By M. Sh. Geshuri (Brukner)
Translated by David Rendelman
Wolbrom is one of the older cities in Poland, and lays by the Pakshivnitsa River which flows into the Prasna River. The first news about the founding of the city of Wolbrom states that King Wlatyslaw I (The Short) gave permission to the brothers Wolwram and Hilori, owner of the village of Dlujshets, to erect four watermills. Then, in 1321 he had them cut down the forest of the region and create a settlement. And thus was erected a new settlement, Wolbrom. From here we discover that the first Polish kings exhibited a different interest in the building of the City. According to every political notion the city was a branch of the giant city of Krakow, which served for many years all the capitals and from which they sent their decrees about establishing new cities and towns, creating transport-roads for business and general intercourse. The town developed for many years, and never took an important place amongst the known Polish cities. Not until after the First World War from 1914-1918 did Wolbrom officially became a city.
The terrain of Wolbrom was incorporated into the possession of the king's crown, and rested among the Olkuszer mountain region with eternal forests, immense and endless. At that time, one could travel for days and nights through the thick forests, without encountering people or caravans on the paths. The forests which covered a great part of Silesia essentially flooded Poland until the Weisel River. Travelers saw before themselves only sky and forests. The Polish kings pressed their attention to the region. And they had a strong desire to convert the area into a place that should serve as a city or center for the transit of merchandise. Wolbrom was spread wide: from Olkusz 19 viorst (one viorst is 2/3 mile), from Pilica 14 viorst, from the train station Miechow 20 viorst.
A long time before Wolbrom became a major city, the region served as a place of transit. Wolbrom and her close surroundings served a crossroads for highways and major traffic ways between cities near and far. Her geographical situation was always important militarily and politically. Wolbrom lay on the road to Krakow. The roads from Pilica to Miechow and from Olkusz to Jarnavtsie went through Wolbrom. Besides, Wolbrom served as a station in the central highway since the year 1400, for merchandise from Wolbrom, Czestochowa, Lvov, and Jarnavtse, to transport merchandise back and forth. The merchants and the cattle-owners who did business between Wroclaw and Krakow could not avoid Wolbrom in their travels. Finally Wolbrom became included among the train stations along the long train stretch Demblin-Granits-Vilna.
King Kazimierz Yogielontshik introduced in Wolbrom the magdeburgishn (German) kodeks in place of the feraltetn Polish in the year 1445. After a fire which destroyed the city the King renovated the magdeburgishn kodeks, and he also gave permission to hold three-day long fairs and weekly-market-days. The fairs grew to be an important institution in the economic life, and in Wolbrom they were needed to press the sale of the fresh produce of the city.
The first Swedish war and the subsequent destruction did to miss Wolbrom, which was entirely burned down. In a special decree, King Jan Kazimierz liberated the citizens of the city from a heavy tax. And thus they had the means to erect their houses of bricks, or of wood, and they invited also the Jews to settle in the City and help them to develop Wolbrom.
Wolbrom passed through various periods in the old Polish Republic. The Jews who had settled in the city were needed to play a role in the development of the city. Because of political instability the development took a long time. Just after Wolbrom was handed over to the Russian government, Wolbrom grew and developed and became a city with a substantial population, mostly Jews.
For many years following its establishment, Wolbrom was without Jews. Later, those
Jews who settled there were mostly from the Krakow community. The Wolbromer Jews were always simple people, without great ostentations. They gave their settlement both life and spirit.
The Jewish settlement in Wolbrom began in the first half of the sixteenth century, which is to say in the years 1542-1548. This was known from one of the documents from that time which reads, "The Jewish population is obligated to pay the foreign-born tax." This was the first notice mentioning specifically the Jewish population, citizen duties and taxes. There is therefore a distance between the unofficial settlement of Jews in Wolbrom and the official declaration about the legal settlement of Jews in the city. It is unknown whether in the sixteenth century Jews needed permission to settle anywhere in Poland. However, reality attests to this fact. We don't know what type of employment the Jews of that time had, whether agriculture or commerce.
The Wolbromer community was not independent. Rather, it was connected to the Krakow community, which served as the head-community to many Jewish cities, such as: Olkusz, Vadzislav, Fintshev, Hentshin, Shidlov, Afatov, Kshanov, Tshebin, Bendin, Filitse, Santsh, Oswiecim, Vishnits, Brzesko, Bakhnie, and many other towns. Krakow was as a capital to these cities and towns. It is known that because of distance between them, the various interests suffered. Then the Jewish cemeteries were scarce and distant from one another, and the Jews had to carry their dead from one town to another. Jewish Wolbrom first carried their dead to Jewish cemeteries in Krakow, and it is unknown whether Wolbrom was also obligated to bear the burden of additional expenses to bury their dead. Subsequently King Boleslaw issued a command which liberated the Jews from having to pay taxes to move their dead for burial from one town to another, from region to region, from even from one "state" to a different state.
The Jewish settlement in Wolbrom did not have an easy beginning. As a result of its relations with Krakow, it had many settlers. It was not a simple task to leave mother Krakow and look for a new place to live. Great worries attached to moving to a new place. The Krakow community leaders were actually able to satisfy the needs of the "expansion-process", when various Jewish communities did business here and there around mother Krakow, and she lost nothing in the process. However, all the new settlements remained dependent on her for all their particulars. Wolbrom was counted as one of the new points not far from the Mother- Community, and was considered as a daughter-community which took part in jurisdictional and fiscal considerations.
At that time the Krakow community included as part of itself the communities: Olkusz, Kshanov, Vishnits, Santsh, Babov, Filitse, Bendin, Auschwitz, and Wolbrom. The Krakow community with her Rabbis and heads of the community had the upper- hand in administrative and economic matters. The major tax collectors in all the land were two wealthy Krakow Jews. Wolbrom was not against the centralization of taxes and gave preference to Krakow in all confederate matters. However, Krakow took care of business as a self- standing master and worked alone without asking her "daughters" for advice in common matters. For a long time, Wolbrom remained subject to the Krakow community, as did many other communities. The Krakow Rav had to also preach to Wolbrom, without asking their opinion on the matter. Selfishly, Jewish Krakow ruled over her daughters like a dictator.
In the sixteenth century, in the Krakow and Tsoizmer region there stood big communities and in them was awakened the question whether to liberate themselves from the Krakow community's yoke. The Krakow rabbis endeavored that all should remain as it was. The Wolbromer community stood removed. She knew that the struggle for independence would not be easy, and she decided to wait and see what the other communities would be able to accomplish. Everywhere the respect for the Rav was great. The Rav was a well-known personality, a talmud-chocham, a great in Torah and greatly feared, a strong fighter for Jewish matters, and also a diligent doer-of-all for the interests of the community. One bit his lips and remained quiet. And the Krakow leaders closed all eyes to the matter and continued to govern without consideration of the other communities. Later, Wolbrom had some right to take a part in the decisions of the Rabbis, and still continuing to remain passive, waiting for aggressive action from her neighboring-communities.
In that the Jews in Wolbrom already were clearly defined as such in the city documents, which bears the date of the year 1562. The mentioned documents speak of matters of gold for supporting the city, among them the taxes from the residents, and the Jewish population in general. It seems that then there were already 26 Jewish families making up the Jewish community of Wolbrom. In the documents we find proper Jewish names:
Rachamim Anker, Meir Erner, Wolf Erlich, Berek Avfiski, Shlomo Buchbinder, Yechezkel Bernshtein, Hershek Granek, Shmuel Baruch Hertsik, Moshe Veisred, Tuviah Tvardavitsh, Michal Sandler, Shlomo Landerer, Binyamin Lazargen, Reuben Shmuel Lanherd, Avigdor Safir, Leizer Freiberg, Hila Feigfroy, Yachet Perlgericht, Yudka Karfriech, Yitzhak Kujshnitzki, Mendl Kal, Rumka Leah Kornbroit (widow), Klemberg Ratman, Yishiah Shtreiberg, Yisroel Sherer, Sarah Reha (widow).
