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KLETZK:

Russian town, in the government of Minsk. It is believed to have been founded in the eleventh century, but the earliest known mention of the Jewish community there refers to 1522. A document dated Sept. 5, 1522, was issued by King Sigismund, in which he awarded for three years to Isaac Jesofovitch, a Jew of Brest-Litovsk, for the sum of 300 "kop groschen," a lease of the inns and other sources of revenue in Kletzk. The next mention of the Kletzk community is found in a document dated Jan. 21, 1529, which imposes military duties on its inhabitants, as well as on those of other towns. On June 15, 1542, the boyar Grishko Kochevich brought suit against Zachariah Markovich, a Jew of Kletzk, the latter's oxen having broken into Grishko's field and injured the growing grain; the court awarded to Grishko twelve "ruble groschen" damages. A census taken in 1552-55 shows that the Jewish householders lived chiefly on Wilna street, on the Sloboda, and owned gardens in thesuburbs. Kletzk is mentioned in the assessment on the Lithuanian communities in 1566, and from its small proportionate assessment it appears that the community was not important at that time.

In 1670 the Jews of Kletzk were accused of having murdered a baptized Jewess, the wife of Geliash Yevchich. She had gone to the fair of Kletzk and had stopped first at the house of a Christian, and then at the house of the Jew Goshko Tzeperski, where she was last seen. At the time she disappeared she had a large sum of money in her possession. Her body was not found, and it is probable that she was induced by her former coreligionists to leave her husband and return to Judaism in some distant place, such cases having frequently occurred among the Jews of Lithuania after the Cossack uprising.

Until 1623 Kletzk belonged to the district of Brest-Litovsk. After that date it was transferred, together with the neighboring towns, to the district of Pinsk. According to tradition, the town originally was located on the opposite bank of the Vistula, on the road leading to Lyakhovich; but after the destructive fire of 1705 it was rebuilt, at the instance of the governor, on its present site. Thus the cemetery, formerly very near the town, is now two miles distant, and during the spring floods the Jewish community finds it difficult to provide for the burial of its dead. There is a large synagogue, built by Prince Radziwil in 1796; a bet ha-midrash fully two hundred years old; and fifteen smaller houses of prayer. The first rabbi of Kletzk was Judah ben Löb, who had under his jurisdiction also the community of Mechit. He was succeeded by Michael ben Meïr Eisenstadt, who in turn was followed, about 1762, by his son Moses Eisenstadt (d. Oct. 25, 1795). The old people of Kletzk still speak of the sojourn there of the philosopher Solomon Maimon, who lived there for several years, and was intimate with R. Moses Eisenstadt. In the nineteenth century the town was repeatedly destroyed by fire—in 1817, 1845, 1865, and 1886—yet the large synagogue always escaped the flames. In 1903 Kletzk had a total population of about 8,000, of which about 6,000 were Jews.

Bibliography:
  • Russko-Yevreiski Arkhiv, i., Nos. 72 and 341;
  • ii., Nos. 10, 34, 249;
  • Regesty i Nadpisi, i., Nos. 256, 473, 493, 726, and 1101;
  • Pamyatnaya Knizhka Minskoi Gubernii, Minsk, 1876;
  • Levik, Talpiyot, Berdychev, 1895.
H. R. J. G. L. B. Ei.
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