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Łódź (Continued)

III. Jewish Settlement in Łódź : 1864-1914

Growth of the Jewish Population

YearTotal populationJewsJews %
186440,3198,46320.3
187047,650ca. 10,000over 20.0
1892149,88937,10624.8
1897316,20998,67131.4
1908393,526 (or 341,416)88,348 (or 78,785)22.4 (or 23.3)
1911512,472167,04832.6

a. The Beginning of Industrialization and Proletarization

A decisive change in the economic, occupational and social structure of the Jews of L took place in the second half of the 19th century, as shown in the Table below.

Despite the decrease in the number of Jews engaged in trade and credit transactions, their share in these spheres of the town's economy was still considerable; and thus showed a threefold percentage increase compared to the general level of persons employed in them, which was 10%, whereas the figure for Jews was 30.2%. The fall in the number engaged in transport (until 1861 carters only) was due to the construction of a railway line, and to the development of public transport at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The second half of the 19th century saw a considerable increase in the number engaged in the liberal professions and administration - and this tendency was also influenced by the demands of the private Jewish institutions. The urbanization process also led to an increase of marginal groups (convicts and prostitutes). The industrialization and proletarization process was evident from the fact that at the end of the century Jews engaged in crafts, industry, services, and marketing amounted to 60% of all Jewish earners, compared to 44% in 1864. This differentiation in occupational distribution remained, with slight fluctuations, until the outbreak of the First World War.

Occupational Structure of the Jewish Population

Occupation18611897
 NumberPercentNumberPercent
Trade and credit35944.89,57130.2
Crafts & industry26533.012,60939.7
Liberal professions & administration222.77082.2
Transport384.77092.2
Hired workers, service &sales8710.86,13219.3
Agriculture--240.1
Military personnel--2850.9
Rentiers & pensioners--1,1933.8
Convicts--330.1
Prostitutes--200.1
Miscellaneous324.04311.4
Total803100.031,715100.0

b. The Jews in Industry and Crafts Until World War 1.

A dynamic growth in the share of Jews in industry in L marked the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. A list drawn up in 1910 of large factories, whose date of establishment was known, confirms the rate of growth in different periods:

When startedFactories of Non-JewsFactories of JewsTotal
Before 186017219
1861-1880711586
1881-1900156105261
1901-1909613697
Total305158463

It will be seen from the above that the best years for Jewish entrepreneurs in the industrial expansion process in L were 1881-1900, and these were indeed the most progressive years for the town in general. In addition to the economic boom, the increase in the number of plants was affected by the stream of migration from Russia mentioned above.

Another comparative table of larger factories (more than 15 workers) from 1910 illustrates the distribution of Jewish-run factories in various branches, their degree of mechanization, and their share of L's industrial production.

It will be seen from this Table that in one non-Jewish factory there were on the average 169 workers, while in a Jewish factory there were but 157. It also transpires that in the former there was average equipment of 137 horsepower, while in the latter the figure was 108. This would mean that Jewish-run factories were smaller, their mechanical power less - and hence the differences in total production.

The importance of Jewish entrepreneurs in industry (35.3%) arose from their participation in L's main industry - textiles (41.6%).

BranchNumber of plantsDegree of mechanisation (horsepower)Number of workersAnnual production ('000 roubles)
 In allJewishIn allJewishIn all JewishIn allJewish
Textiles36115054,59118,46776,67026,485187,50065,500
Ceramics & Glass162111162406043560
Metal32312,253312,8001004,320240
Chemical industry13325054483403,500100
Foodstuffs183337140400502,200200
Organic raw materials9-20-81-465-
Timber1954411161,2003001,800300
Paper2893201301,0503501,460500
Total49617568,32318,95482,92427,385201,68066,900
“Jewish” plants (%)35.327.732.933.2

Although most of the Jewish-owned textile plants were small and non-mechanized, they played an important role in diversity of production and of new products - and thus in the expansion of markets in Poland and abroad (mainly Russia). Constant competition from the larger plants, with their modern production methods, necessitated Jewish initiative and inventiveness - for instance, by producing large handkerchiefs, and mass production of cheap curtains and tablecloths - and thus stimulated their adjustment to the needs of the market and its character.

Even greater flexibility found expression in orders for home production, which from the very beginning was a decisive Jewish sphere. Nor did its role decrease during the mechanization process or the establishment of large factories. In 1900 there were 65 firms that contracted home production, to the value of 10,300,000 roubles. It is estimated that at the outbreak of the First World War there were in L 17,000 weavers with hand-spindles, most working at home. In this way there grew up in L a category of “producers without a factory”, for at times the contractors organized production without capital: they rented factory halls, and even machines, and leased them to home-workers, who had no such facilities in their houses. In many cases a textile merchant would become a contractor of a home-worker establishment. Such contractors also organized production in places near the town (Zdunska Wola, Belchatow). Some of the large Jewish industrialists began their careers dealing in wool, cotton, and cloth, and through contracting out to home-workers were eventually able to establish a large plant.

Jewish Firms in Various Textile Branches

BranchTotal no. of firmsJewish firms
Wool347242 (or 248)
Cotton12162
Dyers7012 (or 14)
Silk2011
Linen and Jute62
Vigonia and cotton-wool234
Hosiery224
Velvet tablecloths, curtains and rugs2012 (or 13)
Laces and ribbons127
Lacework3-
Gloves72
Knitwear7-
Hats72 (or 3)
Rubber-covered fabric3-
Auxiliary textile branches2520
Total688389 (or 399)

In spite of the diffusion of textile products in Jewish hands, the 1880s saw the rise of a group of large Jewish industrialists. They employed hundreds, and even thousands, of workers, their production was mechanized and embraced every textile type, and its value amounted to millions of roubles. The most prominent entrepreneurs of the period were: I.K. Poznanski, S. Rozenblat, M. Silberstein, M. Szlosberg, Y. Kestenberg, A. Kon, M. Kon, M.A. Wiener, Y. Ch. Wislicki, B. Waks, Y. Wojdyslawski, Y. Birnbaum, and Y. Lipszyc.

Of a much lower order were Jewish-owned plants (small factories and workshops) in other branches of L's industry, which indeed never reached the level of the textile industry. In 1910 the share of Jewish-run enterprises - large and small - in the various industrial branches (apart from textiles) was as follows:

a. Ceramics and glass industry: of 46 plants 6 were in Jewish hands (1 cement, 1 glassworks, 4 brick-kilns).
b. Metal industry: 146 plants, of these 15 Jewish (2 machine production, 2 metal furniture, 2 blowing engines, 2 tinsmith workshops, 1 bronze products, 3 engraving and galvanization, 2 watch and jewellery workshops. No mention was made of Chmielewski's wall-clock factory, which employed 168 workers.
c. Chemical industry: 34 plants, of these 11 Jewish (6 chemical products, such as oils and lubricants, 3 soap and candles, 1 starch).
d. Foodstuffs: 30 plants, of these 3 Jewish (1 flour mill, 1 sweets and chocolate factory, 1 brewery).
e. Timber: 80 plants, of these 11 Jewish (3 cabinet making and carpentry, 3 sawmills, 4 boards and boxes, 1 brushes and paintbrushes).
f. Paper and graphic articles: 58 plants, of these 37 Jewish (2 paper, 15 paper products and cigarette papers, 20 printers).
g. Haberdashery: 20 plants, of these 4 Jewish (2 leatherware, 1 artificial flowers, 1 umbrellas).
h. Building: 61 plants, of these 9 Jewish (5 building firms, 2 electrotechnics, 2 plumbing).

The above data do not include purely service branches.

In the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century no change took place in the share of Jews in crafts. They continued to engage in traditional Jewish occupations, such as tailoring, fringe-weaving, hat-making, and butcher-shops and the like. At the beginning of the 20th century a few tailors tried to move into the ready-made clothing industry.

c. Jewish Proletarization in L and the Special Nature of the Jewish Proletariat

The majority of the workers in L were proletarians, working at home. In the first years of the 20th century the number of Jewish hand weavers fluctuated from three to seven thousand. The number of hosiery knitters was also above a thousand. Most of the home production depended on the entrepreneurs, who supplied the workers with raw materials and credit, and marketed their products - or on “entrepreneurs without a factory”. Though they had spindles, and even employed apprentices, the lot of the home-workers was worse than that of the industrial proletariat, and their earnings were sometimes less than those of the workers in the large, mechanized factories. Their workshops only operated for three months in summer and three in winter. The home spindle owner employed his wife and children, and did not include their labour in his costs of production. He fell first victim in years of crisis, and whenever production or marketing stagnated. His workday was unlimited, and often continued for 12 or 16 hours during the season. His debts and interest to his employer reduced his real income. He had to take account, even in good times, of competition from home-workers in towns near L, whose production costs were 30-50% lower than his. Work took place in his flat, often only a room or two, which was also where the family and the apprentices lived and ate. The condition of the home-worker hired by a “factory-less employer” was infinitely worse than that of a factory worker: lack of means of production meant that his living was not assured; and his workday was limitless. Totally wretched was the lot of his apprentices., who earned three or four roubles a week - half the wage of a factory worker - while his living expenses alone amounted to 2.80 roubles. Many of them lodged in the house of their master. They began work at six in the morning and finished - at midnight.

In whatever spare time they might have they were obliged to serve the master of the house - or mainly his womenfolk. All in all, the condition of the worker at home in “good” times was hard, and in times of crisis - tragic. In 1904 there were over 2,000 unemployed home-working, Jewish weavers and their apprentices, while factory workers were earning three to four roubles a week at the most, to be paid in a few months, when things “improved”. In the early years of the 20th century the ready-made clothing industry developed, and employed hundreds of craftsmen and their helpers among the home-workers. Now half of the ready-made clothing workers and half of the hosiery knitters were redundant. The employers cut back the profits of the home-working craftsmen, and these in turn placed the burden on their helpers.

The Jewish industrial proletariat did not increase much in the second half of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century: from a few hundred in the 60s to about 2,000 in 1901. It should be noted that although in 1910 about half of the production units of the textile industry were in Jewish hands (and this branch accounted for 92.4% of all the industrial production in L), the Jewish workers formed an insignificant part of all the town's industrial workers, who numbered some 90,000.

The following Table (incomplete data from 1901 have been added by ICA (Israel Colonization Association) illustrates the problems of Jewish and non-Jewish textile workers:

 Non-Jewish plantsJewish plants
Type of plantWithout steam enginesMechanizedWithout steam enginesMechanized *
 All workersJewsAll workersJewsAll workers Jews% JewsAll workersJews%Jews
Weaving mills445-11,8791197437537.04,8044068.4
Cotton mills2024,8161872--1,578724.5
Cotton products--10,105-30410032.52,507361.4
Finishing & dyeing50-1,8835---332206.0
Woollen products--9421039923358.41,07660055.7
Cloth- -1,029171515100.01052827.0
Hosiery & stockings153-197----1302217.0
Laces & ribbons--74-3026.6435--
Contractors & suppliers of production raw materials**----875462.0---
Total668230,925611,88177942.410,967 1,18410.8

* Known from other sources, since at the time there were 20,000 workers in mechanized Jewish factories; these data do not, however, include all the factories.
** The sample for this table covers seven plants of this type only. The number of workers given apparently refers only to warehouse workers.

Interesting too is the following summary for the same year (1901), and also drawn up by ICA , of the age and sex distribution of the Jewish workers. The data cover all the workers employed in the plants without steam engines, but only two-thirds of the mechanized plants.

 MenWomenYouthsGirls
Jewish workers in plants without steam engines38635434 6
Jewish workers in mechanized plants441256 7114
Total82761041120

These data show that already at that time women and girls formed a considerable part of the factory labour force.

Several factors were responsible for the small numbers of Jewish workers in the factories. The first was the difference in the process of proletarization of the townspeople (small craftsmen, small merchants, lumpenproletariat) with regard to the constant effort to preserve their economic independence, as against apparent independence (e.g. as workers at home). The second factor was the social and sociable importance of this independence, nurtured in the milieu of the traditional, patriarchal family. The third factor was the role of religion amongst the Jews - in particular keeping the sabbath - which made it impossible to employ Jews in mechanized plants with continuous production; or because of a preference to employ non-Jews with Sunday as their day of rest. The fourth factor was the absence amongst the Jews of L of the technical and professional qualifications required in mechanized production. The fifth factor was the reluctance of craftsmen - mostly of German origin - to employ Jews and to teach them the trade. All the above factors also restrained the Jewish entrepreneurs from employing Jews, in addition to the following arguments: that their physical condition was poor, that they were querulous, their demands were exacting, and that they would strive to be familiar with the management and owners. The attitude of the Russian authorities was also negative. In time of conflict the authorities attempted to separate social and economic problems from religious and ethnic ones.

The weakness of the Jewish industrial proletariat also stemmed from their poor degree of organization compared to their non-Jewish counterparts in the production sphere. The bulk of Jewish factory workers continued to follow the precepts of the Beit Hamidrash (traditional house of study) and the prayer-house, rather than submit to workers' organization. The workers' organizations of non-Jews were not eager to operate among Jews, and the demonstration in May 1892, which played an important role in the workers' struggle in L, ended in attacks on the Jews in Baluty ( with the connivance of the Russian Secret Police). And it was indeed this demonstration which deterred the mass of Jewish workers from any attempt to join the general stream of proletarian organization .

d. Political and Social Organizations of the Jews in L until 1914

Until the establishment of a clandestine cell of the Bund in L in 1897 the town had no workers' party in the modern sense of the word. The “fraternities” that had existed until then around some prayer-houses were mainly mutual aid societies, and to some degree labour exchanges. The first organizers and propagators of the Bund came to L from Lithuania and Bialystok. They operated in and around the Batei Hamidrash - a typical scenario in L and its environs. Already in its early years they succeeded in setting up sections in almost all branches employing Jews. They organized vanguard groups and strikes. In 1900 the Bund in L was operating a clandestine printing-press; and despite the arrest in 1898-1903 of several leading members of the Bund in L by order of the Russian secret police, the party carried out several successful actions. In May 1900 a group of Jewish workers took part in a demonstration for the first time; and more than 2,000 workers were assembled in the Bund's First of May demonstration in 1901, which ended in a wave of arrests. The Bund was particularly active in the revolutionary period of 1905-1907, and both its leaders and rank-and-file members were prime victims of the Russian authorities (murdered, arrested, or banished to Siberia). From its very beginning in L the Bund issued underground literature - leaflets, manifestos, and the like. The “Harp” Society, which engaged in music, literature and sport was a convenient camouflage for the party's activities.

