Town in Bohemia. Its Jewish community is one of the oldest in the country. A number of Jews were living here in the fourteenth century, and they had their own synagogue. A stone inscription from a former synagogue, preserved in the present synagogue, bears the date 1642. When King Ferdinand I. expelled the Jews from Bohemia in 1541, the Jews of Kolin went with their movable goods to Poland. At Braunau the emigrants encountered thieves, who robbed them of 20,000 Bohemian schock. In 1551 the Bohemian Jews were permitted to return; but the Jews of Kolin could find no rest in their city. For unknown reasons King Ferdinand granted them safe-conduct in 1557, enabling them to remain for one year in the country to collect their debts, after which period they were to leave again. Their affairs delayed them, however, and they did not leave the city until 1561. After Ferdinand's death, in 1564, his successor, Maximilian II., permitted the Jews to return to Kolin; but the wealthiest among them did not avail themselves of the permission. In 1618 the Jewish community of Kolin was, next to that of Prague, the largest in Bohemia. It had to pay heavy taxes into the royal treasury; in 1618 the sum amounted to 18,000 thalers, or 47 thalers per head. In 1603 the municipal council forbade the Jews to appear on Sundays and and other Christian holidays in those parts of the city inhabited by Christians; it prohibited them from keeping dogs; and forbade also Jewish butchers to sell meat to Christians. In 1611 a special prison was built in the Jews' street for the Jews, at their request and at their expense; it has only recently been demolished, after having served as a dwelling for poor families for more than one hundred years. No Jew was permitted to own any real estate except his house, for more than one horse. Jews were forbiddenalso to engage in those trades or lines of business in which their Christian fellow citizens were engaged; they were obliged, therefore, to establish connections with foreign houses. The municipal council, which was intent upon isolating the Jews from the Christian population, forbade the latter to enter the service of the Jews; even washerwomen were not allowed to do laundry-work for them. As the Jews were accused of having brought the plague into the city on returning from their business trips, they were not permitted to remain outside of their own street for any length of time, nor to draw water with their vessels from the Christians' wells. During this appearance of the plague (1613-14) the municipal council had both entrances to the Jews' street walled up.
On Sept. 8, 1621, the Jewish communal director David was elected to the municipal council. Various petitions which the council of Kolin sent to Prince Lichtenstein, with a view to interfering with the trades of the Jews, were not granted. In Dec., 1621, the knight Jan Vazlav Grizl of Grizlov was made captain of the imperial estate of Kolin and Bieberitz. He permitted the Jews to engage in those trades and lines of business which had hitherto been open only to Christians; and on several occasions he showed them favor. When an epidemic of dysentery appeared in Kolin in 1660, Rabbi Borges and his son Schaje (Isaiah) were accused, June 25, of having killed a pig which had escaped from the house of the widow Sperlink into the Jews' street, and of having thrown the same into the communal well, thereby poisoning the water. Both fled from the city.Jurisdiction and Organization.
A resolution of the Bohemian royal chamber, of Feb. 3, 1655, was of great benefit to the Jews, removing them from the jurisdiction of the municipal council, and directing them to organize themselves as a community with their own court, which was to be under the direct supervision of the imperial judge of Kolin acting in the name of the royal chamber. Only in criminal cases were the Jews to be tried by the judge of Kolin. The affairs of the community were conducted by a primator, two councilors, and a certain number of elders, assisted by a secretary, a treasurer, and two servants. This arrangement was in force down to 1788.
Empress Maria Theresa decreed, Dec. 18, 1744, that all the Jews should leave Bohemia by the end of the following month. In 1745 there were at Kolin forty-two houses belonging entirely to Jews and valued at 19,210 gulden. On June 12, 1745, a contract was made between the Jewish and the Christian community, that when the Jews left the country their debtors should remain in possession of such houses; but if the Jews should obtain permission to return within two years, the houses should be restored to them at a price to be fixed by valuation. The empress'decree was, however, rescinded.
In 1750 three Jews of Kolin received from the municipal council the concession for the sale of tobacco in Kolin. During the dearth in the winter of 1846-47 the Jews of Kolin distinguished themselves by twice contributing large sums for the relief of 100 Christian families.
Down to 1849, when full civic equality was given to the Jews, they were not permitted to buy houses or land belonging to Christians, but from the time of Emperor Joseph II. they were permitted to rent stores from Christians.
The community for a long time had a primary school near the synagogue, in which Hebrew also was taught. In 1788 forty-one children attended the school, and in 1789 fifty. At present (1904) the Talmud Torah Society of the Jewish congregation also supports a school for the study of Hebrew and the Bible. The affairs of the congregation are administered by a board consisting of a president and seven trustees together with twenty-four members chosen from the congregation at large.
The following rabbis of Kolin deserve notice: Abraham Borges, 1653; his son Schaje (Isaiah), 1660; Simon Oppenheim, author of "Nezer ha-Ḳodesh," middle of the eighteenth century; Jacob Illovi of Ungarisch-Brod, 1775-78; Eleazar Kallir, author of "Or Ḥadash" and "Ḥawwot Yair," 1780-1800; Wolf Löw Boskowitz, 1806-12; Wolf Löw, 1812-26; Joachim Deutschmann, 1828-36; Daniel Frank, 1839-60; Dr. Josef Gugenheimer, 1861-96; his son, Dr. Raphael Gugenheimer, the present incumbent.