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Translation of Laszczow chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Morris Gradel z"l
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This is a translation from:
Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume VII, pages 292-293, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(District: Tomaszow; Province: Lublin)
Laszczow (L) is mentioned for the first time at the end of the 15th century as a private possession of Polish noblemen. In 1549 it was granted urban status with the right to hold markets and fairs. After the Third Partition of Poland in 1795 L came under Austrian rule; in 1807 it became part of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw; and 1815 until the First World War it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Congress Poland. The town was occupied by the Germans in 1915, and they remained there until they withdrew in 1918.
As early as the first half of the 17th century L had a Jewish population. In 1673 it owned three houses out of the 70 in the town. At the beginning of the 18th century it had an organised community and a synagogue and Bet Midrash (for this and other terms, see Notes at the end of this translation).
L is mentioned a few times in the Records of the Council of the Four Lands, and in 1719 was the venue of its session. At the Council's meeting in 1731, held in Jaroslaw, it was decided to include L in the Zamosc District. In 1815 the rabbi of L was R. Mordechai Zyskind, who gave his approval to the publication of the book Shivchei Habesht. With the growth of Chassidism in Poland, its influence also reached L, where stieblich (prayer houses) of the Chassidim of Belz, Turzysk, Radzyn and Gusyatin (Husiatyn) were to be found. In 1909 the town's rabbi was R. Yekutiel Szmuel Glass.
At the end of the First World War, before it came under the sovereignty of an independent Poland, the Jews of L fell victim to the troops of the Ukrainian General Bulak-Blachowicz - at that time an ally of the Poles in their war against the Soviet Union. On September 5th, 1920, these soldiers arrested Rabbi Glass, and only released him upon payment of a ransom of 20,000 rubles. Between September 10th and 13th the Cossacks fell upon the Jews, killing a woman, wounding 60, raping some 100 women and girls, and robbing the Jews of their valuables and money. Many Jews were ruined, and after these disturbances a goodly number left the town.
In the 1920s and 30s most of the Jews of L were engaged in small trading, peddling and crafts. They could hardly eke out a living. The main welfare institutions operating in L were Provident Funds, Bikur Cholim, and Linat Zedek. This period also saw the establishment of a Cooperative Bank. During the economic crisis of 1928-31, when their incomes were drastically reduced, many Jews were saved from hunger by these institutions.
The community of L was known as religious in character, although in the 20s and 30s the influence of the Zionist movement made itself increasingly felt. In 1931 the elections to the Community Council of eight included three Zionists, three non-Party candidates, and two from the Artisans' List.
On May 17th, 1942, came the end of the community - its Jews were despatched to their deaths in the camp at Belzec. A mere handful succeeded in escaping to the woods and a few of them survived until liberation.
Bet Midrash: a school usually attached to the synagogue and giving religious instruction, mainly to adults.
Council of the Four Lands: the Jewish self-governing body in Russia-Poland originating in the 16th century. Named for the four regions of Major Poland, Minor Poland, red Russia and Lithuania, it was called in Hebrew 'Va'ad Arba Artzot'.
Shivchei Habesht: In Praise of the Baal-Shem-Tov (Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer, the founder of Chassidism).
Chassidism / Has(s)idism: the Jewish revivalist movement originating in eastern Europe in the late 16th century. It maintains many of the characteristics of the time, such as its dress. Diverse sects of Chassidim hail from different towns and follow different leaders or 'rebbes'.
Bikur Cholim: literally 'Visiting the Sick', but sometimes also health service, or even hospital.
Linat Zedek: basically a hospice for the poor and homeless, it also carried out a number of other welfare tasks.
The above notes were compiled by the translator/editor. Some of the definitions were taken from The Timetables of Jewish History, by Judah Gribetz with Edward L. Greenstein and Regina S. Stein (Simon and Schuster, 1993).
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