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The Economic Life of the Jews of Kielce

The Jews: Industrial Pioneers

Translated by Judy Montel

Edited by Warren Blatt


Kielce began developing from the day Jews received permission to live there.

The Kielce area is full of natural resources. Mountain slopes, full of limestone and marble. The mountains were covered with thick forests. None of the Poles had the initiative to utilize the wealth hidden in the ground. The landowners would sit on their estates, spending their time in drinking parties and games, hunting animals and other such activities. The farmers were enslaved to the “Portzim”, the landowners, with no will or initiative of their own. The middle classes, concentrated in artisan guilds called “Cachim”, did not venture out of their areas of expertise and had nothing to do with industry. There were also Germans, who had settled in Poland in the days of the Tartar invasion; but they founded agricultural colonies and worked the land; some of them, who settled in the cities, were shopkeepers or managed the wine and liquor stills for the landowners. The Jews were the first to develop the various industries in Kielce, whitewash and brick factories, marble stones and gravel for paving roads; wood industries, planks for building and furniture making; the leather industry: tanners and shoemaking factories; enamel ware and the like, the soap and candle-making industries, and dozens of other sorts of small industrial factories.

The first pioneer who began utilizing the limestone around Kielce was a Jew from Dzialoszyce, Jehuda Ehrlich. He bought a mountain to the south of Kielce from a landowner and built himself a kiln for firing the limestone into whitewash. At first this work was done in a primitive manner; even so, the Kielce whitewash soon had a good reputation and was known throughout Poland for its quality. The owners became wealthy. They developed their business, new buildings were added to it, and they built a spur of the railroad from the main line. Cases of whitewash rode upon it, and from them the whitewash was loaded onto the boxcars of freight trains which delivered this building material to every corner of the state. The “Kadzilna” whitewash (the name of the factory) was in great demand. This factory employed hundreds of workers, clerks, technicians and artisans.


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The factory founder was a devoted Jew; on Sabbaths and holidays he prayed in the study house and wore silk clothing like one of the Chassidim, however his ever-growing wealth gradually distracted his attention from religious matters. His sons, who received higher education, distanced themselves from Jewish affairs. The current of assimilation, which attacked well-known circles among the wealthy in this period, carried them along as well. To their credit, let it be said here, that they kept the traditions of their late father, and the management of their large factory was in the hands of Jews. Jews were the bookkeepers, the clerks, and the technicians. Only the laborers in the quarry and by the kilns were Poles.

The “Kadzilna” factory enriched not only its owners; it brought affluence to the Jewish community of the city as well, since many of the Jewish residents of Kielce found their livelihood there. This was the first factory, which did much to aid the development and growth of the Jewish community. Smoke rising from kilns was, for the Jews of the city, like the holy smoke of incense.

The Jewish managers of the factory were Wolman; the first husband of Mrs. Stefanja Wolman, who founded the girls high school, and later the brothers Jankielewski, from the family of Rabbi Gold, the leader of the “Mizrachi” movement. Among the technicians and artisans were Rzok, a nationalist Jew and Ch. Kochen, who were regular employees of “Kadzilna” and others.

A mountain like this fell into the hands of the Zagajski family as well. Anyone who knew this place formerly would not have imagined that a simple mountain, that the herders used to pasture the animals of the city, contained such treasures, which sufficed to keep three generations of this family in wealth and prosperity. A person would not jump upon this mountain, made up of boulders that stuck out of it and above it. Barren mountains like this were plentiful around Kielce. Awraham Zagajski acquired this mountain for almost nothing. A short time after the purchase, limestone was discovered there. Zagajski began to utilize it, built ovens as whitewash kilns, paved a road from the kiln to the railroad, to ease the transfer of the whitewash to the train and to send it out by box car all over the state. The factory began to develop very quickly. The number of laborers who were employed there kept on growing until there were six hundred of them, not counting overseers, clerks, and bookkeepers necessary, as usual, to such a large industrial factory. Awraham Zagajski, the family elder, transferred the company to his two sons, Jakob and Cwi, in his old age. With their initiative and energies as well as an open eye to the future enlarged and broadened the factory. Their wealth grew; they built themselves splendid homes in Kielce. Cwi's son, Elimelech (Miczislaw) opened a branch of the company in Warsaw as well, in order to distribute their product from there to more distant places. The house of Zagajski rose to glory and honor in the Kielce community.

In the business of stones and whitewash, bricks and tiles the following families took part: Rozenholc, Goldfarb, Lifszycz and Chelmner, Krystal, Josef Orbajtl and Lemel Kahana.

This business enriched its owners and was one of the economic foundations of the Jews of Kielce.


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A second important economic branch for the local Jews were the wood factories that the Jews set up around the city. Thick forests covered the mountains of Kielce. Forests of pine, oak, cypress and beech surrounded the settlements of the area and waited for the arrival of the Jews, who began to utilize this natural wealth. Traders with capital would buy parcels of forested land from the landowners, set up sawmills for hundreds of workers and would turn the raw logs into planks, sills, beams, and pillars and would send them by train to other countries, near and far. Jews handled the export of this raw wood and the wood factories employed hundreds and thousands of workers. Rows and rows of farmers' wagons flowed on the road that led to the train station and brought worked and unworked logs there to be loaded on the freight cars. The train delivered these goods to the shores of the Baltic Sea, and there they were loaded onto boats that sailed with the export goods to England and France. In the wood industry the following were employed: the brothers Herszl and Eliezer Rajzman, the brothers Joel and Icak Klajnman, the Golembiowski family, the Machtynger family, Ajzenberg, Bugajer and many others. A great bounty flowed to the city and to the Jewish community from the wood industry. The inhabitants of the Polish village and the Jewish settlement were nourished by this plenty, and noticeable poverty was not common either in Kielce or its surroundings.

Another part of this branch of the economy was the furniture business, which developed in Kielce and its environs. This business employed the carpenters. Mosze Dawid Ajzenberg worked in the Kielce suburb of Bialogon [about 4 miles southwest of Kielce], as well as Herman Lewi and A.B. Ajzenberg. The furniture of Kielce was well known for its praiseworthy quality and beauty. Orders for this furniture arrived from distant places as well. The factory owners grew wealthy and filled an important role in the development of the city.

Jews also wholly owned the leather industry. Jewish tanners had been processing animal skins for a long time in a primitive fashion; to work the leather they used the bark of oak and pine trees that were plentiful in the thickly forested area. However, this industry had progressed in leaps and bounds in the past several decades. Several large factories for processing leather were founded, they were equipped with the latest machinery, and they began using chemical substances in extracts for processing the leather. This industry employed hundreds of families. Laborers found in it work and livelihood. In this industry the following families were famous: the Orbajtl family, whose patriarch, Awraham Orbajtl, one of the first to settle in the city, was called by his profession Awraham Gerber (tanner), his son Szmul Orbajtl in partnership with Mosze Dawid Ajzenberg, the Kaminer family, Mosze Chaim and his sons, the Waksberg family headed by Jeszaja Waksberg, and other tanners who continued to work the leather in the traditional fashion. In Bialogon, which was considered a suburb of Kielce, the Tenenbaum family members processed leather as well. The Kielce tanners' products were distributed through the entire country.

In connection with the tanners, another related industry developed, and this was the shoemaking trade. Kielce shoes were famous throughout Poland for their excellent quality. Before World War I Kielce shoes reached Siberia, to the edge of the Far East. The owners of these factories grew wealthy, built themselves big stone houses, and brought plenty and abundance to the city and its inhabitants, employing thousands of cobblers, Poles and Jews, residents of the city and of the surrounding villages. Every Saturday night there was much activity in the city streets. The cobblers were hurrying with their packages, containing dozens of pairs of shoes of all sorts, the fruit of their labor for the week, and bringing them to the managers who handed out work to receive their wages and materials for the coming week.


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At the same time there was activity in the shops and pubs. The Polish artisan, who received his wages from his employer, would hurry to the shop to purchase his wants for his day of rest. On the following day, on Sunday, the activity did not cease in the streets of the city; this was the activity of the shoe salesmen, great and small, who came from cities far a near to place their orders and shop. The goods, as usual, were bought on credit, with bills, whose terms of payment were generally six months from the date of purchase. The local banks saw increased custom on Mondays. The holders of the bills gave them to the banks for clearance and received cash for them, with which they paid their own bills that had come due. This repeated itself every week. The businesses were dependent upon one another like gears and cogs in a machine, where one propels another, and that one yet another, and so on, and altogether a general motion is generated directed towards the desired goal.

