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Ḥerem Ha-Yishuv

ḤEREM HA-YISHUV

ḤEREM HA-YISHUV (Heb. חֵרֶם הַיִּשּׁוּב, "ban on settlement"), the concept, takkanah, and institutions pertaining to the corporate right of regulating settlement in many communities which existed in certain countries in the Middle Ages and early modern times. Underlying and governing the ḥerem ha-yishuv was the assumption that a community belonged to its members, who might or might not permit other Jews to settle in their locality. A newcomer had to acquire the right of settlement – termed ḥezkat ha-yishuv or ḥezkat ha-kehillah – from the community, its authorities and its members, wherever ḥezkat ha-yishuv came to be accepted. The most common manner of acquisition of this right was by purchase or hire; other ways involved inheritance or undisputed residence over a certain period. The leadership alone or the entire community could grant such a right anew, especially if a vacancy occurred in the fixed number of settlers. It was assumed that the original settlers in a community had created for themselves a property right in the opportunities for profit-making offered by that settlement. They were enabled to do so by the local autonomous rights granted to them by king, overlord, or bishop. In Italy a person could claim permanent rights on the grounds of a temporary grant. The institution was found in northern France, Germany, Bohemia, England, and all of Eastern Europe. Its time of origin has not been definitely established, although it was known in the Rhine communities in the 11th century and an actual case is recorded in the 12th century. This was the period of the rise of the commune-cities in Western Europe, in which the inhabitants saw themselves as a closed unit governing entrance to the town and settlement in their midst. It was also the time of the origin of Jewish community life and law in the Rhineland area.

Most Jewish communities gradually became closed to newcomers. As early as the first half of the 12th century, the Paris community enacted a gezerat ha-yishuv ("ordinance about settlement"): "Lest someone will stay in the city, in addition to the citizens who were there at this time and their children who will be born unto them, the male only, excluding the female" (S.D. Luzzatto (ed.), Bet ha-Oẓar, (1847) 58a). Ḥezkat ha-yishuv was thus parallel to the communal practices prevalent among the non-Jews, who strictly regulated the right to reside and trade in their communities. Jews who pioneered as merchants and artisans in the cities and were responsible as a body to king, lord, or bishop considered themselves entitled to regulate residence rights. The unfair competition of outsiders who were not responsible for toll or tax had to be eliminated. Since one of its main purposes was the protection of trade, there were many who could settle freely even under ḥerem ha-yishuv: non-practicing ordained rabbis, students, personal servants, rentiers who received a fixed income without trading, wholesalers, and refugees, but the last were permitted to stay only temporarily. Exempt also were non-residents who came to a local fair, although they were often restricted to selling to out-of-towners only and their activities had to be confined to the market place.

This tendency to close the community to outsiders soon clashed with the opposing Jewish tradition of granting shelter and communal assistance to Jews without regard for locality. Great leaders and scholars tended to limit the use of ḥerem ha-yishuv to exclusion of Jews on moral grounds only. The tosafist Jacob b. Meir *Tam (12th century) stated that "our earlier authorities instituted the ḥerem ha-yishuv only against violent men and informers, and those who refused to obey communal enactments or to pay their share of communal taxes. But against others there is no ḥerem." In 1266 the Canterbury community accepted this view, writing to the royal authorities in a Latin text, "The community of Jews of Canterbury… have bound themselves by oath that no Jew of any other town than Canterbury shall dwell in the said town, to wit, no liar, improper person, or slanderer…" (Rigg-Jenkinson, Exchequer). R. *Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi of Bonn (13th century) insisted on the validity of the custom. *Meir b. Baruch of Rothenburg (13th century) dealt a great deal with the problem in his responsa, since during his time the ḥerem ha-yishuv became generally accepted. By the 14th century it was agreed by the general authorities that the Jews were the sole arbiters of the matter. In some cases the newcomer, after admission by the Jews, had to be introduced to the bishop and the town council. Jacob b. Judah *Weil in the 15th century ruled that a community might strictly enforce the rules against a nokhri ("alien"), a Jew temporarily staying in town.

Records of the institution exist down to the 18th century. In Italy, where it seems to have appeared in the 13th century, moneylending rather than trade was the main prize sought in settling rights. In Poland and Lithuania (16th–18th centuries) the ḥerem ha-yishuv was so well entrenched that a particular community did not need to enter into the bond of excommunication against recalcitrants in order to enforce the rule: it became a recognized right of every kahal. The added rationale was advanced that an excessive increase of Jews would arouse ill-will among the gentiles. In 1623 the Lithuanian Council decreed that "no man from another country is entitled to establish his residence in the Lithuanian provinces without the knowledge and approval of the provincial chiefs… he shall be relentlessly persecuted and driven out of this land." The rule was temporarily relaxed after the *Chmielnicki massacres in 1648. The Jews did not hesitate to enlist the aid of the civil authorities in enforcing these regulations. Jus Gazaga, the right not to let or sell a house, was combined with the prohibition to trade with an intruder. As settlements increased in size, newcomers were welcome, especially if they were wealthy, to help carry the burden of taxes and other obligations. Every means was employed to detain the wealthy. If they left, they were still held responsible for their share of the community's fiscal burden. Simultaneously, the poverty-stricken were encouraged and pressed to leave town. In fact, the alien poor were kept constantly on the move, thus compounding pauperism. In Russia, which took over much of Lithuania and Polish territory, ḥezkat ha-yishuv probably lasted down to the 20th century. The story was told of a Jew who, refused permission to settle in Dubrovno asked indignantly, "But how will I make a living?" The reply was, "Well, does Dubrovno itself make a living?"

The restrictions imposed by ḥerem ha-yishuv created many problems in practice and in law. The right which protected the tradesman and craftsman thereby discriminated against the consumer. Hence there was a body of opinion among Jewish jurists which held that an outside trader, prepared to sell his goods considerably cheaper than at the prices prevailing locally, was entitled to do so. Further, when the Jews of Rome refused to admit the Spanish refugees, it was adjudged by many a highly unethical act.

bibliography:

I. Agus, Urban Civilization in Pre-Crusade Europe, 2 (1965), index; Baron, Community, index; Baron, Social2, index s.v.Residence Permit; H.H. Ben-Sasson, Toledot Am Yisrael, 2 (1969), 124–5; L. Rabinowitz, Ḥerem ha-Yishuv (1945); I. Levitats, Jewish Community in Russia (1943); I. Katz, Masoret u-Mashber (1963).

[Isaac Levitats]

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