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The Development of the Community

 

Jews in Czenstochowa
Up to the First World War

by Dr. Yakov Szatzki

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

 

1. General History of the City The city of Czenstochowa played an exceptional role in Polish history. There were times when this city was regarded as the most holy religious-national relic possessed by Congress Poland. In past times when Poland was independent, the name Czenstochowa was always revered, particularly in the moments of historical struggle for national existence. This was, for the most part, during wars, when foreign troops stormed the Fortress Czenstochowa, which was the gate that opened to Warsaw, the heart of Poland. However, when such wars would end with a victory for the Polish Army, this “miracle” would be inscribed to the “merit” of the holy “picture of Mary” that is found in the monastery of “Jasna Gora” or Klarenberg as it was called in all West European geographies or guidebooks.

However, in the “weeklies,” when the storms of war subsided and the heroism and “merit” of intervention of “Godly” help was converted to legend that varied from the mediocre poets such as Kokhowski and Woronicz to such a genius as Adam Mickewicz, the city remained in the shadow of the nation. She was, however, the constant object of well-organized propaganda on the part of the Catholic Church. Czenstochowa did not occupy the kind of place in the history of Polish national thought as, for example, Krakow, Warsaw or even Lemberg [Lwow in Polish; now Lviv, Ukraine]. However, during the time of Russian rule, particularly in the second half of the 19th Century, when the Russification of the land clearly became the program's ultimate goal for the Czarist regime, Czenstochowa became for Russian-Poland that which Krakow was for the entire Polish people. In the larger debate that took place in Polish Socialist-Folkish circles in the 80's and 90's of the previous century [19th century], the city of Czenstochowa takes a central position, as a refuge for a reservoir of national resistance. In those interesting days, to this day's unsearching debate, it is a question of how can one propagandize socialism without debating the question of religion.

Jan Poplawski, the theoretician of Socialist Folkism, which was strongly influenced by the Russian “narodnikes [revolutionaries of the 1860's and 1870's],” developed a theory that only in Poland could a socialist not be indifferent to Catholicism; on the contrary, despite the fact that the official conduct of the Catholic Church strongly sinned in relation to Polish national aspirations, a Polish Socialist, he wrote, must first of all feel solidarity and unity with Catholicism, because in the political conditions in which the Polish people live at the present moment, Catholicism is literally a national faith. This faith helped conserve authentic national traditions and customs for the Polish people. Poland had many reasons to be indebted to the Catholic Church – Professor Poplawski wrote – not only language, but also patriotism.

As a “sacred place, Czenstochow” – Professor Pop-

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lawski wrote in his weekly Glat (Voice) (1890 and 1891) – “is not without reason a 'part' of the Catholic faith, the very heart of Polish national faith, which is the basis of the present faith.”

In a polemic with Aleksander Swietochowski, the leading spokesman of the Rationalistic School of Positivism, that contested clericalism, but not the religion, Popalowski enjoined the Polish intelligentsia to demonstrate its Polishness and make a pilgrimage together with the Polish peasants to Czenstochow. In such a procession, he wrote, is found the greatest Polishness that the political conditions permit to be revealed.

“Polish intellectual,” Poplawski wrote, “put on a grey sukmane [long peasant coat] like the Mazowiecker peasant and walk with him to the holy relic of Jasna Gora. Sleep with him on the stones of the highways. Soak in the hard sweat of the peasant bodies, sing with them the old litany to the holy Mary of Czenstochow, in which is found the treasure of the old Polish language and deep Polish faith – and then you will feel that you live the only bit of Polish life for which history is still in envy of us and the external powers have not yet taken away.”

The impression made by Poplawski's article was very great. In Congress Poland, penitent-radical types appeared who invited participation in processions by the Polish peasant masses to Czenstochow and even strove to organize such excursions by intellectuals and factory workers.

There was silence and no argument against this “Czenstochower political orientation,” even in socialist circles in Poland that stood on Marxist terrain almost as if giving moral approval for this. In this regard, to present a little known fact, the famous Polish socialist writer, Stanislaw Brzozowski, published an article in which he professed his solidarity with the “Czenstochower political orientation.”

It was written in the London Przedswit [Dawn], the theoretical organ of the Polish Socialist Party, that one cannot keep quiet and even more one cannot ignore the fact that the will of the Polish people can only be manifested legally in the procession to Czenstochow. This article was written by none other than the Jew, Feliks Perl.

In the well known reportage of Wladyslaw Reymont about the religious procession to Czenstochow in which he took part with a group of prominent Polish writers and journalists – the role of Czenstochow at this national-religious moment was very clearly expressed.

The great events of 1859 – when there was success in obtaining permission to erect a monument for Father Kordecki, the heroic defender of the Jasna Gora against the Swedes (in 1655), thanks to the “liberal” course in Russia, – were the beginning of a revived national cult of Czenstochower “holiness.” During the rebellion of 1853 pilgrimages were made there in order to ask for “help and protection for those who go to their death in her name.” There are anthologies of poetry about Czenstochow. In 1859 Karl Kucz, then the editor of Kurier Warszawski [Courier from Warsaw] published an interesting reportage of his visit to Czenstochow. In 1860 a detailed travel guide, written by the well known Zalesice public worker, Josef Lompa, was published. In 1862, during the “moral revolution,” a book was published in Warsaw entitled, Czenstochow in Polish Poetry, in which even two poems by Jewish writers are found, both students of the rabbinical school (Kon and Landau).

The sadly famous Macoch[1] murder trial (1910) that revealed the decadence of the “brothers” of Jasna Gora produced a terrible disappointment in Polish society. A “provocation” on the part of the Russian regime in order to “embarrass the holiest that Poland possessed” was even seen in this murder trial.

In this regard, the appeal by the Polish writers who wanted to disconnect this sad fact from life in the monastery and called for the “glorification of the holy that even the hand of a murderer cannot tarnish,” signed by Sienkiewicz, Reymont and even Marya Konopnicka, is interesting.

After these general observations, let us focus on a short overview about the history of Czenstochow.

The meaning of the name Czenstochowa produced so many fantasies and curious meanings that, in fact, the correct entomology of this word is not known to the present. In the 17th century one of the weavers of rhymes, who wrote an “epic” of 12 songs about the

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defense of Jasna Gora, interpreted the name by explaining, that “the holy mother” “often hides” the victims of calumny (czensto [often] chowa [hide]). This city arose from a village named Czenstochowka, in honor of a monastery that was erected nearby. It was probably begun in the 14th century on a hill that was given the name Jasna Gora (the bright mountain). This village gradually developed into a city. The history relates that in 1377 the Opoler Prince Wladyslaw conquered the Belzer castle. A picture of the “holy mother” that, according to tradition, was painted by the Apostle Luke, the “patron” of painters was found there in the Catholic Church. Prince Wladyslaw brought this picture with him and gave it to the wooden church that was found on Jasna Gora, near the village of Czenstochowka. This means that the church itself is a scepter [represents royal authority], and according to one historian of religious art in Poland, originates from the 12th century. The Prince brought the medal of the apostle Paul that was found in Hungary. He gave the Paulists two villages: Czenstochow and Kawadne. The income from these two villages was in time supposed to serve the purpose of building a brick church and monastery.

