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5, Pidvalna Street

The Arsenal Museum

Let's return to Pidvalna Street and take a few steps to the City Arsenal, turn the corner, and here we are in the Jewish Quarter. The evidence of the Jewish community in Lviv is found in the oldest of the city documents. The scarcity of living space made the fast growing community split in the 14th century when part of the Jews moved into the "city in the fortress", while the rest stayed in the Krakiwske outskirts. The "old" and "new" Jews did not get on too well. Jewish Quarter in Lviv

Trading, finance and some crafts were the predominant occupations of the local Jews. The community, controlled by the head of Kahal, lived by their own laws, sometimes different from the city legislation. Such religious and ethnical alienation evoked suspicion and caused pogroms.

On Koliivschyna Square (a weird name for the Jewish Quarter) there are the remains of the well, which once was used by the Jewish community. Water was strategically important in wartime, and a convincing argument of any economic policy. Many Jews were involved in bootlegging home-brewed beer and vodka. Knowing that the Jews' financial possibilities were unlimited, the city plumber would turn off the water and demand extra taxes. Such an ultimatum resulted in fierce conflagrations. In addition to this, the illegal production of spirits in wooden premises led to fires, which sometimes burnt down large parts of the city.

The life of the Lviv's Jewish community concentrated around Staroevreiska (Old Jewish) Street. Divided into three parts in the old days, it was finally united into one street in 1871. The amount of currency exchange offices gave the street a new name, Veksliarska (Bill) Street. Due to the lack of land and the swiftly growing Jewish population, it became harder to find a living space in the ghetto. Even today one notices the difference in the ceiling height of floors in the Jewish buildings, with the upper floors being considerably smaller. Even if you make yourself enter one of the courtyards in the district, you won't stay there long.

Among other residential buildings down Staroevreiska Street N 36 is notable for the architectural decor of its facade. Commencing 1784 the ground floor of the building was occupied by a non-ferrous metals warehouse that belonged to Jacob Rokhmis. The decoration and arrangement of the windows and entrance doors give an idea of economic development of the Quarter. In the 18th century one of the neighboring buildings (NN 30, 32, 34) housed a stable and a wax factory. The latter was under the close surveillance of city authorities. Wax was considered a strategically important good, thus any counterfeiting was punished severely. Sometimes counterfeiters were sentenced to death. The most widely spread way of counterfeiting wax was by adding ground peas.

The synagogue, known as the „Golden Rose”, constitutes the main attraction of the Jewish Quarter. According to some sources, its floor was decorated with a mosaic rose, thus giving the name to the whole edifice. In 1580 the wealthy merchant Isaac Nakhmanovych acquired a plot of land to construct a house (27, Fedorova Street) and a chapel built in 1582 by architect P. Schaslyvy. First, it was named the Turhei Zakhav (The Golden Gate).

Yet, monks of the Jesuit order dug out a document confirming that the plot once had belonged to the catholic priest D. Seniavsky and the synagogue was confiscated. "All the Lviv Jews were weeping in grief..." A popular (though not necessarily veritable) Lviv legend goes that the monks couldn't get into the synagogue, as they first had to cross the Nakhmanovych's yard. That was private property, which means - no trespassing... Meanwhile, the Nakhmanovych's daughter-in-law, named Rosa, was delegated to negotiate the matter with the King. She returned home with a document certifying that the synagogue belonged to the family. After Rosa's death, an inscription was placed on her tombstone, saying that here lies the most venerable woman in the city.

In 1604 the synagogue became the main Jewish house of worship, which was also used as an archive for their most important documents. Unfortunately, during World War the Nazis destroyed almost all the synagogues, and those sacral edifices that survived the invasion, together with Jewish cemeteries, were shut down by the Soviets. Nothing remained of the Great Synagogue, which had occupied part of the present-day building at N 54, Staroevreiska Street, it was wiped away by the Nazis. Today only the reconstruction of the old foundations gives a rough idea of the grandeur of the Quarter.



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