The shoemaking industry had a tremendous effect upon Kielce, and the name of the city became known throughout the country as a shoemaking center. “City of Shoes” was another name for the city of Kielce. When a stranger came to town and passed down Szinkibicza Street – Train Street – which led from the station to the town, the shoe industry caught his eye immediately. Nearly all of the large shops along the street, which was the main street of the city, displayed all sorts of shoes in their windows, sewn according to the newest fashion. Next to the shops were the factories, where the upper parts of the shoes were prepared, which were then distributed to cobblers, who did the finishing work on the shoe.

The odor of leather that had just left the factory and that of the shoe polishes tickled the nose of the stranger, who stepped onto the soil of Kielce for the first time. Here were the artisans, who specialized in their craft and produced fancy shoes both beautiful and nicely finished; here were the designers, who cut the leather according to the pattern they themselves had invented. They raised the craft of cobbling from its lowly status and turned it into a delicate craft that demanded expertise and a feeling for taste and beauty.

This branch of industry was handled by the Jews who developed it to a very high level and brought plenty and wealth to all the inhabitants of Kielce and its surroundings.

The first, shoemaking industry pioneers in the city were as follows: Simcha Bunem Izraelski, the brothers Ch. B. Rotman and Szlomo Rotman, D. Rembiszewski and his sons. After them came a longer list, B. Szmulewicz, the brothers Lewensztajn, the brothers Piasecki and Herszkowicz, L. Rozenberg and his son Cwi, Wajcman, Mendelewicz, Szapiro and many others who were a part of this business on a smaller scale. During the economic crises that affected the country from time to time, many of them were not able to survive, collapsed and did not rise again. The small businessmen in this branch were most numerous when the luck was with them. However, any tremor in the economic life of the country bankrupted them and many never recovered. They had to pull up their stakes and emigrate over the ocean with the remnants of their possessions.


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The ironmongers Sztarke & Bruner dealt in the business of casting iron and enamel; their factory also employed hundreds of workers. Their product was very much in demand all over the country.

Among the various crafts and factories there were also those for manufacturing candles and soap. Several families produced candles and soap in a primitive fashion. They did not have steam vats for cooking the materials for production, but used regular vats, the handiwork of their ancestors, and they introduced no innovations to the production of these commodities; even so, they were successful at their handiwork and grew wealthy and built themselves homes. The brothers Szmelke and Hirszel Ajzenberg and the Rubinek brothers took part in the soap and candle industry. Their products were for local consumption and local markets.

Aside from the important industries mentioned, which filled an important role in the development of the city, there were also small factories that employed Jews, and among them were factories that not only maintained their owners, but also brought them wealth and abundance. I will mention here, for example, one of these factories which demonstrates that the Jewish initiative and creative spirit which were embedded in the blood of the Jews could create very real results even in a field that had hitherto been abandoned by all, and their creativity brought a blessing to more than a few families.

In the early years of the twentieth century a young man came to Kielce and opened a photography shop. This was the first photography shop whose owners were Jewish. A Christian Pole named Szwianski had a photography shop in the town, but he was set in his ways, clung to old-fashioned methods and didn't introduce any progress in the art of photography. The young man quickly became known in the city, where he was known as a photographer who understands his art. The number of his customers grew from day to day and he wasn't set in his ways and he didn't cling to old-fashioned methods, but introduced numerous improvements and changes to his profession. His name was Kopel Gringras and his photography shop was called “Moderne”. The name was evidence of the photographer's direction, and his efforts to acquire the tools of his trade and improvements in it. He came to Kielce from Switzerland, where he learned his trade from experts. He also knew the art of sketching, married and was blessed with many sons, who, when they grew up, helped their father in his trade.

However, he invented a new profession in this craft, which spread and grew later and gave work to many of the younger generations, and brought wealth to several youngsters of energy and initiative. He organized a laboratory for enlarging photographs. A small photograph, given to him, would be returned enlarged according to the wishes of the customer. Agents went out to all corners of the state carrying bags with examples of enlarged photographs. They would take orders to enlarge photographs of people living and dead. The enterprise grew so large that dozens of young men and women were engaged in the occupation as well as dozens of agents taking orders.


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Several of his students left his shop and opened their own laboratories, running their businesses on their own. Some of them were successful in this business, acquired capital and built themselves glorious stone houses. The more famous of the owners of such businesses were Cytryn, the grandson of Mejer Cytryn, and Oberzanski. They developed this type of business to the pinnacle of its potential, and provided employment for many families in the city.

This photographer, Gringras, also founded a factory for photographic negatives in Kielce, which had hitherto been imported from Germany. In his unrelenting energies, and especially with the help of his son Leopold, who specialized in this production, he created a new industry that had not been dreamt of previously in Poland. This factory also employed dozens of men and women laborers. This source of income saved the many young men and women who wished to become productive and they devoted themselves to this work and became expert at it.

Thanks to the industry that the Jews developed in Kielce, its population, of both Jews and Christians, grew. In 1918, when Poland became an independent state, Kielce became the capital of the district, an area whose population numbered close to three million souls, and the industry of the city supplied their wares.

However, the Jewish population of Kielce did not live by industry alone. Trade and crafts were in the hands of the Jews and from these sources thousands of families drew their livelihood, and a number of them did very well, became wealthy and famous among the Jews of Poland.

About them and their activities in the following sections.


The Status of the Traders in Kielce and it Representatives

On the first line of the traders of Kielce stood the textile traders. This business found its best outlet and development only in the hands of Jews. The owners of the textile mills in Lodz knew that when they entrusted their wares to Jews it would get a wide distribution, reaching even the most remote places. The Jewish trader alone was capable of dealing with this branch of trade. The Jew, being quick and speedy, knew how to stock his store at every moment and every time with the goods that were appropriate to that or another season. The Jew, who made do with little, would sell his wares cheaply, with a marginal profit. Most of the efforts of the Jewish traders were in enlarging the turnover of his wares, so that it would not collect on the shelves of his shop and sit there like a stone no one could move; therefore he sold goods on credit as well and would trust even the poorest of the poor. His motto was: “There is no person who does not have their hour; if they don't pay today, they will pay tomorrow.” The Jewish trader would give credit to everyone, and would spread his wares out on every side. He was careful of only one thing; that the goods not get old in his store. Two good things came out of this tactic of the trader, who mediated between the producer and consumer. A good thing for the producer – his wares were distributed among all of the inhabitants of the land; a good thing for the consumer – if they were available, he could find clothes with which to cover himself, whether he had money or not.


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When anti-Semitism grew stronger in the country and the anti-Semites were very eager to remove the Jews from their economic status, they took as a motto: “Swoj do swego”, “Your countrymen before strangers”, and would preach from the pulpits of their churches and in their houses of legislature that the Jew should be boycotted, not to buy or sell anything to or from him until he will be forced, from lack of a livelihood, to remove himself from the land and then the main inhabitants would inherit his economic standing.

The anti-Semites then saw, to their great sorrow, that the important branch of trade, the clothing trade, was entirely in the hands of Jews. They began to hatch plots to get the textile trade out of the hands of the Jews. First they opened shops in the large Polish cities for the sale of various types of cloth. Using credit they received from the government they were able to supply their shops with a great variety of textiles, woolens, material, cotton and silk. The shops had luxurious furnishings. The display windows were large and lit up with electric lights in the evenings to attract customers. A troop of managers, clerks and assistants conducted the entire business.

In Kielce as well, on the main street, Szinkibicza Street, such a shop opened, above the entrance a large sign proclaimed in gold and gaudy letters: “Polish Textile Shop”. And in the large display windows pieces of various materials were spread out.

