<< Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page >>
{17}

Facts About Stawiski

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Stawiski is a settlement, including a town and surrounding land that is on the Bierbza River, a tributary of the Narew.  It is situated on hills on the route from Lomza to Szczuczyn.  The distance between it and Kolno, the regional city is 24 wirwost. (A wirwost is slightly more than a kilometer.) The distance from Stawiski to Lomza is 21 wirwost, and to Warsaw, 168 wirwost.  Its institutions include a district church, 2 synagogues, a public school, cheders, a district courthouse, a town council and a post office.  It contains 181 houses, and has a population of 4,140 people (1,930 men and 2,210 women). It covers an area of 3,530 morag. (A morag is approximately 5 dunam.[1] In the surrounding lands, there is  a liquor distillery, flourmills, and a brick kiln.  Some of its residents work in tanning.  In an earlier time, Stawiski had factories for cloth, hats, and dyes  (it is unclear to which time frame these facts are referring).

Stawiski developed due to its location.  It was situated along a trade route, which led from Prussia in the northeast. It also served as a commercial center between Lomza and Szczuczyn.

There are no definitive facts about the timeframe of the founding of Stawiski.  According to Karel Czirhoffer in "Names of Settlements in Northern Mazowia" which was published in 1957, Stawiski was recognized as an urban settlement in 1426. In 1697, Zamowski, the owner of the estate, built the Franciscan monastery and the Miec church.  Later,  a church was built out of bricks, and between the years 1790-1818, the large church which still exists today was built.

Around 1813, all of the houses of the town burnt down.  The portion of the church that survived the fire was attached to the Porita church.

In the 8th century, the lands were in the possession of the noblemen of the Karmkowski family, and later in the possession of the noblemen of the Kiszlaniczki family.

In 1886, the lands of Stawiski included the estates of Smolnik and Sokolocha, which had an area of 3048 morag, including wheat fields, pastureland, forests, and irrigated land.

In the latter years, the population of Stawiski reached 8,163 people, and covered an area of 19,182 morag.  It had schools, liquor stills, 2 brick kilns, 5 flourmills, and an oil-press.  The community of Stawiski included the town as an urban center,
14 estates, and 13 villages.


(18}

{ same as page 17 , but in Yiddish rather than Hebrew.} 


{19}

History of Stawiski

by Tzvi Liberman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Stawiski was a small town in northern Mazowia, on the Bierbza River, a tributary of the Narew. It has no significant historical sites, with the possible exception of two graveyards on both sides of the forest on the route to Lomza. To the south of the town is the German graveyard, and on the other side of the forest, 7 kilometers away is the Russian graveyard, where the Russian soldiers who defended Lomza in 1914 against the German invasion rest eternally.

Stawiski is situated between cities that in various eras filled important national and administrative roles in the entire region.  Szczuczyn was the seat of the regional government in the beginning of the 19th century, during the time of the rule of the Kaiser of Prussia.  From 1837, Augustov was the seat of regional government, and later on, Stawiski was part of the Bialystok region, with Kolno as the district capital.

In the work that was published recently by Karel Czirhoffer, which was published in 1957 under the name "The Names of Settlements of Northern Mazowia", it is told that according to the courthouse records and the genealogical records of the nobles, Stawiski is mentioned for the first time as an urban settlement in 1426. According to a map that is included in that work, it appears that nearly all of the settlements in the region between eastern Prussia and Lithuania were founded in the 15th and 16th centuries. The oldest city in the region is Wizna, which served as the capital of the noblemen of Mazowia.  In western Mazowia, the oldest cities were Plonsk, Makow, Wiszkow, and other places – which were settled in the 12th and 13th century. It can be surmised that these settlements predated the aforementioned. In any case, it is clear that western Mazowia was settled and developed earlier than eastern Mazowia.

It is possible to surmise that the noblemen of Mazowia followed after the Prince Gdimin (1315-1340) who began to populate this area in an organized fashion with people of various religions. To this end, he cultivated forests and drained swamps and marshes, in order to make the area fit for settlement.  As is known, a treaty of friendship was established that lasted for many years between the governors of Lithuania and the princes of Mazowia, which was forged at the joint war against the Teutonic noblemen.  That war ended in victory in 1410, with the defeat which they inflicted upon the Teutons in the well-known swamps of Tannenberg and Grunwald.  It is easy to surmise that economic and nationalistic pressures made it necessary for the princes of Mazowia to settle and develop this region.

