Pinkas Pruzany and It's Vicinity
p. 21 - 22
One of the
certificates in the office of the former Governor-General of Vilna notes that privileges
were granted to the town of Pruzana by the Polish kings. No details of the privileges were
provided, but they are referred to in the documents of the "Vilna committee for
examining ancient documents." These documents cannot be found in our town. They may
have been taken to Russia - at the beginning of the First World War, together with all the
On the other hand, there is one document (given to us by F. Golubovitz) that tells us of the whole content of the privilege granted to Pruzana Jews by King Wadyslaw IV in 1644, which was confirmed by Jan Kazimierz in 1650 and Jan III in 1677. The document is a Russian translation of the Polish original, a section of the gazette in the regional office (Wojewodstwo) in Brisk.
The privilege recounts that on June 15, 1679, two Jews ("Starostes") Mordechai Ben Shmuel and Zainvel Ben Hillel appeared before Ziegmont Kazimierz Janovsky, the deputy Staroste of Brisk and Poderosy of Smolensk and submitted a privilege of the king written on parchment granted to the Pruzana Jewish kehila. The content was as follows: "Jan III, King of Poland par excellence, Grand Prince of Lithuania, Reisen, Prussia, etc. announces to all people concerned that he was presented with a manuscript written on parchment of King Jan Kazimierz that gave Pruzana Jews the authority to trade, handicrafts, plots and homes in Pruzana and a request was submitted by members of our clerical council and by Avraham Ben-Yitzhak a Pruzana Jew on behalf of all the Jews for his approval. The king allows the Jews to buy houses and plots in the market square and nearby streets, buy fruit gardens, ploughing land, meadows, houses for residence, mead and liquor factories and sell wholesale or retail in their homes or rented places, maintain public houses provided that they paid annually the king's treasury, according to the inventory list, not more than 600 guilden for trading in various commodities, maintain public shops in the market square and houses, trade in weights and measures and deal in various handicrafts, buy livestock in the market and sell meat in their slaughter-houses and not pay property and other taxes and to use all the detailed concessions in the privilege to buy victuals and particularly aquire plots they considered suitable for building a synagogue, provided that its exterior did not look like a Catholic church. If, in accordance with God's will, it should happen that a synagogue built by them be burnt down, they are authorised to build a new synagogue either on the same spot or at another appropriate place and repair the old synagogue. They are allowed to buy plots for a cemetery to bury their dead and build a fence and structures as they see fit, without paying any taxes. But they will pay ordinary taxes to our estate in Pruzana on their homes, plots, gardens, ploughing land and meadows purchased at their own free will. In particular, they must plead not in the courts, but before the Starosta in Pruzana or his deputy. The Jews are entitled to appeal before us or our court according to the right they possess. Like other inhabitants, the Jews may keep weights. They may use the public meadow to shepherd their animals and they have free entry to the Pruzana steppe together with the other inhabitants and they must carry out the same obligations as everybody else, with all the reductions and community freedoms that have been awarded in this manifesto to the Pruzana Jews, who may use them without any hindrance from the district officer or the local populace. We confirm all this and sign with our own hand, ordering the attachment of the seal of the prince of Great Lithuania. Warsaw, December 20, 1644, in the fifteenth year of our reign over Poland and Sweden."
A smaller seal attached to this manifesto refers to King Wladyslaw's cofirmation of the privileges apart from one clause referring to the synagogue: "the Jews must not dare to buy new plots for their synagogue but be satisfied with the old site." Signed, in Warsaw, December 31, 1650. The same privileges are confirmed by Jan Kazimierz in 1677. A copy of the privilege was provided on May 29, 1830; at the request of the kehila.
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