Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


RZESZOW (Pol. Rzeszow; Heb. Risha), capital of Rzeszow province, S.E. Poland. Until the 18th century Rzeszow was a private city; its last owners, the Lubomirsky family, ruled the city until the Austrian annexation in 1772. The Jewish community of Rzeszow dates back to the 15th century. Jewish settlement there was authorized by King Stephen Bathory. The community was heavily taxed and was subject to various restrictions on commerce and crafts. In the 17th century, a synagogue was erected (later known as the "old" synagogue) and a cemetery was opened. Within the framework of the *Councils of the Lands, Rzeszow belonged to the Land of "Russia." At the beginning of the 18th century, a controversy broke out between the Rzeszow and *Przemysl communities over R. Ezekiel Joshua Feivel Fraenkel-Teomim, who was first rabbi of Przemysl and subsequently moved to Rzeszow. The Przemysl community then deprived him of his office as rabbi of the province (galil) and elected Samuel Mendelowicz of Lvov rabbi of the Przemysl community and the province. The controversy was debated at a convention of the provincial council of Przemysl in 1715 and at a convention of the Land of "Russia" at Jaroslav. Following the dispute, the Rzeszow community broke away from the provincial council and constituted itself an independent entity in relation to the Council of the Four Lands. The amount of tax which the Rzeszow community paid the Council in 1715–19 shows that it was then a large community. In the middle of the 18th century, the budget of the community amounted to 17,000 zlotys. At that time most of the city's shops were Jewish-owned. Cloth trade and goldsmithing were exclusively Jewish occupations, and the high quality of their products was known throughout Europe. "Rzeszow gold" was noted at fairs. The Jewish seal engravers there also became celebrated and they supplied the courts at Stockholm and St. Petersburg. A non-Jewish traveler in Rzeszow in the middle of the 19th century referred to Rzeszow as the "little Jerusalem." Various economic and political restrictions remained in force until the Austrian revolution in 1848. By the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the Jews of Rzeszow enjoyed equal rights and participated in municipal and parliamentary elections.

The Jewish population numbered 1,202 in 1765; 3,375 (c. 75% of the total) in 1800; 7,000 (38.2%) in 1900; 8,000 (36.3%) in 1910; and 11,228 in 1931.

The *Haskalah movement was particularly influential there. Its early maskilim included Wilhelm Turteltaub. Prominent in Hebrew literature were Moses David Geschwind (1846–1905), a translator of the Polish poet J. Slowacki into Hebrew, and Abraham Abba Appelbaum (1861–1933), an early member of the Ḥovevei Zion in Galicia and founder of the first Hebrew school in the city, who wrote historical essays in the field of Jewish history in Italy.

Ḥasidism began to spread in Rzeszow in the 19th century. A large synagogue was built in the 19th century, as well as a hospital, old age home, and charitable and cultural institutions. The rabbis of the community included Samuel Ha-Levi (d. 1729), son-in-law of R. *Isaac b. Eliakim of Poznan (Posen), and Jacob *Reischer, head of the yeshivah and author of Shevut Ya'akov, who also served as rabbi in *Worms. The later rabbis include Aaron b. Nathan *Lewin, who was a representative of *Agudat Israel in the Polish Sejm. In the 20th century there was large-scale Zionist activity and Zionists were members of the community council, replacing the assimilationists. Hebrew was taught in the kindergartens, and a Hebrew school established in the Bet ha-Am. The latter became a center for young Zionist pioneers. Zionist organizations were established, such as Shulamit, a Zionist women's organization.


Moshe Yaari-Wald (ed.), Sefer Zikkaron li-Kehillat Risha (Heb., some Yid. and Eng., 1967).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.