From 1903 on there also appeared in L a group of Socialist Zionists, from which in 1905 the Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion) party was formed. This party went to work energetically, albeit on a smaller scale than the Bund, particularly in the above years of revolt and after its suppression. Many of its members were arrested and some sent to Siberia. In April 1910 21 members of the party in L were arrested at a regional conference. The non-Jewish parties too sought to influence the Jewish masses. The Polish Socialist Party, PPS, based on revolution and national independence, established in 1903 a Jewish section in L. In 1906 a council of Jewish cells within the PPS convened in L. The Jewish section was especially active with propaganda - also in Yiddish - and in running a labour exchange. More important was its work in the years of revolt, 1905-1907. After the failure of this rising, the influence of the PPS on the Jew in the street was weak, and embraced only small groups of assimilated intellegentsia.

The years 1900-1907 were marked by incitement to pogroms and rigorous persecution of the Jewish proletariat by the authorities. One of the incidents was during a mass strike and demonstration in January 1905. The Russian police encouraged the mob to attack Jews, following the dissemination of a false rumour that Jews had killed a priest. Other pogroms and provocations occurred repeatedly in November that year, and some of the pastors in their sermons called upon the congregation to attack the “Anti-Christs”. In July and August 1906 the anti-Semitic Andaks (with the support of the Russian authorities) held parades where they sang religious songs and incited to pogroms against the Jews. In 1907 an inflammatory leaflet was distributed, allegedly written by Jews and calling for the destruction of churches and the murder of the clergy. There were also strikes by non-Jewish workers in protest against the employment of Jews (also in plants run by Jews).

The first Zionist groups arose in L as early as 1897. Their initiators were intellectuals (graduates of secondary schools and universities) and members of the middle class, as well as some workers. The leader of the first Zionist association was the editor of the “Łódźer Tagblatt”, Isaiah Uger. After a few years more than 20 Zionist groups of various nomenclatures were at work in L: Ateret Zion (Pride of Zion), Tikvat Zion (Hope of Zion), Hamizrachi (Religious Zionists), B'not Zion (Daughters of Zion), Kadimah (Forward - mainly intellectuals), Anfei Zion (Branches of Zion - mainly workers), and so forth. Very soon the Zionist worshippers and their sympathizers dominated several synagogues and their congregations (e.g. the Ohel-Yaakov Synagogue). A Zionist cheder-Talmud school was started, with 800 pupils. From these Zionist groups there arose, as stated, the Socialist Zionists in 1903, and in 1905 Poalei-Zion. The Zionists were active in the spheres of culture and propaganda. These activities centred around the “Hazamir” (Nightingale) Society, workers' groups in their homes, and in synagogues and religious schools. However, the Zionist movement was prevented by the clandestine cell system from becoming a mass movement: before 1914 all political parties were banned in the Russian Empire. In addition, some of the Orthodox Jews opposed the Zionists: Chassidim of various Schools, on the orders of their admorim and rebbes. Nor did the Zionists find support among leaders of the community, such as the more affluent class of industrialists and large merchants, who were inclined to assimilation or to traditional conservatism. The first Zionists came mainly from Lithuania and Russia, and were considered inferior by those who did not sympathize with Zionism. But there were Jews from L among the immigrants of the Second Aliyah to Palestine.

Until the outbreak of the First World War many Jewish associations of small and medium-sized merchants and craftsmen arose in L, with a view to protecting the interests of their members. This objective was achieved by the large industrialists through the formation of cartels, sometimes together with non-Jewish firms. In 1910 the Jewish Bank for Mutual Aid founded the first association of Jewish merchants. In 1912 followed the association of industrialists and merchants, embracing in its sections the medium-sized and small plant owners and the textile merchants. After the war began and normal trade was replaced by smuggling and black-marketing, the lack of raw-materials almost halted production, and the association virtually ceased to function. In the period between the two world wars more than ten branch associations of this type were set up.

