Józefowicz

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JÓZEFOWICZ

JÓZEFOWICZ (also Ezofovich ), family of financiers prominent in Lithuania during the early 16th century. Its founder, josef rabchik (Rebi), from whom the additional name of the family Rabinkovich (Rebichkovich) derives, was the tax collector of Kiev. In 1482, after the capture of Kiev by the Tatars, he settled first in Lutsk and later in Brest-Litovsk, where he continued to engage in commerce and the leasing of the state incomes. Of his three sons, abraham jan ezofovich (c. 1450–1519), was a merchant and tax collector and successful head of the treasury (Podskarbik Litewski) of the grand duchy of Lithuania (1509–18). Having left Kiev with his father in about 1488, he became an apostate, converting to the Orthodox Church, and entered the service of the grand duke of Lithuania. In 1494 he was appointed commander of the fortress of Kovno. From 1496 he leased or administered customs stations and the collection of taxes in Smolensk, Polotsk, Minsk, Novogrudok, Kovno, and Vilna. Over the years he accumulated a vast fortune, in part from the income derived from gifts of land granted him by the grand duke. From 1507 he served as court banker in Lithuania for King Sigismund i, when he was granted a title of nobility. During the last years of his life, Abraham acquired, with the consent of the king, additional estates in various places, and even ownership of the town of Solec in the province of Sandomierz, in Poland. In 1519 the king still owed Abraham the sum of 12,000 zlotys. He left two sons and a daughter who became Catholics.

His brother michael ezofovich (d. c. 1529), merchant, banker, and agent of King Sigismund i, was also appointed the elder (senior) of the Jews of Lithuania. Until 1519 he traded in grain, wax, textiles, furs, jewelry, and ironware in partnership with his brother Isaac. When the partnership was liquidated they owned, in addition to valuables and large amounts of money, considerable real estate in houses and lands. The apportionment of these between the brothers was confirmed by the king in 1527 upon the request of Isaac Ezofovich. Michael Ezofovich became one of the leading tax collectors and lessees of the state incomes of his time. At first he supervised the customs administration of Brest-Litovsk (1506) and the provinces of Volhynia and Podolia. Later, in conjunction with partners, he rented the state incomes in additional provinces. After the death of his brother, Abraham Jan, the king effectually appointed him over the customs administration of the whole country. He succeeded in raising the revenues by carrying out stringent controls on the roads. To strengthen his position, his headquarters and residence were established in the fortress of Brest-Litovsk. He granted loans in exchange for pledges in real estate. In 1514, by royal authorization, Michael built a bridge over the River Bug, near the town of Drohiczyn, and was granted the right to collect tolls. In 1514 he was appointed elder (senior) of the Jews of Lithuania to facilitate tax collection and impose a central leadership over the Jews of the grand duchy. The same considerations motivated the appointment of *Abraham Judaeus Bohemus and Moses *Fishel in Poland. Despite the wide powers granted to them, and their activity on behalf of the community, the appointed leadership was resented by the Jews and failed to gain their acceptance. Michael did much for the Brest-Litovsk community, which was to become the most important in Lithuania, thanks to the foundation laid by him. Of his sons are known Moses (who held rabbinical office), Abraham, Chemio, and Ducko (David?).

bibliography:

Russko-yevreyskiy arkhiv, 1 (1882), nos. 42, 51–63, 65, 66, 68–75, 77–92, 96, 97, 103–6, 108–12, 119–21, 128, 130; S.A. Bershadski, Litovskiye Yevrei (1883), 358–68; idem, Avram Ezofovich Rebichkovich… (Rus., 1888); M. Balaban, Skizzen und Studien zur Geschichte der Juden in Polen (1911), 77–97; I. Schiper, Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich (1937), index; A.L. Feinstein, Ir Tehillah (1886), 21–22, 53–59, 68–69.

[Arthur Cygielman]

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