Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

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

Calahora Family

A family of physicians, pharmacists, community leaders, and Jewish scholars in Poland from the second half of the sixteenth century until the twentieth century. Branches of the Calahora family were also known by the names Kalahora, Kolahari, Kalafri, Landsberg, and Pozen.

The family evidently originated in Spain. Its first known member, Shelomoh ben Yosef (d. 1597), arrived in Kraków in 1560 from Ferrara, where he had studied medicine. In 1570, he was appointed court physician to King Sigismund Augustus of Poland, continuing in this position during the reign of the king’s eventual successor, Stefan Batory. In addition to serving as a physician and pharmacist, Shelomoh engaged extensively in international trade and land leasing. He is mentioned in Polish sources and by Shelomoh Luria (Responsa, 21) and Mosheh Isserles (Responsa, 30). Luria called Shelomoh “the wise and perfect physician,” and Isserles described him as “the expert, the physician, Rabbi Shelomoh the Lo‘az [Foreigner]” (the term lo‘az hinted at his having come from Italy).

One of Shelomoh’s six sons, Mosheh (d. 1622), continued the Calahora dynasty in Kraków and engaged in commerce, banking, and pharmacology. At some point, he also became a community leader. Another son, Yisra’el Shemu’el, moved to Łęczyce, where he served as rabbi and founded a dynasty of rabbis and preachers who were active mainly in Poznań. He died in 1640.

Mosheh Calahora had a son, David, who died in 1655. David’s son, Matityahu, inherited his father’s pharmacy and became a respected physician. However, he was accused by a Dominican monk, Servatius Hebelli, of blaspheming Jesus and the Virgin and was tried and burned at the stake in Piotrków on 13 December 1663. The Jewish community purchased the remnants of his ashes at a high price and buried them in Kraków’s old Jewish cemetery; this incident was followed by anti-Jewish rioting that was described in detail by both Christian and Jewish writers. The well-known Kraków preacher Berakhyah Berakh, author of the two-part text Zera‘ Berakh (1646; 1662), composed a special memorial prayer in which he described the circumstances of Matityahu’s death: “They bound his hands to the pillar for burning . . . they slashed his mouth and tongue . . . they sliced strips from his living flesh . . . they cremated him entirely . . . they gathered his ashes and placed them in the [cannon], and he became dust and the wind of a storm.” This prayer was recited in Kraków synagogues until the community was destroyed. Aryeh Leib ben Yosef ben Shelomoh Calahora of the Poznań branch of the family met a similar fate. On the basis of a blood libel leveled in 1736, he was arrested and tortured; he died in prison.

Two other famous members of the Calahora family in Kraków were Aharon Kalahora, the first Jewish physician to receive a doctorate of medicine and pharmacology from the University of Kraków (in 1724), and his son, Mendel (d. 1779), who received his medical degree from the University of Frankfurt (an der Oder) and served as a community leader during the anti-Russian Confederation of Bar (1768–1772) and afterward.

Among the best-known writers from the Kalahora family were the aforementioned Yisra’el Shemu’el, author of Yismaḥ Yisra’el 1626), and his grandson, Yosef ben Shelomoh, known as Yosef the Preacher of Poznań (d. 1696), author of Yesod Yosef (1679). Yismaḥ Yisra’el is a compendium of the laws of the Shulḥan ‘arukh in alphabetical order. It was published several times with additional commentaries, but never became popular as a rabbinical legal text. In contrast, Yesod Yosef, which dealt with ways to avoid the sin of keri (nocturnal emissions), did become a success with the public.

Suggested Reading

Majer Bałaban, Toldot ha-yehudim be-Krakov uve-Kaz´imiez´ (Jerusalem, 2002/03); Shelomoh Zalman ben Yosef Landsberg (Posner), To’ar pene Shelomoh (Krotoszyn, Pol., 1869/70).



Translated from Hebrew by I. Michael Aronson