The first documentation concerning the presence of Jews in Lublin dates back to the reign of King Kazimierz Wielki. According to historically undocumented records, the king granted the first privileges for the local Jewish community in 1336[1.1]. However, information about individuals from the Jewish community was confirmed in historical sources from the second half of the 15th century. On the basis of the materials preserved, it is hard to state explicitly where exactly in Lublin the Jewish kehilla was residing or where their cemetery and synagogue were located[1.2]. In 1453 King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk granted the Lublin Jews the privilege of free trade, which in turn resulted in dynamic growth of the Jewish population in Lublin at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. The fact quoted in the historical sources that Rabbi Jakub from Trident settled in Lublin in 1475 may indicate that at that time there was a well-organised kehilla there[1.3].
Well-documented Jewish settlement in Lublin took place in the 16th century. Intensive development of the local kehilla resulted mainly from economic factors. The favourable geographic location of the city on the intersection of many trade routes induced many Jewish merchants to bring their economic activity to this area. However, their increased trade activity soon led to conflicts with Christian inhabitants of the town, and in consequence the king issued a regulation in 1518 imposing constraints on Jewish trade in Lublin[1.4].
Jews also settled down in Podzamcze [near the castle] and in the northern and north-eastern parts of the castle hill. The privilege called privilegium de non tolerandis Judaeis obtained by Lublin townsmen from the king in 1535 prohibited Jews from settling within the city walls[1.5]. This restriction, however, contributed to dynamic growth of the Jewish quarter in Podzamcze, while at the same time leading to Jewish and Christian divisions of the town that lasted until 1862.
The Jewish kehilla in Lublin quickly became one of the biggest communities in Poland. Royal privileges (such as a privilege granted by King Zygmunt Stary in 1523[1.6], which made the Jewish community equal in rights with other communities in Poland, and the 1556 privilege confirming the inner jurisdictional and administrative autonomy of the kehilla)[1.7] as well as other legal regulations contributed to the development of Jewish trade and crafts. As the economy flourished, the kahal became very wealthy. It was placed in the third position in the Kingdom of Poland in terms of significance and wealth after the kahals in Cracow and Lviv.
The 16th century was a time of prosperity and vital development of the Lublin kehilla. It numbered about 840 people by 1550. In 1518 a yeshiva [Talmudical Academy] was established in town and became well-known throughout Europe. Its founder was a famous rabbi and scholar named Salomon Szachna, son of a royal trade intermediary, Josko Szachnowicz. The formal opening of the yeshiva building, erected by virtue of the royal privilege from 1567, took place after the death of Szachna[1.8]. Salomon Luria, (named Maharshal) a renowned scholar, became the first rector of the school[1.9]. In the subsequent years some of the more prominent rectors were Mordekhai Jaffe and Meir ben Gedalia. In 1547 a Hebrew printing house was established. It was one of the first in the Polish land and followed after those houses in Oleśnica and Cracow. The greatest fame was gained by the printing house founded in 1578 by Kalonimus Joffe, where hundreds of works of Hebrew religious literature were published on a very high editorial level[1.10].
[1.1] A. Kopciowski, Zarys dziejów Żydów w Lublinie [w:] J. Zętar, E. Żurek, S. Żurek (red.), Żydzi w Lublinie – Żydzi we Lwowie. Miejsca – Pamięć – Współczesność, Lublin 2006, s. 13.
[1.2] M. Bałaban, Żydowskie miasto w Lublinie, Lublin 1991, s. 11.
[1.3] T. Radzik, Żyli z nami, [w:] T. Radzik, A. Wituski (red.), Lublin w dziejach i kulturze Polski, Lublin 1997, s. 260.
[1.4] A. i R. Kuwałkowie, Żydzi i chrześcijanie w Lublinie w XVI i XVII wieku [w:] T. Radzik (red.), Żydzi w Lublinie. Materiały do dziejów społeczności żydowskiej Lublina, t. 2, Lublin 1998, s. 12.
[1.5] A. Kopciowski, Zarys dziejów..., s. 14.
[1.6] M. Bałaban, Żydowskie miasto..., s. 11.
[1.7] R. Kuwałek, W. Wysok, Lublin – Jerozolima Królestwa Polskiego, Lublin 2001, s. 14-15.
[1.8] M. Bałaban, Żydowskie miasto..., s. 11.
[1.9] A. Winiarz, Lubelski ośrodek studiów talmudycznych w XVI wieku [w:] T. Radzik (red.), Żyli z nami..., s. 35-39.
[1.10] J. Zętar, Drukarnie hebrajskie w Lublinie, „Scriptrores” 2003 nr 27, s. 57.
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