The associations of craftsmen arose traditionally around their prayer-house congregations. Their members strove to guard their professional interests with the help of monies from the provident fund - for the care of the sick, and the maintenance of their social and religious life. The modernization of such associations occurred mainly at the beginning of the 20th century, actually after the revolution of 1905-1907. The association of tinsmiths was established in 1907 as the successor to the association of the same name in the Old Town, and of the fraternal association in the nearby village of Wolka, that had been founded in 1897. To begin with it also included non-Jewish members, but in the course of time they left it. In 1907 too a parallel association of bakers was founded. This association also included members of the committee of the hospice, started by the town rabbi Majzel in 1883. This combination apparently stemmed from the bakers' tradition of supplying bread to the poor. A turning-point for the craftsmen came in 1911: following a conference of Jewish craftsmen for all Russia in St. Petersburg, an association of Jewish craftsmen was established in L, with many professional sections. Now other groups joined this association, such as the painters and glazers, and the barbers. Still other trades, for example, tailors, hatters, carpenters, watchmakers and jewellers, formed associations during the First World War and the inter-war period - after they had experimented with various organizational forms.

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, with the enormous rise in the Jewish population of L, the institutions of the community, the traditional aid societies, and the small charitable organizations, proved inadequate to meet welfare needs. This task was to a considerable degree taken over by the wealthy industrialists of L, a kind of local “Rothschilds”, both great and not so great. Prominent among the philanthropists was Herman Konsztadt, who contributed a million roubles to charity, and, for instance, founded a fully-equipped old-age home. Although after his death in 1895 his heirs challenged the legitimacy of his will, a considerable sum was left for charitable purposes, and from which the old-age home was maintained, a school for boys was built in Zawadzka Street (1901), in 1900-1914 a children's hospital was built in Radogoszcz, in 1917 a room of purification and chapel at the cemetery were erected - and in 1933 another age-old home (“Zacicze”) was built. Another philanthropist was the L magnate Israel Kalman Poznanski. Among his important contributions was the new Jewish hospital, opened in 1888 (previously, he had given his support to the old institution in Drewnowska Street). The religious school “Dobroczynnosc” and the new cemetery also enjoyed his considerable support. Among the wealthy assimilationists, centred around the reform synagogue, were many prominent philanthropists, who established important social institutions in L. Markus and Tereza Silbersztein built in 1892 and thereafter maintained an orphans' home in nearby Krzyzowska. Isaiah Rozenblat financed a mental hospital in 17, Wesola Street. Yakov Hersz and his wife established in 1900 an orphans' home at 39 Polnocna Street. Maximilian Goldfeder had built in 1901 a block of flats for the poor at 92 Srednia Street. Leopold Landau built in 1904 a children's shelter at 4 Smugowa Street, and Josef Herszberg established in 1913 yet another orphans' home, this time in 38 Polnocna Street. Zigmunt Jarocinski financed in 1901 a Jewish trade school (with basic religious studies) at 46-48 Srednia-Pomorska Street.

Widespread activity in the field of welfare and philanthropy was shown by the above-mentioned Dobroczynnosc institution, headed by one of its most prominent founders, Israel Poznanski. At first this enterprise aimed at giving help to needy weavers, and this was the motive presented to the authorities in 1893 in applying for a license for its foundation. In 1899 the institution also opened a public kitchen for the poor. And after a while an interest-free loan fund was established. The institution also rendered help in the winter; and in times of crisis gave financial aid to unemployed textile workers. In 1912 the organization sent 50 unemployed weavers to the Katowice area to work in the mines. In the same year a maternity home was opened and building was started on a community centre (to include a public kitchen, a tea-house, baths, and a reading-room). It is noteworthy too that in 1901 the organization took over supervision of the health institution (which had been begun in 1881, but later forbidden by the authorities), and gave it official status as one of its own departments. This department established in 1908 the Ozdrowisko convalescent home for hundreds of patients. In 1899 I. Poznanski and Rabbi Majzel set up the hospice organization, which rendered help to the sick and their families. In 1912 the venture “Malbish Arumim” (Clothing the Naked) was initiated, its name reflecting its purpose. Apart from all these important bodies smaller groups were at work in all areas and adjacent to all the synagogues and prayer-houses.

e. Education and Culture

Until the 1880s teaching took place in the traditional private cheders. The sons of poor weavers, craftsmen, small merchants, and the lumpenproletariat, generally finished their schooling at the age of 10-12, when they had learnt to pray and with difficulty could interpret passages from the Torah - and then went off to work with their parents in the workshops or shops. Better-off parents and others more concerned with their sons' education put them into cheders, where they learnt Gemara, but few of these continued their learning in the religious schools or prayer-houses under the tutelage of the local rabbis and the Admorim, or to more advanced institutions (yeshivot). Secular subjects were taught by private teachers or in schools known as “pension” (from the 1860s on), and included languages (writing Russian or German), Elementary Arithmetic, and sometimes Bookkeeping. A very few from among the more affluent families went to the Russian or German Gymnasia in L, or studied abroad.

