Translated and edited by Ohad Levi-Zaloscer

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for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume III, pages 213-220, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

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Population Figures

Year Total
1872 (?) More then 4,500
1880 11,422 4,474
1890 18,065 4,820
1900 22,660 5,705
1910 23,965 6,154
1921 19,973 6,577
1931 22,195 6,272


        (213) Up to the 11th century the prince of Halicz, Prince Jaroslaw the wise, owned Jaroslaw and the town was probably named after him. Jaroslaw is mentioned at the first time as an urban settlement in documents dated from the years 1234 or 1213. After the annexation of Reissen (Belarus) to the kingdom of Poland Jaroslaw was given additional rights and large territories, by king Kasimir the great, for it’s further development.

During the 15th century Jaroslaw suffered from Tartar, Wallachian and Turkish raids, and in 1502 it was almost completely destroyed in one of these raids. Until the 17th century the town suffered from numerous hardships. In may 1600 most of the town’s houses were burned in a fire, due to the great damage the town’s burghers were freed from the payment of certain taxes for a period of four years. In 1662 about 2,000 residents died from the plague. In 1625 most of the town was destroyed in a fire and about 300 people lost their lives. During the 17th century Jaroslaw suffered from six epidemics and five devastating fires.

In spite of these mishaps Jaroslaw was known already in the 16th century as a big commercial centre in Poland and one of the greatest centres in central Europe. Famous trade fairs that were held three times a year in Jaroslaw drew up merchants and financiers as far as from Italy Turkey and Persia. In 1629 eleven (or twenty) different Cechs (Guilds) and 199 artisans were active in Jaroslaw. The town hosted a variety of factories and workshops, among them: steel products, candles, weaving and clothing products workshops and the famous printing house of Jan Szelig. The geographical factor had great significance for the economic system of the town.
Jaroslaw is seated on the banks of the San River on which barges and boats were built in order to carry grains. Grains, meat products and other goods were shipped from the port to Danzig. Herring, wine and other products were imported from Danzig. During the partition of Poland and the annexation of the region to the Austrian Empire, Jaroslaw was cut-off from its traditional markets and its status, as a commercial centre, started to decline. Jaroslaw lost the mediating position between east and west and between the south and the Baltics. Merchants and artisans started to leave the town, moving to other urban centres. In spite of these calamities Jaroslaw was considered to be a major town at least until 1790 when another fire broke. During the second half of the 19th century Jaroslaw started to recover from past hardships.
In 1860 Jaroslaw was given the status of a Free City and it became a rail crossroad on the Krakow Przemysl line. The shoeing industry was the major industry throughout the 1880’s.

The Jews of Jaroslaw

        It is possible that few jewish families (214) settled in Jaroslaw at some stage in the towns early years, the certified indication however of Jewish settlement is from 1464. Few Jewish families were allowed, during the middle of the 16th century, to reside in Jaroslaw but they were not permitted to work in the town. No more than two Jews lived in the town in 1561, Abraham and David and their families. The records show that they paid 13 Guldens as a poll tax in 1563. The MAHARAM of Lublin [Rabbi Meier of Lublin] noted in 1608 that there was no Torah scroll in the town; this suggests that at that time there were fewer then ten Jews (Minyan) residing in the town.

The main impediment for a Jewish settlement was a decree, issued in 1571 by the noblewoman Zofia Tarnowska, which prohibited Jews to reside in more than two houses inside the town. When Abrahm (one of the two Jews residing in Jaroslaw at that time) died in 1573 another Jew Mosheh was allowed to take his place in 1574. The general attitude towards the Jews was hostile during these years and the “Council of Four Lands” [“Vaad Arba HaAratzot”-CFL] forbade meeting there. The state of affairs forced Jews to settle outside the town’s walls and in its outskirts where the first synagogue and cemetery were situated. With the passage of time however Jews managed to settle inside the town, in 1613 five Jews were recorded in town documents as residents: Mosheh, Hirsch, Baruch the leaseholder, Wolf and Levi.

