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The Jewish Community of Lesko

Known as Lisko until 1926

Yiddish: לינסק, Linsk

 

A town in southeastern Poland

 

21ST CENTURY

The Lesko Synagogue was the only synagogue of five to survive the war. The building is located where Berka Joselewicza and Moniuszki streets intersect, and contains offices and exhibits.

Approximately 2,000 tombstones have remained standing in the Jewish cemetery. The cemetery also includes a Holocaust memorial.

 

HISTORY

Jews lived in Lesko from the time that the town was founded in the middle of the 16th century. By 1580 there were 18 Jewish families living in Lesko (approximately 100 people), and a Jewish school was opened.

A synagogue and a hospital for the poor were established in 1608. Another synagogue was built by Lesko’s Sephardic Jewish community between 1626 and 1654.

Life was not easy for the Jews of Lesko during the 18th century. In 1704 the town was burned down by the Swedish Army, and 303 Jews died during a plague that broke out shortly thereafter. A dispute between the Jewish communities of Lesko and Sanok lasted from 1705 until 1724 and required the intervention of the Council of the Lands. At one point the economic situation of the Jews of Lesko was dire enough that in 1768 the Polish Sejm paused the repayment of the community’s debts to the government.

The census of 1765 recorded 587 Jews as living in Lesko (out of a total of 1,656), making it the largest Jewish community in the area.

At the end of the 18th century Lesko became a Chasidic center. The community’s rabbi was Samuel Shmelke b. Mordecai.

A German-Jewish school (Deutsche-Judische Schule) opened in 1792 and existed along with the traditional cheders. Later, during the 20th century a Beis Ya’akov school opened, which gave wealthy girls a chance to pursue a Jewish education.   

The Jewish community grew and became increasingly successful during the 19th century. They dominated local trade and crafts; more than 80% of the local industry was owned by Jews.

During the interwar period a number of organizations became active in Lesko, including Tarbut, a Gemilut Chassadim fund, a chevra kaddisha, and Yad Charuzim. Politically, many of Lesko’s Jews were active in Poale Zion, Agudas Yisroel, the Yemenite Association, Mizrachi, or the (illegal) Communist Party of Western Ukraine. Active youth groups included Tsukunft, Betar, HaShomer HaTzair, and HaNoar HaTzioni. There was also a printing house and a Jewish credit union.

The Jewish community numbered 1,976 in 1880 and 2,400 in 1921 (approximately 63% of the total population).

In Galician Jewish folklore, the Jews of Lesko were portrayed as "wise fools," similar to the stories told of Chelm.

 

THE HOLOCAUST

In September 1939, just after the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945), Lesko came under the control of the German Army, which occupied it for only a few weeks. It was then occupied by the Soviets, who appointed a member of the local Jewish community as the town’s governor. As a result of the Soviet occupation, a number of Jews from other areas occupied by the Germans fled to Lesko, substantially increasing the local Jewish population. Things were not always calm under the Soviet occupation, however; as in all of the areas that they occupied, Jews who were considered to be members of the bourgeois were deported to the Russian interior.

After Germany and Russia went to war in 1941, Lesko was occupied by the German army in June 1941. A ghetto was established in the spring of 1942.

On August 14, 1942 approximately 100 elderly and disabled Jews were killed at the local cemetery. The remaining Jews were deported to Zaslaw. Lesko’s Jewish cemetery remained a location for carrying out executions and mass killings.

 

POSTWAR

The Jewish community was not reestablished after the war.

 

Place Type:
Town
ID Number:
220258
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:

Max Melech Freilich (1893-1986) Australian communal leader. Born in Lesko, he graduated from the University of Vienna in 1919 and went to Australia in 1927. There he directed a paper industry in Sydney. He was president of the Australian Zionist Federation, 1953-57 and of the Australian Keren Hayesod 1942-57. He was also vice-president of of the New South Wales Board of Deputies and chairman of the board of governors of King David School. He wrote Twenty-Five Years of Keren Hayesod.

Tsevi Hirsh (?-1874) Hasidic rabbi.

He traveled extensively to visit the leading hasidic authorities of his time, studying mainly under Hayyim Halberstamm of Zanz. Friedman was the author of Akh Peri Tevuah ,homilies on the Pentateuch. His son-in-law, Hayyim Friedlander of Lesko (died 1904), was the author of novellae on talmudic subjects and on the Pentateuch.

LESKO, LISKO Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives. The surname Lesko is associated with Lesko (in German Lisko, and in Yiddish Lisk), a town in south east Poland where Jews lived since the mid 16th century.
The Old Jewish Cemetery in Lesko,
Poland, 1976
Photo: Monika Krajewska, Poland
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Monika Krajewska, Poland)
Exterior of the fortress synagogue, from the
17th century, Lesko, Poland, 1990
In the western front are an observation tower
and the 10 tablets
It was destroyed, reconstructed and
today it is an art gallery
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Tami Manor, Jerusalem)
TOMBSTONES IN THE JEWISH CEMETERY.
LESKO, POLAND, 1968.
PHOTO: TADEUSZ KOWALSKI, POLAND.
(BETH HATEFUTSOTH PHOTO ARCHIVE,
COURTESY OF TADEUSZ KOWALSKI, POLAND)
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The Jewish Community of Lesko

Known as Lisko until 1926

Yiddish: לינסק, Linsk

 

A town in southeastern Poland

 

21ST CENTURY

The Lesko Synagogue was the only synagogue of five to survive the war. The building is located where Berka Joselewicza and Moniuszki streets intersect, and contains offices and exhibits.

