Tours&Guides > Lviv > Walking tours > Jewish Heritage of Lwow (Tour guide Jaroslaw Vitiv)


Jewish Heritage of Lwow
(walking tour)
Lviv, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine, 79000
(Language of the tours: English)

Description of the tour:

A tour of Jewish Lviv will give you the opportunity to get acquainted with the history of Lviv Jews. The tour lasts four hours, but depending on each person, the duration and route of this tour can be changed.
The history of Lviv Jews goes back to the middle of the 13th century, that is, from the time of the founding of the city of Lviv. However, it is possible that they inhabited an even previous, pre-Lviv settlement. In fact, the most ancient accounts of Jews in Galicia-Volyn Rus have been known since the 11th century. In particular, Jews from Przemysl are mentioned in the year 1085. Although, according to Jewish sources, even in the 9th century Jewish merchants delivered whole caravans of goods from the Pyrenean countries to Rus, that is, probably to northern Galicia. These ancient Jews in the area of the Ukrainian lands migrated from Western Europe - Talmudic Jews, and from the East - Biblical Jews (Karaites), the heirs of the Khazars, who converted to Judaism in the 8th century. In princely times they were engaged in trade, crafts and agriculture, and their livelihoods were regulated by princely privileges. Today it is difficult to talk about the culture of communities of the 11-13th centuries, due to the fact that no written materials have survived.
When Prince Leo moved the capital from Halich to Lviv, he also settled Armenians, Tatars, Saracens, Karaites and Jews in the city near Ruthenians. The prince's city stretches between the western slopes of the Castle Hill and the Poltva riverbed. Already in that ancient Lvov, the Jewish community was the largest in Russia. This is affirmed by the Lviv chronicler Bartolomiej Zimorowicz, who, under 1270, writes that in Lvov, among the "clever merchants who fled to Russia even from overseas ... there were Jews who sold junk, dishes and changed money ...", distinguishing that "the tribe has grown to endless." According to medieval laws, Jews were the property of princes and had the right to live in towns. In Lviv, the most ancient Jews also settled on the territory of the ancient Russian town (the territory of the historical and architectural reserve). As you know, in the cities of the Galicia-Volyn Kingdom, elements of spatial location on the Magdeburg law were observed, modeled on the first German city in Germany - Magdeburg. In some German cities, Jews even lived on the Ring Place. The Jewish quarter of prince Lviv was formed accordingly with privileges and was located on the castle lands on the right bank of Poltva (present Chornovola Avenue), to the south-west of the Old Market, adjacent to the fortifications of prince's castle court. The Karaite and Jewish communities had their own cemetery, located on the hillsides on the left bank of Poltva. The oldest gravestone in that cemetery before its destruction by the Nazis, was Matzeva dated by 1348 on the grave of a boy named Jakob.
Conquered by Casimir the Great, Lviv in 1356 receives a second privilege of granting Magdeburg rights. After the fire of Ruthenian Lviv around 1350, wealthy and influential Jews moved to the re-localized Casimir’s Lviv, according to the historian of Lviv Jews, Mayer Balaban, along with the townspeople and numerous ethnic minorities. The location privilege of Casimir is the first documentary evidence of the stay of Jews in Lviv. According to him, they were not included in the city law, but as subjects of the king were subordinate to the duke or headman. The Jews living in the new estate were allowed to adhere to their customs, but any criminal cases were decided according to Magdeburg law.
The urabanization process in Lviv led to the formation of a new "city within the fortress walls", turning the princely town into the royal count’s law, sometimes called as Krakow suburb or Royal suburb. The Jewish quarter of the princely city became part of the suburb.
The Lviv Jews of that time carried on a lively trade with the Jews from other cities of the Polish Kingdom, and even from other countries. In addition, they were engaged in crafts and usury, which is recorded in the City Act Books. For example, under 1404 the Jews Volchko from Drohobych and Shlyom from Lviv are mentioned. Other Jews mentioned in the books, whose names sound in the Ruthenian way: Detko, Luchko, Dobko ..., obviously associated with princely times.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the center of the cultural and economic life of European Jews moved from the countries over the Rhine to the East - to Poland and Lithuania. It was then that the mass resettlement of Jews in the lands of Western Ukraine took place. Ashkenazi Jews migrated here, who were expelled from Germany, and avoiding of persecutions from Hungary and the Czech Kingdom, as well as Sephardic Jews from the Iberian Peninsula - Portugal and Spain, distinguished by culture, traditions, way of life, closer to the conditions of Spain during the Cordoba Caliphate. Many of them settled in the cities and suburbs of Lviv, Przemysl, Drohobych ... The Jewish community of Lviv, together with the communities of Krakow, Poznan and Lublin, were considered the largest in Europe after Venice. Ashkenazim and Sephardim precisely determined the character and culture of the Jews of Eastern Europe.
