By: Herman Rosenthal
A merchant who was burned at the stake in St. Petersburg July 15, 1738. He was one of the numerous Judæo-Polish merchants of those times who, through their ability and the protection of the nobles, managed to carry on a lucrative business, and became influential even in centers where Jews in general were not allowed to dwell.Complaint Against Him.
In 1722 a charge was brought by the merchants of Smolensk before the Holy Synod to the effect that the vice-governor of Smolensk, Prince Vasili Gagarin, had allowed Jews to lease taverns, to farm customs, and to engage in other pursuits; and, furthermore, that the leaseholder Boroch (Baruch) Leibov had dared to insult the Christian religion by erecting a synagogue in the village of Zvyerovichi, in which he practises his infidel religion. The village priest, it was charged, had been thrashed by Baruch, and even put into irons, for having delivered himself of public utterances against the Jewish faith, and that as a consequence of the outrage he had fallen ill and died. It has been conclusively shown that this accusation, which was brought by the merchants of Smolensk, was aimed against the Jews as a body; and that it was inspired by hatred of them as competitors in business. The Holy Synod gave orders to demolish the synagogue and to burn up the books and all the appurtenances connected with the "magical" teachings and practises of the Jews. These instructions were carried out to the letter; but the authorities, probably on technical grounds, declined to give effect to the order of the Holy Synod for the annulment of the leases held by the Jews, and for the expulsion of the Jews from the province. Baruch Leibov was permittedto remain and to continue unmolested in his occupation, in spite of the fact that his case had been turned over to the court of "secret investigation cases." In the reign of Catherine I. the order was issued to expel him from Russia.
Long after the above-described incident had been forgotten, he had to pay the penalty in a tragic manner for his zeal as a Jew. In 1783 an officer in the navy, named Voznitzyn, was accused of "having been converted to Judaism and circumcised by the Jew Baruch Leibov in the town of Dubrovna, government of Mohilev, in the house of the Jew Maier, the son of Baruch."
The accusation was brought conjointly against Voznitzyn and Baruch, and both perished at the stake. It would appear that those who conducted the prosecution had doubts as to the legality of the sentence, which was executed at the mandate of the Empress Anna. The case is unique in Russian history, and it was the cause of repressive measures against the Jews under Anna Ivanovna in 1739, and under Elizabeth Petrovna in 1740.
- V. O. Levanda, Polny Chronologicheski Sbornik Zakonov (1649-1873), etc., pp. 10-14, St. Petersburg, 1874;
- Polnoe, Sobranie Zakonov, No. 7612;
- N. Gradovski, Otnosheniya k Yevreyam v Drevnei i Sovremennoi Rusi, vol. i., St. Petersburg. 1891;
- N. Golitzyn, Istoriya Russkavo Zakonodatelstva o Yevregakh, St. Petersburg, 1886;
- Solovyev, Istoria Rossii, xii., iii., edition of Obshchestvennaya Polza, p. 1519.