On the 9th of August 1382, the Polish king issued a privilege for a monastery. Thus this institution came about which, in time, gave rise to the growth and spread of this location's religious prestige not only in Poland, but in the entire Catholic world.

The Paulists proceeded to create a library and an archive. In spite of frequent wars and natural catastrophes, this library was barely hurt and possessed a large number of manuscripts, incunabulum [Translator's note: an incunabulum is a book, page or image printed in Europe prior to 1501], valuable objects and important documents. Among these rare books are many Hebrew religious books that were the object of a series of bibliographic investigations before the last war [World War II]. Unfortunately, however, it was not completed and as a matter of course, was never published (Balaban and Hirshberg).

The Czenstochower monastery in time became so famous all over Poland that people traveled there not only to pray, but also to loot. The gifts for the church grew and fantastic rumors spread about the golden treasures that were found there. In 1430 a gang of Polish nobles attacked the monastery, took some of the valuable items and even carried away the “holy picture.”

The legend which is recorded in the unpublished chronicle of the monastery relates that when the robbers took the picture, “the picture began to cry.” The robbers became frightened and in anger or awe began to cut the picture with a sword and escaped, leaving the cut picture not far from Jasna Gora. King Wladyslaw Jagiello asked that the picture be brought to Krakow. A “Brotherhood of Holy Lukasz,” a group of monks solely engaged in painting “holy” pictures, was there. They repaired the picture and it was brought back to Czenstochow with a great ceremony. Incidentally, this procession of bare-footed pilgrims was the first large Catholic demonstration of a non-local character. Those who had dishonored the picture as well as robbing the treasures were caught and sentenced to death.

In the 16th century the monastery and its environs did not distinguish itself in any way. The “brotherly Paulines” sat al hatoyre v'al hoavoyde, that is, they studied theology and cultivated the villages that they received as a gift with the help of enslaved peasants. In comparison with other monasteries in Poland, such as Tyniec, for instance, Jasna Gora had no great scholarship in the field of Catholic theology and generated no publications. Aleksander Brikner, the great authority on religious literature in old Poland, maintains that the monastery in Czenstochow barely distinguished itself as an institute of learning, although the collections of old manuscripts and books always had a large cultural-historical value.

Czenstochow first became known in the rest of Poland in the 17th century, although the fame of the city did not attain that of the French Lourdes. This was because while Lourdes became the center of Catholicism in Europe and its miracles of healing cripples was responsible for its prestige – Czenstochow became famous because of its strategic position which gave the state the idea to convert the city into a fortress. The fact itself that a holy picture was found in this city gave rise to

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this historic decision. Two possibilities were considered in this case. It was considered that such a fortress of the “holy mother” would strengthen the devotion of the military garrison that would feel that it protected both Poland along with the symbol and public image of the picture. On the other hand, the monastery itself would achieve grandeur because it was surrounded by a fortress with all kinds of garrisons of hired soldiers that would ascribe every victory not to their heroism, but to the influence of the “holy mother.” Here, in this respect, not only were clear strategic themes realized; although from this standpoint there were many auspicious places for a fortress that would create a partnership between the supernatural protection and the physical resistance in Poland at that time. This was brought out very clearly by a series of travelers, in general, engineers who were invited from abroad by the Polish King, Zigmund III, and later his son, Wladyslaw IV. This happened in the ruthless time that Sienkiewicz described in his famous trilogy. Foreign armies entered Poland from all sides. A prologue came earlier: the revolt of the Cossacks and Chmelnicki's alliance against Poland. Later there was the war with Sweden. Czenstochow was then really transformed into a fortress which surrounded the monastery as a strong ring.

In 1655 the Swedish troops stood at the gates of the Czenstochow fortress. The fortress had to pass its first military test. The Swedish army consisted of 14,000 soldiers armed with 19 large cannons. The Czenstochower fortress counted in total 160 soldiers and 70 monks. At the head of these monks stood Augustyn Kordecki.

The siege of Czenstochow lasted from the 18th of November to the 26th of December 1655. The Swedes did not succeed in conquering the fortress and they had to retreat. This was immediately declared as a pure “miracle” and this helped to raise the prestige of Czenstochow both as a fortress and even more, as a “holy sanctuary.”

Walenty Odimalski, in his long “epic” of several thousand lines, sang the praises of the “miracle-filled defense” and gave a sample of the kinds of works that in time grew in number to over 20.

The siege of 1655 and Kordecki's heroic accomplishment had made clear the function that this city had taken upon itself thanks to the fortress and the holy picture in the monastery. The fortress symbolized the physical resistance that could conquer a much greater enemy, because the “holy picture,” the symbol of “moral power” protected the weak defenders.

In the 18th century, Czenstochow again became famous as a fortress that was the entrance to Warsaw, the capital city. This is how it was during the years 1702 and 1705 when the Swedes again attacked Poland.

During the Bar Confederation which fought to restrain the old privileges of the nobles and was the first anti-Russian movement in Poland, Czenstochow was in the hands of the followers of this movement starting in the year 1769.

The Russian army besieged the fortress for two weeks, which this time had to surrender. This was during the days of January 1 to January 15, 1771.

In 1793 the Prussians acquired Czenstochow. Although the Jasna Gora was well defended against the Prussians, the few Polish soldiers had to capitulate on the 5th of March, 1793. Prussia considered Czenstochow as a very important strategic point. The king wrote in a letter to the Prussian military commander, Melendorf, that both sides of the Warta River should be incorporated because this was a good protective flank for Silesia.

Dankelman, the Justice Minister, visited Klarenberg, that is Jasna Gora, on the same day as Czenstochow surrendered.

The birthday of the Prussian king was celebrated in Czenstochow on the 25th of September 1793 with more imposed pomp than for any celebration for a Polish king.

In the Fosisher Zeitung of the 3th of October 1793 there is a detailed report about this celebration that is worthwhile to provide in Yiddish.

