A Boon or Bane For Jews


I am indebted to Edward Goldstein, editor of the Gesher Galicia SIGís quarterly journal, The Galitzianer for drawing my interest to the arenda system. I answered Edís call for volunteers to research and write an article on the arenda system for The Galitzianer. During the course of my research, I am grateful that Ed provided me with an abundance of reference materials to supplement what I acquired from the Internet, answered many of my questions, and provided me with his insight on the impacts of the arenda system on Jews.

I submitted my article for evaluation and recommendations to Pamela Weisberger, Research Coordinator for Gesher Galicia. Because of her encouraging evaluation and her excellent suggestions for making the article more interesting and instructive, I decided to make the research and reporting on the arenda system a project in progress. What this means is that this initial posting is just a beginning. It will be revised and expanded as additional information is obtained on Jews that were arendars, the lands and businesses that were involved, the financial and humanistic consequences that were felt by Jews over the ages, and clues that will aid family researchers to identify ancestors that may have been arendars or possibly even magnates.

Without regard to the source of information I take sole responsibility for any errors of omission or commission in the current issue and future issues of the report. I welcome all constructive criticism and any information on arenda terms and conditions, arenda costs, Jews who may have been arendars, lands and businesses that were under arendas, financial rewards earned by arendars, and any government-inspired or privately-instigated anti-Semitic actions perpetrated on arendars.

Alan Weiser
21 February 2004


REVISION A 17 March 2004
This is a tentative Table of Contents subject to future revisions.
These are clickable links to report sections

Section 1 Introduction
Section 2 Magnates and Jews Who Were Arendars
Section 3 Magnatesí Estates
Section 4 Arenda Enterprises
Section 5 Arenda Socioeconomic Impacts On Jews
Section 6 Clues For Identifying Ancestral Arendars
Appendix A Definitions
Appendix B Examples of Arendas
Appendix C References

All parts of this Report are under development. Researchers are needed to aid in the development of each part. If you can help, please contact the KRG Coordinator
to discuss and obtain assignments.

If a term or phrase is defined or explained in Appendix A, the first time that it is used it will appear in bold italic. Can any humanistic system be both a boon and a bane? Why were Jews in particular selected for arenda awards? Who were these Jews that became arendars and carried the burden of managing for Polish and Lithuanian magnatesí latifundium in far off lands? Where were these latifundia located, how large were they, and what enterprises did they house? What impacts were felt by Jews in general and Jewish arendars as a result of the arenda system that existed from about 14th through 18th century? Was it possible that you had ancestors that were at one time arendars and how can you find out? The purpose of the Arenda System Research Project (ASRP) is to develop answers to these questions. The results of this ongoing research will be added to this report periodically.

Polish history was reviewed as it applied to the award of large estates in far off lands to Polish magnates during the late Middle Ages to the first partition of Poland, circa 1772. Austria, Prussia, and Russia imposed the first partition of Poland. It marked the end of the glory days of Jewish arendars. There appears to have been four factors that contributed to the use of the arenda and enabled Jews to benefit from its use at its beginning.
Factor 1: Mass Exodus Of Jews and Growth of Polish Lands. The forced mass exodus of Jews from royal France, England, Portugal, and Spain between 1182 and 1600 generated a mass of Jewish immigrants seeking a new homeland. It was reported that usurious interest charges of Jewish moneylenders coupled with the recurrent famines and pestilence eventually drew intolerance of Jews and caused their expulsions.
In 1241 there was the incorporation of the first Jewish municipality, Wroclaw. A period of reconstruction began then seeking immigrants to repopulate Poland. The first Jewish settlers were from German and other ethnic groups. Due to persecutions and massacres of the 14th (The Black Death) and 15th centuries, there was massive Jewish emigration from Bohemia and Germany of Jews seeking a new homeland. The transfer of Ukraine to Kingdom of Poland occurred in 1569. This provided more frontier lands requiring new settlers and arendars to oversee the development of the lands and the management of production and consumer enterprises.
Polish victories over the Teutonic Order in the West and against Muscovite and Ottoan armies in the East and Southeast led to great expansion of Poland-Lithuania. By 1616 over half of the crown lands in Ukraine were leased out to Jewish arendars. After the union of Poland and Lithuania, Polish magnates steadily gained more land in Lithuania. The Jews there came under Polish magnatesí jurisdictions. The magnates provided opportunities for the Jews to engage in works as physicians, scientists, land managers, tax collectors, and other special activities.
All of this massive growth encouraged Jews expelled from other lands to migrate to the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth.

