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KALISZ (German, Kalisch):

City in the government of the same name in Russian Poland; situated on the River Prosna, near the Prussian frontier. Its Jewish community is one of the oldest in Poland. In 1264 Boleslaw the Pious granted the Jews of Kalisz charters of privileges which were used as models for similar charters by Casimir the Great in 1334 and by Duke Withold in 1388.

During the fourteenth century the Jews of Kalisz, like those of other cities near the German frontier, suffered greatly from the attacks of mobs which accused the Jews of having poisoned the wells in times of epidemics; and Casimir the Great handed to the Jew Falk of Kalisz the charter of privileges securing to him and his coreligionists protection from these false accusations (July 15, 1364).

The Jews of Kalisz are mentioned in an edict of King Sigismund August, dated Sept. 16, 1549, imposing a head-tax of one Polish florin on the Jews of several communities ("Metrika Koronnaya," No. 77, fol. 214, v.). In 1666 the troops of the Polish general Czarniecki killed 600 members of the Kalisz community.

The earliest mention of Kalisz in Hebrew literature is probably that made by Solomon Segal, dayyan at Kalisz in the first half of the thirteenth century, in Menahem b. Solomon's "Sekel Ṭob," section "Wayiḳra" (Dyhernfurth, 1735). Joel Sirkes in his responsa "Bet Ḥadash" (ed. Cracow, 1617, No. 43) refers to an accusation against the Jews of Kalisz of stealing a small image of "the Redeemer" ("ha-Go'el"). A Jewish hospital was founded at Kalisz in 1863 by Louis Mamrath; and a new Synagogue was built in 1879.

An anti-Jewish riot broke out in the city June 23, 1878, due to the erection of an "'erub" by the ultra-Orthodox rabbi Ḥayyim Wachs, which displeased the Christian inhabitants. A mob from the neighboring villages demolished the synagogue, the residence of the rabbi, and part of the Jewish hospital; three Jewish children were killed, several Jews were wounded, and Jewish property to the amount of about 200,000 rubles was stolen or destroyed. The riot was suppressed by the militarythe same evening. The city was placed under martial law, and was condemned to pay damages to the amount of 80,000 rubles, while the surrounding villages had to pay 40, 000 rubles. Rabbi Ḥayyim was forced by the Jewish community to resign.

The best-known rabbis of Kalisz have been:

  • Solomon Segal (13th cent.);
  • Judah Nissan (17th cent.), author of "Bet Yehudah";
  • Jehiel Michael b. Aryeh (second half of 17th cent.), author of "Sha'are Ḥokmah" (Prague, 1657), on religious ethics, and of "Sha'are Shamayim," a collection of sermons, in two parts (part i., ib., 1675);
  • Moses b. Benjamin Wolf Rofe, author of "Yerushat Mosheh" (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1677), and of "Yarim Mosheh" (Amsterdam, 1679); both books contain medical prescriptions and "segulot" written in Judæo-German (Benjacob, "Oẓar ha-Sefarim," p. 230);
  • Abraham Abele Gumbiner; Eleazar Lazar (second half of 18th cent.);
  • Abraham Abele (end of 18th cent. and beginning of l9th);
  • Elijah Ragoler (born at Neustadt-Sugind 1794; became rabbi at Kalisz 1840; died there 1849);
  • Ẓebi Hirsch Chajes (died at Lemberg Oct. 12, 1855);
  • Meïr b. Isaac Auerbach (born at Dobia, near Kalisz, Feb. 10, 1815; held the rabbinate of Kalisz from 1855 to 1860, when he went to Palestine; died at Jerusalem May 8, 1878);
  • Ḥayyim Eleazar Wax (died at Kuznitza, near Kalisz, June 30, 1889);
  • Samson Ornstein (born 1822; rabbi of Kalisz from 1886 until his death, Dec. 1, 1903).

Other prominent Jews of Kalisz were Jacob Prague, Lazarus Gutman, Wolf Lewi, Tobias Koppel, Elias Koppel, Meïr Sachs, Matthias Mann, Joseph D. Seizner, David Stein, Ezekiel Steinman, and Wolf Fränkel, the philanthropist.

In 1897 the Jewish inhabitants in the city numbered 8,026 in a total population of 21,680; in the government, 70,907 in a total population of 846,719. The community possesses the usual charitable organizations, which are in a prosperous condition.

Bibliography:
  • Regesty, vol. i., s.v., St. Petersburg, 1899;
  • the list of rabbis has been gathered from Lewinstein, Dorot 'Olamim, Warsaw, 1899, and Benjacob, Oẓar ha-Sefarim, passim;
  • Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1878, pp. 458, 492.
H. R. J. D. E. J. G. L.
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