“Last night, here in Czenstochow, the birthday of our gracious king was celebrated with great pageantry. The general field marshal, Excellency Lord Melendorf, the chief commandant of southern Prussia, brought good news. Poland would not obtain the holy picture of Mary that was found in

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the Klarenberg monastery. This calmed the mood of the local population and as a result the residents took part in the holiday, thanked and wished that the dear life of the father of our land would be maintained. The celebration of this happy and unforgettable day took place in this order:

“There was a mass in the morning at the Paulists at which an orchestra played. There were three salvos from cannons in the walls of the fortress. At noon, General Lord Polic, the brigadier of the garrison that was located in the area, gave a celebratory banquet. Many individuals from the state were invited along with their wives. At lunch there were drinks to the health of the king and the royal court. Music was played and cannons were fired. At night there were fireworks. This celebratory day ended with a dance-ball that lasted until day break. Joy and delight reigned at the ball.”

Presumably, the Prussians thought of the city of Czenstochow as the crown of their Prussian territorial conquests because, on his trip across this territory, the Prussian king stayed in Czenstochow for three days (28th-30th October 1793) and took great interest in the national-religious place occupied by this city in Polish history.

Czenstochow became part of southern Prussia and was chosen as the capital of an administrative region with 153 communities. Its first administrative head was a Germanized Pole, Mr. Futkamer.

On the 18th November 1806, the Prussians returned the Czenstochower fortress to the Polish army of the Duchy of Warsaw. Three years later (1809) this fortress defended itself against the Austrians. In 1813 the Russians stormed Czenstochow. That year, the fortress was actually eliminated. It was shown, as a matter of course, that it was too old, without any military worth. However, the city of Czenstochow itself developed parallel to the growth of the importance of Jasna Gora and later, of the fortress that once surrounded it. Its importance came as a result of privileges that the Polish kings bestowed upon it. And as early as 1502 Czenstochow received from King Aleksander the rights of a city, the so-called Magdesliger [Magdeburg] right. The city was freed from the rights and jurisprudence of the nobles. King Stefan Batory certified the privileges of the citizens of Czenstochow at the Warsaw Seim because of the favorable geographic circumstances and the important political and diplomatic meetings taking place in Czenstochow. For example, the Polish King Zigmund III met Duke Karl of Breslau in Czenstochow in 1616 and negotiated for the intercession of military help for the Austrian Kaiser Fredinand II against the Czechs and the Hungarians.

In 1657, King Jan Kazimir called together a senat [Translator's note: at this time, the senat was a privy council and not the upper house of the Polish legislature] in Czenstochow that, at his request, decided on a general military mobilization of the nobles. This happened two years after the “miraculous” defense of the city against the Swedes. Thus, Czenstochow received the reputation as a center of political and, inevitably, military deeds. That Czenstochow played an important role in the political life of the state is shown by the fact that the same king again called together the senat there in 1661. This time there was a question of designating an heir to the throne while the king still lived, which was something new. The fact that the members of the senat consented to this, although it was entirely their responsibility to designate the place for such a convention, certifies that Czenstochow was thought of as an important political center. A royal wedding even took place in this city. This was in 1670. King Michael Wisniowiecki married the Austrian Duchess Leonora in the Jasna Gora monastery.

At that time, Czenstochow witnessed a convention of high state officials and nobles from Poland, Austria and other nations. This event was even worthy of being sung about in songs by every sort of court poet, who again placed the city in the center of political events in Europe.

It can be said that until the end of the 18th century Czenstochow had such a reputation that when someone had judged the city based on the number of writings, rhymes, liturgical poems, travel descriptions or newspaper articles about Czenstochow, one would have thought that this was a large city. Actually, Czenstochow was a small town. It was only at the start of the 19th century that the city had a population that was relatively large. In 1808 Czenstochow counted 3,349 souls. In 1826, new Czenstochow was united with

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old Czenstochow and one city was created. This almost doubled the number of residents. 6,168 souls were counted in the city in 1827, in 1859 – 8, 647, and a year later – 9,343. In 1826 the government of Congress Poland brought down artisans from Germany and encouraged foreign capitalists to settle in the city and to develop commerce and industry.

Czenstochow played an important role during the uprising of 1831. As a result of the purchase of weapons for the Polish army in Bresla [possibly Breslau, now Wroclaw] and Konigsberg, the city became a transfer point. The fervent patriotic atmosphere of that generation of citizens of Czenstochow, the majority of German origin, best illustrates the rapid Polanization of the second and even the first generation of non-Poles.

The same was seen during the uprising of 1863. Many Polish uprising leaders came from Czenstochow. The role of Czenstochow in the national upsurge of Poland was made known in Polish patriotic poetry – in the hymns to the Czenstochower “mother” that the rebels sang.

After the uprising, when the positivist philosophy that was the credo of the young Polish capitalism held sway over literature and the press, Polish organized society in Czenstochow was governed by it. However, thanks to the direct influence of the church, the anti-positivistic forces were comparatively stronger in Czenstochow than in other Polish cities.

In 1847, the czarist regime built a Russian Orthodox church as a symbol of Russian rule. The anti-Russian activity at the solemn opening of the church was the first Polish demonstration in Czenstochow since 1863. Its consequences were: the first political trial in this city.

Meanwhile, Czenstochow grew and became greatly industrialized. In 1877 the city had many factories. Paper, wallpapers, soap, candles and candies were produced here. Later, whitewash and brick factories arrived. Czenstochow reached its greatest industrial success in the years 1880-1900. Then iron foundries, textiles and the steel industry arose. It should be understood that commerce developed around these industries. The export and import trade strongly increased thanks to the nearness of Prussia. Czenstochow began to play a heavy role in the economic life of the entire country as a transit point.

In 1897 Czenstochow numbered 43,863 souls. That is, approximately six times as many as 40 years earlier.

More rapid growth of the working class came with the development of Czenstochower industries. The first circle of Czenstochower socialists was founded by the followers of patriotic socialism. Later came the social-democrats, who did not have great influence in Czenstochow. A circle of socialist-revolutionaries was active there, thanks to those in the city's military garrison who were members of this party. This can be seen from the trial of a group of Russian soldiers in Czenstochow that took place in February 1906.

The Polish middleclass was far from having liberal or generally progressive ideas. The National Democratic Party had strong standing with the Polish bourgeoisie in Czenstochow. The Polish petit-bourgeoisie was very conservative, under the influence of Catholic clericalism, and was anti-Semitic as a matter of course. The individual progressive Poles felt very isolated and carried on a difficult struggle for cultural, humanistic activity in the city. This can be seen in a letters of the Czenstochower doctor, Wladyslaw Bieganski, who achieved a respected name beyond the borders of Poland with his medical and philosophical works.

The Polish Socialist Party was strong in Czenstochow. When the split between right and left pepesovtses [word derived from initials of P.P.S. – Polish Socialist Party] took place, the right, which took the name “revolutionary faction” of the P.P.S., won in Czenstochow. This was very clear at the famous trial of 82 members of this party that took place in January 1914. It is worth remembering that among the most active in this party who were on trial were Jews, such as Advocate Glikson, his daughter, the writer, Marya Glikson, Zaks and others.

At the First World War broke out, Czenstochow was occupied by the Germans on the third day. This was on the 3rd of August 1914. On the 8th of August 1914, the Germans shot

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several residents of the city. People began to be dragged to work.

Czenstochow found itself under German occupation. However, the Jasna Gora was under Austrian occupation. Austria, as a “Catholic monarchy,” was better suited as a guard of the “holy picture” than Germany.

The population of the city grew greatly with the rise of independent Poland. The city became a part of the Kielce wojewodztwo [province or guberniya]. Czenstochow numbered 80,473 souls in 1921 and in 1939 – 130,000. Czenstochow had a progressive city managing committee that consisted of 42 councilmen, among them 12 to 14 Jews. In the years, 1917 – 1939, the general culture grew parallel with the economic growth of the city. The city library named for Dr. Wladyslaw Bieganski appeared in 1917. In 1938, this library had 60,000 books. Its foundation was Bieganski's private library. The school system also became more widespread. New folks-shuls [[secular public schools] and a series of state and private gymnazies [high schools] sprang up. There were even plans to open an institution of higher learning.

 

The city had a series of arts organizations, sports clubs, communal unions and even publishing houses.

The professional intelligentsia was of a high caliber. The majority of the engineers studied abroad. The doctors had a good reputation in the profession. The Czenstochower division of the Medical Institute carried on independent scientific work. Although it held a respected place in the life of Poland, Czenstochow was the seventh largest city in Poland according to population. On the eve of the Second World War, Czenstochow had a major role in the economic activities of the nation. In1938, the city had 2,043 industrial certificates; of these 315 were for large factories, and 3,125 patents for commerce, of these 243 were for large firms.

The city had 6,100 buildings, 86 percent of them brick. 75 percent of all houses had modern facilities, such as electricity, gas and plumbing.

Czenstochow was a modern city that went forward with sure steps until the bloody Second World War stopped its young, vehement march forward.

 

2. History of the Jews in Czenstochow

It is difficult to establish when Jews actually settled in Czenstochow. The first mention of Jewish matters concerning the city relates to the Frankist movement. When Jakob Frank (1726-1791) was convicted of blasphemy in a rabbinical court in 1760, he was sent to Czenstochow. He was imprisoned in the fortress there for 13 years until the Russian General Bibikow, who captured this fortress, freed him. These 13 years were a continuation of Frank's earlier adventurous life. He surrounded himself with a large retinue, pulled all of the strings, even brought his wife who died in Czenstochow. A number of his followers came here and settled in Czenstochow itself. However, in time this group dispersed. There is great doubt if even one Frankist family remained in Czenstochow.

It is possible that Jews lived in Czenstochow during the era of the last Polish King, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, who ruled in the years 1764-1794. There is information that this king permitted a Polish nobleman to settle seven Jewish families in his house. Such a privilege was entitled juridike [legal]. This information is a little suspect because, in general, a nobleman with a juridike did not need to ask for permission from the king because the juridike of the nobleman is “extraterritorial [exempt from the jurisdiction of local law]” on his small piece of land.

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It may well be that two facts were mixed together. Perhaps a nobleman had seven Jewish families in his house because such Jews paid as much as was wanted. In addition, the king probably permitted seven families to settle in Czenstochow. Who they were and where they lived – that we do not know.

One thing is certain. Jews lived in Czenstochow in the second half of the 18th century. There was already a kehile [organized Jewish community] in Janow at that time. The Jews from Czenstochow would be brought there for a Jewish burial. Czenstochow was thus a provincial kahal [community] of Janow. The Janower kehile carried on a long struggle for its hegemony and did not permit Czenstochow to become an independent kehile.

We also do not know the number of Jewish families in Czenstochow. It must not have been a small number because a Jewish royfe [old-time, untrained physician], one Reb Hersh, practiced there in the years 1787-1797.

The first concrete information about the Jews there comes from the time of the Prussian occupation when Czenstochow was absorbed into the new administrative portion of southern Prussia that was created after the second partition of Poland. In a report to the Prussian king that was sent by a special official whose task it was to describe the acquired provinces, it is said that “several Jewish peasants are found near Czenstochow.” This is unquestionably an important and even peculiar fact. Since this is a statement of a Prussian official who traveled throughout the country and accurately recorded everything, there is no reason not to believe his report.

This is surely a very interesting fact – Jewish farmers at the cradle of the Jewish settlement in Czenstochow. From where were they attracted to Czenstochow? If they were already there, as the Prussian official describes, it means that they were there before the partitions of Poland. It could only mean that these are the seven Jewish families given the privilege by the last Polish king on the condition that they cultivate the earth. Since there were several similar cases of Jews at that time in various parts of Poland, it is plausible that these were the Jewish farmers. In addition, the fact that they were also a Jewish religious community in Czenstochow clinging to the dirty, wooden houses of a nobleman who had a juridike and drew a large income from the Jews for housing them is shown by the further fact:

According to a decree of the 17th April 1797, the Prussians permitted the Jews to move out of the dirty places in which they lived and to choose better residences for themselves. Unfortunately the Prussian official, who had been precise in giving the number of residents, Jewish and non-Jewish, in many cities and shtetlekh, was very stingy with the pertinent facts in relation to Czenstochow.

Consequently, the important fact about the number of Jews, who at that time were found in the ghetto in Czenstochow that was so dirty that the “good hearted” Prussian permitted them to move to a better ghetto, is not available to us.

We meet another type of Jew at that time around Czenstochow. The Prussian regime considered all Jews who could not show that they had a steady income as “beggar Jews” and drove them out of Prussia. Many of the “beggar Jews” began to wander through the forests and fields of the country in despair and hunger. They were organized into robber bands along with down graded Polish noblemen, burghers, peasants and even gypsies and were active throughout the country. It is said about one of these bands that had many Jews that it operated around Czenstochow.

Alas, there is no information about the internal life of Jews during the Prussian era. In 1806, the army of the Duchy of Warsaw, created by Napoleon on the ruins of the Prussian part of Poland, completed the Czenstochow fortress. The young state began to collect materials about the Jewish population in order to prepare the necessary projects of the planned reforms. We know from these reports that the city of Czenstochow numbered 3,349 souls, of them 496 Jews. This means that in 1808, the Jews made up 14.8 percent of the entire population. There were 6,963 souls in all of the cities and towns of Czenstochow powiat [county], of them 1,310 Jews. This means that more than a third of all Jews in the powiat lived in the city of Czenstochow. Thus the Jewish religious community in the city was the largest in the entire powiat. While Jews made up 18 percent of the city residents, their number in the villages was much smaller. On average they made up two percent of the village residents.