The map in Czirhoffer's book shows the hills in this region covered by thick forests, and the valleys covered with ponds and swamps.  A reliable topographical description, which shows the round riverbeds scattered around the area, testifies that ice covered the land in olden times, and this is what formed the ponds and swamps in eastern Prussia (Tannenberg), the beautiful ponds of Augustov and the Mazowian ponds, as well as the swamps and peat fields in the area of Stawiski.

Of the prehistoric population of this area, which subsisted on hunting, fishing, and very primitive agriculture, there are remnants to this day – these are the members of the Korfim tribe near Ostroleka, whom we used to see at the fairs in Kolno.
 

The Jewish Settlement

Even though the existence of Jewish settlements in northern Mazowia is mentioned for the first time in the annals of the Council of the Four Lands with respect to the community of Titian in the 17th century, it is possible to establish definitively that Jewish settlers reached this area many years previously. They played pioneering roles in the development of the land, they forged the trade routes, and set up the foundation of the manufacturing in the areas of agriculture and various trades.  They came from higher civilizations, and brought with them great knowledge in the manufacturing of metal products, cloth, oil, drinks, and tanning of hides.  According of the testimony of B. Mark, a stream of Jewish immigration came from a variety of places:  from Krim and Reisin (in White Russia), western Poland, Germany, and also Bohemia and Moravia. The reason for this immigration was generally the poor situation of the Jews in these lands.  Krim and Reisin suffered from Mongol invasions;  Germany suffered from the crusades, and at a later time, Bohemia and Moravia suffered from the Husite invasion.

As things turned out, there were various factors that caused Jews from various lands to seek refuge in Mazowia.  After a certain time, the new communities took on a similar style and character, however each community was slightly different from its neighbor.  The differences were expressed in the architectural styles of the synagogues, in local customs, etc.  The different styles between each town were also evident in the Christian population, in the various Gothic styles of the churches that had a special character in each settlement.

The entire region used to belong to the nobleman Zamowski, a descendent of the Mazowian princes.  He built the first church in Stawiski, as well as the Franciscan monastery named after the Holy Antoninios in 1697. Until this day, there is a tablet in the church with his name engraved upon it.  After some time, the lands of the region, or part of them, were passed on to noblemen of the Kiszlaniczki family, whose graves are found in this church, and whose palace was built to the west of the city, surrounded by a giant garden of fruit trees.

The town was built next to the lands of the Squire Kiszlaniczki. One of his ancestors valued the benefits that Jews would bring to the place, and granted them the right of protection, and supported their economic endeavors.  Thanks to this protection, Stawiski turned into an urban settlement with most of its inhabitants being Jews.  It is important to remember that during the days of the feudal government, which lasted all of the days of the Polish kingdom until the partition at the end of the 18th century, most of the residents were subjects of the squires, and depended on their good graces.  After the agricultural reform in the latter days of independent Poland, well to do Jews received tracts of land for pasture near the forests, and the Christians received estates and the permission to acquire land from the noblemen. Thus, in the 18th century, the town took on the form in which we knew it.  In this time frame, the main road from Lomza to Suwalki, which traversed the town, was paved.  This road was knows as the Petersburg-Warsaw road.  It was paved n 1841. In 1844, the great Prince Alexander Nikolowice traveled along this road.  Later, Kaiser Alexander the Second, who freed the farmers who were oppressed due to their being subjugated by the noblemen, traveled along this road.  The notable Moses Montefiore traveled this road on his way to Russia to intercede in front of the Czar for the benefit of the large Jewish population of that vast country. Napoleon traveled that important strategic route on his way to invade Russia in 1812.

In the book of properties, Stawiski is noted as a private urban settlement – Odasa (estate). Only in 1919 did the town obtain the status of Miasto (city). As a small town, it had only few institutions, including:  a town hall, a post office, a police station, a school, and a courthouse.

