ZUELZ (Pol. Biala ), city in Opole province, S.W. Poland (formerly in Silesia). Although the city appears on the list of places where Jews were martyred during the *Black Death persecutions of 1349, the identification is uncertain. The community itself had a tradition that its beginning was at the end of the 14th century, but the documentary sources date only from the 16th century, when the number of Jewish settlers was very small. In 1564 nine Jewish families lived in a Jewish Quarter (Judengasse) in their homes. All Jews were exiled from *Silesia in 1582 with the exception of Zuelz and Gross-Glogau, where many found refuge. In 1591 the local artistocracy sought to persuade the emperor to expel the Jews from Zuelz as well. They found a protector, however, in Hans Christolph von Proskowski, who labored successfully with strenuous Jewish support to secure their position; in 1601 the Jews received verification of their status. Proskowski himself acquired Zuelz in 1606, maintaining a highly liberal attitude toward the Jews in his domain. They succeeded in developing their trading and commercial interests not only within the city but in many surrounding areas as well. In the 17th century Zuelz became a place of refuge for Jews from Poland, Moravia, and Bohemia. By 1647 there were 17 Jewish houses out of 155 in the town. Jews were involved in the silk industry as well as in the production of wool and wax. The community built a small wooden synagogue and school in 1717 that was destroyed by fire in 1769. A new synagogue was built in 1774.
The community had an important talmudic academy that established the reputation of Zuelz as a "learned city" in the 18th and 19th centuries and was the focus of the community's life. Many scholarly rabbis ministered to the community's needs over the years; among them were Joshua Feivel Teomim; Isaac Zelig Caro; Eliezer b. Samuel (d. 1747); Moses Eliezer Lippmann (d. 1810); Meshullam Solomon ha-Kohen (d. 1823); and Aaron b. Baruch (d. 1836). The oldest tombstone found dates from 1640, but the cemetery itself must be somewhat older. In the 18th century there was a growth of the Jewish population; there were 600 in 1724; 1,061 (over half the total population) in 1782; and 1,096 in 1812; thereafter, the Jewish population began to decline: 539 in 1849; 411 in 1858; and 337 in 1866. The community developed a number of philanthropic organizations that were active in the 19th century, the oldest being the ḥevra kaddisha. It also possessed a community school founded in 1844, but disbanded in 1870. The community declined further in the 20th century and was officially dissolved in 1914. The sacred objects in its synagogue as well as an invaluable collection of silver ornaments were transferred to Neustadt, which absorbed the small community. By 1929 only nine Jews were left in the city.
Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 945; I. Rabin, Die Juden in Zuelz (1926); M. Grann, Geschichte der Juden in Schlesien (1896), passim; idem, Der Silberschatz der Zuelzer Judengemeinde. Ost und West (1918), 335–6; B. Brilling, in: Juedische Familien-Forschung, 2 (1928–29), 72–76, 177–81; 5 (1938), 952–8.