It is not known when exactly Jews started to settle in Szczebrzeszyn. Some researchers claim that first Jewish settlers may have come to the town as early as in the beginning of the 15th century or the end of the 14th century. The first synagogue in Szczebrzeszyn was most probably built at the beginning of the 16th century. It was destroyed during the Khmelnytsky Uprising, when the Cossacks murdered most local Jews.
According to the 1507 register of Jewish settlements, the Jewish kehilla in Szczebrzeszyn paid 25 zlotys of coronation tax, which indicates that Jews must have arrived in Szczebrzeszyn before the aforementioned year.
It was probably the town’s owner, Jan Amor Tarnowski, who brought Jews to the town. His decision was motivated by the advantageous influence of Jewish settlers on the economy – the activity of Jews and the profits they generated indicated that it would prove to be a good investment. Jews were skilled and effective craftsmen, traders and leaseholders[1.1], as well as butchers, tailors, carpenters or woodcarvers[1.2]. With time, merchants started to arrive at the town and trade became the major occupation among the Jewish population[1.3], followed by leaseholding[1.4] and grapevine cultivation[1.5].
The Jews of Szczebrzeszyn traded in cloth, linen and spices – with time, these activities became their specialty. They also did business at fairs held in Lublin[1.6]. Apart from trade and craft, they also made their living from lease of ponds, breweries, distilleries and mills. They had to pay for the leases, but at the same time acquired certain privileges. Leaseholders of ponds in Nowy Zamość, for instance, had the exclusive right to sell fish in Zamość and Szczebrzeszyn[1.7]. In the 16th century, the most famous family of lessees in the area of Zamość was the Nosalczyk (Nosołowicz) family. Their rental amounted to 15,000 zł a year. The family lived mainly in Szczebrzeszyn; in the 17th century, some of the family members moved to Zamość – the first Nosalczyk to settle in Zamość was Icek Izraelowicz[1.8].
During the reign of the last members of the Jagiellonina dynasty, Jews began to receive new privileges – the so-called easements. Those who obtained them could supply the royal court with essential groceries and remained under the sole jurisdiction of the monarch. Such a privilege was granted to Izaak and Kielman Dawidowicz from Szczebrzeszyn and confirmed by Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki on 16 December 1672 in Warsaw[1.9].
In 1583, King Stefan Batory renewed the rights of Jews concerning trade in the villages. In 1597, King Zygmunt III Waza forbade Jews to lease taxes[1.10].
The increasing numbers of Jewish inhabitants in Szczebrzeszyn became a part of the nationwide tax system, approved by Sejm resolutions adopted in 1538, 1549 and 1580. In 1594, the authorities created the so-called Jewish poll tax – it was collected on the occasion of annual censuses of Jewish residents. If no census was held in a given year, Jews were obliged to pay the tax in the form of a lump sum. Data from 1662 shows that 172 Jews from Szczebrzeszyn paid the poll tax that year[1.11].
[1.1] Horn M., Żydzi na Rusi Czerwonej w XVI i pierwszej połowie XVII w. działalność gospodarcza na tle rozwoju demograficznego, Warsaw 1975.
[1.2] Morgensztern J., Żydzi w Zamościu w XVI – XVII w., „Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego” 1956, no. 53, p. 9.
[1.3] Schiper I., Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich, Warszawa 1937, pp. 37, 55.
[1.4] Tarnawski A., Działalność gospodarcza Jana Zamoyskiego hetmana wielkiego koronnego, Lviv 1935.
[1.5] National Archives in Lublin, Archives of the Zamoyski Family Fee Tail, List of rents for the year 1833.
[1.6] Book of Memory to the Jewish Community of Shebreshin, Kiriat Yam 1984, s. VIII.
[1.7] Morgensztern J., O działalności gospodarczej Żydów w Zamościu, „Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego” 1965, no. 53, p. 20.
[1.8] Morgensztern J., O działalności gospodarczej Żydów w Zamościu, ”Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego” 1965, no. 53, p. 36.
[1.9] Morgensztern J., Regestr dokumentów z Metryki Koronnej i Sigillat 1669–1696, „Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego” 1969, no. 69, pp. 71–109.
[1.10] Book of Memory to the Jewish Community of Shebreshin, Kiriat Yam 1984, p. VIII.
[1.11] Morgensztern J., Podatki Żydów w Ordynacji Zamojskiej, „Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego” 1969, no. 71–72, pp. 9–38.
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