However, not the sign, not the new and glittering furniture, not the lighted display windows and not even the troop of clerks and assistants attracted customers to their store. The goods rested quietly on the shelves, the clerks and assistants sat with folded arms, yawning from lack of what to do. Soon after, the founders found it necessary to shut down this economic venture upon which so many of their hopes had depended. The government grants did no good, nor did the great oral and written propaganda that supported the Christian economic status. It gave up the ghost after existing for two years. The expenses were great, and the income – nil. They, the gentiles, did not penetrate the secrets of the Jewish traders, and did not adopt the attributes that these had acquired over generations, thanks to which they were able to run their businesses in times of ebb and flow. This branch of trade had been in Jewish hands for generations, and it was difficult to remove it from their hands. Both the manufacturer and the consumer preferred the Jew to the Christian, who entered into foreign territory and was more likely to ruin things than to fix them.

There were such textile traders in Kielce as well; who inherited the profession from one generation to the next, from father to son or daughter. The most well-known traders in the field were: The Ajzenberg family, whose original founder, Rabbi Josel Ajzenberg, or, as he was known Josel Kaczka, came originally from a family of respected lineage from Checiny, next to Kielce. Rabbi Josel son of Rabbi Mosze Dawid Ajzenberg was one of the well-known Chassidim of Kock [Kotsk]. Their opponents called members of this family “Kaczka” – a corruption of the name “Kotsker”. Rabbi Josel was an iron trader in Checiny. According to the advice of the Admo”r of Kock, Rabbi Mendel, Z”L, Rabbi Josel moved to the city of Kielce. There was a local legend that this Admo”r advised him to buy the house that was underneath the pillars, and there he would find plenty. And, when the latter complained to him that there were no Jews and Torah scholars in Kielce, he promised him that this city would become a place of Chassidism and Torah. He bought that house and in its cellar found a treasure: a barrel filled with gold coins. If there is any truth to this tale, one cannot know, but Rabbi Josel was very successful in his business.

kie028.jpg [19 KB] - Rabbi Elija Naftali Ajzenberg
Rabbi Elija Naftali Ajzenberg

His son, Elija Naftali, opened a textile shop, and he also was successful in his business. He was known among he traders as an honest man, who kept his word under any and every circumstance, and besides this, became known in the city for his piety and generosity. Mostly his wife, Sara Frajda, who was known as an excellent and wise businesswoman, ran the business. After he died in excellent repute, the shop passed to his son-in-law, Eliezer Tauman, who continued the family tradition. They became linked by marriage to some families of highly respected lineage in Israel. Many members of this family are presently in Israel, since they left in time and came to settle here.

The Blicki family was also prominent among the textile traders. The shop of the family head, Szmul Abesz Blicki, was the largest of the shops for woolen weaves. Anyone who was marrying off a son or daughter and wanted to make them wedding clothes would go first to Blicki's shop, there one found their heart's desire and could buy the cloth at reasonable prices and conditions. After his death, his sons Jakob and M.B. Blicki continued their father's business, and were very successful. Of this family only one woman was saved, the daughter of Sz. A. Blicki, and she and her two daughters are in Israel.

Dawid Zylberszpic, a man of considerable importance, one of the leaders of the city, was also a textile trader. He had a large shop for cloth in his home in the market. However, after World War I this family moved to Lodz, the industrial city of Poland, and there, together with another Kielce resident, also a textile trader, they founded a textile factory called Zylberszpic and Tenenbaum. However, his cloth shop in Kielce was not closed. It was transferred to another owner, to Mordechai Fiszel Kaminer.

The Rozenberg family, one of the older families in Kielce, whose father, Josel, was called by his mother's name, Josel Sara Chana's, was also among those trading in this area. Josel Rozenberg also left his shop to his sons. However, over time his sons left the field. Several of them immigrated to the United States and several found other professions.

kie029.jpg [16 KB] - Rabbi Josel Sara Chana's
Rabbi Josel Sara Chana's

Echezkel Bimka, one of the followers of Alexander [the Chassidic Rabbi of Aleksandrow Lodzki], inherited his textile shop from his father-in-law, Kalman Lemels. This family had also made this area of trade a tradition, Efrajm Wlodwer, the son-in-law of Elija Naftali Ajzenberg, founded himself a branch of his father-in-law's store and managed it quite successfully. After them, came a long line of textile traders who did not inherit their trade or get it from family tradition, but served first in textile shops as assistants, or married women who had served in such a capacity before their marriage, and after gaining much experience in the field, opened their own shops. In this category are the brothers Awraham and Zecharja Gertler, Beril Piotrowski, Ben-Cion Sztern, Gerszon Rembiszewski, Dawid Garfinkel and others.

Among these traders were also some who entered the trade because of World War I. During the war years there were people among the inhabitants of Kielce who had ready cash, and when they saw that the value of the money was growing less and less, they exchanged their money for trade goods, especially for textiles. Several of them were successful in this business, acquired capital and remained in the business even after the war was over. Among those were M.P. Kaminer, R. Ziunczkowski and others.

Aside from these traders who were independent, there were also merchants who functioned as representatives of others or managed branches which Lodz factory owners opened in Kielce, like Szajbler, Gajer and Poznanski. Among these were Jechiel Szajnfeld, Icak Majer Rapaport, Mosze Kalichsztajn, Nechemja Kajzer and others.


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I will not mention the names of the minor tradesmen here, who were employed in this business, for they were numerous and the space doesn't allow. These latter had small shops. On market days and at the great fairs, they brought their wares to the market to sell to the farm men and women. This small trade supported dozens of families; several of them were successful and later opened up large shops. I will mention the names of only a few of this type of textile tradesmen: Dawid Kochen, Morgensztern, Wajntraub, A. Rotenberg.

This area of trade, which was entirely in the hands of Jews, was a source of income for dozens of families and brought several of them great wealth. A textile merchant was respected in the community, and people gave him honor. This merchant did not need to necessarily be busy in his shop; many of them left the business in the hands of their wives, and they themselves were busy with the affairs of Chassidism; they would spend hours in the “sztiblach” – small study and prayer houses – learning a page of Gemara, grabbing a word about the activities of the Admo”rs; also celebratory meals, the anniversary of the death of some righteous man, took up much of their spare time. The Chassidic merchant could devote himself to spiritual affairs with a quiet mind, in the secure knowledge that his wife, a woman of valor, was keeping an eagle eye on his material affairs and arranging them in the way best suited to the success of the business. From time to time he would travel to Lodz and arrange his accounts with the manufacturer, and at the same time pay a visit to his Admo”r in Gur [Gora Kalwaria] or Alexander [Aleksandrow Lodzki], ask his advice and learn from him ways of serving the Lord.

And if the textile merchant ran into a crisis and could not pay his debts and pay off his bills, that is, if he became bankrupt; even then there was not a lot of noise or fuss over this occurrence in the city. The shock passed in silence; the sides came to some kind of agreement “The Valley of Equality” in the language of the merchants. The merchant continued to receive “packages”, and in the city, nothing was known of this occurrence. The textile traders were a world unto themselves, and no foreign eye could penetrate to know its secrets.

The leather trade was also in the hands of the Jews. Chmielarz, Rotman, Markowicz and Jura, Tenenbaum were the main suppliers of this raw product to the cobblers and shoe manufacturers. Kielce, which was the city of shoes, imported thick leather and soft leather for shoemaking also from Radom and from Warsaw, where there were large factories, which processed great quantities of leather.

We will not spend too much time on this branch of trade, since we have already discussed the leather industry at great length. We move on to the commerce in iron, which was also in the hands of Jews. The largest iron shop in Kielce belonged to the brothers Ajzenberg, Mejer and Mendel, who inherited it from their father Josel Ajzenberg, who was mentioned above. Natan Mordkowicz and his sons, as well, were honest merchants, who became wealthy and respected. Also the brothers Lajbel and Zew Goldberg and Bornsztajn worked in this business and their sons after them. There were other smaller tradesmen whose main business was with junk iron.

This area of commerce that was held by the Jews was also a thorn in the side of the anti-Semites. They did not rest until they had opened a large shop in the market with ironware. They wanted to try their hands at this business; perhaps they would be able to wrest it from the Jews. They began using all sorts of incentives, running a broad campaign in favor of their shop, attempting to attract the farmer, the blacksmith and the locksmith to their store. They promised buyers heaven and earth, high quality goods and low prices. However, they did not succeed with this shop.


