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Jews in Czenstochowa
Up to the First World War (cont.)

 

3. Cultural History of Czenstochower Jews

It has already been mentioned that after Warsaw, Czenstochow was the city where the Enlightenment bloomed in Poland. As early as 1814, a private Jewish teacher from Germany was there, who taught the children of well-to-do proprietors. The best teachers from surrounding cities and shtetlekh, such as Dzialoszyn, Prazka, Wielun and others, would settle in Czenstochow. For example, one such person was Shlomoh Dovid Gutengot, a follower of the Enlightenment from Dzialoszyn, who would give private Hebrew lessons to the children who went to the public Czenstochower schools.

The wealthy young Jews would attend the government schools in Piotrkow, Kalisz and Warsaw. Young Jewish girls from Czenstochow were found in the schools of Breslau [Wroclaw], Konigsberg [Kaliningrad] and Berlin. There were private boarding schools there, “für Izraelitshe Mädchen [for Jewish girls],” where attention was given to the “daughters of Zion” and they guided them “to God and respectability.”

It can be shown that the cultural language of the

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educated Jews in Czenstochow was German. The Algemeine Zeitung des Judentums [General Newspaper of Jewry] had 11 subscribers in Czenstochow and a special correspondent. Incidentally, even Warsaw did not always have this.

When the rabbinical school was opened in Warsaw in 1826, many young men from Czenstochow attended this school. Bernard Cymerman, Moyrici Kon and Bernard Landau studied there in 1830. Cymerman was later a censor and even a teacher in the rabbinical school. Bernard Landau was a teacher. Moyrici Kon was a manufacturer and landowner.

After the rebellion of 1863 the number of Czenstochow young people in the rabbinical school rose and until the closing of the school (in 1863) amounted to a total of 12 [students].

During the years 1826-1840, the young Czenstochowers attended various learning institutions abroad. Several of them studied medicine and later practiced in their birthplace, such as Dr. Landowski, for example.

The Algemeine Zeitung des Judentums wrote in 1841 – “No kehile [organized Jewish community] in Poland has such a lively inclination for humanity as the local one [Czenstochow]. Almost every person, even those who wear Polish-Jewish clothing, develops a feeling for a better and more modern culture. Everyone rejoices because of the success the Enlightenment has had in Germany and other places. A considerable number of the local Jews read German and Polish books, mainly on themes of the Enlightenment, ethics and much beautiful literature. It can be said that religious fanaticism, superstition and nonsense have disappeared among the higher class Jews over the past several years.”

It was said in a second letter from Czenstochow published in the same German-Jewish weekly that the Enlightenment in general was stronger than Hasidism. There was a total of 25 Hasidic families out of 400 families in Czenstochow.

Czenstochow – it was said there – was the first of all of the organized communities in Poland to come into contact with education and culture thanks to its trade and contact with Silesia. This is partly a debt to the German language, to the European clothing and the feeling of cleanliness and order that the local Jews learned from the 'moral revolution' in Poland. That is, before the revolt of 1863, there was more educational activity in Polish than in German. In 1860 Czenstochower Jews could take pride in the hundreds of young Jews who studied in the general schools, gymnazie [secondary school] and in the Warsaw rabbinical school. In that year, nine Czenstochower Jews graduated from university.

This kehile began very early to lobby for its own elementary school for Jewish children.

This educational activity was connected to two names which had a place of honor in the history of the Czenstochow Enlightenment.

Bursztynski or Bursztyn was born in Zagorow (Konin powiat [county]) in 1790. He was a private Hebrew teacher and later an official translator of Yiddish and Hebrew with the Kalisz provincial government. He later settled in Praszka as a private teacher. When the Czenstochower city hall expelled two private Jewish teachers, Botenberg and Imler, because they did not have the right of residence, the local kehile invited Bursztynski as a kehile secretary. In addition, he was employed as a teacher and preacher in the city synagogue.

Thanks to the intervention of the head of the kehile, Herc Kon, Bursztynski had permission to live in Czenstochow for three years (1828-1831). However, he was not permitted to bring along his family.

Bursztynski knew Polish very well. This was a rarity among Jews at that time because, as was said, German was the cultural language of the educated Jews until about 1860. Therefore, it is no wonder that the Jewish population needed to have him. He wrote pleas in court, letters of commerce and was even chosen as a translator by the Czenstochower Friend's Court. His two sons were then in the Kalisz gymnazie [high school] and later studied medicine in Germany.

Thus, Bursztynski became a “private advocate” – that is, he wrote all kinds of pleas and letters. This situation did not please the local Polish advocates and they denounced him to the city regime. The city hall prohibited him from writing such letters. However, Bursztynski did not lose and in a memorandum to the city president showed that what he

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did was legal. Meanwhile the uprising of 1830-1831 silenced the controversy.

At the end of 1831 they again began to persecute him. This time they relied on a legal basis. Since the three years that he was permitted to live in Czenstochow had passed, as a rule he had to leave the city. It was not itself important if his “private legal profession'” was legal or not. The city asked him to leave within five days. He himself felt that there was no legal basis for his remaining here because he was a “foreigner.” Therefore, he had to carry on a fight alone and he carried it out. The województwo [administrative district] regime permitted him to remain in Czenstochow on the condition that he live in the Jewish precinct. Finally, after long official procedures he remained in the city where he died in 1852, falling victim to the cholera epidemic.

In the course of the years during which he lived in Czenstochow, Bursztynski did a great deal to spread worldly education among the Jews. It has already been mentioned that he was the Czenstochower correspondent of the Algemeine Zeitung des Judentums. His letters were an important source for the history of Jews in Czenstochow.