The first Jews in Jaroslaw were financiers and usurers. In several cases Jews where given the property of christians, inside the town, as payment for unpaid debts. In order to prevent accumulation of real estate by Jews, the town owner Anna Ostrogska decreed in 1614 a debts cancellation for christians. In 1630 a decree was issued according to which: a Jew will not be allowed to keep a confiscated property of a christian for more than six months. The Jew was ordered to sell the property to a Burgher or to the town’s council within six months. It seems as if the ban on settlement was not in affect regarding the arrival of Jews for a short time for commercial reasons. The tailor’s and jeweller’s Cechs complained, as a result, to the authorities that the competition on behalf of the Jews in commercial fairs is too fierce. Due to these complains the town owner and king Jan Sobieski renewed the settlement ban decree (1571) in 1676. Jews leased Inns and mills in the town’s surroundings despite the ban. Other Jews were given lease contracts for fishing and for shipping barges on the San River.

In the course of time Jews resettled inside the town and consequently it is probable that in the 1630’s the Jewish community was rather big. The Jewish population’s growth meant that an organization of the community institutions was in order; the community was, according to a privilege of king Wladislaw IV, under the administrative supervision of the Przemysl Jewish community. One of the protégés of the town owner at that time was the textile and clothing merchant the Jew Jakobowicz.

During the years 1600-1648 names of Jewish tax collectors and mill lessees are mentioned in town records. The Chmelnicki Pogroms [the Ta”Kh Ta”T pogroms 1648] did not affect the Jews of Jaroslaw and the community kept on growing. During these years the tensions between Jews and christians grew. The tensions became very obvious in 1686 when queen Maria-Kazimiera intervened to calm down these tensions. In 1687 however a decree was issued which banished the Jews from the town’s centre to its outskirts. Jews were excluded from christian guilds, for this reason as early as the second half of the 17th century they established their own guilds of artisans. The Jewish guilds had their own arbitrators. At the latter part of the 17th century Jews traded grains and food products. One of the prominent grain exporters was Kellerman. Jews were also active in trade with Danzig. Among the famous merchants who traded with Danzig was Hirsch who shipped, in a period of two years, 12,400 leather pieces and 3,155 cloth rolls upon the Visla [Vistula] River.

At the beginning of the 18th century the Jews had diverse professions, most of them were tailors and butchers others were locksmiths, jewellers and glaziers. Given that Jaroslaw was a fair’s-town brokerage was a major source of income. The middleman Josef is recorded in 1707. As a result of the spread of this occupation among the Jews (215) a brokerage company was founded in the early 1800’s (“Hevrha Kdoshah, Sohrei Sarsurei Emunah DeJaroslaw”: “Holy Company for Brokerage in Jaroslaw”).

Important place in the history of Jaroslaw is reserved for the meetings of the CFL. Because of these meetings Jaroslaw became one of the most important centres of Polish Jewry. The first meeting took place when the Jewish Community in Jaroslaw was quite small, but as the jewish population and the importance of the fairs grew the importance of the CFL as a developing factor grew. The first meeting of the CFL was in 1591, from 1680 until its dismantling in 1764 the CFL held most of its meetings in Jaroslaw. Several meetings dealt with the affairs of the Jaroslaw community, especially in times of distress. One of these meetings dealt with the financial condition of the community when the CFL leader (Parnass) Naftali Zeligowicz had to borrow 20,000 gulden from the Jesuit monastery in Jaroslaw. With the authorization of the CFL the community erected its own cemetery (apart from Przemysl) in 1700.

Well-known rabbis served in Jaroslaw during the 17th century. One of the first rabbis was Efrayim of Leczyca who was later the rabbi of Prague and died in 1690, probably in Lwow. In the 1690’s the town’s rabbi was Yeshiayhu son of Rabbi Nathan-Neta of Krakow. After him the following rabbis served the community: Yaacov Aschkenasi (brother of Rabbi Naftali-Hertz Aschkenasi rabbi of Lwow), Zecharia-Mendel Fraenkel son of Rabbi Meir Fraenkel and Yaacov-Hayim Halperin son of the CFL parnass Rabbi Abraham of Lublin; in later years Rabbi Halperin returned to Lublin were he also served as rabbi.