A characteristic feature of medieval Lviv - "a fortified city" were local (within the boundaries of quarters) settlements of national communities. Since ancient times, the city's Jewish community inhabited a tight quarter in the corner between the eastern and southern lines of the defensive fortress walls, adjoining them with their buildings. The sites stretching along the city walls belonged to low-prestige ones due to the fact that they were the most vulnerable during the attacks on Lviv. At first, in the 14th century, the Jewish community owned only a few houses, which were apparently wooden. Acts from the other half of the 14th century testify to the ghetto (from the Venetian quarter of Ghetto) in the "city inside a fortress". In 1367, a synagogue stood in the down town, as evidenced by the privilege of Polish king Casimir the Great dated the same year, which mentioned an oath of the Lviv Jews that was posted on the doors of the scholae (synagogue) school. Under 1387, city books mention a Jewish Street, that is, a quarter, and under 1407 - Jewish Tower. The synagogue stood on the spot where the life of the city's Jewish community was grouped. In the synagogues of that time courts, elections and meetings of the kagal were carried out. The first composition of the Lviv kagal settled only in 1497.
So, since the second half of the 14th century, two Jewish communities (urban and suburban) were formed in Lviv, which was an exception for European cities that consisted only from whole Jewish centers. Both communities led separate lives, owning separate rights and privileges, with all institutions, with their synagogues and ritual baths - mikvahs, their kagals, courts and government, their schools, hospitals and workshops. Common to them was only a cemetery - kirkut, which was located on the Krakow suburb, beyond Poltva, and occupied the territory in the area of modern Szpitalna, Kleparowska, and Rappoport streets (now the territory of the Krakow bazaar). It was first mentioned in documents under 1414. In this cemetery, Karaites were also buried, who in the 15th century had their own community with a temple - kenasa on the Krakow suburb, and in the 16th century they moved to Davidov. The kagals were organized on the same basis as in other cities, but had three more assessors (judges). Each kagal was created from forty men, whose representatives were two seniors from each one. The main person in the cultural and social life of each community was the rabbi. Since the end of the 17th century, there were two rabbis in Lviv: an urban one - “the holy community of Lviv” and a suburban one - “zemstvo” (of the Russian province). Rabbis were often appointed, less often elected. The so-called dayanim - the Jewish court, which consisted of twelve city and twelve suburban assessors, was directly subordinate to them. Socially, the Jews were structured (elite elite, middle class and poor) and were led by seniors.
The dualism of Lviv Jewish communities was closely associated with the development of Lviv and its urban structure. Both communities lived compactly in certain quarters of Lviv: in the "city within the fortress" and on the king’s land. They were objects of legal relations, they had royal privileges. Back in 1367, the Polish king Casimir the Great granted the Lviv Jews a separate privilege, which, based on the privilege of Boleslaw the Pius from 1264 for the Jews of the Kingdom of Poland, confirmed their rights to autonomy, freedom in trade and credit, as well as protection from persecutions.
In the second half of the 15th century, many Jews poured into Lviv - colonists from Western Europe, mainly from German lands. This influx caused certain friction with the Christian population of Lviv, since the Jews created competition for Christian merchants, as eloquently asserted by the Lviv public figure Johan Alnpek in his "Description of the city of Lviv" 1605-1606: "Here is a corrupted crowd of idle Jews - exiles of the whole world, - here is almost the “promised land”. It is they who, quietly dozing on the city paving stones, earn more by their ingratiating themselves than other merchants”. Since the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, there have been edicted a number of royal decrees and privileges that govern relations between different communities. It is worth noting that, in general, Polish kings were inclined towards Lviv Jews. In particular, King Sigismund I freed Jewish merchants from customs, and Sigismund II allowed them free trade throughout Poland.
In the Middle Ages, the Jews in Lviv were the fourth nation and created a separate community, both religious and political, with their own autonomy, independent of the city government. In 1550 the Jewish quarter was inhabited by 352 people. A huge number of Jews arrived in Lviv after 1569 from Western countries. The basis of the economy of the Lviv Jewish quarter was trade. At that time, Jews were also allowed to engage in finance and crafts. The Lviv authorities prohibited Jews from settling outside the Jewish quarter, and also restricted their trade in the city of Lviv. They obeyed only the court of the Ruthenian duke. In 1569, by decree of King Sigismund II Augustus, the organizational structure of the Jewish community of Lviv was established, as well as their court was created.
