Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
History of the Jewish community in Dabrowa
(According to archival documents)
In truth Dabrowa does not yet have a history in the simple sense. She has yet to reach the age of twenty five, and what I am relating here only relates to the birth pangs of this community.
Dabrowa itself is still young, close to sixty. The first ones to settle in the
Dabrowa area were the Prussians, who after conquering Poland founded the first
coal mine here in 1790 by the name of Reden, and in the area a
community was founded for the workers and other settlers.
In the second quarter of the 19th century further coal mines were added, the first of which were Huta Bankowa, Ksabri and others. Only then were all the settlements amalgamated into the general name of Dabrowa, located in the center of the coal region.
Jews only settled in Dabrowa in the second half of the 19th century, and in 1897 the Jewish population reached 500 souls. The Jews of this region belonged to the Bedzin community, to which they would also pay Etat [budget] taxes, bury their dead in the Bedzin cemetery and so forth, and when Rabbi Issachar-Berisz Graubart zl took the rabbinical seat in Bedzin (1893), the incomes from all the communities in the district, amongst them Dabrowa, were entered into his account.
And what happened occurred naturally, with the great development of the coal mines and the metal founding in the area flourished and grew, so did the Jewish population, that didn't want to be dependent on the Bedzin community, and local community activists began dealing with the problem of founding an independent Dabrowa community.
According to documents at my disposal, I would like to convey details of how the Jewish community was founded in Dabrowa, and this is the way it was:
In 1908 several landlords from Zagórze, Józefów, Gmina-Górna, Golonóg and Zabkowice approached the district minister in Piotrokow with a request that he allow them to break their ties with the Bedzin community and found together with the Jews of Dabrowa an independent community called the Dabrowa community. The justification for this request was, that because of the great distance to the rabbi of Bedzin and the disinterest of the Bedzin community of their situation and needs, it was difficult for them to carry out religious matters; thus it was better for them to found an independent community that would care for their religious and social needs, and they were already planning to erect a synagogue in Dabrowa and take care of the local community needs and so forth.
The district administration in Piotrokow transferred the request to the minister of the Bedzin district in order to receive his opinion on the subject. The district minister replied to this that the Jews of Dabrowa together with rest of the other places mentioned in the request were regarded as the poorest of all the Bedzin community and the authority barely managed to receive the small Etat [budget] taxes that they were meant to pay. If an independent community was founded, it would be a further burden on them, and they would need to erect for themselves, a synagogue, a mikve, a cemetery, that would require considerable funds, apart from the several thousand roubles for the annual wages of the rabbi, the cantor, beadles and so on. This would encumber an enormous burden on the small, poor community, and that this issue was liable to increase their poverty.
On the other hand, most of the landlords from the same surroundings approached the district minister with a request not to break the tie of these places from the Bedzin community for the abovementioned reasons.
The district administration discussed the matter, and in it's meeting of the 23rd of June 1909 refused the request to found an independent community in Dabrowa (decree no. 4592 of the 1st of July 1909).
However, the same small group of people that sought independence for the community did not acknowledge the reality, and they presented an appeal to this decision to the district minister in the Piotrokow senate. After the written appeal reached discussion in the senate, the homeowners from Dabrowa, Huta Bankowa, Reden and Golonóg sent a second written request to the district minister to break their ties with the Bedzin community. The opposition, as well, carried out deeds in their claim to deny the revolutionary request of those wanting to release them from the burden of the Bedzin community, and declared that they were satisfied with the activities of the Bedzin community which took care of their local religious needs. In the end the opposition emphasized the justification, that they wouldn't be able to finance by themselves an independent community.
The regional office once again approached the Bedzin district minister that he investigate in all the towns and places to determine what numbers were in favor of breaking the ties and the number of those opposing, and if those in favor could take upon themselves the outlay involved in maintaining an independent community.
The district minister invited all the Jewish residents that sought to break ties with the Bedzin community to come to him, and asked each and everyone their opinion, and organized the results of his investigations in a protocol. It was apparent that most of the homeowners were in favor of an independent community in Dabrowa and its surroundings. Of the 136 Jewish residents in Dabrowa, in the Huta Bankowa settlement, Reden, Józefów and Golonóg, that the right to vote as payers of Etat to the Bedzin community, 125 agreed to an independent community and 11 of them stubbornly said No!
The wealthy Etat sponsors of Dabrowa, Huta Bankowa and Reden also declared that they were responsible for covering the costs of the new community and its needs, in the event that the authorities would not agree to this, that Zagorze, Józefów, Golonóg and Zamkowice would be affiliated with the Dabrowa community.
However, the opposition side did not relent in their resistance and presented a letter of protest to the regional minister claiming, that those signing in favor had been bribed, and only because of this those that had previously abstained now joined those in favor; and since an artificial majority was created, they requested from the minister not take this vote into account, since no-one would pay the Etat [taxes].
