Kontakt     Hauptseite / page
                principale / pagina principal / home     zurück / retour /
                indietro / atrás / back
zurück / retour / indietro / atrás / backprevious   nextnext

Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in Poland 02: 1684-1772

Chmielnicki pogroms - invasions - depths and taxes - census of 1764 - partition of Poland-Lithuania in 1772

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13,
                  col. 728. Engraving of a Polish Jew [[in typical
                  Jewish dress, ordered by the anti-Jewish Church]],
                  1703. Jerusalem, Israel Museum. Photo David Harris,
amplifyEncyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col. 728. Engraving of a Polish Jew [[in typical Jewish dress, ordered
by the anti-Jewish Church]], 1703. Jerusalem, Israel Museum. Photo David Harris, Jerusalem

from: Poland; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 13

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)



[30 years war and massacres from Chmielnicki to the Swedish war - migration westward]

<The *Chmielnicki revolt and massacres of 1648-49, the Tatar incursions [[invasions]] from Crimea, and the subsequent war with Moscow combined with the Swedish War to bring [[brought?]] on the Jews of Poland-Lithuania approximately 30 years of bloodshed, destruction, and suffering. Thousands were killed, thousands forced to adopt Christianity. At the end of these convulsions [[changings]], Poland-Lithuania had lost much territory in the east which of course was also lost for Jewish life and settlement. Thousands of refugees thronged [[migrated]] westward, bringing heavy pressure to bear on charity and the very structure of Jewish society.

The arrangements of the Councils of the Lands to prevent competition for arenda had to stand the severe test of diminished opportunities and increasing demand. Contemporary figures like Nathan Nata *Hannover saw in this catastrophe a fissure [[rupture]] in Jewish life and institutions, as indicated by the tenor of his chronicle, Yeven Mezulah (Meẓulah).

In reality, Jewish cultural and social life in the second half of the 17th century and in the 18th continued to a considerable extent along the lines developed in the great era of the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries. Recent research has shown that *Pinsk, a community in the east of Lithuania, recovered from its troubles more completely and at greater speed than had been known before. But the dynamism had gone out of institutions and activities; inertia [[doing nothing]] set in. Much that had been full of imminent promise of development and change before the disasters tended now to be petrified [[stopped]]. Tensions that had been submerged [[covered]] in the buoyant  [[dominant]] pre-Chmielnicki times became more open, causing dissension and revolt.

[Demands for defense against libels and massacres - depths and lost trust - high taxes - Polish nobles become primitive - councils of the Lands abolished and census of 1764]

The councils and communities were burdened with the growing debts incurred mostly to meet unexpected demands for defense against multiplying libels and massacres, but at the same time the oligarchic structure within the community and the councils and the dominating attitude adopted by the larger communities toward the smaller ones in Lithuania in particular - caused the lower strata of the population and the members of the smaller communities to suspect their intentions and greatly resent [[take revenge]] the increasingly (col. 730)

heavy tax burden. Jewish economic activity continued to develop, though Jews in the "private towns" and on arenda in the villages came to feel more and more the heavy and capricious  hand of the Polish nobles, who by that period had lost the vigor [[energy]] of earlier times and become tyrannical, petty lords.

Despite the loss of territory and the worsening of conditions, the Jewish population in Poland-Lithuania continued to grow both absolutely and, from many aspects, in its relative strength in the country. With the abolition of the Councils of the Lands in 1764, a census of the Jewish population was taken. Jews tried to evade being counted by any means available for they were certain that the purpose of the census was to impose heavier taxation on them, as they had every reason to suspect the intentions of the authorities. For this reason at least 20% should be added to the official figures.