As was customary, Jewish life was conducted in a separate manner from the rest of the population.  In order to fulfil the religious, social, and economic needs, the Jews established and supported many institutions, including:  synagogues, Beis Midrashes (houses of study), and cheders (elementary schools).  There was also a Yeshiva in Stawiski for a period, and later there was a modern Hebrew school. There was also a library, a bank, charitable organizations, mutual help organizations, an organization for the visiting of the sick, a loan organization, a charitable organization for poor brides, Zionist gathering places, and other such communal organizations.

{map page 21 –  the region of Stawiski, with Stawiski in bold letters near the center, Kolno to the west (left), Knyszyn to the east,  Szczuczyn and Grajewo to the north (top), and Lomza to the south, and Pisz to the northwest.  The Narew River is to the south, and the Bierbza River to the north.}

With respect to the economic situation, aside from the shops and workshops that were in the town,  there were biweekly market days as well as six annual fairs. Merchants also traveled to fairs that took place in nearby towns, such as Jadowno and Kolno.

Synagogues and Study Halls

There was an old synagogue in Stawiski, which was built at the beginning of the 18th century.  Its structure was unique.  Its walls were very thick, like a fortress, and apparently, it was planned that it would serve as a place of refuge for the Jews in times of trouble.  Its white arches were 12 meters high, and between them, there were boards inlaid which were painted greenish-white.  The Holy Ark rose the entire height of the hall, and was finely crafted.  The artistic wooden doors depicted many traditional Jewish themes, such as the twelve tribes, Moses and Aaron, the tablets of the covenant, the Leviathan and wild ox [2], the seven species for which the Land of Israel is known, as well as various other species of the Land of Israel.  The colors were very fine.  There was no more beautiful synagogue in the entire area.

Next to it was the large Beis Midrash, and three other smaller houses of prayer and Torah. On Sabbaths, various prayer quorums took place in them, with more of the common folk, who would not have had the means to merit a Torah honor (aliya) in the larger synagogues and Beis Midrashes.

The synagogues and Beis Midrashes always served as a place of meeting for the adults, as well as on occasion, the youth.  The communal life of the town was centered within their walls; there the simple folk heard the news about what was going on in the world at large.  Local gossip also found an attentive audience there. In Stawiski, there were always a few people who read the Hebrew newspapers, such as "Hamelitz", "Hamagid", and "Hatzfira", and other people knew the vernacular language and would read Russian newspapers.  The synagogue served as the center of transmission of news about what was transpiring in the outside world, both Jewish and gentile.  Merchants and communal workers who would travel for business or communal matters to large cities in Russia or even Germany would relate their experiences and impressions to the population, who in general spent their entire lives in the vicinity of the town and its surrounding area.  It is true that even "stormy" debates took place within the walls of these meeting places, regarding events that were taking place in their world, and in the general Jewish world.
 

Ups and Downs

The development of the town was not incremental.  Just the opposite, during various timeframes, there were ups and downs.  From various documents that were preserved, it can be determined that at one time Stawiski was heavily involved in various manufacturing endeavors, including:  woven materials, felt, dyes, hides, hats, brushes, wine presses and beer distilleries, etc.  One of the reasons for the various downturns was the fires that afflicted the town on occasion. In 1813, a large fire broke out which destroyed the majority of the homes of the town, most of which were built out of wood. After a short period, the residents reestablished themselves and rebuilt the town.  Various factors helped in this, including:  insurance money, donations from neighboring towns and estate owners, who provide wood from their large forests. Since fires were a common occurrence during that time period, communities would often help neighboring communities when disaster struck. Nevertheless, after a large fire, the population of a town would generally diminish for an extended period.

According to the facts which we have access to, in 1813, prior to the large fire, Stawiski had 3,146 residents, including 2,775 Jews.  After the fire, the population was reduced to about 2,000 people.  The manufacturing in the town which existed until that time was also not reestablished, for the most part. One possible reason for this was the development of neighboring towns.  Another reason for the reduction of the Jewish population was the stream of emigration oversees which had begun at the end of the previous century, and continued until the Second World War.  Stawiski Émigrés live in North and South America, Western Europe, and Israel.
 

In Free Poland

Stawiski was a small town, and it did not have any Yeshivas or high schools. Therefore, many of the youth left for places of Torah and Haskalah. Most were children of poor people. Yeshiva boys ate their meals on a rotation basis at tables of strangers, and found lodging in cheap inns. Those that studied in gymnasias also lived under very difficult conditions. It is no wonder then that most of them did not succeed in completing their course of studies, and returned to the town without a certificate and without a degree.  The inability to satiate the thirst for knowledge left a scar upon the soul. Many found salvation in communal activism and in devouring books on sociology, philosophy and literature in order to self-educate themselves. In the 1920s, debates were often arranged by the  youth about Hegel and Marcus, Spinoza and Borochov, even though it is doubtful that most of them understood their works, and were able to delve into their depths. However the fact that the youth debated and deliberated about these topics testifies to the drive for knowledge and wisdom which was in the hearts of the Jewish youth. It is no wonder that the Jewish youth joined up with all sorts of ideologies, and were very active in the various factional organizations that actualized these ideologies.  Some became enthralled with the Zionist idea, and others, due to the pressures of the times, became attached to the misleading lightning flash of communism.  Many joined up with communism in 1921, when the Bolsheviks invaded Poland, and our town was under their rule for a period. I remember that when they entered our town, the faithful of the revolution, who were mostly Jews, went out to welcome them. Many of the Jewish young people were very proud when Golda the daughter of the teacher Hertzke Kolinski stood at the helm of the "Rebkum" (town council). The Rebkum consisted mainly of young people in their twenties. Golda was a proud and capable girl, and Hertzke, the brother of Chaim Kadish, had the characteristics of a leader, sure of himself and quick to make decisions.  In the battles that took place between the Red Army and the Polish Army, a general of the Red Army was killed, and the activists of the communist movement in our town made him a state funeral. Golda and Herzke walked at the front of the procession, with black armbands on their sleeves and red flags in their hands, and the band played revolutionary music.  We children followed after the funeral procession until it reached the military cemetery. If my memory is correct, Perlman carried the main red flag.  We were children and did not understand anything about the ideology, however we were proud that Jews had reached such greatness.  With the retreat of the Red Army, the communist activists fled with the army, went to Russia, and there were lost track of.  Their lot was the same as the lot of many other revolutionaries who were burnt in the flames of the revolution.

With the retreat of the Red Army in Poland, the communist enthusiasm dwindled in Stawiski, and most of the Jewish youth became involved the various pioneering movements.  Many merited to make Aliya to the Land of Israel, and to be numbered among its builders. Others who saw no future under in anti-Semitic Poland emigrated, some to the United States, some to Western Europe, and others to South America.  Their lot improved, and they were not present in Poland when the holocaust took place. Today we can find them in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Balfouria, Geva, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and London.  These are the survivors of Stawiski, who together with a number of those who managed to survive the Valley of the Shadow of Death, bear with love and devotion the memory of the thousands who were slaughtered by our Polish neighbors, and who were gassed in the gas chambers of the death camps.  May these lines serve as a modest monument to their memory.


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. A dunam is 1,000 square meters, about ½ acre. Back
  2. Two mystical animals, the Leviathan being a sea monster, and the wild ox being a very large bovine. In Jewish mystical thought, these animals are to form part of the meal that will be partaken of by the righteous in the World To Come. Back



{29-35}

My Shtetl of Stawiski

by Chemda

Translated by Yael Chaver

In winter my shtetl stands
bent, cold, and white,
and at the bridge the stream
is frozen with ice.

Snow lies, brand-new,
fresh from the night,
glittering as if with fire,
the white glory is dazzling.

Over every roof and window
hang pieces of ice like candles,
eyes sparkling from the wind,
all faces aflame.

Tiny white-washed houses
buried deep in snow,
nearby young white saplings
are standing in a row.

With its paintbrush, frost has
painted every window and glass
with slender trees, long branches,
delicate flowers, soft grass -

And when a warm breeze blows
white snow becomes muddy;
drops fall from the roofs,
dripping like sadness -

***

The road winds through
all down the shtetl,
running along the cemetery,
meeting up with the path.

The untouched snow lies
over the broad, free fields,
gleaming and sparkling like a carpet
decorated with stars.

Wrapped as though in a holiday robe,
as still and cold as stone,
sunk in deep dreams
as though bewitched - stands the forest.

The moon's delicate paleness
peers through thick branches,
her sad smile
drops into the secretive silence.

