By: Herman Rosenthal
District city in the government of Volhynia, Russia, situated on the right bank of the Styr at its junction with the Gizhtza. Between the years 1224 and 1227 about 300 Karaite families removed from Wilna to Volhynia, and some of them settled in Lutsk. About the same time a number of Rabbinite Jews also came to Volhynia. Lutsk Jews are mentioned in Witold's charter of privileges granted to the Jews of Lithuania July 1, 1388. Reference is made to them also in the grant of the Magdeburg Rights to the burghers of Lutsk by Ladislaus Jagellon Oct. 31, 1432, whereby the Jews and Armenians of that city are accorded the same rights as those of Cracow and Lemberg, except as regards the collection of customs duties, which the king reserves for himself. Toward the end of the fifteenth century the Jewish community of Lutsk had acquired considerable wealth and influence, and some of its members figured prominently as taxfarmers. The records of that time mention the names of the brothers Ostashka and Jonathan Ilyich, Shakna Novakhovich, Israel, Esko, Judah, Enka Momotlivy, and Olkon. The last-named is probably the Alkan Danilevich to whom King Casimir Jagellon at the time of his death owed 415 kop groschen, a debt partly repudiated by his heir, Alexander Jagellon.Jewish Tax-Collectors.
On the expulsion of the Jews from Lithuania in 1495 the extensive estates owned by the wealthy Jews of Lutsk were distributed among Alexander's favorites. Thus on June 26, 1495, he presented to the Polish nobles Soroka and his brother two estates in the district of Lutsk belonging to the Jews Enka Momotlivy and Itzkhak Levanovich; on March 12, 1496, he gave the estate of Topoli, formerly the property of the Jew Simchich, to the alderman of Lutsk; on June 5, 1496, he presented another Jewish estate to Prince Ostrozhski; and on July 31, 1497, for the encouragement of Christian settlers, he made to the Christian inhabitants of Lutsk a general grant of the vacant lands and houses belonging to the exiled Jews. On the return of the Jews to the city in 1503 they organized two separate communities, one Rabbinite and the other Karaite, having their respective synagogues, as appears from a decree issued by King Sigismund Dec. 22, 1506, by which he grants the petition of the Jews of Lutsk for the removal of the burdensome tax of 12 kop groschen on each of the two synagogues. To some extent at least the Jews regained their former wealth and influence, becoming prominent as before in the farming of the taxes and as leaseholders, and engaging in important commercial undertakings. The more important of them were Shamakh Danilevich and Missan Kozka (1507); Mishko Polchekovich, Abraham Shakhnovich, Mordas Chagadayevich, Frush, Nissan Shimchich, and Rebinko Leveyevich (1509). In 1509 the collection of taxes in Lutsk and in other towns was awarded to the Jew Michael Jesofovich, who again farmed the taxes on salt and wax in Lutsk from 1520 to 1526. During the first half of the sixteenth century the Jews of Lutsk continued to share in the prosperous condition of their coreligionists throughout Poland and Lithuania. They were often granted special privileges and exemptions, as is evidenced by a number of contemporary documents. By a royal decree dated July 18, 1528, the Jews equally with the burghers were freed from the payment of taxes to the crown for a period of ten years, and of municipal taxes for five years. This decree was issued in response to a petition for such exemption on account of a destructive fire which had devastated the city. Similarly in 1551 the Jews of Lutsk, in common with those of other towns, were exempted from the payment of the special tax called "Scherebschisna"; and on July 30, 1556, King Sigismund August exempted them from the payment of customs duties on all commodities except wax and salt, on the same conditions as the Christian inhabitants.In the Sixteenth Century.
Documents of the middle of the sixteenth century bear witness to the growing friction between the Jewish community of Lutsk and the local authorities. In 1545 both the Rabbinite and the Karaite community made complaint that Prince Matvei Chetvertinski, ignoring the privileges granted to the Jews of Lutsk by the king, had blocked the road to their cemetery and cut off access to a certain pond. An inspector sent to investigate the case reported thereon to King Sigismund August, who ordered the prince to reopen the road and to abstain from further obstructing it. As time went on the friction increased, due largely to the great power of the Jewish leaseholders and tax-farmers, who were under the immediate jurisdiction of the king, and who naturally refused to acknowledge the authority of the local officials. For instance, in 1560 Mendel Isakovich, a Lutsk Jew,complained to the king that the authorities of Volhynia had placed under their jurisdiction his (Mendel's) secretaries and other employees engaged in the collection of the taxes. The king ordered that henceforth these officials should not be interfered with. Again, in 1561, the burgomaster and alderman of Lutsk complained in the name of the burghers that the agents of the Jewish leaseholder Yeska Shlomich had caused them great damage by collecting during the fair of St. Simon large sums for the privilege of selling spirituous liquors, in consequence of which the visitors had departed and the burghers "were obliged to wander in the villages like Gipsies." Moreover, the same agents had prohibited the burghers from leaving the town with spirituous liquors in their possession, thereby causing them pecuniary loss. In 1566 the burghers of Lutsk descended on the royal estate of Guidovskoye and seized the Jew Shmoila Gooshich, whom they put to death notwithstanding the protest of the other employees on the estate. In 1569 the alderman of Lutsk, Prince Koritzki, imprisoned the Jews of the city on account of the non-payment of their share of the tax levied on the Jews of Lithuania. King Sigismund August, however, ordered their release, since they had already paid the poll-tax of 15 groschen determined upon by the Diet of Grodno. The king ordered also the removal of the seals which had been placed on the synagogue and other property of the Jews. In the same year the whole of Volhynia was added to Poland, and the members of both of the Jewish communities of Lutsk took the oath of allegiance (June 23, 1569).