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It is unquestionable that some form of kehile organization existed in Czenstochow during the era of Prussian rule. Or else one cannot comprehend from where even the rudimentary form of a kehile managing committee originated that was found there in the era of the Duchy of Warsaw. The fiscal policies in relation to Jews under the Prussians dictated the necessity to create a kehile that would bear the responsibility for taxes that the Jews had to pay. In many cities, Warsaw included, the Prussians actually legalized the kehile. It was the same in Czenstochow. There must have been a kehile with leaders as there was everywhere. As there was no act from Prussian times about permitting Jews to have a kehile managing committee, it is clear that the conduct of the kehile that was active during the time of the Warsaw principality existed earlier under the Prussians.


A regimental flag from the returning remnant of the
Polish army from Napoleon's Russian campaign in 1813.
It was used as an ark curtain in the New Synagogue in Czenstochow.

 

The first activity of the Czenstochower kehile during the era of the Duchy of Warsaw was to open a permanent synagogue for praying. The second very important work was to choose a spiritual leader who would stand at the head of the kehile.

A session of the kehile took place in Czenstochow on 8 Av 5568 ([1 August] 1808). This surely was not the first session in the over two years that the city was under the new government. The character of this session attests that this was a routine continuation of a managing committee that had worked for a longer time on the part of the Jewish kehile. At that session, one Reb Yakov ben [son of] Eliezer Lewi was chosen as the head of the rabbinical court and also as chairman of the kehile. This Yakov ben Eliezer signed his name specifically as Wierny Kahaku Czenstocowskiego [Loyal Community of Czenstochow] (the name of the kehile in Czenstochow).

We know almost nothing about the origin of this first representative of the kehile in Czenstochow, whose name has reached us. We only know that he was a Jew, a scholar, a good organizer and probably also a wealthy man. This last can be deduced from the fact that he was the treasurer of the kehile, an office that as a rule was not entrusted to a poor man.

It was necessary to turn to him in all matters having to do with the kehile. It is very interesting that at this time Lewi signed a declaration of devotion and honesty in the carrying out of his functions, including the point that he, Lewi, “would work for the interests of the city, even if it brought harm to another kehile.

The “other kehile' was certainly Janow, which had frowned on Czenstochow's intentions of “emancipation” and tried with all of its strength to prevent Czenstochow from separating itself completely form Janow. The city itself had probably expected more benefits from an independent kehile than from being attached to Janow and therefore the Czenstochower city middle class supported the strivings for autonomy by the young Jewish community.

The kehile had three parnosim [elected heads of community, singular – parnes] who served according to a system of rotation, that is, alternating each month. Therefore, they were called parnes-khodesh [head for a month]. The treasurer was not permitted to pay out any monies without a note from a parnes.

The parnes-khodesh had the right to issue a note by himself, but not for more than six gildn.

[Page 12]

If it was a question of a larger amount, the signatures of all three parnosim was required.

The head of the rabbinical court was a paid office. Even when he himself did not want it to be. His wages were six Reich's tolar a month. His salary was 12 Reich's tolar a month during the months of Nisan and Tishrei. In addition, he received a free apartment. The head of the religious court also received three percent of the monies collected that came in from the surrounding settlements. At that session, it was also decided that as long as the city of Czenstochow did not have a rabbi, the head of the rabbinical court would also receive half of the rabbinical fees for certain functions.

The head of the rabbinical court was also permitted to go to the settlements around Czenstochow once a year and receive Chanukah money.


A group of children from Mrs. Wajzer's school

 

In addition to Reb Yakov Lewi, this document was signed by 40 more distinguished Czenstochower Jewish community leaders.

This is the oldest document saved in the records of the Czenstochower kehile. It can be seen from it that the salary for the head of the rabbinical court was not designed for Yakov Lewi, who in all probability did not need it, but as a principle for the future when another would take over this office. A second important fact is that around Czenstochow there were settlements that were bound administratively to the city. The best evidence is that funds would arrive from these communities and the head of the religious court had the right to receive three percent of this income. This can be deduced because the Czenstochower kehile was at that time already the head kehile in the district. This organization according to administrative counties or districts worked very actively during the era of the Duchy of Warsaw. Witnesses reported that in meetings of the kehilus of that time, a common effort was made to bring about the repeal of a series of severe fiscal edicts using their joint power.

The Janower kehile did not accept this effort by Czenstochow to become independent. It wanted to prevent it or else it would lose all of the surrounding small settlements, which very quickly came under the influence of the younger, more impetuous kehile.

The first dispute between Janow and Czenstochow was vividly displayed that year, that is, in 1808. Then Luszczewski, the Finance Minister of the marginal and smaller Duchy of Warsaw, imagined that a great deal of money could be extracted from the Jews through various precise taxes. He and the Education Minister Grabowski conducted a struggle against Jewish “fanaticism,” whose main source was Jewish books.

The easiest thing would have been to confiscate Jewish books. However, such an edict would not have brought in any revenue. It was decided to tax the Jews who wanted to keep their Jewish books. This meant that everyone who had books had to permit them to be stamped and, it should be understood, there would be a payment for this. It is true that this did not exterminate “fanaticism,” but the Jews who wished to remain “fanatics” were fiscally inconvenienced and had to pay for this “pleasure.” The opinion was that many Jews would more quickly give up their books rather than pay the stamp tax. This would decrease the number of “fanatics.” This was the calculation of the Education Minister, Stanislaw Grabowski.

When a circular arrived at the Czenstochower kehile that it should inform its Jews about the law for stamping books, they immediately sent a printed Yiddish proclamation from the rabbinical authority to all of the surrounding communities. These were Dzialoszyn, Krzepice, Amstow, Kejnckow [Cynkow], Kuznica, Klobuck, Lobodno, Mierzyce and others.

Until now this was the explicit territory of the Janower kehile. With the inclusion of these communities and the sending out of emissaries who

[Page 13]

stamped the books in the name of the Czenstochower kehile, gave receipts, provided exact accounts and so on, Janow lost its rights in relation to these communities and Czenstochow was established as the legal guardian of these communities.

The decree is of such great cultural and historical value that we reprint it here. This decree is reprinted here without even the smallest changes so that the reader will have an idea of the language and orthography of that time.