The quarter of the inner-city Jewish community was formed gradually. Leopolitan consuls rented and gave to rich Jews for life empty plots on a dedicated Jewish street, which had previously been inhabited by Ruthenians. Balaban writes about this: "Although the quarter was called Jewish, yet in the second half of the 16th century there were Ruthenian houses in it, in particular bourgeois ones under the city wall on Boimow Street (now Staroevreyska) 30, 32, 34". Staroevreiska (Old Jewish) Street was previously divided into 3 parts, in 1871 it received the name Wechsler Street, and in 1888 it was renamed into Boimow Street. At the corner of what is now Ivan Fedorov Street, there are the remains of a well from which the entire Jewish community took water. The construction of the Jewish quarter was carried out according to the city building codes with a characteristic density, with boundary walls, water supply and drainage organization. From the earliest times, the inner city had an extensive water supply system, which also covered the Jewish quarter. In particular, 1407 were given 14 Groschen for the “canali” water supply, 15 Groschen for “cylindris” pipes for the school (synagogue) and 15 Groschen for pipes for the Jewish tower. In 1556 The Lviv Council made an agreement with the city Jews, according to which it was obliged to build a well for them in their street and put water into it for their use, and they - annually pay the city treasury 20 gold coins and 4 hryvnias (2 pounds) for the use of city roads and bridges.
Even at the turn of 16-17, the city ghetto was mainly built up with parterre and two-storey houses and had a lot of free space, as well as dilapidated buildings. The rapid growth of the Jewish population led to a rise in land prices. After the fire of 1571, the magistrate forbade the Jews to build wooden houses, but at their request the king cancelled this ban, and the ghetto was rebuilt further in a disorderly manner. And after the fire of 1616, the appearance of the Jewish quarter changed beyond recognition. On the site of the huts, four- and five-story houses were built, courtyards and streets were built up, and even Jewish houses appeared near the city wall. The merchant and traveler Martin Grueneweg, who lived there in 1582-1601, writes about this in the then description of Lviv: There are two streets in Lviv inhabited by Jews. They live in beautiful stone houses and have their own stone synagogue there. "He also mentioned the suburban community: "Many of them (...Jews…) live on the Krakow suburb."
The houses were two or three stories high. The tallest buildings - up to five floors - appeared at a time when the population increased and the quarter became crowded, which led to epidemics and fires. Often there were pogroms committed by students, gentry and soldiers in 1572, then 1592, and also in 1613 and 1618, as well as in 1638 and 1664.
The oldest synagogues in Lviv were made of wood. Only, probably, in the middle of the 16th century, the first stone synagogue appeared within the “city walls” of Lviv, and at the end of this century, two stone synagogues already existed inside Lviv: the Big Municipal and the private Nachmanowicz ones. The architecture of these two synagogues was built on the model of Western European shrines, which was due to the influx of Jews - emigrants from Bohemia and Germany in the late 15th and early 16th centuries to Lviv. They brought samples of synagogues that were created in Germany based on a combination of cultures: German and traditional Jewish. The oldest known synagogue in Germany in Worms (1034) became the prototype for the Ashkenazi synagogues. Its architectural organization, which was introduced by the Christian builder, is modeled on the German Christian basilic temples. It was a structure with two naves, in the prayer hall of which the bima was located between two columns. According to such a planning and spatial structure, synagogues were built over the centuries, in the appropriate styles, in Regensburg (1519), Prague (Staro-Nova, late 13th century), Krakow (Stara na Kazimierzu, early 15th century) ... In 1632 on the Krakow suburb Lviv a synagogue appeared with a new, completely different planning and spatial structure. It became a model for the synagogues of those Jewish communities who lived in the Ukrainian lands among Christians of the Byzantine tradition.
Both communities in Lviv grew and became rich; their wealthy members contributed to the development of Jewish culture. Talmudic science began to develop in Lviv from the second half of the 16th century. Yeshivas operated at the city and suburban synagogues, and famous scholars and rabbis worked.
Jewish street (Blacharsla, and in Austrian times Judengasse, now Fedorov Street) was the main street in the narrow quarter. You could get to it through the stone Jewish Gate (Porta Judaeorum), in Hebrew der Tojr (das Tor). These gates hung on two buttresses at the exit of Jewish streets to Ruska (Ruthenian) Street and protected the ghetto from various pogroms. The Jewish gates were smaller from both city gates - Crakovian and Galician, as well as from the gates – Bosacka (Bare foot) and Jesuit ones.
In 1628, the Jews were already the owners of eleven plots in the inner city (out of 443 possessions), on which there were 35 houses. In addition to these estates, they owned the old (1555) and new (1582) synagogues, a house in which a rabbi and a schoolboy lived, as well as five scanty molded houses leaning against the city wall, in total - 38 Jewish possessions (according to Roman Zubyk - 41 house).
