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Halicz, Ukraine

HALICZ (Russ. Galich), small town formerly in Poland, now in Stanislaw district, Ukraine. The earliest information relating to Jews in Halicz dates from 1488. In 1506, the Jews there were granted a remission of their taxes because of hardship caused by war. Halicz had one of the few organized *Karaite communities to exist continuously in Eastern Europe. It was founded by Karaites from Lvov. They were accorded the same rights "as other Jews" by the Polish monarch in 1578. Until the close of the 18th century the Karaites formed the majority of the Halicz community. Records of 1627 show that 24 houses there were owned by Karaites and only a few by Rabbanites. Subsequently the Rabbanite community increased. In 1765 it numbered 258, while there were 99 Karaites, and in 1900 there were 1,450 Rabbanites and 160 Karaites. By 1921 the combined population was only 582 as a result of emigration. The Karaites lived in a separate street and worshiped in their own synagogue, built at the end of the 16th century.

The Karaite community looked for cultural guidance to their spiritual center in the East, since the forefathers of the founders came from Crimea and their native language was Tatar. When the links with the parent center became attenuated, the cultural level of the Karaites in Halicz became so poor that by the first half of the 17th century there was no one in the community qualified to serve as ḥakham (or ḥazzan). The situation improved with the arrival of an emissary from Jerusalem, David Ḥazzan, around 1640. He was followed (c. 1670) by two brothers, Joseph and Joshua. Joseph, who earned the encomium "Ha-Mashbir" ("the provider"), discharged the duties of ḥakham and composed piyyutim which were included in the Karaite prayer book. His descendants served as ḥakhamim-ḥazzanim of the Halicz Karaite congregation until the beginning of the 19th century, when the office was held by members of the Leonovich family. Karaite autonomy was recognized by the Austrian government during the period when Halicz was administered by Austria. Abraham, the first of the Leonovich ḥakhamim, was one of the Karaites to be influenced by the ideas of *Haskalah . He corresponded with some of the luminaries of the movement, including Naḥman *Krochmal and Abraham *Geiger , who on their part took an interest in Karaism. Later, around the beginning of the 20th century, with the strengthening of the Polish cultural influence, most of the Karaites tended toward assimilation while a few drew closer to the Rabbanites.

The community was destroyed by the Germans in 1942, when the Jews were deported to Stanislawow and Belzec.


M. Balaban, in: Studya historyczne (1927), 1–93; R. Fahn, Le-Korot ha-Kara'im be-Galiẓyah (1870), 2–16. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: PK.

[Simha Katz]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.