In the end, it became clear that almost all of those that were in favor had committed themselves to pay the Etat taxes in their entirety for the upkeep of the rabbi and other needs, with their possessions and assets as collateral. Due to this the council of the office of the regional minister decided in their meeting of the 10th of September 1910 to approve the request that Jews in the places previously detailed and allow them to found an independent community in Dabrowa, to which the settlements of Huta Bankowa, Reden and the village of Golonóg were affiliated, and took upon themselves the commitment to maintain the new community at their expense.
Thus the appeal that was presented by the opposition was cancelled and approved at a meeting of the regional administration of the 23rd of June 1909, and based on the positive decision of the office of the regional minister the first Dabrowa community was founded in January 1911.
By the way, I should note here, that the internal conflict between the
different sides in Dabrowa on the question of breaking ties the Bedzin
community did not interfere and did not make any move to oppose it, as if it
had no relevance to the subject and did not affect it at all. The impression
was received, as if the Bedzin community was comfortable with the breaking of
ties with the Dabrowa community, since the local Jews did not want to pay the
Etat of their own good will, and perhaps for other reasons, that
don't appear in the archival documents.
However, Rabbi Graubart from Bedzin was not content with this situation, as was learned later when a Rabbi was elected in Dabrowa, since he received income from Dabrowa and its suburbs, and when their own rabbi was elected his livelihood was decreased.
Immediately after the community foundation, the Dabrowian Jews set out to elect a rabbi for themselves, the candidate for the rabbi's seat was Rabbi Reb Alter Lewi from Pacanow. Only now did the true struggle inflame between those in favor and those opposed, and a certain side was revealed in Dabrowa of those interested in undermining the rabbi's seat in Bedzin.
According to the criticisms of the opposition, the Rabbi from Pacanow had bought a house in Bedzin three years before the break away of the Dabrowa community from Bedzin, and had lived in Bedzin after he had left Pacanow. From time to time he would travel to Dabrowa and organize the Jewish needs of the place.
The rabbi from Bedzin saw this as a type of trespassing, and he approached the Rabbi Gaon Elijahu Chaim Majzel from Lodz and the Admor from Krimolow, Rabbi Natan Nachum Rabinowicz, regarding this. Both denounced this act of trespass, However, apart from writing letters and denouncing they didn't have any means of enforcing this. The Rabbi from Pacanow claimed in a letter from the 18th of November 1910, that this business had already cost him around three thousand roubles. It was this letter the opposition received from the Admor from Krimilow and attached it to their protest letter to the regional minister.
Libelous documents flew from side to side, and because of this these contained a lot of sacrilege. Finally Rabbi Pacanow was elected as the Dabrowa community rabbi by a majority of votes. On the 20th of June 1911 the regional minister approved the appointment. The new rabbi swore allegiance to the kingdom as was customary, and officially began to serve in the Dabrowa rabbinate to the satisfaction of all the Jewish population, apart from the stubborn opposition.
However, the opposition were not pleased with the results and sent a new letter of appeal to the regional minister, in which they reiterated their previous claims that the Jews of Dabrowa had been promised to be free of paying the Etat taxes for a certain amount of time, if they voted in favor of Rabbi Lewi. They attached to the letter of appeal the two aforementioned letters from the rabbis, and noted a number of witnesses who would be willing to confirm their claims. However, the authorities did not call for the witnesses and weren't even able to understand the subject of trespassing that the rabbis had written about. The authorities did not even consider that according to the Russian law that the candidate rabbi was required to receive approval from a rabbi in a city from the same region that he has the authority to be rabbi, and those opposed relied on this law. Thus the regional minister, General Skalon, from Warsaw approved the appointment of the Rabbi from Dabrowa.
The opposition never gave up, and once again made a great effort and presented an appeal to the decision of the regional minister to the senate in Petersburg. In the letter of appeal they reiterated their old claims without renewing anything. And while still on the throes of negotiations on same subject between the cities and the various institutions, World War One broke out and put an end to the war in Dabrowa.
The end of the matter was that Rabbi Alter Lewi remained on the rabbinical seat in Dabrowa, which had only several years earlier had been transferred officially from being a village to a city, and no-one raised a peep about this
The world war disrupted the boundaries of various lands and the leaders of the Dabrowa community did not have time to present a report to the regional minister on their activities in the first years of the community's existence, and not about the new community budget for the yeas 1912-1914. Still the wheel of history continued to turn for the holy community of Dabrowa, as well.
After the death of the first town rabbi in Dabrowa, the disagreement in the
town about the rabbinical throne erupted once again.
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Updated 2 Feb 2007 by LA