
verdict, because there is no coreligionist to intercede on his behalf in
the courts, and he is not familiar with the Russian language." Their
further grievances relate to the arbitrariness of the landed
proprietors, who "from sheer caprice, contrary to agreement," impose an
excessive land rent on the Jews who have erected houses on their
property, so that they are forced to abandon their houses. Sometimes
houses are requisitioned for Government purposes, or are torn down "to
be rebuilt according to [new official street] plans," without the
slightest compensation to their owners. The magistracies, on the other
hand, often compel the Jews who are domiciled in the townlets and
villages, but are enrolled among the merchants or burghers of some
city, to build houses in that city, "whereby the Jews are liable to be
reduced to extreme poverty, inasmuch as by spending their capital on
building they have no capital wherewith to run their business."

The petition was received by the Empress, who, in forwarding it, in
1785, to the Senate for consideration, deemed it necessary to indicate
her general attitude in the following "resolution":

    Her Majesty desires to have it pointed out that, inasmuch as the
    aforesaid persons of the Jewish religion have been placed by the
    ordinances of her Majesty in the same position as the others, it
    is necessary in every case to observe the rule that everyone is
    entitled to the advantages and rights appertaining to his
    calling or estate, without distinction of religion or

The Senate had to comply with the comprehensive and liberal-minded
injunction of the Empress in endeavoring to solve the burning problems
affecting Jewish life. The solution finally arrived at was a feeble
compromise between the economic, national, and class interests which
were contradictory to one another. In its ukase of May 7, 1786, the
Senate partly fulfilled and partly declined the demands of the White
Russian Jews. The right of pursuing freely the liquor trade in the
cities was refused, in view of the fact that, according to the new law,
liquor-dealing constituted a monopoly of the city administration. On the
other hand, the Jews were accorded the rights of participating on equal
terms with non-Jews in the public bids for the lease of the pothouses.
Passek's rescript forbidding the landowners to let out distilleries and
inns to the Jews was declared an illegal infringement of the rights of
the landowners, and therefore ordered to be countermanded.

The complicated question as to the compatibility of municipal
self-government with Jewish Kahal autonomy was equally solved by a
compromise. With respect to the magistracies, town councils, boards of
aldermen, and law courts, the Jews were accorded proportionate
representation in agreement with the general provisions of the new city
government. The common municipal courts, in which Jews were to be
represented by elective jurymen of their own, were to handle both civil
and criminal cases, not only between persons of different denominations,
but also between Jew and Jew. The District and Government Kahals were to
deal with spiritual affairs only. They were also to be charged with the
distribution of the state and communal taxes in the various Jewish

As for the complaints of the Jews against the oppression of the
administration as well as of the magistracies and the landowners, all
the Senate did was to point to the principle by which all the members of
a given estate are equally vouchsafed the rights appertaining to it. The
Senate even went so far as to bar all references to the former Polish
laws with their discriminations against the Jews, "for, inasmuch as they
[the Jews] are enrolled among the merchants and burghers on the same
terms, and pay equal taxes to the exchequer, they ought in all
circumstances to be given the same protection and satisfaction as the
other subjects." Yet in the very same ukase the Senate refuses to grant
the petition of several White Russian Jews who asked to be enrolled in
the merchant corporation of Riga, basing its refusal on the absence of a
special Imperial permit allowing the Jews to register as merchants
outside of White Russian territory.

Here we have the first application of the ignominious principle of
subsequent Russian legislation, that everything is forbidden to Jews
unless permitted by special law. The ukase of 1786, with all its liberal
phrases about the equality of the members of all classes irrespective of
religion, imperceptibly instituted a Pale of Settlement by attaching the
Jews to definite localities, which had been wrested from Poland, and
refusing them the right of residence in other parts of Russia. The
implied criticism of the Senate, directed against "the former Polish
laws with their discriminations against the Jews," could with far
greater justice be leveled in much sharper form against the Russian
legislation which subsequently curtailed the Jewish right of transit and
commerce to an extent undreamt-of even by the fiercest anti-Jewish
restrictionists of Poland.

While in the first two decades after the occupation of White Russia the
Russian Government observed a comparatively liberal, at least a
well-intentioned, attitude towards the Jewish question, in later years
it openly embarked upon a policy of exceptional laws and restrictions.
The general reactionary tendency, which was partly the result of the
"ominous" successes of the great French Revolution, and gained the upper
hand in Russia towards the end of Catherine's reign, was mirrored also
in the position of the Jews. At that juncture the second and third
partitions of Poland (1793, 1795) were effected, and hundreds of
thousands of Jews from Lithuania, Volhynia, and Podolia were added to
the numbers of Russian subjects. The country, which barely a generation
before had not tolerated a single Jew within its borders, now included a
territory more densely populated by Jews than any other. Some means of
reconciliation had to be found between these historic opposites, the
traditional anti-Jewish policy of Russia, on the one hand, and the
presence of millions of Jews within its dominions, on the other, and
such means were found in that system of Jewish rightlessness which since
that time has become one of the principal characteristics of the
political genius of Russian autocracy. The ancient Muscovite policy
peeped out with ever greater boldness from beneath the European mask of
St. Petersburg.

On the very eve of the second partition of Poland, when the Russian
Government merely anticipated an influx of Jews, it had a fatal gift in
store for them: the law of the Pale of Settlement, which was to create
within the monarchy of peasant serfs a special class of territorially
restricted city serfs. It should be added that the impulse towards the
creation of this disability did not come from above but from below, from
the influential Christian middle class, which, fearing free competition,
began to shout for protection.

The first step in robbing the Jews of Russia of their freedom of
movement was made a few years after the occupation of White Russia. The
Jewish merchants of the White Russian Governments Moghilev and Polotzk
(or, as the latter is called at present, Vitebsk) which border on the
Great Russian Governments of Smolensk and Moscow, began to visit the two
cities of the same name and carry on trade, wholesale and retail, in
imported dry goods. They did a good business, for the Jewish merchants
sold goods of a higher quality at a lower figure than their Christian
competitors. This set the merchants of Moscow agog, and in February,
1790, they lodged a complaint with the commander-in-chief of Moscow
against the Jews who sell "foreign goods by lowering the current prices,
and thereby inflict very considerable damage upon the local trade." The
complainants point to the ancient tradition of the Muscovite Empire
excluding the Jews from its borders, and assure the authorities that
Jewish rivalry will throw the trade of Moscow into complete "disorder,"
and bring the Russian merchants to the verge of ruin.

The petition, which at bottom was directed not alone against the Jews,
but also against the interests of the Russian consumer, who was
exploited by the "real Russian" trade monopolists, found a sympathetic
echo in Government circles. Accordingly, in the autumn of the same year,
the Council of State, after considering the counter-petition of the Jews
asking to be enrolled in the merchant corporations of Smolensk and
Moscow, rendered the decision that it did not deem it expedient to grant
the Jews the right of free commerce in the inner Russian provinces,
because "their admission to it is not found to be of any benefit." A
year later this verdict was reaffirmed by an Imperial ukase issued on
December 23, 1791, to the effect that "the Jews have no right to enroll
in the merchant corporations in the inner Russian cities or ports of
entry, and are permitted to enjoy only the rights of townsmen and
burghers of White Russia." To mitigate the severity of this measure the
ukase "deemed it right to extend the said privilege beyond the White
Russian Government, to the vice-royalty of Yekaterinoslav and the region
of Tavrida," _i. e._ the recently annexed territory of New Russia, where
the Government was anxious to populate the lonely steppes.

In this way the first territorial ghetto, that of White Russia, was
established by law for the purpose of harboring the Jewish population
taken over from Poland. When again, two years later, the second
partition of Poland took place, the northwestern ghetto was increased by
the neighboring Government of Minsk and the southwestern
region--Volhynia with the greater part of the Kiev province and
Podolia. The ukase of June 23, 1794, conferred upon this enlarged Pale
of Settlement the sanction of the law. The Jews were granted the right
"to engage in the occupations of merchants and burghers in the
Governments of Minsk, Izyaslav (subsequently Volhynia), Bratzlav
(Podolia), Polotzk (now Vitebsk), Moghilev, Kiev, Chernigov,
Novgorod-Seversk, Yekaterinoslav, as well as in the region of Tavrida."
The ukase thus enlarges the former pale of Jewish settlement by
including Little Russia, or the portion of the Ukraina which had been
wrested from Poland as far back as 1654,[238]--in short, the territory
from which the Jews had been assiduously driven "beyond the border" in
the reign of the three Empresses preceding Catherine. The organic
connection of Little Russia with the portion of the Ukraina on the right
bank of the Dnieper which had just been annexed from Poland, left the
Russian Government no other choice than to allow the Jews who had lived
in those parts from time immemorial to remain there. Even the holy city
of Kiev opened its gates to the Jews. The Dnieper became thereby the
central river of the Jewish Pale of Settlement.

The third partition of Poland, in 1795, added to the Dnieper system that
of the Niemen, the territory of Lithuania, consisting of the Governments
of Grodno and Vilna.[239] This completed the process of formation of the
Pale of Settlement, at the end of the eighteenth century. As for Eastern
Russia, she was just as vigilantly on her guard against the penetration
of the Jewish element as she had been in the time of the ancient
Muscovite Empire.

The same ukase of 1794, which circumscribed the area of the Jewish
right of residence, laid down another fundamental discrimination, that
of taxation. The Jews, desirous of enrolling themselves in the
mercantile or burgher class in the cities, were to pay the instituted
taxes "doubly in comparison with those imposed on the burghers and
merchants of the Christian religion." Those Jews who refused to remain
in the cities on these conditions were to leave the Russian Empire after
paying a fine in the form of a double tax for three years. In this way
the Government exacted from the Jews, for the privilege of remaining in
their former places without the right of free transit in the Empire,
taxes twice as large as those of the Christian townspeople enjoying the
liberty of transit. This punitive tax did not relieve the Jews from the
special military assessment, which, by the ukases of 1794 and 1796, they
had to pay, like the Russian mercantile class in general, in exchange
for the personal discharge of military service.

It is interesting to observe that at the solicitation of Count Zubov,
the Governor-General of New Russia, the Karaites of the Government of
Tavrida were released from the double tax. They were also granted
permission to own estates, and were in general given equal rights with
the Christian population, "on the understanding, however, that the
community of Karaites should not be entered by the Jews known by the
name of Rabins (Rabbanites), concerning whom the laws enacted by us are
to be rigidly enforced" (ukase of June 8, 1795). Here the
national-religious motive of the anti-Jewish legislation crops out
unmistakably. The handful of Karaites, who had for centuries lived
apart from the Jewish nation and its spiritual possessions, were
declared to be more desirable citizens of the monarchy than the genuine
Jews, who were on the contrary to be cowed by repressive measures.

A decided bent in favor of such measures is manifested in the ukase of
1795, which prescribes that the Jews living in villages be registered in
the towns, and that "endeavors be made to transfer them to the District
towns, so that these people may not wander about, but may rather engage
in commerce and promote manufactures and handicrafts, thereby furthering
their own interests as well as the interests of society." The effect of
this ukase was to sanction by law the long-established arbitrary
practice of the local authorities, who frequently expelled the Jews from
the villages, and sent them to the towns under the pretext that Jews
could be enrolled only among the townsfolk. The expelled families,
deprived of all means of livelihood, were of course completely ruined,
as the mere bidding of the authorities did not suffice to enable them
"to engage in commerce and promote manufactures and handicrafts" in the
towns in which even the resident merchants and artisans failed to make a
living. The system of official tutelage had the effect of fettering
instead of developing the economic activity of the Jews.

Experiments were now made to extend this tutelage to the communal
self-government of the Jews. In 1795 the edict was repeated whereby the
Government and District Kahals, in view of the right, conferred upon the
Jews, of participating in the general city administration, in the
magistracies and town councils, were to be deprived of their social and
judicial functions, and not to be allowed "to concern themselves with
any affairs except the ceremonies of religion and divine service."[240]
As a matter of fact, the active participation of the Jews in the
municipalities, owing to the hostile attitude of the Christian burghers,
was extremely feeble. Yet, in the interest of the exchequer, the Kahals
were preserved for fiscal purposes, and, on account of their financial
usefulness, they continued to function as the organs of Jewish communal
autonomy, however curtailed and disorganized the latter had now become.

In this wise the restrictive legislation against the Jews appears firmly
established towards the end of the reign of Catherine II. A "Muscovite"
wall had been raised between the west and east of Russia, and even
within the circumscribed area of Jewish settlement the tendency was
discernible to mark off a still smaller area and, by forcing the Jews
out of the villages, to compress the Jewish masses in the towns and
cities. It fell to the lot of the successors of Catherine to consolidate
this tendency into law.

In conclusion, the historian cannot pass over in silence the solitary
"reform" of this period. In the legislative enactments of the last
decade of Catherine's reign the formerly current contemptuous
appellation "Zhyd" gave way to the name "Hebrew" (Yevrey).[241] The
Russian Government found it impossible to go beyond this verbal reform.


The brief reign of Paul I. (1796-1801) added nothing of moment to the
Russian legislation concerning the Jews. The law imposing a double tax
was confirmed, and also the other restrictions were left in force. The
area of Jewish settlement was increased by the newly-acquired Government
of Courland, on the outskirts of the Empire. In this Duchy, which was
annexed in 1795, there were several thousand Jewish inhabitants, who had
been "tolerated" as foreigners, after the German pattern, and had only
partly succeeded in forming a communal organization. The question now
arose as to the best way of collecting the taxes from the itinerant
chapmen who formed the bulk of the Jewish population, and were enrolled
neither among the rural nor the urban estates, and were not even
affiliated with Jewish communities. The Russian Government solved this
question in 1799, by placing the Jews of Courland in the same position
as their coreligionists in the other western Governments, and by
granting them the right of enrolling themselves among the mercantile or
burgher estates, as well as establishing their own Kahals. In this case
fiscal considerations were responsible for the organization of the
Jewish masses in the dominion of the German barons.

Having confined the Jewish population within the western pale, the
Government could not very well hamper its freedom of transit within that
pale, at least as far as moving from city to city was concerned. This
elementary right of free transit was resorted to by many Jews of
impoverished White Russia, who began to emigrate into the Little Russian
provinces, particularly into the Government of Novgorod-Seversk, later
the Government of Poltava, which were more prosperous, and less crowded
with Jews. The Government became aware of this internal transmigration,
and could not abstain from taking it under its fatherly protection.
Merchants were allowed to move unhampered from White Russia into Little
Russia. Burghers, however, were permitted to emigrate only on the
conditions applying to all persons of the taxable estates--they had to
obtain certificates of dismissal (December, 1796).

Poor as was the reign of Paul in the field of concrete legislation
concerning the Jews, it was rich in preliminary endeavors leading up to
it. For his reign abounds in all kinds of projects looking to the
regulation of the status of the Jews on the basis of official
"investigations." In the outgoing years of the eighteenth century
(1797-1800) the Government offices were feverishly busy in this
direction. The Government was endeavoring to familiarize itself with the
state of the former Polish provinces and particularly with the condition
of the Jewish population. The first step in this pursuit after knowledge
consisted in sending out a circular inquiry to the nobles and the higher
officials of the region under consideration. The stimulus to this
inquiry came in 1797, from a report submitted on account of the famine
which had been raging in the Government of Minsk. Governor Karnyeyev of
Minsk received orders from St. Petersburg to gather the opinions of the
local Marshals, or leaders of the nobility, and on that basis supply "an
elucidation of the causes of the impoverished condition of the
peasants," with plans looking to their amelioration.

The shrewd device of questioning the landed aristocrats as to the causes
of the impoverishment of their peasant serfs bore worthy fruit. Needless
to say, the Polish magnates who assembled in Minsk at the invitation of
the Government did not even for a moment think of reproaching themselves
and their own estate of slaveholders for the misery of the people
enthralled by them. Instead they preferred to put the blame partly on
external circumstances ("the changes and mutinies in the province," bad
crops, poor means of communication, etc.), and partly on the Jews, "whom
the owners [of the villages] retain as arendars and tavern-keepers,
contrary to the orders of the authorities restricting their domicile to
the cities." The Jewish tavern-keepers in the country, so the nobles
allege, "lure the peasants into drunkenness," by selling them spirits on
trust, and thereby "render them unfit to manage their affairs." In order
to save the peasants, the Government should insist "that the right of
distilling be open exclusively to the landowners, and be withheld from
the Jews as well as other arendars and tavern-keepers," and that in the
rural public houses "permission to sell hot wine [whiskey] be given only
to the squires." To put it in other words, the peasants will thrive and
be "fit to manage their affairs," if, instead of Jewish alcohol, they
will imbibe the aristocratic alcohol of the landed proprietors.

One need not be a statesman to discover the underlying motive of this
"opinion" of the nobles, who were concerned only about retaining the
ancient alcohol monopoly which they had enjoyed under the Polish
_régime_ ("the right of propination"). This, however, did not prevent
the Governor of Minsk from presenting the report of the nobility to the
Tzar, who on July 28, 1797, put down the following "resolution":[242]
"Measures are to be taken, in accordance with the proposals of the
marshals of the nobility, to restrict the rights of the Jews who ruin
the peasants." At the same time the Senate called the Governor's
attention to Catherine's ukase ordering the transfer of the Jews to the
District towns, "so that these people may not wander to and fro to the
detriment of society." This was tantamount to giving the authorities
_carte blanche_ in expelling the Jews from the villages.

In 1798 came the turn of the nobility of the Southwest, of Volhynia and
Podolia, to state their wishes for the benefit of the fatherland. The
marshals of Podolia, who met at Kamenetz, elaborated a much more
comprehensive scheme of reform than their compeers in Minsk. After
expressing their gratitude to the Tzar "for his Imperial benevolence in
leaving us the franchise of liquor-dealing," the nobles plead that
"neither the right of distilling nor that of selling liquor be let to
Jews or even to Christians," and that the nobles themselves be granted
the "liberty" of employing people in their "public houses at their own
discretion." After securing the monopoly of intoxicating the people
through their own bartenders, the nobles propose to transform the bulk
of the Jews into export agents, to find foreign markets for the
agrarian, _i. e._ manorial, products, "whence commercial profits will
accrue both to the tillers of the soil (?!) and to the nobles." As for
the other Jews, part of them were to be retained by the landowners in
their public houses, and the rest were "to be forced to engage in
agriculture and handicrafts."

