Sephardic Jews of Lublin, Poland

There is much discussion of the Sephardic Jews who settled in the area around Zamosc, Poland in the late 17th century at the invitation of a Polish chancellor named Jan Zamoyski.

Zamosc is between between Lwow (Lemberg) and Lublin.

Jan Zamoyski, who owned and founded the town, became a Western-style academic and promoted Zamosc as an economic center. In 1587, Zamoyski, who had studied in Padua and appreciated the local Jews' erudition and skills, invited Sephardic Jews from Venice and the Ottoman Empire to settle and develop the town, granting them extensive privileges restricted specifically to Jews of Spanish and Portuguese origin.

The Sephardic Jews of Zamosc, according to researcher Kevin Brook, built their first synagogue out of wood from 1590 to 1603 on Zydowska (now Zamenhofa) Street, replaced by a brick synagogue built from 1610 to 1618 on the same street that still stands and served as a public library from 1959 to 2005. The Sephardim were exempt from the Jewish tax Ashkenazim had to pay. Their surnames included Castiell, de Campos, Maimon, Marcus, and Zacuto among others. Some Jews with names identifiable as Sephardic appear in the city's records for decades more -- an example being Moshe Zacuto, who was looking for a house to buy in 1691.

Several dozen Sephardic families settled in Zamosc and were allowed to buy property, engage in trade and crafts, and practice medicine and pharmacy. But the Sephardic population declined after Zamoyski's death, dispersed, and intermarried with Ashkenazim. Many Sephardic Jews lost their language after moving eastward. They largely dropped their Sephardic names and were named according to local Ashkenazic patterns. Only a few traces of their Sephardic origins could be found in such surnames as Abuhow, Alba, Alfus, Algazy, Azyluj, Barbanel, Bondy, Charlap, Domingo, Dylion, Elion Frenk, Karo, Portugies, Rynaldo, Sfard, and Szpanierman. The Szpanierman family lived in the Chelm and Wlodawa districts, among others.

Ninety kilometers northwest of beautiful Zamosc was (and is) the provincial capital of Lublin, Poland. Just as Sephardim settled in Zamosc, there were also Sephardic Jews who settled in nearby Lublin. Rabbi Joseph (Yosef) Delmedigo (1591-1655), a scholar from the Greek island of Crete, lived in Lublin for some years. Delmedigo was a persistent writer on issues related to Talmud, Kabbalah, and science. Some of his descendants are known to have changed their surname to Gorodinsky.

Jewish physicians of Lublin were famous all over Poland, including Solomon Luria, Moses Montalto, and Samuel ben Matithyahu. Montalto, whose name was derived from the town of Montalto in Italy, died in Lublin in 1637. He was a son of a cousin of the Marrano physician Amatus Lusitanus (1511-1568), who was originally from Portugal.

At some point in the 17th century, a synagogue was built in Lublin which prayed in the Sephardic (Spanish-Portuguese) rite. This is direct evidence that Sephardim lived in and around Lublin. Author Kevin Brook discusses the topic of Sephardic Jews in the Lublin and Wolyn districts more in-depth.

The Cymet family of Lublin district, believed to have Sephardic origins.