Approximately 2,000 tombstones have remained standing in the Jewish cemetery. The cemetery also includes a Holocaust memorial.

 

HISTORY

Jews lived in Lesko from the time that the town was founded in the middle of the 16th century. By 1580 there were 18 Jewish families living in Lesko (approximately 100 people), and a Jewish school was opened.

A synagogue and a hospital for the poor were established in 1608. Another synagogue was built by Lesko’s Sephardic Jewish community between 1626 and 1654.

Life was not easy for the Jews of Lesko during the 18th century. In 1704 the town was burned down by the Swedish Army, and 303 Jews died during a plague that broke out shortly thereafter. A dispute between the Jewish communities of Lesko and Sanok lasted from 1705 until 1724 and required the intervention of the Council of the Lands. At one point the economic situation of the Jews of Lesko was dire enough that in 1768 the Polish Sejm paused the repayment of the community’s debts to the government.

The census of 1765 recorded 587 Jews as living in Lesko (out of a total of 1,656), making it the largest Jewish community in the area.

At the end of the 18th century Lesko became a Chasidic center. The community’s rabbi was Samuel Shmelke b. Mordecai.

A German-Jewish school (Deutsche-Judische Schule) opened in 1792 and existed along with the traditional cheders. Later, during the 20th century a Beis Ya’akov school opened, which gave wealthy girls a chance to pursue a Jewish education.   

The Jewish community grew and became increasingly successful during the 19th century. They dominated local trade and crafts; more than 80% of the local industry was owned by Jews.

During the interwar period a number of organizations became active in Lesko, including Tarbut, a Gemilut Chassadim fund, a chevra kaddisha, and Yad Charuzim. Politically, many of Lesko’s Jews were active in Poale Zion, Agudas Yisroel, the Yemenite Association, Mizrachi, or the (illegal) Communist Party of Western Ukraine. Active youth groups included Tsukunft, Betar, HaShomer HaTzair, and HaNoar HaTzioni. There was also a printing house and a Jewish credit union.

The Jewish community numbered 1,976 in 1880 and 2,400 in 1921 (approximately 63% of the total population).

In Galician Jewish folklore, the Jews of Lesko were portrayed as "wise fools," similar to the stories told of Chelm.

 

THE HOLOCAUST

In September 1939, just after the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945), Lesko came under the control of the German Army, which occupied it for only a few weeks. It was then occupied by the Soviets, who appointed a member of the local Jewish community as the town’s governor. As a result of the Soviet occupation, a number of Jews from other areas occupied by the Germans fled to Lesko, substantially increasing the local Jewish population. Things were not always calm under the Soviet occupation, however; as in all of the areas that they occupied, Jews who were considered to be members of the bourgeois were deported to the Russian interior.

After Germany and Russia went to war in 1941, Lesko was occupied by the German army in June 1941. A ghetto was established in the spring of 1942.

On August 14, 1942 approximately 100 elderly and disabled Jews were killed at the local cemetery. The remaining Jews were deported to Zaslaw. Lesko’s Jewish cemetery remained a location for carrying out executions and mass killings.

 

POSTWAR

The Jewish community was not reestablished after the war.

 

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Max Melech Freilich

Max Melech Freilich (1893-1986) Australian communal leader. Born in Lesko, he graduated from the University of Vienna in 1919 and went to Australia in 1927. There he directed a paper industry in Sydney. He was president of the Australian Zionist Federation, 1953-57 and of the Australian Keren Hayesod 1942-57. He was also vice-president of of the New South Wales Board of Deputies and chairman of the board of governors of King David School. He wrote Twenty-Five Years of Keren Hayesod.

Tsevi Hirsh Friedman of Lesko

Tsevi Hirsh (?-1874) Hasidic rabbi.

He traveled extensively to visit the leading hasidic authorities of his time, studying mainly under Hayyim Halberstamm of Zanz. Friedman was the author of Akh Peri Tevuah ,homilies on the Pentateuch. His son-in-law, Hayyim Friedlander of Lesko (died 1904), was the author of novellae on talmudic subjects and on the Pentateuch.

LESKO
LESKO, LISKO Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives. The surname Lesko is associated with Lesko (in German Lisko, and in Yiddish Lisk), a town in south east Poland where Jews lived since the mid 16th century.
The Old Jewish Cemetery in Lesko, Poland, 1976
The Old Jewish Cemetery in Lesko,
Poland, 1976
Photo: Monika Krajewska, Poland
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Monika Krajewska, Poland)
The Fortress synagogue in Lesko, Poland, 1990
Exterior of the fortress synagogue, from the
17th century, Lesko, Poland, 1990
In the western front are an observation tower
and the 10 tablets
It was destroyed, reconstructed and
today it is an art gallery
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Tami Manor, Jerusalem)
Tombstones in the Jewish Cemetery, Lesko, Poland, 1968
TOMBSTONES IN THE JEWISH CEMETERY.
LESKO, POLAND, 1968.
PHOTO: TADEUSZ KOWALSKI, POLAND.
(BETH HATEFUTSOTH PHOTO ARCHIVE,
COURTESY OF TADEUSZ KOWALSKI, POLAND)