The cramped construction of Jewish sites and neglect of safety led to frequent fires, from which all of Lviv suffered. In particular, on August 5, 1494, as Zimorowicz writes, “the Jews, the fiery danger of the Christian world, turned a fourth part of the city to ashes. The fire, destroying their houses, spread to the adjoining environs, that is the Market ... and the neighboring houses of the Ruthenians... ”. Because of the fires, confrontations arose between the Jews and the Leopolitan consuls, who were responsible for the safety of the whole city. In order to compensate for losses after the fire of 1616, as a result of which the Jewish quarter burned to the ground, Jews were allowed to build new wooden houses while they did not have enough money for stone houses. Their height should not exceed two tiers, and to prevent fires, they should have stone cellars and stoves. These houses could stand "until old age", and then it was necessary to build only stone structures.
The stone buildings of the Jewish street were formed by wealthy Jews. Some of them were distinguished by their activities not only among the Jewish community, but also throughout the whole city. In 1590 Israel Jozefowicz bought a stone house on Blacharska (Tinsmith) Street, 28 at Zolkiewski family and transformed it to a yeshiva (Talmudic school), the first rector of which was his son-in-law Joshua Falk ben Alexander Kohen, a famous scientist and head of the Jewish Senat in 1607. Simche Menachem, who built the Renaissance stone house (called Doctor's house) on Blacharska, 19, was the court physician of the Sultan, and then under the name of Emmanuel de Jon, he was a personal doctor of King Jan Sobeski, several times was the deputy of Crown Jewish Senat. In 1696 he was its speaker, and 1701 was the head of the community in Rutheny.
The building of the Jewish street was severely destroyed by the fire on February 17, 1645. During the sieges of Lviv in 1648 and 1655 by Bogdan Chmelnicki, on the demand to give up all the Jews, the city together with the kagal was bought off. The wave of religious intolerance that was spreading in Poland during the "Swedish flood" in 1664 caught on the Jewish communities of Lviv. Then the Jesuit students ransacked and set fire to the Suburban Synagogue, in which over a hundred people died. King Jan Casimir arranged a trial over the perpetrators, and also punished 16 consuls and the burgomaster with six weeks in prison for allowing the pogrom. Many Jewish houses burned down during the Swedish invasion of 1704. In addition, the community had to pay a large ransom to the Swedes, which was extorted in a drastic way: while the baskets were filled with gold and silver, the rabbis hung on a gallows built in the courtyard. The Jewish communities of Lvov, along with the rest, had to pay ransoms during other sieges.
Over time, the development of the inner-city Jewish quarter became so dense that in the second half of the 17th century, after the Cossack, Tatar and Moscow invasions, Lviv Jews began to emigrate to the surrounding towns, as well as settle outside the ghetto: on the lands of the Benedictine sisters, on the lands of Jablonowski’s, first of all, on Zarwanska street (a part of Old Jewish street) and Ruthenian one, renting housing and shops in the houses of the gentry, clergy and townspeople. This fact led to new royal decrees restricting the rights of Jews. Only after their abolition in 1668 Lviv Jews received the right to free ownership of their temples, which they were obliged to restore.
Despite various cataclysms of the second half of the 17th century, Lviv still attracted numerous residents. "It is home to 6,000 inhabitants who are engaged in large-scale fishing," wrote the German traveler Ulrich von Werdum, who traveled through Ukraine in 1670-1672, in his diary. "There are many Jews living here, in addition, they also have their own street in the city and there are two more synagogues on it”. In 1708, the whole Market was filled with Jewish shops, which were located from the rear, even in the royal house, and only in a few from the front. The Jews rented all the County tax collations, which is why they had constant conflicts with the magistrate. The second half of the 17th century was distinguished by the fact that many residents of the Jewish quarter, due to overcrowding, moved to the cities belonging to the Ruthenian and Polish aristocrats - Brody, Zhovkva, Svirzh, Buchach, and the city community of Lviv united with the suburban one. Jews, as before, had the right to live only within their ghetto. This situation continued until the ban was lifted in 1868, when the rich left the ghetto and the poor remained in it.
In the second half of the 18th century, a new religious and mystical trend of Judaism, Hasidism, which was based on Orthodox Judaism and Kabbalah, spread in Lviv, as well as in the whole of Galicia. Despite the resistance of the leading Orthodox rabbis - mitnagdim, Hasidism was supported by the Jewish community and the city rabbi Zvi Rozanes. Its dissemination was also facilitated by the spiritual mentor, rabbi of the synagogue "Golden Rose" Menachem Margoliot (1740-1801).
