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The first information about the Jews in Sanok comes from the times of King Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir the Great), who reigned from 1333 to 1370. It has not been confirmed, however, whether the Jews lived there at that time, or just resided there intermittently. Jewish names appear on the lists of craftsmen from 1514. Tax registers from 1567 mention only one Jewish family living in Sanok, but three years later 17 Jewish families were mentioned. At that time, a total of 200 families lived in the town. [1.1].

In 1676, the Bishop of Przemyśl, Stanisław Sosnowski, complained about village. He complained that the mayor and councilors of Sanok had allowed the Jews to buy houses belonging to Catholics, in the town centre, that the Jews had carried on with their business during Catholic celebrations, and that the Jews could sell alcohol with no restrictions. It is known that in the 2nd half of the 17th century, the selling of beer and stronger alcohol was controlled by Aron and his son-in-law.

At the end of the 16th century, the community came into being, in the form of a small auxiliary kehilla. This kehilla was subordinated to the kahal in Lesko. The Synagogue in Sanok was mentioned for the first time in 1697. In 1685, Aron Izraelowicz held the post of shkolnik in the synagogue (Pol. szkolnik, Heb. shamesh - a man calling for prayer). In 1697, the shkolnik was Jacob and in 1703, it was Haim, a textile merchant.

After a fire had destroyed the old synagogue in 1718, the Jews from Sanok were granted permission from the Bishop of Przemyśl to build a new one. The new synagogue was erected two years later. This permission was reassured to the Jews of Sanok in the privilege granted on 20 June 1720 by King August II Mocny (Augustus II the Strong).

King August II Mocny granted the Jews a charter, which allowed them to build stalls, shops, and craft workshops at the side of their houses. They were also allowed to build breweries, malt-houses for brewing beer, liquor, and alcohol. The charter also granted them the right to sell goods at their stalls after a proper fee was paid to the royal treasury. They were also allowed to have a cemetery outside the boundaries of the town. They could work as weavers after paying a fee to the local castle. In the middle of the 18th century, the brewery in the local town hall was controlled by Moszko Jakubowicz. Icek and Mosiek, sons of Eliasz Dawidowicz leased Radoszyce village.

In 1720, Rabbi Moszko, on behalf of the kehilla, paid 800 zloty annually to the provost of the Holy Spirit Hospital Church. The money was secured with his tenement house. Herszko Moszkowicz most probably became rabbi in 1735. When he died in 1763, he was succeeded by his son Moses Herszkowicz, who had been the rabbi in Rymanów, the post he was still holding in 1794. When he became rabbi in Sanok, he changed the name to Helpern. Herszko Fiskowicz was cantor at the synagogue at that time. The kehilla had six elders in 1782: Fisko Berkowicz, Abraham Herszkowicz, Jeczko Boruchowicz, Salomon Jeczkowicz, Chaim Lewkowicz and Judka Szmulowicz. The community had two schools at that time. One school was located in the manor house belonging to Rabbi Herszko Moszkowicz. The other school was located next to the synagogue.

The community gained independence in 1764. By that time, the Jews already had a mikvah in Sanok. Three years later, there were 396 Jews living in Sanok and 103 in fourteen surrounding villages, which belonged to the kehilla. The cemetery, which was already referred to in 1720, was expanded in 1773, when a nearby orchard was bought from Józef Słusikiewicz. After the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Sanok became subordinate to Austria. In 1777, the first Jew in Sanok – Jakow Mendelowicz, gained permission to build a brick house in the town. In 1780, the Jews in Sanok already had two synagogues, an old and a new one. Since 1788, the Jewish children could attend classes not only in cheders but also in Jewish-German school (Jüdische Deutsche Schule). In 1806, a Jewish high-school was established.

In 1799, 259 Jews lived in Sanok. Józef Hercig was the chief rabbi in the Sanok County. His son, Mordechaj, became rabbi in Wielkie Oczy. In 1808, Jews owned 29 out of the 217 houses in the town. They had a brick synagogue, a hospital, a shelter for the poor, a brick house of prayer, and a mortuary at the cemetery. In 1824, there were 695 Jews in the town. From 1827, Jews were accepted into the guilds.

In 1870, the Jewish community had 1,590 members and it had two synagogues, a cemetery, and a school with 80 pupils. From 1857 to 1879, Lejb Frankel was the rabbi. Ichla Herzig was the chairman of the kehilla between 1883–1887. In the years 1894–1914, the rabbi was Nathan Naftali Daum, who established a yeshiva in Sanok.

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[1.1] Potocki A., Żydzi w Podkarpackiem, Rzeszów 2004, s. 170.

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