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       Date Last Updated: 18-May-2012

Vitebsk District and Towns



The Famous Rabbis that came from Lutsin were:

  • Rabbi Isaac of Lutsin, author of the book “Ascension of Isaac”, which was published in 1885 and 1887.
  • Rabbi David Zioni, author of the books “Questions and Answers”, and “Zioni”, published in 1875.
  • Rabbi Eliezer DonYechia, author of “The Stone of Foundation” published in 1823.

Russian town in the government of Vitebsk; it is situated near a chain of mountains and surrounded by lakes and streams. Lutzyn is an ancient city, and was fortified by the Livonian Order in the twelfth century. According to tradition and local inscriptions, Jews began to settle at Lutzyn in the fifteenth century; but when Ivan the Terrible conquered Polotsk, Lebezh, and Lutzyn, those of the Jews in the neighborhood who did not flee were exterminated. The Jews of Polotsk and Lebezh were drowned by the order of Ivan, but the Jews of Lutzyn, according to tradition, escaped, together with a number of the Poles and Catholic clergy.

At the end of the sixteenth century, after the Russians had been driven out, Jews again commenced to settle in and around Lutzyn, but their number remained small until the second half of the eighteenth century. After the first partition of Poland (1772) the Jews of Lutzyn became the subjects of Russia, but they remained an unorganized community, without rabbi, charitable institution, or cemetery, until 1783. At this time a great misfortune befell them. Some Catholic priests and Jesuits attempted to convert the Jewish tailor Moses, and when the latter, during a dispute, answered in a way that was unpleasant to his opponents and reflected upon the Christian religion, he was burned alive. On the day after this crime was committed, the Jews collected the ashes of their martyr, buried them with impressive ceremonies on the spot where he had been burned, and decided to organize themselves; they finally succeeded in bringing to justice the murderers of their "kadosh" (martyr).

In 1795 David Ziony was appointed rabbi of Lutzyn; he held the rabbinate for two years, and died at the age of thirty-eight. His eldest son, Naphtali, succeeded him when not quite twenty years of age, and served his community more than fifty years. He established several charitable institutions, and, when he died in 1848, was succeeded by his eldest son, Aaron Selig. R. Aaron Selig died in 1875, after occupying the rabbinate for twenty-seven years. He was the author of "Sefer Ziyyoni" (Wilna, 1872), on various religious and theological subjects.

Aaron Selig was succeeded by Eleazar Don-Echi, a nephew, and his oldest son-in-law. The latter is the author of "Eben Shetiyah," and is the present (1904) rabbi of Lutzyn.

Blood Accusation.
In the early spring of 1883 a Christian girl, who had been for several months a servant in the household of the Jew Zimel Lotzov, disappeared, and was afterward found drowned near the town. The procurator of the government, influenced by the clergy, made out a case against the Lotzov family and the whole community. Prince Urusoff, the Russian jurist and philanthropist, left St. Petersburg to defend the Jews, the result being that the jury declared them innocent of any connection with the drowning of the girl. But the procurator was not satisfied with this verdict and transferred the case to the courts of Vitebsk, where Lotzov and his wife were sentenced to Siberia—Lotzov to penal servitude for life in the government mines, his wife to imprisonment for six years. Prince Urusoff again defended them, but his cloquence, as well as the testimony of physicians and other witnesses, failed to save them, because the representatives of the government used every possible means, lawful and unlawful, to influence the minds of the Vitebsk judges. The Lotzovs were declared guilty, not as murderers themselves, but as the shelterers of murderers who had killed a Christian girl for some unknown reason.

The Jews of Lutzyn contributed materially to the establishment of Jewish agricultural colonies in Kherson, Yekaterinoslav, and northwestern Russia. In 1835 many Jews of Lutzyn sold their property for small sums and went to South Russia, where the government gave them farming land. A few decades after the migration to the Kherson and Yekaterinoslav colonies, two Jewish agricultural colonies were founded by the government near Lutzyn.

Lutzyn has a population of 6,000, half of which are Jews. Of these 310 are artisans and 65 day-laborers. The educational institutions consist of: a Jewish one-class school with 30 pupils, 20 hadarim with 150, and a Talmud Torah with 42; there are also 49 Jewish pupils attending the district and common schools.(JE)

Website for Lutsin