Province of Prussia; formerly a part of the kingdom of Poland, it was annexed by the former country after the partition of the latter in 1772 and 1793. In the first half of the thirteenth century, when the Germans crossed the frontier and began to settle in the territory of Posen, a large number of Jews seem to have come with them. Even before that time, however, Jews were living in Great Poland, which covered a somewhat larger area than the modern province of Posen. Thus they are mentioned as residents of Deutsch-Krone in the eleventh century, of Gnesen in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and of Meseritz in the fourteenth century. The dates of the first allusions to Jews in the principal cities of Great Poland are as follows: Kalisz, 1354; Posen, 1379; Peisern, 1386; Schmiegel, 1415; Inowrazlaw (Hohensalza), 1447; Schneidemühl, sixteenth century; Lenczyee, 1517; Schwerin-on-the-Warta, 1520; Bromberg, 1525; Fraustadt, 1526; Lowicz, about 1537; Prime, 1553; Brzeaz, 1555; Petrikau, 1555; Exin, 1559; Schrimm, 1573; Lissa, 1580 or shortly afterward; Schwersenz, 1590; Neustadt, 1595; Grätz, 1597; Kempen, seventeenth century, shortly after the founding of the city: Wronke, 1607; Warsaw, 1608; Krotoschin, 1617; Wreschen, 1621; Pakosch, 1624; Samter, 1626; Kolo, 1629; Fordon, 1633; Jarotschin, 1637; Nakel, 1641; Filehne, 1655; Kobylin, 1656; Rogasen, 1656; Lask, 1685; Wollstein, 1690; Rawitsch, 1692; Obornik, 1696; and Goslin, 1698. See Poland, under Russia.

In a document which was issued by Sigismund I., dated Aug. 6, 1527, R. Samuel Margolioth of Posen was confirmed as chief rabbi of Great Poland, and was vested with important powers over all the Jews of that district. The synod of Great Poland, which had at its disposal a stated clerk ("sofer medinah"), tax-assessors and tax-collectors, is first mentioned in 1597; it sat in that year and in 1609 at Posen, several times between 1635 and 1649 at Gnesen, in 1668 at Kalisz, in 1681 at Neustadt-on-the-Warta, in 1691 at Jarotschin, and in 1733 at Kobylin. Its functions included the election of the chief rabbi of Great Poland, the adoption of measures of protection against common dangers (especially the frequent charge of ritual murder), the collection of the poll-tax and of sums needed for the general welfare, the negotiation of loans for communal purposes, the subvention of works of Jewish literature, and ap probations for printing (see Approbation).

During the Black Death.

The Jews of Great Poland were not exempt from persecution, which, however, generally occurred in times of war or economic depression. An outbreak against them took place on the German frontier in 1349, the year of the Black Death, when 10,000 Jews were killed, the commercial retrogression of Great Poland in the fourteenth century being ascribed to this persecution. Many Jews were martyred during the war between Sweden and Poland in 1656; and a smaller number died in the Northern war in 1707 and 1716. Social oppressions were frequently caused by the Catholic clergy and by the German merchants for religious and commercial reasons. The clergy first legislated concerning the Jews of Great Poland in 1267 at theCouncil of Breslau, in accordance with the canons of the Lateran Council. The right to give permission for the building of new synagogues was reserved to the Archbishop of Gnesen and the Bishop of Posen. In the twelfth century Jews were employed at Gnesen as farmers of the mint and as coiners, a few under Boleslaw IV. (1146-73), and a larger number under Mieczyslav III. (1173-77, 1195-1202). The inscriptions on these coins are partly in pure Hebrew, and partly in Polish in Hebrew letters, as , (i.e., "Mieszko król Polski" [Mieszko, Polish king]), ("[May God] increase Mieszko"), and . Similar coins are found in the cabinets of the Polish aristocracy, the Radziwills, Sapiehas, and others, in the Thomson collection at Copenhagen, and in the Pretorius collection at Breslau.

It is noteworthy that in the fourteenth century the "grod" or county courts took up the cases of Jewish creditors against their aristocratic debtors; that Jews were permitted to acquire land, a privilege which was subsequently repealed; that women as well as men engaged in money-lending; and that a case set for a Sabbath was postponed to another day on the Jews' account. It appears that all the Jews of Great Poland carried their cases against the aristocracy to the "grod" of Posen, not to the courts of the other cities. Although their condition was more favorable than in later centuries, as is evidenced by the fact that the epithet "unbelieving Jews," subsequently current, was not applied to them at that time, the general statutes of the archdiocese of Gnesen decreed that they should wear a piece of blood-red cloth on the breast. In general they were not permitted in the cities under the jurisdiction of prelates, and in some instances they were expelled from some of the other towns also.

Privileges and Jurisdiction.

In the following centuries the Jews were subjected to varying treatment, according as the cities or territories were under royal, ecclesiastical, or aristocratic dominion. The words of R. Moses Isserles, uttered with regard to Little Poland, are applicable to his coreligionists of Great Poland as well: "Every city has its special tax and its special governor; and even the king [of Poland] does not rule over them, but only their own lord of the manor." These lords granted privileges to their Jews, acted as their judges, and even sentenced them to death, while from them the numerous Jewish gilds received their statutes. The Jews followed many callings at this time, being tailors, furriers, bakers, braiders, butchers, glaziers, tanners, barbers, goldsmiths, gold-embroiderers, gold-refiners, jewelers, button-makers, capmakers, seal-engravers, silk-dyers, horn-workers, cooks, porters, musicians, etc.

In the course of centuries numbers of German Jews fled to Poland from the hardships which they suffered at home; in 1474, emigrants went from Bamberg to Posen; in 1510, from the electorate of Brandenburg to Meseritz; after 1670, from Vienna to Schwersenz; and in 1700, from Fulda to Schwerin-on-the-Warta.


The ritual of Great Poland differed in various points from that observed elsewhere, containing, for example, its own for morning worship on Mondays and Thursdays. Hebrew printing-presses existed at Lissa and Posen in the sixteenth century, although no extant work can with certainty be assigned to those establishments. Between 1772 and 1775 Frederick the Great held the northern part of the country, the so-called district of the Netze, which contained more than 6,000 Jews. It was contrary to the policy of Prussia to tolerate such a large number of Jews within its borders; and since they were not all engaged in profitable employments, Frederick decided to send at least two-thirds of them across the Polish boundary-line, a course from which his officials were unable for some years to dissuade him. Jewish affairs were regulated by the "General-Juden-Reglement" of Aug. 9, 1773, which deprived the Jews of their old privileges, their treatment being dictated by fiscal considerations. When the southern part of the country also came under Prussian rule, in 1793, one-twentieth of the population consisted of Jews. On the day on which homage was paid to the new ruler they recited a prayer in Hebrew and one in German, the latter composed by Hartwig Wessely. The status of the Jews was now determined by the "General-Juden-Reglement" of April 17, 1797, which aimed to make them, as mechanics and trades-men, useful members of the state. Again they lost their old privileges; nor was there any improvement in their condition when, ten years later, the country was made part of the duchy of Warsaw. The monstrous kasher-meat tax was especially burdensome to the Jews. They rejoiced in their reunion with Prussia in 1815; but they did not obtain their promised political equality until the enactment of the "Jews' Law" of June 1, 1833, which conferred citizenship upon the wealthy and educated classes, and that of July 23, 1847, which put the Jews on a par with their brethren of the older Prussian provinces. The censuses of the Jews in the province are as follows: 43,315 in 1797 and 1804; 9,690 families in 1809; 65,131 Jews in 1825; 77,102 in 1840; 76,757 in 1849; 62,438 in 1875; 44,346 in 1890; and 40,019 in 1900. The decrease is due to emigration to the west of Europe and to foreign countries.

The ghettos of Posen have produced many prominent men, such as the historians Heinrich Graetz of Xions and Julius Fürst of Zerkowo, the philosopher Moritz Lazarus of Filehne, the politician Eduard Lasker of Jarotschin, and the composer Louis Lewandowski of Wreschen.

