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Translation of "Lutomiersk" chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of "Lutomiersk" chapter
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume I,
pages 148 -150, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(pages 148 - 150)
(District of Łask)
Synagogue in Lutomiersk (from the 1930's)
Lutomiersk, established in the 10th-11th century, was granted the status of a town in 1274 and passed into the hands of the nobility in 1406. In the 17th century the owners of Lutomiersk allowed the Jews to settle in the town. In those days, the population, including both Jews and Christians, was very small and their economic status was low. In the 18th century, the owners of Lutomiersk supported the Jews, gave them loans and encouraged wide scale economic activities. However, they were also accustomed to leasing land to the nobility who treated the Jews in a despotic and arbitrary manner. In spite of the limitations on economic possibilities the Jewish population steadily increased, so that by the middle of the 18th century the Jews made up the majority of the population. By the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries the economic situation of the Jews had greatly improved, and this is supported by the relatively large number of Jewish houses (in 1787 63 houses).
In the 18th century, about a third of the Jews made a living from crafts, and in the second half of the century 40% of craftsmen were Jews. The number of Jewish craftsmen steadily increased, and they represented most of the artisan skills of those days. All commerce was in the hands of the Jews; the main branches of trade were grains and wool. Apart from crafts and commerce, the Jews also took an interest in tavern and inn keeping, and others engaged in farming and cattle raising, on a very small scale. A few earned their livelihood from leasing a brewery and distillery from the town owners. In 1806 the Polish landlords forbid the Jews to continue to deal in brewery and inn keeping.
Jewish enterprise contributed greatly to the development of industry in Lutomiersk in the second half of the 18th century. One of the dealers in woven cloth, Pinchas Izraelowicz, founded in 1787 a weaving plant - the first ever founded by a Polish Jew. Pinchas Izraelowicz operated 6 looms that employed 20-30 weavers. He also contracted from the Polish nobility the job of collecting taxes. In the second half of the 18th century a relatively large tanning plant functioned in Lutomiersk. This belonged to the Moskowicz brothers and their partner Ajzyk. From 1815 the Polish owners of Lutomiersk organized a home based weaving industry. Jewish merchants now acquired a new source of income by supplying raw materials and marketing the finished products. When the home based industries were closed the Jews lost this income and then dealt only in small-scale trading and crafts.
The Lutomiersk Jewish community was founded at the beginning of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 18th century the community included Jews from some 8 nearby villages, and at the end of the century the community was also in charge of a group of Jews from the town of Łódź. The support of the Jews of Łódź was a long-standing source of dispute between the communities of Lutomiersk and Stryków, though in the end the Lutomiersk community got the upper hand. The financial situation of the community was far from satisfactory. In the 17th and 18th centuries, they were obliged to take loans from the clergy, and from the aristocracy, in order to pay the rent to the Polish landlords, to provide for taxes, and to meet other financial demands. By the end of the 18th century, the congregation's yearly income was 2,100 zloty; the debts amounted to 44,908 zloty.
The Lutomiersk Jewish cemetery was consecrated at the beginning of the 18th century and at the same time, the 'Chevrah Kadisha' (burial society) was also established. In the second half of the century a shelter for the poor was set up. In the early 1780's the Jews built a magnificent synagogue of wood, according to the plan of Hillel Beniamin from Łask. It was one of the most beautiful synagogues of its kind in Poland. It burned to the ground in 1915. In 1849 the Benevolent Society was established, and this eventually merged with the burial society.
The congregation of Lutomiersk was so highly esteemed by the people of the surrounding area, that the rabbinate chair of Lutomiersk became a most honorable one, and many a distinguished personage filled it. One of the first rabbis to serve was Rabbi Pinchas. After him up to 1781 Rabbi Yehudah Joskowicz served the community. Rabbi Yehudah Frankel, son of Yitzchak Frankel from Leszno then inherited the post. However, because of the many complaints against the rabbi from members of the community, and his disagreements with the community committee, Rabbi Yehudah Frankel (son of Yitzchak) moved to Łask in 1791. There, he went on to act as judge (dayan) and head of the Jewish religious court (Av Beit Din). A collection of his writings on questions and answers and innovations were published as "Beit Yehuda" (in Łódź in 1886).