This brilliant prospect of becoming the tools of the nobles for the
disposal of rural products and the sale of manorial alcohol had
evidently little fascination for the Jews themselves. Alarmed by these
aristocratic designs, they held a consultation, and even called a
conference of delegates. The conference met in Ostrog (Volhynia) in the
summer of 1798, and decided to collect a fund and send a deputation to
St. Petersburg, to lay before the Tzar the needs and wishes of the Jews
of the Southwest, whom the Government had entirely forgotten to ask how
they themselves would like to have their affairs arranged. Unfortunately
the Governor-General of the Southwest, Count Gudovich, "got wind" of
these preparations. Far-sighted statesman that he was, he immediately
suspected "that this collection [of money for the deputation] might
merely serve as a cover for some wicked Jewish design." He accordingly
confiscated the funds already secured, forbade all further collections,
and hastened to report his achievement to St. Petersburg. To his
astonishment, the overzealous Governor-General received the chilling
reply, that the Tzar found nothing criminal in the desire of the Jews to
send a deputation to him. At the same time he was instructed to return
the confiscated money and not to interfere with the sending of the
deputation (September, 1798). Whether the deputation actually proceeded
to the capital, and what it achieved, is unknown. But the occurrence in
itself bears witness to the fact that even in that unenlightened epoch
and in the secluded Hasidic environment of Volhynia and Podolia, the
Jews were not altogether insensible of the political and social
upheavals which were taking place in Russia.

The last to respond to the Governmental inquiry was the nobility of
Lithuania. The marshals of the nineteen Lithuanian districts, who met in
1800, submitted their "opinion," which had been adopted with only three
dissenting votes, to Friesel, the Governor of Vilna. The three opposing
marshals suggested leaving the Jews in the condition which had prevailed
under the Polish _régime_. All the others drafted a plan of Jewish
"reform," which was even more radical than that of the nobles of Minsk
and Podolia. The Jews were to be barred not only from distilling and
keeping taverns of their own, but also from the sale of spirits in the
manorial public houses. The Jewish rural population, which would thus be
deprived of all means of subsistence, was to be transferred partly to
the cities, partly "to be scattered over the crown and manorial
settlements, where they might be allowed to grow corn and to mortgage
and farm estates." The economic reform was to be supplemented by one
affecting the inner life of the Jews. It was necessary "to abolish the
Jewish costume and introduce among the Jews the form of dress customary
among the other inhabitants." Altogether the separateness of the Jews
was to be broken down, for "they constitute a people by themselves, and
as such have their own administration ... in the form of synagogues and
Kahals, which not only arrogate to themselves spiritual authority, but
also meddle in all civil affairs and in matters appertaining to the
police." These measures would bring about the amalgamation of the Jews
with the surrounding population.

The "reformatory" ardor of the Lithuanian nobles, who thought it
necessary to bracket the problem of Kahal autonomy with the sale of
alcohol, was the effect of outside interference. Friesel, the Governor
of Vilna, who was a cultivated German, and as such was acquainted with
the state of the Jewish problem in Germany, found it necessary to
address himself to the Lithuanian marshals twice, their first statement
having been found "unsatisfactory." Only a second revision of the views
of the nobles, which included the plan of inner reforms, satisfied
Friesel. In April, 1800, Friesel forwarded these recommendations to the
Senate, accompanying them by his own comprehensive memorandum, which to
a large extent was obviously based on Chatzki's and Butrymovich's
projects submitted some ten years previously to the "Jewish Commission"
of the Quadrennial Diet.

Friesel urges the necessity of a "general reform," and professes to take
Western Europe as a model, but all he adopted thence was the most
objectionable tactics of "enlightened absolutism." In his opinion "the
education of the Jewish people must begin with their religion." It is
necessary "to wipe out all Jewish sects with their superstitions and to
forbid strictly the introduction of any innovations whereby impostors
might seduce the masses and plunge them into ever greater ignorance," a
veiled allusion to the Hasidim and in particular to their Tzaddiks,
whose strife with the anti-Hasidic rabbis was engaging the attention of
the Russian Government at the time. He further recommends that the Jews
be forced to send their children to the Government schools, to conduct
all their business in Polish, to wear the customary non-Jewish form of
dress, and not to marry before the age of twenty. Finally the Jews are
to be classified in three categories, merchants, artisans, and tillers
of the soil, these three estates to form part of the general class
stratification of the Empire. In this way the fiscal services of the
Kahals could be dispensed with, and the Kahals themselves would pass out
of existence automatically.

The suggestions of the leaders of the nobility as well as the proposals
of the governors were turned over in the spring of 1800 to the Senate,
whose function was to examine and utilize them for a new legal enactment
or "statute." Here they happened to fall into the hands of one of the
Senators, Gabriel Dyerzhavin, the celebrated Russian poet, who by the
whim of fate was soon to blossom forth into a "specialist" _in rebus


Dyerzhavin was born in one of the remote eastern provinces of Russia,
and spent the greater part of his life in the Government offices of St.
Petersburg. He had never come in contact with the Jewish population,
until, in 1799, he was dispatched to the little town of Shklov in White
Russia, to look into the case of the owner of the town, a retired
general by the name of Zorich. The latter had been one of the favorites
of Catherine, and lived the fast and extravagant life of a Russian
country squire in the town which was his private property. His typically
Russian devil-may-care conduct was not calculated to spare the large
Jewish population of the town. Zorich evidently fancied that the Jews
living on his land were just as much his serfs as were the peasants, and
he handled them in the way serfs were dealt with in those days. He
expelled several of them from the town, and seized their houses. Others
he beat with his own hands, and still others he forced to supply him
with drink free of charge. The Jews appealed to the Government against
this attempt to turn them into serfs, and it was in response to their
appeal that Emperor Paul dispatched Senator Dyerzhavin, with
instructions to curb the violence of the boisterous squire. Dyerzhavin,
who was imbued with the spirit of serfdom, could not but take a mild
view of the high-handed methods of Zorich, and came to the conclusion
that the Jews were partly to blame for the disorders that had taken
place. The death of Zorich in 1800 put a stop to the case, but
theoretically the Senate decided that, according to Russian law, the
Jews, by virtue of their being members of the merchant and burgher
class, could not be regarded as serfs even in the towns and settlements
owned by squires.

A year later Dyerzhavin was again dispatched to White Russia, this time
invested with very large powers. The province was in the throes of a
terrible famine, brought about not only by bad crops but also by the
outrageous conduct of the landed proprietors. These gentlemen, instead
of supplying their peasants with foodstuffs, preferred to send large
quantities of grain either abroad, for sale, or into their distilleries,
for the production of whiskey, which, instead of feeding the peasants,
poisoned them. In dispatching Dyerzhavin to White Russia, Emperor Paul
gave him full power to put a stop to these abuses and to inflict severe
penalties on the squires, who, "moved by unexampled greed, leave their
peasants without assistance." They were to be dispossessed, and their
estates placed under state control (June 16, 1800). In a supplementary
instruction added by the Procurator-General of the Senate, Obolanin, the
following clause was added: "And whereas, according to information
received, the exhaustion of the White Russian peasants is to a rather
considerable extent caused by the Zhyds, it is his Majesty's wish that
your Excellency may give particular attention to their part in it and
submit an opinion how to avert the general damage inflicted by them."
This unmistakably anti-Semitic postscript, to which Dyerzhavin was in
all likelihood a party, to which at all events he gave his approval, was
designed to mitigate the blow aimed at the squires and turn it against
the Jews. The conspiracy of these two bureaucrats, who believed in
serfdom and sided with the squires, put an altogether different
complexion on Dyerzhavin's mission.

The pacification of White Russia was speedily accomplished. Dyerzhavin
placed the estate of one Polish magnate under state control, and
personally closed up a Jewish distillery in the town of Lozno, the
residence of the famous Hasidic Tzaddik, Rabbi Zalman Shneorsohn. He
proceeded with such energy that one Jewish woman complained of having
received blows at his hands. After having "installed order," Dyerzhavin
set out to do what he considered to be his main task--prepare an
elaborate memorandum concerning the Jews, under the characteristic
title, "Opinion of Senator Dyerzhavin Concerning the Averting of the
Want of Foodstuffs in White Russia by Curbing the Avaricious Pursuits of
the Jews, also Concerning Their Re-education, and Other Matters."

The very title betrays the underlying motive of the writer, to make the
Jews the scapegoat for the economic ruin of the province, in which the
squires had always been the masters of the situation. But Dyerzhavin did
not confine himself to the evaluation of the economic activity of the
Jews. He was no less anxious to depict their inner life, their beliefs,
their training and education, their communal institutions, their "moral
situation." For all these purposes he drew upon a multitude of sources.
While writing his memorandum in Vitebsk, in the fall of 1800, he
gathered information about the Jews from the local anti-Jewish merchants
and burghers, and from the "scientific" instructors at the Jesuit
College in the same city, in the court-houses, and--from "the very
Cossacks themselves."

It must be added that Dyerzhavin also had in his possession two projects
from the pen of "enlightened Jews." The author of one of them, Nota
Shklover by name, a wealthy merchant, who had served as purveyor to
Potemkin's army, and, living at that time in St. Petersburg, knew the
drift of opinion in Government circles, proposed to attract the Jews to
manufacturing, which should be introduced, in connection with
agriculture and cattle-breeding, into colonies set apart for this
purpose "in the neighborhood of the Black Sea ports." The originator of
the second project, a physician from Kreslavka, in the Government of
Vitebsk, by the name of Frank,--evidently a German Jew of the
Mendelssohnian type--suggested that the Government through Dyerzhavin
focus its attention on the reform of the Jewish religion, which "in its
original purity rested on unadulterated Deism and the postulates of pure
morality," but in the course of time was distorted by "the absurdities
of the Talmud." Frank accordingly proposes to follow the example set by
Mendelssohn in Germany, to throw open the Russian public schools to the
Jews, and to teach their children Russian, German, and Hebrew, implying
of course that the Jew thus educated will not fail to prove himself of
unquestionable benefit to the country.

Aside from these projects, Dyerzhavin had before him specimens of
several Prussian _Juden-Reglements_, as well as the recommendations of
the marshals and governors of Western Russia referred to above, and
similar documents.[243] This material sufficed for the Russian official,
who had caught no more than a fleeting glimpse of the Jews while passing
through White Russia, to elaborate a most comprehensive "Opinion"
demanding a complete transformation of Jewish life.

The somber picture which Dyerzhavin draws of the life of the Jews
suffices to show how superficial was his acquaintance with the
conditions he describes. The _naïveté_ with which he judges and
completely distorts many aspects of Jewish life is astounding. The
economic pursuits of the Jews, such as trading, leasing of land,
innkeeping, brokerage, are nothing but "subtle devices to squeeze out
the wealth of their neighbors, under the guise of offering them benefits
and favors." The Jewish school is "a hotbed of superstitions." Moral
sentiments are entirely absent among Jews: "they have no conception of
lovingkindness, disinterestedness, and other virtues." All they do is
"to collect riches in order to erect a new temple of Solomon or [to
satisfy] their fleshly desires."

This curious bit of characterization forms the preamble to a vast
scheme, consisting of no less than eighty-eight clauses, looking to the
"transformation of the Jews." The Jews are to be placed under "Supreme
[_i. e._ Imperial] protection and tutelage" and to be supervised by a
special Christian official, a "Protector," who, with the assistance of
committees to be appointed by the gubernatorial administrations, shall
carry out this work of "transformation," shall take a census of all the
Jews, and provide them with family names. Thereupon the Jews shall be
divided into four categories: merchants, urban burghers, rural burghers,
and agricultural settlers, and every Jew shall be forced to register in
one of these categories. All this mass of Jews is to be evenly
distributed over the various parts of White Russia, and the surplus
transferred to the other Governments.

This reform having been accomplished, the Kahals shall be dispensed
with. To provide for the management of the spiritual affairs of the
Jews, "synagogues," with rabbis and "schoolmen," are to be organized in
the various Governments. A supreme ecclesiastic tribunal is to be
established at St. Petersburg, under the name "Sendarin,"[244] which
shall be presided over by a chief rabbi, or "patriarch," after the
pattern of the Mohammedan mufti of the Tatars.

Suggestions of various repressive and compulsory measures supplement
these positive proposals. The Jews are to be forbidden to keep Christian
domestics; they are to be deprived of their right of participating in
the city magistracies; they are to be compelled to give up their
distinct form of dress and to execute all deeds and business documents
in Russian, Polish, or German. The children shall be allowed to go to
the Jewish religious schools only up to the age of twelve, and shall
afterwards be transferred to the secular schools of the state. Finally
the author proposes that the Government establish a printing-office of
its own, to publish Jewish religious books "with philosophic
annotations." In this way, Dyerzhavin contends, will "the stubborn and
cunning tribe of Hebrews be properly set to rights," and Emperor Paul,
by carrying out this reform, will earn great fame for having fulfilled
the commandment of the Gospels, "Love your enemies, bless them that
curse you, do good to them that hate you."

Such is Dyerzhavin's project, a curious mixture of the savage fancies of
an old-fashioned Muscovite about an unfamiliar historic culture on the
one hand, and notions of reform conceived in the contemporary Prussian
barrack spirit and various "philosophic" tendencies on the other hand, a
medley of hereditary Jew-hatred, vague appreciation of the historic
tragedy of Judaism, and the desire to "render the Jews useful to the
state."[245] And over it all hovers the spirit of official patronage and
red-tape regulations, the curious notion that a people with an ancient
culture can, at the mere bidding of an outside agency, change its
position like figures on a chess-board, that strange faith in the saving
power of _mechanical_ reforms which prevailed, though in less naïve
manifestations, also in Western Europe.

Dyerzhavin's "Opinion" was laid before the Senate in December, 1800, and
together with the previously submitted recommendations of the
West-Russian marshals and governors was to supply the material for an
organic legal enactment concerning the Jews.

But the execution of this plan was not destined to take place during the
reign of Paul. In March, 1801, the Tzar met his tragic fate, and the
cause of "Jewish reform" entered into a new phase, a phase characterized
by the struggle between the liberal tendencies prevalent at the
beginning of Alexander I.'s reign and the retrograde views held by the
champions of Old Poland and Old Russia.


[234] [In 1766 Catherine convened a Commission, consisting of
representatives of the various estates, for the purpose of elaborating a
new Russian code of laws. As a guide for this Commission Catherine wrote
her famous "Instructions" (in Russian _Nakaz_), outlining the principles
of government, largely in the spirit of Montesquieu.]

[235] [This law laid the foundation for the division of the Russian
Empire into "Governments," in Russian _gubernia_ (the English term is a
reproduction of the French _gouvernement_). The chief of a Government is
called Governor, in Russian, _Gubernator_. There are also a few
Governors-General, in Russian, _Gheneral-Gubernator_, placed over
several Governments, mostly on the borders of the Empire.]

[236] [According to this new law, the city population is divided into
merchants, burghers, and artisans. The burghers--in Russian (also in
Polish, see above, p. 44, n. 2), _myeshchanye_--are placed below the
merchants. The former are those possessing less than 500 rubels ($250);
they have to pay the head-tax and are subject to corporal punishment.
The merchants are those who have a larger capital, and are privileged in
the two directions indicated. The artisans are organized in their
trade-unions. Each estate is registered and administered separately.]

[237] [See p. 320, n. 2.]

[238] It consisted of the Governments of Chernigov and Novgorod-Seversk
(subsequently Poltava) and a part of the Government of Kiev.

[239] [The present Government of Kovno was constituted as late as 1872.
Its territory was up till then included in the Government of Vilna.]

[240] This was in direct violation of the pledge given by the Russian
Government at the occupation of the Polish provinces. As recently as in
January of the same year (1795) the Lithuanian Governor-General Repnin
had replied to the application of the Lithuanian Jews, who pleaded for
the maintenance of the Kahal tribunal, that the Jews "may retain the
same rights they had been enjoying prior to the last [Polish] mutiny [of

[241] [_Zhyd_, originally the Slavic form of the Latin _Judaeus_, has
assumed in Russian a derogatory connotation. It is interesting to note
that in Polish the same word has no unpleasant meaning, although in
polite speech other terms are used.]

[242] [See p. 253, n. 1; for "propination" see p. 67, n. 2.]

[243] Dyerzhavin's statement, that he had "borrowed his principal ideas
from Prussian institutions," refers in all likelihood to the well-known
Prussian _Juden-Reglement für Süd- und-Neuostpreussen_ of 1797, which
was at that time operative in the whole of Prussian Poland. There are
numerous points of contact between Dyerzhavin's project and the Prussian
enactment. The latter may be found in the work of Rönne and Simon,
_Verhältnisse der Juden in den sämmtlichen Landestheilen des
preussischen Staates_, ed. 1843, pp. 281-302.

[244] This is the way Dyerzhavin spells the word Synhedrion, or
Sanhedrin, which he evidently had picked up casually.

[245] The following sentence in Dyerzhavin's "Opinion" is typical of
this mixture of medieval notions with the new system of "enlightened
patronage": "Inasmuch as Supreme Providence, in order to attain its
unknown ends, leaves this people, despite its dangerous characteristics,
on the face of the earth, and refrains from destroying it, the
Governments under whose scepter it takes refuge must also suffer it to
live; assisting the decree of destiny, they are in duty bound to extend
their patronage even to the Jews, but in such wise that they [the Jews]
may prove useful both to themselves and to the people in whose midst
they are settled."




The liberal breeze which began to stir in the first years of Alexander
I.'s reign sent a refreshing current of air through the stuffy
atmosphere of the St. Petersburg chancelleries, in which Russian
bureaucrats, undisturbed by their utter ignorance of Judaism, were
devising ways and means of turning Jewish life upside down. It took some
time, however, before the Jewish question was taken up again. In 1801
and 1802 the Government was busy rearranging the whole machinery of the
administration. With the formation of the Ministries and of the Council
of State the Senate lost its former executive power, and, as a result,
the material relating to the Jewish question which had been in its
possession had to be transferred to a new official agency.

Such an agency was called into being in November, 1802. By order of the
Tzar a special "Committee for the Amelioration of the Jews" was
organized, and the following were appointed its members: Kochubay,
Minister of the Interior, Dyerzhavin, the "specialist" on Judaism, at
that time Minister of Justice, Count Zubov, and two high officials of
Polish birth, Adam Chartoriski, Assistant-Minister for Foreign Affairs,
an intimate friend of Alexander I., and Severin Pototzki, a member of
the Senate. The Committee was charged with the investigation of all the
problems touched upon in Dyerzhavin's "Opinion," concerning the curbing
of the avaricious pursuits of the Jews in White Russia, with a view to
"extending the amelioration of the Jews also to the other Governments
acquired from Poland."

Rumors to the effect that a special Committee on Jewish affairs had been
instituted at St. Petersburg, and that its work was to follow the lines
laid down in the project of Dyerzhavin, caused considerable alarm among
the Jews of the Northwest, who knew but too well the anti-Semitic
leanings of the former Senator and inspector. The Kahal of Minsk held a
special meeting in December, 1802, which passed the following

    Whereas disquieting rumors have reached us from the capital, to
    the effect that matters involving the Jews as a whole have now
    been intrusted to the hands of five dignitaries, with power to
    dispose of them as they see fit, be it resolved that it is
    necessary to proceed to St. Petersburg and petition our
    sovereign not to allow them [the dignitaries] to introduce any
    innovations among us.

A public appeal was made for funds to provide the expenses of the
delegates. Moreover, a fast of three days was imposed on all the members
of the community, during which prayers were to be offered up in the
synagogues for averting the calamity which the Government threatened to
bring upon the Jews.

When the Minister of the Interior, Kochubay, learned of the excitement
prevailing among the Jews, he sent, in January, 1803, a circular to the
governors, instructing them to allay the fears of the Jews. The Kahals
were to be informed that "in appointing the Committee for the
investigation of Jewish matters," there was "no intention whatsoever to
impair their status or to curtail any substantial advantage enjoyed by
them," but on the contrary it was proposed to "offer them better
conditions and greater security."

This verbal assurance was not nearly so effective in quieting the minds
of the Jews as action taken by the Government at the same time. In the
beginning of 1803, the "Jewish Committee" resolved to invite deputies
from all the gubernatorial Kahals to St. Petersburg for the purpose of
ascertaining their views as to the needs of the Jewish people, which the
Government had planned to "transform" without its own knowledge. This
was the first departure from the red-tape routine of St. Petersburg.
Towards the end of January, 1803, active preparations were set afoot by
the Kahals for sending such deputies. During the winter and spring the
Russian capital witnessed the arrival of Jewish deputies from the
Governments of Minsk, Podolia, Moghilev, and Kiev, no information being
available about the other Governments. The deputies soon had occasion to
rejoice in Dyerzhavin's retirement from membership in the Jewish
Committee, following upon his resignation from the post of Minister of
Justice. Being a conservative of the "real Russian" type, Dyerzhavin was
out of place in a liberal Government such as ruled the destinies of
Russia in the early years of Alexander's reign. With his retirement his
"Opinion" ceased to serve as an obligatory rule of conduct for the
members of the Committee.

On arriving in St. Petersburg, the deputies from the provinces found
there a small group of Jews, mostly natives of White Russia, who lived
temporarily in the capital, in connection with their business affairs.
Though denied the right of permanent domicile in the capital of the
Empire, this handful of barely tolerated Jews had managed to secure the
right of dying there and of burying their dead in their own cemetery.
The opening of the cemetery in 1802 marks symbolically the inception of
the Jewish community in St. Petersburg. In the same sign of death the
provincial deputies met their metropolitan brethren at a rather strange
"celebration" in the summer of 1803: at the suggestion of the deputies
and in their presence the remains of three Jews who had been buried in a
Christian cemetery were transferred to the newly-acquired Jewish

Among the Jews of St. Petersburg there were several men at that time
who, owing to their connections with high officials and because of their
familiarity with bureaucratic ways, were able to be of substantial
service to the deputies from the provinces. One of these Jews, Nota
Shklover, who about that time received the family name Notkin, the same
public-spirited merchant who in 1800 had submitted his reform project to
Dyerzhavin,[246] acted, it would seem, as the official adviser of the
deputies, having been invited some time previously to participate in the
labors of the Jewish Committee. While on the Committee, he continually
insisted on his scheme of promoting agriculture and manufactures among
the Jews, but he did not live to see the triumph of his ideas. He died
shortly before the enactment of the law of 1804, in which his pet theory
found due recognition. Another St. Petersburg Jew, the wealthy
contractor and commercial councilor Abraham Peretz, took no immediate
part in Jewish affairs. Yet he too was of some service to the deputies,
owing to his business relations with the official world.

In the meantime the Committee for the Amelioration of the Jews, after
scrutinizing the different projects submitted to it, had worked out a
general plan of reform, and communicated it to the Jewish deputies.
After "prolonged indecision" the Jewish deputies announced that they
were not in a position to submit their conclusions, without previous
consultation with the Kahals by which they had been elected. They
accordingly asked for a half-year's respite "for the purpose of
consultation." The official Jewish Committee, on the other hand, could
not agree to so protracted a delay in its labors, and resolved to
submit, through the medium of the Government, the principal clauses of
the project to the Kahals, with the understanding that the latter,
"without making any changes in the aforesaid clauses," should confine
themselves to suggestions as to the best ways and means of carrying the
proposed reforms into effect.

The epistolary inquiry failed to produce the "desired effect."
Restricted beforehand in their free expression of opinion, and having no
right to speak their mind as to the substance of the project, the Kahals
in replying limited themselves to the request that the "correctional
measures" be postponed for twenty years, particularly as far as the
proposed prohibition of the sale of liquor and land-tenure was
concerned, which prohibition would undermine the whole economic
structure of Jewish life. The Committee paid no heed to the plea of the
Kahals, which was tantamount to a condemnation of the basic principles
of the project, and proceeded to work in the direction originally
decided upon.

Nor was there perfect unanimity within the Committee itself. Two
tendencies, it seems, were struggling for mastery: utilitarianism,
represented by the champions of "correctional measures" and of a
compulsory "transformation of Jewish life," and humanitarianism,
advocated by the spokesmen of unconditional emancipation. To the latter
class belonged Speranski, the brilliant and enlightened statesman who
might have succeeded in liberating the Empire of the Tzars a hundred
years ago, had he not fallen a victim to the fatal conditions of Russian
life. At the time we are speaking of he served in the Ministry of the
Interior under Kochubay, and was engaged in elaborating plans of reform
for the various departments of the civil service.

Speranski took an active interest in the Committee for the Amelioration
of the Jews, and frequently acted as Kochubay's substitute. There was a
time when his influence in the Committee was predominant. It was
evidently under his influence that the remarkable sentences embodied in
the minutes of the Committee meeting of September 20, 1803, were penned:

    Reforms brought about by the power of the state are, as a rule,
    unstable, and are particularly untenable in those cases in which
    that power has to grapple with the habits of centuries. Hence it
    seems both better and safer to guide the Jews to perfection by
    throwing open to them the avenues leading to their own
    happiness, by observing their movements from a distance, and by
    removing everything that might turn them away from this path,
    without using any manner of force, without establishing special
    agencies for them, without endeavoring to act in their stead,
    but by merely opening the way for their own activities. As few
    restrictions as possible, as many liberties as possible--these
    are the simple elements of every social order.

Since the Government had begun to dabble in the Jewish question, this
was the first rational utterance coming from the ranks of the Russian
bureaucracy. It implied an emphatic condemnation of the system of state
patronage and "correctional measures" by means of which Russian
officialdom then and thereafter sought to "transform" a whole nation.
Here for the first time was voiced the lofty precept of humanitarianism:
grant the Jews untrammeled possibilities of development, give full
scope to their energies, and the Jews themselves will in the end choose
the way which leads to "perfection" and progress.... But even the
liberalizing statesmen of that period could not maintain themselves on
that high eminence of political thought. Speranski's conception was too
tender a blossom for the rough climate of Russia, even in its
springtide. The blossom was bound to wither. As far as the Committee for
the Amelioration of the Jews was concerned, the hackneyed political
wisdom of the age, the system of patronage and compulsory reforms, came
to the fore again. The report submitted by the Jewish Committee to
Alexander I. in October, 1804, reveals no trace of that radical
liberalism which a year before had come to light in the minutes of the

The report begins by determining the approximate size of the Jewish
population, computing the number of registered, taxable males at
174,385--"a figure which represents less than a fifth of the whole
Jewish population." In other words, the total number of Jews, in the
estimate of the Committee, approached one million. The report proceeds
to point out that this entire mass is huddled together in the annexed
Polish and Lithuanian provinces and in Little Russia and Courland, and
is barred from the Governments of the interior--a statement followed by
an historical excursus tending to show that "the Jews have never been
allowed to settle in Russia." The Tzar is further informed that the Jews
are obliged to pay double taxes, that, notwithstanding the fact that
they are liable to the general courts and municipalities, and that their
Kahals are subordinate to the gubernatorial police, the Jews still keep
aloof from the institutions of the land and manage their affairs through
the Kahals. Finally it is pointed out that the sale of liquor, the most
widespread occupation among Jews, is a source of abuses, calling forth
complaints from the surrounding population. Basing its deductions on
these premises, the Committee drafted a law which in its principal
features was embodied in the "Statute Concerning the Organization of the
Jews," issued, with the sanction of the Tzar, soon afterwards, on
December 9, 1804.


The new charter, a mixture of liberties and disabilities, was prompted,
as is stated in the preamble, "by solicitude for the true welfare of the
Jews," as well as for "the advantage of the native population of those
Governments in which these people are allowed to live." The concluding
part of the sentence anticipates the way in which the question of the
Jewish area of settlement is solved. It remained limited as theretofore
to thirteen Governments: two in Lithuania, two in White Russia, two in
Little Russia, those of Minsk, Volhynia, Kiev, and Podolia, and finally
three in New Russia. A slightly larger area is conceded by the new
statute to the _future_ class of Jewish agriculturists projected in the
same statute. They are permitted to settle in addition in two interior
Governments, those of Astrakhan and Caucasia.

Economically the new statute establishes two opposite poles: a negative
pole as far as the rural occupations of innkeeping and land-tenure are
concerned, which are to be exterminated ruthlessly, and a positive pole,
as far as agriculture is involved, which on the contrary is to be
stimulated and promoted among Jews in every possible manner. Clause 34,
the severest provision of the whole act, is directed not only against
innkeeping but against rural occupations in general. It reads as

    Beginning with January 1, 1807, in the Governments of Astrakhan
    and Caucasia, also in those of Little Russia and New Russia,
    and, beginning with January 1, 1808, in the other Governments,
    _no one among the Jews in any village or hamlet shall be
    permitted to hold any leases on land, to keep taverns, saloons,
    or inns_, whether under his own name or under a strange name, or
    to sell wine in them, or _even to live in them_ under any
    pretext whatever, except when passing through.

With one stroke this clause eliminated from the economic life of the
Jews an occupation which, though far from being distinguished, had yet
afforded a livelihood to almost one-half of the whole Jewish population
of Russia. Moreover, the none too extensive territory of the Jewish Pale
of Settlement was still more limited by excluding from it the enormous
area of villages and hamlets.

The economic and legal blow aimed at the Jews in the Statute of 1804 was
to be made good by the privileges held forth to those willing to engage
in agriculture. Such Jews were accorded the right of buying unoccupied
lands in all the western and in two of the eastern Governments, or of
establishing themselves on crown lands. In the latter case the settlers
were to be assigned definite parcels of land and, for the first few
years, be exempt from state taxes. However, it soon became evident that
the proposed remedy was out of proportion to the seriousness of the
wound that had been inflicted. While hundreds of thousands of Jews were
driven from the rural occupations with which their economic life had
been bound up for centuries, the new branch of labor opened to the Jews,
the pursuit of agriculture, could, for some time to come, attract at the
utmost only a few insignificant groups of the Jewish population.

Among the favored occupations, ranging in importance beneath
agriculture, the new law includes industry and handicrafts.
Manufacturers and artisans are declared exempt from the double tax
imposed on Jews,[247] and the founders of "the most needed factories"
are promised, in addition, a Government loan. The Jewish merchants and
burghers are placed in the last rank, being merely "tolerated."
Manufacturers, artisans, and merchants are given permission to sojourn
temporarily for business purposes in "the interior Governments, not
excluding the capitals, but not otherwise than with gubernatorial
passports," such as are given for going abroad.

In the chapter entitled "On the Civil Organization of the Jews," the new
charter establishes, on the one hand, the liability of the Jews to the
authority of the municipalities, the common police, and the common law
courts, and grants the Jews, on the other hand, the right of electing
rabbis and "Kahalmen," who shall be replaced every three years, and
shall be ratified by the gubernatorial administration. Special clauses
provide that the rabbis are obliged "to look after all the ceremonies of
the Jewish faith and decide all disputes bearing on religion," but they
are strictly forbidden to resort to "anathemas" and excommunications
(the so-called herem). The Kahals in turn are held responsible for the
regular payment of the state taxes. The communal autonomy of the Jews
was thus calculated to serve two masters, religion and the exchequer,
God and mammon, and was expected to adjust its manifold problems to

The "Jewish Constitution" of 1804 is provided as it were with a European
label. Its first chapter bears the heading "On Enlightenment." Jewish
children are granted free access to all public schools, gymnasiums, and
universities in the Russian Empire. The Jews are also granted the right
of opening their own schools for secular culture, one of three
languages, Russian, Polish, or German, to be obligatory. One of these
languages is also, within a period of two to six years from the
promulgation of the law, to become obligatory for all public documents,
promissory notes, commercial ledgers, etc. The Jews elected members of
municipalities or chosen as rabbis and Kahal members are obliged, within
a definite term (1808-1812), to know one of these three languages to the
extent of being able to write and speak it. Moreover, the Jewish members
of the municipalities are expected to wear clothes of the Polish,
Russian, or German pattern.

This "enlightened" program represents the tribute which the Russian
Government felt obliged to render to the spirit of the age, the spirit
of enlightened Prussian absolutism rather than that of French
emancipation. It was the typical sample of a Prusso-Austrian
_Reglement_, embodying the very system of "reforms brought about by the
power of the state" against which Speranski had vainly cautioned. In
concrete reality this system resulted in nothing else than the violent
break-up of a structure built by centuries, relentless coercion on the
one hand and suffering of the patronized masses on the other.


The legal enactment of 1804 was appraised by the Russian Jews at its
true value: problematic benefits in the future and undeniable hardships
for the present. The prospect of future benefits, the attainment of
which was conditioned by the weakening of the time-honored foundations
of a stalwart Jewish cultural life, expressing itself in language,
school, and communal self-government, had no fascination for Russian
Jews, who had not yet been touched by the influences of Western Europe.
But what the Russian Jews did feel, and feel with sickening pain, was
the imminence of a terrible economic catastrophe, the expulsion of
hundreds of thousands of Jews from the villages. It soon became evident
that the expulsion would affect 60,000 Jewish families, or about half a
million Jews. Needless to say, within the two or three years of respite
which remained before the catastrophe, this huge mass could not possibly
gain access to new fields of labor and establish itself in new
domiciles, and it was therefore in danger of being starved to death. In
consequence, St. Petersburg was flooded with petitions imploring the
authorities to postpone the expulsion for a time. These petitions came
not only from the Kahals but also from country squires, for whom the
removal of the Jewish tenants and innkepeers from their estates entailed
considerable financial losses. With the approach of the year 1808, the
time limit set for the expulsion, the shouts of despair from the
provinces became louder and louder. It is difficult to say whether the
Russian Government would have responded to the terrible outcry, had it
not been for an event which set all the political circles of St.
Petersburg agog.

It was in the autumn of 1806. The "Jewish Parliament" in Paris, which
had been assembled by Napoleon, was concluding its sessions, and was
sending out appeals to all the countries of Europe announcing the
impending convocation of the "Great Synhedrion." This new fad of
Napoleon disturbed all the European Governments which were on terms of
enmity with the French Emperor, and had reason to fear the discontent of
their Jewish subjects. The Austrian Government went so far as to forbid
the Jews to enter into any relations with "dangerous" Paris. St.
Petersburg too became alarmed. Napoleon, who had just shattered Prussia,
and had already entered her Polish provinces, was gradually approaching
the borders of hostile Russia. The awe inspired by the statesmanlike
genius of the French Emperor made the Russian Government suspect that
the convocation of a universal Jewish Synhedrion in Paris was merely a
Napoleonic device to dispose the Jewish masses of Prussia, Austria, and
Russia in his favor. In these circumstances it seemed likely that the
resentment aroused in the Russian Jews by their imminent expulsion from
the villages would provide a favorable soil for the wily agitation of
Napoleon, and would create a hotbed of anti-Russian sentiment in the
very regions soon to become the theater of war. To avoid such risks it
seemed imperative to extinguish the flame of discontent and stop the

Thus it came about that in the beginning of February, 1807, at the very
moment when the sessions of the Synhedrion were opened in Paris, the
Minister of the Interior, Kochubay, submitted a report to Alexander I.,
in which he pointed out the necessity "of postponing the transplantation
of the Jews from the villages into the towns and townlets, so as to
guard this nation in general against the intentions of the French
Government." The Tzar concurred in this opinion, with the result that a
special committee was immediately formed to consider the practical
application of the Statute of 1804. Apart from Kochubay and other high
officials, the committee included the Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Budberg, diplomatic considerations being involved in the question. On
February 15, Senator Alexeyev was directed to inspect the western
provinces and find out to what extent "the military circumstances and
the present condition of the border provinces as well as the economic
ruin of the Jews, which is inevitable if their expulsion be enforced,"
render this expulsion difficult or even impossible of execution.

At the same time the Minister of the Interior instructed the
administrators of the western Governments to prevent the slightest
contact between the Jews of Russia and the Synhedrion in Paris, which
the French Government was using as a tool to curry political favor with
the Jews. The same circular letter to the Governors recommends another
rather curious device. It suggests that the Jews be impressed with the
idea that the Synhedrion in Paris was endeavoring to modify the Jewish
religion, and for this reason did not deserve the sympathy of the
Russian Jews.

At the same time the Holy Synod was sending out circulars instructing
the Greek Orthodox clergy to inform the Russian people that Napoleon was
an enemy of the Church and a friend of the Jews.

    That he might the more effectively put the Church of Christ to
    shame--so the Holy Synod proclaimed--Napoleon assembled the
    Judean Synagogues in France ... and established the Great
    Synhedrion of the Jews, that same ungodly assembly which had
    once dared pass the sentence of crucifixion upon our Lord and
    Savior Jesus Christ, and he now planneth to unite the Jews, whom
    the wrath of the Almighty hath scattered over the face of the
    whole earth, so as to incite them to overthrow the Christian
    Church and proclaim the pseudo-Messiah in the person of

By these devices the Government, finding itself at its wits' end in the
face of a great war, shrewdly attempted to frighten at once the Jewish
people by the specter of an anti-Jewish Napoleon and the Orthodox
Russians by Napoleon's leaning towards Judaism. The former were made to
believe that the Synhedrion was directed against the Jewish religion,
and the latter were told that it was established by the Jewish
"pseudo-Messiah" for the overthrow of Christianity.

In this precarious situation the Government once more decided to
ascertain, by means of a circular inquiry, the views of the
representatives of the Jewish communities on the best ways of carrying
the "reform" into effect. The ukase of February 19, issued by the Tzar
on this occasion, is couched in surprisingly mild terms:

    Prompted by the desire to give our subjects of the Jewish
    nationality another proof of our solicitude about their welfare,
    we have deemed it right to allow all the Jewish communes in the
    Governments ... of Vilna, Grodno, Kiev, Minsk, Podolia,
    Volhynia, Vitebsk, and Moghilev, to elect deputies and to
    suggest, through them, to the gubernatorial administrators the
    means which they themselves consider best fitted for the most
    successful execution of the measures laid down in the Statute of

The deputies were summoned this time, not to St. Petersburg, but to the
provincial capitals in order to present their opinions to the governors.