Supervision of the cheders by the Russian authorities, begun at the end of the 19th century, generally took the form of an annual visit of an inspector, to whom they sang in unison excerpts from the prayers - “Hanoten teshua lemlachim” and “gmul nichbad”. In 1898 there were 22 private cheders subject to inspection, a few for girls, and the teachers of Russian and Arithmetic licensed by the authorities possessed elementary education only, or had “acquired knowledge”, such as ex-army officers and the like. In addition to the official cheders, there were clandestine cheders with teachers who taught their pupils “without leading them into the paths of evil” with obligatory study of secular knowledge. Until almost the end of the 19th century there was no yeshiva in L. Youths studied Rashi's Commentary in the religious schools or in yeshivot outside the town. In 1899 the yeshiva “Machzikei Dat” was established in L, but was not completed until 1912. In that same year the wealthy industrialist from Lithuania, Alexander Diszkin, established the “Torat Chesed” yeshiva, where studies followed the Lithuanian system. In the course of time this yeshiva's students numbered a few hundred. The other yeshivot in L were established during the First World War or in the inter-war years.

Towards the end of the 19th century the first Jewish elementary schools - of a more modern kind - made their appearance. They served as a model for the schools founded later by Agudat Israel, Mizrachi, and also for the dual-language elementary schools of the inter-war period. In 1873 the Rav Majzel Talmud Torah was opened, and some 800 pupils, mainly of poor families, attended it. In the mornings they learned sacred subjects, and in the afternoon secular subjects, as paractised in the elementary schools. The pupils were given food, clothing, and medical aid. The Talmud Torah founded by Jarocinski (see above), which also offered vocational subjects, was transformed in 1907 into a modern vocational school that in the years to come produced hundreds of skilled craftsmen - weavers, locksmiths, carpenters, and many others - with a firm basis in elementary education, as well as in general studies and Judaism. At the beginning of the 20th century modern cheders of the “cheder metukan” (reformed cheder) type were introduced. In these cheders the teaching of Jewish subjects - Bible and Hebrew Grammar -was more systematic, while secular subjects, such as Russian and Arithmetic, were accorded a more respectable status. The pupils here were generally the sons of the educated classes. The Chassidim kept well away.

In the 1870s the private “pensions” still occupied considerable space in general education, but in the new century the authorities set up “Elementary Schools for Jews” (consisting usually of two grades), and run with monies collected from the community.

The sons of the wealthy and a few of the middle-class continued to attend the gymnasia, where the language of instruction was German, Polish, or Russian. However, the restricted numbers of Jews permitted to study in institutions of higher learning, as decreed in the Russian Empire, led to the establishment of private “pro-gymnasia”, with external programmes of secondary and higher education and preparation for the matriculation examination. In 1912 R. Dr. Mordechai Braude founded in L the first Jewish gymnasium in the Russian Empire, which served as a model for the dual-language secondary schools in Poland in the inter-war period. Education in these schools was Nationalist-Zionist.

The dissemination of education and culture also owed much to the Zionist study groups, known as “Chovevei Sfat Heavar” (Lovers of the Ancient Tongue), who organised Hebrew lessons, and lectures on political, educational, and cultural topics. In 1899 the Zionist groups founded the literary and musical society “Maccabi”, known afterwards as “Maccabi-Hazamir”. It was joined by the male voice choir “Man'imei Zemirot” (Singers of Joy), that had existed for some years. And in 1902 the Chess Society was also included in this society. Although the existence of “Hazamir” was only semi-legal until 1906, it succeeded in running a club-house and even opening a small concert-hall - and in organizing concerts and lectures in L and the nearby townlets. In 1905 it added a Drama Group to its list of activities. On the platform of “Hazamir” there lectured and read from their works Bialik, Peretz, Shalom Aleichem, Bernfeld, Fryszman, and others. A role similar to that of the Zionist “Hazamir” was that of the “Harp” Society of the Bund. After continued efforts this society obtained official authorization in 1908; and on its platform lectures were given by Peretz, Mendele Mocher Seforim, Asch, Naumberg, Rejzen, and others. In addition, to its activities in the spheres of culture and education, “Harpe” engaged in propaganda and politics, and was harried by the authorities, who time and again closed the club's premises; in 1910 the police arrested its leaders, and deemed its activities illegal. In 1921 the Polish authorities forbad the organisation.

In the sphere of sport and gymnastics the first Jewish organization in Poland, “Bar-Kochba”, appeared in 1912, and embraced nearly all sporting activities.

The early years of the 20th century also saw the establishment of Jewish newspapers in L. In 1908 appeared “Łódźer Tagblatt”, and in 1912 “Łódźer Morgenblatt”.

f. The Community and Religious Life

In the last decades of the 19th century and until the First World war the leadership of the community was in the hands of the wealthy industrialists in L (Poznanski, Lubraniecki, and others) - but at the same time all purely religious matters, such as the rabbinate, synagogues, prayer-houses, religious education, burial and religious societies, were the province of the strictly orthodox and the Gur Chassidim at their head. For example: in the 1870s and 1880s the reformers proposed the construction of an elegant funeral carriage. The orthodox and the rabbis opposed this strongly, and in the end continued to bury the dead of L as from time immemorial, i.e. carrying the deceased, or if there were many, using a simple “cart”.