The next rabbi to serve, Rabbi Meir HaCohen was from a family of distinguished lineage, being a descendant of Rabbi Yechiel Michal. Rabbi Yechiel Michal, interpreter of Kabala (Jewish mysticism) and Rabbi of Niemirów, died a Jewish martyr's death in the days of the Cossacks slaughters, in 1648. Rabbi Meir HaCohen left in his writings a commentary on Talmudic tractates on Ktubot and Baba Batra, as well as on Questions and Responsa. He passed away in his prime in 1832. In his place Rabbi Israel Dobrzynski served the community; he was brother to the 'Admor' (Hassidic mentor) Rabbi Abraham from Ciechanów.
In 1880, called to the rabbinate of Lutomiersk was Rabbi Yoav Yehoshua, author of a book on Responsa --- "Chelkat Yoav". After a few years he left Lutomiersk, and in his place served Rabbi Pinchas Eliahu Majzels, son of Rabbi David Dov (rabbi of Łask), who played an active role in the Hovevei Zion Movement. He died in 1891 and left for posterity, hand-written, innovations in Jewish law. The last rabbi of Lutomiersk was Rabbi Yerachmiel Wolbromski, who came from Kałów in 1934. In the first months of World War II he moved to Łódź, and from there was sent to the extermination camp in Chelmno, in 1942.
Until World War I, the cheders were the only Jewish schools in Lutomiersk. Beginning in 1894, a "Cheder Metukan" opened; it existed until World War II.
Agudat Israel then exerted the greatest influence on the public life in the town and general community. Although the Hassidim were the majority of the Jewish population, Zionist influence grew, and included the General Zionist Movement.
In the 1930's anti-Semitic activities intensified. The lowest point in the anti-Semitic propaganda, was the use of a false rumor disseminated in 1935 by the newspaper 'Orndownik', that had been supplied by the Endeks. According to this, two Jews of Lutomiersk, Avraham Yitzhak Strykowski and Moshe Szyker were accused of the deaths of 5 Poles who were killed by the Germans in 1915, supposedly because they betrayed them to the Germans. The matter did not climax in riots, but danger filled the air. This was the introduction to the vigorous economic boycott that expanded in 1937, with the setting up of a branch of the Endek party.
In the summer of 1940 a ghetto was established in Lutomiersk, however, it seems that at first the Jews were allowed to come and go from there; in the middle of 1941 they were no longer allowed to exit the ghetto without a special permit. The Jews, now forced laborers, were sent to do various jobs; every day a group of Jews left the ghetto for work. Some were sent to work camps: it is known that 83 Jews were sent to Frankfort on the Oder to build a major highway: 'Reichsautobahn'.
At the end of 1941, a sewing workshop under Polish management was established in the town (possibly within the ghetto), and 20 Jewish tailors found work there. Apparently, the workshop was set up at the initiative of the mayor of Lutomiersk. Garments were sewn for local customers, and others from the surrounding areas, from material supplied by the customer. The workshop received many orders, even from Łódź, and proved very profitable. The profits were divided between the local council they took half - and the Judenrat which paid the tailors part of the earnings.
It is worth emphasizing the Endek organization O.N.R., active in the underground during the German occupation, is mentioned in a report of January 16, 1942, referring to the situation of the Jews in the district of Łask. The report states that the local authorities behaved towards the Jews of Lutomiersk in an especially harsh manner, so that their situation was far worse than that of Jews in other parts of the region.
The ghetto and the whole Jewish community of Lutomiersk were liquidated at the end of July 1942: the last few remaining Jews being sent to the extermination camp at Chelmno.
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