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Hirszowicz, Abraham

(fl. 18th century), factor of the Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski (1732–1798), and author of a project aimed at reforming Jewish lifestyles. He was probably the same person as Abraham Hirszewicz, a goldsmith and factor who was granted the status of servitor regis by Poniatowski on 19 January 1775.

Most likely in 1791 or 1792 (the period of the Four-Year Sejm), Hirszowicz presented an undated, seven-clause proposal to reform the status of Polish Jews to the king. The document advocated the following changes:

  1. The removal of restrictions for Jews involved in crafts.
  2. Settling unemployed or poverty-stricken Jews in the countryside, especially in Ukraine.
  3. Drafting poor Jews into paid public works projects (this clause indirectly endorsed an end to the practice of collecting money for poor Jews, as those unable to work would be sent to shelters and hospitals).
  4. The introduction of sumptuary laws, so that funds could be freed up to enliven trade.
  5. Changes in the role of the rabbinate. Hirszowicz was critical of the institution, believing that rabbis exploited Jews and were needed only in the most important communities. He realized, though, that nominations of rabbis brought considerable profit to landowners, so he proposed that communities themselves disburse the fees to the landowners that the candidates themselves previously paid.
  6. The creation of a group of provincial representatives (shtadlonim) in Warsaw to mediate between state authorities and individual communities.
  7. The introduction of age limits for contracting marriage (to 18 years of age for males and 15 for females), as he believed that the custom of early marriage was the major factor behind poverty among Polish Jews.

Although Hirszowicz’s proposal alluded in some instances to other propositions from the time of the Great Sejm, it was vague in its details, and omitted entirely such issues as determining who was to hold legal jurisdiction over Jews. Additionally, it is difficult to determine whether the project was Hirszowicz’s independent initiative or if someone else had inspired it.

Suggested Reading

Artur Eisenbach, Jerzy Michalski, Emanuel Rostworowski, and Janusz Woliński, eds., Materiały do dziejów Sejmu Czteroletniego, vol. 6 (Wrocław, 1969); Maurycy Horn, Regesty dokumentów i ekscerpty z metryki koronnej do historii Żydów w Polsce 1697–1795, vol. 2, Rządy Stanisława Augusta (1764–1795), pt. 1, 1764–1779 (Wrocław, 1984).



Translated from Polish by Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov