Rav Efraim Fischel of Lukow and Lvov (c.1570 - d.)

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Managed by: Myrna Herzog Feldman
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About Rav Efraim Fischel of Lukow and Lvov

Efraim Fischel was considered a Gaon, he was chief-rabbi of the city of Lukow. Jewish settlement in Lukow started in the 15th century.At the time of the Polish-Ukrainian war (1648) the Jewish community was obligated to supply arms and ammunition for the noble men of Łuków county who defended the region. The inhabitants of every wooden house had to provide one pound of gun powder and two pounds of lead and every brick-house – three pounds of gun powder and six pounds of lead. The Ukrainian, Polish and Lithuanian armies which marched through the town and stayed in it many times had completely destroyed it. The Jewish community suffered heavy material losses then and a new synagogue was burned down.

During the Polish-Swedish war Lukow was completely destroyed by the army of the king Charles Gustav of Sweden and his ally Rakoczi, the prince of Transylvania (1657). The enemy army carried out the massacre of Jews then. About one thousand persons died.

In 1659 the Jews of Łuków were granted a royal privilege which confirmed their former rights to live in the town, to acquire land and houses, to engage in commerce and crafts andto produce vodka; they were also authorized to erect a synagogue and maintain a cemetery.

Efraim Fischel was also leader of the city of Lvov. Prince Danylo Halytsky of Galicia founded Lvov in the mid-thirteenth century, and Jews settled in the city shortly thereafter, arriving from places like Byzantium and Asia-minor (modern-day Turkey), Khazaria, and other neighboring lands. Some even settled there as early as the tenth century. The city took its name from the Prince’s son, Lev. Jews became involved with the region’s transit trade in competition with Greeks and Armenians.

One hundred years later, Lvov became Lwow when it was taken over by Casimir the Great of Poland. This first transfer of power would not be the last in Lvov’s history. Under Casimir the Great, Jews were given equal rights. Those fleeing from persecution and the plague in Germany began arriving during Casimir the Great’s reign, and become prominent in trade and handicrafts.

Lvov was a walled city, as was common of cities during the Middle Ages. In the 14th century, Lvov had two Jewish communities, one inside the walled city and one that lay on the outskirts. The two neighborhoods had separate synagogues and mikvahs (ritual baths), but the cemetery they shared. By 1550, Lvov had a Jewish population of nearly 1,000.

Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, the community suffered from foreign invasion, mostly by the Tartars, and also from a series of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, fired and epidemics. Despite these setbacks, the Jewish community grew significantly after Lvov was annexed to the Polish Kingdom in 1349.

During this time, Jews engaged in such trades as moneylending, tax farming, and wholesale and retail trade. They were also very active in the trade of perfumes, silk goods, and other exotic items that they imported throughout Poland. They expanded commercial ties with Nuremberg, Danzig and Breslau. They also began to import goods from Hungary, Holland and England, and dealt in grain, cattle, hides, wine and other goods of this nature. Also, by 1610, there were 70 Jewish butchers living in Lvov, as well as several tailors, tanners and silversmiths. The poorer Jews, mostly living outside the city walls, were peddlers.

From the second half of the 16th century, Yitzhak ben Nahman and his descendants led the community for 100 years. A gothic-style synagogue was built in 1571, which remained standing until World War II, known as the Golden Rose Synagogue. In 1682, another congregation was built for the community living outside the city walls.

In the early 17th century, a violent conflict erupted in Lvov between the Jews and the Jesuits over the Golden Rose Synagogue, which had been constructed inside the old city walls by the Nachmanovich family. The Jesuits claimed the land that the synagogue sat on was theirs, but the Jews were able to prove otherwise.

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