Factor 2: Skilled Jews Seeking New Homelands. The money-lending, financial management, and business acumen of the Jews then reaching Polish lands were welcome. Before being expelled from Western European countries, Jews had owned land and managed workers. They had these skills that the magnates needed. Jewish industrial organizations were well developed too. In 1147 Jews with advanced technology helped to establish the silk industry in Southern Italy. Dyeing, weaving, tailoring, and the slaughter of animals were other businesses in which Jews excelled. Jews were engaged in pawnbroking and helped to stimulate various crafts. Jews also possessed unique skills as glaziers and operated businesses of shoemakers, basketmakers, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, harness makers, and bookbinders.
The first wave of Jews to arrive in Polish territory were merchants and were referred to as Radhanites. These merchants had international trade experiences over vast distances. They spoke Arabic, Persian, Greek, Spanish, Frankish, and Slav languages. These Jews were valuable additions to Poland which sought to sell agricultural produces abroad and import fineries.

Factor 3: Socio-Political Conditions Encouraging Jewish Immigration. The promise of religious freedom and self-governance were strong incentives for Jews to move into Polish territories. In 1264 Boleslav V. Wstydliwy issued a charter giving Jews complete freedom and imposing heavy penalties for those who would cause Jews bodily harm. He granted Jews a privilege known as Kalisz Statute. This statute and the later Extended Privilege became the major documents regulating Jewish legal and social position in Poland until the 18th century. These documents allowed Jews to engage in trade and moneylending. This open-arms policy of the Polish Court and magnates towards Jewish immigrants encouraged Jews to establish new settlements in frontier lands in what is now eastern Poland and western Ukraine. The policy encouraged Jews to take on management of arendas. These documents ensured the personal protection of Jews, their property, and religion. They allowed the creation of such institutions as the Kehila/Kahal and the Council of Four Lands. In 1573 the Confederation of Warsaw guaranteed religious tolerance.

Although it would seem that magnates would select Jews for an arenda based on the personís ability to pay the cost of the arenda and his capabilities as a manager. As it turned out in many cases it was the Kahal that selected the arendar for the maganate. Council edits of 1671 and 1677 prohibited Jews from leasing estates or farming from Poles without the knowledge of the Kahals to which they belonged. These orders gave authority to the Kahals to require Jews to purchase licenses in order to bid on arendas. The Kahal would issue a liciense for a fee. The Kahal tried to prohibit Jews from using Gentile silent partners to get around the bidding for an arenda without a license. Magnates did not have to adhere to the licensing system, they did so when it was to their economic advantage. Once a Jew had an arenda he could continue with it, generally without competition from other Jews who adhered to the Kahal edicts.

Factor 4:Economic Opportunities Influencing Jewish Immigration. In 1386 Queen Jadwiga of Poland married Wladyslaw Jagiello, Grand Duke of Lithuania. Jagiello became King of Poland-Lithuania. The Jagiellonian Kings reined for nearly 200 years. During their rein, Poland was able to expand its territory. In the 1500s Poland reached its peak controlling a large portion of central Europe, including Ukraine and parts of Russia. These lands were awarded to various nobles.