Bursztynski was convinced that the problem of education for the local Jews could not be solved with private teaching. He wrote that the majority of wealthy men have good teachers and melamdim for their children. They can pay as a matter of course and they choose and pay for the best pedagogues. On the contrary, the poor must approach the corner melamdim, send their children to the filthy, crowded religious elementary schools. Therefore, Bursztynski believed that a city such as Czenstochow needed to have a public elementary school for the lower economic strata. He submitted a detailed plan for this. The school was to have three classes with three teachers and, in addition, a manager. He himself volunteered to teach religion and ethics without pay. The school would be supported through tuition. In order to create communal prestige for the school, he proposed to organize a council of elders, at the head of which would stand the rabbi. He hoped to win over the pious circle with this. It should be understood that the orthodox fought Bursztynski's project. Therefore, his plan was supported by the followers of the Enlightenment headed by Herc Kon, the head of the kehile. It was proposed several times in the city synagogue and in the house of study. Signatures were collected from the prosperous merchants and a request was delivered to the regime. This was in 1840. The Polish city managing committee warmly received this proposal. Bursztynski himself wrote in a letter that the new City President, Pazerski, was favorably disposed toward the plan and recommended it to the higher state authorities. Bursztynski and his state supporters probably did not know that the Russian regime was against Polish schools for Jewish children. They waited until the general rules concerning elementary schools for Jews in Russia were completed. Paskewicz, the viceroy of Poland, blocked the permission granted for such schools.

Bursztynski was so sure of permission that he brought Daniel Najfeld, his student from Praszka, to Czenstochow who meanwhile was employed giving private lessons.

Bursztynski was also a writer. He knew German and Yiddish well, in addition to Polish and Hebrew. His Polish work written in 1820 remains in manuscript. This is a tractate against the blood libel.[4] This is the only work that has been preserved. Many other works of his have been lost. In those years, when there were no Jewish periodicals in Poland, not in Polish and not in Yiddish, it was difficult for a person such as Bursztynski to reach readers.

As someone who awoke people to education, as kehile secretary, private teacher, a lawyer with a small practice, organizer of charity in Czenstochow, Bursztynski earned the title as the first pioneer in the realm of Jewish instruction and education in Czenstochow.

The second educational worker in Czenstochow was the well known editor of the Polish-Yiddish periodical in Warsaw, Jutrzenka [Morning Star], which was published from 1861-1863. This was Daniel Josef Najfeld.

Najfeld was born in Praszka in 1814. In 1827 he became a student in the Wielun district school that was headed by priests. At that time there were very few Jewish students, particularly in the province, who attended a Polish school. He wanted to study medicine, but his family circumstances and the revolt of 1831 disturbed his

plans. He settled in Dzialoszyn and became a private teacher. Later, he married in Praszka and from

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there he was brought to Czenstochow by Bursztynski. Meanwhile, Bursztynski worked at organizing a school and Najfeld was employed giving private Talmud lessons in Hebrew and Polish. Thanks to these lessons he became acquainted with the elite of the Jewish kehile and also with Polish society. He found great success in both circles. The Jews had great respect for him. Despite being a follower of the Enlightenment, he was a pious Jew and in addition a great scholar. The Polish also respected him because not only was he interested in Polish culture, but he also knew the Polish language and literature very well.

Najfeld sent articles and reports from Czenstochow to the Algemeiner Zeitung Des Judentums [General Newspaper of Jewry]. This was his literary first fruit.

When Bursztynski's plan for a Jewish elementary school fell through, Najfeld decided to try out his own luck and seek permission to open a private school. In 1843, he turned from Czenstochow to educational trustee in Warsaw with a request for permission to open a private elementary school for Jewish children. However, he was refused. At that time several Czenstochower businessmen turned directly to Petersburg to Avarov, the education minister, asking that Najfeld be permitted to take up his teaching. After lengthy efforts, they succeeded in receiving permission for a school for Najfeld, but not in Czenstochow, but in Praszka. This was in 1847. This was interpreted legally that because Najfeld was not from Czenstochow, but from Praszka, he could participate in teaching in “his” city, but not in a “strange one.”

However, Praszka was too small to support a Jewish private school. And Najfeld had already made a name in Czenstochow. He was very pleased with its followers of the Enlightenment. Therefore, he did not want to give up the hope that in the end, he would become a teacher and mentor of the Czenstochow Jews.

On the 23rd of September 1850, Najfeld turned to the education trustee with a request that he be permitted to take an exam in order to receive a diploma as a teacher because the curriculum at the county school from which he had graduated was the equivalent of the curriculum of general instruction in the Rabbinical school: in such a manner, Najfeld, first of all, would be equally qualified as a teacher. Later, it would automatically be easier for him to receive permission for a school.

Two months later, he received a notice from the education trustee that he could not be permitted to take such an exam.

“The title of teacher” – the trustee clarified – “demands an exam after a full curriculum at a gymnazie [secondary school] or from a rabbinical school. The school from which Najfeld graduated, is the equivalent of a powiat [district or county] school and, therefore, I cannot agree that his request should be accommodated.”

However, Najfeld did not give up. In April 1851 he wrote a detailed memorandum about his pedagogical activities in general and in particular, and based on his experiences, he asked to be permitted to open a private school in Czenstochow. This time Najfeld did not let the education trustee in Warsaw or the director of the provincial gymnazie in Piotrkow know that he had to close the school in Praszka. He was left with only three students and they left the school during the period of the next week. Najfeld alluded to the fact that the Jews of Czenstochow wanted to have him in the city as a teacher.

Najfeld wrote, “The Jews of Czenstochow are, with luck, free of superstitions and, therefore, they have invited me to open a private school in the city for their children.”

This time, Najfeld had better luck. It is almost certain that he was indebted to the local people in Piotrkow with whom he had better relations than with those in Warsaw for this permission. The successful permission arrived in July 1851. Najfeld opened his school on Garncarske Street number 23. This was a model school, one of the best in the province. The school had a dormitory because students began to be sent to him from other cities and shtetlekh. Josef Szajnhak, an author of a series of works about natural science, taught Hebrew.

Najfeld wanted to expand the curriculum of the school so that the students would be able to enter a gymnazie after graduating from his school. In February 1852 he asked for permission to teach French, history and geography. The education trustee immediately realized Najfeld's intentions and, it should be understood, did not give him permission.

Najfeld's school existed until May 1860. In the course of those 10 years, the school graduated a generation that later took a respected place

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in Jewish life in Czenstochow. We see from biographies of Jewish merchants from Lodz, Wloclawek and Plock that many of them studied in Najfeld's school in Czenstochow. It is difficult to say if he himself was a good pedagogue. However, he had good teachers. There was a time when the school had over 100 students, a quarter of them from outside Czenstochow. The majority of those from outside Czenstochow were from well-to-do homes because it cost a large amount of money to maintain them in Najfeld's dormitory.