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The Polish farmer or artisan, when he entered the shop of a Jew, could feel free in his speech, his behavior, he dared to disturb the shopkeeper and demanded to see all sorts of nails, all sorts of iron tools, which were in the shop, to choose the one best suited to his purposes. And if he happened not to have any cash in his pocket, the Jew would not send him away but would sell it to him on credit.

However, when he entered the Christian shop it was as if he were standing before his teacher, constrained and bridled in his speech and movements, he didn't find what he needed and had to pay for the goods that he bought, and pay in cash.

This shop continued to exist; but it was a paltry existence, which needed occasional “injections” in the form of financial grants from their organizations and banks, in order to cover the deficit. Here too, it was difficult to take this area of commerce from the hands of the Jew, an area from which many families in the city drew their sustenance.

The commercial area of haberdashery, which then divided into two parts: haberdashery goods and confectionery goods, was also entirely in the hands of the Jews. Only the Jews were capable of developing this area of commerce and reach such a pinnacle. In this area the Jews were both the manufacturers and also the merchants who served as brokers between the manufacturer and the consumer. In Warsaw and in Lodz they manufactured things in a cottage industry: gloves, parasols, umbrellas, pockets, purses, handbags, wallets, buttons, women's dresses and sweaters and dozens of other objects. These products were then sent all over the country. The Jewish merchants would distribute them among all levels of the population. The shopkeeper did not even have to travel to the merchandising city to purchase his wares. In every city there were “Szpilters”, sort of agents or messengers of merchants and shopkeepers. Such a “Szpilter” would travel to Warsaw or Lodz on Saturday night with a list of goods that he needed to buy there, and to deliver to their destination as quickly as possible. These messengers would stay in Warsaw or Lodz all week and would return to their homes from Sabbath to Sabbath. You would always find them at the train stations, heavily laden with suitcases and packages of goods. When they saw someone from their city whom they knew they would immediately request him to: “Keep your eye on the suitcase or on the package which I am going to put in the train carriage on the shelf above or underneath the seat.” And from those who came from his city he would receive bundles of money and letters with lists of goods that he needed to buy and to send along on the next train. And when the train reached the shopkeepers' city, they were already waiting there, they themselves or their wives, to receive the goods their emissary had sent them.

There were two benefits that the merchants got from this in the purchasing of their wares. First of all, because of the speediness of their messengers, they always had the goods they needed for their customers. Second of all, they were relieved of the travel expenses themselves, which would have raised the price of the goods. The “Szpilter” made do with a small percentage of the cost of the goods as his commission, which barely effected the price. In addition, the merchants were saved the price of delivery. The quantity of haberdashery goods was not large and the train deliveries traveled as light baggage, which a passenger took with him on his journey. No passenger would refrain from taking a suitcase or small package under his care.

Only the Jew was capable of inventing these sorts of ways and means in commerce. The intention of the Jewish merchant was to reduce the costs of brokerage and to remove the burden of extra costs from the goods. The owner of the optical instrument shop, a Christian Pole, used the Jewish “Szpilters”, when he saw the tremendous benefit to trade that they brought with their great agility.

Among the haberdashery and confectionery merchants in Kielce several notable ones were Icak Kopel, Wolf Kopel, Pinchas Rudel, Chanoch Fajgenblat, Mosze Ajlbirt, the brothers Sztrosberg and many others.

In the area of Colonial merchandise, the Jewish merchants took the lead. In this area there were also Christian merchants, mostly of German descent, who, together with tea, coffee, cocoa, nuts and raisins, sold fine wines. However, most of them were Jews. The most important of these were the Zylbersztajn family, Szymszon Sztrosberg, Dawid Manela and others.

B. Lewi, Federman, Jakob Hilel Paserman and his sons, Szajnfeld, Mejer Zloto, Szlomo Manela, Nachman Diamend, Rechcman and many others sold wine, beer and other drinks.

Awraham Kohen, Grynberg, Joske Fiszman, Jegier, Ehrlichman, dealt in kitchenware. The Cwajgel family took over the trade in glass.

Those who traded in tobacco and its products were Hassenbajn and P. Zauerman and others. The coal merchants were Todros Herszkowicz, Bukowski, Lewinzon, Wikinski, Jurkowski

The first flour merchants were the Moszkowicz family, Chaim Judel Ajzenberg. The Kochen family took over the egg trade. After these come a long list of grain and fodder merchants, fish and poultry merchants, traders in horses and other animals, feather merchants, soap and candle merchants, fuel merchants, in which the Rotenberg and Szajnfeld families were chiefly occupied, construction materiel and automobiles and their parts, and a long line of grocery merchants – all of these were a special class, the merchant class.

This class was a major artery through which the abundance of the economic life flowed to all parts of the public. The government also received an important part of its income from the merchant class. The merchant, the grocer, had to equip himself with a merchant's license at the start of every civil year, called “Patent” in Polish. The Patents had various degrees. After that, each merchant had to pay income tax, property tax, and war-profits tax. The local municipality also had its communal taxes which it levied mainly on the merchant, he had to pay sign tax, apartment tax and other temporary taxes. This tax burden weighed heavily on the merchant class. There were many that collapsed under the affliction of the taxes, and fell unable to rise again. The government's aim was to suppress the Jewish merchants, which were the most vital core in the economic field of the Jewish population. This most useful tool that had been used against the Jews for untold ages was levying heavy taxes on them, that would be unbearable and make them unable to be fruitful and multiply in the land. When the Jews lost their source of income, the various anti-Semites thought, they would be forced to emigrate or would be subject to a slow atrophy and extinction by a natural process.

But most of the Jewish merchants held on despite all of the afflictions and persecutions, which passed over their heads in the period between the two World Wars. The Jew with his intelligence, his life experience, his energy and his stubbornness fought against all of the plots of his enemies, who wished to deprive him of his economic status. Even the harsh measures, which the anti-Semites began to use against the Jews, such as: smashing display windows, throwing stink bombs into their shops, setting up guards by their shops that didn't allow Christian customers to enter – such acts of hooliganism were also not sufficient to confuse Jewish commerce.

The Jewish merchant, like the rest of the Jews of the Diaspora, was used to insults, beatings and damages – and continued with his life. Among the Jews of the Diaspora a philosophy of life was created that told him “No phenomenon is forever; it appears, continues for a while – and in the end it disappears over the horizon of experience.” The Jew needed, therefore, to be stubbornly patient and to wait for better times, to cleave to the words of the prophet: “Wait almost a moment until the fury is past.” The Jewish merchants were more than usually optimistic. Even in bad times, their spirits didn't fall; they did not despair, but held fast. Their instinct for life was very strong, and it gave them tools, that enabled their existence in all circumstances and conditions. The solidarity between them was amazing. The degree of mutual aid was especially developed in the merchant populations. A merchant, who had to pay significant amounts the following day at the bank in order to redeem his notes that had come due didn't worry at all, he slept well. Even though his pocket was still empty, his spirit was quiet. He was sure that in the morning he would easily collect the sums he needed; the merchants who were free from redeeming notes on that day would offer him the necessary funds. A merchant would not turn away his fellow who asked him such a favor. The latter knew that if he were to request a favor the day following such a refusal, he would meet with sealed ears. This benefaction brought much blessing to the honest merchants, who did not consider bankruptcy and didn't want to pay interest to the banks for either a large or small loan. The interest, they knew, upsets the situation of both large and small merchants. A merchant who is paying interest has a continual additional expense over and above his many expenses, and he is destined to go bankrupt.

Although there were some among the merchants who went into trade to begin with in order to go bankrupt; among these fellows the loan sharks went around who gave them loans at a reduced rate of interest. These loan sharks were called “Alokos” (Leeches) in our place, since like leeches, they sucked the blood of their customers, who became entangled in their net. But the honest merchants, who were careful of their souls and their good names, kept away from such creatures.


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Artisans

The artisans of Jewish Poland have a long history. Many authors dismissed them and described their lowly status in the Jewish community, both spiritually and materially. In spite of the praise expressed in the Talmud and the Midrash for those who learn a craft and for those who earn their living from the product of their handiwork, the Jews of Poland despised craft for many generations. Families of lineage avoided marrying craftsmen. A tailor or cobbler in the family was a defect. But over time, opinions changed; the attitude towards the man of labor, who lives from the fruit of his hands, became one of tolerance, and also one of respect.

In the Kielce community artisans had a position of honor to begin with. The Jewish community was without a long tradition. Until the twentieth century it was still in a formative period and took on a specific shape only with the onset of the twentieth century and onwards. In this period, there were already tremendous changes taking place in the attitudes of the Jewish public. The great movements which arose from within the Jewish community and also from without, elevated the productive element in general, and the Jewish artisan in particular, from his lowly material and spiritual status. The laborer and artisan were no longer like doorsteps, trampled by the aggressors; they began to demand their rights from society openly and to express opinions regarding various communal affairs. The Zionist movement on the one hand and the Socialist movement on the other were the main causes of the higher respect accorded to artisans by the Jewish public. The artisans participated in all the affairs of the congregation, and they helped give it its shape.

Several of the craft professions were, without exception, in the hands of the Jews. The clothing professions, tailoring and hat-making were held tightly in Jewish hands, and no propaganda on the part of the anti-Semites helped the Poles penetrate the ranks of this profession. During the years before World War II the Poles founded a cooperative of Christian tailors. They brought a group of tailors from other places, provided them with woolen cloth and sewing machines, rented them a spacious workshop and distributed announcements, that a cooperative had been opened in Kielce by expert Christian tailors with diplomas, and it was receiving orders for men's suits. At first Christians went to them with their orders, mainly government clerks. But as time went on, their customers dwindled. Even the clerks were not satisfied with their work and began leaving them and returning each to his Jewish tailor, who knew his customers' tastes. The cooperative didn't last.

The Poles also sought strategies for entering the hat makers' profession. They opened a hat shop. But what a problem, there were no hat makers among them who could provide them with goods. They went and found a Jew who agreed to work for them and teach the craft to their apprentices. Their intention was to remove in this manner the profession of hat making from the hands of the Jews, but in this they were not successful; buyers could not be found for their wares. People did not enter their shop, and those who did – left empty-handed, for they could not find what they were looking for there. And these professions remained in the hands of Jews.

Among the tailors who excelled in their profession were Wloszczowski, Borkowski, Granek, Pukacz, Micnmacher and many other young people, who learned their profession from experts and knew how to sew a suit in the latest fashion. Among these tailors were some who had their own workshops and clothing shops; like Moszenberg and his sons, Blicki and his sons, Emberg, Ajzenberg, Rondberg and others. Some of them were wealthy, owners of stone houses and respected in the city. Ickowicz was a furrier by profession and successful in his work.

Among the hat makers, the following were especially notable: Mosze Kinigsberg was a Zionist, devoted to the movement of the rebirth of the nation in its homeland from the very beginning of its growth; Hirsz Lejb Abramowicz and his sons, Izrael Icza and Abisz, Jews who feared the Lord and kept his commandments; Dawid Zylberspic and his son, the respected home-owner; Pesach Cukerman, a pious man. They produced many students, who held to the profession and did not leave it, even when they left the city of their birth and immigrated to other countries.

There was another profession, which began entirely in Jewish hands, but later, under the influence of the anti-Semites, Poles began infiltrating and displacing the Jews. This profession was that of the tinsmith. Covering the roofs of the houses with galvanized steel. Jews were agile in this work. Jews were accepted even to the covering the roofs of churches and their domes. Both Jews and Christians trusted them and gave them important jobs in the building of houses. Many members of this profession were enriched by their work; built themselves stone houses and acquired a good reputation among their co-religionists. The foremost representatives of this profession were the members of the Kochen family. The first in this family, Izrael Kochen, a respected householder in his community, head of a large family, reached a ripe old age and continued his trade even when he was an elderly man, over 80 years of age. When he was older, his acquaintances asked him: “Why are you working? Why climb on roofs? Poverty cannot force you to work, for you are well-to-do and the income of your household keeps your family honorably?” He would answer jokingly: “I don't want the Angel of Death to find me easily at home; let him trouble himself a bit to search for me on the sloping roofs, at my place of work.” After the death of his wife, when he was seventy-five years of age, his neighbors and friends asked him: “Why don't you marry a woman, a housekeeper, to look after you and your house?” And he would joke and say: “What kind of a woman would agree to marry such a mischievous fellow as I who climbs on the rooftops?” He was an old man with a healthy sense of humor, who loved his work and kept to the traditions, holding to the deeds of his ancestors.

Also his son, Chaim Kochen, continued in his father's path, keeping to his profession and acquiring trust and respect from all the inhabitants of the city, Jews and Christians alike.


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The brothers, Barukh and Yek'l Kuperberg, tinsmiths and plumbers, who knew their trade and were expert at it, were also important homeowners in Kielce. They were also government sub-contractors. They acquired capital and built themselves homes in their city and enriched the city, and gave their children a higher education. Members of the Cyna family were tinsmiths for generations. The writer of these words still knew Josef Cyna, or Josef Blacharz, as his fellow townsmen called him because of his profession. This Josef was a pious man, learned in the Torah, who would hold a “Tikun” every night at midnight and was one of the “Old Ones” who rose early to come before dawn to the Beit Midrash to worship God. On Sabbath and holidays he would collect the apprentices of the various tradesmen and read to them and explain the portion of the week with the commentary of Rash”i.

His son, Lemel Cyna, also a pious Jew, an artist at his craft, when he heard that Jews were moving to the Land of Israel and settling the wilderness and rebuilding its ruins, decided to aid in this holy task – and moved to the Land of Israel and worked at his trade here as well. He built the dome on the roof of the great synagogue in Tel-Aviv. On his Sabbaths in Tel-Aviv, he did much charity and many good deeds. Like his father, he lived a long life and went to his eternal rest at the age of over ninety. His brother, Chaim Jeszaja Cyna, worked at his trade and was also known as an honest man who knew his work. There were other Jewish tinsmiths in Kielce, but the Christian tinsmiths began to push them out of the field. From the time that anti-Semitism began increasing in Poland, and especially in Kielce, no Christian, not even the best of them, dared to give work to a Jew. The tinsmith's work, which was carried out on the rooftops in full view of everyone, was different from other types of work in which the Christian could contact the Jew without the anti-Semites knowing anything about it. But to publicly give work to a Jew was uncomfortable for a Pole, even one who was not infected by anti-Semitism. The Jewish tinsmiths began immigrating to other countries and their numbers dwindled in Kielce.

Jews played a small part in the profession of shoemaking. In Checiny, the town close to Kielce, there were many Jewish shoemakers; they specialized in stitching boots from thick leather for the farmers of the surrounding villages. They used to travel with their wares to nearby cities and towns on market days to sell them there. However, in Kielce itself, the Jewish cobblers served the Jewish population as menders of old shoes. New shoes were bought in shops. There were also shoemakers who worked for the shoe salesmen; however, there were only a few of them. The shoe salesmen employed mainly Polish shoemakers. But within the profession of shoemakers, the Jews developed the art of stitching – a more important level than shoemaking. A stitcher doesn't sit on a stool, pierce with his awl and hit with the hammer. His craft is by the sewing machine, stitching the upper parts of the shoe. Other workers, experts at the craft of cutting, would cut the leather into its parts. Among them, the “Modelists” excelled especially; they would invent different kinds of patterns. They had highly developed taste and were blessed with a sense of the aesthetic. A “Modelist” would earn twice as much as a simple stitcher. The stitching was a Jewish profession, and Poles had no part of it. Usually, a stitcher would go out on his own after a while and set up a factory for leather goods. Many of the owners in this type of industry started out as simple stitchers, working as laborers for others, and over the years became independent. The profession of stitching had a higher status than shoemaking. The Jewish mother would threaten her lazy son, if he did not progress in his studies and would say: “I will give you to the shoemaker!” But stitching – this was delicate work, and even respectable parents who had never had a craftsman in the family would send their sons to learn the craft. This was a new branch of work, and it carried no stigmas, for good or for ill, from the past. Whoever was looking for a “vocation” for his son chose this type of work, which had opportunity for the future.