A song sings from somewhere far,
a melody tugs somewhere into a valley
and disappears in quiet yearning,
waking long-ago dreams -

***

As soon as spring arrives
the solemn mood is gone.
Buds open,
trees and flowers bloom,

bringing life to the avenues;
fields far and wide
bedeck themselves, holiday-like,
with soft green velvet.

Trees with fresh perfumes
spread through the forest,
a magician's hand sowed
tiny green shoots along the trails.

The throng of youngsters
rushed to the forest,
their laughter reverberating,
their song chiming.

The years flowed quietly
like the river in the valley
weaving a Jewish life
in my shtetl, once upon a time -

***
Once upon a time? It wasn't long ago,
and the market and road
and the long narrow alleys -
they're Jewish, familiar.

Jewish is the pain, the sorrow,
the poverty, the need;
you swallow the hot Jewish tears
with the meager bites of bread;

Jewish is the suffering,
silent sadness and weeping;
Jewish is every joy here,
touchingly familiar, full of charm.

The holy Sabbath is upon us,
--God's beloved, precious gift -
mothers bless the candles,
radiating holy fire.

Mothers' pale lips murmur
a quiet prayer from the heart:
“send us, God, your good angel,
and, may it never happen, do not forsake us - - “

***

The sun has just set
on the far horizon.
Fathers and children go
to welcome the Sabbath queen

in the synagogue and Bet Midrash -
two holy buildings
with the small synagogues where
Jews prayed in the early morning -

although so many years have passed,
who can forget how
they stood opposite each other
in the quiet back street?

How much joy and tears
were gulped between their walls,
and devout melodies rose up
on Sabbath and holidays;

generations drew
so much strength and courage
from the small letters
as from a deep spring;

From “Kol Nidre” and “Unesaneh” [1] --
who can forget the trembling
that overcame the congregation
and shook the community;

They beat their breasts
for uncommitted sins
and begged “hear our voice”
“accept our prayer” --

waiting, deeply yearning
to hear Messiah's shofar
and for the age-old hope
to come true very soon -

***

At dusk in the house of study
learned men sway
over the broad, open books
with a sweet Talmud melody

arguing smartly
about the Mishna and its teachers
quoting heaps of explanations
by generations of scholars;

Children in “cheders” [2] sat learning from early morning,
went home at night
by lantern light.

Some learned their a-b-c's,
others studied Torah and Rashi, [3]
young men immersed themselves
in a deep, baffling problem,

studied a difficult page
of Talmud, persevering,
sharpening their minds
with law and lore;

rich ark hangings,
Torah-scroll coverings -
sewn out of finest fabric
by delicate Jewish daughters.

All this existed then,
in our youthful years;
now – woe – only ruins remain
of my Jewish home.

When the slaughterer cut the throats
of old and young, and babies in cradles -
the world and God's emissaries
were silent, cruelly religious -- -- --

Over twitching bodies,
gangs went wild,
galoshes full of blood and dust,
sharing out the loot,

settling into the houses
-- the “inheritors” of my Jewish shtetl.
Where's the grave of the martyrs?
Where a sign? Where a marker?

No memory remains
of those taken, bound, to slaughter,
of the suffering, the choking -
of a whole Jewish community.

The wealthy, the leaders,
observant women in their wigs;
cart-drivers, smiths, porters,
laboring, crooked backs;

sooty craftspeople
from the small back streets;
the burial-society, schoolchildren
and dreamy young men;

a rabbi with his helpers;
ten fervent Hassids
(in this sober-minded shtetl
they were a rare sight);

community figures, talmudists,
interpreters of Marxism;
a bunch of Hebraists,
immersed in Zionism;

and the silken young people,
modest wives and daughters,
tiny innocent children -
only God knows the reason

why his murderous rage -
apparently because of the supreme sin
of bearing the name of Jew with pride -
flung you all to the hangmen -- --

***

The sun shone like always
and went on its way,
when Jewish blood flowed
like rivers without banks;

the skies did not split open
with the pain and sorrow of the martyrs;
no outcry thundered
from the throne high above,

the heads of murderers -
the emissaries of God's wrath,
executioners of his people, Israel, for generations -
were not torn apart.

