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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Cracow 01: settlement and Jewish quarter of Kazimierz

Jewish settlement in strategical important Cracow - competition with German trade - university in Jewish houses in 1469 - expulsion to Kazimierz in 1495 - unification of Cracow with Kazimierz

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Cracow, vol. 5,
                  col. 1029. Agreement in Hebrew signed by the heads of
                  the Cracow community in 1485 limiting Jewish
                  commercial rights in the city. From M. Balaban:
                  "Historia Zydów w Krakowie i na Kazimierzu, 2
                  vols, 1931-36
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Cracow, vol. 5, col. 1029. Agreement in Hebrew signed by the heads of the Cracow community in 1485
limiting Jewish commercial rights in the city. From M. Balaban: "Historia Zydów w Krakowie i na Kazimierzu, 2 vols, 1931-36

from: Cracow; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 5

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)



[[The anti-Semitic Church as the main force of anti-Semitism is never mentioned in this article]].

<CRACOW (Pol. Kraków), city in S. Poland (within the historic region *Little Poland; in Western *Galicia under Austria).

[Strategic position of Cracow - Jewish settlement - competition with German trade]

Cracow was the residence of the leading Polish princes during the 12th century, and later became the capital of Poland (until 1609). It was for many centuries the home of one of the most important European Jewish communities. It acquired the status of a city on the German model in 1257, and its situation on the Vistula river [[Germ: Weichsel]] and the commercial route to Prague attracted an influx of immigrants from Germany, with whom the first Jews arrived.

In 1335 King *Casimir the Great founded the rival city of Kazimierz near the southern extremity of Cracow (enclosed by a wall in 1422) and Jews settled there soon after its establishment. By the beginning of the 14th century (see below) they had an organized community, headed until the close of the century by an elected (or appointed) Episcopus Judaeorum; the first mentioned as such, in 1369, was a prominent financier, Samuel (Smoyl). A "Jewish Street" (Platea Judaeorum; now St. Anna street) in Cracow is mentioned in 1304. A synagogue, bath house, mikveh [[ritual bath]], and cemetery are first recorded in the 1350s; and a "Gate of the Jews" (Valvae Judaeorum) is mentioned in a deed of sale of 1366 as one of the gates of the city.

From 1312, there is evidence that Jews acquired houses and building plots not only in their own quarter but also in neighboring parts of the city. The economic success and consolidation of the Jews in the city awakened among the townspeople an active hatred, already traditional among the burghers of German origin who were unused to Jewish commercial competition; the ownership of real estate by Jews was resented. The first protest against Jewish activities was submitted in 1369. In 1392 the municipal council requested that Jews should be allowed to sell their houses only to Christians.

15th Century.

[Competition to the "Christian" trade - university in Jewish houses - new Jewish houses on Spigalski Street in 1469 - fire in 1477]

The struggle with the citizenry intensified during the 15th century (during 1408-70, 18 Jewish houses were sold to Christians), especially during the reign of Ladislas II Jagello (see also Zbirgniew *Oleśnicki, Jan *Dlugosz). The assignment in 1400 of a building in a "Jewish street" to the university not only added to the overcrowding of the Jewish quarter, but for generations was a constant source of friction and danger to the Jews who were frequently attacked by students.

A banker (kampsor), who was forced to provide loans to the students on interest not exceeding 25%, had to be appointed from among the Jews. In addition, the students extorted special payments from the Jews known as kozubalec.

Mob outbreaks against the community and *blood libels also occurred (1407, 1423).

In the 15th century Cracow Jews developed commercial ties with Breslau, Danzig, Lvov (Lemberg), and Constantinople. the visit of the Franciscan preacher John of *Capistrano to Cracow in 1454 led to severe anti-Jewish riots in which many Jews were killed and extensive damage was caused to property.