The expression of opinion on the part of the Jewish deputies, or, as
they were officially styled, "the attorneys of the Jewish communes," did
not limit itself to the fatal thirty-fourth clause, which all the
deputies wished to see repealed or at least postponed for an indefinite
period. Serious objections were raised also to the other provisions of
the "Jewish Constitution." The deputies advocated the abolition of
double taxation for all classes of the Jewish population; they asked for
a larger range of authority for the rabbinical tribunals and for a
mitigation of the provisions forbidding the use of Hebrew in legal
documents, promissory notes, and commercial ledgers. Some of them
pleaded for a postponement of the law concerning Hebrew as being
inconvenient to business, while others suggested permitting the use of
Hebrew for promissory notes up to the sum of one hundred rubels.[248]

The deputies also called attention to the difficulty, on the part of the
rabbis and Jewish members of the magistracies, of acquiring the Russian
language within so short a period. They were ready to assent to the
change of dress for the magistrates and those living temporarily outside
the Pale. But they pointed out at the same time that the prescribed
German dress was not becoming to Jews, who on account of religious
scruples refused to shave their beards, and that in the case of
magistrates and visitors to the Russian interior they would prefer to
adopt the Russian form of dress. As for the laws relating to education,
the deputies observed that it would be useless for Jewish children to go
to the common Russian schools as long as they did not understand the
Russian language, and that it would for this reason seem more
practicable first to have them acquire the Russian language in the
Jewish schools, where they are taught the Hebrew language and the
"dogmas of the faith."

By the time the opinions of the deputies were conveyed by the governors
to St. Petersburg, the political sentiment there had undergone a change.
In July, 1807, the Peace of Tilsit had been concluded. An _entente
cordiale_ had been established between Napoleon and Alexander I., and
Russia no more stood in awe of Bonaparte's "intrigues." There was no
more reason to fear a secret understanding between the Russian Jews and
the Parisian Synhedrion, which had shortly before been prorogued, and
the bureaucratic compassion for the unfortunate Jews vanished into air.
The last term set for the expulsion from the villages, January 1, 1808,
was drawing near, and two months before this date, on October 19, 1807,
the Tzar addressed an ukase, marked by extraordinary severity, to the
Governor-General of the Western region:

    The circumstances connected with the war--the ukase states in
    part--were of a nature to complicate and suspend the
    transplantation of the Jews.... These complications can now,
    after the cessation of the war, be averted in the future by
    means of a gradual and most convenient arrangement of the work
    of transplantation.... For these reasons we deem it right to lay
    down an arrangement by means of which the transplantation of the
    Jews, beginning with the date referred to above, may be carried
    into effect, without the slightest delay and mitigation.

The "arrangement" alluded to consisted in spreading the expulsion from
the villages over three years: one-third of the Jews were to be expelled
in 1808, another third in 1809, and the last third in 1810. Committees
were appointed to assist the governors in carrying out the expulsion
decree. These committees were instructed to make it incumbent upon the
Kahals to render financial assistance to the expelled, to those who were
being pitilessly ruined by the Government.

The horrors of the expulsion began.

    Those who did not go willingly were made to leave by force. Many
    were ejected ruthlessly, under the escort of peasants and
    soldiers. They were driven like cattle into the townlets and
    cities, and left there on the public squares in the open air.
    The way in which the expulsion from the villages was carried out
    in the Government of Vitebsk was particularly ferocious.[249]

Scores of exiled Jews petitioned the authorities to have them
transferred to New Russia, to the agricultural colonies, in which
several hundred Jewish families had found some kind of shelter. But the
supply of arable land and the funds set aside for the transfer were
found to be exhausted; the appeals therefore remained unheeded. The
distress of the Jewish masses reached such colossal proportions that the
governors themselves, in their reports to the central Government,
declared that it was impossible to carry out the expulsion decree
without subjecting the Jews to complete ruin. Accordingly a new ukase
was issued in the last days of December, 1808, to the effect that the
Jews be left in their former domiciles, pending special Imperial orders.

In the beginning of January, 1809, a new Committee (chronologically the
third) was appointed in St. Petersburg for the purpose of examining all
the phases of the problem of diverting the Jews from the rural liquor
traffic to other branches of labor. This time the committee consisted of
Senator Alexeyev,[250] who had made a tour of inspection through the
western provinces, Privy-Councilor Popov, Assistant Minister of the
Interior Kozodavlev, and others. In his instructions to Popov, who was
chairman of the Committee, the Tzar admits that the impossibility of
removing the Jews from the villages results from the fact that "the Jews
themselves, on account of their destitute condition, have no means which
would enable them, after leaving their present abodes, to settle and
found a home in their new surroundings, while the Government is equally
unable to undertake to place them all in new domiciles." It has
therefore been found necessary "to seek ways and means whereby the Jews,
having been removed from their exclusive pursuit of selling wine in the
villages, hamlets, inns, and public houses, may be enabled to earn a
livelihood by labor." At the same time the Committee was directed to
take into consideration the "opinions" submitted previously by the
Jewish deputies. After indulging in cruel vivisectionist experiments on
human beings, the Government finally realized that mere paper orders
were powerless to remodel an economic order, which centuries of
development had created, and that violent expulsions and restrictions
might result in ruining people, but not in effecting their

The Committee was at work for three years. The results of its labors
were embodied in a remarkable report submitted in March, 1812, to
Alexander I. Since Speranski's declaration of 1803, reproduced
above,[251] this official document was the first to utter a word of
truth on the Jewish problem.

    It is proposed--the report declares--to remove the Jews from the
    rural liquor traffic, because the latter is considered harmful
    to the population. But it is obvious that the root of the
    drinking evil is not to be found with the saloon-keepers, but in
    the right of distilling, or "propination," which constitutes the
    prerogative of the squires and their main source of income. Let
    us suppose the sixty thousand Jewish saloon-keepers to be turned
    out from the villages. The result will be that sixty thousand
    Russian peasants will take their place, tens of thousands of
    efficient farm-hands will be lost to the soil, while the Jews
    cannot be expected to be transformed into capable agriculturists
    at a moment's notice, the less so as the Government has no
    resources to effect this sudden transformation of saloon-keepers
    into corn-growers. It is not true that the village Jew enriches
    himself at the expense of the peasant. On the contrary, he is
    generally poor, and ekes out a scanty existence from the sale of
    liquor and by supplying the peasants with the goods they need.
    Moreover, by buying the corn on the spot, the Jew saves the
    peasant from wasting his time in traveling to the city.
    Altogether in rural economic life the Jew plays the rôle of a
    go-between, who can be spared neither by the squire nor by the
    peasant. To transfer all village Jews to the cities and convert
    them into manufacturers, merchants, and artisans, is a matter of
    impossibility, for even the Jewish population already settled in
    the cities is scarcely able to make a living, and to create
    factories and mills artificially would be throwing money into
    the water, especially as the exchequer has no free millions at
    its disposal to enable it to grant subsidies to manufacturers.
    The recent experiments of the Government have had no effect. On
    the contrary, the Jewish people "has not only remained in the
    same state of poverty, but has even been reduced to greater
    destitution, as a result of having been forced out of a pursuit
    which had provided it with a livelihood for several centuries."
    Hence, "the Committee, realizing this situation of a whole
    people, and being afraid that the continuation of compulsory
    measures, _in the present political circumstances_, may only
    exasperate this people, already restricted to the utmost, deems
    it necessary ... to put a resolute stop to the now prevailing
    methods of interference by allowing the Jews to remain in their
    former abodes and by setting free the pursuits suspended by
    Clause 34."

The Government submitted. In yielding it was moved not so much by the
clear and incontrovertible arguments of the Committee, which amounted to
a deadly criticism of the current system of state patronage, as by the
"political circumstances" alluded to in the concluding sentences of the
report. Napoleon's army was marching towards the Russian frontier. The
war which was to embroil the whole of Russia and subsequently the whole
of Europe had broken out. At such a moment, when the French army was
flooding the whole of Western Russia, it seemed far more dangerous to
create groups of persecuted and embittered outcasts than it had been in
1807, when the French invasion was merely a matter of apprehension. In
these circumstances the question whether the Jews should be left in the
villages and hamlets found a favorable solution of itself, without any
special ukase. Stirred to the core, Russia, in the moment of national
danger, had to rely for her salvation upon the strenuous exertions of
all her inhabitants, Jews included.


The part played by the Jews in the War of 1812 was not so insignificant
as historians are generally disposed to assume, being misled by the fact
that the Jews of Russia were not yet drafted into the army. It must be
borne in mind that the great war was enacted in western Russia, more
particularly in northwestern Russia, on territory inhabited by a compact
Jewish population scattered all over the cities, townlets, and villages.
The sympathy of this population with one or the other of the
belligerents frequently decided the success or failure of the detachment
situated in that locality. It is a well-known fact that the Poles of the
western region were mostly on the side of Napoleon, from whom they
expected the restoration of the Polish kingdom.

As for the Russian Jews, their attitude towards the belligerent parties
was of a more complicated character. The recent persecutions of the
rural Jews were apt, on the one hand, to set their hearts against the
Russian Government, and, had these persecutions continued, the French
would have been hailed by the oppressed Jews as their saviors. But the
expulsions from the villages had been stopped three years before the
war, and the Jews anticipated the complete repeal of the cruel law,
which had been so severely condemned in the official report of the
Committee laid before the Tzar in the beginning of 1812. Moreover, the
deputies of the Kahals, who had been summoned twice to share in the work
of the Government (in 1803 and 1807), had an opportunity to convince
themselves that Alexander I.'s Government was on the whole favorably
disposed towards the Jews, and its mistakes were merely the outcome of
the wrong system of state patronage, of the desire of the Government to
make the Jews happy, according to its own lights, by employing
compulsory and "correctional" measures.

On the other hand, Napoleon's halo had been considerably dimmed even in
the eyes of the Jews of Western Europe, now that the results of his
"Jewish Parliaments" had come to light. The Jews of Russia, who were all
Orthodox, regarded Napoleon's reform schemes as fraught with danger, and
looked upon the substitution of Kahal autonomy by a consistorial
organization as subversive of Judaism. The Hasidic party, again, which
was the most conservative, felt indebted to Alexander I., who, in a
clause of the Statute of 1804, bearing on Jewish sects, had bestowed
upon the Hasidim the right of segregating themselves in separate
synagogues within the communities. The leader of the White Russian
Hasidim, Rabbi Shneor Zalman, who at first had suffered from the
suspiciousness of the Russian Government, but was afterwards declared to
be politically "dependable," voiced the sentiments of the influential
Jewish circles towards the two belligerent sovereigns in the following

    Should Bonaparte win, the wealth of the Jews will be increased,
    and their [civic] position will be raised. At the same time
    their hearts will be estranged from our Heavenly Father. Should
    however our Tzar Alexander win, the Jewish hearts will draw
    nearer to our Heavenly Father, though the poverty of Israel may
    become greater and his position lower.

This was tantamount to saying that civic rightlessness was preferable to
civic equality, inasmuch as the former bade fair to guarantee the
inviolability of the religious life, while the latter threatened to
bring about its disintegration.

All these circumstances, coupled with the unconscious resentment of the
masses against the invading enemy, brought about the result that the
Jews of the Northwest everywhere gave tokens of their devotion to the
interests of Russia, and frequently rendered substantial services to the
Russian army in its commissary and reconnoitring branches. The
well-known Russian partisan[252] Davidov relates that

    the frame of mind of the Polish inhabitants of Grodno was very
    unfavorable to us. The Jews living in Poland were, on the other
    hand, all so devoted to us that they refused to serve the enemy
    as scouts, and often gave us most valuable information
    concerning him.

As Polish officials could not be relied upon, it became necessary to
intrust the whole police department of Grodno to the Jewish Kahal. The
Governor of Vilna testified that "the Jewish people had shown particular
devotion to the Russian Government during the presence of the enemy."

The Poles were irritated by this pro-Russian attitude of the Jews. There
were rumors afloat that the Poles had made ready to massacre all Jews
and Russians in the Governments of Vilna and Minsk and in the province
of Bialystok. There were numerous instances of self-sacrifice. It
happened more than once that Jews who had sheltered Russian couriers
with dispatches in their houses, or had escorted them to the Russian
headquarters, or who had furnished information to the Russian commanders
as to the position of the enemy's army, were caught by the French, and
shot or hanged. Alexander I. was aware of these deeds. While on a visit
to Kalish, he granted an audience to the members of the Kahal, and
engaged in a lengthy conversation with them. Among the Jews of the
district appeals written in the Jewish vernacular were circulated, in
which the Jews were called upon to offer up prayers for the success of
Alexander I., who would release the Jewish people from bondage.
Altogether the wave of patriotism which swept over Russia engulfed the
Jewish masses to a considerable extent.

The headquarters of the Russian army, which was now marching towards the
West, harbored, during the years 1812-1813, two Jewish deputies, Sundel
Sonnenberg of Grodno and Leyser (Eliezer) Dillon of Neswizh. On the one
hand they maintained connections with the leading Government officials,
and conveyed to them the wishes of the Jewish communities. On the other
hand they kept up relations with the Kahals, which they informed
regularly of the intentions of the Government. Presumably these two
public-spirited men played a twofold rôle at headquarters: that of large
purveyors, who received orders directly from the Russian commissariat,
and forwarded them to their local agents, and that of representatives of
the Kahals, whose needs they communicated to the Tzar and the highest
dignitaries of the crown. In those uneasy times the Government found it
to its advantage to keep at its headquarters representatives of the
Jewish population, who might sway the minds of their coreligionists, in
accordance with the character of the political instructions issued by
it. In June, 1814, during his stay abroad in Bruchsal (Germany),
Alexander requested these deputies to assure "the Jewish Kahals of his
most gracious favor," and promised to issue shortly "an ordinance
concerning their wishes and requests for the immediate amelioration of
their present condition." It seems that Alexander I., who was still
under the spell of the accounts of Jewish patriotism, was inclined at
that moment to improve their lot. But the general reaction which, after
the Vienna Congress of 1815, fell like a blight upon Europe and Russia
proved fatal also to the Russian Jews.


The political upheavals of the transition period (1789-1815) were bound
to react violently on the economic status of Russo-Polish Jewry. The
vast Jewish population of Western Russia was at that time divided into
two parts: the larger part resided in the towns and townlets, the
smaller lived in the villages. The efforts made by the Russian
Government during that period, to squeeze the whole Jewish population
into the urban estates and to single out from its midst a new class of
agriculturists, failed to produce the desired effect. Instead it
succeeded in disturbing the former equilibrium between the urban and the
rural occupations of the Jews.

The urban Jew was either a business man or an artisan or a
saloon-keeper. In many cities the Jewish mercantile element was
numerically superior to the Christian. The increased Jewish activity in
the export trade is particularly noticeable. Jewish merchants traveled
annually in large numbers to the fairs abroad, particularly to that of
Leipsic, to buy merchandise, principally dry goods, at the same time
exporting the products of Poland and Russia, such as furs, skins, etc.
The gradual absorption of Polish territory by Russia opened up a new,
immense market, that of the central Russian provinces, for the goods
imported from abroad. It was natural that the Jews began to flock to
those provinces. But their way was at once blocked by the local Russian
merchants, who began to clamor against Jewish competition, and forced
the Government to recognize the monopoly of native "interests," to the
detriment of the consumer.[253]

True, the monopolists did not succeed altogether in shutting the Russian
interior to foreign cheap goods and finery, which the Jewish merchants
still continued to import, under the clause in the Statute of 1804 which
granted Jews the right of visiting the interior Governments on special
gubernatorial passports. Yet an untrammeled development of Jewish
commerce was rendered impossible by this artificial barrier between
Western and Eastern Russia.

The second urban profession, handicrafts, was considered of lower rank
than commerce. It was pursued by the poorest class of the population.
Artisan labor commanded very low prices. Purely Jewish trade-unions were
rare, and when a Jewish artisan summoned enough courage to leave his
native townlet and seek employment in a large city, he was sure to
encounter the animosity of the organized Christian guilds. We have seen
that before the second partition of Poland such an "encounter" assumed
the shape of a pogrom in the Polish capital.[254]

By the side of the store and the workshop stood the public house or
saloon, which was generally connected with an inn or a hostelry. The
sale of liquor in the cities depended primarily on the peasants arriving
from the villages on festival and market days. On the whole the liquor
traffic occupied a subordinate place in the cities. Its mainstay was in
the villages.

All serious observers of the economic status of the Jews at that time
bear witness to the fact that in the majority of cities Jewish labor
formed the corner-stone of a civilized economic life, that without the
Jew it was impossible to buy, or to sell, or to have any kind of article
made. The Jew, who was satisfied with small wages and profits, was
thereby able to lower both the cost of production and the price of
merchandise. He was content with a pittance, his physical needs being
extraordinarily limited. Thanks to the mediation of the ubiquitous
Jewish business man, the peasant was able to dispose of his products on
the spot, even those which because of their small value would not be
worth carrying to the city. In spite of all his indefatigable, feverish
labors, the Jew was on the average as poor as the peasant, except that
he was free from the vice of drunkenness, one of the sources of the
peasant's economic misery. The poverty of the Jew was the artificial
result of the fact that the cities and townlets were overcrowded with
petty tradesmen and artisans, and this congestion was further aggravated
by the systematic removal of the Jews from their age-long rural
occupations and the consequent influx of village Jews into the towns.

It is necessary to point out that when the official records harp on the
"liquor traffic" in the villages as the sole occupation of Jews, they
fail to appreciate the many-sidedness of the rural pursuits of the Jews,
which were connected with the liquor traffic, to be sure, but were by no
means identical with it. While leasing from the squire or the crown the
right of distilling, the Jew farmed at the same time other items of
rural economy, such as the dairies, the mills, and the fishing ponds. He
was furthermore engaged in buying grain from the peasants and selling
them at the same time such indispensable articles as salt, utensils,
agricultural tools, etc., imported by him from the town. He often
combined in his person the occupations of liquor-dealer, shopkeeper, and
produce merchant. The road leading from the village to the city was
dotted with Jewish inns or public houses, which, before the age of
railroads, served as halting-places for travelers. This whole economic
structure, which had been built up gradually in the course of centuries,
the Russian Government made its business to demolish. As early as the
reign of Catherine II. the governors frequently drove the Jewish
villagers into the cities, acting under the "organic law" which makes it
incumbent upon Jews to "register among the merchants or burghers." The
ambiguous ukase of 1795, to the effect, that "endeavors be made to
transplant the Jews into the District towns, so that these people may
not wander about to the detriment of society," gave the zealous
bureaucrats a free hand. When the Law of 1804 ordered the expulsion of
all Jews from the villages at the end of three years, many squires,
without waiting for the time limit to expire, refused their Jewish
tenants the right of residence and trade in their villages. The Jews
began to rush into the cities, where even the long-settled residents
could not manage to make a living.

True, the Government was luring the persecuted Jews into two new
vocations, the establishment of factories and of agricultural colonies.
But the impecunious village Jew had neither the capital nor the capacity
for opening factories. Moreover, it was of no conceivable use to call
industries artificially into being, without having first secured a
market for the manufactured products. Several woolen mills had been
founded by Jews in Lithuania and Volhynia, but all they could do was to
provide work for a few thousand people. It was thus natural that all
eyes turned towards agricultural colonization.

