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[Pages 78-83]

Towards a History of the
Brzezin Kehilah [Jewish Community]

General Features of Past Community Life in Poland

by Joseph Shaibowicz

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

In the Poland of the past, Jewish life was well organized. Everyone had to be connected to the Jewish klal [community] unless he had converted. The Jewish community of the town had full legal right to impose taxes and control the life of every individual. It could also sentence one for crimes, even with the death sentence.

At the head of the community stood the parnesim [elected leaders], or roshim [heads] (roshekool [community leaders]). Every parnes presided over the community for a month, therefore, he was called “parnes hakhodesh” [monthly leader], and he was responsible for everything for that month. The parnesim had to swear a loyalty oath to the king and had to be certified by the wojewoda [governor of the province], who was the king's representative. In towns that were under the jurisdiction of noble landowners, the landowner had to certify each parnes.

The Brzeziner parnesim had to be certified by the noble landowner Lasocki. In addition to the parnesim, there also were tuvim [elders] or tuvey-hoyir [esteemed elders] (usually they were former parnesim). Their task was to help the parnesim carry out their work. Besides them, there also were memunim [appointed officials], gaboim [trustees], and mezhgikhim [supervisors], who had to take care of health, kashrut [rules of kosher], honest weight and measure, of good behavior, of the malamdim [teachers], etc. The community also had supervision over schools and klekoydesh [clergy] (rabbis, dayonim [communal judges], khasonim [cantors] and shokhtim [ritual slaughterers]), mikvoes [ritual baths], cemeteries, and social welfare. There also was an important commission of shmayim – appraisers. They had to figure out the tax that everyone had to pay. Apparently, if poor people could not pay even the head tax, the community paid it to the king for them. Aside from these, the community also had state functions in the realm of administration and court business. As early as the 14th century we see laws where one could not sentence a Jew without the participation of Jews in the judgment.

The rov [official town rabbi] was the highest authority; his judgment was law. The strongest device was kherem [excommunication]. The shames [sexton] of the kahal [community council] occupied a different important position. He was the community's representative in the government offices and also a kind of shtadlan [intermediary] with the landowner. There also was a nemen (treasurer). The kahal also maintained a royfe [health practitioner], who treated poor sick people at the expense of the community, a barber, a midwife, and a pharmacist.

Over the individual communities stood the Va'ad Haglil (district council), which was selected at a convention of the leaders of the communities of the district and of special delegates. The chief of the Va'ad Haglil had the title Parnes Haglil. The Va'ad Haglil met once a year to take care of all the important items and measure out the taxes for each community in the district. The Va'ad Haglil had a district rov (Av-Bes-Din Haglil [chief judge] of the district), a government shtadlan [intermediary], a writer, shamesim [sextons] and a treasurer. Over the Va'adi-Haglilim stood the Va'ad Arba Artzot in Poland [Council of Four Lands – Greater Poland, Lesser Poland, Red Ruthenia (Galicia, Podolia) and Volhynia, which for a time included Lithuania]. This central administrative body consisted of delegates from the Va'adi-Haglilim. Large communities used to send up to four delegates, smaller, up to two, and the smallest, one. The Va'ad Arba Artzot never had more that seventy-one members, and its executive body consisted of twenty-three members. Jews wanted to support the tradition of the Sanhedrin [judicial court] that consisted of seventy-one members and the Sanhedrin Ktane [small], of twenty-three members.1

This was the time of Jewish autonomy in Poland. The Va'ad Arba Artzot was a kind of government within a government. It controlled all Jewish life in Poland. The finance minister of Poland often took part in the sessions of the Va'ad, and the Va'ad was the officially recognized representative of Polish Jewry before the king.

The growth of Jewish settlements in Poland led to the fact that many Jews settled on land owned by the nobility. As long as the settlements had been small, they had been mostly concentrated on land owned by the king, and the king had protected them as his own, since he did not want to lose them – because of the large income he received from them.

In 1539 the nobility won a big victory over the king, and the Sejm (Parliament) that convened in Piotrkow decided that all Jews who lived on noblemen's land would become the absolute property of the landowners.2 This created two categories of Jews. In towns belonging to the king Jews were on a higher level. In the towns and villages of noblemen, Jews were subject to the caprice of the landowner. If the nobleman was a fine person, he protected his Jews from hatred, the burghers, guilds, ecclesiastical organizations, and random anti-Semitism. If, however he was a Jew-hater, he would often blackmail the Jews in order to extort even more money. The Jews were powerless, because they no longer had royal protection.

There were, however, also cases when the position of the Jews truly improved and Jews actually stood up to the anti-Semitic plague.

The noble landowning family Lasocki in Brzezin – the owners of Brzezin in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries – continually improved the town, built churches, and always needed money. The Lasockis put the Jewish taxes and loy yekhrets [hush money] to good use. Therefore, they did not permit any persecution of Jews and often supported Jews against raids from the burghers (townspeople) and the guilds.


The dawn of Jewish life in Brzezin is not known. There are legends about Jews in Brzezin as early as the 12th century.3 Today it is difficult to determine when the communities in Brzezin and environs came into existence. Our historians and chroniclers, alas, did not understand the importance of registering a newly established settlement. The majority of communities suddenly appeared in the historical chronicles shortly before or just at the time of the Chmielnicki Uprising [uprising in Ukraine in which countless Jews were killed and others emigrated]. It is certain, however, that they already existed a long time before. The oldest date of the certain existence of a Jewish settlement in Brzezin is 1564.4 Kutno, which at that time also belonged to the Lentchitser Wojewodstwo [Leczycy Province] is mentioned as having Jews in 1513. The supposition that when King Kazimierz the Great gave Brzezin the privilege of becoming a town in 1366 a significant Jewish community was already there – has not been confirmed.

The Polish writer Sarniecki wrote in 1558 that there were skilled artisans in Brzezin whose products were sent to other towns in Greater Poland. A large number of the skilled artisans were Jews.

During the 17th century the general conditions in Poland seriously worsened. The Jewish situation became catastrophic. Chmielnicki descended on hundreds of Polish towns and killed off entire communities. Swedish troops came to help him in the battle, which was a rebellion against the king of Poland, and overwhelmed entire Jewish communities. The Swedes caused great destruction in Brzezin, but the great tragedy came later. Although the Jews were among the most loyal supporters of Polish power, this did not prevent the church from taking advantage of the alleged “miracle of the Madonna of Czestochowa,” thought to have caused the defeat of the Swedes. The priests instigated doing away with unbelieving Jews (the Swedes, as Protestants, had also counted them as unbelievers) and called for pogroms against the Jews. In 1656 a terrible pogrom occurred in Brzezin. Forty Jewish families were murdered by Hetman [military chief] Stefan Czarniecki's troops.5 The Brzeziner Poles helped, and it is thought that at that time the majority of the Jews of Brzezin met a violent death.6 Pogroms carried out by similar gangs also took place in Kalisz and Piotrkow. In Piotrkow they slaughtered fifty families, the entire Jewish population.7

A short time later, however, the Jewish population in Brzezin, as in many other Polish towns, increased greatly, not only from natural growth, but also principally from a large immigration to Poland. Jews who had been banished from Austria, Bohemia, Silesia, and the German provinces came to Poland in multitudes. A portion of the banished settled in Brzezin.8

Jews in Brzezin in 1764

Subsequent to the time in Poland when the Va'ad Arba Artzot was dissolved in 1764, a census of Jews was conducted in Brzezin, as in all Polish towns.9 The count for the head tax was applicable to all Jews without any distinction as to sex and social standing – except for children who were not yet nine years old.

In order to establish the statistical validity of this census, it is necessary to point out that the census was carried out by a special “inspector,” who had to be a nobleman, together with the parnes hakhodesh and the rov and shames of the town. They had to go into all the Jewish houses and record the family names and given names of all the souls in town. The Jews from the surrounding villages had to come to the town and, under oath, register all the souls in their families.10

The Jewish population in Brzezin and environs in 1764 was given as 243. Two hundred and three Jews lived in Brzezin, and forty Jews lived in the surrounding seven villages that belonged to the Brzeziner Jewish community. Koluszki was at that time a village with eight Jews that belonged to the Brzeziner Jewish community.

After carrying out the census the inspector had to travel to Leczycy, the capital city of the province, and deliver the registers into the hands of the official counters who were appointed by the Sejm. Then the Jewish inspectors had to swear an oath in the synagogue that they had omitted no one. But, in spite of all the precautions of the law, the registers did not show the true number of Jews in Brzezin. Paying two gulden a year per head led many Jews to find means to conceal themselves from the count. In 1775 the head tax was raised to three gulden and in 1779 by another half gulden.

Still, the count of 1764 is considered to be of extraordinary importance. First, it took place 215 years after the first Jewish census in Poland, and it showed the great change that had come about in Jewish life. Secondly, the first census had been at the beginning of the Va'ad Arba Artzot (Jewish autonomy), and the new census was carried out when the Va'ad Arba Artzot was dissolved – and with it, Jewish self-government also declined.

From this census we get a little idea about Jewish life in Brzezin during that time. Thirty houses belonged to Jewish leaders. Among the Jews were 1 tavern keeper, 1 distiller (whiskey distiller), storekeeper, 3 tailors, butchers, baker, lace maker, glazier, 1 balbider (kind of felczer) [barber-surgeon], and shamosim [sextons]. Two parnesim had two meshorshim [servants] each and one parnes had three meshorshim (a servant girl, a servant in the shop, and a wagon driver). There were Jews who lived as lodgers in strangers' houses. One leaseholder in Brzezin held the lease on the collection of the market fees (Arendarz targowy [market leaseholder]).

Of all the towns in Leczycy Province, only Brzezin is remembered as having a Jewish bagel-baker11 and a parnes who had three meshorshim. In Brzezin there were also municipal lessees. This means leaseholders who leased from a landowner most of his income-producing businesses, for example, distillery, brewery, inn, toll collection (przewozoze), market fees, and sometimes mills.

Jews in Brzezin According to Their Civil Status in 1764a

Total # of
Jews older
than 1 yr
Men Married Indep-
endent
Widow-
ers
Married sons
& sons-in-law
af kest
  Unmarried sons   Journ- eymen Owners of houses Tenants Heads of families
  102 50 43 2 7   40   10 30 19 49
  Women     Widow Married
daughters &
daughters-in
-law af kest
Widows
af kest
Unmarried daughters Unmarried servants and orphans Servants      
203 101 50 4 4 7 4 38 5 5      

Total of 60 families, averages 3.4 nefoshes [souls] per family.

In the Eight Villages That Belonged to the Brzeziner Jewish Communityb

Total # of Jews in 8 villages Men
18
9 11 1 2 5 Altogether from the town and the villages 243 individuals belonged to the Brzezin Jewish community. The general Brzeziner population in 1764 amounted to about 642 individuals; this means that approximately one-third of the population was Jewish.
40 Women
22
11 2 2  8  

Total of 14 families, averages 3 individuals per family.

  1. Dr. Rafal Mahler, Jews in Former Poland in Light of Numbers. (See also tables 8, 24, 41 and 63 [in Mahler's book]). Return
  2. Koluszki, with eight Jews, was a village at that time, and belonged to Brzezin. Return

In the 17th and 18th centuries a fine Jewish life bloomed in Brzezin that was well-known all over Poland. There were rebbes [Hasidic rabbis] in Brzezin who were considered famous people in the Jewish world of the time in Poland. From Brzezin they spread Hasidism far and wide all over Poland. A notable example from that generation of “good Jews” was Reb Fiszele (Efroim) Szapiro,12 who was a rov [official town rabbi] in the neighboring town Strykow and was known as Reb Fiszele Strykower. Always absent-minded and pensive, a homebody who knew nothing about the shape of a coin, he always ate in his private room in the service of Torah, always practicing mortification of the flesh and fasting while the Spirit was in the Disapora. The “Holy Light” [from title of book he wrote], as the Hasidic literature dubbed him, came from Podolia, the cradle of Hasidism. His father, Reb Jozef-Lajb, who was called by the name “Hasid” because of his strict piety, was a student of Reb Jakub Jozef from Polonnoye, one of the major students of the Baal-Shem-Tov and author of the well-known Hasidic seyfer [book] Toldes Yakov Yosef [Family of Jacob Joseph]. Reb Fiszele Szapiro was born in Belotserkovka, where his father was the rov (1743).

Because of the Haidamak [Cossack] slaughters and massacres of Jews under the leadership of Gonta and Zheleznyak (Tamuz [June-July] 1768), Reb Jozef-Lajb, with members of his household, fled to Balta and became a maged meshorim [itinerant preacher]. However, soon afterwards the Turks dominated this town on one side and the Poles on the other. Not having time to run away to the Turkish side, which many Jews had done, Reb Jozef-Lajb remained on the Polish side.

However, he could not remain there long either. Because of the frequent wars, he had to take his wandering stick and get under way with his family. On the way, in various towns he gave sermons and lived on alms, and upon coming to Brzezin, he settled there. He became a preacher and taught grown young men, and from this, frugally maintained himself. There his family branched out into tens of families.

His son, Reb Fiszele, left Brzezin and stayed a long time with Rebbe Reb Ber, the Mezritcher [from Miedzyrzecz] maged, and also with Reb Elimelech from Lizhensk [Lezajsk]. While at the latter's, he studied and devoted himself to Cabala [Jewish mystical philosophy], together with the Kozhenitser [from Kozienice] maged Reb Isroel'cie. Then he returned to Brzezin, married his second wife there, spent many years af kest [receiving room and board from in-laws while studying] and later was accepted by the neighboring town of Strykow as rov. He had children in Brzezin – Reb Jekiel Brzeziner and Reb Icek, later rov in Zarnow. His son-in-law, Reb Rywen Kosher, was rov in Ujazd.

In Brzezin, as in the entire region at that time, the Hasidim did not have any home base. Becoming a rov, Reb Fiszele established a nest there for Hasidism, from which he became the spiritual leader of the movement. Being very famous as a kodesh [holy man] and a bal-moyfes [miracle worker], he had a large following grouped around him, and the great rebbes of Poland sent Jews with heavy hearts to him, and they were helped by him.

They showered him with “red matbeyes [coins],” that is, what he called the “little golden rubles,” but he himself did not want to use the pidyones [payment for advice]. He lived on the few gulden the town paid him every week as rov. He used to give away the gold coins to poor people so they would have some prosperity, having great pleasure from the fact that the poor could have such delight from them.

The Rebbe Reb Fiszele had strange, one would say, non-Hasidic methods in his leadership. He gave no one sholem [greetings] with his bare hand. His hand was always covered with a kerchief or a towel. A story arose that once the Rebbe Reb Bunem from Pshiskhe [Przysucha] came to watch him perform the benediction. In addition, he brought with him the Rebbe Reb Henoch from Aleksandrow. Reb Fiszele gave the sholem with his bare hand. On the spot Rebbe Reb Henoch edged forward and also received the greeting with the bare hand. It immediately dawned on Reb Fiszele that he had given sholem without a covered hand to some stranger, causing him great consternation. He calmed himself only after the Pshiskher told him who and what Reb Henoch was.

Rebbe Reb Henoch and the Tshekhanover [from Ciechanow] rebbe, Reb Abramele, then became his closest Hasidim, serving at Rebbe Reb Fiszele's side for many years.

Then the following story was told:

A complete upheaval suddenly occurred in the rebbe's court. The Rebbe Reb Fiszele closed himself in his secluded chamber and would no longer permit anyone near him. One could rant as long as one wanted – it was useless. There was a commotion in the Hasidic world. There was no one to defend the Jews during bad times occuring then in Poland because of the wars with Russia. Rebbe Reb Bunem learned about it and came running at full speed to see what was happening there. Rebbe Reb Fiszele could not refuse him and opened his closed door. When asked why he closed himself in, Rebbe Reb Fiszele naively responded as follows:

Some time ago, a man came, very bitter; who was burdened with a large family but had no way to support them. Rebbe Reb Fiszele advised him to play the lottery, and he promised him that he would be successful. The man actually obeyed him, but when the man did not have enough money to redeem the ticket at the final stage, the collector sold it to another man, and the other man actually won the grand prize. And so, Rebbe Reb Fiszele then justified himself before Rebbe Reb Bunem – that the Almighty did not implement what he as a tsadik [saintly man] had decreed, and there was nothing more he could do – basta [enough].”

The Pshiskher explained to him that a tsadik must not dictate to the Almighty how He is to help a person. “Because what right do you have to say what is to be done?” A tsadik must express the wish, and Providence will then find the means to implement the tsadik's wish.

Rebbe Reb Fiszele immediately opened his door to all those with heavy hearts, and the people again came to cry their eyes out and find comfort.

What happened then is that Napoleon the Great, in his war with Russia, marched with his great army through the Lodz-Brzezin region, but on account of the great dense forests, the army got lost and could not find its way to Brzezin and Warsaw. He demanded that the Lodz population give him a guide, but the town of Lodz was afraid, so they ran to Rebbe Reb Fiszele for advice. He told a Jew from Brzezin who, at that time, lived in Lodz – Reb Szmuel Berman13 or Reb Szmuel Pachter (well-known as Reb Szmuel Brzeziner) – that he should be the guide. Reb Szmuel Brzeziner knew the local forest roads well. Since “sar vgodl npl visroel” [a prince suddenly came to the people of Israel] and Napoleon was a great sar (interpreting the initials from the word “npl” to mean that Napoleon had dropped in amidst the Jews), Reb Szmuel Brzeziner led the army to Brzezin, from which there was a wider road to Warsaw.

The story continues that finding out from Reb Szmuel Brzeziner where the great miracle worker [Reb Fiszele] lived who had instructed him [Brzeziner] to show the way, Napoleon sent his adjutant with the Jew to thank the rebbe for the favor and reward him. But how astounded the Frenchman was to see before his eyes a hunchbacked old man with a snow-white long beard, sitting in tallis [prayer shawl] and tefillen [phylacteries] in a poor, utterly dark room in a half-sunken little house. The officer was overcome by a great reverence for the great tsadik, and he asked him to express his good wishes for the French Army to win the war. With that he poured out onto the table a considerable amount of gold pieces as pidyen [payment]. Then for the first time Rebbe Reb Fiszele understood that the “red pieces” were valuable coins with which one could buy something.

It was told in another story that a frequent visitor at Rebbe Reb Fiszele's was a poor little tailor for whom the rebbe had high regard. Once, at the time of Succos [Feast of Tabernacles], the little tailor had a lot of work. Now it was already the eve of Succos, and the rebbe did not have the suke [tabernacle] ready, so the little tailor abandoned his work – “What do I care about scissors ? What do I care about ironing?” – and he began to build the suke for the rebbe. Rebbe Reb Fiszele, thoroughly delighted with the little tailor, asked him what he wanted for the work – riches or long life. The little tailor asked that the rebbe sit with him in Gan-Eden [Paradise]. The tsadik promised him. It did not take long before the little tailor became sick, and on the same day – 17thTevet [December–January] 1822 – that Rebbe Reb Fiszele, the saintly Jew, died at the age of 80, the little tailor also died, and he was buried next to Rebbe Reb Fiszele, just as he wished.


Rebbe Reb Fiszele left two sons, Reb Jekiele Szapiro in Brzezin and Reb Icek in Zarnow, and a son-in-law, Reb Rywen Kosher, who was rov in Ujazd.

