"Widawa" - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume I
(Poland)

51°26' / 18°57'

Translation of "Widawa" chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Morris Wirth

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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume I, page 94, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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(page 94 )

Widawa

(District of Łask)

Translated by Shmuel Kehati

YearTotal
Population
Jewish
Population
1764/65?166
1808665137
18271,324632
18571,800968
18971,632530
19212,209773
1.9.1939?728

Widawa obtained city status in 1388 but lost it in 1870. A large weekly market was held in Widawa, along with 12 yearly fairs, famous for their horse trade. Many Jewish traders flocked to these fairs. In all, 43 Jewish families lived in Widawa in 1764.   Most of them earned their livelihood from trade: one from leasing the inn and 15 from business (7 tailors, 2 furriers, a goldsmith, a barber and 4 butchers).  Also, there were 2 musicians and 2 beadles. The expansion of the Jewish population continued until the middle of the 19th century, but when the city's development stopped, the Jewish population declined.

The Jews of Widawa were part of the Łask community, and in the first half of the 19th century were in a dispute regarding their share of the taxes. An independent Jewish community was established in Widawa in 1838. Widawa had a synagogue and a cemetery since the 18th century, and at the beginning of the 19th century a shelter for the poor was established in Widawa. A few of Widawa's rabbis were well known. Rabbi Sinai Safir, author of "Olat Chodesh" and "Minchat Ani", was rabbi in Widawa for five years (1829-1834), and then he moved to Brzeziny. He was recognized by his generation as a leader in Jewish law and as an expert speaker.

Between 1886 and 1890 the rabbi was Rabbi Menachem Mendel Chaim Landau, grandson of Rabbi Avraham of Ciechanów.  In 1890 he moved to Piątek. He published his grandfather's writings and added his own "Ateret Zkenim". It was probably the low salary that kept Widawa's Rabbis from staying longer. Rabbi Avraham Benjamin Koltonowski served a longer term starting in 1896. He published "Ahavat Yitzchak" (Part 1) which is an interpretation on Maimonides, but most of his writings were never published. The last Rabbi of Widawa was Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Maroko who started his term a few years prior to the Second World War. He was a great scholar, who among other things, was editor of the rabbinical magazine "Degel Hatsirim".

The first secular institution in Widawa was the library, built in 1918, during the First World War. Between the wars, a few Zionist organizations were active in Widawa, as well as "Agudat Yisrael". The General Zionist movement (Al Hamishmar) received all the delegates (40) to the Zionist Congress held in 1939.

In September 1939, during the battles and the first months of occupation, most of the Jewish population left Widawa, and most went to Bełchatów.  Some Jewish refugees made it to Zduńska Wola, Zelów and other towns. At the same time, a few refugees came to Widawa from other places.  Between 1940 and 1942 there was an open Ghetto in Widawa with approximately 100 families. On December 14, 1941,  25 families were deported to Bełchatów. The remaining were probably exterminated in Chelmno during the summer of 1942, together with all of the Jewish community of the Łask district.

At the beginning of the occupation, in September 1939, the last rabbi of Widawa, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Maroko, was brutally executed. The Germans searched his home, found a Torah scroll, and ordered him to destroy it or be burnt alive. When the Rabbi refused,  the Germans doused him with gasoline and torched him. The Rabbi, along with the Torah scroll, turned to ashes.


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