With the change of the political map at the end of the 18th century, when Lviv came under the rule of the Habsburgs, a new period began in the history of Jewish communities. The Austrian government removed restrictions on the religious rights of Jews. Tolerance patent or "Edict of Tolerance" in 1789 in a certain way contributed to the comparison in the public rights of the Jews with other citizens of the Austrian Monarchy. The patent beside positive sides also contained some contradictions, some rights expanded the rights of Jews, while others limited them. In particular, the Austrian government ordered the Lviv Jews to leave the Christian homes that they rented outside the ghetto. By decrees of 1793 and 1795, they were allowed to live in Lviv only on the Jewish, Zarwanska and Ruthenian streets, as well as on two suburbs – Cracovian and Zholkower.
An important milestone in the life of Lviv Jews was the decree of the Austrian government in 1787 according to which German-Jewish schools were established in Lviv. The teachers invited to them were Jews immigrated from Germany and Bohemia, who had a university education. They prepared the basis for the dissemination of Haskalah - Jewish enlightenment. An early fighter for the educational movement was Herz Homberg, the chief inspector of German-Jewish educational institutions in the government of Galicia. A group of educators, led by the publicist, Abraham Menahem Mendel Mohr, the Hebraist and literary critic Jakub Bodek, and the lawyer Emmanuel Blumenfeld, significantly contributed to its development. In Lviv, already at the beginning of the 20th century, the ideas of enlightenment, socialism, Zionism, the authority of secular education grew, the number of the Jewish intelligentsia grew, for which the Polish and German languages, culture, way of life became common. Lviv became one of the main centers of the Jewish Haskalah in Galicia. The supporters of enlightenment and progress - the Maskils tried to attract Jews to Western European culture. The activities of the Galician educators (in particular Leopolitans: Krochmal, Perl, Rappaport, Mises ...), contributed to the development of science and education among Jews.
Despite the fact that at first there were complicated relations between representatives of the three religious movements of Judaism: orthodoxy, enlightenment and Hasidism, they all took root in Lviv, created communities and erected synagogues.
Back in the 19th century, the Jews of Lviv settled in their neighborhoods. Outside the ghetto, only rich Jews or those with higher education had the right to settle. In accordance with the decree, it was forbidden for “foreign Jews” to live in Lviv. The exceptions were those that had a special permit. These decrees were repeated in 1804 and 1811. According to Balaban, the Austrians managed to do what the magistrate could not achieve for 150 years. Kagals sought the government to expand the territory of their settlements. Only the new the constitution of 1867 broke down walls that had existed for over five centuries. Then both ghettos were liquidated in Lviv and restrictions on living outside the borders of the Jewish quarters were lifted. Since the late 1860s, the number of inhabitants of the Jewish faith in Lviv has grown significantly. Jews became inhabitants of almost all districts of Lviv. First of all, they settled in the areas on the left bank of Poltva river (Svoboda Avenue, unpaired side), St. Anna (Horodotska), Sykstuska (Doroshenka), New Wide (Copernicus) street, Fresnel (Kosciuszko), Jesuit (Hnatyuka), Brigicka (Mentsinsky), Mayerowska (Sichovykh Striltsiv) streets….
In the first quarter of the 18th century, the institute of Bet Midrash revived in Eastern Europe - the house of wisdom, which consisted of a library of Talmudic literature and a study hall, as well as a prayer hall with Aron ha-Kodesh and bima, therefore, Bet Mijrash was often called synagogues ... But, if the synagogues were cold, then the Bet Midrash room was heated. Its classroom, unlike the ordinary school, was intended for independent study of the Talmud and Talmudic literature, and the library was available to everyone. It is characteristic that it was possible to work there both day and night. Bet midrashes were an integral part of the Jewish quarter of every Galician town. In Lviv, the first Bet Midrash was built in the 17th century in the inner city near the Great Synagogue. By order of the Austrian government, at the end of the 18th century, instead of a wooden one, it was rebuilt into a stone one. The Bet Midrash itself was on the ground floor, and the first floor was occupied by small guild and brotherly temples, transferred from their own liquidated wooden temples. At the end of the 18th century, it was also rebuilt into a stone wooden Bet Midrash, which stood near the Great Suburban Synagogue. It, like the synagogue, was distinguished by elongated semicircular windows. In Lviv at the end of the 19th century, a number of cultural, educational and political Jewish societies and organizations arose that integrated citywide life. The number of educated Jews who were educated in higher educational institutions and became representatives of the free crafts: doctors, lawyers, journalists, scientists increased. To support their activities, Jewish communities erected houses of worship, ritual baths (mikvah), schools, shelters, printing houses, commercial buildings and hospitals. In 1891 according to the project of Alfred Kamenobrodski, a Jewish industrial school was built on Berka Joselewicz (Balaban) street. In 1900 Lviv Jews built their own theater (architects Michal Fechter and Artur Schleen). In 1898-1903, the Rappoport Jewish Hospital (Rappoport Street) was built at the expense of Mauricius Lazarus. Architect Kazimir Moklowski and builder Ivan Lewinski created a structure in the oriental Moorish style, characterized by yellow-red brick walls and a Moorish bathhouse covered with three-color tiles. The walls of individual rooms of the hospital were painted according to the design of the Fleck brothers. It was the largest and one of the best hospitals in Lviv.