        Jaroslaw was freed from its affiliation to the Przemysl community in 1774 and became an independent community. In 1785 villages from the surrounding region became affiliated to the community, thus adding 1,884 new members to the community. As soon as the community was established it was organized in similar manner as other communities were. At the beginning three parnassim led the community and the leader of the community was the Regierer (“Rosh HaKahal”). The first elected community council was elected in 1876 (and the Regierer position was abolished). Only registered tax paying members were alleged to vote, 268 did vote. Among them were women, who vote, by a man proxy that voted for them. Dr. S. Frenkel was the first elected council’s chairman. From then onward well-known leaders as Dr. J Rapp and H. Strisower led the community. Twelve of the 36 memebers of the Jaroslaw town council were Jews in 1874.

The first rabbi of the independent community was Rabbi Moshe-Yehoshua HaLevi Horowitz. His predecessor was Rabby Yehuda-Leib Heller (son of Zeev-Wolf of Dobrin and son in law of Rabbi Zecharia-Mendel Fraenkel). After a short period in which Rabbi Yaacov-Meshulam Ornstein served as town rabbi, Rabbi Naftali-Hertz Harif from Brody took his place. During this period the Grand-Synagogue of Jaroslaw was built. Rabbi Isaac-Yaacov Horowitz from Cieszanow was appointed in 1854 and served as rabbi until his death in 1864 when he was 94 years old. After the death of Rabbi Horowitz the community diverge between those who preferred to appoint an “old-fashioned” rabbi and those who favored a “progressive” rabbi who would preach in german. Three years later Rabbi Shmuel Waldberg of Zolkiew (Zholkva) was appointed. Rabbi Waldberg got in to a quarrel with the community leaders and was fired in 1871. The rabbi was rehired after Rabbi Loewenstein of Lwow mediated between the sides. Rabbi Waldberg was the author several books among them: “Imrei Daat” and “Ateret Shoshanim”, he was Jaroslaw’s rabbi for 40 years and died at the age of 77.

The first and oldest jewish welfare organization was the “Hevra Kadisha” it was established before the community was independent and through the years helped the poor and disadvantaged members of the community. Ever since 1714 the “Hevra Kadisha” took part in financing the “Hekdesh”[Jewish Treasury] by donation of 20 Guldens every year. In 1756 the “Bikur Holim” society [Sick-Visiting Society] united with the “Hevra Kadisha” to one organization. Two other welfare organizations operated in Jaroslaw: the “Hessed VeEmet” [Charity and Truth] society and “HaShomrim LaBoker” society. A Hospital with 30 beds was established in 1872. In the early 1900’s credit-banks were established in Jaroslaw. The “Ivri” [Hebrew] financial-help society was established in 1906 and the “Loan’s Office” in 1913. The “Loan’s Office” had 1,738 registered members of them: 1,072 merchants, 59 artisans, 32 farmers and 88 free professionals.

When the First World War broke out the leaders of the community decided to found a new fund that would help poor families. The fund was established in order to help families, which their members where enlisted to the army, without discrimination (of religion or origin). When the front got closer to Jaroslaw a public committee of 12 prominent leaders was established. This committee raised every month a sum of money to be distributed to the town’s poor. The committee raised and distributed a total sum of 2,000 guldens. The “Jad Charucim” [“Yad Harutzim”] artisan’s society, which was established in 1913, also helped its members through the “Artisans Bank”.

Hassidism was wide spread in Jaroslaw in quite an early stage. Prominent Hassidic Rabbis lived in Jaroslaw, such as: Rabbi Mendel Hassid (died in 1825), Rabbi Shimon Marils who was known as Rabbi Shimon Jaroslawer (author of the book “Torat Shimon”). Rabbi Yaacov-Meshulam Ornstein also endeavored to establish Hassidism in Jaroslaw.

The first Masskilim [followers of the Hasskalah movement or jewish enlightenment] started their activity in Jaroslaw in the early 1800’s. The writer Isaac Erter was a teacher in Jaroslaw and lived there until 1814.