At the end of the 16th century the nobility was becoming more oligarchic. Magnates were distinguished by their wealth and land holdings. These holdings were increasing particularly in the areas of southeastern Poland and the Ukraine. More information on the extent of these holding is provided in Section 3. They were the ones who were entitled to property or rights and transferred the property or rights to arendars for a predetermined rent or fee. Because the nobility either did not have the skills to manage their far off holdings or the desire to do so, it made good economic sense to lease out to Jews who possessed the skills to produce sufficient income to support the estate and the willingness to settle in frontier lands. Jews were forbidden by law to own land, but they were allowed to lease it. More information on Jews who were arendars is provided in Section 2. Section 6 gathers together those characteristics which were exhibited by Jewish arendars and offers clues on how to identify ancestors that may have been arendars. By leasing lands and concessions the magnate could reduce short term financial risk while obtaining a fixed income. More information on the enterprises included in arendas is provided in Section 4. The magnate was protected where potential income from the lease was underestimated and sold for too low a price by providing only short term leases. Leases often did not exceed three years and in some cases were only one year long. When the lease expired the magnate could then obtain a higher price on the next contract or seek another arendar for the lease. It was said that some Jewish arendars paid bribes to representatives of the magnate to avoid paying a higher price for the next lease. Arendars stuck with leases that produced less than the expected income, would try to obtain discounts on the next lease. Depending on the particular magnate, a discount might be taken or the arendar was forced to continue under the same terms. More on this in Section 5. One of the functions of the Kehila/Kahal was to prevent Jews from competing with each other for arendas and thus raising the price of an arenda. A Jew failing to adhere to Kahal laws could be excommunicated from the Jewish community. These short term leases and other controls put considerable pressure on the Jewish arendar to produce sufficient income to please the magnate as well as provide the Jew with a suitable profit. The Kahal tried to limit the arbitrary power the Jewish major arendar held over his sub-arendars. Well into the 18th century the Kahal tried to regulate the involvement of Jewish arendars as they entered into different types of leases. As it proved to be more profitable the Kehilot leaders attempted to tax the profits of individual Jews. Such payments plus those to magnates and king combined with large scale Jewish povety led to enormous community debt. Often in reaction to this pressure the Jewish arendars applied harsh measures to their serfs to ensure high productivity as soon as possible. There was considerable anti-Semitic backlash resulting from this interaction. This subject is covered more fully in Section 5.

It is believed that there were no more than 10 to 20 families in each generation who were of this aristocratic magnate class. Due to generally weak central Polish government, magnates held considerable power in determining the course the country would take in civil, military, and financial matters. The magnate held absolute authority over his latifundium. The magnate was the legislature, the judiciary, commander of his military, the governing body, and executioner when needed. The magnate was a tough one to do business with, yet Jewish arendars flourished. The magnate owed certain obligations to his arendars; such as, providing soldiers to keep out those who would violate the arendarís monopolies and enforcing workloads on serfs. Because it was just good business economics, the magnate did whatever he could to protect his Jews during times of wars from without or revolts from within. The Jews made a profit for the magnate, as well as themselves.

The successes of Jewish arendars in making profits from what seemed to be unprofitable lands and enterprises and obtaining high yields from mandatory loans is said to have been their ability to take advantage of their international connections. Connections they established while they resided in Middle Eastern and Western European countries. These successes encouraged the continued use of Jews as arendars.



This Section is under development. Research are needed to search various Polish and possibly Lithunanian and Ukrainian archives, generally online, for personal records of magnates. Among these personal records generally will be found copies of arendas. Once an arenda is located and reviewed it is possible to obtain names of arendars as well as terms and conditions of the arenda, what land was covered and/or what production or service facilities were covered. Language skills between English and Polish, Lithunanian, and Ukrainian are particularly needed. Assistance is need to obtain and translate magnates papers stored in various archives which may contain arendas.

References (14) and (15) have provided the names of many magnates. Additionally reference (15) identifies archives where personal papers of some of those magnates are stored.
MAGNATES Alojza (Anna)Bartoszewicz, Brankicki, Bruchnalski, Bykhovets, Chodkiewicz, Czajkowski, Czartoryski (Augustus Alexander), Derkach, Dernalowicz, Dizieduszycki, Godebski, Gorski, Gizycki, Glinsky (Michael), Halahan, Hochendorf, Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen, Jablonowski, Jazlowietski, Jelski, Kalinowski, Khanenko, Kizgaylo, Klucz (Sieniawa and Oleszyce), Koidell, Komorowski (Jacob) (obtained Wielkie Oczy from Laszce), Kondratev, Koniecpolski, Kossakowski, Krasinski, Lanckoronski, Leski, Laszce (obtained Wielkie Oczy from Modrewski), Lopacinski, Lubecki, Lubiensky, Lubomirski, Lukashevych, Mierzejewski, Mniszech, Modrewski (Andrej) (owned Wielkie Oczy), Myklashevskyl, Ogjnski y h. Oginiec, Ostrog, Osslinsky h. Topor, Paskevich, Passek, Pestov, Pininski (Count Leonard)(owned town of Grzymalow), Plater owie h wlasnego, Pociej, Pontiatowsky y h. Ciolek, Potocki h. lplawa (Andri) (owned Stanislaviv later to be come Ivano-Frankivsk), Raczynski, Radziwill h. Traby, Rakov (owned Zavisha), Romer, Rosenberg (Wilhelm von), Rosenberg (Peter), Rumiantsev, Rzewuski, Sambirski, Sanguszko, Sapieha, Sapiezanka (Anna), Shcherbynyn, Sieniawski (Maria Sofia), Sienicki (Michail), Skoropadssky, Slizien, Sluszka, Starz,nski, Storozhenko, troganov, Sulkowski, Sushchanski-Proskura, Tarnowski, Tereshchenko, Treter, Tyzenhauz, Vasilchikov, Weyssenhoff, Wielpolski, Wisniowjecki (Jeremi), Zabiello, Zagare-Gruzdziai, Zamojski (Maurycy), Zydowski