The stars did not go out
in that dreadful night
when my Jewish shtetl
suffered and was annihilated -- --


Footnotes:

  1. The phrases in quote marks are excerpts from the Yom Kippur service. Return
  2. “Cheder” was the school for small boys. Return
  3. Rashi was one of the greatest biblical interpreters. Return


{36}

My Birthplace in the Past and Present

by Chaya Kolinski of Blessed Memory [1]

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 36 – Photograph of unnamed girl may be that of Chaya Kolinski, author of accompanying article.}

My town of Stawiski is 21 kilometers from Lomza. Stawiski is a quiet and clean town, surrounded by forests, mountains, ponds and rivers. Its population is small: in total 592 families live there, of which 332 are Jewish and 260 are Christian. The town is surrounded by 35 villages, which barely have any Jews.

In the center of the Market Square stands a memorial plaque that was erected to commemorate the liberation of Poland in 1918. On the outskirts of the market are a church and a monastery that were built in 1697 by the Baron Ferdinand Zamoski. Not far from the church is a strip of stores (belonging to the Jewish community) put up in 1781 by the builder Zvi Gnida. A road passes through the center of the town. On the route leading to Lomza is a thick forest, containing a big rock that the Russian Czar Alexander the First ordered to be erected on his way from Petersburg to Warsaw. The road is called “The Warsaw-Petersburg Road”.

There is no exact data as to when the town was established and when Jews started settling there. Some say that Stawiski is a very old town. The oldest wall in the town is about 170 years old. Jews from nearby settlements were buried in the cemetery of Stawiski. The oldest tombstone is about 200 years old.

The construction of the synagogue was completed in 5573 (1813). A Christian man from the descendants of the estate owner Kiszlaniczki donated the stones. The elders of the generation related that the foundation of the synagogue was so wide and solid that the philanthropist Kiszlaniczki rode on it with his horses hitched to his chariot. The Beis Midrash was built 85 years ago. A spring flowing with fresh, cold water was beside the Beis Midrash. The Germans discovered the spring in 1915. The waters of the spring flow constantly, however the flowing eventually ebbs.

The religious organizations in the town were: the Mishna study group; Poale Zedek, which is the committee for welcoming guests; the organization for purchase of books; the midnight group [2]; the Chevra Kadyza (burial society); and the group that recites Psalms. The group that recites Psalms had existed for 150 years, and the burial society had existed for 300 years. There were also charitable organizations such as: Gemilus Chasadim, Bikur Cholim (group for visiting the sick), and Lechem Laaniyim (organization for providing food for the poor).

Business flourished before the war (World War I), especially businesses devoted to exporting merchandise, such as garments, furs, silk scarves, curtains, fabrics, and all kinds of wheat, woods, and poultry. Industry in Stawiski flourished as well: leather processing, manufacturing of matches, beer, candles, oil, soap, wine, vinegar, seltzer, and more. The Jews of Stawiski were generous and did not skimp, particularly when it came to educating their children. Even the poor would sell the pillows under their heads to pay tuition fees. When the son would finish his studies at Cheder (religious elementary school), his parents would send him to learn Torah at Yeshiva. There were, therefore, many great Torah scholars, rabbis and pious people in Stawiski.

Many of the pious people of the generation are buried in the Stawiski cemetery. Among them are: Rabbi Abraham the son of Dov, Rabbi Fishele, Rabbi Aryeh Rakowski, Rabbi Meir Noah, Rabbi Sokolower, the righteous Rabbi Chaim Aryeh the son of Rabbi Aaron Joseph Myszkowski, Rabbi Rotenberg, Rabbi Yehoshua Lang, and Rabbi Aaron Dworski. Prior to and during World War I, Rabbi Binyamin Remigolski served as the rabbi of the town, followed by Rabbi Reuven Kac, who was the author of the book “Degel Reuven”. Rabbi Reuven Kac lived in the United States for a certain period of time, and now serves as the chief rabbi of Petach Tikvah.

With the outbreak of World War I, business and industry deteriorated drastically. Many Jews who were considered to be among the affluent lost their possessions. The cessation of foreign trade undermined the livelihood of many families who were dependent on it. The situation improved slightly with the entrance of the Germans in 1915, when trade involving eggs, poultry, butter and sugar was revived. On the other hand, the situation of families whose heads were in America worsened significantly, and due to of the breakdown of the shipping lanes the monthly support that they used to receive stopped. These families suffered greatly and they earned their sustenance by gathering seeds and potatoes in the fields. The women would do any kind of work in order to provide their children with coarse-meal bread. Only as time passed did they start to receive a small amount of support through the “Organization of Assistance for the Jews of Germany”. When the war ended, they joined their husbands in America.

