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LENCHITZA (Polish, Leczyca):

District town in the government of Kalisz, Russian Poland. On April 20, 1639, members of its Jewish community were accused of ritual murder, owing to the disappearance of a Christian child, aged one and one-half years, from the neighboring village of Kamashitza, and the subsequent discovery, in the adjacent woods, of its body covered with many wounds. Suspicion fell on a local tramp, Foma, who, when arrested and questioned, confessed to having abducted the child at the instigation of the Jews of Lenchitza. The ancient right of appeal to the king being ignored, the case was tried by the local authorities, who were openly prejudiced against the Jews. Many members of the community were placed on the rack; and two of them, Lazar and Maier, were quartered. The monks in the local Bernardine monastery made use of the incident to inflame popular hatred against the Jews. They placed the remains of the supposedly martyred child in the cathedral, together with a painting and a detailed description of the murder. The superstitious Catholic masses made pilgrimages to the relics of the supposed saint; and the income of the Bernardine monastery was thereby greatly augmented. In commenting on the frequent charges of ritual murder against the Jews shortly before the Cossack uprisings, Bershadski says: "Such was the condition of the Jews on the eve of the Cossack and Shlyakhta wars. Abandoned by the kings and the Shlyakhta, and in constant warfare with the clergy, they were helpless in dealing with the accusations of ritual murder. Such accusations were, moreover, easily spread. When a child left alone had disappeared, and its body had been found covered with wounds several days or a week later in the woods, it was immediately concluded that the members of the nearest Jewish community were guilty of the murder. They were formally charged with it; legal proceedings were instituted; and the rack invariably showed the guilty one!"

Among the prominent rabbis born at Lenchitza should be mentioned Rabbi Ephraim, author of "'Olelot Efrayim," who died in 1619.

The Jewish community of Lenchitza suffered severely at the hands of the Polish general Czarniecki, 300 of their number perishing by the sword. In 1710 seven Jews were burned at the stake under the accusation of stealing consecrated bread and of practising the magic arts.

At the present time (1904) the Lenchitza Jews number about 2,000 in a total population of 9,044.

Bibliography:
  • S. Bershadski, Sturinnoe Sredstvo, in Voskhod, 1894, x.;
  • Dubnow, Istori Cheskiya Soobshcheniya, ib. 1895, ii.
H. R. J. G. L.
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