Najfeld was not a practical person. As a matter of course, he did not think of his school or even the dormitory as a business and, therefore, he could not develop his institution of learning according to the model that the German Jews had in Breslau, Kenigsberg [Konigsberg] and where there were many Czenstochow children. Therefore, it is no wonder that this school, not having a good administration, began to lose money. Najfeld was therefore forced to close it. Meanwhile, Orgelbrand invited him to Warsaw to become the director of the Judaistic division of the Great Polish Encyclopedia that he was beginning to publish.

At the end of 1860 Najfeld turned to the education trustee with a request to permit him to move the school to Warsaw. However, two months later he had already withdrawn the request himself.

The further biography of Najfeld has no connection to the history of the Jews of Czenstochow. It is only worthwhile to mention that he took part in the events of the years 1861-1863 and for this he was exiled to Siberia. He came back from there a sick and broken man. For a time, he had a bookstore in Piotrkow. He died in Warsaw in September 1874.

He never broke his connections to Czenstochow. His family continued to live there. His daughter married Leopold Ron, the bookseller, who later became the most successful manufacturer in Czenstochow.

His two sons were doctors. Several members of his brother's family converted. The well known Polish translator, Bronislawa Najfeld, was his brother's daughter.

But he left many students in Czenstochow, among whom were several who later took part in the Polish-Yiddish press. One of them, Branciki, wrote for Jutrzenka, which was edited by Najfeld. In general, Najfeld published many reports from Czenstochow, comparatively many more than from other cities.

A second writer was Shimeon Bergman (the father of the Czenstochow banker, Adam Bergman). He wrote in Hebrew and Polish. Najfeld's most beloved student was Moshe Majman (1812-1874). He was a son of the Dzialoszyn rabbi. Majman graduated from the Warsaw Rabbinical School, worked on Jutrzenka and on the Izraelita. He died in Czenstochow the same year as Najfeld, his teacher, and he was two years older than him.

As soon as Najfeld's school was shut down, a new pedagogue member of the Enlightenment tried his luck in Czenstochow. The city could not be without a school for Jewish children. True, the very pious Jews did not believe in the school, but the city had too large a number of followers of general education to be able to abandon such an institution through denunciations or simple intrigues.

A Jewish private teacher, who was a fellow townsman of Najfeld, had lived in Czenstochow since 1856. His name was Moshe or Moric Zis. In 1858, Zis turned to the school trustee with a request for permission to open a school. He waited for two years until the school regime decided to accede to his request. Probably because they felt that one school for Najfeld was enough for a city such as Czentochow. The kehile managing committee did not want to disturb Najfeld's school and, therefore, did not want to support Zis' request. Only when Najfeld closed his school did the kehile, the majority of which consisted of Enlightened leaders, considered it important that Zis receive his permission. On the 16th of August 1860 the Czenstochow “Leadership Elders” officially certified that Mojrici Zis is a “good and God-fearing teacher” and, therefore, it would be good if he were permitted to open an elementary school for Jewish children. The kehile, by means of this declaration, asked that the Jewish population be freed from paying the school tax that was used on behalf of the local Catholic school. Although this school was open to Jewish children, very few parents sent their children to it. This tax amounted to 700 rubles a year. The kehile calculated that if this sum were given for the use of a Jewish school, at least 150 children

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from poor homes would be able to learn without charge and in this way children would be drawn from the religious elementary schools. Meanwhile Zis received agreement to open a school, but the matter did not end with this.

In January 1861 the education trustee Mukhanow inquired about the sum paid by the Czenstochow Jews on behalf of the local Catholic elementary school. From this he wanted to know “from what source will the loss to the Catholic schools come, if the government should accommodate the request of the kehile.

It became clear that the concession that had been given to Zis had nothing to do with the plan for the school which the kehile intended to create. The kehile wanted Najfeld as the school-manager and when Najfeld left for Warsaw, it followed that Mojrici Zis should become the school-manager. This was, therefore, the plan that Burszynski had in 1841. That is, not a private school, but a communal one, supported by the kehile with the help of the income from the school tax that was used, until then, to support the Catholic school.

The Catholic school was afraid that it would lose a part of its income. The state was not interested in covering the loss of the 700 rubles from its budget. Mukhanow, in general, did not want the Jews to have a Polish school. The uprising moved aside such matters as building a school for the time being. The matter dragged on for so long that a law was enacted about this, that only Russian could be the language of instruction. Thus, the plan for a school was first realized in 1867, this time in Russian. Meanwhile, Zis left for Lodz where he became the manager of the elementary school that the kehile there had opened. However, in addition to the Czarist regime, organized Polish society in Czenstochow was against a separate Jewish school. In 1862, thanks to Wielopolski's[5] school policies, a general six grade county school was opened to which everyone was welcomed. At once, 47 Jewish students were registered in the Czenstochow school. Thus, the matter of a special school for Jewish children was no longer relevant. In general, the pious Jews were not interested in this school. They continued to send their children to the khederim [religious elementary schools]. In contrast, the very assimilated stratum was not interested in a separate school for Jewish children. For them the question of education was solved individually in accord with their beliefs and incomes.

 

4. Jews in Czenstochow in the Years 1863-1914

Czenstochow began to play a large role as a new industrial and trade center immediately after the revolt of 1863, when Poland entered the era of “organic work” that was to replace the ideology of national freedom with a program of economic independence. In certain respects Czenstochow even competed with Lodz. But Lodz was given greater opportunities and, therefore, many Jewish industrial pioneers moved there. As, for instance, Ludwig Kon, the large cotton merchant in Lodz, who played a great role in Lodz industry during 1861-1870, who was a Czenstochower Jew.

There is no exact statistical data about the growth of the Jewish population in Czenstochow. It is known only that in 1897 the city numbered 43,863 souls, of them, 11,764 Jews. This means that Jews made up 29.5 percent of the total population. The general population had increased over five times since 1857, while the Jewish population had increased almost six times as much. However, the Jewish share in comparison to the total population decreased. In 1857 Jews made up 34.5 percent of the total population; however, in 1897 only 29.7 percent.[6]

In 1862 the Jewish precincts were abolished. This happened as a result of Wielopolski's Act of Jewish Emancipation. As mentioned, Czenstochow always was proud that the city council there had adopted a resolution concerning the abolition of the Jewish ghetto two years earlier, before this act was proclaimed. The abolition of the precinct meant not only that Jews could live in the entire city, but also that they could settle undisturbed in Czenstochow. Many Jews from the surrounding cities and shtetlekh [towns] actually did begin to move there. An interesting migration took place. Many of the first pioneers in industry and trade, who “were the first to suffer” in Czenstochow, migrated to Warsaw and to Lodz, where they could better invest their capital

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and make use of their experience. Jews with little or no capital began to storm Czenstochow from the surrounding cities and shtetlekh and began building new industries and businesses. In such a manner they contributed to the economic growth of the city.

In 1897 Shmuel Rafal Landau, the founder of “Proletarian Zionism,” visited Czenstochow and wrote an interesting report about it. According to his estimate the city numbered 45,000 souls, of them 15,000 Jews. Landau wrote that the greater part of the Jews lived from trade. The frequent mass visits to the “Holy Mary” revived business.[7]

In Czenstochow, he visited the small synagogues and the two Jewish lodging houses.

“An actual Jewish middle class is entirely missing here” – he wrote – “barely 400 people pay kehile taxes. Compared to several rich, Jewish manufacturers, there is a large proletarian mass that literally feels itself lucky when it can find a secure income for themselves in these factories.”

He further relates that he only visited one factory, where the owner truly strove to have only Jews work for him. This was a factory of needles and sticks for umbrellas. Of the 220 workers, over 100 were Jews, men as well as women. The men earned between four and five rubles a week for an 11 and half hour work day. The young women – between a ruble and 80 kopekes to two and a half rubles a week. The very capable even earned three rubles a week. He saw several Jews, many former tavern owners among the workers. The majority of young women were employed with sorting and packing. The work was divided so that Jews did hand work while the Christians worked at the steam machines.

In addition to them, there were Jews employed in paper, celluloid, linen and jute factories.

Landau explains, “A Jewish manufacturer led me into a room where 83 young women pressed colored paper, but there was not one Jewish young woman among them. Therefore, it is curious that this person is recognized as none other than a philanthropist, who was interested in Jewish training, in agricultural work and trade.”

In 1902 Khorosz, a Russian-Jewish economist, conducted an investigation into the economic status of the Jews in Czenstochow.

He determined that the Jews in Czenstochow developed a lively and widespread production of toys. The city was given the name of “the Jewish Nirnberg,” because just as Nirnberg [Nurnberg, Germany] had acquired a reputation with its production of toys, so had Czenstochow during the 1860's begun to produce “playthings” for children.

Khorosz writes that one Reb Sheya was considered a pioneer of this industry in Czenstochow. He was a lathe turner by trade. First of all, this pious Jew began to make very artistically turned memorial medals with the picture of the “Holy Czenstochower Mother” [The Black Madonna]. These medals were such a success that in time they became an object of collecting on the part of various collectors. The demand for various souvenir medals by the pilgrims to Czenstochow grew so great that it provided the impetus to move toward streamlining the forms of production. Jews, even the very pious, began to fabricate Catholic items that the public gladly bought. However, the Catholic Church could not tolerate this. A series of bans were issued and the pious visitors to Czenstochow, in particular, were warned not to buy these manufactured goods. The Silesian artisans began to inundate the city with their goods. Some of them simply smuggled the goods in and the Russian customs house had to determinedly fight this industrial invasion.

Although the priests admired the “superb wood carving” made by the Jewish craftsmen and every bec fin [A person with a “fine palate,” therefore, someone with good taste] took pride in his collection of these “devotional items” – the Jews were required to give up their production.

In as much as this decree did not apply to selling the Catholic pictures and carvings – the commerce remained in Jewish hands. Thus, the Jews first switched to making wooden toys; later metal one and others. In the 80's and 90's of the last century [19th century], young people went to Nirnberg, where they learned the craft of making cheap toys. Returning home, they began to produce toys for children in a modest way.

According to Khorosz's calculations, at the end of the 19th century, the production of toys reached approximated 150,000 rubles a year. According to the later

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reports, this production reached over two million rubles a year in 1908. When one takes into account that Czenstochow produced cheap things, this sum is very large.

In 1900, Czenstochow possessed 50 percent of the factories making toys for children. Three hundred workers were employed in these factories. Four fifths of them were Jews. The owners of these factories were all Jews. There were many Jews who worked at home. This means they worked for enterprises that would give them the raw materials and the Jews were paid by the piece. However, the majority of these enterprises were the agents for small undertakings. In as much as they had no machines, particularly the small manufacturers, it should be understood that this was hand work. A man was rarely eager to have such work. Therefore, it is understandable as to why young women represented entirely 60 percent of these workers. Their earnings were between 80 kopekes and two rubles and 50 kopekes a week.

Work in the factories was usually by the piece. A normal work day was then between 12 and 15 hours a day.

The Czenstochower members of the Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S.) became interested in the condition of the Jewish workers. Their correspondents in Robotnik [Worker] and Przedswit [Daybreak] (published in London) give a clear reflection of the situation in this industry. Alas, it is not known how many efforts were made to organize the workers on the part of the party.

If the Czenstochower Jews were pioneers in this area of the toy industry in Poland, they were also very active in other realms. The manufacture of paper, wallpaper, soap, candles, matches, the five largest frame factories – this was all a Jewish achievement. The large mineral industry, which arose thanks to the exploitation of the natural richness around Czenstochow, developed at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Large lime factories and brick-yards were built and, later, iron foundries, metallurgy and textile industries. Large capitalistic enterprises arose and, as a consequence of this, a more solid strata of a well-established Jewish bourgeoisie. Great trade and shipping offices, commission sale houses and various intermediary agents developed around this industry. The role of Czenstochow as a transit point between Russia and abroad greatly raised the economic significance of this city.

Strong anti-Semitism developed as an accompanying phenomenon to the growth of the role of Jews in the economic life of Czenstochow. The inclination to make commerce more Polish was unmistakingly very clear in Czenstochow, much earlier than in other cities. Agitation was present during the processions of the pious pilgrims that took place at the end of the 19th century that these visitors to Jasna Gora should not, God forbid, buy from Jews, but should better support the Polish-Catholic merchants and shops. A strong anti-Semitic feeling also began to be felt among the Polish workers. The pogrom that took place in Czenstochow in August 1902 was a volcanic outburst of this feeling. Various strata of the Polish population took part in this pogrom. The victims of the pogrom were in the majority none other than the poor – 120 shops were robbed in the course of one hour. Jews stood up in resistance; the butchers who defended Targowa Street especially excelled, so that the pogrom did not reach there. The military had to be called out. Two fell dead and there were many wounded.

The Polish Socialist Party that held Czenstochow as one if its strongest positions issued an appeal in which it criticized the pogrom.

This pogrom incited Jewish and Polish organized society. The effect of these events was immediately felt in Jewish life. It can be said that since that event, the Jewish bourgeoisie in Czenstochow that had never gathered any money to support Polish artists and writers – began to show signs of a more active interest in Jewish communal life. Since then, Czenstochow records many times where children from deeply assimilated Jewish homes took part in Jewish matters, even of a national character.

In about 1899 Jewish communal life in Czenstochow became very poor. No Jewish institutions were active. The kehile itself functioned very weakly. The assimilated Jews had the most influence in it. They always were chosen as dozores [wardens] because there was

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no one better, particularly because they permitted themselves to splurge a little.

Then an agreement came about to look for a place for a cemetery and to build a mikvah [ritual bath]. The city really needed both institutions. In March 1899 a Jewish Charity Society was founded that bore the Polish name Dobroczynnosc [works of mercy]. The first task of this society was to build a Jewish hospital. The Jewish population grew; the number of Jewish doctors was large enough to be able to serve a small hospital for the Jewish sick.

In September 1900 this society bought a plot on which to build a hospital. But it seemed that the plot was no good. Those involved in the matter remained discouraged. The entire project did not move forward. It was seven years later when the work was renewed. In 1907 the old slaughter house was placed under the jurisdiction of the city. The hospital commission began negotiations with city hall that the spot near the slaughter house should be given for the planned hospital.

In 1908 city hall donated this location and they proceeded to build the hospital.

On 18 Sivan [7 June] 5669 (1909), the foundation stone was officially laid with a large parade.

The hospital cost 120,000 rubles. It had 50 beds. Its yearly budget was 30,000 rubles. Part of this sum came from municipal tax payments from the Czenstochower middle class. This income reached 6,000 rubles a year. The remaining monies came from the support of the rich Jews and from income from the patients.

The Polish press strongly praised the organization of the Jewish hospital in Czenstochow and pointed to it as a model of communal energy and organization.

The Jewish hospital greatly increased the prestige of the kehile. Little by little, this kehile organized a series of institutions that were a model for the other small kehilus [plural of kehile]. In addition to the handworker's school at the Talmud-Torah [free religious school for poor boys] that was the achievement of the kehile, they built Hakhnoses-Orkhim [an organization providing hospitality to guests, most often for Shabbos] that numbered 740 supporting members. The Markusfeld family supported the most important communal institutions. Thus, for example, in 1910, a handworker's school was built and named for Adolf and Ernestine Markusfeld, the parents of the rich man, Henrikh Markusfeld. In order to support this school, which had a large staff of teachers, the Markusfeld family participated with large contributions. In addition to this, the kehile and also the Jewish Colonization Association (IKA) contributed large sums.

In addition to money, Markusfeld also donated a beautiful library to the school. The same Markusfeld contributed money for the library of the Jewish organization, Lira [choral society]. The solemn opening of the “Henrikh Markusfeld Library” took place in December 1912. Y.L. Peretz [one of the most important Yiddish writers] was invited as the main speaker. During that time of the boycott movement[8] which was very strong in Czenstochow, it was very interesting to see how assimilated Jews clung to the Jewish Lira. Peretz gave a beautiful speech about the sense of Jewish history and developed the idea that Jews in Poland are not “guests,” but residents. Markusfeld was very pleased with the speech. It made this institution, which was unquestionably a Jewish national institution, more important to him.

In 1901, the local Talmud Torah created a horticultural farm. IKA [Jewish Colonization Association] appropriated 18,680 rubles for this purpose. The kehile would give 3,000 rubles a year. The farm had 17 acres of land. Its budget reached 10,000 rubles a year. This institution had such a good reputation that in 1907 it received the second prize at the Polish horticultural exhibition.

The following people were on the managing committee of the horticultural farm in 1907: H. Markusfeld, Leopold Werde (1862-1912), Markus Henig, Y. Novinski, Stefan Grosman, Stanislaw Herc, Dr. L. Patawja and M. Frankel.

Leopold Werde was very active in the Jewish charity society and was very interested in Jewish education. The kehile supported four elementary schools: two for boys and two for girls. In 1910 these schools were attended by over 300 children. The kehile assigned 10,000 rubles a year for these schools. In addition to this there were three Talmud Torahs; of them, two were in their own buildings. Sixty students studied in the craftsmen's workshops. Werde secretly covered a large part of the budget that far exceeded the yearly subsidy from the kehile.

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In the years 1909-1912, a series of societies and clubs arose in Czenstochow. Passionate, ideological struggles, which alas are little known, took place in many of these societies. In a report about a session of the Jewish Education Society that was held in April 1907, we learn of a language struggle that took place there. It consisted of this, should Yiddish lessons and the possession of Yiddish books by the library of this society be permitted? According to the report of Goniec [Messenger] Czenstochowski, the majority supported permitting Yiddish. Therefore, the anti-Yiddish members resigned from the society. According to this report, the main jargonistn[9] were: Kwiatek, Herc and Zigmunt Majorczyk. The last, incidentally, was a follower of [Y.L.] Peretz and a collector of Jewish folklore.

Of the practical societies, the most important was the gmiles khesed kase [interest free loan office]. It was partly supported by IKA. Henrikh Markusfeld was a member of the chief managing committee of IKA and a relative of Hipolit Wawelburg, the famous banker who was the supervisor of the IKA fund in Russia and Poland. This is the reason that Czenstochow happened to find favor in the eyes of those in charge of the IKA fund more than other Jewish communities in Poland.