The City of Posen:

Posen, the capital of the province, containing (1903), among 117,014 inhabitants, 5,810 Jews, was always the principal community of Great Poland, except in the last two-thirds of the eighteenth century, when it temporarily gave place to Lissa; and it took precedence at the Council of Four Lands whenever that body assembled in Great Poland. The earliest Jewish settlement (probably on the right bank of the River Warta) in the city of Posen, was under the jurisdiction of the king, not of the municipality. Subsequently it included the Judenstrasse, the Schumacherstrasse, and a portion of the Wrackerstrasse. Most of the houses were built of wood, so that there were frequent conflagrations,with attendant robbery and murder; and the catastrophes of 1590 are commemorated in the elegies of two liturgical poets. The students of the Jesuit college became troublesome neighbors in 1573; and they were restrained from attacking the Jews only in consideration of a money payment. In the sixteenth century commerce was restricted, although at that time the Jews, who numbered 3,000, formed nearly one-half of the entire population. There were 49 stone houses in the Jews' street in the early part of the sixteenth century; 80 in 1549; 75 in 1590 before the fire of that year; 137 altogether in 1641; 98 in 1710; and 109 in 1714. At the beginning of the seventeenth century the community, in spite of its many sufferings, numbered 2,300 persons; but this number was subsequently reduced to the extent of one-half.

The following is a description of the communal constitution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At the head of the community were five "parnasim" (directors), assisted by three "ṭubim" and five councilmen, this board of thirteen being called a Ḳaual. Seven "memunnim" acted as a kind of police, and five municipal representatives ("ṭube ha-'ir") decided cases involving real estate, while seven men supervised the morals, etc., of the members, and the "parnase medinah" watched over Jews from other places who merely sojourned in Posen. Each synagogue had its directors; and artisans, working men, and even Jewish servant-girls, were organized in unions presided over by elected officers. There were several civil courts, in which the associate rabbis as well as the chief rabbi sat; and there was, furthermore, a mixed court in which Jewish and Christian judges decided cases between those of the two creeds. All these officials were under oath and, with the exception of the chief rabbi, were elected annually during the intermediate days of Passover by the "kesherim" (trusty men) of the congregation.

Increased Taxation.

In consequence of the Swedish war, political disorders, and accusations of ritual murder, which were especially virulent in 1736, the population diminished, while the debts to the nobility, churches, convents, and Catholic clergy increased rapidly, amounting in 1774 to the enormous sum of 947,546 gulden 19 groschen, which was reduced by a state commission to 686,081 gulden 20 groschen. These debts had not been entirely paid even as late as 1864. The community began to flourish under Prussian rule; and up to about 1850 was the largest in Prussia.

Posen has produced a large number of men prominent in many fields of activity. The first Talmudists of the city are mentioned about the middle of the fifteenth century; and the following rabbis have officiated there:

  • Pechno (mentioned 1389-93);
  • Moses Mariel (c. 1455);
  • Moses b. Isaac Minz (1474-1508);
  • Menahem Mendel Frank;
  • Moses (1516);
  • Samuel Margolioth (c. 1527-51);
  • Schachno (1544);
  • Solomon b. Judah Löbisch Liebermann (c. 1551-57);
  • Aaron (1557);
  • Eliezer Ashkenazi (1580);
  • Solomon b. Judah Löbisch II. (c. 1581);
  • Judah Löw b. Bezaleel (1585-88, 1592);
  • Mordecai Jaffe (c. 1599-1612);
  • Aaron Benjamin b. Ḥayyim Morawczyk (c. 1623-31);
  • Simon Wolf b. David Tebele Auerbach (c. 1625-29);
  • Ḥayyim b. Isaac ha-Kohen (1630-35);
  • Moses b. Isaiah Menahem, called Moses Rabbi Mendels (1635-41);
  • Sheftel b. Isaiah Horowitz (1641-58);
  • Isaac b. Abraham (1667-85);
  • Isaiah b. Sheftel Horowitz (1688-89);
  • Naphtali Kohen (1690-1704);
  • Jacob b. Isaac (1714-29);
  • Jacob Mordecai b. Naphtali Kohen (1732-1736);
  • Raphael Kohen (1774-76);
  • Joseph Ẓebi Hirsch Janow b. Abraham (1776-77);
  • Joseph (ha-Ẓaddiḳ) b. Phinehas (1780-1801);
  • Moses Samuel b. Phinehas (1802-6);
  • Akiba Eger (1815-37);
  • Solomon Eger (1839-52);
  • Moritz Goldstein (preacher, 1848-53);
  • Joseph Perles (at the Brüdergemeinde, 1862-71);
  • Wolf Feilchenfeld (after 1872);
  • and Philipp Bloch (at the Brüdergemeinde from 1871 to the present time, 1905).