A considerable number of legal documents dating from the latter half of the sixteenth century make mention of the Jews of Lutsk and of their relations to their neighbors. In 1571 John Stefanovich, the superior of the monastery of Derwansk, stated in his will that he had paid in behalf of the town secretary of Lutsk the sum of 2½ groschen to the Jews Izel and Yesko for the building of a cellar. In the list of property left by Andrei Rusin, Bishop of Pinsk and Turov, reference is made to certain documents belonging to a Jew and relating to three properties "at the end of the crooked bridge of Lutsk"; also to ten documents written in Hebrew. Among the servants of the bishop are enumerated several bought from this Jew. In 1583 Batko (Simeon) Misanovich, who had recently been baptized, requested the alderman of Lutsk to enter in the city records his bequest to his son Moshka of certain moneys due to him (Simeon).
A number of documents preserved in the central archives of Kiev, and dated 1563, afford interesting information concerning the life of the Jews of Lutsk at this time. Among these is the complaint of the Jew Yakhna Leveyevich, a soldier in the service of Prince Constantin Ostrozhski, against his father-in-law, Nissan Rabiyevich of Klevan, who in Yakhna's absence had visited his house, taken away his wife and his goods, and had then disappeared. The enumeration of the articles abstracted includes Turkish knives, a Hungarian sword with silver mountings, a silver dagger, saddles, and gold ornaments, besides household utensils.In the Seventeenth Century.
In 1601 Prince Grigori Sangushko Koshirski presented for entry in the city records of Lutsk a copy of the lease to the Jews Abraham Shmoilovich of Turisk, Getz Pertsovich of Torchinsk, and their heirs, of his estates in the town of Gorokhov, the estate and village of old Gorokhov, and a number of other estates and villages. The lease was for a period of three years, and the lessees were permitted among other things to exercise complete jurisdiction over the peasants, even to the extent of inflicting the death penalty if necessary.
On March 6, 1625, Leib Israilevich and Ilia Abramovich, Jewish scholars of Lutsk, reported for entry in the city records an attack made upon them by the nobles Lesetzki and their followers while the complainants were accompanying to the cemetery the body of Leib Isakovich. The Lesetzkis had filled in the freshly dug grave, had destroyed the bridge leading to the cemetery, had nailed fast the cemetery gates, and had refused to allow the burial to take place until a debt due to one of them should have been paid. The priest, appealed to by the Jews, ordered the Lesetzkis not to molest the Jews; but the nobles collected an armed mob, drove off the Jews, many of whom were wounded, and threw the body of Isakovich into the ditch.
In Oct., 1637, the burghers of Lutsk lodged a complaint against all the Jews to the effect that they paid nothing into the city treasury, that they had freed many houses from local jurisdiction, that they had built many others on land belonging to the burghers, and had established on the city walls breweries and distilleries, thus diminishing the city's power of defense; further, that they had refused to perform military and guard duty, and that they had purchased liquor from the merchants of places outside of the city limits, reselling it within the city. Complaint of excessive taxation was also made by Jewish leaseholders and their representatives.
In 1647 one of the priests of Lutsk forbade the communicants of his church to buy meat from Jewish butchers. The matter was carried to the courts, and the priest was ordered to pay damages.
During the Cossack uprising under Chmielnicki (1648-49) the Jewish community suffered severely, and a number of Jews were killed. In 1662 the Dict of Volhynia exempted the Jews of Lutsk and other Volhynian towns from the payment of all taxes except that on braid.
In 1637 Lutsk possessed a yeshibah which was destroyed probably by the Cossacks in 1648. In the "Sefer Zikkaron" of the Karaites (Neubauer, "Ginze Petersburg," p. 130) is a statement concerning the Karaites of Lutsk and commencing as follows: "These are the names of the members of our community who were killed by the Cossacks." During the same uprising the prayer-houses were destroyed and all the books burned (Graetz, "Hist." Hebrew ed., vol. vii.). In 1699, at the request of Charles XII. of Sweden, Mordecai ben Nissan, sexton of a Karaite synagogue, went to Lutsk and wrote an account of his observations in "Lebush Malkut," in which he denounces the Rabbinite Jews.
Among the tombstones in the Jewish cemetery are those of: Hannah Ginzburg, died in 1317 (?); a woman who died in 1595; Rabbi Eliakim Getzel, died in 1715; Rabbi Mordeccai ben Shalom, died in 1723; Judah Zeeb ben Tobias, martyred in 1764; and the maggid of Lutsk, Meïr ben Ḥayyim, died in 1819 ("Ha-Meliẓ," 1860, No. 19).
In 1791, the year of its annexation to Russia, Lutsk contained only fifty houses owned by the burghers; the rest belonged to the Rabbinite Jews and the Karaites. In 1864 there were 3,423 Rabbinite Jews and 221 Karaites in a total population of 4,973; in 1895 the numbers were 12,007 and 72 respectively in a total population of 15,125. In the last-cited year the community possessed eighteen synagogues and prayer-houses besides a Karaite prayer-house, one Jewish hospital, and one Jewish dispensary. At the same date there were in the district of Lutsk, exclusive of the city, 42 Karaites and 18,775 other Jews in a total population of 188,636.
- Regesty, i., passim;
- Russko-Yevreiski Arkhiv, i., passim.