Jewish communal life in Czenstochow grew beyond the kehile and did not even have much contact with the official representation of the local Jewry. The calcification of the kehile in large part caused the weak communal support that its activities had among the Jewish population. All institutions, except perhaps the hospital, were a product of the energy of individuals, mainly those who did not even pay any Jewish communal tax. And inevitably they did not have any influence in the managing committee of the kehile. The communal base of these institutions was a democratic one that had nothing to do with the tenure of the dozores [council members].These were merchants, storekeepers, intelligent workers, craftsmen from various ideological paths, activists and various legal and illegal circles and groups. Yet Czenstochow excelled among the Polish provincial cities with a lively communal pulse. Many theorists of the new social system in Jewish political thought found their first ideological followers in Czenstochow. There were parties in the Jewish neighborhoods whose chief moral and material support came Czenstochow.

Jewish life was mirrored more in the Lira Society, then, for example, in the activity of the kehile. All ideologies from the Jewish neighborhoods were represented in it. The most prominent writers and political activists gave lectures to Lira. Under the conditions of the Czarist regime, Lira succeeded in evoking the ideological programs of various parties. The high level of the discussions that were held there was even echoed in the Warsaw press.

Of all provincial cities in Poland, Lodz and Czenstochow had luck with the press of the country. The detailed reports about the activity of the local Jewish hospital that Polish medical journals published gave evidence as to the high level of this institution.

The same can be said about the old age home. The horticultural farm has already been mentioned.

The conflict between the population and the kehile was unavoidable. The restless communal energy sought a concentrated improvement. The moment was ripe for the coordination of the activity of the various groups. The press pointed out the squandering of money because each institution had its own budget, with its own managing committee. There was a demand for the centralization of Jewish communal life. The struggle for democratization of the kehile that was then going on in Warsaw had to influence the kehilus in the provinces.

It is therefore no wonder that Czenstochow also began to mobilize for an attack that would shatter the old fortress of the kehile. The kehile was tightly in the hands of several Jewish families that did not want to let out of their control the placowka [agency] as the Izraelita referred to the kehile, coincidentally a powerful card for the assimilated.

The Jewish press in Warsaw often wrote about this and the struggle began in Czenstochow.

This struggle for democratization of the Jewish kehile in Czenstochow began in 1912. A communal campaign by the entire kehile was required because the Galveston emigration awoke such wide interest in Czenstochow, where Territorialist[10] sympathies were so strong that many young people left for Galveston.

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The Czenstochower Tageblat [Daily Newspaper], a newspaper with very lively editing, actually began a campaign for democratizing the kehile.

The apathy in relation to kehile elections was so great that in 1913 of 1,200 Jewish communal tax payers, only 14 took part in the voting. The Russian regime, it should be understood, had to void the election and set a new one.

That year Jewish Czenstochow began a campaign to build a communal house for all Jewish institutions in the city. Although this campaign did not bring any tangible result in the intervening time, the best communal strengths were mobilized in the city. The assimilated Jews were so drawn into the storm of Jewish life that even during the boycott campaign a plan emerged for the publication of a Polish-Yiddish newspaper. The money was supposed to be given by the Werde and Markusfeld families and the editors were supposed to be the Socialist Yakov Rozenberg and Dr. Zaks. One of the Werdes, Leopold Werde, who died in 1912, was an esteemed communal worker from the assimilationist camp.

During the same year (1913) the Jewish Manufacturers and Merchants Union was founded.

In 1914 on the eve of the First World War, the Jewish press in Czenstochow began a struggle for a Jewish public school. This struggle was supported by all of the Jewish socialist parties and a significant part of the Jewish bourgeoisie.

The kehile had already been partly reorganized with a large budget. Its holdings reached a half million rubles. True, its main supporters were still after all the most affluent strata, that is, the assimilated. For now, a democratic kehile managing committee that would accommodate the demands of the Jewish community was still far away.

That year the kehile numbered 1,145 Jewish community tax payers. Of them, 900 paid on the average 10 rubles a year, while 245 Jewish community tax payers brought in 25, 800 rubles. Thus the main authority was in the hands of the rich Jews, mostly assimilated, although, as was already mentioned, with a much warmer interest in Jewish matters than before. Warsaw, for example, did not have such “assimilated people” who built Jewish libraries, but they were in Czenstochow.

The First World War broke out. On the 3rd of August, 1914, the Germans were already in Czenstochow. Jews began to be dragged to forced labor. Several Jews had even been shot. A painful, gray and, sometimes even bloody period in the life of the Czenstochow Jews, began.

The Jews of Czenstochow faced an unknown tomorrow.

 

5. Rabbis, Scholars and Writers in Czenstochow

It was mentioned earlier that the city of Czenstochow did not have a Jewish kehile until the beginning of the 19th century and was actually a prikahalok [provincial kalal or community] of Janow. As a matter of course, it did not have a rabbi. During the era of the Duchy of Warsaw, it had religious judges, but still no rabbi. Czenstochow probably had its first rabbi during the time of Congress Poland (1815-1830). In 1821, the kehile was abolished in all of Poland and a “synagogue council” (dozor bóžnici) was introduced. This meant that the power of the kehile as an organization with autonomous functions would be taken over and it would be converted into a managing committee over the synagogues and other institutions that served the Jewish population. As a matter of course, there could not be a chief rabbi who would represent the religious community of the city. It is probable that there were local men who decided matters of religious law. In important matters they turned to the Piotrkow rabbi.

It is difficult to determine who the first rabbi in Czenstochow was.

In the Sefir Shayles vaTshuves [book in which a rabbi states his previous Halachahic questions and answers to those questions on religious practice] Brit Avraham [Covenant Avraham] of the Piotrkow rabbi, one Reb Dovid ABD”K Czenstochow [Av Beis Din Kehile Czenstochow chairman of the kehile court of Czenstochow] is mentioned several times. According to all probabilities, this was Reb Dovid Yitzhak, the author of a commentary on the Khumish [Torah] entitled Beis Dovid that was published in 5667 (1807). He signed his name ABD”K (Av Beis Din Kehile) Czenstochow vaRAB”D (and head of the religious court) Piotrkow. Reb Dovid Yitzhak died in 5578 (1818). According to other sources, he died in 5581 (1821).

There is, however, information that the first Czenstochower rabbi was the gaon [genius] Yissakhar Wajngurt. Alas, there are no facts about him available.