The Statute of 1804 promised to provide impecunious Jews desirous of
engaging in agriculture with free land in several Governments, to grant
them loans for their equipment, and exempt them from taxation for a
number of years. The exiled village Jews clutched at this promise as an
anchor of salvation. In 1806 several Jewish groups in the Government of
Moghilev appealed to the governor to transfer them to New Russia, there
to engage in corn-growing. The delegate of one of these groups, Nahum
Finkelstein, even traveled to St. Petersburg to lay the matter before
Minister Kochubay, and was dispatched by the latter to the Government of
Kherson for the purpose of inspecting and selecting the land. The
Minister, acting in agreement with the Governor of Kherson, Duke
Richelieu, decided to set aside separate parcels of land in the steppes
of that region and to settle Jews on them under the auspices of the New
Russian "Immigration Bureau." Scarcely had the two Moghilev groups
completed the arrangements for their emigration, when scores of similar
applications began to come in from Jewish groups in other Governments of
the Pale. By the end of 1806 the number of applicants mounted up to
fifteen hundred families, numbering some seven thousand souls. The
Russian authorities found themselves in an awkward position. They were
caught unprepared for the transfer of so many persons at the expense of
the state. In 1807 four colonies of Jewish agriculturists were
established in the Government of Kherson, the first among the Jewish
colonies of South Russia. The number of settlers amounted to some three
hundred families, consisting of two thousand souls.

The number of applicants desirous of settling on the land continued to
increase. In the course of 1808, when the expulsion from the villages
was in full swing, the White Russian governors bombarded the Minister of
the Interior with petitions to allow as many Jewish families as possible
to proceed to New Russia. The Governor of Vitebsk reported that the
rural Jews

    have been unseasonably expelled, ruined, and reduced to beggary.
    A large part of them is without daily bread and without shelter,
    and they emigrate in considerable numbers to New Russia. Many
    Jews, in the expectation of being transplanted to New Russia,
    have sold all their belongings and beg leave persistently to go
    there, though it be only for a domicile.

At the same time reports from the New Russian Immigration Bureau and
from Duke Richelieu were constantly reaching St. Petersburg. They
emphasized the necessity of stemming the tide of emigrants, in view of
the fact that even the first parties of colonists had found it difficult
to establish themselves, while the new ones could not expect to find
either huts or any other accommodations. By the beginning of 1808 the
Immigration Bureau was in charge of about one thousand colonist
families, and, in addition, several thousand immigrants who had arrived
"voluntarily" were waiting for their turn to be settled. As a result of
the unaccustomed climatic conditions and the lack of housing
accommodations and provisions, disease began to spread among the
new-comers. All these circumstances decided the Government to put a
temporary stop to the settling of Jews in the New Russian colonies
(ukase of April 6, 1810).

The attempt to convert a part of the Jewish population into
agriculturists would undoubtedly have met with huge success, had the
Government been sufficiently prepared for such a momentous economic
transformation. Ten thousand emigrants had already gone to New Russia,
and the compact starving masses were rushing after them. But the
Government was overwhelmed by the difficulties of the task, and brought
the whole movement to a standstill. Simultaneously a stop was put to the
expulsion from the villages in the western Governments, which threatened
to lead to an unparalleled economic catastrophe. Thus, after many
vacillations and upheavals, the economic structure of Jewish life was
re-established on its old foundations--commerce, handicrafts, and rural


[246] See p. 330.

[247] See p. 318.

[248] The insistence on Hebrew in the latter case is connected with the
rabbinical form of promissory note, the so-called _Shtar Iska_ [a form
of partnership agreement which was designed to obviate the difficulties
arising out of the Biblical prohibition to lend money on interest. A
similar legal fiction was introduced by the medieval Church].

[249] See Nikitin, "The Jewish Agriculturists" (in Russian), St.
Petersburg, 1887, p. 16.

[250] [See p. 347.]

[251] See p. 340.

[252] [The word is used here in the sense of leader of partisan, _i. e._
irregular, troops. Davidov attained to great fame during the War of
1812, in which he interfered effectively with the communications of the

[253] Compare the prohibition barring Jews from registering in the
mercantile guilds of Moscow and Smolensk, p. 315.

[254] See p. 286 and p. 287.




The system of state patronage spread its wings also over the
self-government of the Jewish communities. Towards the end of Catherine
II.'s reign the Government clearly betrayed its tendency to curtail the
extensive communal autonomy which the Jews had been guaranteed earlier,
in 1776, when the promise of the Empress, to allow the Jews of annexed
White Russia "to retain their former liberties," was still fresh in the
official mind. But the Russian Government, not in the habit of
tolerating such "licentiousness" among its subjects, looked askance at
the large economic, spiritual, and judicial functions granted to the
Kahals, in addition to their fiscal duties as the collecting agencies of
the state taxes. As a result of this attitude, the ukases of 1786 and
1795 had limited the range of activity of the Kahals to spiritual and
fiscal affairs. The "Jewish Constitution" of 1804 went one step further
by dividing these two functions between the rabbinate and the Kahals,
which had previously formed one whole. The rabbis were given permission
"to look after all the ceremonies of the Jewish faith and decide all
disputes bearing on religion," while the Kahals were ordered "to see to
the regular payment of the state taxes." This was all that was left of
the ancient autonomy of the Jewish communities in Poland, with its vast
network of institutions and central assemblies, or Waads.

It is apparent that in real life the power of the communities was larger
than on paper. The Jews went on submitting most of their cases, even
those involving monetary disputes, to their own rabbinical tribunals.
The prohibition of imposing the herem (excommunication) upon
obstreperous members of the community was occasionally disregarded,
since the "spiritual" tribunals had no other means of coercion at their
disposal. On the other hand, the Government itself, being in need not
only of the fiscal services of the Kahals, but also of a responsible
organization to be consulted upon Jewish matters, could not help
tolerating the extension of Kahal activities far beyond the range of
fiscal interests. When the Government was desirous of ascertaining the
views of the Jewish communities on some of the measures planned by it,
it addressed itself, as was the case in 1802, 1803, and 1807,[255] to
the Kahals, and authorized them to send delegates to St. Petersburg or
the provincial capitals.

This extension of Jewish autonomy was a concession wrested from the
Government by the force of circumstances, by the power of a compact
population living a life of its own and refusing to efface itself to the
point of merging with the surrounding population and fusing all its
public interests with the affairs of the general city administration.
Yet it was just this "municipalization" of the Jewish communities that
the Russian Government had been aiming at for a long time. From the time
of Catherine II. it cherished the thought of "destroying Jewish
separateness," by forcing the Jews into the framework of the Russian
class organization, particularly into the estates of the merchants and

When, shortly after 1780, the Jews were accorded the hitherto unheard-of
privilege of participating in the city government with the right of
active and passive suffrage for the magistracies and municipal courts,
the lawgivers of St. Petersburg were confident that Russian Jewry, in a
transport of delight, would throw overboard its old Kahal autonomy, and
eagerly coalesce with the Christian urban estates, to form a common
municipal organization. But neither the Jews nor the Christians
justified these confident expectations. The former, while clinging as
heretofore to their time-honored communal organization, were glad to
participate in the elections to the magistracies, in which up till then
their traditional enemies, the Christian merchants and burghers, had
been the masters, and in which they frankly proposed to protect their
interests, representing as they did a considerable portion of the urban

But here they encountered furious opposition on the part of their
Christian fellow-residents. In the two White Russian Governments of
Vitebsk and Moghilev several Jews had been elected to the magistracies
as aldermen and members of the law courts. But in the majority of cases
the Christians managed to obtain an artificial majority and keep the
Jews out of the municipal administration. Complaints lodged with the
central authorities in St. Petersburg were of no avail, for the Russian,
and even more so the Polish, burghers regarded the bestowal of municipal
rights upon the Jews as a violation of their own chartered privileges.
Yielding to this mood of the Christian population, the administrators of
the southwestern Governments established on their own responsibility a
restrictive percentage for the participation of Jews in the
magistracies, by limiting, even in places with a predominatingly Jewish
population, the number of Jewish members to be elected to the
magistracies to one-third. The representatives of the Jewish majority of
the population in the city administration were thus invariably reduced
to a minority, and were not in a position to protect the interests of
their coreligionists, either in the assessment of the municipal taxes or
in the cases brought before the municipal law courts. Here, too, the
protest addressed to St. Petersburg by a delegate acting on behalf of
the Podolian Jews did not remedy the situation.

In the two Lithuanian Governments which had fallen into the hands of
Russia after the third partition of Poland, in 1795, the Christian
opposition scored even a greater success. For here it became necessary
to suspend altogether the operation of the law granting the Jews
representation in the magistracies. When the Senatorial ukase of 1802,
making the Jews eligible for public office, became known in Vilna, the
local Christian population raised a cry of indignation. The Philistine
arrogance of the old "city fathers," combined with the low motives of
religious and class hatred, manifested itself in a petition addressed in
February, 1803, by the Christian burghers of Vilna to Alexander I.

In this petition the residents of Vilna protest against the violation of
their ancient privilege, in pursuance of which "Jews and members of
other faiths are forbidden to hold office" in Lithuania. The admission
of Jews to the magistracies is a misfortune and a disgrace for the
capital of Lithuania, for

    they [the Jews] have not the slightest conception of morality,
    while their form of education does not fit them for the calling
    of a judge, and altogether this people can only maintain itself
    by all kinds of trickery.... The Christians will lose all
    interest in accepting public office once the Jews are given the
    right to dominate them.

The petitioners point out threateningly that the domination of the Jews,
_i. e._ their participation in the magistracies, though it be limited
to one-third of the number of aldermen, will undermine the people's
confidence in the municipal administration and judiciary. "For the
obedience of the mob will be turned into defamation when the Christian
who enters the sacred place [of justice] beholds a Jew as his superior
and judge, submission to whom is unnatural, by reason of class and

The Christian population of Kovno resorted, in presenting a similar
petition, to another incontrovertible argument against the admission of
Jews to municipal offices. Referring to the cross with the "sacred
figure" of the crucifixion, which is placed on the court table for the
administration of the oath, the petitioners assert that the Jewish
members of the court "will refuse to look upon it, but, by reason of
their faith, will think disrespectfully of it, so that, instead of
judicial impartiality, there will be mockery of the Christian law." The
Government found these arguments convincing, and in 1805 repealed the
ukase of the Senate concerning the election of Jews to the magistracies
of Lithuania.

In this way the stolid rancor of the "privileged" burghers in some
places handicapped the activity of the Jews in the city administration,
and in others entirely suppressed it. The Jewish communities, backward
though they were, displayed sufficient civic courage to send their
representatives to the camp of the enemy to work in common with him for
the benefit of the whole urban population. But the narrow-minded
burghers, who were thoroughly saturated with medieval prejudices, would
not recognize the Jews as their fellow-townsmen. The Jews had to reckon
with this coarse conservatism of the surrounding population. They were
still able to fall back upon their own communal self-government, and,
had their social energies been directed towards that end, the old Kahal
autonomy, in spite of all Government restrictions, might to a certain
extent have come into its own again. But another factor thwarted this
revival--the deep rift in the Russian Jewish community, which began with
the rise of Hasidism in the second half of the eighteenth century, and
was an accomplished fact at the beginning of the nineteenth century.


The period of Poland's partitions was also a period of divisions within
Polish Jewry. The external division was accompanied by an internal
split; the political partition, by a spiritual schism. The body of
Polish Jewry was divided among Russia, Austria, and Prussia, and its
soul between Rabbinism and Hasidism. There was even a significant
coincidence in dates: the first declaration against Hasidism by the
rabbinate of Vilna, which started the religious schism, was issued in
1772, in the year of the first Polish partition, and the second emphatic
declaration of the same rabbinate, which completed the schism, followed
close upon the third partition of Poland, in 1796.

The interval between these two dates represents one continuous stretch
of Hasidic triumphs. The Russian Southwest, Volhynia, the province of
Kiev, and Podolia, had by the end of the period, been almost completely
conquered by the Hasidim. With the exception of a few cities, they now
formed the predominating element in the communities; their ritual was
adopted in synagogue worship, and their spiritual rulers, the Tzaddiks,
exercised control over the official rabbinate. As far as the Northwest
is concerned, Hasidism had managed during that interval to obtain a
foothold in White Russia, the only Polish province which for over twenty
years had been under Russian dominion, and thus politically severed from
the rest of curtailed Poland. Under the leadership of the Tzaddik Shneor
Zalman of Lozno, a strong Hasidic center had been built up in that part
of the Northwest, but there were yet no compact Hasidic communities in
that region. In the majority of towns the communities were composed of
both elements, Hasidim and their opponents, the Rabbinists, who were
nicknamed _Mithnagdim_ ("Protestants"), the preponderance being now on
this side, now on the other, a state of affairs which gave rise to
endless dissensions in the Kahals and synagogues.

In Lithuania alone, the stronghold of Rabbinism, Hasidism failed to take
root. Here a few small Hasidic groups were ensconced in a number of
cities. They held their services in modest rooms in private residences
(_minyanim_), which they were often forced to hide from the gaze of the
hostile Kahal authorities. In Vilna, the residence of the great zealot
of Rabbinism, Elijah Gaon, the Hasidim constituted an "illegal" secret
organization. Only in the suburb of Pinsk, in Karlin, the Hasidim
succeeded in establishing themselves firmly, and could boast of having
their own synagogues and Tzaddiks.[256] Karlin became the seat of a
Hasidic propaganda extending all over Lithuania, where the Hasidim were
accordingly nicknamed "Karliners."

The second and third partition of Poland, which united Lithuania and
White Russia under the sovereignty of Russia, tended to buoy up the
oppressed Lithuanian Hasidim, who could now join forces against the
common enemy with their brethren all over the northwestern region. The
Hasidic propaganda took on new courage. To enhance the success of their
missionary activity, the Hasidim spread a rumor, that the former
anti-Hasidic thunderer, the veteran Rabbi Elijah Gaon, was sorry for all
the hostile acts he had committed against the sectarians, and that in
consequence the excommunication formerly hurled by him against them was
no longer valid. When this clever ruse became known in Vilna, the
indignant champions of Rabbinism prompted the aged Gaon to publish an
epistle in which he reaffirmed his former attitude towards the
"heretics," and declared that all the herems previously issued against
them remained in force (May, 1796). The epistle was intrusted to two
envoys, who were dispatched from Vilna to a number of cities, for the
purpose of stirring up an anti-Hasidic agitation. When the envoys
arrived in Minsk, and set about executing their instructions, the
Hasidim started a rumor to the effect that the Gaon's signature under
the epistle was not genuine. The Kahal of Minsk sent an inquiry to
Vilna, and in reply received, in September, 1796, a new energetic appeal
of the Gaon addressed to all the gubernatorial Kahals of Lithuania,
White Russia, Volhynia, and Podolia.

    Ye mountains of Israel--cried the great zealot--ye spiritual
    shepherds, and ye lay leaders of every Government, also ye, the
    heads of the Kahals of Moghilev, Polotzk, Zhitomir, Vinnitza,
    and Kamenetz-Podolsk, you hold in your hands a hammer wherewith
    you may shatter the plotters of evil, the enemies of light, the
    foes of the [Jewish] people. Woe unto this generation! They [the
    Hasidim] violate the Law, distort our teachings, and set up a
    new covenant; they lay snares in the house of the Lord, and give
    a perverted exposition of the tenets of our faith. It behooves
    us to avenge the Law of the Lord, it behooves us to punish
    these madmen before the whole world, for their own improvement.
    Let none have pity on them and grant them shelter!... Gird
    yourselves with zeal in the name of the Lord!

In calling to arms against the Hasidim in these fulminant terms, the
venerable knight of Rabbinism was moved by the profound conviction that
the "new sect," which by that time numbered its adherents by the
hundreds of thousands, was leading the Jewish religion and nation to
ruin, because it was rending asunder the Jewish camp internally while
the political upheavals were severing it externally. He was moreover
alarmed by the luxuriant growth of the cult of the Tzaddiks, or
miracle-workers, which constituted a menace to the purity of the Jewish

The Gaon's ire was particularly aroused by a work published in the same
year as his epistle (1796), by Rabbi Shneor Zalman, the head of the
White Russian Hasidim. The work was familiarly called _Tanyo_,[257] and
contained a bold exposition of the pantheistic doctrine of Hasidism,
which the champions of the established dogma were prone to regard as
blasphemy and heresy.[258] The Gaon's proclamation hinted at this work,
and its author felt painfully hurt by the attack. Shneor Zalman
responded in a counter-epistle, in which he tried to prove that the
patriarch of Rabbinism had been misinformed about the true essence of
Hasidism, and he invited his opponent to a literary dispute for the
purpose of elucidating the truth and "restoring peace in Israel." But
the Gaon refused to enter into polemics with a "heretic." In the
meantime the Vilna epistle continued to circulate in many communities,
and gave rise to severe conflicts between Mithnagdim and Hasidim, the
former as a rule taking the offensive.

Exasperated to the point of madness by these persecutions, the Hasidic
association of Vilna was stung into perpetrating an act of gross
tactlessness. When, in the fall of 1797, about a year after the
publication of his last circular, the aged Gaon closed his eyes, and the
whole community of Vilna was plunged into mourning, the local Hasidic
society met in a private house and indulged in a gay drinking bout, to
celebrate the deliverance of the sect from its principal enemy. This
ugly demonstration arranged on the day of the funeral raised a storm of
indignation throughout the community. Before leaving the cemetery, the
leaders of the community, standing at the Gaon's grave, pledged
themselves solemnly to wreak vengeance upon the Hasidim. On the
following day the Kahal elders were called to a special meeting, at
which a series of repressive measures against the Hasidim was adopted.
Apart from the measures to be made public, such as a new bull of
excommunication against the sectarians, the meeting passed several
resolutions which were to remain confidential. A special committee of
five Kahal members was appointed, and was vested with large powers, for
the purpose of grappling with the "heresy." Subsequent events proved
that among the contemplated means of warfare was included the plan of
informing against the leaders of the sect to the Russian Government.

It did not take long for the disgraceful scheme to be put into action.
Soon the Prosecutor-General in St. Petersburg, Lopukhin, received a
denunciation directing his attention "to the political misdeeds
perpetrated by the chief of the Karliner [Hasidic] sect, Zalman
Borukhovich [son of Borukh]," and his fellow-workers in Lithuania. Under
the influence of this denunciation, Lopukhin, acting in the name of the
Tzar, ordered the local gubernatorial administration, early in the fall
of 1798, to arrest Zalman, the head of the sect, in the townlet of
Lozno, together with twenty-two of his accomplices who were found in
Lithuania. Zalman was apprehended and dispatched post-haste to St.
Petersburg, accompanied by "a strong convoy"; his incriminated followers
remained under arrest in Vilna.