Reb Jekiele Brzeziner married off his son, Reb Jeszajele, to the daughter of a doctor to rebbes, Reb Dawid-Chaim Bernard from Piotrkow, who had become a bal-tshuve [newly observant] at an advanced age. The Hasidim grumbled a great deal to Rebbe Reb Fiszele over this shidekh [match]. He consoled his Hasidim that because of that shidekh “a cure will come into the family.” And when Reb Jekiel Szapiro became ill, he actually traveled from Brzezin to his mekhutn [daughter-in-law's father], the doctor, to undergo treatment. Reb Jekiele died 19 Sivan [May–June] 1840 in Piotrkow.

In Brzezin Reb Jekiele Szapiro was a prominent merchant, a military contractor, and a successful man; on account of animosity, his competitors created serious disturbances and rebelled against permitting him to be the successor to his great father, so the dynasty ended with Rebbe Reb Fiszele Strykower. After the death of Reb Fiszele, his student, Reb Szmuel Aba, became rebbe in Zychlin and founded the Zychliner dynasty.14

The subsequent famous rebbe, Reb Wolf Strykower, was a son of the Tshekhanower tsadik, the Rebbe Reb Abramele. Reb Wolf married someone from Strykow, and being a Strykower son-in-law, he settled there in the residence of the great Hasidic rebbe, Reb Fiszele. The Kotsker [from Kock] rebbe, Reb Mendele, used to say, “The illustrious first rebbe, Rabbenu Yitzhok Majer [from Ger/Gora Kalwaria], is my "gaon" [eminent scholar], Reb Hersz Tomashower [from Tomaszow] is my "Hasid" and Reb Wolf Strykower is my 'khokhem' [sage].”15

At that time, when rebbes in Poland lived on pidyones from their Hasidim, Rebbe Reb Wolf ran a large timber business in partnership with his wealthy Hasidim, and he himself became a very rich man. He was renowned far and wide for his great wisdom. He was an affable, popular person. He loved workers, and in his businesses he employed only Jews. He helped the poor mit rat un tat [with advice and deed].

Later Reb Wolf relocated to Lodz and died in 1891; he was more than 83 years old.


In the second half of the 19th century, Jews in Brzezin began to develop the garment industry. During a period of some ten years Brzezin grew to become the greatest tailoring center in Poland. This was the glorious epoch of Brzezin, when its production and its workers were known throughout the entire world (see chapter “Tailors in Brzezin”).

Hundreds and hundreds of Jewish young people came to Brzezin from near and far to work and learn tailoring. Later they spread the trade and the name of Brzezin over many lands. The boisterous growth of the new industry was a completely Jewish accomplishment, and that is how it remained, with insignificant exceptions, until the Nazi destruction.

With their effort and virtuous hard-working lives, Jews raised the status of the town Brzezin and the surrounding towns. From approximately three hundred souls at the end of the 18th century, the number of inhabitants in Brzezin reached nine thousand at the beginning of the 20th century. The Jewish population multiplied from 27.1 percent, in 1827, to more than double in 1913. At that time Jews were 54.4 percent of the inhabitants and formed the absolute majority of the population of the town.

Even during the time of the vicious extermination, there were still a thousand Jews employed in the garment trade in Brzezin. On 24 April 1942 the Jewish firm “Ferszter and Bonger” asked the ghetto management in Lodz not to allow the thousand Jews that worked in their establishment in Brzezin to be deported until they finished their military order.16

The response was that one could not oppose Hitler's command to put a curse on all Jews.


  1. Dr. M. Shifer, The Creation of the Arba Artzot [Four Lands]. Return

  2. Majer Edelbaum, The Jewish City Mezritch [Miedzyrzecz]. Return

  3. See Central Historical Commission of the Central Committee of the Freed Jews in Poland. Historical Questionnaire 596, YIVO, New York. Return

  4. See Mgr. A. Feldman, “Pages Before History,” Younger Historians, no. 3, Warsaw, 1934. Distributed through the historical circle of the society YIVO in Warsaw. Return

  5. See Encyclopedia Judaica. Return

  6. I. Lewin, Die Judenferfolungen in 2 Schwedisch-polniczche Kriege, 1901. Return

  7. According to Dr. I. Schipper, on the eve of the evil decrees, T”Khes [8 Tevet/Tamuz] 1615 there were half a million Jews in Poland. On the basis of this statement it appears that 330,000 Jews were slaughtered as a result of these evil decrees. Others believe that even more were killed. Return

  8. See Mendlewicz's chapter in this book about his family Halberstadt. Return

  9. Dr. Rafal Mahler, “Town of Brzezin in 1764” (Lodzer Scientific Writings). Return

  10. See also the statistical supplement about Jews in Brzezin and the surrounding villages. Return

  11. Rafal Mahler, Jews in Former Poland in Light of Numbers, 129. Return

  12. Mojzesz Fajnkind, “Good Jews in Poland.” The same author also wrote the history of Piotrkow. As a young man he studied in Brzezin under the supervision of his father, the old Brzeziner rov, Reb Izrael Fajnkind. Return

  13. According to Abraham Arzi-Tenenbaum in The History of the Jews in Lodz, Reb Szmuel Brzeziner was one of the first Jews in Lodz. He was a very important community leader and one of the first dozors [Jewish community overseers] in Lodz. Return

  14. Menasze Unger, “The Historical Dynasties” in Tog-Morgn Zhurnal from November 1959. Return

  15. See Mojzesz Fajnkind, The Good Jews in Poland. Return

  16. Zydowski Instytut Historyczny [Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw], Eksterminacja Zydow na Ziemiach Polskich [Extermination of Jews on Polish Soil], 238. Return


[Page 84]

The Great Synagogue in Brzezin

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

The great synagogue in Brzezin, because of its architecture, was famous throughout all of Poland. In several articles in this Yizkor book, the history of the destroyed synagogue was reported in detail, including information about those who were involved with building this beautiful synagogue that brought such honor to our town.

The Jews in Brzezin took great care of the Great Synagogue and sought to beautify it and treat it with honor. After the First World War it was necessary to perform a thorough renovation of the building, and the synagogue committee undertook it as to a holy task. This can be seem from the documents from the summer of 1925 that we present below.

Synagogue Committee in Brzezin

Brzezin, Tamuz [June-July] 1925

To the Jewish Population in Brzezin!

Exodus 25:2: “and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel that they bring me an offering.'”

Exodus 25:3 :”of every man whose heart prompts him to give you shall take my offering.”

Rashi: “A separate amount you will offer me as an offering”

For years the structure of our local town synagogue (beysakneses) had been in a ruinous condition. No longer talking about the fact that during a period of approximately forty years, ever since the synagogue was built, we did not take the time to paint it or to create an enclosure that would be appropriate for such a beysamigdesh [temple in Jerusalem], in recent years, thanks to our carelessness, to our great shame, it has been transformed into a ruin. The entire foundation is ruined, bricks were torn out, the roof full of holes, so that the rain, unhindered, thoroughly soaked the ceiling, and every time we came to the synagogue, the doors were broken, the floor rotted, etc., etc.

Leaving the synagogue that was built with such dedication and effort in such a state would be a great crime on our part, for which we could not forgive ourselves, neither from a moral nor from a material standpoint.

Now is the best time to carry out both inside and outside a thorough renovation of the synagogue structure, in general, to restore the structure to the state that it deserves for such a holy house.

The newly organized synagogue committee took on this task and used its own money to start the work.

It appears, however, that restoring the synagogue to the proper condition demands a much greater sum of money than we had originally thought and, therefore, we must turn to every one of you with the passionate appeal:

Help us to carry out the holy task!

What Jew would not want a share in this holy building!

Who wants to be left out of this great mitsve [good deed]!

All Jews from our town, men, women and children, too, must bring significant amounts of donations. Each and every one must voluntarily tax himself with proper sums of money and with all that is possible to help, so that our synagogue can be restored to its proper stature.

With respect,                                   

The Synagogue Committee of Brzezin

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