RZESZOW (Pol. Rzeszow ; Heb. Risha ), capital of Rzeszow province, S.E. Poland. Until the 18th century Rzeszow was a private city; its last owners, the Lubomirsky family, ruled the city until the Austrian annexation in 1772. The Jewish community of Rzeszow dates back to the 15th century. Jewish settlement there was authorized by King Stephen Bathory. The community was heavily taxed and was subject to various restrictions on commerce and crafts. In the 17th century, a synagogue was erected (later known as the "old" synagogue) and a cemetery was opened. Within the framework of the *Councils of the Lands, Rzeszow belonged to the Land of "Russia." At the beginning of the 18th century, a controversy broke out between the Rzeszow and *Przemysl communities over R. Ezekiel Joshua Feivel Fraenkel-Teomim, who was first rabbi of Przemysl and subsequently moved to Rzeszow. The Przemysl community then deprived him of his office as rabbi of the province (galil) and elected Samuel Mendelowicz of Lvov rabbi of the Przemysl community and the province. The controversy was debated at a convention of the provincial council of Przemysl in 1715 and at a convention of the Land of "Russia" at Jaroslav. Following the dispute, the Rzeszow community broke away from the provincial council and constituted itself an independent entity in relation to the Council of the Four Lands. The amount of tax which the Rzeszow community paid the Council in 1715–19 shows that it was then a large community. In the middle of the 18th century, the budget of the community amounted to 17,000 zlotys. At that time most of the city's shops were Jewish-owned. Cloth trade and goldsmithing were exclusively Jewish occupations, and the high quality of their products was known throughout Europe. "Rzeszow gold" was noted at fairs. The Jewish seal engravers there also became celebrated and they supplied the courts at Stockholm and St. Petersburg. A non-Jewish traveler in Rzeszow in the middle of the 19th century referred to Rzeszow as the "little Jerusalem." Various economic and political restrictions remained in force until the Austrian revolution in 1848. By the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the Jews of Rzeszow enjoyed equal rights and participated in municipal and parliamentary elections.
The Jewish population numbered 1,202 in 1765; 3,375 (c. 75% of the total) in 1800; 7,000 (38.2%) in 1900; 8,000 (36.3%) in 1910; and 11,228 in 1931.
The *Haskalah movement was particularly influential there. Its early maskilim included Wilhelm Turteltaub. Prominent in Hebrew literature were Moses David Geschwind (1846–1905), a translator of the Polish poet J. Slowacki into Hebrew, and Abraham Abba Appelbaum (1861–1933), an early member of the Ḥovevei Zion in Galicia and founder of the first Hebrew school in the city, who wrote historical essays in the field of Jewish history in Italy.
Ḥasidism began to spread in Rzeszow in the 19th century. A large synagogue was built in the 19th century, as well as a hospital, old age home, and charitable and cultural institutions. The rabbis of the community included Samuel Ha-Levi (d. 1729), son-in-law of R. *Isaac b. Eliakim of Poznan (Posen), and Jacob *Reischer, head of the yeshivah and author of Shevut Ya'akov, who also served as rabbi in *Worms. The later rabbis include Aaron b. Nathan *Lewin, who was a representative of *Agudat Israel in the Polish Sejm. In the 20th century there was large-scale Zionist activity and Zionists were members of the community council, replacing the assimilationists. Hebrew was taught in the kindergartens, and a Hebrew school established in the Bet ha-Am. The latter became a center for young Zionist pioneers. Zionist organizations were established, such as Shulamit, a Zionist women's organization.
On the outbreak of World War ii, there were about 14,000 Jews in Rzeszow. The German army entered the city on Sept. 10, 1939, and the anti-Jewish reign of terror began. In December 1941 a closed ghetto was established in Rzeszow. On July 7–13, 1942, the first mass deportation took place: about 14,000 Jews from the entire district of Rzeszow were concentrated in the ghetto and immediately deported together with some 8,000 Jews from the city to the *Belzec death camp. At the time of the deportation, 238 Jews were shot for offering passive resistance, while another 1,000 were taken to the nearby Rudna Forest and executed there. On Aug. 8, 1942, about 1,000 women and children were deported from the ghetto to the Peikinia concentration camp, where all of them were exterminated shortly afterward. In November 1942 only about 3,000 Jews still remained in the ghetto, which was transformed into a forced-labor camp and divided into two isolated parts: "a" for slave laborers, and "b" for members of their families. In September 1943 part a was transferred to the forced-labor camp of Szebnia, where the majority of the inmates met their death; part b was liquidated in November 1943, when all the inmates were deported to *Auschwitz and exterminated. Only about 600 Jews remained in a local forced-labor camp until July 1944. Some of them succeeded in escaping and hiding themselves in the nearby forests; others were deported to Germany. Jewish life was not reconstituted in Rzeszow after the war.
Moshe Yaari-Wald (ed.), Sefer Zikkaron li-Kehillat Risha (Heb., some Yid. and Eng., 1967).