Lviv Jews suffered during the First World War, when not only people, but also many Jewish monuments became victims of Russian troops and Poles. The Russians, having occupied Lviv on September 3, 1914, staged a bloody pogrom of the suburban Jewish quarter, which in the urban tradition was called “Bloody Sunday”. In November 1918, after the retreat of Ukrainian troops from Lviv during Polish-Ukrainian war, the Polish residents of Lwow staged pogroms and massacres of Jews for their support of the power of the West Ukrainian People's Republic. These events were reminded by a table above the burnt capital of the Great Suburban Synagogue with the inscription: "In memory of the pogrom that arose in the days of the pogrom on 19 Kislev 5579".
During the interwar period, the Jewish community experienced its last development. Since 1919, synagogues destroyed by military operations have been restored and new ones erected. At this time, many Jewish educational and cultural institutions arose, in particular a pedagogical institute, industrial schools named after Korkes for ladies and men, along with a hostel, a gymnasium, and book stores. In 1932 on Starotandetna (Mularska) Street, according to the design of the architect Mark Weitz in the style of functionalism, the House of Public Aid and the Shelter for the Poor named after Runa Raitman (today a library of foreign literature) was built.
In 1918-1939 the Jewish community of Lviv was the third largest in Poland at that time. With the occupation of Lviv by Nazi Germany in June 1941 and the elimination of the attempt to create a Ukrainian state on June 30, Lviv, like the whole of Galicia, was included by the fifth district in the General Government. This territory was under the direct control of the Third Reich (German Empire) and, in accordance with the plans of Hitler and the Nazis, underwent complete Germanization. With the creation of the Judenrat (Jewish Council), the German Nazi authorities approached, first administratively separated the Lviv Jewish community from the “Aryan” inhabitants, that is, Ukrainians and Poles, and not long ago also territorially. Already in October-November 1941 a ghetto was created - the Jewish inhabited quarter "Judisches Wohnbezirk". All the Jews of Lviv were to move to the northeastern part, located beyond the railway track. But this ghetto was organized not for living, but for the organized extermination of Jews. At the beginning of June 1943, the German authorities began the liquidation of the ghetto, which they completed in November, proclaiming Lviv a city "judenfrei" - free of Jews.
During the Shoah, the vast majority of Lviv Jews were exterminated; according to post-war statistics, only 820 people remained, while before World War II, approximately 140,000 Jews lived in the city of Lviv. The great synagogues and Bet Midrashes were razed to the ground. In Soviet times, a taboo was imposed on the history of Lviv Jews, and monuments of material and spiritual culture were destroyed.
An excursion to Jewish Lviv includes sights associated with Lviv Jews: the old Jewish quarter, the house of Jona Sprecher, the city Jewish hospital. In the medieval Jewish quarter, the ruins of the private synagogue of Isaak Nachmanovich “Golden Rose”, built in the Renaissance style in 1582, are preserved - an outstanding monument of Lviv Judaism, located on Ivan Fedorov Street and which is a unique architectural monument. In 1941 it was blown up and only one single wall remained. It was the main synagogue in Lviv in the Jewish quarter. The excursion envisages a visit to the museum "Traces of the Galician Jews". You will also see the buildings that occupied the cheder, ritual baths and houses that once belonged to Jewish seniors, in particular the house where the warehouse of non-ferrous metals of the Jewish businessman Jakob Rokhmis was located and the house on Arsenal Street, where a Jewish girls' school once operated.
You will learn a lot of new and interesting things about Jewish culture, life in the Jewish quarter and the role of Jews in the creation of the culture of Lviv on a guided tour of Jewish footsteps.

History of Jews in Lviv by Dr. Jakob Schal.