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There were two types of Jewish carpenters: Building carpenters and furniture carpenters. Carpentry was in a state of decline among the Jews of Kielce, especially during Polish independence. Building was slow due to the economic crises, which was a chronic phenomenon in the new Poland, and also due to the anti-Semitic method that all the various governments of Poland clung to. It was hard for a Jewish carpenter to find work at the government buildings or with Poles. In this area the Christian artisans were the deciding factor. Furniture factories were also established, which the carpenter who worked with his hands could not compete with. The younger carpenters left the country and emigrated overseas, to America or the Land of Israel. And the older ones continued their miserable lives in want and poverty, in expectation of financial support from their sons who had emigrated overseas.

In contrast to this, the professions of painter and glazier were in Jewish hands, and there was not even one attempt by the anti-Semites to remove these professions from them. The first painters were enriched by their work and built themselves houses. The Lewi brothers, Simcha and Sender Goldfarb started off as painters; afterwards, when they were wealthy and had collected some capital, they left their profession, the ladder and the brush – and became contractors. The latter, Sender, did not leave his profession entirely, and together with painting he also worked in photography. Aside from the Goldfarb family, the Goldszajder and Gutman families were also well known in the city. Among them: Josef Goldszajder and Judel Gutman who were famous not only in their professions but also for their public activism.

Among the glaziers I will mention here Anszel Zalcberg and the Cwajgel family, of whom one, Izrael Cwajgel, also had a large warehouse for glass; two of his sons came to Israel, and one of them follows his ancestors' profession here as well.

Jewish tradesmen were very active in the food industry. Jewish bakers and butchers sold bread and meat not only to Jews, but also to a large portion of the Christians. The Jewish butchers in particular supplied beef to the entire Kielce population, Jewish and Christian. In the local slaughter house it was customary to have the Jewish butchers in one wing slaughtering large and small grazing animals, and in the other wing, the Christian butchers slaughtering pigs. No one entered the realm of his fellow. The Jews were forbidden to deal in the unclean animal, and it was not worthwhile for the Christians to attempt the business of selling beef. This kind of business was for them close to a loss and far from profitable. The Jews would sell the Christian the hindquarters of the animals at a low price. On the other hand, the other parts of the animal were sold to Jews at a high price. In Poland, the Jews did not customarily puncture the hindquarter meat [necessary to make it kosher]. The “Gentile” gained from the Jewish laws, because he got good meat at a low price. Also “trajf” meat [meat that had been found not kosher for any reason] were sold cheaply to Christians. These conditions did not allow the Christians to work in the business of slaughtering beef; they couldn't withstand the competition with the Jews. Things had been like this for many years. However, in the years before World War II, when racist anti-Semitism was growing in all levels of the Polish population, the Hitlerian methods found fertile ground in Poland. Both the parliament and the government lent a hand to remove the Jews from their economic standing – their first step in this area was – forbidding “szechita” [ritual slaughter]. A proposal for a law was entered into the Polish Sejm [parliament], according to which the Jewish ritual slaughter would be forbidden. With this proposal the Poles meant to kill two birds with one stone, to wrest an important source of livelihood from Jewish control and to force the religious sections of the Jews, those who clung to their traditions, to emigrate.

During this short period the Poles succeeded in taking trade in meat away from the Jewish butchers. They were forced to close their shops and seek other sources of employment. But, up until that time, this area of livelihood was in Jewish hands. Many families were supported by this work. Several butchers amassed wealth and built themselves houses. Of these homeowners were M.L. Szmulewicz, Zylbersztajn, B. Goldberg, Bialobroda and others.

Many families were likewise supported by the work of baking. The Jewish bakers in our city were mainly wealthy. The Goldblum, Diamend and Grosman families were wealthier than the other bakers and they were considered respectable homeowners in the city.

In all of the professions mentioned hitherto, Jews had some control and they also were passed from father to son. However, there were also professions from which Jews were barred. The blacksmith's trade, plastering, building, and locksmiths were generally in the hands of the Christians. If a Jew appeared in one of these professions, he was the only one in his city, and it wouldn't be one of the prominent inhabitants of the city. On the other hand, if a new profession should turn up, like that of an electrician, for instance, the Jews were usually the first to take them on, and develop it to perfection. A Jew, Mendel Elencwajg, was the first to open a cinema in Kielce. Jews brought radio and other electrical devices to the city. Minc and Zylberman were the first to distribute these to the inhabitants of the city. Watchmakers, jewelers, brass and coppersmiths – were Jews with no exceptions. The Rechcman family worked at the art of copper and brass. The Kaner family was occupied in watchmaking. Members of this family, together with those of the jewelers, owned shops that sold silver and gold utensils and various jewels and were of the most respected in the community. There were other areas of work that Jews controlled, such as lithography, engraving, brush-making, knitting, cloth dyeing, raisin-wine making; but only a few did these and they were not popular occupations.

There were several printing presses in Kielce, which were owned by Jews. They served mainly tradesmen and banks. The owners of the print shops would either do the typesetting themselves or hire workers for wages. Icak Kaminer owned the first press in town, and after him came the brothers Rzendowski and Jechiel Mitelman, who also set up presses. The youngest of the press owners, who inherited the machines from their owners, were Eliezer Skura, the Moszenberg brothers and Baruch Wajnryb, at whose press the weekly Jewish “Kielcer Zeitung” was printed.


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These workmen were the essential healthy kernel in the fabric of the Jewish community of Kielce. Among them were important homeowners, who did much to aid the development of the city as a whole and the Jewish community in particular, they carried the main burden of the community's responsibilities. Among them were Chassidim, pious men of action, from whom national and socialist activists came forth, who aroused the masses from their apathy and directed them towards light and progress. The Jewish artisan was the backbone that the entire public body leaned and depended upon. With his faith, devotion to his profession and precision he earned respect and honor not only among his brothers and co-religionists, but also among those who were not his co-religionists. In periods when anti-Semitism had not taken hold of the Polish public, the Christian also preferred the Jew to his fellow Pole, his co-religionist. The Polish employer regarded the Jew as being expert in his field and honest in the commission of work that was given to him. And especially, for an additional reason, drunkenness was not common among the Jewish workmen, in the way that it was among the Christian workmen. The workmen of Kielce as professionals contributed their own thread to the formation of the character and nature of the community, a bold thread that caught the eye.


The Status of Jewish Laborers

The Jewish laborers in Kielce did not join up from the factories of heavy industry nor from quarry laborers, since Jews were not employed in these places; Jewish laborers were mainly workers in light industry, with Jewish artisans or as apprentices and assistants, and also as clerks in the shops and banks. Therefore, they did not have the same attributes of a proletariat as in the large cities, Warsaw, Lodz – they were temporary workers. Every laborer became independent after a while. Therefore, there were not any professional associations in Kielce; and the worker's movement was limited merely to a political framework. Strikes of Jewish workers were rare; generally, the employer and employee came to an agreement without it coming to a strike. They were divided according to profession, the sewing workers, the leather workers, the wood workers, and the food workers. From the start of the “Chalutz” [Pioneer] movement, Kielce became a training center for pioneers, to which many young men and women came, even from distant places, to undergo the training period; they started to spread into work places that had never held a Jew before. We saw them working in the quarries, the sawmills, and also at heavy labor, as porters, woodcutters, and others.

In the years before World War I, the local Jewish laborers were bubbling over and activists in the revolutionary activities against the government of the Czar; however, during the period of Polish independence things quieted down; and the Jewish laborers used their energies to work towards the rebirth of the nation in its homeland.


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Members of the Free Professions

On the front line of the free professions stood the Jewish doctors. The Jews had a predilection for medicine. Jewish doctors are to be found in the courts of kings and dukes; even the Christian clergy, the Popes, were healed by Jewish doctors. And there is not nation in the world who needs a doctor's advice in the least bit of illness like the Jews do. You haven't the smallest Jewish settlement, even the tiniest of the tiny, which does not have its own doctor. To the Jew, life and health are precious gifts that were given to humanity, and must be safeguarded at all costs.