A latifundium could consist of hundred of villages and towns with populations totaling into the tens of thousands. It could be producing hundreds of thousands of zloty in annual income and expenditures. The latifundium generally was organized into complexes. Each complex may have contained 2 to 10 manors, several towns, some 20 villages and a residence for the owner or general manger. Complexes were sometimes adjacent and were called a territory, barony, or after the 1750s a district. Often complexes were not adjacent to each other but located throughout Polish lands. Magnate lands were obtaied or lost due to purchase or sales or eresults of war, inherited or given away, or as royal leases.
Just to give an example of some latifundia sizes, consider the combined holdings of the magnates Maria Zofia Sieniawski and Augusts Alexander Czartoryski at the time of their marriage in 1731. Their propertiers were not contiguous but were spread over an area aproximately 539 miles (860 km) East-West by 539 miles (860 km) North-South. Some major towns that were not part of their properties but were located within the area defined included: Pozan to the far West, Panevezis to the far North, Mahilou to the far east, and Stanyslaviv (now Ivano-Frankisk) to the far South. Warsaw and Cracow were also within the defined boundaries. The following villages and towns are believed to have become part of galicia in 1772 were part of the Sieniawski-Czartoryski holdings: Kalush, Burshtyn, Berezhany, Skole, and Pidhorodtsi.
A somewaht smalled latifundium was owned by Sieniawa and Oleszyce Klucz in 1716-1724. It was about 18 miles (29 km) East-West by 9 miles (14 km) North South. To the far East was the town of Sieniwawa and to the far West was the town of Oleszyce, namesakes of the owners.


Arendas generally were classified as Great Arenda or Agricultural Arenda. Great Arenda referred to leases of public revenue and monopolies. It included leases of royal revenues and functions like the mint, salt mines, customs, and tax farming. Jews did have some administrative positions on the larger estates and also served the lower nobility and competed with Christian administrators of crown lands. With the introduction of monetary trade Jews were involved with mints producing coins bearing the Polish Kingís name. The lettering however was in Hebrew. In 1538 the Polish Sejm (diet) prohibited the lease of royal revenues to Jews. The Council of Four Lands in 1580 following the lead of the Polish Court forbade Jews to take Great Arendas.

Agricultural Arenda referred to the leases of landed estates or specific areas of agriculture, forestry, or processing. Jews did flourish in taking Agricultural Arenda, especially in the processing branch. These arendas included grain production, distillery operation, tavern (liquor) monopolies, furrier, tanning, saw mills, salt mines, grain warehousing, tobacco sales, and dairy production. In 16th centurya tavern was not just a place for to drink and eat. It served as a general store and an inn. Arenda even included development of towns and villages especially in frontier lands of Western Ukraine. These towns and villages later became part of Austrian Galicia after the first partition of Poland in 1772.
A large arenda covered several types of services or products. The arendar of such a large lease would then sublease individual services and products to sub-arendar. It was estimated that for the hundreds of major arendars there were perhaps thousands of sub-arendars. The Ostrorog fasmily lands were said to have 4,000 arendars. By using major arendars the latifundium administrator limited the number of arendars that were dealt with. The major arendar by subleasing could spread his investment lease risk among many sub-arendars and ensure that he would receive a fixed income and profit. The Jews of Rzeszow in late 18th century were involved with leasing of liquor stills, beer breweries, tavern keeping, and operating banquet halls.