The first archival mention of Jews in Lvov can be found in the “Old City Book of Lvov”. We find there records (in 1383, 1384, 1387), which undoubtedly testify to the fact that already in those days there was a Jewish street in this city. While outside the city, in the suburbs (in the Zhovkva district), one should look for a connection with the Jewish community of Lviv. The Jewish quarter of Ruthenian Lviv was adjacent to the southwestern city wall. In addition, Jews lived in an alley that connected the High Castle with the future Low Castle. I am not sure where their synagogue and cemetery were. Some sources say that the cemetery was located at the corner of Rappaport and Brooklet streets. It was, perhaps, the oldest cemetery in Rutheny, mentioned in city books since 1414. We only know that at the end of the 15th century there was still a small synagogue and a Karaite cemetery on the outskirts of Lviv. Over time, the Karaites left for nearby Davidov.
In 1340 Casimir the Great conquered Lviv. Around 1350, the captured city was engulfed in a terrible fire, the victim of which was almost the entire settlement. Information about the fire, other sources are presented as a fake. After the capture of Halich, the troops led by Great Lithuanian Prince Lubart approached under the city. Hence, apparently, come the news of the fire. The Polish medieval historian Jan Dlugosz also does not write about this fact under the date of 1350. This forced Casimir to found a new quarter, which appeared in a quadrangle closed by Sobieski Street, Hetmanskie Waly (Poltva River), Skarbek Street and Gubernatorskie Wali (Pidvalna Street). In the new settlement, the Jews occupied the southeastern part. Probably, only those who were richer lived here, but poorer remained in the suburbs. King Casimir, having conquered Lviv, provided the city with a separate privilege that did not limit in any way the rights of old Ruthenian Jews. This privilege, issued in 1356, equated Jews from a legal point of view with other "nations" of Lviv, that is, Armenians and Ruthenians.
During the reign of the heirs of Casimir the Great, Lviv Jewry played an important role in trade with the East. Since Lviv was located on the trade routes - "Tatar" and "Wallachian" and was a trade gate leading to neighboring Moldova, and from there to the Black Sea ports, then among the most famous Jewish residents of Lviv then were: Voloshko from Drohobych, factor of King Wladislaw Jagiello, rural mayor Verbits from the Rutheniann Voivodeship, Shahna and his son Iosko (Joseph), Natko from Lvov, Samson from Zhydachev, Shan from Belz.
Taking advantage of the favorable trade location in Lviv, a large number of Jews settled. In 1535, King Sigismund the Old grants the residents of the suburban community a new privilege, which guarantees the right to trade in all goods throughout the Polish Kingdom.
The successor of Sigismund the Old, King Sigismund Augustus, gave Lviv Jews a separate privilege in 1571. In the second half of the 16th century, the Nachmanowicz family came out at the head of all Jewish families. The ancestor of this family was Isaac Nachmanowicz. In fact, he, having received great fortune through trade, decided to decorate the Lviv ghetto with a new synagogue. For this, in 1580 he bought a plot of land on the Jewish street (Boimow), built the synagogue "Golden Rose".
The disaster that fell on Lviv was the siege by Bogdan Chmelnicki. Chmelnicki, after unsuccessful attempts to seize the heroically defending fortress, demanded to hand over the Jews to him. Then the city declared that the Jews bear the same burdens and obligations as other townspeople, and that they belong to the king. Having received this answer, Chmelnicki was satisfied with a large ransom (mainly drawn up by Jews), and withdrew from the city (1648). In 1655 Chmelnicki made another siege of the city, which was defended by Paul Grodzicki. The municipal authorities burned down the Jewish suburb to deprive the enemy of cover and refused to extradite the Jews. Chmelnicki was satisfied, like the first time, with the ransom and left Lviv. Both these sieges and the double burning of the suburbs destroyed Jewish property for many years.
The invasion of the Protestant Swedes led to religious wars and a new wave of religious intolerance, of which the Jews of Lviv became victims in 1663 and 1664.
In 1664, commoners led by students attacked the synagogue and the Jews who were praying there and set it on fire. About 75 Jews were killed and 200 were seriously injured. This was the end of all the bad weather and suffering of the Jewish community in the last days of the Wasa dynasty, and the reign of Michael Korybut-Vishnevetsky and Jan III Sobieski contributed to the growth of the welfare of Jews in Lviv.