On the death of R. Lipszyc in 1873, he was followed by R. Eliahu Chaim Majzel, whose personality and learning enabled him to rule without hindrance for almost 40 years, the period of Jewish prosperity in L. , until his death in 1912. Although he was a “Litwak” (former rabbi of Lomza), he succeeded in imposing his authority on the community, with its majority of Chassidim and an executive body of reformist millionaires. He was utterly opposed to Zionism and all other social-political activity, but nevertheless popular among the masses. After his death there was a war of succession. There was no lack of slander, libellous leaflets, stormy demonstrations, clashes, and even violent scuffles. In 1913 the rabbinate went to the candidate of the Gur Chassidim, R. Eliezer Eliahu Trajstman, formerly rabbi of Radom. Towards the end of R. Majzel's period of office and for some years after there were in the rabbinate, apart from the rabbi, 15 dayanim (and sometimes more). Most of these worked altruistically. And in this period several admorim, the scions of various dynasties, transferred their courts to L.

The community contained groups whose religious and social life was centred around their synagogue and their preacher. This was particularly the case with the chassidic prayer-houses, and the fraternities within them. There were also groups of a different kind, for example, a Bible group with its own synagogue and preacher, R. Avraham Lejzerowicz. In the Zionist synagogue Ohel-Yaakov the preacher was the gifted R. Natan Miljakowski, later rabbi of Rowne and the emissary to many lands of the Keren Hayesod (he died in Palestine). Another prominent group was that known as “Deutschen” (Germans), “assimilationists”, or “reformists”, with their centre in the “Deutscher Shul”, which was built in the 1850s, and from 1888 on in the Great Poznanski Reform Synagogue. Among its preachers were Dr. Marcus Jastrow, who took part in the patriotic Polish demonstrations of 1861-1862, later Rabbi of Philadelphia, author of a Talmudic Dictionary, and a renowned Assyriologist; Dr. Yechezkiel Karo, later Rabbi of the Reform Synagogue in Lwow; Dr. Adolph M. Radyn, a former editor of a Jewish newspaper in Konigsberg and Reform Rabbi in Kepno and Kalisz; R. Israel Jelski, whose term of office coincided with that of R. Majzel, and who first held a sermon in Polish, instead of German. The last leader of the Reform Synagogue , from 1908 on, was R. Dr. Mordechai Braude, Secretary of the Jewish faction in the Austrian Parliament, delegate to Zionist Congresses, Member of Parliament and Senator in Poland. Dr. Braude was Head of “The Jewish Association for Elementary and Secondary Schools in Poland”, on which he imprinted a definite National-Zionist stamp. In his time the Reform Synagogue was National in spirit, and Zionist meetings and prayers were held there on days of national commemoration. He was also a founder of the “Institute of Judaism” in Warsaw.

IV. The Jews of L During the First World War

In the short time that elapsed between the outbreak of the war and the German occupation of the town (December 6th, 1914) the Jewish population of L decreased considerably: 200,000 lived there (legally or illegally) on the eve of war, but their number now fell to below 150,000. The reasons for this were: partial evacuation, mobilization, and the restrictions imposed on the Jews by the Russian authorities on the grounds that they assisted the Germans and spied on their behalf. The Jews went east or to the surrounding villages, in the hope that they would be able to survive the difficulties of war there, and more easily obtain food and fuel.

The beginning of the war also meant a drop in industrial production, resulting in a stagnation of trade and the financial market. These conditions turned to catastrophe with the German occupation of the town, and the severance of industry and trade from the sources of raw material and from the Russian market. The occupiers exploited the situation and confiscated for military purposes everything they could lay their hands on: raw materials, finished and semi-finished products from cloth to metalware, and even domestic utensils, as well as machines and installations. Unemployment and lack of livelihood affected everyone.

The economic ravages suffered by the Jewish population is evident from the survey of the Joint shortly after the war, in 1920, following the first efforts to revive the Polish economy. In 4,755 Jewish-run plants in L in 1914 30,848 workers were employed - in 1920 only 15,707. In 1914 in textiles there were 7,431 Jewish workers - in 1920 3,677. In clothing the number of employed Jews fell by 60.6%, and in the food industry by 56.9%.