In 1464 there were renewed disturbances. The heavy fines and financial sureties imposed by King Casimir IV Jagello on the municipal council did not diminish the antagonism toward the Jews. In 1469 the community leaders had to sign an agreement to evacuate the street on which the university was located and to transfer their buildings to the university in exchange for a plot of land near the synagogue in Spigalski Street (now St. Stefan Square).

When a fire broke out in the city in 1477, the Jewish community was attacked.

[Trade restrictions of 1485]

In 1485, its leaders - (col. 1026)

Moses *Fishel, Jacob b. Alexander, and Mordecai b. Jacob - were compelled to accept the dictates of the municipal council and signed "of their own free will and without coercion" an agreement to the effect that Jews would not compete in most branches of commerce and would only trade in pledges whose term of redemption had lapsed; this business was to be carried on only in their own houses, with the exception of Tuesdays, Thursdays, and market days, when they would be permitted to display the pledges publicly.

Poor Jews and Jewesses were permitted to sell shawls, hats, and collars of their own manufacture. The Cracow Jews did not intend to abandon commerce, and a continuous struggle developed between the community and the burghers, in which both sides turned to the royal court for intervention.

[Fire of 1494 from a Jewish street to Christian quarters - expulsion of the Jews in 1495 to Kazimierz]

A fire which spread from a street inhabited by Jews to the Christian quarters in June 1494 led to riots against which the Jews took up arms in self-defense. The king ordered the arrest of the communal leaders, who were later set free largely through the intercession of the courtier and celebrated humanist Filippo Buonaccorsi (Callimaco Esperiente). The townspeople continued to insist on the expulsion of the Jews from the city. In 1495, the king expelled the Jews from the capital and they moved into adjacent Kazimierz.

Amalgamation with Kazimierz.

The Cracow community amalgamated with that of Kazimierz, and, as customary after local expulsions, continued to visit Cracow from "their town" of Kazimierz and maintained a regular and often flourishing commerce there. For over four centuries, until the grant of emancipation in 1868, the Jews of Kazimierz continued the struggle, generally achieving some success, for rights to trade and work in Cracow. The Kazimierz community was already well established when it merged with that of Cracow.

At the end of the 14th century construction was begun of a magnificent synagogue in Gothic style, completed about 1407, known as the Alte Schul [[Old School]]. It is the oldest medieval synagogue still preserved in Poland. In the 1480s a Jewish bathhouse, a Jewish marketplace (Circulus Judaeorum), and a cemetery are mentioned in Kazimierz, all situated on the Breit Gass ("Broad Street").

[Cultural life in Cracow and Kazimierz in 15th century]

From the 15th century on, the community was led by four elected "elders", who in 1454 were already empowered to judge lawsuits between Jews. On Feb. 27, 1494, the "elders" (seniors) Mark Simeon of Sacz, Joseph Kopelman, Moses Fishel, and Ulryk Samuel signed an agreement with the Christian butchers' gild (ratified by the judex Juaeorum Jan Goraj) which limited the number of Jewish butchers to four; they were forbidden to employ any assistants, either Jewish or Christian, or to sell meat to Christians, except wholesale.

Little is known about Jewish learning in Cracow-Kazimierz until the end of the 15th century (although the scholar Yom Tov Lipmann of *Muehlhausen had reputedly stayed (col. 1027)

there earlier in that century), when *Jacob Pollak settled in Kazimierz and founded the first yeshivah [[religious Torah school]] from which talmudic learning spread throughout Poland. Several physicians lived there, including

-- Moses of Przemysl, mentioned in 1465, who was also one of the community elders;
-- Isachko, who practiced in Kazimierz after the expulsion from Cracow,
-- Bocian, founder of the distinguished *Popper family; and
-- Isaac of Spain (d. 1510) who served as court physician.> (col. 1028)

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Cracow, vol.
                        5, col. 1026
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Cracow, vol. 5, col. 1026
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Cracow, vol.
                        5, col. 1027-1028
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Cracow, vol. 5, col. 1027-1028

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