Zalman was arraigned before the so-called "Secret Expedition," a
department which dealt with crimes of a political nature. A long bill of
indictments was read out to him. He was accused of being the founder of
a harmful religious sect, which had changed the order of divine service
among Jews, of spreading pernicious ideas, and collecting funds for
mysterious purposes in Palestine. The cross-examination clearly implied
the charge of _political_ disloyalty. To all questions laid before him,
the accused gave an elaborate written reply in Hebrew. Zalman's defense,
which was translated from the Hebrew into Russian, produced a favorable
impression in Government circles. Acting upon the report submitted to
him by the Prosecutor-General respecting "all the circumstances revealed
by the investigation," Tzar Paul I. issued an order to liberate Zalman
and the other sectarian chiefs who had been placed under arrest, but to
keep "a strict watch over them as to whether there exists, or is liable
to come into existence, a secret relationship or correspondence between
them and those who entertain perverted notions concerning the
authorities and the form of Government." Towards the end of 1798 Zalman
was allowed to return home, and the other prisoners were likewise set at

Now it was the turn of the Hasidim to retaliate on their persecutors. In
view of the fact that the persecutions against them had been instigated
by the Kahal elders of Vilna, who had composed the "Committee of Five,"
the Hasidim made up their mind to depose these elders and put their own
partisans in their places. With the help of bakhshish the Vilna Hasidim
managed to secure the good-will of the gubernatorial administration. In
the beginning of 1799 they lodged a complaint with the local authorities
against the Kahal elders, charging them with having perpetrated all
kinds of abuses, including the embezzlement of public funds. This action
resulted in the removal and imprisonment of several elders. Under
official pressure their places were filled by new elders, who either
were themselves Hasidim or had been recommended by them. The community
of Vilna was rent in twain. One section remained true to the dismissed
elders, the other stood up for the newly-elected. The warring factions
were busy sending complaints and denunciations directed against each
other to the Government in St. Petersburg. The canker of "informing,"
which, perhaps not accidentally, had developed in the first years of
Russian rule in Lithuania, brought to the front one hideous personality,
a rabbi-informer by the name of Avigdor Haïmovich (son of Hayyim), of

Avigdor, formerly rabbi of Pinsk and the surrounding district, had been
dismissed from office owing to the intrigues of the Hasidic members of
the community, who were his opponents. What Avigdor lamented most was
the loss of revenue. For a long time the dethroned shepherd had been
dragging his flock through the magistracies and law courts. Having
failed in his efforts, he decided to wreak vengeance upon the leader of
the sect responsible for his ruin. In the beginning of 1800 Avigdor
addressed an elaborate petition to Tzar Paul I., in which he described
the Hasidic sect as "a pernicious and dangerous organization," which was
continuing the work of the former Messianic Sabbatians. By a vast array
of distorted quotations from Hasidic literature the informer endeavored
to prove that the teachers of the sect enjoined upon their followers to
fear only God and not men, in other words, to disregard the authorities,
including the Tzar.

The denunciation was allowed to take its course. Early in November of
the same year, the Tzaddik Zalman Borukhovich was rearrested in Lozno
and dispatched to St. Petersburg under the convoy of two Senatorial
couriers. On his arrival in the capital the Tzaddik was incarcerated in
the fortress, and after a cross-examination confronted with his accuser
Avigdor. Zalman again replied in writing to the indictments against him,
which now mounted up to nineteen counts. He repudiated emphatically the
charge of not recognizing the authority of the Government, of
immorality, of collecting money, and arranging meetings for secret
purposes. Towards the end of November Zalman was set at liberty, but was
ordered to remain in St. Petersburg pending the examination of his case
by the Senate, to which it had now been transferred from the Secret
Expedition. While the Senate was preparing to take up the case, the
palace revolution of March, 1801, cut short Paul's reign, and placed
Alexander I. upon the throne. The political wind veered round, and on
March 29, 1801, the new Tzar gave Zalman permission to depart from St.

Having satisfied itself that the religious schism in Judaism was
perfectly harmless from the political point of view, the Government was
ready to give it its sanction. One of the clauses of the Statute of
1804 permits the sectarians to establish their own synagogues in every
community and to elect their own rabbis, with the sole stipulation that
the Kahal administration in each city shall remain one and the same for
all sections of the community. As a matter of fact, the law merely
recognized what had already become the living practice. The religious
split had long been an accomplished fact, and the internecine strife of
1796-1801 was merely its final act. As for the communal organization of
the Jews, which had already been undermined by the political changes,
the schism proved nothing short of disastrous. The Kahals, weakened by
inner struggles and demoralized by denunciations and bureaucratic
interference, failed to present a united front in the first years of
Alexander's reign, when the Government was carrying out its "plan of
reform," and invited the Kahal leaders to share in its labors. The
communities of the Southwest, which were completely under the ban of
Hasidic mysticism, reacted feebly to the social and economic crisis
facing them. The Jewish delegates who presented their views in reply to
the official inquiries of 1803 and 1807[259] were recruited principally
from the White Russian and Lithuanian Governments, where the political
sense of the Jews had not yet been completely dulled.


While in Western Europe the old forms of Jewish life were breaking up,
the cultural development of the Jewish masses of Eastern Europe remained
stationary. The two dominating forces in their spiritual life, Rabbinism
and Hasidism, watched with equal zeal over the maintenance of the old
order of things. The traditional form of education remained unchanged.
The old school, the heder and yeshibah, with its exclusive Talmudic
training, supplied its pupils with a vast amount of mental energy, but
failed to prepare them for practical life, and the girls and women
remained entirely outside the influence of the school. Just as firmly
established was the old-fashioned scheme of family life, with its early
marriages, between the years of thirteen and sixteen, with the prolonged
maintenance of such married children in the paternal home, with its
excessive fertility in the midst of habitual poverty, with its reduction
of physical wants to the point of exhaustion and degeneration. This
patriarchal mass of Jews fought shy of all cultural "novelties," and
deprecated the slightest attempt to extend its mental and social
horizon. Religious culture had not yet had a chance to cross swords with
secular culture. The war between Hasidism and Rabbinism was fought on
purely religious soil. Its sole issue was the _type_ of the believer:
the old discipline with its emphasis upon the scholastic and ceremonial
aspect of Judaism was fighting against the onrush of ecstatic mysticism
and the blind "cult of saints."

It cannot be said that benumbed Rabbinism revived under the effect of
this vehement contest. At the time we are speaking of no distinct traces
of such a revival are to be seen, and all one can discern are the signs
of a purely scholastic renaissance. The method of textual analysis
introduced by Elijah Gaon into Talmudic research, which took the place
of the hair-splitting casuistry formerly in vogue, gained ever wider
currency and an ever firmer foothold in the yeshibahs of Lithuania.

In the new center of Talmudic learning, the yeshibah of the Lithuanian
townlet of Volozhin,[260] established in 1803, this novel method
received particular attention at the hands of its founder, Rabbi Hayyim
Volozhiner, a pupil of the Gaon. The yeshibah of Volozhin raised a whole
generation of scholars and rabbis "in the spirit of the Gaon." In these
circles one could even detect a certain amount of toleration towards the
anathematized "secular sciences," though this toleration was limited to
the realm of mathematics and partly that of natural history. The Gaon,
who had himself engaged in mathematical exercises in his spare moments,
permitted his pupil Borukh Shklover to publish a Hebrew translation of
Euclid's Geometry (1780). Yet the dread of philosophy was as great as
theretofore, and the incompatibility of free research with Judaism was
looked upon as an inviolable dogma. The Jewish mind continued to move
within the narrow range of "the four ells of the Halakha," and was
doomed to sterility. In the course of that whole stormy period,
extending over a quarter of a century, Rabbinism, aside from the Gaon,
had not put forward a single literary figure of any magnitude, not a
single writer of large vision. It seemed as if the spirit of originality
had fled from it.

Greater productivity was to be found among the Hasidim of the period,
although in point of originality it yielded considerably to the
preceding era of the Besht and his first apostles. Alongside of
triumphant practical Tzaddikism, trading in miracles and thriving on the
credulity of the masses, we observe to a certain degree the continued
development of the Hasidic doctrine on the lines laid down by Besht. In
the North a new Hasidic theory was spreading, which strove to adapt the
emotional pietism of Besht to the "intellectualism" of the Lithuanian
schoolmen. The originator of this doctrine, Rabbi Shneor Zalman, the
hero of the religious struggle depicted in the foregoing chapters,
endeavored to rationalize Hasidism, which had manifested a decided
leaning toward the principle _credo quia absurdum sit_. In the hands of
the author of _Tanyo_, the ecstasy of feeling is transformed into
ecstasy of thinking. Occasionally he speaks of the knowledge of God in
terms worthy of a Maimonides. Needless to say, Rabbi Zalman rejects the
Tzaddik cult in the vulgar form of miracle-mongering, which it had
assumed in the South.

In the South--to speak more exactly, in the Ukraina--Hasidism persisted
in the beaten track. Its two pillars, Levi Itzhok (Isaac) of Berdychev
(died 1809) and Nohum (Nahum) of Chernobyl (died 1799), continued to
uphold Besht's traditions. The former, the author of _Kedushath
Levi_[261] (1798), manifests in his work the genuine fervor of Hasidic
faith, without its morbid ecstasy. In his private life this leader of
Volhynian Hasidism was the embodiment of lovingkindness, extending alike
to Jew and non-Jew. Many popular legends tell of his surpassing
affection for the humble and suffering. The Tzaddik Nohum of Chernobyl,
who was an itinerant preacher in the Government of Kiev, laid in his
sermons special emphasis on the element of the Cabala. Towards the end
of his life he was primarily a Tzaddik, of the "practitioner" and
"miracle-worker" type, and founded the "Chernobyl Tzaddik dynasty,"
which is still widely ramified in the Ukraina.

Quite apart from the rest stands the figure of the Podolian Tzaddik and
dreamer Nahman of Bratzlav (1772-1810), a great-grandson of Besht.
Gifted with a profoundly poetical disposition, he spurned the beaten
tracks of the professional "Righteous," and struck out into a path of
his own. The goal he aimed at was the return to the childlike simplicity
of Besht's teachings. In 1798-1799 Nahman made a pilgrimage to
Palestine, just about the time when Bonaparte's army was marching
through the Holy Land, and a gust from tempestuous Europe drifted
through the slumbering East. But the Podolian youth had an ear only for
the whisper from the tombs of the great Cabalist teachers, Rabbi Shimeon
ben Yohai and Ari, and for the discourses of the living Tzaddiks who had
settled in Tiberias. On his return to Europe, Nahman made his home in
Bratzlav, and became the head of a group of Podolian Hasidim. In his
intimate circle he was wont to preach, or rather to muse aloud, on the
reign of the spirit, on the communion of the Tzaddik with his flock in
religious ecstasy. He spoke in epigrams, sometimes clothing his thoughts
in the form of folk-tales. He wrote a number of books,[262] in which he
constantly emphasized the need of blind, unsophisticated faith.
Philosophy he regarded as destructive to the soul; Maimonides and the
rationalists were hateful to him. The unfamiliar Berlin "enlightenment"
filled his heart with mysterious awe. Nahman's life was cut short
prematurely. Surrounded by his admirers, he died of consumption, in
Uman, at the age of thirty-eight. Down to this day his grave serves as a
place of pilgrimage for the "Bratzlav Hasidim."

However, the average Tzaddik of the type which had assumed definite
shape in that period was equally removed from the complexity of Rabbi
Zalman and the simplicity of Rabbi Nahman. On the whole, the Tzaddiks
drifted further and further away from their mission of religious
teachers, and became more and more "practitioners." Surrounded by a host
of enthusiastic worshipers, these "middlemen between God and mankind"
understood the art of turning the blind faith of the masses to good
account. They waxed rich on the gifts and offerings of their admirers,
lived in palaces, much after the manner of the Polish magnates and
Church dignitaries. The "court" of Besht's grandson in Medzhibozh,
Borukh Tulchinski (1780-1810), was marked by particular splendor. Borukh
even had his court-fool, Herschel Ostropoler, the well-known hero of
popular anecdotes.

In the original Polish provinces, afterwards incorporated into the Duchy
of Warsaw, the commanders-in-chief of the Hasidic army were two
Tzaddiks, Rabbi Israel of Kozhenitz and Rabbi Jacob Itzhok (Isaac) of
Lublin. These two pupils of the "apostle" Baer of Mezherich became the
pioneers of Hasidism on the banks of the Vistula towards the end of the
eighteenth century. At the close of their careers--both died in
1815--the banner of Hasidism floated over the whole of Poland.

The breezes of Western culture had hardly a chance to penetrate to this
realm, protected as it was by the double wall of Rabbinism and Hasidism.
And yet here and there one may discern on the surface of social life the
foam of the wave from the far-off West. From Germany the free-minded
"Berliner," the nickname applied to these "new men," was moving towards
the borders of Russia. He arrayed himself in a short German coat, cut
off his earlocks, shaved his beard, neglected the religious observances,
spoke German or "the language of the land," and swore by the name of
Moses Mendelssohn. The culture of which he was the banner-bearer was a
rather shallow enlightenment, which affected exterior and form rather
than mind and heart. It was "Berlinerdom," the harbinger of the more
complicated Haskala of the following period, which was imported into
Warsaw during the decade of Prussian dominion (1796-1806). The contact
between the capitals of Poland and Prussia yielded its fruits. The
Jewish "dandy" of Berlin appeared on the streets of Warsaw, and not
infrequently the long robe of the Polish Hasid made way timidly for the
German coat, the symbol of "enlightenment."

Alongside of this external assimilation, attempts were also made to copy
the literary models of Prussian Jewry. In 1796 a Jewish Mendelssohnian
named Jacques Kalmansohn published a French pamphlet in Warsaw, under
the title _Essai sur l'état actuel des Juifs de Pologne et leur
perfectibilité_, dedicating it to the Prussian Minister Hoym, who had
carried out Jewish reforms in the Polish provinces of Prussia. The
pamphlet contains an account of the status of Polish Jewry of his time
and a plan for its amelioration. The account is rather superficial,
concocted after the approved Western recipe. In the judgment of the
author, the misfortune of the Jews lies in their separation from the
surrounding nations, and their happiness in merging with them. The
scheme of reform proposed by the Jew Kalmansohn differs but slightly
from the Polish projects of Butrymovich and Chatzki. It advocates
equally the weakening of rabbinical and Kahal authority, the
extermination of Hasidism and Tzaddikism, the introduction of German
dress, the shaving of beards, the establishment of German schools, and
in general the cultivation of "civism."

The mould of Berlin fashion was overlaid with a Parisian veneer when
soon afterwards (1807-1812), at the bidding of Napoleon, the Duchy of
Warsaw sprang into being. Now a new note was sounded. A group of
Parisian "dandies" claim equal rights as a compensation for having
changed their dress and their "moral conduct."[263] Even respectable
representatives of the Warsaw Jewish community designate themselves in
their petition to the Senate as "members of the Polish nation of the
Mosaic persuasion," copying the latest Parisian fashion, in vogue at the
time of the Napoleonic Synhedrion.[264] This was the first, though as
yet naïve and unsophisticated, attempt to secure the "transfer" from the
Jewish nation to the Polish, the germ of the future "Poles of the Old
Testament persuasion."

The torch-bearers of Berlin culture from among the followers of David
Friedländer encouraged this frame of mind in every possible manner, and
in their organ[265] constantly appealed in this spirit to their Polish

    How long will you continue--one of these appeals reads--to speak
    a corrupt German dialect [Yiddish] instead of the language of
    your country, the Polish? How many misfortunes might have been
    averted by your forefathers, had they been able to express
    themselves adequately in the Polish tongue before the magnates
    and kings! Take a group of a hundred Jews in Germany, and you
    will find that either all or most of them can speak to the
    magnates and rulers, but in Poland scarcely five or ten out of a
    hundred are capable of doing so.

Some stray seeds of Western "enlightenment" were carried as far as the
distant Russian North. During Dyerzhavin's tour of inspection through
White Russia there flitted across his vision the figure of the physician
Frank in Kreslavka, an avowed follower of Mendelssohn, calling for
religious and educational reforms.[266] In St. Petersburg, in the house
of the Maecenas Abraham Peretz, lived his teacher Judah Leib
Nyevakhovich, a native of Podolia. In 1803, the same year in which the
Jewish deputies sojourned in St. Petersburg, Nyevakhovich published a
pamphlet in Russian, under the title, "The Wailing of the Daughter of
Judah," with a dedication to Kochubay, the Minister of the Interior and
Chairman of the "Jewish Committee." The dedication strikes the keynote
of the "Wailing": genuflexion before the greatness of Russia and
mortification at the fate of his coreligionists, who are deprived of
their share in the "blessings" of the country.

"How greatly," exclaims the author, "doth my soul exult over these
matters [the victories and might of the Russian Empire]; how deeply doth
it grieve over my coreligionists, who are removed from the hearts of
their compatriots." And throughout the whole of the pamphlet the
"Daughter of Judah" bewails the fact that neither the eighteenth
century, "the age of humanity, toleration, and meekness," nor "the
smiling spring of the present century, the beginning of which hath been
crowned ... by the accession of Alexander the Merciful, has removed the
deep-seated Jewish hatred in Russia." "Many minds doom the tribe of
Judah to contempt. The name 'Judean' hath become an object of ridicule,
contempt, and scorn for children and the feeble-minded." With particular
reference to Mendelssohn and Lessing the author exclaims: "You search
for the Jew in man. Search for man in the Jew, and you will no doubt
find him."

Nyevakhovich's pamphlet concludes with a grievous moan:

    While the hearts of all the European nations have drawn nearer
    to one another, the Jewish people still finds itself despised. I
    feel the full weight of this torment. I appeal to all who have
    sympathy and compassion. Why do you sentence my entire people to
    contempt? Thus waileth sadly the daughter of Judah, wiping her
    tears, sighing and yet uncomforted.

The author himself, by the way, subsequently managed to obtain comfort.
A few years after the publication of the "Wailing," still finding
himself "removed from the hearts of his compatriots," he discovered the
magic key to these obstreperous hearts. He embraced Christianity, and,
transformed into Lev Alexandrovich Nyevakhovich, began to write
moralizing Russian plays, which pleased the unsophisticated taste of the
Russian public of the day. Nyevakhovich thus carried his "Berlinerdom"
to that dramatic _dénouement_ which was in fashion in Berlin itself,
where an epidemic of baptism was raging. His example was followed by his
patron Abraham Peretz, who had been ruined in the War of 1812 by
military contracts. The descendants of both converts occupied important
posts in the Russian civil service. One of the Peretz family was a
member of the Council of State during the reign of Alexander II.

A faint reflection of the Western literature of enlightenment is visible
during this period on the somber horizon of Russia. Mendel Lewin, of
Satanov[267] (1741-1819), who had been privileged to behold in the flesh
the Father of Enlightenment in Berlin, scattered new seeds in his native
country. He translated into Hebrew the popular manual of medicine by
Tissot, the moral philosophy of Franklin, and the books of travel by
Campe. He also made an attempt to render the Book of Proverbs and
Ecclesiastes into the vernacular Yiddish.

