Austrian Zolynia

1855 map

This is part of an 1855 cadestral map of Zolynia, showing the boundaries of land parcels around the market square, which is shaded in tan. This was the heart of the Jewish community. In blue is the large, distinctive pond in the middle of the town and Zolynia Brook, running south to the Wislok River. All communities in Galicia prepared these property maps in the mid-19th century. As was typical in small Galician towns, the streets of Zolynia were unnamed and the houses were numbered for identification.


The Partition of Poland

Starting in 1772, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Prussia agreed to carve up Poland among themselves, a three-step process that was completed over 23 years. Zolynia became part of the Province of Galicia in the northeastern corner of the Austrian Empire.

By the 1780s, Zolynia Lubomierz was an important local market town, with one survey showing 270 men engaged in crafts and trades, about twice the number as in Lancut, the district center.

There were well over 300 Jewish residents living in Zolynia Lubomierz in 1789, enough to become an independent congregation, governing its own internal affairs and relations with the outside community. In an arrangement with the Lubomirkskis, the Jewish community paid a fee (16 goldens) to permanently lease the houses where they lived in Lubomierz. In the 1790s, the Zolynia Jewish leaders were actively recruiting families from other congregations, making offers of cash and equipment. However, within a few years, at the beginning of the 19th century, the Jewish community stopped growing, losing the recruiting effort to larger towns with more economic potential, particularly Lancut and Przeworsk.

Count Alfred Potocki had inherited the Lancut estate, and in the 1820s the town center of Zolynia Lubomierz was redesignated as simply "Zolynia." Despite his investments in factories and grain processing plants, Galicia lacked a significant industrial and commercial base. The economy stagnated. The Jewish population of Zolynia, like that of most of Galicia, fell into general poverty. In 1830, the congregation of over 450 could no longer provide its rabbi with a regular salary.

An 1821 tax list shows 44 Jewish families and 72 Catholic families in Zolynia Centre. The local Christian population, the large majority Roman Catholic but with a significant Greek Orthodox minority and a handful of Protestants, was overwhelmingly involved in farming, much of it on land that was part of the Potocki manor. Jewish men were overwhelmingly involved in small retail, such as peddling various goods. Some Jews were dealers and brokers in animals and grains, and there were still leases to manage businesses and resources from Count Potocki. The market square was the center of economic life, where shops and stalls supplied basic goods, and the financial credit to buy them, to the residents of this fairly isolated rural section.

One of the few centers of profit in Zolynia throughout the early and middle parts of the 19th century was the liquor business. In 1850, over 200,000 litres of vodka were sold in the Zolynia district, a consumption rate of about a bottle of vodka a week for every man, woman and child (of course, some of the vodka was sold at fairs and bazaars, which attracted outsiders). Zolynia and some of its smaller neighboring villages had several small beer breweries, liquor distilleries and a tavern, most of which were leased to Jews by the Potocki estate. Several Jewish houses included bars or tap rooms. Throughout the region, most Jewish families earned at least some of their income from making or selling alcohol, even if it was just making barrels.

A fire swept through the Jewish neighborhood adjacent to the market square in 1850, destroying many homes. The local Jewish community might have been significantly and permanently reduced in size, but some important changes were sweeping Galicia, and these changes significantly affected Zolynia and encouraged the Zhaliners to rebuild.

Change and Renewal of the Jewish Community

The Jewish movement known as Hadism or Chasidism was founded in Ukraine during the mid-18th century. It's emphasis of exuberance, joy, mysticism and group cohesion had broad appeal and by the mid-19th century it had become the most popular form of Judaism in most of Galicia. Charismatic rebbes (religious leaders, but not necessarily a formally-trained rabbi) of the Hasidic movement attracted fiercely dedicated followers and established their own "courts" in towns and cities throughout Central Europe. Sometimes, sons or close relatives of a leading rebbe would establish themselves in other towns, forming networks and dynasties, some of which survive today in Israel or North America. Starting in 1848, important Hasidic figures Rebbe Yosef-Moshe Teicher, Moshe Laufer (the "Tsaddik of Zhalin and Lancut") and Tsaddik Avram Yosef lived in Zolynia and drew followers. Many stayed in the town. By 1867, the number of Jewish residents had swelled to 1,011 in 1867 and peaked at about 1,070 in 1880, nearly two-thirds of the total population of the market town. The Jewish congregation in Zolynia was establishing its own satellite communities in some of the nearby villages. In nearby Rakszawa, there were some 200 Jewish residents, some opening shops and stalls in that marketplace.

Another important change was the establishment of civil rights for Zolynia residents. The Austrian government held off revolutionary movements and uprisings by establishing new rights for common people. In 1848, the last vestiges of Robot and serfdom were revoked and the Polish peasantry was now legally emancipated, able to seek out new employment and opportunities. In the 1860s, the restructured Austro-Hungarian Empire adopted a series of democratic reforms that removed virtually all of the legal barriers to Jews seeking employment, education, land ownership and more. Jews could run for city and town office.

Under the 1867 Constitution, Galicia had much greater autonomy within the empire. All officially-recognized cities, towns and villages had functioning municipal governments with elected governing councils, and there were elected officials for the entire Zolynia Subdistrict or Gmina.In its first municipal election in 1867, the residents of Zolynia Miasteczko (the market town) elected 124 councilmen, of whom 69 appear to have been Jewish.

There were new rights and new opportunities for the people of Zolynia, but opportunity also brought new competitions and new conflicts.

statue 1910

Zolynia in 1910. In the foreground is a memorial to the Battle of Grunwald, fought 300 years earlier, in which Polish and Lithuanian forces defeated German Teutonic Knights. In the background is a school building.


More Information

An 1821 census list shows 45 Jewish families in Zolynia Lubomierz, the town center. There were 72 Catholic families.

Austria and its empire did not technically exist until 1804. Before that, the provinces under the control of the Habsburg dynasty based in Vienna had no overall, official name. The ruler of the Habsburg provinces did hold the title of Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, but this was mostly an honorary title.

In 1867, the Austrian Empire was renamed the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austria and Hungary had separate governments, under the same Emperor, in a common union. The Austrian portion of Austria-Hungary, which included Galicia, was officially called Cislethania. The Hungarian portion was called Translethania. These were legal names and were not in common use.


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