For many years the Wolbrom community was a branch of the Krakow community, just as were other communities. In the Finksim community (which founded the Jewish library in Warsaw) the relationship is not mentioned, not in Krakow nor in After Finks. In the year 1655 the Swedes invaded Poland, and although the Swedes did not know of the Jews until this time, as there were no Jews living in Sweden, they destroyed the Krakow community and her economic condition became dire and sank into enormous debt. They made an effort to impose a great part of the burden on the small communities, which caused frictions between the "mother" and "daughters", and there began a mutual struggle which ended by creating a rift. Wolbrom liberated itself from Krakow. But then she became controlled by other communities. She merely exchanged her governor, and she needed to continue to drive the battle. This time she came out from her passivity and prevailed.
The Krakow community ceased ruling over Wolbrom. However, her predominance continued over the Olkusz community, which was considered as a next- door neighbor of Wolbrom. This little Olkusz community which, at the time, comprised of little more than a hundred Jews suddenly received reinforcement from the other branch communities, such as: Wolbrom, Kshonov, Tshebin and others, together with more distant communities such as Ashpitsin, Santsh, Bendin, Vishnits, Barzisk, Bachnia, Filitse, with many towns. All that previously obeyed indirectly to Krakow now sided with Olkusz, and she behaved against her connected communities with the same "tolerance" as Krakow. Wolbrom together with her "sisters-at-need" were now dependent on Olkusz, especially in the area of finance. Through her they paid the government-fadaktes. Furthermore, they were dependent on Olkusz in the way of religious matters. In Olkusz they brought their dead to receive proper burial in a Jewish cemetery. There, marriages were arranged and had, and there was a Rabbi who issued rulings of Jewish law. The Olkuszer beit-din was a high ruling-authority in the entire region. Also, economically the Olkusz community showed the upper-hand over her neighbors. Therefore, this tiny Olkusz, which demonstrated itself to be independent in her struggle against Krakow, found itself alone as a capital- community to her neighbors. Wolbrom benefited greatly from her next-door neighbor Olkusz, which had suddenly mounted the horse and was prepared to take over and perform as she had learned from her teacher, Krakow.
Jewish Wolbrom, answered to Olkusz 19 viorsts away, and was, since her founding, a permanent, continual settlement. Olkusz was a bit older than Wolbrom, however, her Jewish settlement was not stable. The Wolbromer Jews sat calmly in the city and in their poor town, and were never expelled from there. The Olkuszer Jews had to take the wanderer's staff in hand from time to time and return to Krakow, although they had great protection from the king and from the ministers. Olkusz excelled with its great Rabbis.
The headstrong stubborness of the Olkuszer community against her fellow-communities was demonstrated by the fact, that in Tshebin, in the year 1786 after binding with Olkusz, they already had their own Rav. However, Olkusz did not allow the Tshebiner Rav to perform the wedding or set the engagement of local residents, Iser Zelig from Tshebin with the Wolbromer girl, Rivkah. At the time there was no border walls between Poland and Galicia, and marriage arrangements took place between both parts of Poland which meant a distribution of the residents between neighbor towns. Wolbrom and sister- neighbors were not able to remain silent any more over the brutal treatment from Olkusz, and the struggle against her renewed. This time all the branch- communities formed a block with Wolbrom and led the struggle together, as one. This time Wolbrom stood at the peak of the struggle, the same Wolbrom that had a good, modest name throughout Poland, the peace-lover Wolbrom did not have its own cemetery and was forced to take its dead to Olkusz. And Olkusz played as a despot and took every penny it could for use of its cemetery, not considering Wolbrom's poor economic condition. The relation did not end well with the purchases of esrogs for Succot. Here too Wolbrom was forced to buy in Olkusz. Thereby the aspiration for true commercial- independence from Olkusz grew ever stronger. The struggle was difficult. Olkusz knew that she would lose much income and prestige. Wolbrom came out of the struggle victorious.