The last undertaking drew upon Lewin the wrath of another "enlightened"
writer, Tobias Feder of Piotrkov and Berdychev (died 1817), who attacked
him savagely for "profaning" Holy Writ by turning it into the "language
of the street." Feder himself published studies in Hebrew grammar and
Biblical exegesis, moralizing treatises, harmless satires, and poetical
odes. These publications cannot be said to mark an epoch in the realm of
literature, but they undoubtedly symbolize a new departure in cultural
life. The secular book, of which the mere appearance was apt to arouse a
murmur of discontent among the alarmed Orthodox, takes its place side by
side with the religious literature of Rabbinism and Hasidism. These
literary attempts were the harbingers of the subsequent secularization
of Hebrew literature.


[255] See pp. 337, 339, 349.

[256] One of these Tzaddiks, Rabbi Solomon (Shelomo) of Karlin, lost his
life, according to Hasidic tradition, during the riots of the
Russo-Polish confederate troops in the district of Minsk.

[257] [The title of the work is _Likkute Amarim_, "Collected
Discourses." It is called _Tanyo_ from the first word.]

[258] Among the incriminated ideas was that of the presence of the Deity
in all existing things and in all, even sinful, thoughts, and the
concomitant mystical theory of "raising the sparks to the source," _i.
e._ extracting good from evil, righteousness from sinfulness, and pure
passion from impure impulses.

[259] See pp. 339, 349.

[260] [In the Government of Vilna.]

[261] ["The Holiness of Levi."]

[262] _Likkute Maharan_, "Collected Sayings of MaHaRaN" [abbreviation of
_M_orenu _H_a-_R_ab _R_abbi _N_ahman], and others.

[263] [See p. 300.]

[264] See p. 301.

[265] [The Hebrew periodical _Ha-Me´assef_ ("The Collector"), which was
founded in Berlin in 1784, and appeared until 1811.]

[266] See p. 331.

[267] [In Podolia.]




The great reaction of 1815-1848, which kept the whole of Europe in its
throes, assumed peculiar forms in Russia. Tzar Alexander I., one of the
triumvirs of the Holy Alliance, which had given birth to this reaction,
was eager to atone for the liberal "sins" of his youth, and was
cultivating in Russia the principles of "paternal administration" and
"Christian government." The last decade of his reign paved the way for
the iron-handed absolutism of Nicholas I., which fettered the political
and social life of Russia for thirty years, and stood like an ominous
specter of medievalism before the eyes of Western Europe.

The destinies of the great monarchy of the East determined those of the
greatest Jewish center of the Diaspora. The Vienna Congress of 1815
enlarged the borders of European Russia by including in it almost the
entire territory of the former Duchy of Warsaw, which was renamed
"Kingdom of Poland."[268] About two million Jews were huddled together
on the western strip of the Russian monarchy during the period of
1815-1848,[269] and this immense, sharply marked population served as
the subject of all possible experiments, which assumed the coloring of
the general Russian politics of the time. The last years of Alexander I.
inaugurate the period of patronage and oppression, which reached its
culmination in the following reign.

The attitude of the Russian Government towards the Jews during that
period reflects three successive tendencies: first, in the last years of
Alexander I.'s reign (1815-1825), a mixed tendency of "benevolent
paternalism" and severe restrictions; second, during the first half of
Nicholas I.'s reign (1826-1840), a military tendency, that of
"correcting" the Jews by subjecting their youth, from the age of
childhood, to the austere discipline of conscription and barrack
training, accompanied by compulsory religious assimilation and by an
unprecedented recrudescence of rightlessness and oppression; and third,
during the latter part of Nicholas's reign (1840-1855), the
"enlightened" tendency of improving the Jews by establishing "crown
schools" and demolishing the autonomous structure of Jewish life, while
keeping in force the former cruel disabilities (1840-1855). This endless
"correctional" and "educational" experimenting on a whole people,
aggravated by the resuscitation of ritual murder trials and wholesale
expulsions in approved medieval style, makes the history of Russian Jews
during that period an uninterrupted tragedy.

The beginning of the period did not seem to portend evil. Emperor
Alexander returned from the Vienna Congress without harboring aggressive
plans against the Jews. On the contrary, he remembered the patriotic
services rendered by the Jews in 1812 and the promise given by him at
Bruchsal "to ameliorate their condition."[270] As a matter of fact,
several steps were taken which seemed to point in the direction of

The first manifestations of this tendency were certain administrative
changes in the management of Jewish affairs. The ukase of January 18,
1817, ordered the Senate to submit all matters affecting the Jewish
communes, with the exception of legal cases, to the General Manager of
the Spiritual Affairs of Foreign Denominations, a post occupied by
Golitzin, the Tzar's associate in Christian pietism and mystical
infatuation. Later in the same year, the combined Ministry of
Ecclesiastic Affairs and Public Instruction was organized, under the
guidance of Golitzin, symbolizing, as it were, the establishment of
public instruction upon the foundations of "Christian piety." The
charter of the new organization distinctly provides that all "Jewish
matters in charge of the Senate and the Ministers" are to be transmitted
to the head of the new Ministry. In this manner the Jewish question was
officially connected with the department of ecclesiastic affairs, which
at that time occupied a central place in the administration.

The departmental change was followed by a more substantial reform. The
Government recognized the necessity of establishing at the Ministry of
Ecclesiastic Affairs a permanent advisory council composed of elected
Jewish representatives or "deputies of the Jewish communes." The project
was suggested by the ephemeral and accidental endeavors in the way of
popular Jewish representation on the part of the two purveyors,
Sonnenberg and Dillon, who were attached to the headquarters of the
Russian army during the campaign of 1812. At the audience at which
Alexander I. gave these deputies the assurance that the condition of
their coreligionists would be improved,[271] they were also told to
appear in the capital after the conclusion of the war for the purpose of
acquainting the Kahals with the plans of the Government. The deputies
accordingly appeared in St. Petersburg, and entered upon their duties as
Jewish spokesmen, which they exercised during 1816 and 1817. They
realized, however, that they had no right to regard themselves as the
accredited representatives of the Jewish communities of Russia, and
therefore appealed to the Government--Sonnenberg was particularly active
in this direction--to instruct all the Kahals to elect a complete group
of deputies in due form. The Government having agreed to the proposal, a
clause was included in the instructions to the newly-established
Ministry of Ecclesiastic Affairs, to the effect that "the [names of the]
deputies of the Jewish communes shall after their election be submitted
by the Minister to his Majesty for ratification."

In the autumn of 1815 all the large Kahals received orders from the
governors to choose an electoral college, two electors for each
Government. In August, 1818, the twenty-two electors chosen from eleven
Governments assembled in Vilna to elect from their own midst three
deputies and an equal number of substitutes. The choice fell, apart from
the former deputies Sonnenberg and Dillon, on Michael Eisenstadt, Benish
Lapkovski, and Marcus Veitelson, all from the Government of Vitebsk, and
Samuel Epstein from the Government of Vilna. To provide for the expenses
of the deputies, who were to live in St. Petersburg, the Vilna
conference issued an appeal to all Jewish communities calling upon them
to make an "embroidery collection," _i. e._ to cut off and convert into
cash the embroidered collars which well-to-do Jews attached to their
"Kittels" (shrouds worn beneath the prayer shawls on the Day of
Atonement), though the alternative of donating their value in money was
allowed. The Jews, who had been ruined during the war, were evidently
not in a position to tax themselves directly.

Soon afterwards followed the establishment of a special department,
which was placed at the service of "the Deputation of the Jewish
People," the name by which this college of deputies, presided over by
the energetic Sonnenberg, was frequently designated. The "college,"
either as a whole or through its individual members, labored for seven
years (1818-1825), but its activity was too limited to justify the
expectations of Russian Jewry. The hope of the deputies, that they would
be consulted about the general problems bearing on the proposed
amelioration of Jewish conditions, failed to materialize. On the
contrary, the Government had in the meantime abandoned all thought of
legislative reforms, and a little later even began to contrive ways and
means of carrying into effect the restrictive clauses of the Statute of
1804, which had been suspended in its operation by the War of 1812.

The deputies, who resided in St. Petersburg and did a great deal of
lobbying, frequently managed in their intercourse with the officials to
ferret out these "designs" of the authorities and to communicate their
findings secretly to the Kahal leaders in the provinces. At the same
time they endeavored of their own accord to avert the danger by personal
negotiations with the leading officials. While reporting on the one hand
to the Kahals, the deputies on the other hand transmitted to Golitzin,
the Minister of Ecclesiastic Affairs, the petitions of the Kahals and
their complaints against the local administration. The deputies were
thus reduced, by the force of circumstances, to mere go-betweens in
Jewish matters. In exercising this function, some of them, Sonnenberg in
particular, were indefatigable. They tried the patience of the high
officials with their petitions and representations, and on one occasion
Sonnenberg was even deprived of his post of deputy for "impertinent
conduct towards the authorities." The bureaucracy of St. Petersburg
began to resent these endless solicitations and this constant meddling
with their plans.

Gradually the deputies themselves lost heart, having realized their
impotence in grappling with the rising wave of reaction. Some of them
left St. Petersburg altogether. The downfall of Golitzin's Ministry of
Ecclesiastic Affairs, which had been undermined by the ultra-reactionary
Arakcheyev party,[272] involved, as a natural consequence, the downfall
of the curious Jewish representation affiliated with it. Golitzin's
successor as Minister of Public Instruction, the obscurantist Shishkov,
made representations to the Tzar concerning the necessity of abolishing
the institution of Jewish deputies, "numerous instances having
demonstrated that their stay here is not only unnecessary and useless
but even very harmful, inasmuch as, under the pretext of working for the
public interest, they collect money from the Jews for no purpose, and
prematurely advertise the decisions and even the intentions of the
Government." In 1825 the "Deputation of the Jewish People" was
abolished. Thus ended an organization beautifully conceived, but
mutilated in execution, one that might well have served as a substitute
for Jewish communal representation, and might have softened the _régime_
of caprice and blighting patronage which ate deeper and deeper into the
vitals of Russian politics.


It was quite in harmony with the spirit of the new era that the
solicitude of the Russian Government for the Jews should have manifested
itself in an attempt at saving their souls. Christian pietism was the
fashion of the day, and Alexander I. and Golitzin, the Minister of
Ecclesiastic Affairs, both of whom were mystically inclined, conceived
the idea of becoming the instruments of Divine Providence in converting
the Jews to Christianity. Golitzin, who was the president of the Russian
Bible Society, and was anxious to make it a faithful copy of its English
model, the Missionary Bible Society of London, approached the missionary
problem in his own way. On March 25, 1817, the Tzar published an ukase
calling for the formation of a "Society of Israelitish Christians," for
the purpose of assisting Jews already converted or preparing for

    We have learned--the ukase reads--of the difficult situation of
    those Jews who, having by Divine Grace perceived the light of
    Christian truth, have embraced the same, or are making ready to
    join the flock of the good Shepherd and the Savior of souls.
    These Jews, whom the Christian religion has severed from their
    brethren in the flesh, lose every means of contact with them,
    and not only have forfeited every claim to their assistance, but
    are also exposed to all kinds of persecutions and oppressions on
    their part. Nor do they readily find shelter among Christians,
    their new brethren in the faith, to whom they are as yet
    unknown.... For this reason we, taking to heart the fate of the
    Jews converted to Christianity, and prompted by reverent
    obedience to the _Voice of Bliss which calleth unto the
    scattered sheep of Israel to join the faith of Christ_, have
    deemed it right to adopt measures for their welfare.

The "welfare" held out to the converts was of a rather substantial
nature. Each of their groups was to be allotted free crown lands in the
southern and northern provinces, with the right of founding all kinds of
settlements, townlets, and cities. They were to be granted full civil
equality, extensive communal self-government, and special alleviations
in the payment of taxes. These groups, or colonies, of Jews, after being
converted to the Greek Orthodox, Catholic, or Lutheran faith, were to
form part of the "Society of Israelitish Christians," which was to be
managed by a special committee to be appointed in St. Petersburg under
the patronage of the Emperor. The solemn phraseology of the Imperial
ukase shows unequivocally that the Government was not satisfied with the
modest task of rendering assistance to occasional neophytes. It was
ready to embark upon a vast undertaking, that of encouraging baptism
among the Jewish population, and organizing the converted masses into
separate, privileged communes, to serve as a bait for the Jews still
languishing in their old beliefs. The imagination of the Russian
legislators pictured to them the fascinating spectacle of huge masses of
Jews marching "to join the faith of Christ," drawn to it not only by
heavenly, but also by earthly, "bliss."

The missionary mood of the heads of the Russian Government was speedily
utilized by Lewis Way, a representative of the London Bible Society. Way
was thoroughly imbued with the apocalyptic belief in the approaching
redemption of Israel under the ægis of Christianity. This however did
not prevent him from looking upon present-day unconverted Israel with
sentiments of profound respect, as the banner-bearer of a great Divine
mission in the history of mankind, and he was deeply aroused over the
civil disabilities to which they were subjected in the various
countries of Europe. When the monarchs who had concluded the Holy
Alliance assembled, in the autumn of 1818, with their ministers and
diplomats at the Congress in Aix-la-Chapelle, Way grasped the occasion
to submit to Alexander I. a "Memorandum Concerning the Condition of the
Jews,"[273] in which he appealed to the Russian Tzar to emancipate the
Jews of his dominions and persuade the Prussian and Austrian rulers to
do likewise.

    In the course of my protracted travels through the lands of
    Poland, for the purpose of gathering information about the Jews,
    I came--says Way--to the conclusion that Providence has not in
    vain placed so many thousands of Jews under the protection of
    three Christian sovereigns. Rather has this taken place in
    fulfilment of the promises given to the Patriarchs.

If the Jews are to join the flock of Christ, they ought to be treated
like children, and regarded as equal members of human society. Captive
Israel must be set free materially, before it can be liberated
spiritually. Way therefore implores the Russian Tzar to set the example,
"which will produce its effect upon the whole world."

The Tzar received Way's memorandum, and turned it over to Nesselrode,
the Minister of Foreign Affairs, with instructions to submit it to the
Congress for consideration. At a meeting of Ministers-Plenipotentiary,
representing Russia, Austria, Prussia, England, and France, held on
November 21, 1818, Way's memorandum, together with his elaborate,
printed project for a pan-European "reform of the civil and political
legislation" affecting the Jews, came up for discussion. The diplomats,
who were least of all concerned about the Jewish question, and had no
desire to make this "domestic affair" of each Government an object of
international negotiations, agreed upon the following resolution:

    Without entering into the merits of the view entertained by the
    author of the project, the conference recognizes the justice of
    his general tendency, and takes cognizance of the fact that the
    plenipotentiaries of Austria and Prussia [Metternich and
    Hardenberg] have declared themselves ready to furnish all
    possible information concerning the Jewish situation in those
    two monarchies in order to clarify a problem which must claim
    the attention equally of the statesman and the humanitarian.

By means of this hollow, liberal-sounding phrase, which did not involve
the slightest obligation, the diplomats managed to rid themselves of
this vexatious problem, even the perfunctory attention given to it at
the Congress having been prompted by no other motive than consideration
for the Russian Emperor. For the rest, every one of the three allied
Governments which had distributed Poland among themselves went on to
handle "its" Jews according to the requirements of its domestic policy,
which was frankly reactionary, and was not even disguised by the
fictitious label of humanitarianism.

The same domestic policy continued in Russia. The Tzar, who abroad had
listened benevolently to Way's appeal for the civil emancipation of the
Jews, irrespective of the future salvation of their souls, decided, when
at home again, to leave everything untouched, looking for a partial
solution of the Jewish problem to the fantastic endeavors of the Society
of Israelitish Christians. Undeterred by the fact that the solemn appeal
issued by the Tzar in 1817 had, during the three years since its
promulgation, failed to attract a single group of converts, for the
simple reason that such groups were not in existence, there being only
rare isolated instances of baptism, prompted in most cases by
questionable motives, the Government set aside, in 1820, a large tract
of land in the Government of Yekaterinoslav for a future settlement of
"Israelitish Christians." It even appointed a special official, with the
title Curator, to take charge of it.

But year after year passed by and the empty land was waiting in vain for
settlers, while the idle Curator was just as vainly on the lookout for
someone to take care of. At last, in 1823, an obscure group of
"Israelitish Christians" appeared on the scene. It consisted of
thirty-seven families from Odessa, who expressed their willingness to
accept the free lands with all the manifold rights and privileges
attached to them. Subsequent inquiries from the office of the
Governor-General of New Russia revealed the fact, however, that the
claimants to the public pie, though confessing the Greek Orthodox faith,
did not possess certificates of baptism, and could not even produce
passports, with the result that the application of the adventurers was

At last, realizing the impracticability of the whole missionary scheme,
Count Golitzin advised Alexander I., in 1824, to dissolve the mythical
Society of Israelitish Christians with its Board of Trustees, which by
that time carried a whole staff of Government officials on its budget.
The Tzar refused to liquidate by official action an undertaking which
had been heralded so solemnly, and the society without a membership,
administered by trustees without a trust, continued to figure on the
lists of Government institutions until 1833, when Nicholas I. issued a
curt ukase putting a sudden end to this bureaucratic phantom. The new
ruler had in the meantime discovered entirely different and by no means
fantastic contrivances for driving the Jews into the fold of the
Orthodox Church. These contrivances were the military barracks and the
institution of Cantonists.


While the Russian authorities were dreaming of a wholesale conversion of
Jews to Christianity, their attention was diverted by the ominous
spectacle of huge numbers of Christians embracing a doctrine closely
akin to Judaism. The Russian officials disclosed the existence of a sect
of "Sabbatarians" and "Judaizers" in the Governments of Voronyezh,
Saratov, and Tula, all of them without Jewish residents, who might
otherwise have been suspected of a missionary propaganda among the Greek
Orthodox. The new "Judaizing" heresy first engaged the attention of the
central Government in 1817, when a group of peasants in the region of
Voronyezh addressed a petition to the Tzar in which they naively
complained of "the oppressions which they had had to undergo at the
hands of the local authorities, both ecclesiastic and civil, on account
of their confessing the law of Moses." Acting under Imperial
instructions, Golitzin gave orders "to examine most rigorously" the
origin of the "sect," for the purpose of preventing its further spread
and bringing back the renegades into the fold of Orthodoxy.

The Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Voronyezh reported, in substance, as

    The sect came into existence about 1796[274] "through natural
    Jews." It afterwards spread to several settlements in the
    districts of Bobrov and Pavlovsk. The essence of the sect,
    without being directly an Old Testament form of Jewish worship,
    consists of a few [Jewish] ceremonies, such as Sabbath
    observance and circumcision, the arbitrary manner of contracting
    and dissolving marriages, the way of burying the dead, and
    prayer assemblies. The number of avowed sectarians amounts to
    one thousand five hundred souls of both sexes, but the secret
    ones are in all likelihood more numerous.