In Kielce as well, as the Jewish community developed, there was no lack of doctors to be found there. The first Jewish doctor in Kielce was Dr. Werman, a gynecologist and internist. His wife was from the Epsztajn family of Warsaw, a radical and assimilated family. He himself still felt the need for tradition. When he had a son, they entered him into the covenant of Abraham [i.e. a circumcision ceremony] and held a festive meal, as is customary in the Diaspora. For the Passover holiday he would send his wife to her parents and hire himself a Jewish housekeeper, who cleaned his house, burned the “chametz” [leavening], bought new kitchenware for the holiday and prepared the holiday necessities for him in accordance with Jewish law. Indeed, he gave her permission to act totally at home. The traditions of his ancestors were still a part of him. But his wife couldn't stand Jewish customs, and she left her husband during the days of the holiday. After him, Dr. Perelman came to town. He was a nationalist Jew and the founder of the local Zionist Association. However, because of his Zionism, the Chassidim, who were opposed to Zionism, boycotted him, and in cases of illness they would go to Christian doctors. Perelman left the city and moved to Sosnowiec, there he found a broad scope for his both his Zionist activity and his medical activity.

Dr. Lewinzon, another gynecologist and internist, kept away from any national or social movement; although he contributed to the Zionist funds and the charity institutions, he did not participate actively in any movement or institution. He acquired the trust of broad swathes of the Jewish and Christian population, succeeded in his medical practice and became wealthy, built himself a splendid stone house on Tadeusza Street, the street of the Polish intelligentsia.

Dr. Zylberszlag, a popular doctor, was famous among the poor as an expert physician. He headed the Jewish hospital in the city, after Dr. Lewinzon resigned from this position.

When Poland regained its independence and all of its various parts were reunited, young Jewish doctors from Galicia began flocking to Kielce where they settled, some of them Zionists and some of them public activists. The most noticeable of them was Dr. Felc, a community activist, who introduced exemplary order to the Jewish community. He was the community representative to several public institutions and protected Jewish interests in the outside world. With his energy and initiative, he strove unceasingly to improve the lives of Jews from within and to return battle to the anti-Semites without.

Dr. Szac, the son-in-law of Maurberger, was a Zionist and was the leader of the Revisionist movement.

These doctors belonged to the second generation of Jewish doctors. The Kielcer homeowners also established a generation of energetic doctors from their children, who were set up with modern equipment in the field of medicine. The young doctors were nearly all nationalists and Zionists. These graduates of the Hebrew High School [Gymnasia], who carried with them facts from our national-spiritual treasures, were lively with a yearning for their national origins, and the hopes of the people of Israel beat in their hearts. Assimilation was already regarded, in their day, as a counterfeit coin, and it was no longer popular in the Jewish street.

Dr. Polak, despite having gone to the Russian High School, was also swept up in the national current, and participated in the Zionist youth group. Dr. Krauze was not a Zionist in public, but did not refrain from contributing to the funds. Dr. Firstenberg, son of the white-washer of Alexander [Aleksandrow Lodzki], who was dressed in Chassidic clothing himself until the age of sixteen, began later to learn the curriculum of the High School on his own, took the exam and received a matriculation certificate. He studied medicine at the university in Warsaw. After he finished his studies, he received his medical doctorate. Kielce, his birthplace, received him as its doctor, and its Jewish inhabitants put their faith in him. He was successful in his profession and immediately made a name for himself as an excellent physician. Several of the young doctors who had been raised in Kielce left the city of their birth and moved to the Land of Israel. Here, they served the Jewish settlement. The brothers Awraham and Jakob Herman, Icak Kajzer, Cel-Cion – are all originally from Kielce.

I will mention the Jewish medics (“feldszer”, in their tongue). They were a type of popular physician. The Jewish and Christian population preferred the medic to the expert doctor. In cases of mild illness they would go to the medic and he would write them prescriptions with the permission (and also without permission) of the doctor, legally and illegally. The pharmacist would prepare the medications according to the medic's prescription. The doctors overlooked the medic's actions, since every doctor had his own medic, who, in cases of more serious illness would recommend him and refer his patients to him. There was a mutual agreement between the doctors and the medics; neither entered the other's area. Medics never went into the homes of the wealthy; the medics had contacts chiefly among the less well to do people. They received a meager wage for their work, and despite this, were nearly all of them rich. Every one of them had a stone house in the city.

Among them, the medic Rotman amassed a considerable fortune. He had many houses in the city. He was the most famous man in the city. He was especially well known among the women. He never rested; everyday he roamed the city visiting his patients. His sons gave him no satisfaction, one even left Judaism, and his father disowned him.


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The first medic in Kielce was Kiper, a man dressed in long clothes, with a white beard, early and late to the house of prayer. After him Zyngerman came, who was an expert at every discomfort and illness, extracted aching teeth, attached the surgeon's horn, let blood, put leeches on affected places and in general – would use all the various types of medicine that were customary in those days.

The medic Judel Praszowski gained the greatest fame, especially among the poor and the farmers in the villages around Kielce. He was the son of a Jewish villager, educated in the strict Jewish tradition. He was more knowledgeable about the various farming tasks than about anatomy. In his youth, it never occurred to him that fate would choose him to be a medic to his people. When he was twenty-one years old, the army accepted him for employment. At the time, an epidemic of cholera broke out in the western provinces of the Russian Empire. The epidemic spread through the army as well. Due to the lack of doctors, students from the medical academies were also sent out to fight the epidemic, which was killing hundreds and thousands. Even ordinary soldiers were appointed as assistants in caring for the ill. At that time, the army medical people looked to the Jewish soldier, who was modest and could concentrate, who observed everything and seeks to understand and know things. One day, his superior approached him and said: “You will be a medic”, and sent him to the hospital. There he had the opportunity to observe the different diseases and phenomena. While attending surgery, he learned to recognize human anatomy. As a medic he was given classes in elementary anatomy and therapy and absorbed all of this information and remembered it as if his heart had foreknowledge that he would need it one day. And so it was. When he finished his service in the army and returned home, he began using the knowledge he had acquired in the military hospital to cure sick farmers in the area. In the morning he would leave home with a leather bag in his hand containing various medical instruments, pliers for extracting teeth, dishes of leeches, a surgeon's horn for drawing blood, and various other signifiers. Equipped with these instruments he would return to the nearby villages and visit the sick farmers and extend medical treatment. He soon had a reputation among the village inhabitants, and when someone was ill they would go only to him. The farmers believed of him that he could cure every disease and would say, “if Judel can't help, no one can help.”

When he saw that he was succeeding in his work, he married and moved to the city. From that time he ceased to return to the villages; the patients were brought to him or a cart was sent to bring the doctor to the patient. The Jews of Kielce did not have much faith in him to begin with. They said: “ a simple Jew, dressed like an ordinary person, who prays morning and evening, will be our doctor” – thus they mocked him. And in addition, they knew his past, that he had been a milkman in the past, he would bring milk jugs on a farmer's cart from the village to sell in the city. Suddenly he changed into – a doctor. But little by little he succeeded in gaining the trust even of his fellow Jews. He also became wealthy over time; bought himself a house and his reputation as an expert physician grew in the city as well. But he did not live long. During World War I, carrying out his duties curing patients ill with typhoid, he caught this dangerous disease, fell ill and did not recover. He died aged forty-nine. His son Welwel inherited his profession from him and with the aid of the doctors of the city he was allowed to work at curing patients.

I will mention the names of several other medics, such as Krauze and his two sons-in-law, Szeftel and Fiszer, and Mitelman, who served the inhabitants of Kielce in the last years before World War II.

With this we conclude the section of the doctors, who were an inseparable part of the Jewish public in Kielce. The doctor was at home in every Jewish family. The secrets of each and every person were revealed to him. Everyone complained of all the troubles that weighed on their hearts to him, as well as the joys that expanded their lives. The spirit of life that beats so strongly in the heart of every Jew led him to care for his body. In the case of a slight ache, of indigestion, of a slight cold, and others, the Jew turned to the doctor immediately. The medical expenses in a Jewish home were an important part of the annual budget. Wealthy and poor alike called the doctor, if their child coughed or had a bit of fever. The doctor was never out of work, was busy with visits until the evening. Sometimes his sleep was interrupted at night as well. It is no wonder; therefore, that nearly all of them made a small fortune, built themselves houses and enlarged their holdings. Some of them were community activists, and some national activists, and they had an effect on the formation of the special character of the community.