Hunger was rife among the Jewish masses; disease and mortality rose; and the number of births fell. In Pesach 1917 the community issued to the needy matzot and sugar to the value of 172,000 marks. The maintenance costs of the home for abandoned children rose that year by another 50,000 marks, not counting the contributions of the municipality. The resources of the community to meet the needs were negligible. Committees of Jewish citizens were extremely active in the sphere of welfare, particularly the workers' parties - the Bund and Poalei Zion. These established a widespread network of cheap kitchens and tea-booths - especially near the workers' clubs (arbeiter-heim) - that daily served thousands of meals, either free or for a minimal sum. These services - in L and other Polish towns - formed a precedent of welfare and mutual aid in the terrible and tragic conditions of the Second World War. Production and consumer cooperatives (grocer-shops) were also established. Some of these were run by the Bund in concert with the Polish workers' organisations (the SDKPL and the Left PPS - Polish Socialist Party) or their affiliated institutions. During the last period of the war support was forthcoming from the Joint in Holland to the tune of 195,000 marks until March 1918.

The relatively liberal regime of the German occupier, in keeping with its war needs, was active in promoting its influence throughout all Poland, including the Jewish sector, with a view to creating allies who could be of use if the need arose in the internal political machinations in Poland. To this end the occupying authorities allowed the activities of the Bund, the trade unions and other social organisms. On the orders of the regime the community's work was renewed and its authority even extended. The years of occupation thus turned out for the Jews to be a period of renaissance in the political, social and cultural fields.

The Zionist groups, which were few prior to the First World war, increased considerably. A town committee was established, uniting more than 20 associations and groups. Zionist youth groups were begun, as were sports clubs and educational organisations. There was growing Zionist influence in the Jewish schools and the various institutions, and even some synagogues became in a way Zionist centres. 1917 saw the establishment of the Young Mizrachi Association, the nucleus of the future Hapoel Hamizrachi. Likewise, there appeared on the scene a Hebrew student youth association, and from the various Scout groups then existing there later arose Hashomer Hatzair (The Young Watchman). The Women's Zionist Association, founded in 1916, counted 1500 members two years later, and its energetic activity in the cultural sphere was particularly marked, among others, in Hebrew study groups, where there were 150 students in 1918. The Poalei Zion party, which prior to the war was small and had had little influence, now offered serious competition to the Bund, until then the dominant factor among Jewish workers. The religious association (founded in 1915-1916 as the "Orthodox Association", later the "Association of the Pious of Israel", and finally "Agudat Israel) at first met opposition from some of the chassidic groups (apart from those of Gur), of the "Litwaks", and from the "maskilim", but in the course of time increased its influence - and between the wars the L branch was the strongest link of the organization in Poland. Another body set up was "Poalei Agudat Israel", with its newsletter "Der Yiddischer Arbeiter"; and adjacent to it "Benot Agudat Israel" (Daughters of Agudat Israel), with its publication "Beit Yaakov". This period also saw the establishment in L of the "Folkists", most of its members craftsmen and merchants, but with little local influence. And in 1918 the communist influence began to make itself felt.

The awakening of social and political life among the Jews of L in the First World War was accompanied by advances in secular education. In addition to the widespread network of municipal elementary schools, known as "Szabasowki", with 7,694 pupils and 184 classes in 1919, a number of schools of a new type were started, with the language of instruction Hebrew or Yiddish. These formed the nucleus of an extensive network of such schools in the inter-war period. In 1912 the dual-language gymnasium for boys had been established (by Dr. Braude); and in 1916 followed a parallel institution for girls. The Yavneh Elementary School expanded into a gymnasium with Hebrew as the language of instruction. Under the ęgis of the Mizrachi the Beit Ulpana Gymnasium was founded, also with Hebrew, but with a broader curriculum of Jewish studies. The Bund and Poalei Zion also joined this activity by setting up schools with Yiddish as the teaching language; and in 1916 the two parties established the association "Schul und Volksbildung-Verein" (School and Popular Education Society); the first school of this type was opened in the same year, with two classes. The Bund also ran a school and a kindergarten in the name of W. Medem, started in 1918. In that year too the Bund began evening classes for workers, while under the ęgis of Poalei Zion the first school in Poland of the "Borochow-School" type was started, with Yiddish as its language of instruction, and Hebrew as one of the subjects. Some cheders, even those of the very religious, bowed to the spirit of the time and instigated secular lessons in the afternoon, after the sacred subjects of the day had been taught.

A prominent role in Jewish cultural life in L at this time was played by the "Ivriah" Club and Library, founded by the "Lovers of the Historic Tongue". Its lectures and discussions attracted hundreds of people. A vital contribution to these events was made by the Hebrew writer and educationalist Dr. Y.N. Simchoni. In 1915 the prime movers of "Hazamir" founded a symphony orchestra, whose concerts and choir came under the baton of the leading Jewish composers and conductors, such as Zdzislaw Birnbaum, Bronislaw Szulc, Grzegorz Fitelberg. Oskar Fryd, and others. During the war two large libraries were opened in L: one founded by "Harp" contained with time thousands of volumes; the other, the Borochow Library of Poalei Zion, which also grew to thousands of volumes in Yiddish and Hebrew. In addition to the Yiddish newspapers that had appeared before 1914 a new one saw the light in 1915 - the "Łódźer Volksblatt".

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