On the first of March, 1740, the Bishop Lifski from Kielts gave permission to the Wolbromer Jews to establish their own cemetery. This served as the first step to freeing themselves from the Olkuszer community. The stipulation had the cemetery serve fundamentally the community. After the success of this first step to independence, the Wolbromers had courage to further their activities, riding the momentum. In the year 1751, the Wolbrom community received from the same Bishop a permit to erect anew, or as said, "to build a new school/synagogue for religious use, and on the thirteenth of July 1776 the Wolbromer Jews received a separate decree from the Polish king that they may live in the city. This does not mean that until that time no Jews were allowed to live in Wolbrom, rather they were there without protection and without permit. It was also possible that then when the Jews settled in Wolbrom they did not need any special permission, and the last decree from the king came to give official rights to settle in Wolbrom, after which they remained for dozens, hundreds of years.
Shortly thereafter as the Wolbrom community freed itself from the Hasidim from the Olkuszer community, she led a struggle also against the Vadjislav community, with which she also had relations for many years. After Olkusz, Vadjislav, tried to rule over theaffairs. However, this fight was already easier after the practice gained in the struggle against Olkusz, Wolbrom now knew how to defend herself. In the year 1782 the dispute between the Wolbrom and Vadjislav communities took place before a tribunal in Krakow, and lasted a long time. One meeting followed another, with much testimony. The verdict was finally reached to the benefit of the Wolbromer community.
From the seventeenth century and onwards the Polish Jews survived many dangers and troubles. Hamelnitski's uprising against Poland in the year 1648 left a river of Jewish blood. The bitter strife against Jews and Polish landowners evaded Little-Poland. However, the bitter consequences from this strife brought about much suffering even for the Jews who sat quietly and safe all the while from the battlefield. Wolbrom played an important role in communications for Polish dealings with Prussia and Silesia as well as other lands, and because of the great destruction from the Hetmanishe Cossacks the roads were empty, and the Wolbromer Jews suffered economically.
The Wolbromer Jews suffered greatly in the days of the Polish- Swedish war, after which the Poles pushed back the Cossacks to the East. The Swedish King Carl Gustof the Second (1654-1660) infiltrated Poland and siezed many cities. They destroyed many Jewish communities. The Chronicles relate that in the first Swedish battle, the Swedes burnt the city of Wolbrom, and King Yan Kazimierz, showing great interest in quickly rebuilding the city, in 1661 freed the city-dwellers from all taxes for four years. His order was quickly enacted. However, Wolbrom was reconstructed, not with stone buildings as before, rather, with houses of wood, it would appear because of the shortage of means, and Jews also settled in Wolbrom. What happened to the Wolbromer Jews in wartime is not mentioned. Perhaps they fled to Krakow or other places. The local Poles, wanting to build the city as quickly as possible, invited anew the Jews to come and settle, and the Jews acquiesced to the request and settled once again in the city, and probably even more Jews than before settled there.
Furthermore, the enemy of Israel, and Polish general, Stefan Tsharnietski, who fled from the Swedish army in Krakow, made use of the internal turmoil in Poland and made himself busy with robbing and murdering. The predominant aim of his sword was the defenseless Jews in the small cities. According to the chronicles he destroyed communities near Wolbrom, such as: Shidlov, Hamlenik, Hentshin, Vadjislav, Fintshuv, not to mention the names of Wolbrom, Olkusz, Filitse. The enemy accused the Jews of assisting the Swedes. And this very same "hero" who spilled rivers of Jewish blood, became recognized in Polish history as an important hero The wars took their toll on the Jewish population in Poland, reducing it by half, and it took years until the Jews could recover and begin anew to conduct their lives as before. In the Polish census of 1765 it was written, "they sustained themselves with cabbage from yard- gardens 400 zlotes, as also is from them (the Jews) sustained as acknowledgement for the great Christian governor 220 zlotes" and as under-lieutenants sum for the non-Jewish holidays 200 zlotes." From this was successful that in that time there were in Wolbrom Jews bound to pay taxes, as it had always been the custom.
