Lubny, 1880 – 1883
In 1880, a down-on-his-luck Sholem applied for the position of Crown Rabbi of Lubny, a small town in the Poltava Oblast region of Ukraine. A rabble-rousing speech and an alliance with a community elder secured Sholem the position. A Crown Rabbi in Tsarist Russia served a predominantly bureaucratic role, with responsibilities such as insuring timely tax payments from the Jewish community. The position was, perhaps unsurprisingly, unpopular. A friend of Sholem’s commented: “No decent man, could shake his hand, since a crown rabbi was nothing but a hypocrite, a bootlicker, a Tartuffe, a tool of the rich and a henchman of the czarist bureaucracy”.