To exterminate the sect, the Archbishop of Voronyezh proposes various
measures, to be carried out partly by the ecclesiastic authorities and
partly by the police, among them the deportation of the soldier Anton
Rogov, the propagandist of the heresy.

Similar reports from the ecclesiastic authorities of Tula, Orlov,
Saratov, and other Great Russian Church districts were soon received by
the Synod. The "Judaizing heresy" spread rapidly to the villages and
cities, appealing alike to peasants and merchants. Whenever taken to
task, the sectarians declared that they longed to return to the Old
Testament and "maintain the faith of their fathers, the Judeans."

The central authorities were alarmed, and resorted to extraordinary
measures to check the spread of the schism. The Committee of Ministers
approved the following draconian project submitted by Count Kochubay in

    The chiefs and teachers of the Judaizing sects are to be
    impressed into military service, and those unfit to serve
    deported to Siberia. All Jews are to be expelled from the
    districts in which the sect of Sabbatarians or "Judeans" has
    made its appearance. Intercourse between the Orthodox
    inhabitants and the sectarians is to be thwarted in every
    possible manner. Every outward display of the sect, such as the
    holding of prayer-meetings and the observance of ceremonies
    which bear no resemblance to those of Christians, is to be
    forbidden. Finally, to make the sectarians an object of
    contempt, instructions are to be given to designate the
    Sabbatarians as a Jewish[275] sect and to publish far and wide
    that they are in reality Zhyds, inasmuch as their present
    designation as Sabbatarians, or adherents of the Mosaic law,
    does not give the people a proper idea concerning this sect, and
    does not excite in them that feeling of disgust which must be
    produced by the realization that what is actually aimed at is to
    turn them into Zhyds.

All these police regulations, in addition to a scheme of disciplinary
ecclesiastic measures, proposed by the Synod for the purpose "of
uprooting the Judean sect," were sanctioned by Alexander I. (February
and September, 1825). The tragic consequences of these reprisals came to
light only during the following reign. Entire settlements were laid
waste, thousands of sectarians were banished to Siberia and the
Caucasus. Many of them, unable to endure the persecution, returned to
the Orthodox faith, but in many cases they did so outwardly, continuing
in secret to cling to their sectarian tenets.


As far as the Jews are concerned, the immediate result of these measures
was insignificant. The number of Jews involved in the decree of
expulsion from the affected Great Russian Governments was infinitesimal,
since, owing to the restriction of the Jewish right of residence, the
only Jews occasionally to be found there were a few traveling salesmen
or distillers. Yet, indirectly, the Judaizing movement had a harmful
effect upon the position of Russian Jewry. The Government circles of St.
Petersburg, which were religiously attuned, were irritated by the fact
that so many from the Orthodox fold went over to the camp of the very
people among whom the Government had been hunting vainly for proselytes,
and while the colonies so hospitably prepared for the Israelitish
Christians were clamoring for inhabitants, many Great Russian villages
had to be stripped of their inhabitants, who were deported to Siberia,
on account of their Jewish leanings. In the mind of Golitzin, the
Minister of Ecclesiastic Affairs, the opinion gained ground that "the
Jews are enjoined by their tenets to convert everybody to their
religion." These circumstances produced in Russian official circles a
frame of mind conducive to repressive measures, and helped to provide a
moral justification for them. Accordingly, the last years of Alexander
I.'s reign were marked by a recrudescence of religious oppression, which
at times assumed the dimensions of wholesale persecutions.

Sentiments of this kind were responsible for the medieval prohibition
against keeping Christian domestics. The prohibition was suggested by
Golitzin, a man otherwise far removed from anti-Semitic prejudices, and
was officially justified in the Senatorial ukase of April 22, 1820, by
the alleged proselytism of the Jews. As instances of the latter the
Senate quotes the Judaizing movement in the Government of Voronyezh, the
communication of the Governor of Kherson concerning certain Christian
domestics in Jewish homes, who had adopted Jewish customs and
ceremonies, and so forth.

The same motives, strengthened by the tendency of removing the Jews from
the villages, long since pursued by the Government, suggested harsher
restrictions in letting to Jews manorial estates with the peasant
"souls" attached to them. Ukases issued in 1819 and in subsequent years
enjoin the local administration to prosecute all so-called "krestentzya"
contracts, transactions whereby the squire leased the harvest of a
given year to a Jew, entitling him to employ the peasants for gathering
the grain and hay and for other agricultural labors. Such transactions
were looked upon as a criminal encroachment of the Jews upon the right
of owning slaves, which was the prerogative of the nobles. Orders were
accordingly given, that all such farm leases be taken away from the
Jews, in spite of the complete ruin of the Jewish lessees, who were left
to settle their accounts with the squires.

At the same time the Government set out again to realize its devout
consummation--the expulsion of the Jews from the villages and hamlets
already provided for by the Statute of 1804, though suspended for a time
when the cruelty of the measure spelling ruin to tens of thousands of
Jewish families had become apparent. The arguments by means of which the
Jewish Committee had endeavored in 1812 to convince, and finally did
convince, the Government of the impracticability of such a migration of
nations, were blotted out from memory. The local and central authorities
were again on the war path against the Jews. To renew the campaign
against the rural Jews, the methods which had been tried with success in
the time of Dyerzhavin were again resorted to. When, in 1821, hapless
White Russia was again stricken by a famine, which affected the Jews to
a considerable extent, the local nobility was once more on the alert,
placing the whole responsibility for the ruin of the peasantry on the
Jewish tenants and saloon-keepers. The landlords proposed that the
Government expel all the Jews from the province or at least forbid them
to sell spirits in the rural settlements, since the Jews "lead the
peasants into ruin." The local authorities, in reply to an inquiry of
Senator Baranov, who had been dispatched from St. Petersburg to White
Russia, expressed a similar opinion.

The question was first brought up before the Committee which was charged
with the task of giving relief to the Governments of White Russia, and
included several ministers, among them the all-powerful Arakcheyev. The
Relief Committee approved the restrictive project of the nobility, and
so, a little later, did the Committee of Ministers. The result was a
stern ukase of the Tzar, addressed, on April 11, 1823, to the governors
of White Russia, to the following effect:

    (1) To forbid the Jews in all the settlements of the Governments
    of Moghilev and Vitebsk to hold land leases, to keep public
    houses, saloons, hostelries, posts, and even to live in them [in
    the villages], whereby all farming contracts of this kind are to
    become null and void by January 1, 1824. (2) To transplant all
    the Jews in these two Governments from the settlements into the
    cities and towns by January 1, 1825.

In signing this ukase, which spelled sorrow and misery for thousands of
families, Alexander I. gave verbal instructions to the Committee of
Ministers, to point out to the White Russian Governor-General Khovanski
"ways and means of obtaining employment and designating sources of
livelihood for the local Jews in their new places of abode." But no
"ways and means" of any kind could mitigate the misery of people doomed
to expulsion from their old nests and reduced to beggary and vagrancy.

Immediately on the receipt of the ukase the local authorities embarked
upon their task with relentless cruelty. By January, 1824, over twenty
thousand Jews of both sexes had been driven from the villages of both
Governments. Hordes of hapless refugees, with their wives and children,
began to flock into the overcrowded towns and townlets. There they
could be seen, stripped almost to their shirts, wandering aimlessly in
the streets. They lived in frightful congestion, as many as ten of them
being squeezed into a single room. They were huddled together in the
synagogues, while many of them, unable to find shelter, remained on the
streets with their families facing the winter cold. Sickness and
increased mortality began to spread among them, particularly in the city
of Nevel. Even the anti-Jewish Governor-General Khovanski, who was
making a tour of inspection through the stricken district, was stirred
by the spectacle, and advised the Committee of Ministers to stop the
disastrous expulsions. But the blow had been dealt. By the beginning of
1825 the majority of rural Jews had been expatriated, and turned out
into the wide world.

The question naturally arises, whether this human holocaust was required
in the interest of the country. The Government itself gave the answer
twelve years later--when it was too late.

    As far as White Russia is concerned--quoth the Council of State
    in 1835--experience has not justified our anticipations of the
    usefulness of the indicated measure [the expulsion from the
    villages]. Twelve years have passed since it was carried into
    effect, but from the data collected in the Department of Law it
    is quite manifest, that, while it has ruined the Jews, it does
    not in the least seem to have improved the condition of the

The White Russian orgy of destruction was merely the prelude to a new
legislative campaign against the Jews. Almost simultaneously with the
ukase ordering the expulsion of the Jews from the villages, another
ukase was issued on May 1, 1823, calling for the establishment of a new
"Committee for the Amelioration of the Jews." The Committee, which
included among its members the Ministers of Interior, Finance, Justice,
Ecclesiastic Affairs, and Public Instruction, was intrusted with a very
comprehensive piece of work--

    to examine the enactments concerning Jews passed up to date and
    point out the way in which their presence in the country might
    be rendered more comfortable and useful, also what obligations
    they are to assume towards the Government; in a word, to
    indicate all that may contribute towards the amelioration of the
    civil status of this people.

In these soft-spoken terms was couched the _public_ function of the
Committee. But its _secret_ function, which later revealed itself in
action, is correctly defined in the frank admission of the Committee of
Ministers in its report of 1829: "At the very establishment of the
Jewish Committee one of the obligations imposed upon it was to devise
ways and means looking generally towards the reduction of the number of
Jews in the monarchy." This was evidently what "the amelioration of the
civil status" of the Jews amounted to. The new Committee was instructed
to finish its work by the beginning of 1824, but its reactionary
activity was not fully unfolded until the following reign.

In the meantime the legal machinery did not remain idle. The process of
the territorial compression of Jews went on as before. To guard the
western frontier of the monarchy against smuggling, it was decided, at
the suggestion of the Administrator of the Kingdom of Poland, Grand Duke
Constantine Pavlovich, to expel the Jews from the border zone. Two
ukases were issued in 1825 ordering the removal of all the Jews residing
outside the cities within fifty versts from the frontier, with the
exception of those owning immovable property. Once again human beings
were hurled from their lifelong domiciles, when a rational policy would
have been content with instituting a closer watch. To prevent the
undesirable "multiplication of Jews" in the border Governments, Jewish
emigrants from neighboring countries, particularly from Austria, were
forbidden to settle in Russia (1824).

Needless to say, the Governments of the interior, where the Jews could
sojourn only temporarily, and where they had to produce gubernatorial
passports, like foreigners, were carefully guarded against the invasion
of the residents of the Pale. On his last trip from St. Petersburg to
Southern Russia in September, 1825, Alexander I. espied, in a little
village near Luga,[276] a Jewish family, which was engaged in making
tin-plate, and he at once inquired "on what ground" it lived there. The
Governor of St. Petersburg was frightened, and gave orders to have the
family deported immediately from the district, to censure the local
_ispravnik_[277] and to warn the gubernatorial authorities, "that the
rules concerning the Jews must be observed with all possible


Such was the attitude of the Russian _Government_ towards the Jews. But
what was the attitude of the Russian _people_? Considering the character
of the age, in which public opinion was not able to express itself even
in political literature, an answer to this question would be entirely
impossible, had not the revolutionary movement of the Decembrists[278]
disclosed the frame of mind of the most progressive section of Russian
society in its relation to the Jewish question. Taken as a whole it was
an unfriendly attitude. It reflects the utter estrangement in language,
in manners, and in culture between Jews and Russians at that time, an
estrangement which breeds suspicion and hostility. The Russian knew no
more of the life of the secluded Jewish populace than he did of the life
of the Chinese. The educated Russian looked with suspicion upon the
exclusiveness of patriarchal Jewish life, the unintelligible religious
ceremonies which surrounded it, the rigorism of the rabbis, the ecstasy
of the Tzaddiks, the strange emotionalism of the Hasidic masses. If he
turned to books for an explanation of these strange phenomena, he would
find it in the current pamphlet literature of Germany or Poland, with
its hackneyed phrases about the fanaticism of the "chosen people," a
"state in a state," etc.

The attitude of the Decembrists[279] towards the Jewish problem
reflects the conventional ideas of an age of reaction. The "Russian
Truth" by Pestel contains a chapter entitled "On the Tribes Populating
Russia," in which the Jewish problem is described as an almost
indissoluble political tangle. Pestel enumerates the peculiar Jewish
characteristics which, in his opinion, render the Jews entirely unfit
for membership in a social order. The Jews "foster among themselves
incredibly close ties"; they have "a religion of their own, which
instils into them the belief that they are predestined to conquer all
nations," and "makes it impossible for them to mix with any other
nation." The rabbis[280] wield unlimited sway over the masses; they keep
the people in spiritual bondage, "forbidding the reading of all books
except the Talmud" and other religious writings. The Jews "are waiting
for the coming of the Messiah, who is to establish them in their
kingdom," and therefore "look upon themselves as temporary residents of
the land in which they live." Hence their passion for commerce and their
neglect of agriculture and handicrafts. Since commerce alone is unable
to provide the huge masses of Jews with a livelihood, cheating and
trickery are considered permissible, to the injury of the Christians.
Pestel has no eye for the heavy burden of Jewish disabilities, and even
considers the Jews a privileged class of the population, since they do
not furnish any recruits, have their own rabbinical tribunals, possess
"the right of educating their children in whatever principles they
like," and "moreover enjoy all the rights of the Christian nations"(!).

Such was the vein in which a Russian revolutionary leader wrote, not
knowing, or perhaps not caring to know, of the iron vise of the Pale of
Settlement, of the pitiless expulsions which were taking place just at
that time, ignorant altogether of the whole mesh of legal restrictions
which placed the Jews on the lowest rung of Russian rightlessness.

After presenting this picture of Jewish life, Pestel suggests to the
future revolutionary Government ("The Supreme Provisional
Administration") two ways of solving the Jewish problem. One consists in
breaking up "the influence of the close relationship among the Jews so
injurious to the Christians," because it keeps them apart from the other
citizens. For this purpose he advises convoking "the most learned rabbis
and the most intelligent Jews"--Pestel had evidently heard of Napoleon's
Synhedrion--"listening to their representations," and thereupon adopting
measures for eradicating Jewish exclusiveness, for, "inasmuch as Russia
does not expel the Jews, they ought to be the more careful not to adopt
an unfriendly attitude towards the Christians."

The second way consists in an honorable expulsion of the Jews or, to use
his words, "in assisting the Jews to form a separate commonwealth of
their own in some portion of Asia Minor." To this end Pestel makes the
proposal to choose a rallying-point for the Jewish people and to supply
them with some troops so as to reinforce them. For, as Pestel continues,

    were all the Russian and Polish Jews to congregate in one place,
    they would number over two millions. Such a mass of people,
    being in search of a fatherland would not find it difficult to
    overcome all obstacles which the Turks might place in their way,
    and, after traversing the whole of European Turkey, might pass
    over into Asiatic Turkey, and, having occupied an adequate area,
    form a separate Jewish State.

Pestel himself felt more attracted towards the latter alternative of
solving the Jewish problem,[281] but, being fully aware that "this
gigantic undertaking depends on particular circumstances," he did not
formulate it as "a special obligation upon the Supreme Administration."

Accordingly, if Pestel's first plan had materialized, the Jews of Russia
would have received from the Supreme Provisional Administration, not
civil equality, but a stern _Reglement_ of the Austrian or Old Prussian
type, made up of a long string of "correctional measures" aiming at
compulsory assimilation or Russification, at the demolition of the whole
cultural autonomy of Russian Jewry, not excluding "the right of
educating their children in whatever principles they like," and finally
culminating in the economic "curbing of Jewry," perhaps in the spirit of
that very Government against which the Decembrists were fighting.

Pestel's views on Judaism were shared by many Decembrists, but not by
all. The constitution drafted by the leader of the "Northern Society,"
Nikita Muravyov, originally proposed to grant political rights to the
Jews only within their Pale of Settlement, but in the second draft this
limitation was replaced by the principle of perfect equality.

The Lord Baltimore Press


[268] [In Russian, _Tzarstvo Polskoye_. The names Congress-Poland and
Russian Poland are also frequently used.]

[269] The statistics of the period are far from being accurate. They are
nevertheless nearer the truth than those of the preceding age. The
official "revisions" of 1816-1819 brought out the fact that a large
number of Jews had not been entered on the lists, and the Government
took severe measures against those evading the census. Relying upon
official information, Jost (see his _Neuere Geschichte der Israeliten_,
ii. 122) computed, in 1845, the total number of Jews in Russia,
including those of the Kingdom of Poland, at 1,600,000, but he was
careful to point out that, in his opinion, the actual number of Jews was
considerably larger.

[270] [See p. 359.]

[271] [See p. 359.]

[272] [Alexis Arakcheyev (b. 1769) had been prominent in Russian
military affairs under Paul and Alexander, and had attained to fame on
account of his iron discipline. Beginning with 1814, he gradually gained
the complete confidence and friendship of Alexander. He died in 1834.]

[273] It was written in French, under the title _Mémoires (sic!) sur
l'état des Israélites_.

[274] According to subsequent accounts the date was 1806.

[275] [In the original, _Zhydovskaya_, adjective derived from _Zhyd_.
See p. 320, n. 2.]

[276] [A town in the Government of St. Petersburg.]

[277] [Police inspector.]

[278] [See next note.]

[279] [In Russian, _Dyekabristy_, the name by which the revolutionaries
of that period are generally designated. They first organized themselves
into a secret league consisting of Russian army officers in the latter
part of Alexander I.'s reign. Their open revolt took place in December
(hence the name), 1825, immediately after the accession of Nicholas I.
The league was divided into a "Northern Society," led by Nikita
Muravyov, and a "Southern Society," of which Paul Pestel was the head.
The latter wrote "The Russian Truth," a work in which he expounded the
revolutionary program.]

[280] Pestel evidently has in mind the Tzaddiks, whom he had occasion to
observe specifically in Tulchyn, his Podolian place of residence, and
more generally in the territory controlled by the "Southern Society."

[281] It has been conjectured that Pestel was influenced by his
fellow-Decembrist Gregory Peretz, a son of the converted tax-farmer
Abraham Peretz in St. Petersburg (see p. 333 and p. 388). Peretz
advocated on numerous occasions the necessity of organizing a society
for the purpose of liberating the scattered Jews and settling them in
the Crimea or in the Orient, "in the shape of a separate nationality."

Transcriber's Notes

Obvious errors of punctuation and diacritics repaired.

There are a few words in Hebrew, Greek and Polish that may not be displayed
correctly on your reader.

Both "pot-houses" and "pothouses" appear and have not been changed.

P. 15: "συναγογῆς" changed to "συναγωγῆς".

P. 65: "ecomonic" changed to "economic" (a big economic and social

P. 267: "orginators" changed to "originators" (the originators of the
parliamentary Constitution).

P. 313: "betwen" changed to "between" (between Jew and Jew).

P. 346: "innkepers" changed to "innkeepers" (Jewish tenants and

P. 374: "Irsael" changed to "Israel" (restoring peace in Israel).

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, Volume I (of 3) - From the Earliest Times Until the Present Day" ***

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