Since the Polish-Swedish war, Poland had grown weak and never rose again to its old power. Poland came under the influence of Russia. In 1772 Russia together with her neighbor Prussia and Austria carried out the first partition of Poland. However, Poland still had sufficient terrain with a healthy population. In the second partition of Poland, Russia and Prussia took yet more area (1793), and in 1795 Russia, Austria and Prussia partitioned off the rest of Poland between them, and Poland ceased to exist as an independent nation. The Polish Jews were separated between Russia, Prussia and Austria. At the third partition Wolbrom was handed over to Austria and remained under her protection until 1809.
The Poles hoped for help from Napoleon Bonaparte, and after his conquest of Prussia in 1806, in 1807 he established the "Warsaw Principality" and gave to her that which fell to Austria in 1795. Wolbrom was therefore handed over to the Warsaw Principality and remained there from 1815 until 1837 and was included in the vayevudstva Krakow-Sandamierz of the Polish Kingdom. After Napoleon's defeat, the Warsaw Principality was declared as a Kingdom and the Russian Czar became her King. Russia imperialist ambitions in Poland brought about a Polish uprising in 1830 which ended in a fiasco. In 1863 the Poles again attempted an uprising and led a partisan battle against Russia, and also this time the Poles lost. Wolbrom is not mentioned in the chronicles of this epoch.
The Polish uprising of 1830 also affected Wolbrom and its vicinity. Accordingly the Wolbromer Jews also participated in the uprising, either directly or indirectly. The uprising landowners of the area around Wolbrom were in contact with Jews who also participated with them in meetings. Further, the Polish uprising against Russia in 1863 brought about an improvement in the relations between Poles and Jews. Wolbromer Jews did not actively participate in this uprising. They occupied themselves with learning Torah and Hasidus and were far from the empty politics of this world. However, they strove to assist the fighters with food and drink and sleep.
Wolbrom was considered an important center of Polish business, via communication with Prussia and Silesia on one side, and Austria on the other side, mainly in the business of grain, wood, cattle, etc., and in exchange she imported other goods, mainly haberdashery and other galantries and manufactured items. A result of this is that Wolbrom neglected the realm of industry and mining for minerals. In the second half of the eighteenth century, when Poland took great efforts to build factories, and in the neighboring cities factories and mines were constructed and developed, Wolbrom remained beyond the sphere of the industrial impact. From Prussia there came capitalists and other travelers to Wolbrom, looking to make things happen. In nearby towns people searched for various minerals, and success was had in Olkusz and Slavkov, and for those who were unsuccessful, they would return again to continue their search. Not until Russian times did people renew their efforts to bring about industry in Wolbrom, and thereby came about a beginning to industry in the city.
The Wolbromer community and her neighbors were to a great measure dependent on the autonomous organizations of the Polish Jews. The Wolbromer Jews did not participate directly or indirectly in meetings and conferences of the community representatives. It is difficult to ascertain the reason, whether because of a small population, or lack of an eligible community leader, and perhaps because of their remaining faithful to the principal not to mix in things which do not concern them. And just next to Wolbrom took place the last meeting of the high Jewish institute called, "V'ad Arba Artsot", which existed close to two hundred years, and finally, near Wolbrom, after all those years, they decided to disband.
This was the Jewish high institute of Poland from 1580 to 1764, which was responsible for collecting the Jewish taxes for the Polish government and led the Jewish courts, and the Rabanim used to gather from time to time, mainly because of those coming down from Lublin. At first people came to gather once a year, later twice a year: summer in Yaroslav, and winter in Lublin. The V'ad represented the Polish Jews before the government and her King, and the Beis-Din in Lublin was the arbitrator or final judge as much for law as well as for general customs. The V'ad imposed the "great excommunication" in 1676 of Shabbatai-Tsvi and his sect, and in 1751 it was busy with the conflict between the Rabbanim Yaakov Amdan and Yehonasan Eibshitz. Ialso declared actions against Hasidism. However, it abandoned this course of action, because in 1764 the Polish parliament abrogated the "V'ad Arba Artsot".