The first Zionist organization that was established was the “Kadima” association. In the years 1893-1894 a society by the name of “Eretz-Yisrael” operated in Jaroslaw and in 1894 the “Eretz-Yisrael Settlement Society” (a branch of the “Zion” society of Vienna) was established with 150 members. Other Zionist organizations were: “HaShahar”, “Ivria”, “Bnei-Zion”,”Rachel”, “Achwa” and “Ivri” most of them were Zionist-Socialist organizations. In 1913 the local branch of “HaShahar” had 36 members, 15 of them were lawyers and 5 physicians. The “Zionist Academics Society” operated in association with “HaShahar” and had in 1913, 28 members. The “Poalei Zion” branch was active since 1905 and the “Mizrachi” branch since 1911.

In 1864 the community divided in bitter quarrel on regard of the proposal to establish a jewish school. The conflict was between those who wanted hebrew and judaic studies as main teaching subjects and those who preferred German and secular subjects. Subsequently 100 Jewish children studied in the General (public) schools in the german language. By 1872, 300 jewish children studied in these schools and the community employed a special religion teacher for them. An order, which abolished the Heders and Talmud-Torahs, was issued in 1898, the community appealed to the courts and the order was revoked. The “Committee for the Revival of the Hebrew Language” (“Vaad LeTchiyat Sfat Ever”) was established in 1906. This committee opened Hebrew and Judaic studies courses, in which 100 students studied in 1911. In 1910 only 10 jewish students were accepted to the local public high school (Gymnasium) out of 131 students. The “Kinor David” association was established in 1913 and dealt with musical education.

         Anti-Semitic atmosphere was present in Jaroslaw throughout the years. In 1737 Jews were accused of murdering a young christian girl for religious purposes. Few Jews were arrested, and several admitted under torture that they murdered the girl, soon after the accused were executed. In 1869 the community suffered from a pogrom, which lasted two weeks. Local authorities encouraged the pogrom and only after an intervention by the regional authorities in Lwow, it stopped.

Between world wars

        At the end of the First World War, in June 1918, riots against the Jews erupted blaming them of prolonging the war. The rioters looted jewish owned stores and great amount of jewish property was robbed. The Jaroslaw police did not intervene and Polish soldiers took part in the riots. The military commander of the town dismantled the jewish self-defense group, which was organized in order to defend jewish lives and property. As the situation worsened a “Jewish National Council” was established with membership from the entire political spectrum. The council demanded to replace of the community council (by its own members) in order to work more efficiently. (217) This conflict ended when several members of the new council joined the community council in order to avoid a split in the community. In 1920 soldiers from General Haller’s corps rioted in the town and harmed several Jews and jewish property, town’s authorities did nothing to stop them. Hatred of Jews was also eminent in the municipal establishment. Although much of the town was destroyed during the First World War, the jewish population kept on growing.

The Jaroslaw Jews continued to be a major factor in the town’s commerce and economy. Most of Jaroslaw’s factories (estimate of 80%) were owned by Jews or in association with Jews. Among the factories were: Biscuits factory, a mill, meat products factory etc. In 1921 the 162 jewish owned companies employed 462 employees. Despite of the renewal of economic activity, the economic situation worsened.
As a result of this economic situation credit and economic-help organizations were established. The “Help Committee” assisted in developing the straw-products industry and opened straw weaving courses. One of the most important institutions was the “Credit Union” (established probably in 1925-CU). The “Credit Union” had 470 members, among them were: 64 artisans, 209 vendors, 68 merchants and factory owners, 62 farmers and 30 free professionals. The CU gave 65 loans in 1925 and was associated with the JOINT organization since 1927. In 1925, 450 jewish families received financial help before Passover.

