chapter  10
11 Pages

Eastern European Jewry in the early modern period

In the Middle Ages Ashkenazi Jewry in Poland was increased by an influx of Jews from the Crimea, the Russian steppes, the Middle East and Spain. In the middle of the thirteenth century Prince Kalisz issued a charter which granted the Jewish population legal protection. In the next century King Casimir III granted further decrees which expanded their charter to include the entire Polish kingdom. Eventually in 1388 the Grand Duke of Lithuania gave similar rights to the Jewish population which were renewed in the next century by Casimir IV Jagiello. Through these proclamations Polish and Lithuanian rulers supplied Polish Jewry with a secure basis for Jewish communal existence. In this milieu Polish Jews served as fiscal agents, tax collectors and managers of noblemen's estates. Other Jews leased lands and supervised agricultural activities such as farming, harvesting, manufacture and export. None the less Polish Jewry was subject to various forms of persecution: Jews were forced to wear distinguishing garments and were frequently victims of anti-Jewish outbursts.