The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

The Jews of Prague and Poznan: A Study of Migration and Family Ties in the Sixteenth Century

In the 16th century, Prague`s Jewish community was marked by several expulsions from the city or from the land of Bohemia. This interference in the lives of Jews was one of the impulses behind the migration of Prague`s Jewish families to Polish cities, e.g., to Poznan. During this time and the next, contacts between these important Jewish communities can be traced in both Poznan and Prague sources. The source of the data about the contacts is mainly the municipal books, which exist rich series from both cities. They mainly record disputes over outstanding claims or assets. Not infrequently, the sources from Prague and Poznan intersect and complement each other.

The study provides insight into the widespread phenomenon of migration among Jewish communities from Bohemia and Poland, which was based on multiple reasons. The motivation may have been expulsion, but so could the Jews` drive to leave their original settlements for trade or similar business. As example may serve important Prague families, Nosek and Altschul, which traces can be followed in Poznan, just as Kalman family from Poznan, one of their branches settled in Prague at the end of 16th century.

The records in municipal books bring us information about Jews residing in foreign city temporarily (for the sake of business), as well as permanently (newcomer in the community). Members of one family in Prague and Poznan can serve mutually as mediators when negotiating trade contacts as well as plenipotentiaries during lawsuits.

Family ties are one of the most important aspects in migration and mobility. Discovering and analysis of these ties is necessary for understanding the motivation of Jewish migrants. Every single record indicating intersection of Jewish families from Prague and Poznan can serve as valuable piece in mosaic of Jewish every-day life in Central Europe in the 16th century.