Among the earlier scholars from Czenstochow

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is remembered a certain Reb Arya Czenstochow. According to probabilities, this Arya was a dayan [religious judge] in Czenstochow. An agreement signed by him is found in the book Ma'aseh Hoshev [Art of Calculation]. This was a commentary on the tractate Bove Kame [First Gate] and oaths written by Reb Josef bar [son of] Moshe Najminc of Pilce. This book was published in Lemberg in 1796 (5556). This Reb Arya was one of the first scholars who was known in the history of the Jews of Czenstochow.

Dozens of years passed and not one name of a rabbi is found in Czenstochow. This does not mean that the city did not have a rabbi. Simply, that no materials were preserved about this matter. There were probably no great men of their era. They did not write any works and, therefore, any trace of them was lost. There is no indication of bibliographic information about them – as a result a long segment of time was not recorded for history.

Finally, in approximately 1850, a rabbi appeared in Czenstochow who acquired a reputation nor only in his own city but also in Poland and abroad. This was Reb Yitzhak Rabinowicz (1823-1868). We do not know from where he came. We only know that from 1850 until 1868, that is, until his death, he was the Czenstochow rabbi. We also know that he visited Berlin and knew the Rabbi, Dr. Michael Sachs (1808-1864), the well known researcher of Medieval Hebrew poetry and the translator of the Siddur [Hebrew prayer book] and Makhzor [Hebrew prayer book used on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur] into German. Rabinowicz even corresponded with him. He also knew other German rabbis and preachers. In Prussia, Rabinowicz would buy seforim [religious books] and carry out academic debates with these rabbis. However, this does not mean that Rabinowicz was a follower of the German sect. He was a pious rabbi in Poland who had a connection to the German rabbis and who did not see a danger to the foundation of Orthodox Jewry in the Enlightenment.

Rabinowicz was famous as a preacher. In 1863, Moshe Majmon, one of his students and a great Hasid, wrote that Rabinowicz would come to Warsaw and give droshus [sermons or speeches] that were successful with the circle of scholarly opponents of Hasidism (Jutczenka, 1863, 40).

When Rabinowicz died (in 1868), Shimeon Peltyn, himself a Jew, a scholar, although a maskil [follower of the Enlightenment], published a detailed obituary notice in the weekly newspaper, Izraelita. It is probable that Peltyn knew the Czenstochower rabbi personally. His description was written with a great deal of warmth.

“He was the only rabbi in our country” – Peltyn wrote – “who combined true piety with free scholarly thought. He was a great scholar in the area of rabbinic literature and no less knowledgeable of worldly matters.”

Peltyn further describes how difficult it was for Rabbi Yitzhak Rabinowicz to persuade the kehile that worldly studies were in no way in contradiction to piety and learning. True, he was a fierce opponent of Hasidism and passionately fought Hasidus and Hasidim.

The Hasidim denounced him to the regime many times and indicated that he went hand in hand with the heretics. However, the Czenstochow rabbi was goodness itself, without anger, without feelings of revenge. He was a man with a deep feeling for justice and, in general, a very tolerant man.

He believed that one did not have to fear for the pious; they would not become non-believers. It bothered him more that the non-believers not become “entirely gentile.” Despite the fact that the Czenstochow kehile was in the hands of the “enlightened” rich men, they ran it as the rabbi wished. He gave his sermons in Yiddish. He did not want in any way to permit the smallest reforms. The only one that he brought in was instruction in Polish in the Talmud Torah [school for poor young Jewish boys]. Later, Russian, calculations and a little geography.

There was a gathering place for the wise men in his home. The scholars would come together and they would debate the newest research from the German Hokhmas Yisroel [Jewish science]. Many Jews heard the names of Yom-Tov Lipman Zunz,[11] Michael Sachs and other scholars from Germany from the mouth of the rabbi. He himself subscribed to the most important periodicals about Hokhmas Yisroel.

The most important sermons of Rabbi Yitzhak Rabinowicz were published in 1863 in Berlin under the name, Nidvot Pi [The title comes from Psalm 119:108: “Please accept with favor the offerings of my mouth…”] This collection of sermons and subtle argumentations in halakhah [religious law] was warmly received by the critics of that time. Moshe Majmon published a detailed review in the weekly newspaper, Jutczenka, that Daniel Najfeld, the rabbi's friend,

[Page 30]

published. In general, Najfeld thought very highly of the Czenstochow rabbi. In his eyes, he was the ideal of a rabbi in Poland. Pious and worldly at the same time.

Najfeld wrote in an article that “the rabbi of Czenstochow is well known thanks to his tolerance and feel for justice.” (Jutczenka, 1863, no. 4).

The second section of the sermons was published by the rabbi's son. They were published in Warsaw in 1870.

The sermons of Reb Yitzhak Rabinowicz have not yet been utilized as material to describe the spiritual circumstances of a small kehile of that time. The examples and illustrations that the Czenstochow rabbi presents in his sermons are taken from the local reality. There is not present in them exaggerations and also no moralizing tone of reproof. There is a direct turn to commonsense, a truly cautious critique of those bad habits that he wanted to eliminate through quiet means. Questions of Jewish education were very often touched upon in these sermons. In a sermon, the rabbi described how one should raise a child in a rich Jewish home in Czenstochow. The sons go to the public schools as was the custom in those circles. The rabbi suggested that, in the majority of cases, the wife prevailed with the children being sent to the szkoles [Polish word for schools]. The father was against them. The child came home from the szkole; the mother was full of joy, while the father went through the house and threw curses at the “gentile schools.” In another sermon he described an opposite case. The parents sent a young boy to the Talmud Torah. But he came home and he found a spirit that was the opposite of that which he was taught in the Talmud Torah. Rabinowicz showed the contradictions and warned that such dichotomy is a danger for the survival and unity of the Jewish family.

There was also present in the sermons depictions of the conditions of Jewish life in Czenstochow. For example, in this manner in a sermon, the rabbi describes how the well-to-do families in Czenstochow play cards without end.

In addition to sermons, Rabbi Rabinowicz wrote many letters. It has already been said that he had correspondences with Sachs, Zunz and Kirchheim. He also carried on a correspondence with Polish maskilim [followers of the Enlightenment] from Warsaw and Lodz. Alas, many letters were lost and only a few were preserved. So, for example, Josef Graf, a maskil, published in a Polish translation two of his interesting Hebrew letters that the Czentochower rabbi had written to the maskil, Isidor Kempinski in Lodz (Izraelita, 1869, number 8 and 9).