In the seventeenth century the V'ad's meetings were held in Pshevarsk, Yaraslav, Ritsheval, Konstantinov, and Brody. It's last meeting took place in Pilica, the neighboring city of Wolbrom, and in Pilica (officially: Pilitza) was the V'ad abrogated. The first meeting in Pilica took place the 20th of July, 1760 under the chairmanship of Meir Dubinski (of Dubnow). In 1762, the meetings of V'ad took place the 28th of July, the 7th of August and the 12th and 23rd of September. In 1763 meetings took place on the 30th of August, the 4th, 6th, and 9th of September. The last meeting took place in Pilica on the 4th of October, 1764. After, the Polish Parliament decided that "being convinced that the matter of Jewish representatives is not being conducted in an orderly fashion", decided to abrogate the V'ad.
The city of Pilica, 14 Viorsts from Olkusz and Wolbrom worked hand in hand with them in their common battle against the dominance of Krakow's high-community. In Pilica there lived Teodor Vaslov, the finance- minister of Poland, and Pilica then had "good times", or better said: Vaslov's palace, to which there used to come Polish ministers and consuls, as well as foreign diplomats. Further, Polish-Jewish managers used to gather in Pilica and conduct business with the finance minister, regarding tax/tribute and matters of finance. In Pilica the V'ad arranged, for the last time, their budget. Wolbrom and Pilica were founded at the same time: in the 14th century. However, Pilica had more luck than Wolbrom. Pilica was the nest for the Piletski family, from which descended Eljshbieta, King Yagiellas' wife.
From the course of the discussions and decisions of the V'ad in their meetings in Pilica we see that the Pilicar Jews knew how to exploit the V'ad's meetings in Pilica and turn to it with different complaints and requests, and it seems doubtful the Wolbromer community did not have any concerns and didn't need the intervention of the V'ad for her own good.
The Wolbromer community, before becoming independent, was first attached to the Rabanim of bigger communities, first with Krakow, and then with Olkuszer and Vadzislaver Rabanim. Just after her independence, Wolbrom received the right to nominate their own Rav. Wolbrom had several Rabanim for the previous two hundred years. Unfortunately, we do not know who was the first Wolbromer Rav, from where he came, in which yeshivot he learned, from which Rabbanim he received ordination, etc. However, we do have vestiges of the early Wolbromer Rabanim.
It seems that the early Wolbromer Rabanim were tightly associated with the Krakover Rabanim and community. One Rav by the name of Menachem- Nachum B'R' Binyamin who was Rav in Wolbrom, it became said that he came to Krakow to die. Upon his tombstone in the Krakover cemetery was spelled out his praises. The date was recorded in the book of records of the community in Krakow. Years later, when the engraving on the tombstone had faded, it was restored anew, and we do not know if this came about because of the Wolbromer community, or descendants of the Rav.
There was the death of yet another Wolbromer Rav in Krakow, after he had left his post in Wolbrom and became Rav in Krakow. About him there exist more facts. This was the Rav Yaakov Halevi Sg"l B"hR' Tsvi, a Rav in Galicia's Dambrova, a grandson of the great Rebbi Dovid Halevi (auther of Toori-Zahav). In his youth, Rebbi Yaakov learned by the Gaon Rebbi Yehudah Liber Harif (that his name should be remembered with blessing; a son of R. Binyamin Korngold, born in Krakow). Rebbi Yaakov learned by him together with his brother, Rebbi Yosef Harif Halevi Abd"k Zbaraf in Hungary. After Rebbi Yaakov received ordination he became Rav in Wolbrom, and there he set to work in Torah and the service of Hashem, and corresponded with the Greats of the generation. From the rabbinical responsa literature we know that he corresponded with two of the Greats: Rebbi Elazar Lev, composer of the book of responsa "Shemen Rukeach", and Rav Pusek, Rebbi Avraham Tsvi-Hirshl, Rav in Pilica and afterwards in Pietrkov. The same two rabinical greats (Gaons) wrote to him and proffered upon him great honor with important titles. Rebbi Yaakov Halevi finally left his post in Wolbrom and grew even greater, he was nominated as Rosh of the Beis- Din in Krakow. He died the second of Heshvon, 5579 (according to the Pinkas - book of records - of the community).