According to a legendary account a synagogue existed at Gnesen as early as 905. At the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century the Jews of Gnesen paid large taxes to the king. In 1499 Cardinal-Archbishop Frederick protected them against the exorbitant demands of the Jewish tax-collector; in 1567 they were given two royal letters of protection, one relating to the woolen trade, and the other regarding taxes unjustly collected from them; and four years later a Jew was placed under the exclusive jurisdiction of the king.

In 1582 the Jews made a contract for the construction of a synagogue, and in 1660, on the oath of one of the elders of the community, the king granted them a copy of their earlier privileges, which had been destroyed in a fire in 1637, as well as a general confirmation of their privileges. In 1654 Jesuit students plundered the Jews' street; and two years later some Jews were slain. The statute concerning tailors dates from 1779, Christian merchants being exempted by their statutes from receiving Jews into their gilds. The community of Posen raised a relief fund for its Gnesen brethren after the fire of 1710. In 1819 the archives were burned. In 1744 there were only 60 Jews in the city; but in 1793, when the Prussians took possession, there were 685, including 53 tailors, 10 butchers, and 6 furriers. By 1800 the Jewish population of Gnesen had increased to 761, and by 1857 to 1,750; but in 1900 it numbered only 1,179. The synagogue was built in 1846.

The following rabbis have officiated at Gnesen:

  • Benjamin, director of a Talmudic school (1560):
  • Uri Lipmann Ḥefeẓ b. Israel Seligmann (1588);
  • Abraham b. Judah ha-Levi (1605);
  • Samuel (c. 1608);
  • Enoch b. Abraham (1647, 1656);
  • Mordecai (c. 1780);
  • Joel Heilprin (c. 1820);
  • Gebhardt (1847-52);
  • M. S. Zuckermandl (1867);
  • M. Horovitz (1875-78);
  • N. Ehrenfeld and M. Jacobson (since 1890).

The community has numbered among its members liturgical poets, halakic codifiers, and authors of responsa.


The Jews of Kempen received their privileges in 1674 and 1780 from the lords of the manor; and in 1689 a further privilege protecting them in the exercise of their worship was granted by the provost under orders from the assistant bishop of Breslau. The musicians had their own gild (this still numbered 26 members in 1864). In 1690 the ḥebra ḳaddisha was founded; and in 1797 the synagogue was built, after a conflagration had destroyed the greater part of the Jews' street. At that time there were 1,500 Jews in the city, constituting one-half of the population. In 1840 there were 3,559 Jews in a total population of 6,181; 3,282 in 1857; and 1,059 in 1900. In 1848 the community was ravaged by cholera.

The following rabbis have officiated at Kempen:

  • Moses b. Hillel ("ha-Darshan," 1691);
  • Moses Manes (c. 1770);
  • Meshullam Zalman Kohen (c. 1784);
  • Joseph M. M. (c. 1800);
  • Israel Jonah Landau (1820, 1823);
  • his son Joseph Samuel Landau (d. 1837);
  • Israel's son-in-law Mordecai Zeeb Ashkenazi; Meïr Löbush ben Jehiel Michael Malbim (1841-56);
  • Jacob Simḥah Rehfisch;
  • and L. Münz, the present (1905) incumbent.

