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Reizes Brothers

(also Reizeles; Raices; and Ickowicz), rabbis and martyrs. Ḥayim ben Yitsḥak Reizes (1687–1728), a wealthy and educated man who knew Latin, served as a rabbi in Kamionka and a rabbinic judge in Lwów, and was a delegate to the Ruthenian Jewish council. His brother Yehoshu‘a ben Yitsḥak (1697–1728) was head of a yeshiva in Lwów.

In the spring of 1728 both brothers were accused of encouraging a conversion to Judaism and of profaning Catholic cult objects. The basis of the accusation was the testimony of Jan Filipowicz, a Jew who had been baptized in the Uniate Church and then returned to Judaism. As a Christian apostate, Filipowicz was arrested and tortured. He confessed that he had been persuaded to apostasize by rabbis, whom he also accused of desecrating a crucifix. Filipowicz’s confession led to the arrest of many Jews from Lwów and its surroundings. Eventually, the Reizes brothers, along with Rabbi Ḥayim Leyzorowicz and a Jew called Moshek, were put on trial; they were accused of kidnapping Filipowicz, imprisoning him for four weeks in a cellar, and threatening him with death to make him reembrace Judaism before trying to smuggle him to Turkey. According to the charges, they tried to clean traces of holy oil off Filipowicz as well as trampling and burning a crucifix that he wore.

In the presence of high-ranking officials, a district court in Lwów sentenced the Reizes brothers to the harshest and most humiliating punishment—quartering and burning at the stake. Leyzorowicz seems to have escaped, and Yehoshu‘a hanged himself. Jesuits, who also participated in the trial, tried to persuade Ḥayim Reizes to convert. When he did not, he was brutally tortured, quartered, and then burned at the stake together with the body of his brother on 13 May 1728. The Lwów Jewish community purchased the ashes, which they buried in the local cemetery.

Annually on the day before Shavu‘ot, a penitentiary prayer dedicated to the memory of the Reizes brothers was read aloud in the synagogue in Lwów and in surrounding towns. The brothers were also commemorated in an acrostic poem by Aryeh Leib ben Yitsḥak Shapiro. The court ordered the property of the accused to be confiscated, with the proceeds to be spent on fortifications and on a stone sculpture of a crucified Jesus Christ, erected in front of an Orthodox church in Lwów. Though Jan Filipowicz was rebaptized, he was convicted of apostasy, beheaded, and burned.

Suggested Reading

Majer Bałaban, Dzielnica żydowska (1935; rpt., Warsaw, 1990), pp. 34–37; Jakub Radliński, Prawda chrześciańska od nieprzyjaciela swego zeznana (Lublin, 1753); G. Ia. Syrkin, “Elegiia na smert’ l’vovskikh muchenikov,” Evreiskaia starina 1.2 (1909): 277–281.



Translated from Polish by Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov