LEZAJSK (Pol. Leżajsk; Yid. Lyzhansk), town in Rzeszow province, S.E. Poland. The Jews of Lezajsk are first mentioned in 1538. In the middle of the 17th century the community possessed a wooden synagogue and a cemetery. During the 17th and 18th centuries the Jews of Lezajsk engaged in the grain trade, the weaving of woolen cloth, and the brewing of beer, and were contractors of estates and inns. According to the census of 1765, 909 Jewish poll tax payers lived in Lezajsk and its environs. When the ẓaddik R. *Elimelech settled in Lezajsk in 1775, it became an important center of *Ḥasidism in Poland and Galicia. Each year (until the Holocaust) on the anniversary of his death (21st of Adar), thousands of Jews used to journey to pray at his grave in Lezajsk. Fires in 1834 and again in 1873 severely affected the economic situation of the community, but toward the end of the century conditions began to improve. The Jewish population fluctuated between 1,868 (38% of the total) in 1880, 1,494 (28%) in 1900, 1,705 (32%) in 1910, and 4,575 (31%) in 1921. In the interwar years Zionist parties and youth movements were active in the town. There were Tarbut, Yavneh, and Beth Jacob schools in the town.
The number of Jews in Lezajsk in 1939 rose to more than 3,000. With the outbreak of the war in September, the Poles began to loot stores and attack the Jews. Jewish self-defense was organized. The Germans entered Lezajsk on the eve of Rosh Ha-Shanah (September 1939), set synagogues afire, and burned sacred books in the town square. On the eve of Sukkot the Jews were deported by the Germans to the area under Soviet control on the other side of the San River. Part of the community went into hiding and was later allowed to remain in the city. They were concentrated in the ghetto, and in 1942 many of them were transported to work or death camps. Those who were deported to the Soviet zone lived there in very difficult economic conditions. In the summer of 1940 many of them were deported to the Soviet interior. A few hundred Jews, mostly from those who were in the U.S.S.R., survived. The old Jewish cemetery was destroyed by the Nazis and in its place a park was later made. Only the grave of the ẓaddik Elimelech remained. The main synagogue housed the town museum.
D. Rabin (ed.), Lizhansk, Sefer Zikkaron; Halpern, Pinkas, index; M. Schorr, Żydzi w przemyślu do końca XVIII wieku (1903), index; B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce… (1930), 116.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.