Among the Jews of Kempen have been translators of prayers, authors of Talmudic novellæ, poets, writers, authors of responsa, and preachers.


The community of Krotoschin suffered so severely by sword and famine during the Swedish war in 1656 that only fifty families remained out of 400. It quickly revived, however, and after the second half of the seventeenth century the Jews were in close industrial relations with Silesia, and had their own synagogue at Breslau, while their Talmud Torah was one of the foremost of the country. Krotoschin, like Posen, Lissa, and Kalisz, was one of the leading communities of Great Poland, sending representatives to the general synod of Great Poland and to the Council of Four Lands. In a document dated 1773 it is called an "important community, with many sages and men learned in the Law." In 1710 it suffered from a conflagration, receiving aid from Posen. The mutual rights of Jews and Christians as regards liquor licenses were defined in 1726 and 1728, and the statutes of the lord of the manor were promulgated in the latter year and in 1730. In 1738 a fee for every corpse taken to Krotoschin had to be paid to the pastor of each place through which the cortège passed; and in 1828 the recruits' tax was levied in consequence of a conflagration. The synagogue, which was dedicated in 1845, was at that time the finest in the province. In 1800 there were 1,701 Jews in the city, forming the third largest community of Posen. In 1837 there were 2,213 Jews at Krotoschin; 2,098 in 1857; and 670 in 1900.

The following is the list of rabbis:

  • Hirsch b. Samson (c. 1617);
  • Menahem Man Ashkenazi (c. 1648);
  • Israel Heilprin;
  • Menahem Mendel b. Meshullam Auerbach (1673; d. 1689);
  • Ezekiel b. Meïr ha-Levi (1691, 1700);
  • Mordecai (before 1715);
  • Löb Munk; Menahem Mendel Jankau (Jenikau?) (1726);
  • Menahem Mendel Auerbach b. Moses (1732, 1755);
  • Meshullam Zalman Kohen (c. 1760-70);
  • Aryeh Löb Caro (c. 1779);
  • Benjamin b. Saul Katzenelnbogen (1785, 1792);
  • Ẓebi Hirsch b. Raphael ha-Kohen (1825);
  • Raphael Ẓebi; Israel b. Judah Löb (1844);
  • Samuel Mendelsohn, acting chief rabbi (1853, 1858);
  • David Joël (1871, 1880);
  • Eduard Baneth (1882-95);
  • and H. Berger, the present (1905) incumbent (since 1895).

In 1833 a Hebrew printing-press was founded, which has issued a large number of works. This community has numbered among its members many prominent scholars and writers, authors of sermons and of halakic and haggadic novellæ, commentators on the Bible, patrons of Jewish science, grammarians, bibliographers, and printers.