Jewish Dentists

To the list of Jewish doctors in the city I will add the Jewish dentists as well.

Many years passed without there being a Jewish dentist in Kielce. If one had a toothache, the Jew went to the doctor, and he would extract the sore tooth and that was that. They didn't know to use medications against toothache. Fillings for cavities, crowns, false teeth were still in the realm of fairy tales that people who had lived in the big city for a long time talked about. When people like that came home they told everyone about the amazing things they saw there.

One day a young man came to town, rented himself an apartment, on the door hung a sign upon which it said in gold lettering: “Dentist with diploma, J. Auerbach”. Everyone, who walked by stopped for a moment, read the sign and walked on. No one went in to him even if he had a terrible toothache. Everyone knew his doctor who cared for his teeth, he would kill the root of the tooth with iodine, and if the pain didn't stop, would extract the tooth. To go to a special tooth doctor was unnatural to him. He was afraid that instead of easing his pain, he would damage his health. The Jew naturally holds to old-fashioned things, he has no faith in things that are too recent. The young dentist saw that he would starve to death if he did not find some trick to combat the public apathy to his important profession.


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Finally, he invited a matchmaker to his home. He revealed his desires to him that he was looking for a wife; but that she needs to be the daughter of a wealthy man who would bring him a decent dowry. He had arrived – the dentist said, to explain this request of his – in a place where no one knew him, he had few patients, and many expenses, and in order to establish his standing in the Kielce community, he needed money. The matchmakers fell upon this opportunity, like a hawk on its prey. They knew, that several of the wealthy daughters cherished hopes of marrying only a doctor. And how many doctors could there be in one market? If they had no choice they would settle for a dentist as well. The matchmaker said to him: “Rest quietly, sir, trust me and I will do as you wish, and everything will work out well.” This matchmaker, when he left the dentist, went to the house of one of the wealthy men in town, whose daughter was waiting for a doctor to come and take her under his wing. The matchmaker offered his “wares” to the wealthy man, and after all of the praises and compliments that he scattered generously regarding the potential son-in-law doctor as his profession demanded, he added: “this is not an ordinary doctor, such as the ones you can find anywhere, but a tooth doctor, called “dentist” in their tongue, the only one in the city, who is earning the treasures of “Korach” in his profession.” The wealthy man was not foolish enough to believe the words of the matchmaker. He knew that matchmakers were prone to exaggeration. He replied: “I will go and investigate and see if your words are true.” Meanwhile, the matchmaker and the dentist put their heads together how to fool the wealthy man, in order to convince him that the dentist's income is really great, and that his daughter will be entering a king's palace. This matchmaker had many tricks. What did he do? He went to several of his acquaintances and relatives and requested them that on such-and-such a day, at such-and-such a time they should come to the dentist, and pretend that they had come for him to heal their aching teeth, and afterwards should give the doctor his honorarium, payment for healing them, most generously, with gold coins. And, of course, the money would be returned to them in full. At the same hour he would arrive with the wealthy potential father-in-law at the dentist's house, and everything would work out well. Everything worked according to the plan. The potential father-in-law, when he saw that there were many people seeking out the dentist, and his income was so great, agreed to the match, his daughter entered the chupah in good time with a young man of her own age, the dentist. She had, indeed, the privilege of being called “Mrs. Doctor,” but she did not find happiness with him. This was the history of the first dentist who was willing to come to Kielce.

But in the meantime, Christian dentists had settled in Kielce, and they prepared the ground for the Jewish dentists as well, who came along later and were successful in their work. Anszer, the son of the lawyer, who was famous in the city, was an outstanding dentist. Many of the Jews of the city had him cure their toothaches. At the same time, a second dentist arrived in Kielce, named Serwetnik. He was close to the Zionists at first; however, later he left them and moved to the people's party “Folkisten”. However, the greatest success in dentistry was that of the brothers Grojsem. They opened themselves a clinic in a large hall filled with all the latest equipment. Anyone with a slight toothache among the Jews or Christians began flocking to them in droves. Their waiting room was always full of patients who were waiting for their appointments. They became wealthy, built themselves an elegant house. They were not active in community affairs; all of their energies were invested in their profession and they strove to improve, correct and bring the profession of dentistry to perfection. Their hearts were not free to deal with community activity. They made generous donations to local community causes as well as the national funds. In general, they viewed the movement of the rebirth in the land of Israel with favor. Other than these, Dr. Feuer, the wife of the principal of the Jewish High School, excelled in her specialty. After them came the young dentists; but they settled in Kielce only a few years before World War II and were active their for only a short time, and did not have time to influence the Jewish population of the city in great or small measure.


Jewish Lawyers

In Czarist Russia there were two kinds of lawyers: avowed and private, that is, accredited and amateurs. Jewish lawyers fell into these two categories as well. It must be noted that the avowed Jewish lawyers were radically assimilated even to converting their religion. There were those in Kielce: the avowed lawyer Majzel and his brother-in-law Kowalski. Majzel was Fejwel Blachatowski's brother-in-law, who owned a press and published books in Piotrkow. They both converted. The first converted to Christianity shortly before his death and the second in his youth. The Poles rewarded him for switching into their camp and appointed him head of the district court in the city. They left the camp of Israel. In contrast, Anszer, a lawyer in Kielce, was very connected to tradition and came to synagogue; he was something of a scholar, and very knowledgeable in civil law. The traders would go to him with their arguments and disagreements. The judges also respected his knowledge and mastery of the codices and would take seriously the reasoning and evidence he brought when he stood before them to defend his clients' affairs.

Frajzynger was a private lawyer. When he came to town he began involving himself in community affairs as well, but was quickly silenced. He was of a weak spirit, and the fear of the anti-Semites fell upon him, lest they accuse him of belonging to the national Jewish camp. Another radically assimilated person was the lawyer Hassenbajn, he was a trial expert; in any difficult question even Polish lawyers would turn to him. He was faithful to his profession and everyone trusted him, but he was a stranger to the Jewish community, and had no interest in its needs and affairs. Also the young lawyers, J. Manela, Majfeld, Szrogroder were apathetic to Judaism and its needs. They stood with one foot still in the Jewish camp, and with the other they had stepped over the abyss that separated the two camps. None of the local Jewish lawyers became community or national activists. They held to the slogans of assimilated Jews in spite of the fact that they had become out of date and no longer appropriate for the living conditions. Several young people, who received their early education in Kielce and moved to Israel, completed their education here and serve as lawyers to the Jewish settlement of Israel to the best of their abilities. Elimelech Kirszenbaum (El-Roi), Jechiel Herman, famous lawyers in Israel, are originally from Kielce. Similarly, the lawyer Kaspi, son of Izrael Zylbersztajn is also a native of Kielce, but he received his training in Israel.


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Lawyers from Galicia also came to Kielce; but they were all equally apathetic to and alienated from the various streams that were running through the Jewish community at the time. They did not influence the community nor were they influenced by it. They were snobbish, closed into their narrow fields and participated in neither the community's troubles nor its celebrations. While in Warsaw, in Lodz, in Wilna, in Lwow, famous lawyers arose who devoted their energies to the affairs of their people as well, the lawyers in the peripheral cities still held to the old tradition according to which the intelligentsia must distance itself from its people and their affairs. Out of consideration for their Jewish clients, they didn't dare to take the last step, to tear the last thread that tied them to the body of Israel. For the trunk of the national tree, these were like withered leaves, that even a breeze could cause to fall from the branches.

Doctors and lawyers were the only members of the free professions that were common among the Jews of Kielce. In contrast to these, there were no engineers, architects, and agronomists. A Jew who completed his studies in these fields had no livelihood. The Russian government and later also the Polish government would boycott the educated Jews and did not allow them access to any government positions, and the Polish citizens avoided hiring Jews in their companies. A young Jewish engineer would be finally forced to change to another area of work that had no connection to his profession. Therefore, there remained before the Jewish students two professions: medicine and law. In later years, when Jewish educational institutions were opened, elementary and high schools, Jewish youth began to go over also to the study of mathematics, physics and pedagogy. They could find work in the Jewish educational institutions. But, about these latter, the teachers in the schools, I will speak in a special chapter.

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