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Jews were here already in the 1030s. This is earliest record of Jews living in Poland. The next recorded mention of them staying in this town dates back to 1367. There are 305 records concerning Jews in the documents of the court of assessors from the period 1402 - 1452. By 1419, there was a Jewish street in Przemyśl, most probably in the part of the town designated for Jewish settlement. The first mention of a synagogue is in 1518. In 1521, there were five Jewish houses, while the first record of a mikvah comes from 1538. In 1542, there were 18 Jewish families in the town. There is a record of a wooden synagogue which dates back to 1550. In 1559, King Zygmunt II August granted the local Jewish community separate rights, which allowed them, among other things, to carry out business activities in the town. The first conflict involving the Jews occured on 28 March 1561, when the common people burst into the synagogue, set it on fire and plundered Jewish apartments.
In 1563, 169 Jewish families lived in the town, while in 1578 – as many as 206. In 1568, a cemetery was established outside the town walls. King Stefan Batory issued regulations which standardized the relationship between the Przemyśl kehilla and the national authority. In the years 1590 - 1594, with the permission of Bishop Wawrzyniec Gostyński, a brick synagogue was built in the place where there had been a wooden one for 20 years. In 1595, the Przemyśl municipality concluded a contract with the elders of the kehilla concerning the co-financing of the fortifications of the town by the Jews. In 1618, the Jews in Przemyśl accused Wojciech Wojna and Łukasz Trzebnicki of an armed raid on Żydowska street and the occupation of a house where the elders conducted their debates at that time. According to the pre-Sejm instructions from Wisznia, there were more Jews in the town than Christians. In 1629, they owned 64 tenements and houses in the town. There was a charitable society. According to estimates, in the 1650s there were around 900 Jews in the town.
In the 17th century, the Red Russian Jewish Zemstvo was led by the Przemyśl Jewish community. In 1638, King Władysław IV granted a privilege to the Przemysl kehilla which obliged the surrounding Jewish communities to “… recognize the town as the oldest; bury the dead there; perform rituals in the Przemyśl synagogue; pay taxes to the town; take paradise apples from the town; ensure that each tenant pays the doctors’ or rabbis’ salaries set at 3 zlotys; make all appeals concerning the trials to this very rabbi…”.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the senior of the Przemyśl kehilla was Samuel Szmelke, also the rector of the Yeshiva; he died in 1628. The next to perform this function was Moszko Jakubowicz Stryjski, a leaseholder of the Stryj eldership, of the salt mines near Stary Sambor and of the Przemyśl duties. On the strength of the charter granted by Władysław IV to the Przemyśl Jewish elders in 1638, the Jews from the Dynowski, Jarosławski, Kańczucki and Pruchnicki districts, among others, were under the authority of local kehilla. They were obliged to bury their dead in Przemyśl and pay taxes to the local kehilla; they were also under the judiciary of the local rabbi.
In 1630, Moszko Szmuklerz, a local Jew, was accused of complicity in the profanation of the Host. After the trial and tortures, he was sentenced to death through burning at the stake. This resulted in another conflict in the town. In 1646, alderman Birczy Sieńko accused Jelonek, one of the Przemyśl Jews, of the ritual murder of his daughter. The trial did not prove him guilty thus the alderman was sentenced to death as a slanderer. Around 1692, Jehuda from Przemyśl was accused of sacrilege; after tortures, he was hanged. Between the 1550s and the 1750s, there were nine conflicts in the town, during which numerous robberies of Jews took place. In 1746, during the biggest of such conflicts, the students of the Jesuit College raided the Jewish district; they robbed many houses, including the house of Rabbi Moszko Szmujłowicz. They also devastated the synagogue, destroying 22 parchment scrolls with the Torah. The Society of the Jesus awarded the Jewish community compensation amounting to 15,000 Polish guldens. In the subsequent years, a number of annexes to the synagogue were built; these housed a yeshiva, a room for studying the Torah, two prayer rooms and a klojz.
When the town was besieged by the Swedish during the “Deluge”, the Jews took part in the defence of Przemyśl. They did the same during the Tartar invasion in 1672.
In the second half of the 17th century, the Jews were allowed to establish their own guilds. There is a mention of the furriers’ guild from 1654 and the tailors’ guild from 1689.
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