We do not know who took his place in forlorned Wolbrom, possibly it was Rav Haim Kaminski (born 5534 and died in 5624 at the age of 90). He was of the talmidim of Rebbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apt and from Rebbi Meir'l Apter, and used to also be found by the Lubliner "Seer". Rebbi Haim, upon receiving ordination first became Rav in Kaminsk. He had many worries over raising the moral spirit of the Rabbis, and besides his greatness in Torah he acquired a name as preacher. The Polish Rabbis that came through Wolbrom stayed by him, and he warmly received them. Wolbrom, which was in need of a Rav, heard of him and invited him to be the Rav, after all, of all the rabbinical candidates none was sufficiently eligible for the city in which most of the men were talmud-wise men and scholars. After negotiations Rebbi Haim accepted the position as Rav also in Wolbrom, and he split his time between both cities.
Besides his office as Rav in Wolbrom he was presented the crown of Rebustva, and many hasidim came to him and bestowed upon him appropriate honor. Every underpriveledged and suffering soul of the region found by him a listening ear. He was praised as a wonder-Rebbi and became considered as one of the last Rebbis of Polish Hasidus. Many years after his death his figure is still engraved in the memories of his city folk. 19 years after his death was published his book "Zichron Haim", Torah discussions in the way of Hasidus, printed in Warsaw (5643, 96 pages) with a huge introduction. Wolbromer Jews were proud of their Rav and Tsaddik, and his name became mentioned with great esteem by the Wolbromer in Israel and other lands.
Which Rav came in Rebbi Haim's place? The Wolbromers themselves don't know how to answer this one. However, we only know that the community leaders searched for a Rav who would be fit to follow in the steps of the Rav and Tsaddik who was beloved in all the city. And this was no easy task. We must jump past a number of years to come to a new Rav, Rebbi Moshe Weinberg, born in Pshedbarsh.
He was a son of the Rav R. Duberish. In the year 5628 he was nominated as Rav in the town of Rakov, in the province of Radamer, and in 5636 he was crowned as Rav in Wolbrom He was not a Hasid. However, he won approval with his aptitudes and commitment to learning. He was a strong lamdan in written as well as oral Torah and versed in Shas with the commentaries. The entire Torah was open to him. Because of his not abiding by any hasidic court he suffered from the hasidim, and especially from the Gerer Hasidim. Therefore, he was greatly accepted by the non-Hasids which had quite a population in the city. As a non-Hasid he did not pray in the hasidic synagogues and, rather in the shul of the "regular Jews." The Rav Weinberg was a man of great distinction with all merits and virtues of Torah, well-versed and sharp, with a firm understanding of law he made clear decisions of law. He knew the halacha by heart, and in his heart his life was led with modesty. He fought for his opinions and Torah views. He had patience and perseverance, and knew how to keep company even with his opponents. And he was respected and loved from all types of folk. He printed a book "Ohel Moshe" (Pietrikov, 5668) containing nuances in Shas, questions and answers, explanations and sayings of the ancient masters. Only the first volume was published. The rest of the writings were lost in the Holocaust of the Nazis. He died several ybefore the First World War.
Two associates (dayanim) assisted the Rav Rebbi Moshe. They were also great scholars. One was the Dayan and Teacher Rebbi Hirsh Leib Katz, from the Tsanzer Hasidim, and great talmud-chocham, and descendant of Lite. He lived in Tsveigenboym's house, and prayed in the small synagogue. He was of average height with broad shoulders and black burning eyes. He was full of spirit and energy. He was counted as the elder spiritual leader of the city. His circle was immense. He was important and dear to the students of the city. He did not pursue honors. He did nothing to increase his influence, nor did he attach himself blindly to those deemed important. With Rav Weinberg he did not live peacefully. He experienced the function as Rav and Teacher in his circle, and decided difficult questions of law independently. This was a common thing for him to do. "Who will understand mistakes" his rulings were short and concise. At night he sat in the House of Study and learned with students he stringently selected. Not every student had the rare honor to learn with him. He taught for free. He married one of his daughters to Gershon Tsveignboim, a great egg- merchant and exporter to Berlin, a wealthy man; a second daughter he married to Yehiel Fishl, a wealthy manufacturer. City legends told of his abilities and sharp mind. He reached a ripe old age, and passed away at the age of 80.
