The Izak Jakubowicz Synagogue


18 Iyar 5781

On 30 April 1630 Izak Jakubowicz [IPA: /ja.kuˈbɔ.vʲit͡ʂ/] received permission from the king to build a synagogue. However, a few words should be written also about the Jakubowicz family, whose pride was Izak, called sometimes familiarly Reb Ayzik or Reb Yekeles. The cornerstone of the family was Moses Eberls, father of Yacob (reb Yekele) or Jakóbek [pron. “Yakoobek”] the Rich, who became an Elder in the Community and a member of the Codifying Committee (“Council of Seven”), which in 1595 prepared the Statutes of the Community. Jekele had two sons: Izak and Moses. Izak Jakubowicz was an Elder of the Community almost all his life (1608-1647), relinquishing power in his old age to his son Moses. Izak had various businesses: he had a pawn shop and traded in gold, silver and silk. He was known as “Izak the Rich” and had his shop near the Old Synagogue in Kazimierz. Jakubowicz lived on the corner with the cemetery, across from the synagogue which he founded, known today as the Izaak Synagogue or Ayzik Synagogue.

Majer Bałaban beautifully describes the building of the synagogue and we yield the floor to him:

When construction had already reached the roof, the parson of the Corpus Domini church, Marcin Kłodziński, complained about it and work was halted. Izak Jakubowicz appealed to the bishop of Kraków, Jakób Zadzika, who wrote to the parson a letter explaining that Jakubowicz had received the permission to build the synagogue from the king. The parson argued, which we know from the bishop’s second letter, that “the street on which Izak is building a synagogue is next to another street, where Christians live and there could be an incident, in which priests would pass next to the synagogue with the holy sacrament”. The Bishop supports the idea of the parson and advises the Jews to be content with the synagogues that they already have. On 8 June 1640 the bishop informs the parson that he will be sending an auditor to Kraków. The issue lasted four years and finally in 1644 could Izak open the synagogue. The building of the synagogue and the difficulties associated with it are immortalised in a legend of the Kraków tradition:

“After that Rabbi Ayzik opened the synagogue with much trouble and difficulties, many people came to wonder at its beauty and hear the songs and the sermons of Rabbi Heller. Noblemen and rich citizens alike came to the new House of the Lord and looked in admiration at the expensive silver and tapestry that the founder had finally been able to give the Community. Such wealth did not escape the attention of the city gossipers and a gang of ruffians decided to attack the House of the Lord and rob during in the night. A youth betrayed this secret to R. Ayzik and right after prayer he sought R. Heller for advice. The wise Rabbi, who had already gone through many mishaps, gave the order to close immediately the gates of the Jewish Town and double the guards. He also said some houses should be locked and that people should stay inside. Since the robbers were likely to get to the city through the cemetery, he advised to look for 26 healthy and courageous Jews, clothe them in shrouds and arm them with stout staffs. Rabbi Ajzik complied with this advice. During the night the robbers tried to get through the Jewish Gate but in spite of their knocking, the gates stayed closed. They climbed over the cemetery to get to the town. There, to their horror, they saw the “dead” standing next to the graves of the Rabbis and tried to run away. The “dead”, having thrown away their shrouds, ran after them and gave them a good beating with the staffs. From that day Rabbi Ajzik was left in peace and could pray in tranquillity in his own synagogue.

Izak Jakubowicz died on 21 June 1653. Apud Balaban, Majer, Historia Żydow w Krakowie i na Kazimierzu 1304-1868, Kraków, 1936.

Translated by Dr D. Cohen, original text in Polish by M. Zajda