A “Rescue Committee” was established in 1926 in order to help the poor. The “Self Help” group of young academics and the “Women Organization” operated a soup kitchen and helped poor children. At the end of the 1920’s economic situation worsened even further, and the number of poor members of the community rose. “Jad Charucim” renewed its activities, which were stopped during the war. “Jad Charucim” operated as a bank, financial help organization and health insurance company, for its 85 members. The TAZ (the Jewish Health-Care Association) was also active in Jaroslaw. TAZ operated a medical clinic and helped 200 families before Passover. It also operated consultant’s clinics for Tuberculosis, for pregnant women and for babies’ care. In 1928 a “Charity Society” (“Kupat Gmilut Hassadim”) was established, this society helped the poor, the needy and small businesses owners. The “Artisans and Small Business’ Bank” also operated in Jaroslaw. In 1929 and 1930 the community had to loan 15,000 Zlotys from the corporate Credit organizations of Poland’s Jews, due to the dire economic situation.

Rabbi Isaac Steinberg who was rabbi of Halicz was elected to serve as the town’s rabbi in 1921. Rabbi Steinberg immigrated to Israel in 1951 and was, till his death in 1967, Chief religious judge and Rabbi of the grand synagogue of Tel-Aviv.
Rabbi Yehoshua Rokach son of the Belz Rabbi lived at this period (between the wars) in Jaroslaw and headed the Belz Hassidim there. During the latter years of the First World War Zionist activities were renewed.

The “Mizarchi” party also renewed its activities, which were organized by Rabbi Rappaport, in spite of opposition from Haredi [Ultra Orthodox] groups (especially the Belz Hassidim). “HaShomer HaTzair’s” local branch was established in 1916. (218) In “HaShomer haTzair’s” branch operated 8-10 youth groups and two adult groups. Adults went to “Hachshara” of the “Chalutz”. “HaNoar HaIvri” youth organization was established in 1926.
The “Akibah” organization was established due to a schism in “HaNoar HaIvr” and became the largest youth organization in Jaroslaw during the 1930’s. As a result of “Akibah’s” members initiative an “Anti Fascist Front” was established at Jaroslaw in 1933, in which members of all the members of Zionist parties were active. In 1936 a joint “Kibbutz Hachshara” [a preparatory center for aliya] was established in Jaroslaw by “Akibah” and “HaChalutz”. “HaNoar HaZioni” was another youth organization, which operated in Jaroslaw. “Beitar” also had great influence and its members received pre-military trainings. Two other organization were associated with “Beitar”: “Menorh” and “Ivria”.

A jewish student’s organization “Dror” operated as well in Jaroslaw and had more then 200 members in 1936. In 1926 a “Youth Centre”, which operated as a joint youth council of all youth organizations, was founded. The worsening economic situation in Poland during the 1930’s, events in Palestine and the hardships to immigrate to Palestine made the need for a unified Zionist organization, clear. The “Jewish Academics Association” was established in 1933 and became in 1938 the major Zionist organization. “Agudat Yisrael” and its youth movement were the major Haredi organizations.

In the 1928 community council’s elections 90% of the registered members (1,160) voted and H. Strisower was elected again as chairman. In the 1934 elections the lawyer Samuel Schorr was elected and in 1939 Elimelech Reich was elected as chairman. Jews always took an active part in the town’s council activities. In 1928, 16 of the 48 candidates for the town’s council were Jews and two of them (Pariser and Strisower) were deputy mayors.

With the end of the First World War “Tarbut” opened a jewish Kindergarten, in which 30 children studied with 2 teachers. In 1920 a public elementary school was opened in which 112 jewish pupils studied with 8 teachers, this school did not functioned on Sabbaths and jewish holydays. In 1922 “Sfat HaTora” courses renewed their activity (hebrew courses) and in 1924, 400 students studied there. An elementary school of the “Tarbut” organization was opened in which 140 students studied in 1926. In 1930 WIZO opened a school and another jewish elementary school was opened in 1934. The “Mizarchi”-“ Yavneh” school also operated in Jarosalw. “Agudat Yisrael” operated the “Beit-Yaacov” school for girls (120 students) and the Talmud Torah’s.

Two jewish newspapers were published in Jaroslaw (in Polish): “Tygodnik Jaroslawski” and “Przeglad Jaroslawski”. Two jewish orchestras operated in the town: a stringed instruments orchestra and a symphonic orchestra. “HaNigun” society with its 45 players also operated in Jaroslaw. A jewish theatrical group operated in Jaroslaw during the 1930’s. Major sports clubs were: “HaPoel”, “Dror” and “Maccabee”. In 1933 “HaPoel” and “Dror” united and became the prominent jewish sport club in Jaroslaw with 200 active members.

During the Second World War

        Jaroslaw was bombed during the first few days of war, and many houses were destroyed. As in other places few Jews, especially young adults, left town and went east. At the same time refugees from Silesia and other towns in Galicia (Sienawa, Przeworsk and Radymno) started to arrive.
During the seventh day of war the polish administration left town. Thugs used this opportunity and started to loot government property and private shops primarily shops owned by Jews.
Immediately after the germans entered town the pillage of jewish property started. Jews were captured on the streets and were taken to force labor, while they were captured, and during the forced labor, they were severely beaten by the germans. There were many cases in which the germans brutally cut off elderly-men’s beards and sidelocks. During these days the germans appointed Elimelech Reich, a bank owner and the former chairman of the Jewish Community, for the position of a coordinator between them and the community.
The germans demanded that the Jews would pay a high bail (Contributia) of money and other valuables. Jews (about 30 to 50 people) were taken hostage, among them Elimelech Reich. Elimelech Reich was ordered by the germans to continue with his work during the day and at nights he was imprisoned. The germans murdered several of the hostages, among them was Elimelech Reich, others were driven out of town towards the San River and the Soviet occupied territories (after the payment of the Contributia).

Jews were ordered to force labor from the first day of the German occupation. Forced labor included: cleaning the town from debris, burying bodies, building a bridge over the San River, working at the train station etc. 1,000 to 2,000 people were taken each day to work.

In Sukkot 1939 (28.9.1939) the Jews were ordered by the germans to gather at the “Sokol” sports-field with their belongings. The Jews were robbed of everything they had. After that the germans made them run by beating all 7,000 Jews. In several hours all of Jarosalw’s Jews were expelled across the bridge over the San River.

The germans acted according to their policy, at that time, not to concentrate great number of Jews in the Jaroslaw area. (220) Most of the Jaroslaw Jews settled down in other places in East-Galicia especially in Lwow, some of them were expelled to the inner parts of the Soviet-Union when the refugees from Western-Poland were expelled (1940-1941). Few Jews stayed in Jaroslaw especially the sick and handicapped who couldn’t go to the Soviet-Union. Jews that served in the polish army in 1939 and succeeded to escape German captivity joined the others in Jaroslaw. It is likely that in 1940 the germans brought to Jaroslaw Jews from surrounding villages (as they did with 25 jewish families from Rokietnica). According to few sources a certain Rotenberg was head of the Jews in Jaroslaw in 1940-1941 and represented them at regional Judenrat in Lancut.

In June 1942 the Jews were moved to Sienawa and their fate was the same as of other Jews there. The germans demolished the Jaroslaw jewish cemetery and used its tombstones to fortify posts in the area. The Gestapo established a prison at the St. Anna army-barracks (on the grounds of the old Benedictine monetary). In 1942 many Jews were incarcerated at this prison. Every other day the germans executed several Jews at this prison near the monastery’s walls. In March 1944 the germans took the bodies out in order to leave no traces for their crimes. The people of Sonderkomando 1005 burned the bodies at Kozniaczow.
In the summer of 1941 the germans established a transit-camp for Soviet prisoners of war. Gestapo men murdered many prisoners at this camp for being Jews, Communists or officers. The germans established a labor-camp in Pelkinie in the summer of 1942. This camp served as a transit camp for the Jaroslaw region Jews on their last days heading for Belzec camp. There were 10,000 Jews at this labor-camp, which were murdered in the surrounding forests.

        After liberation few holocaust survivors returned to Jaroslaw, where they encountered gangs of “Nationalistic-Poles” who murdered Jews, so they had to flee again. These poles murdered in 1945, at a village in the vicinity of Jaroslaw, 15 Jews among them the Schlaf family (parents and four children). Poles murdered in Jaroslaw 6 jewish Holocaust survivors among them Friedman and his wife.

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