The late medieval Jewish settlement in Red Ruthenia: The case of Krosno

The late medieval Jewish settlement in Red Ruthenia: The case of Krosno

By Jerzy Mazur

Studia Judaica, No.26 (2010)

Introduction: There has been much discussion regarding the beginnings of the Jewish community in Poland, yet the scholarship still has not arrived to the fully satisfactory explanation of the demographic and social developments that created a significant center of Jewish life in Poland already in the late 15th century. We are uncertain when the most important phase of Jewish migration to Eastern Europe occurred, where did the first Jewish settlers come from and what where the reasons for their relocation. Equally unknown is the scale of these migrations, and the earliest history of the Jewish communities in what later became Poland-Lithuania. This article attempts to analyze the beginnings of the Jewish settlement in the late medieval Red Ruthenia. Against this background, it will scrutinize the two important privileges granted by the Jagiellonian rulers of the Kingdom of Poland, which resulted in establishing a new Jewish community in Krosno, a small town located in the westernmost parts of Red Ruthenia. I argue that these primary materials are not only helpful in understanding the major demographic sources for the growing Jewish kehilot in Poland- Lithuania, but also shed a new light on the transmission of the Jewish legal institutions from western Ashkenaz to Eastern Europe.

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