The king of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth John III Sobeski was especially favorable to the Jews of Lviv. During his reign, in 1682, the city suffered a Turkish siege, during which it was ordered to burn down the Jewish suburbs. The king granted numerous privileges to the Jews in order to repair the damage caused by the siege. King Jan III was especially sympathetic to the Jewish doctor - Menachem de Jona. Doctor Jona settled in Lviv on Jewish Street and earned such fame that the king called him to his native city of Zhovkva. Another prominent Jew was Betzalei, also called Mordechai II. Betzaley bore the title of administrator of the Royal Customs, enjoyed the special affection of Queen Marysenka. With the death of John III, the splendor of the Jewish community of Lviv passed. The Northern War (for Augustus II of Saxony) led to the fact that the city was captured by the Swedes (1704). During the siege of the city, Jews fought alongside other locals. The collapse of the economy during the Saxon dynasty and religious intolerance destroyed the Jewish community of Lviv, and many Jews had to emigrate to neighboring Brody, which became thanks to more convenient economic relations of one of the largest Jewish communities of Rutheny. Over time, the position of the province Mayor also passed into the hands of the Brody Jews.
The year 1772 came, and with it the first partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the separation of Lviv from Poland. Lviv Jews accepted this fact with disappointment, because they well understood what contribution the Polish kings made to the development and wealth of the Jewish communities of Lviv.
Maria Theresa and Emperor Joseph II were very reluctant to the large number of Jews who lived here. The Austrian government banned Jews from moving to Lviv.
Jews were allowed to live only on the Jewish (Blacharska), New Jewish (Boim), New (Sobieski), Serbian, Ruthenian streets and in the Cracovian suburb. These restrictions remained in effect until 1867.
By a patent dated 1789, Joseph II approved the district rabbi (Kreisrabiner), Jewish trivial schools and a rabbinic seminary in Lviv. In addition, Joseph II forbade the Jews to engage in the sale of alcohol and rent, and also sent so-called "cultural carriers" to them, who were supposed to bring Jews closer to Western culture. One of them was Herz Homberg, who founded two schools for Jews in 1788. In 1792 the first Jewish school for girls appeared in Lviv.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Lviv became the place of Maskilim: Starch, Perl, Erter and Rappaport, who, at secret meetings in the Mises house, paved the way for the development of the Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment) in Galicia.
Since 1863 and the following years has started a struggle (along with the growth of Polish Jewish assimilation and movements aimed at bringing Poles and Jews closer in the face of the January Uprising) for the abolition of the ghetto. In 1867, at the suggestion of Franz Smolka (whose monument appeared on the square, next to the Jewish quarter), Jews were allowed to live on all streets of the city.
Around the end of the 19th century, a national Jewish movement begins. The movement was led by Dr. Birer, Dr. Kobak, Dr. Ton, Dr. Ehrenpreis, Dr. Korkes brothers, Dr. Malge, Adolf Stand, Dr. Schreiber, Dr. Zipper, Dr. Reich, Dr. Geyer, Dr. Ringel ... Men like Solomon Buber grew up on the scientific field , Professor Moses Schorr, Dr. Meir Balaban.
During World War I Lviv was not only the site of the Cossack invasion, but also the Austro-Russian and Polish-Russian (Polish-Ukrainian) clashes. The victims of these battles were often the Jewish population. Since 1919, the city has not been affected by a single military shock, and the Jewish community has grown significantly.
In 1921, out of 219,338 Lviv residents, there were 76,854 Jews. In 1935, for 315,000 inhabitants there were already about 100,000, that is, 31.7%. Before the First World War, a large reserve of Jewish intelligentsia was created in Lviv. 70% of all lawyers and 60% of all doctors in Lviv were Jews. The war changed this relationship to the detriment of the Jews. In the elections to the Parliament in 1927, they had two mandates (out of four for the whole of Lviv).
The majority in the kagal were mainly occupied by non-Zionist parties, from which two leaders of the religious community subsequently emerged: Professor Allerhand, and then the bank's director, Wictor Hayes (who was also the vice-president of the city since 1934).
Since 1919, a strong Jewish cultural life has developed in Lviv. The Jewish Pedagogical Society, the Jewish Women's Industrial School (Pekarska Street), the Jewish Gymnasium, the Society of Public and Secondary Education (Zygmuntowska Street), the Korkis Jewish Men's Industrial School (St. Teresa Street), Jewish bookstores appeared. An important institution was a shelter for orphans on Janowska Street, a Public Aid House (nursing home) named after Runa Reitman (on Starotandetna), a Jewish Academic House (on St. Teresa Street), and others.
There was also one theater in Jewish Lviv (on Jagiellonska, under the direction of Jakub Ber Gimpel). Kagal maintained a primary school named after Abraham Kohn (on St. Stanislav Street). In addition, there were several elementary schools attended exclusively by Jewish youth. The schools where Jewish youth went to were also private schools: Kamerlingowa, Fuks-Krupowa and Goldfarbowa ...


Duration of the tour: 4 hours

The biggest quantity of tourists
in a tour group: 51 persons



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Tour guide:

License number

Lviv 0180

Jaroslaw Vitiv



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