Illia Galant: Petro Mohyla, Metropolitan of Kyiv, and his attitude to the Jews

[Editor’s note: We reprint a little-known document from the 17th century, which states that at that time, the Ukrainian clergy called for believers to take a moral stand toward Jews and see them as equals, without excessive superstitions and prejudices. This appeals belongs to the famous Metropolitan of Kyiv, Peter Mohyla (1596-1647), the founder Kyiv Mohyla Academy.] 

Petro Mohyla, Metropolitan of Kyiv, and his attitude to the Jews

The historiography of the Russian Jews is poor. Regardless of the fact that the Jews appeared in Russia most likely during the reign of the first Riurykovyches and that in many places in our great motherland where the Jews settled long before the appearance of the indigenous population, to this day there is no content-rich, scholarly history of our people in this country.

Moreover, to this day not even a tiny part of the abundant and valuable materials that have been preserved in various archives and book repositories, which might recount quite a lot that is interesting and instructive about our people’s past in Russia has been identified and studied. Even the scholarly historical material contained in manuscripts and letters collected and published by members of the Historical-Ethnographic Commission of the organization “Spread of Education,” material that could illuminate one epoch or another pertaining to the history of the Jews in Russia, one aspect or another of their private or social life, and mainly their social and juridical situation in this country, the attitude of official spheres to them—even this material is practically not used and awaits its historian. Russian anti-Semites, in justification of the existing, restrictive laws about the Jews, continue to call the latter people who arrived [from elsewhere—Trans.], harmful elements, who arrived here at the very least yesterday; the hypocritical disseminators of Novoe vremia do not cease telling their readers about the historical absurdity that the Russian people supposedly always treated the Jews hostilely and that this hostility was and is explained by the bad and negative features of the Jewish character and Jewish morality. Meanwhile, to the dedicated historian who seeks only the one objective truth, it is completely apparent now that the Russians’ treatment of the Jews in their coexistence was always conscientious and friendly; that not only ordinary folk but also the majority of the representatives of the secular and spiritual authorities saw the Jews as useful citizens, who contributed in many respects to the economic prosperity of the country. I will not cite the existing published materials pertaining to this, which are accessible to anyone who is interested in these questions. Here I will present the contents of one rather interesting document that reflects the views of the Jews of one of the most distinguished and most authoritative South Russian pastors, the Kyivan metropolitan of the first half of the seventeenth century, Petro Mohyla. To this day this document has not been published, nor has any extract been made of the so-called document “Model Charters,’ a manuscript from the collection of the Moscow Synodal Typographic Library, no. 3906, p. 1.[1]

This document is entitled “Charters according to Which All Things that Christian Purchase from Jews Are Blessed.” Here are its contents.

“To all brother priests and Christian devout people in general, to whomever it shall apply, we declare humbly that you take note: 1) Christian freedom and Old Testament non-freedom and Old Testament people, who under pain of damnation are obliged to uphold circumcision and the dietary restrictions recorded in the Mosaic Law, while Christians are exempt from these restrictions, and all foods that are sold at the market and in shops are permitted and blessed for them; 2) to Christians who engage in trade in other items peaceably with Old Testament people, it is permitted and blessed to them, our spiritual sons, to purchase and, with gratitude to the Lord God for His gifts, to use foods, beef and mutton of Jewish butchering. In addition, we admonish all who live according to the one law to neighborly friendship, concord, and friendship, and Christians who serve the Jews to uphold Christian laws and rites, to observe Sunday, and their masters, who live according to the Old Testament, should not deny this: We urge them to teach their servants obedience to God.”

How little does this appeal of the authoritative Metropolitan Petro Mohyla, imbued [and] filled with love for the Jews, harmonize with the mendacious and hypocritical, bizarre ideas of Novoe vremia about perennial Russian–Jewish hatred, which is supposedly proven and justified with the aid of history, and how loudly does the voice of the true pastor, the above-mentioned metropolitan, sound over the poisonous and inexcusable sermon of misanthropy embraced, with its platform, by the organ of the Russian clergy, the Tserkovnyi Visnyk [Church Herald].

І. V. Galant

To all priests and Christians, devout people, whoever requires this, we declare that you humbly accept Christian freedom and Old Testament non-freedom and Old Testament people, who under pain of damnation are obliged to uphold circumcision and the dietary restrictions recorded in the Mosaic Law, while Christians are exempt from these restrictions, and all foods that are sold at the market and in shops are permitted and blessed for them; Christians who engage in trade in other items peaceably with Old Testament people and implement the policy, whereby with God’s blessing they are permitted and blessed to purchase them, and with gratitude to the Lord God for His Gifts, to use foods, beef and mutton of Jewish butchering, and we permit and bless Christian people, our own spiritual sons, to purchase, with God’s blessing and to use with gratitude to the Lord God for His gifts, and we admonish all who live together in accordance with the one law to neighborly friendship, concord, and goodwill, and Christians who serve Jews to uphold Christian laws, rites, and church piety, to take Communion every Sunday. We urge their Old Testament masters not to deny this, but to teach their servants obedience to God. For this goodwill toward Jewish people from whom we desire reciprocally that the lord leaseholders, in accordance with the holy canons, not to permit our Christian brothers on the days great holidays to brew beer in breweries, but to attend church in keeping with their vow, without denying them the need of the church: This directive to our brothers I am confirming with my own signature.

Written in the year _, the month of _, the _ day.

Since the text of the Charter [Directive] was included in a collection of model charters, the date and Mohyla’s signature have been deleted.

[1] This document was graciously provided to us by S. T. Golubev.

Source: I. V. Galant, “Kyїvs′kyi mytropolyt Petro Mohyla ta ioho stavlennia do ievreїv,” Kyїvs′ka davnyna 89 (May 1905).
http://ju.org.ua/ru/publicism/455.html

Translated from the Ukrainian by Marta D. Olynyk