Ark doors from the Bocian synagogue. Kraków, seventeenth century. Inscribed above the doors is the Hebrew saying: "Be strong as a leopard, light as an eagle, fleet as a stag, and strong as a lion [to do the will of thy Father]" (Pirke avot 5: 23). Heichal Shlomo Wolfson Museum, Jerusalem, Israel. (Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY)

Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Bocian, Volf

(d. 1625), merchant and banker. Although the Bocian family (also known as Poper or Popper) probably originated in Chęciny, its members were living in Kraków from the end of the fifteenth century. Volf (Ze’ev) Bocian, son of Yisra’el Gershon, was a merchant who became a supplier to the royal court of Sigismund III Waza.

Bocian maintained extensive trade contacts throughout Poland and exported goods through Gdańsk. Various enterprises connected him with Silesian cities, in particular Wrocław, as well as German ones such as Cologne. He also had ties to Vienna and Prague, the hometowns of his son-in-law and daughter-in-law. Trading in such goods as wool or saltpeter, Bocian owned at least two houses in Kazimierz near Kraków. One of these had three stores, two of which were rented by other merchants. He also operated a warehouse in Kraków on Bracka Street.

Bocian’s wealth aroused envy. A seventeenth-century antisemitic writer, Sebastian Miczyński, claimed that Bocian owned seven stores in Kraków and had suppliers in numerous towns. Miczyński estimated Bocian’s wealth at 300,000 florins. However, Bocian’s last will, which has been preserved, contradicts this information.

Bocian married Tsirel, the daughter of the influential Kraków merchant Yehudah Leib Landau; she died in 1621. Bocian’s progeny included Yehudah Leib (Lewek; d. 1647); Tsevi Hirsh (Jeleń; d. 1641); Eli‘ezer (Lazar; d. 1635); Yisakhar Ber (Marek; d. 1648); Salomon (Slama; d. 1652); and a daughter, Roza. Bocian’s sons were prominent merchants but never achieved their father’s level of eminence. The most active were Marek and Lewek, the latter holding office in the community in 1631–1632.

In 1620, Bocian founded a synagogue in Kazimierz on Szeroka street, called Synagoga Bociana, with a bet midrash next to it. The synagogue’s building still exists, now housing a cultural center.

Suggested Reading

Majer Bałaban, Historja Żydów w Krakowie i na Kazimierzu, 1304–1868, vol. 1, pp. 271–277 (Kraków, 1931), also available in Hebrew trans. (Jerusalem, 2002); Jan M. Małecki, “Jewish Trade at the End of the Sixteenth Century and in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century,” in The Jews in Old Poland, 1000–1795, ed. Antony Polonsky, Jakub Basista, and Andrzej Link-Lenczowski, pp. 267–281 (London, 1993).



Translated from Polish by Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov