By: Herman Rosenthal
King of Poland (1648-68). He was elected to the throne with the aid of Chmielnicki, who after the election returned to the Ukraine. To the commission sent to him by the king he dictated that no Jew should be allowed on the Cossacks' lands. When the Jews who had escaped the Cossack massacres returned to the country John Casimir allowed those who had been baptized by the Cossacks under fear of death to return to Judaism. He could do that without conscientious scruples, for, although he was a Jesuit, he did not recognize the validity of the Greek Orthodox faith, to which the Jews had been converted by force during the Cossack uprising. This privilege was especially sought by the Jewish women who had been compelled to marry Zaporogians. Hundreds of Jewish children who had lost their parents and relatives were brought back to Judaism; and in order to prevent marriage between near relatives, the Jews took pains to ascertain the descent of such children, and supplied them with parchment-rolls containing records thereof, which they hung around their necks. In 1651 Chmielnicki renewed the war on the Jews.
John Casimir confirmed, Feb. 17, 1649, the privileges conferred by his predecessors on the Jews of Wilna, Brest, Moghilef, Minsk, Grodno, Pinsk, Orsha, and other places. He reaffirmed the Magdeburg rights for Kremenetz Jan. 20, 1650; for Pinsk, Dec. 31, 1650; he confirmed the privileges of the Jews of Kremenetz Jan. 26, 1650, and of the Jews of Pruzhany Dec. 31, 1650. On Feb. 22, 1653, he issued a decree forbidding the Jews of Wilna to keep Christian servants. They were given a period ofsix weeks within which to discharge any such servants, and they were to pay a fine on their failure to do so. If Christian servants should again be hired after the payment of the fine, Jews employing them were to pay a second fine, and the third time the community was to be deprived of its synagogue, which was to be removed to a place assigned for it outside of the city gates.
By a decree dated June 23, 1655, it was ordered that no infringement of the rights of the leaseholders of Brest should be allowed. A decree dated June 16, 1661, granted privileges to the Jews of Kamenetz, permitting them to have, besides the regular market-day on Saturday, a special market-day on Tuesday. Casimir also permitted them to build a synagogue, provided it was inferior in its dimensions and ornamentation to the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches; and also to build a bath-house and to lay out a cemetery. Besides these privileges he also granted them special rights in trading and in industrial occupations, in the purchase of lands, houses, etc.Enactments.
In July of the same year he ordered that the Jews of Brest be relieved for three years from the payment of excise duties because of the ruin of their houses, stores, and other buildings, and reaffirmed the rights given to them by the law of the land. By a decree of June 20, 1662, Casimir ordered that the Jews of Lithuania, in consideration of their great poverty, be relieved from the payment of that portion of the 12,000 gold ducats levied upon them by the Diet which was still unpaid. On Feb. 21, 1663, he issued another decree in reference to the employment of Christian servants by the Jews, and ordered the discharge of servants within four weeks, under heavy penalties in cases of disobedience.
On April 18, 1664, he decreed that the Jewish butchers of Moghilef be forbidden to sell meat in any other place than that adjoining the synagogue; and on June 8 of the same year he prohibited the Jews of Wilna from dealing in non-Hebrew books. On March 16, 1666, he decreed that the Jews of Brest be relieved from all military duties, in order to avert their entire ruin, and he further ordered the commander of the garrison not to require from the Jews of Brest either the quartering of soldiers or the supply of provisions, nor to burden them with any other requisitions.
The same exemption from taxation of the Jews of Brest was reaffirmed by a decree dated Warsaw, May 23, 1667. For in spite of the explicit orders of the king, the Jews of Brest had been compelled to pay the exactions of the military commanders, as appears from the order of Hetman Patz, who also ordered the military not to make any levies on the Jews, and informed the officers that they would be held responsible for any injury inflicted.
- Kostomarov, ii. 175, 372;
- Grätz, Gesch. x. 67, 69;
- Akty Yuzhnoi i Zapadnoi Rossii, iii. 278-307, 369;
- Akty Vilenskoi Arkhivnoi Kommissii, i. 220; iii. 374; v. 193, 208, 247, 297;
- Sobraniye Gosudarstvenykh Gramot i Dogovorov, part iii., p. 453;
- Chteniye Mosk. Obschest. Istorii i Drevn. 1859, i., division iv., pp. 1-16;
- Arkhiv Yug. Zapad. Rossii, i., part 5, p. 38;
- Akty Vilens. Arkhiv. Kommis. vols. i.-x.;
- Istor. Yurid. Materialy, ed. Sazonov, xii. 275;
- Akty Vilenskoi Arkhivnoi Komm. ix. 57.