  • Lewin, Gesch. der Juden in Lissa, pp. 1 et seq., 3, 5, et passim, Pinne, 1904;
  • idem, Die Judenverfolgungen im Zweiten Schwedisch-Polnischen Kriege, pp. 6 et seq., Posen, 1901;
  • idem, in Heppner-Herzberg, Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Juden und der Jüdischen Gemeinden in den Posener Landen, pp. 42, 69, 77, 106, 108 et seq., Koschmin, 1904;
  • idem, in Zeitschrift der Historischen Gesellschaft für die Provinz Posen, xv. 57 et seq.;
  • Posener Staatsarchiv Inscriptiones Wschov, 1597, p. 441b;
  • Zunz, 'Ir ha-Ẓedeḳ, p. 43, Lemberg, 1874;
  • Zeitschrift der Historischen Gesellschaft für die Provinz Posen, i. 391 et seq., 395; iv. 196, 322, 324 et seq.; v. 298; vi., p. xxvi.; xi. 331;
  • Warschauer, ib. xix. 12, 14 et seq.;
  • idem, Die Städtischen Archive in der Provinz Posen, pp. 63 et seq., 86, 116, Leipsic, 1901;
  • the manuscript "kesherim" book of the community of Posen, pp. 7b, 14b, 21a, 22b, 37a, 39b, 219b;
  • Brann, Gesch. des Rabbinats in Schneidemühl, p. 8, Breslau, 1894;
  • idem, in Grätz Jubelschrift, pp. 220, 229, 231, 265, ib. 1887;
  • idem, Gesch. der Juden in Schlesien, Appendix ii., p. xix.;
  • Friedberg, Gesch. der Jüdischen Typographie in Krakau, pp. 16 (note 22), 21, Cracow, 1900;
  • Bloch, in Zeitschrift der Historischen Gesellschaft für die Provinz Posen, vi. 143, 163;
  • idem, Der Streitum den Moreh des Maimonides in . . . Posen um die Mitte des 16. Jahrh., in Monatsschrift, 1903, pp. 153 et seq.;
  • Polkowski, Découverte à Gleboki, pp. 3 et seq., 14, 31, 41, 46, 49, 77 et seq., Gnesen, 1876;
  • Reinhold, Chronik des Kreises und der Stadt Birnbaum, p. 132, Birnbaum, 1843;
  • Grätz, Gesch. 1863, vii. 402 et seq.;
  • Codex Diplomaticus Majoris Poloniœ, No. 423, Posen, 1877;
  • Lekczyeki, Die Aeltesten Gross-Polnischen Grodbücher, i., Preface, pp. xii., 15, 24, 170; ii., Preface, p. xii., Leipsic, 1887;
  • Perles, in Monatsschrift, xiii. 283 et passim, xiv. 89 et passim;
  • Historische Monatsblätter für die Provinz Posen, i. 117, iii. 166;
  • Kaufmann, Die Letzte Vertreibung der Juden aus Wien und Niederösterreich, pp. 121, 221, Budapest, 1889;
  • Zunz. Ritus, p. 75;
  • Bergmann, Zur Gesch. der Entwickelung Deutscher, Polnischer, und Jüdischer Bevölkerung in der Provinz Posen, pp. 44, 291, Tübingen, 1883;
  • Rönne and Simon, Die . . . Verhältnisse der Juden . . . des Preussischen Staates, p. 25, Breslau, 1843;
  • Wegener, Der Wirtschaftliche Kampf der Deutschen mit den Polen um die Provinz Posen, p. 236, Posen, 1903;
  • Feilchenfeld, Die Innere Verfassung der Jüdischen Gemeinde zu Posen im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert, in Zeitschrift der Historischen Gesellschaft für die Provinz Posen, xi. 122 et seq.;
  • Brüll's Jahrb. vii. 33 et seq., 188;
  • Sternberg, Gesch. der Juden in Polen, p. 8, Leipsic, 1876;
  • Sirisa, Beschreibung von Süd- und Neu-Ostpreussen, p. 508, ib. 1797;
  • Heilprin, Seder ha-Dorot, i. 218, iii. 4, Warsaw, 1881;
  • Wiener, Da'at Ḳedoshim, pp. 10, 58, 77, 115, 117, 125, 133, 199, St. Petersburg, 1897;
  • Herzberg, Gesch. der Juden in Bromberg, p. 70. Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1903;
  • Dembitzer, Kelilat Yofi, ii. 56b et seq., Cracow, 1893;
  • Zeitschrift für Gesch, und Landeskunde der Provinz Posen, iii. 36;
  • Der Israelit, 1902, p. 188;
  • Löwenstein, Blätter für Jüdische Geschichte und Litteratur, iii. 41 et seq., 56; iv. 116 et seq.;
  • Provinzial-Blätter für das Grossherzogthum Posen, i. 61;
  • Jeschurun, p. 107, Pleschen, 1902;
  • Meyer, Gesch. des Landes Posen, p. 376, Posen, 1881;
  • Israelitisches Familienblatt, No. 40, Hamburg, 1903;
  • Roest, Cat. Rosenthal. Bibl. pp. 25, 319, 378, 502, 581, 632, 643, 685;
  • Kohen Ẓedeḳ, Shem u-She'erit, pp. 15, 57, Cracow, 1895.
D. L. Lew.