This section is under development and needs volunteer researchers especially with Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian language skills.

Arenda system impacts on Jews were mainly in terms of economic meaning income or debt and/or societal meaning respect and dependency on the one hand or anti-semitic behavior on the other. The fee for an arenda varied with the size of the land or rights conveyed. generally speaking such fees were considered very high. Depending on how the Jewish arendar was able to pay for the lease determined whether he led a enriched life relatively soon or whether he was soon buried in debt and struggled to barely make a livelihood. Three distinct methods for paying for a lease were:
1. When the Jew and his family was expelled from other countries he came to the new land with considerable personal property of substantial value which could be sold or traded to raise the arenda fee. The method would produce profit early on.
2. The Jew or his family members may have had craft, merchant, or trading skills which could be put to use in the new land to raise funds. This method took a bit longer for the Jew to become an arendar and increase his income substantially.
3. The Jew had to take a loan to pay for the arenda fee with the expectation that the lease would produce enough icome to pay back the loan with interest and produce suffient income to support a decent standard of living. This method ws the most risky. If the lease was for poor holdings and/or the arendar lacked the skills to make sufficient income, the Jew became a debtor and worked to pay off the loan with little left for a decent standard of living for himself and family. It was also possible that any combination of the three methods could be used whenever conditions warranted it.
Above all else it must be remembered that magnates were ever-chasing the financial gain. They had enormous expenses to keep them in the lifestyle they desired. Selling leases often gave them immediate cash to pay off their exiting debts as well as to allow them to make new to purchases. In some cases arrenda fees were not paid all at once. Often the contract called for quarterly payments. Even then the arendar was not expected to pay the quarterly sum in one payment. The magnate could issue payment requests whenever funds were needed. The arendar then was obligated to make the payment upon request. The total of all payment requests could not exceed the total designated for the quarter. Failure to make a payment could result in loss of both the arendarís and his communityís personal property. These payment requests which could arrive without prior notice and as often as needed were a terrible burden on arendars. The problem was that the arrival of the request often did not coincide with the income generated by the leasde, so the arendar had to have some backup funds or chance losing his personal property.

The arendar, especially a major arendar had to have a many faceted personality in order to deal effectively with magnates, latifundium administrators, townspeople, Kahals, merchants, sub-arendars, the Jewish commuinity, with the Gentiles, who sought to takeover his profitable arenda, and with his serfs. Being a Jewish arendar drew some societal impacts not only on himself but on the Jewish community too. The Jew as an arendar appeared so often that it was common to use the term Jew and arendar interchangeably. Consequently, the negative impacts that felt upon the Jewish arendar also fell upon the Jewish community at-large.



This Section is under development. Research are needed to search various Polish and possibly Lithunanian and Ukrainian archives, generally online, for personal records of magnates. Among these personal records generally will be found copies of arendas. Once an arenda is located and reviewed it is possible to obtain names of arendars as well as terms and conditions of the arenda, what land was covered and/or what production or service facilities were covered. Language skills between English and Polish, Lithunanian, and Ukrainian are particularly needed.


Arenda: The arenda has been defined by the University of Virginia in its course on European Jewry as a system of leasing property in early modern Poland in which in exchange for a predetermined rent the lessor agreed to transfer to the leasee control over property or rights; thus, enabling the lessee to pocket any income produced from the leased property or rights. The arenda provided a livilhood for a significant proportion of Polish Jewish families.
Arendars: An arendar, or sometimes called an arendator, was the leasee in an arenda contract.
Council of Four Lands: The Council of Four Lands was the central body of jewish autonomy for nearly two centuries, mid 16th to mid 18th century. In the latter part of the 16th century the various Kahals met in Lublin to creaye a supreme Jewish Council to oversee Jewish affairs in the lands of Poland (Great and Little), Lithuania, and Polish Russia initially. The council was initially called the Council of Lands. At later meetings the council was re-organized to cover 5 lands: Great Poland, Little Poland, Russia, Lithuania, and Volhynia. Eventually the organization was designated the Council of Four Lands and was comprised of Great Poland with capital in Posen, Little Poland with capital in Cracow, Polish or Red Russia which included Podlia and Galicia with capital in Lemberg, and Volhynia with capital in Ostrog or Kremenetz.