There is present in these two long letters a great deal of homiletic interpretation mixed with good psychological considerations about Tractates of the Sages of blessed memory. We can see from them that Rabinowicz was well versed in Yiddish homiletics that flourished in Germany in his time. At the same time he was strongly conservative and did not depart from tradition.

On the other hand, his son, Yehuda Rabinowicz, was more a maskil than a pious Jew, although he had a reputation as a great scholar. He died a year after his father's death (in 1869) at the age of 24. In 1870, one of his brothers published the second section of his father's sermons under the same name: Nidvot Pi.

Between the years 1868 and 1878 we do not hear about a rabbi in Czenstochow. It is probable that after such a sympathetic figure as Rabbi Rabinowicz it was not so easy a thing to find a suitable rabbi who could satisfy both sides, the strongly influential “enlightened” and the majority minyon [10 men necessary for prayer] of the pious Jews.

From 1887 to 1894, Gershon Rawinson was the rabbi in Czenstochow. In 1894, Rabbi, Reb Nakhum Asz took his place.

The sudden prosperity of the Czenstochow kehile occurred during his time. The most important institutions were built up while Asz was the rabbi. He had a great influence on the kehile and was very respected by all of the Jews.

In addition to rabbis, Czenstochow had a series of scholars who were well known throughout Poland and several even outside the country.

Names of Czenstochow Jews are found very often in the lists of subscribers of various Enlightenment and scholarly books of that time. For example, the name of the Openhejm family is repeated very often; three generations of this family were found in such lists from 1850 to 1907. In 1907, a book entitled Metsudes ben Tzion [Fortress of Zion] was published in Piotrkow. Among the subscribers is found an Openhejm whose grandfather was found in a book by the maskil, Mandelsburg, that was published in Warsaw in 1850.

Czenstochow also had private scholars. Thus, for example, Reb Nekhemia Landau, a scholar from Czenstochow, the father of Bernard Landau, the industrialist and wealthy man, one of the pillars of the Enlightenment in Czenstochow, participated with an endorsement of the Pirke-Oves [Ethics of the Fathers] that was published in Krotoszyn in 1850.

[Page 31]

Among the most important maskilim in Czenstochow, whose names are found very often on the lists of subscribers of Hebrew books, it is worthwhile to remember the following: Abele Landa, Aizik Shimeon Ginsberg, Yitzhak Gliksohn, Yitzhak Frajman, Yitzhak Winer, Avraham Sztajnman, Gershon Landa, Dovid Landa, Josef Szmidberg, Yeshayahu Hajman, Josef Zand, Yeshayahu Landa, Mordekhai Kahn, Moshe Lib Wajnberg, Note Rajkher and Fajgenblat.

Moshe Majmon (1812-1874), although born in Dzialoszyce, considered himself a Czenstochower because he spent almost his entire life there. Majmon graduated from the Warsaw Rabbinical School. He was a private teacher of Hebrew, wrote for Polish-Yiddish periodicals and published a great many articles in Polish and Hebrew. Several of these articles have a worth to this day as materials about the Jewish way of life in a series of smaller communities in Poland.

Of the Jews in Czenstochow who wrote in Polish it is worthwhile to remember Adam Wolberg, who wrote in the secular Polish press and also for the Izraelita. Particularly important is his work about the architecture of the wooden synagogues in Poland. In 1910 Wolberg created a sensation with his polemical writing: “I Blame the Polish Press,” in which he unmasked the degradation of the Polish press that seeks only sensations and demoralizes society and leads it from its path of political activity.

Two Czenstochow Jews wrote novels and short stories in Polish. These were Edward Zaks and Marya Glikson. Zaks even wrote a novel about Jewish life. Glikson was close to the Polish Socialist Party and wrote under the name Marion.

The last of the Mohicans of the former Pleiades [cluster of stars known as the Seven Sisters, here it denotes a group of followers of the Enlightenment] of the Czenstochow maskilim died in Czenstochow. This was Tzvi Perla. He was born in 1841. In 1861 he took part in the patriotic demonstrations for which he paid with several months in jail. He knew Hebrew and Polish very well; he educated generations of Jewish youth in Czenstochow and later in Lodz.

During the time of independent Poland, the Rabbi, Dr. Chaim Zeev Hirszberg, a Tarnopoler Jew, represented Jewish science in Czenstochow. A good Orientalist, he published a series of works in various Polish and Hebrew periodicals. However, his political activity did not make him popular. After this, when Dr. Meir Balaban, of blessed memory, who was director of the Jewish gymnazie [high school] for a time, left Czenstochow, Hirszberg again carried on the work of cataloguing the Hebrew books of the Czenstochow monastery that Balaban had begun. The Krakow Academy of Science planned to publish the catalogue of the entire library (publications from the 15th to the 18th century) – but the Second World War undid the plan.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. False accusation that Jews kill non-Jewish children to obtain their blood for the making of matzoh. Return
  2. Count Aleksander Wielopolski was the head of Civil Administration for Poland under Czar Alexander II. He was instrumental in carrying out educational reforms. Return
  3. The author is inconsistent. In one sentence he writes that in 1897 the Jews were 29.5 percent of the population and in another that they were 29.7 percent. Return
  4. An icon of a “Black Madonna” is found in the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czenstochow and vast numbers of pilgrims visit it each year. Return
  5. In 1912, the Jews supported a socialist candidate in elections to the Duma, resulting in a boycott of Jewish businesses by supporters of the National Democrats. Poland was then under Russian control and had representation in the Russian Duma. Return
  6. An ironic use of the word jargon. Some intellectuals dismissed Yiddish as merely jargon – not a real language, but a dialect used by the less educated. In this context, jargonistn supported the use of Yiddish. Return
  7. Territorialism was a political movement that called for the creation of a Jewish territory or territories that did not have to be located in Palestine or be fully independent. Return
  8. Yom-Tov Lipman (Leopold) Zunz was a reform rabbi born in Germany who founded the “Science of Judaism” – the study of Jewish literature, religious music and ritual. Return

 

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