Accordingly in 1764 there were 749,968 Jews over a year old in Poland-Lithuania: 548,777 of them in Poland and 201,191 in Lithuania; 16.5% of the Jewish population of Poland lived in western Poland, 23.5% in Lesser Poland, and 60% in the Ukraine and neighboring districts; in Lithuania 77% lived in the western part and only 23% in the eastern, Belorussian districts. Taking into account the overall population of Poland, it can be seen that the concentration of Jewish population had shifted eastward in the 18th century to an even greater extent that in the early and successful 17th century. The census also shows that Jews lived mostly in small communities:

Table 2. Distribution of Jews According to Size of Communities
Percentage of communities of less than 500
Percentage of communities of more than 500
Great Poland
Lesser Poland
from: Poland; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 13, col. 731

As the entire Christian urban population of Poland-Lithuania was estimated at that time to be about half a million, and as the Jews were concentrated mainly in the townships and "private towns", there emerges a clear picture of a predominantly Jewish population in the smaller Polish-Lithuanian urban centers, at least 70% to 90% in many of these places.

The economic structure of the Jewish population at this time is shown in Table 3:

Table 3. Economic Structure of Jewish Population in Poland-Lithuania in the 18th century
Arenda and Alcoholic
xxxCraftsxxx Professions
Great Poland
Lesser Poland
from: Poland; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 13, col. 731


Although the predominance of unspecified professions does indicate the impoverishment of the Jews, it is largely an aspect of the evasive attitude toward the census. As this table does not include the village Jews, among whom the occupations of arenda and the production and sale of (col. 731)

*alcoholic beverages certainly predominated, only the following economic conclusions can be drawn with certainty: a considerable proportion of the Jews were engaged in crafts;and arenda and alcoholic beverages became more important as sources of livelihood as the Jews moved eastward and into villages (according to R. Mahler: Yidn in Amolikn Poyln in Likht fun Tsifern, 1958).

[Jewish messianic movement - orthodox movement - enlightenment movement]

The Jewish population of Poland-Lithuania was still seething [[moving]] with creativity and movement in the 18th century. The messianic claims of *Shabbetai Zevi (Ẓevi) not only stirred [[attracted]] the masses of Jews in 1665-66 but also left a deep impression on later generations. This is evident in the suspicion expressed about itinerant [[migrating]] *maggidim [[traditional Eastern European Jewish religious itinerant preacher, skilled as a narrator of Torah and religious stories]] (it was also demanded that they be supervised), who were suspected of disseminating [[distributing]] heretical and critical ideas.

The personality and movement of Jacob *Frank made the greatest impact [[effect]] on the distressed [[unhappy]] population of Podolia, in the extreme southeast. From the same region too arose *Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov and the movement of *Hasidism (Ḥasidism) [[pious, righteous, orthodox Jewish movement]] he originated.

Talmudic scholarship and traditional ways of life, which continued to flourish throughout the period, found a supreme exemplar in the vigorous personality and influence of *Elijah b. Solomon Zalman, the Gaon [[religious leader]] of Vilna, and in the way of life nad culture originated by him and his circle in the Mitnaggedic Lithuanian yeshivot [[religious Torah school]]. At that time too the first influences of *Haskalah [[enlightenment]] and *assimilation began to appear in Poland-Lithuania.

[Polish partition of 1772 - Jews coming under Russian rule, Prussian rule, and Austrian rule]

With the partitions of Poland (beginning in 1772), the history of ancient Jewish Poland-Lithuania comes to an end. During the agony of the Polish state, several of its more enlightened leaders - e.g., H. Kollantaj and T. *Czacki - tried to "improve the Jews", i.e. improve their legal and social status in the spirit of western and European enlightened absolutism. With the dismemberment of Poland-Lithuania, their belated efforts remained suspended. Even when broken up and dispersed, Polish-Lithuanian Jewry was not only the majority and the cultural source of Jewish society in czarist Russia, but those elements of it which came under Prussia and Austria also served later as the reservoir of Jewish spirit and manpower which resisted the ravages [[destructions]] of assimilation and apostasy [[conversion]] in the German and Austrian communities in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

[H.H.B.-S.]> (col. 732)

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol.
                        13, col. 729-730
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col. 729-730
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol.
                        13, col. 731-732
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Poland, vol. 13, col. 731-732

zurück / retour / indietro / atrás / backprevious   nextnext

Č  Ḥ  Ł  ¦  Ṭ  Ẓ  Ż
ā  ć  č  ẹ  ȩ ę ḥ  ī  ł  ń ś ¨ ū  ¸ ż ẓ