[Translator's note: The reprint of the decree is not of the original, but a typeset version. The language and orthography are in the old Yiddish and Hebrew style and the text is a combination of Yiddish and Hebrew. The essence of the document is provided in the paragraphs below.]

From this important document we learn a great deal about the organization of the Jewish kehile in Czenstochow during the era of the Duchy of Warsaw. First of all, we see who the head of the kehile was at that time. He was named Berish Szapiro. Alas, we do not have any details about him. It can be seen from the text of the decree that the Jews had eight days to make a declaration about their books and have them stamped. Fines had to be paid in cases when the order was not carried out.

The kehile had special emissaries who would travel around and receive payment from the owners of the books. There were varying prices for the cities and for the villages. The residents of the villages paid a great deal less than the city property owners. The emissaries were probably collectors from the kehile. The head of the kehile used the opportunity of the emissaries being in the surrounding communities to stamp the books and he informed them that those who had not paid their yearly recruitment taxes must pay the same emissaries.

This tax was paid by Jews to free themselves from military service. In 1812, after long meetings and negotiations, the kehilus of the Duchy of Warsaw succeeded in freeing themselves of this tax for one large payment of 700,000 gildn.

At first, an emissary was nothing more than the presenter of an edict. In each shtetl or village, he would call all of the Jews and read aloud the proclamation of the rabbinical assembly. The representative of the communities in question would sign the proclamation stating that the Jews had heard it read or that he himself had read it. Each emissary was responsible for about 15 small adjacent towns. If they wanted to pay the book stamp tax or the recruitment taxes through him, it could be done. If not, the money had to be brought directly to the kehile in Czenstochow.

In the light of this document, it can be seen that the kehile in Czenstochow was a legal representative of the Jews not only from that city, but also from a series of surrounding shtetlekh and village settlements. True, it lacked many attributes of an independent kehile. For example, it did not yet have a rabbi and it also had no cemetery. This first came into being during the era of Congress Poland (1815-1830). However, its power was great enough, its population large enough so that it put many older and larger Jewish kehilus in the country in the shadows.

First of all, the favorable geographical location of the city and the rapid industrialization of the entire surrounding area brought rapid growth of the Czenstochower kehile. The government encouraged foreign capitalists and fine craftsmen to enter the country and help in the development of industry and trade. In such a manner,

[Page 14]

many German capitalists and craftsmen came to Czenstochow from nearby Silesia. Among the first group were also Jews. It cannot be denied that among the older resident Jews who lived in Czenstochow, there were several who settled during the Prussian era. True, in the era of the Duchy of Warsaw, they were asked to leave the country. However, many remained, particularly in the smaller cities of the country. That there were at that time many among the Czenstochower Jews who had come from Germany can be seen by the fact that the well-to-do Jews employed teachers especially brought from abroad. This was not accomplished so easily because the local burghers fought each attempt to admit a “foreign” Jew and even the church was opposed to this. In 1818 it seems that there were two Jewish teachers in Czenstochow who gave lectures there. They were Leon Gotenberg of Glogau (Silesia) and Wilhelm Imier, who was brought from Praszka.

When they began to introduce “precincts” for the Jewish population, that is, actually ghettos, the Czenstochower city managing committee did not want to refuse this “privilege.” Czenstochow then had a proportionally greater number of Europeanized Jews than, for example, Warsaw. In 1818, a group of Jews from the district turned to the regime with a proposal that they were prepared to dress in the European manner and to send their children to public schools. Therefore, they should be freed of the obligation to live in the Jewish precinct. It is not known how the city hall answered this. The fact that several of the rich Jews had houses outside the Jewish precinct gives witness that the “Europeanized” Jews actually lived in the Christian streets, just as in other Polish cities.

There is also the first information from that time about the role of the Jews in industry. In 1827 there were already descriptions of Jewish factories in the city that sold “Czenstochower products.” We do not know the nature of these factories. Some Jews were involved with contraband. This can be seen from the frequent decrees about withdrawing from around Czenstochow. A large number of those involved with contraband later settled in Lodz.

The families that in time took a respected place in local Jewish communal life came from the first Czenstochower pioneers in industry and commerce. The head of the kehile in the 1830's was Herc Kon (1789-1862), the wealthy man and maskhil [follower of the Enlightenment]. He supported the efforts of the individual maskhilim [plural of maskhil] in spreading secular education among the local Jews and even opened a private school for Jewish children.

People began coming to Czenstochow from surrounding cities and shtetlekh searching for a livelihood. City hall was careful that “foreign” Jews not settle there, but it did not succeed. These illegal residents lived in constant fear of being ousted from the city. There was a time (around 1829) when the number of such families amounted to an entire 100, that is, almost half of the entire Jewish population. In 1827, the official number of Jews in Czenstochow was 1,141 souls and made up 18½ percent of the general city population.

The Jews without the right of residence probably had a livelihood in the city because they would spend a great deal of money for legal protection from the city administration. The city fathers and the police had an easy income from the systematic bribes paid by the illegal Jews.

A Jewish plutocracy [rule by the wealthy] began to evolve very early in Czenstochow, for whom the little respect that communal activity in the kehile life could give them in the narrow, enclosed residential area was no longer enough. It should not be forgotten that among the rich men in Czenstochow were many who received a general [i.e. secular] education in the nation's schools or abroad. Their frequent trips to Germany quickly “Europeanized” them and they wanted to carry out many of the reforms in Czenstochow that had been carried out in larger German communities.

Also among the Jewish artisan element were followers of modern Jewish life in the German style. In Czenstochow in 1841, there were 32 Jewish weavers with 160 weaving stools and 200 Jewish journeymen. The majority of their teachers were German master craftsmen. As a matter of course, they knew German and looked upon German culture as the last word in progress. Even the administration of the kehile in the years 1833-1862 was recorded in German, but printed with Yiddish letters.

It is no wonder that the

[Page 15]

individuals who already considered themselves progressive people looked for an entry into general communal life. This could be achieved either through an individual privilege or through conversion. The privilege was exemplified, first of all, by the right to live outside the Jewish ghetto. A higher form of the privilege was the right to own one's own estate.

The history of Shimeon Landau-Gutenberg, the son of Wilhelm Landau, a German Jew who settled in Czenstochow during the time of the Duchy of Warsaw, is very interesting in this respect.

Shimeon Landau was a rich Czenstochower merchant and manufacturer. In a detailed petition, he turned to the regime in December 1833 with a request that the rights of a citizen be given to him. He wrote that he and his household read and write Polish and German. This – he asserted – could be easily established by the city management committee.

He further stated that his children attended the general [Polish secular] schools and he himself did not wear “the external signs that the Jews wear.” Thus, he promised that no Jews would work in his businesses “who do not wear either Polish or German clothing nor speak one of these two languages well.” Landau explains that since 1822 he has had a factory for calico and cotton production in the country.

The matter of giving him the rights of a citizen was drawn out for almost two years. The Warsaw regime answered (12 March 1835) that his service in relation to the country was not so remarkable that he was worthy to receive the rights of a citizen. Landau was able to live outside of the ghetto because he was rich, dressed as a “European” and sent his children to general schools.

However, his son had more luck. In 1863 he was permitted to buy an estate in Kielcer gubernia [province] and in that way the dream of the pioneer Jewish family in Czenstochow to become Polish lords and to have the privilege to enter the highest social group in the country came true.

It is worth remembering the other families that had the merit to receive the rights of a citizen – the banking family of Adam Bergman, Wilhelm Kon, the Walbergs and the Landowskis.

However, there were those who did not have any luck or enough capital in order to be able to present themselves and emerge from the Jewish community; they had to live in the crowded alleys of the Jewish precinct. They tried to better their circumstances through conversion. But they probably were ashamed of converting in Czenstochow itself. The Paulists of Jasna Gora even had a special fund to support converts, but these candidates for the Catholic Church actually traveled to Warsaw, in order to carry out the shameful act of betrayal far from their home and their relatives. The majority of those who converted in Czenstochow were not residents, but from the surrounding cities and shtetlekh.

In 1833 a Czenstochower, one Balzam, who immediately Polishized his name as Balzamowski, converted. In 1838 the local tailor, Borsztajn, left for Warsaw with his wife and converted there. In 1843, the local teacher, Gershom Wiszlicki, and his wife did it. One of the first capitalist entrepreneurs in the city, Jakov Jakubowicz, converted in 1848. The conversion in the house of Herc, the wealthy man and parnes [elected official] of the kehile, provoked great sorrow and tension. One of his sons converted in Warsaw in 1865.

The nickname, “Czenstochower shmadnikes [converts]” was not connected with the fact that there was a strongly felt affinity to the ideas of the Jewish Enlightenment in Czenstochow earlier than in other cities, but only with the actual conversions, which provoked great strain in the city.

The growth of the Jewish population in Czenstochow gave rise to the development of various charitable groups. Poverty remained in the community that had very quickly received a reputation as a rich kehile. However, with the arrival of the years 1847-1848, when the country lived through crisis and hunger took hold in many houses, the Czenstochower kehile had to organize immediate support for its poor. The effort to enable Jews to be employed in the nearby lime mines, even for temporary work, was rejected by the government.

The kehile was not prepared for such a charity effort. In general, they literally thought of the poor of their city as “strangers” who had come here in order to try their luck with the “residents.” These “residents” prided themselves that they could show that their families had settled in Czenstochow at the time of the Duchy of Warsaw and, unavoidably they thought, before the “partition.” Czenstochow was for

[Page 16]

many Jews from surrounding cities and shtetlekh a sort of transit point where one looked for a livelihood. If one had luck, he remained; if not, he left for Lodz, which at that time was tempting with the spell of pioneering enterprises that literally were surrounded by fantastically buzzing business adventures.

The appeal by a pioneering Czenstochower maskhil [follower of the Enlightenment], Yitzhak Bursztyn or Bursztynski, the local correspondent of the Algemeiner Zeitung Des Judentums [General Newspaper of Jewry] that the well known Rabbi, Dr. Ludwig Filipson, had published in Magdeburg, stems from those years of crisis. Bursztynski appealed to the Czenstochower Jews to give charity systematically and not to throw donations at random when a poor person knocked at a Jewish door. He proposed that they should set a monthly payment over the course of six months for the victims of the crisis.

He wrote, “Where is fairness and justice that we would permit the needy of our religious community to die of hunger and die in the streets of our city before our eyes?”

He appealed to the Jews in the city to contribute to such a fund. The city had enough well-to-do proprietors and a contribution would hardly affect the wealthy person, but the poor might benefit greatly from a few pennies – he wrote in his half Hebrew and half German appeal.

This was the first and largest communal action on behalf of the local poor or impoverished Jews in the history of Czenstochow. The fact that this action was not organized by the kehile managing committee itself, but was an individual initiative by one person was a sign that although Czenstochow was a kehile with “progressive” leaders similar to Warsaw, in matters of kehile organization, it was still backward.

During the cholera epidemic of 1852 there was a more organized action. There were charity balls, money was collected and, in general, there was more interest in the victims of the epidemic. This was more a prophylactic charity that helped the rich element of the Jewish population protect itself from the plague.

Around that time the local Jewish population grew very quickly. In 1840, Jews made up about a third of the population. 5,004 Christians were then in Czenstochow, 2,999 Jews. However, the entire population of the city began to grow at a faster tempo and so did the Jewish population. This was because the city drew many new residents, particularly from the surrounding villages, who came to work in the factories in Czenstochow. For Jews, settling in the city was severely limited by the strict control of the Jewish precinct and the systematic regimentation of the Jewish residents. In 1857, the entire population of the city consisted of 8,637 souls, of them 2,976 Jews. This means 34.5 percent. In 1862, there were 3,360 Jews in Czenstochow (37.3 percent of the general population).

In 1862 Czenstochow met with a great misfortune. A terrible fire broke out on the 4th of November. The poor Jews suffered the most. This was at the time of “Polish-Jewish brotherhood.” The joint action on behalf of the fire victims that was carried out by the Jews and the Poles actually was important in demonstrating the significance of “practical love.” The priest and the rabbi joined the committee. Bernard Kon, an owner of the largest mill and a member of the city council, was the chairman. Many Christians gave money; 14,000 zlotes were collected.

This fire was used as a strong argument that the Jewish precinct must be abolished because the fire was a result of crowdedness and filth. In 1859 they began to urge that the Jewish precinct should be enlarged as far as “Panni Marja” Street, including the market. In 1862 the Czenstochower city council decided to entirely abolish the precinct. The city fathers were proud that their decision came earlier than the decree that in general abolished the ghettos in Congress Poland.

In general at that time, that is, in the years 1861-1863, a pro-Polish feeling held sway in Czenstochow that was expressed in identification with the Polish national idea. In addition to Bernard Kon, the property owners Bernard Mejzl, Yitzhak Ginsberg, Yitzhak Fajgenblat, and Jakov Zajdenman, were chosen for the city managing committee. These four Jews were representatives; Bernard Kon was the councilman.

The mood was so elevated that Ju-

[Page 17]

czenka [a weekly newspaper] published a letter from a Czenstochow Jew against Moshe Hess[2]. This Jew wrote that “Eretz-Yisroel is a dream” and that “our fatherland is Poland.” The letter ostensibly was written to a Czenstochow Christian who wanted to know if Jews in the city felt themselves to be Poles.