During the years of 1915 and 1916, many of the boys that studied in the Yeshivas returned, among them teachers and leaders. Several of them became outstanding speakers. They all knew the Hebrew language and were committed to the Zionist idea that struck deep cords in the Jewish community, and awakened the town from the deep sleep in which it was entrenched. These boys established the Hatechiya (The Revival) movement and set up evening courses in the Hebrew language, Jewish history, Bible, etc.

A library was founded next to Hatechiya, and new books were obtained monthly. There were gatherings on Sabbath evenings, where lectures on various topics of importance to the Jewish people were presented. The youth read and studied a great deal. Every event which took place at that time in Jewish life was discussed and explained within the wall of Hatechiya. After some time, a few of the founders of Hatechiya became involved with anti-Zionist ideas. They left the Zionist organization and organized groups along the style of Bund. The two factors, the Zionists and Bundists, ran evenings of debates where each side attempted to convince the other of its ideology. During the 1920s, some of the Zionist youth began to go out to places of Hachsharah [3]and many made aliya to the Land of Israel.

During the years of the war, the town was shaken up economically. There was also bloodshed in the suburbs of the town on the route to Lomza. Cannonballs were shot onto the town. A few of them hit the center of the town. Mrs. Lewkowicz was killed near the entrance to the town, as she was going to bring food to her young son who was studying in Cheder. Henia Epstein was shot to death near the forest. Our lives were in danger. The believers from among us said that, due to the merit of the righteous people who lie in their eternal rest in the Stawiski cemetery, the town was saved from complete destruction. On the route to Lomza, there are communal graves of soldiers who fell at that place during the First World War. The monuments are inscribed: “Here, 100 Russians fell”. “Here, 30 Germans fell”, etc.

Our town was well known for the famous people who came from it, including writers, doctors, rabbis, teachers, lawyers, artisans, and wonder workers. The most famous were the wonder worker Reb Kadyz the elder, Reb Moshke Chiewo the Kabbalist, the well known chess player Akiva Rubensztejn, the writers Jakobowicz and Meir Rabinowicz, Zelig Bzostowiecki who lives in Belgium, Dr. Koppel Lieberman who wrote the Yiddish book “The History of the Jews of Belgium”, Chaim Grenet (Bzostowiecki) who lives in America, and the sculptor Brandenburg who is well-known for his statue “the prophet”.

In the final years, under the anti-Semitic Polish regime, business and industry declined greatly. Many Jewish stores closed, and Polish stores opened in their place. The stream of emigration removed the best of the youth from the town. Due to the fact that there was little employment, the town was emptied of the best of its sons. In former years, the market days were bubbling with life. The farmers of the region brought their agricultural products to town, and the sales were more than the purchases. Now, there is very left of these signs of life. The farmers make their purchases in the stores of the Christians. Anti-Semitism increases daily and its signs were recognizable all over. The Jewish traveling merchant who up to that time earned his livelihood by his business in the neighboring villages is no longer able to go to those towns on account of the danger to his life. The ruffians planted a bomb in the Jewish building near the church, and the fear was great. The youth grow up without Torah, and without modern education. Desperation is prevalent, for there was no future. The sources of livelihood of the Jews of Stawiski dried up, and many families suffer from hunger.

Written in Stawiski, 1937

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. There is a footnote at the bottom of the page which reads as follows: This article was published in the Hebrew weekly “Baderech” on the 20th of Tevet 5698 – December 24, 1937. The weekly was published in Warsaw by A. L. Jakobowicz. It can be surmised that Chaya Kolinski of blessed memory gleaned her historical facts about Stawiski from the annals of the community and the Chevra Kadyza. Return
  2. Apparently, a group which meets at midnight for prayer and/or study. Return
  3. Hachsharah (literally preparation) refers to a program of agricultural training in preparation for aliya to the Land of Israel. Return
<< Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page >>


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Stawiski, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Carol Monosson Edan and Osnat Ramaty

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 14 Apr 2002 by LA