Council of Four Lands

The Council of Four Lands (Va'ad Arba' Aratzot) in Lublin, Poland was the central body of Jewish authority in Poland from the second half of the 16th century to 1764. The first known regulation for the Council is dated by 1580.). Seventy delegates from local kehillot met to discuss taxation and other issues important to the Jewish community. The "four lands" were Greater Poland, Little Poland, Ruthenia and Volhynia.

In Polish it was referred to as the Jewish Sejm (Polish: Sejm Żydowski).

The terms "Council of Three Lands" and "Council of Five Lands" and more have also been used for the same body. In 1623 the Jewish communities from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania withdrew from the "Council of Four Lands" and established the "Council of the Land of Lithuania" (Va’ad Medinat Lita, sometimes translates simply as "the Council of Lithuania".)

The great number of the Jewish population of Poland, its importance in the industrial life of the country, and the peculiarities of the political and class organization of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were the reasons why the Jews of Poland formed a separate class enjoying liberal autonomy within the sphere of their communal and spiritual interests, the outcome of which was their exemplary communal organization. A Jewish community, with its administrative, judicial, religious, and charitable institutions, constituted a unit of self-government. The term "Kahal" denoted both the community (a community was also known as a Kahilah Kadisha or Holy Community) and the autonomous communal administration, the two concepts being identical. The administrative functions: the assessment of state and communal taxes, the supervision of charitable institutions, etc. of the Kahal were performed by elective Kahal elders, while its rabbis ("doctores Judæorum") had charge of religious and judicial affairs.

During the second half of the seventeenth century the sessions of the Council occurred once or twice a year, more frequently at Yaroslav than at Lublin. The number of delegates cannot be exactly ascertained. One source notes that one representative to the Council was elected from each Kahal, and that to these Kahal delegates were added the six leading rabbis of Poland. It appears from the Kahal pinkeses that only the most important Kahals of each region sent their delegates to the Council.

The capitals (Poznań, Kraków, Lwów, and Ostrog) of the "four lands" each sent two or even more. The signatures of fifteen to twenty-five delegates—-though often the signatures of the six rabbis only-—are usually found attached to the extant decisions of the wa'ads. The total number of delegates, together with the rabbis, evidently reached thirty.

This page was last edited on 7 October 2017, at 17:11.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

Related Topics

Recently Viewed