The fact itself that after Czenstochow, only Warsaw showed a great deal of activity that year in connection with the uprising of 1863 elicited an enthusiastic response in the Polish press.

In the years 1861-1863, Czenstochow had a significant group of young Jews who were already culturally Polish and were interested in Polish matters. The proximity of the Prussian border gave the young people easier access to political literature than the young people in Warsaw. It was easier to smuggle such literature simply because many people visited Breslau or Konigsberg more often from Czenstochow than from Warsaw. For example, therefore, a copy of Rome and Jerusalem by Moshe Hess fell into the hands of a member of the Enlightenment in Czenstochow much earlier than in Warsaw.

Therefore, Czenstochow also filled a significant role in the spread of forbidden works and in smuggling revolutionary literature and, later, in smuggling weapons during the uprising.

Those emigrating from Poland used Czenstochow as a more secure transit station as was done with the smuggling of literature. The local Jews, experienced in matters of contraband, distinguished themselves in this work. Among the young people were found many students from Warsaw schools in general and from the rabbinical schools, in particular.

They were very enthusiastic about the Polish patriotic movement before the uprising, brought news to the city, wrote in the Polish newspapers, sent correspondence to the weekly newspaper, Juczenka, later helped take care of the wounded insurgents and transferred them to Krakow. They were known in the revolutionary circles and, therefore, it is no wonder that in the secret instructions from the Polish revolutionary committee of 1863, the “connection to the Poles of Moshe Rabbeinu's belief [a reference to the religion of Moses, i.e. Jews] in Czenstochow” are mentioned.

In 1862 a patriotic demonstration took place in Czenstochow, at which spoke Daniel Najfeld, about whom more will be written at length later. The Jewish students in the Czenstochow secular schools took part in this meeting. Also among those who took an active part in the uprising were several young Czenstochower Jews. Several Czenstochower Jews were arrested after the uprising of 1863, such as Shmuel Widowski, who was arrested and placed in the custody of the police for two years. One Josef Kon escaped abroad. When he returned, he was arrested and placed in the custody of the police, also for two years.

The most important one among the young Jewish patriots of the uprising was Shimeon Dankowicz, upon whose biography it is worthwhile to pause.

Dankowicz was born in Czenstochow in 1841. His mother was a midwife. He graduated from the secular elementary school and later was a student in the district school. He came to Warsaw in 1859 and entered the medical-surgical academy. Later, when this academy was closed, because a Polish university was opened (Szkola Glowna), Dankowicz transferred there and studied medicine. He was a member of the Warsaw youth circle that gave as its purpose the spreading of Polish assimilation among the young Jewish generation. In November 1860 Dankowicz gave a lecture to that circle about Jews that was bold and new. Dankowicz developed the idea that Jews did not cease to be a nation, although they had lost their land. No doubt this was the influence of Moshe Hess' Rome and Jerusalem that was published that year and provoked a mostly negative critique. In those sweet years of assimilation, publishing such a thesis in Warsaw required courage and independence of thought.

A passionate discussion developed around this report. The young Aleksander Krojzhar, who took an active part in this circle, described Dankowicz's report and the discussion in a letter to a friend.

Krojzhar wrote, “Voices were heard that there is no nation without a country, and only the land where they were born should be

[Page 18]

a fatherland for the Jews. This opinion found many supporters.”

The fact itself that Krojzhar wrote that many did not agree with Dankowicz, while one could have expected that everyone would not agree with him shows that not everyone then considered themselves Poles of Moshe Rabbeinu's belief. It is clear that Dankowicz also did not consider himself as such. He was the first nationally disposed Jew among the Jewish intelligencia in Poland at that time. Still clearer, this appears in connection with his article in the weekly newspaper, Juczenka, which was published in Warsaw in the years 1861-1863 under the editorship of Daniel Najfeld. This Najfeld met Dankowicz in Czenstochow. Najfeld invited him through the editor's mail box to send articles for his journal.

Dankowicz's article about “Proverbs and Fables in Rabbinic Literature” appeared in 1862, in Juczenka (number 12). Dankowicz wrote thusly in this article:

“Proverbs provide the philosophy of the people. Therefore, each nation (narod [nation in Polish]) collects these monuments of the past and carefully protects them, both those that are of a high cultural status and those that are of lower status.”

Dankowicz expressed the desire “that our co-religionists should take up the collection of proverbs, reports and even characteristic expressions from Jewish jargon[3] from the mouths of the Jewish people.”

This article evoked dissatisfaction in the radical-assimilated circles. However, Najfeld defended Dankowicz and agreed with him.

Dankowicz was one of the most dynamic personalities among the Jewish young people during the rebellion. He took an active part in a series of battles and was wounded. Thanks to the help of a group Poles, he was brought wounded to Krakow. He was healed there. He was a Hebrew teacher at the beginning. In 1868 he was chosen as the preacher of the Krakow synagogue “of Jews, friends of progress.” The intelligent sermon that he gave on the 18th of January 1868 was published by this synagogue.

Meanwhile Dankowicz received a doctorate from Krakow University and became a teacher of the Jewish religion in the district gimnazie [high school]. In the years 1868-1883 he held various positions as a rabbi and teacher of religion, all in smaller communities. He could not remain in Krakow because the Orthodox persecuted him. He left for Bulgaria and was the first chief rabbi of the young state. In 1893 he left there. What happened to him later and when he died is unknown.

This poor Czenstochower young man achieved a name as a Hebrew lexicographer. He published articles about Hebrew philology, about the influence of Hebrew on Slavic languages in the most significant periodicals of that time and intended to write a history of Jews in Poland.

A restless soul, Dankowicz could not find any permanent place for himself. His writings were lost; his name was forgotten. Many biographies indicate that he was a Bemczer Jew, because he was the rabbi there for a short time.

The Czenstochower son of a midwife was actually the first Jewish folklorist in Poland and the first herald of the Jewish national idea at a time when the idea of assimilation was entirely wrapped in the idea of “progress.”


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Damazy Macoch was a monk in Czenstochow's Pauline Convent. He killed his cousin and confessed to the murder, which took place after the monk, his cousin and his cousin's wife had committed a robbery at Jasna Gora, desecrating the robe and diamond encrusted crown of the “Black Madonna” and stealing and selling the jewels. Return
  2. Moshe Hess was the author of Rome and Jerusalem: The Last National Question, in which he called for the creation of a Jewish socialist commonwealth in Palestine. Return
  3. Jargon was originally a neutral term referring to a hybrid language; it became a derogatory term referring to Yiddish. Return

 

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