The Council was well suited to respond to the geographical spread and administrative position of Jews in the expanding use of the arenda in far-flung lands. The Council as well as local Kehila tried to control allocation of arendas so that Jews would not undermine each other or accept financial terms that they could not meet. The Council had the power to issue injunctions and binding decisions as well as to apply penalties for infractions. In 1581 the Council issued an edict to try and enforce moral ethics into the conduct of arenda management. The edict required that Jews not participate in the royal tax on drink nor shopuld they particiapte in the lease of mints, salt mines, or the collection of custom duties. Although the primary purpose of the Council was to protect the rights of Jews from overbearing government, it was not always successful. The Council compromised when it had to in order for the impact on Jews to be the lessor of two evils. In 1623 Lithuania withdrew from the Council. The Lithuanian Kehila in 1624 approved the Jewish taking of leases on collection of tolls. In 1764 the Polish Diet ordered the Council of Four Lands to be discontinued. This resulted in the removal of protection for Jews in remote areas from the capriciousness of the gentry.
Kehila/Kahal: Each Jewish settlement usually had a Kehila. The Kehila was a community organization set up to govern the Jewish community and would interface with the Council of Four Lands and gentile guilds and groups. The Kehila organization included administrative, judicial, religious, and charitable functions. The Kehila was controlled by a council called the Kahal. Elected elders were in charge of assessment of community taxes, charitable groups and other non-religious functions. The rabbis were in charge of religious and judicial functions. The Kahal as the governing coucil was empowered to establish standards for Jewish living and business, to adjudge complaints between Jews, and issue settlements of cases.
Latifundium: The vast lands held by magnates were called latifundium. The term is borrowed from the Latin. The Hutchinson Encyclopedia provides as a definition: In ancient Rome a large agricultural estate designed to make maximum use of cheap labor, whether free or slaves. In present day Italy, Spain, and South America, the definition expands to include, in the interests of absentee landlords. The Polish magnate latifundium would include in addition to agriculture, mining, fishing, mills, brewing and commercial establishments. The cheap labor on magnate estates were called serfs.
Magnates: All magnates were nobles, but not all nobles were magnates. In some case nobles were impovished and their homes were only distinguishable from those of serfs in that they were allowed to display a coat-of-arms. A noble generally became a magnate when large tracts of land were bestowed on the magnate by the Kingís Court. Lands could be lost or gained through sales or purchases, as the result of wars, inherited or given away, and as a result of royal leases.
Serfs: The serfs were tied to the lands. They depended on the magnates and arrendars to provide rations and other goods in exchange for many hours of hard labor. They were taxed heavily and were restricted from moving to other regions. The serf could be sold with the land by the landowner or leased as was the case with arendas.



This Appendix is under development. Volunteer researchers, Polish and Lithuanian to and from English translators, and donations are required to find, acquire, and translate arendas.
If you can help, please contact the KRG Coordinator.


1. Levine, Hillel, Economic Origins of Anti-Semitism, Poland and Its Jews in the Early Modern Period,Yale University press, New Haven, 1991.
2. Rosman, M.J., The Lordís Jews-Magnate-Jewish Relations in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth During the 18th Century, Center for Jewish Studies, Harvard Judiac Texts and Stduies, VII Harvard Ukrainina Research Institute, Monograph Series, Cambridge, MA, 1990.
3. Barton, Salo W., et al, Economic History of the Jews, Schocken Books, 1975.

1., Council Of Four Lands.
2., Jews in Poland.
3., Poland: Fundamental Facts, Figures and Regulations(c).
4., The History of the Jews of Rzeszow.
5., The History of the Jews in Belekhov at the end of the 18th Century.
6., A closer Look At Poland and eastern Europe.
7., Joe Fibelís Book Review of Dr. Yaffa Eliachsís, "There Once Was A World".
8., .
9., Role of the Jews in the Lublin Union, The Nobility, Mid 16th Century.
10., Jewish-Polish Relations, A Historical Survey, Wladyslaw T. Bartoszewski.
11., History of the Jews in Poland.
12. http://freepages.genealogy/heritage/history/chronology.html, Heritage:History.
13., Glossary.


Copyright © 2004 Alan Weiser

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