A second Dayan and Teacher in the city was Rebbi Berish Gitler, born in Wolbrom, a great scholar, a tall and slender man, living in Lgato in Haim Simha Fultarak's house, on the second floor, intelligent and lively, a noble soul. A Jew with a stately appearance and his eyes were full of compassion. The Jewish population adored him, because he did not put on pretentious airs, and did not pursue honors. He won the approval of the simple people: artisans, laborers, small businessmen, teachers, butchers and others. He distanced himself from flattery, or from accepting money in order to better one's position in the city. As Dayan he made an effort to make lenient his rulings of law, he by provided Torah passages to settle disputes between Jews. He sympathized with those who suffered and the unemployed, and he had a strong desire to help them. He ruled leniently in matters of kashrus, and rarely did he rule as non- kosher a cattle or a bird, even when he could not find a proof in the books supporting a lightening of the rule. A Gerer Hasid, he prayed in the new synagogue for many years. He was a great talmid-chocham and an assiduous student. He spent entire nights learning in the synagogue. He learned with students and accepted payment, because his economic situation was never good. He was a humble man who rarely spoke. It was said of him that he was of the House of Hillel. Many turned to him for Torah judgements, and as arbitrator in matters of money and property. He passed away before the First World War.
His son followed in his footsteps in the years following the war, Rebbi Yaakov Gitler. He followed in his father's ways; whoever knew him could testify that he was worthy to fill the office. He was also modest and quiet. He also made an effort to lighten halachic rulings, and never did he search for long in the sources, but he searched until he found the permission to make kosher the animal. He took great care not injure a Jew financially.
The final Rav in Wolbrom was the Rav Rebbi Shlomo Eliezer Zilberberg, a student and fiery Hasid from the Ostrovtser Rebbi, Rebbi Meir Yehiel, and ordained by him as a teacher. He partook in week-long fasts like his Rebbi. He was born in Stafnits. After the First World War his Rebbi, the Ostrovtser Rebbi, searched for him in Wolbrom, and the search served as a sensation in the city, that such a Gaon (genius, great man of learning Torah) and Tsaddik should profer upon the city such a great honor. The Rav Zilberberg was nominated as Rav after the Rav Weinberg, he had learned in the yeshiva of Rebbi Yitzhak Alhanan Spektor in Kovne, he received the rabinate position of Wolbrom, and tried very hard to create a yeshiva in the city, and it came incumbent upon him to act as administrator, and he became the rosh- yeshiva, and was heavily active in strengthening the learning of Torah in the city.
The Rav Zilberberg first tried to make it as a businessman. Soon after failing in this enterprise he became Rav in the Kielcer region. In Wolbrom he lived in Michal Feldberg's house on Shvinsko Street, and he was a great talmid-chocham and of the hasidic tradition. He loved everyone, always had good word on his tongue, was careful not to offend anyone's honor, never did anything to injure anyone, and distributed much money for charity, never had disputes necessitating official judgement, rather whatever was given to him he accepted with love and friendship. He never treated the wealthy nor the poor differently. His house was open for all and he was strongly trusted in matters of the community. The community appropriated to him a nice salary, however he was satisfied with little. He was greatly beloved by all. He captured the hearts of his listeners with his word of Torah, on Shabbos and on the Yom- Tovim. His name came to be as one of the great rabanim and poskim and many rabbis from the region turned to him with their questions. He was successful in raising the Torah- spirit in the city and region. With the construction of the yeshiva he dedicated his strength to planting in the hearts of his city folk love for Torah and Israel.
Of special note, he struggled to build in the city a modern mikveh, ritual bath-house, and settled for a diminution in his salary by using this money to invest in the mikveh. He prayed in shul, and in the weekdays he held a minyan by his own home. He was of "Hillel's students" and pleaded for leniency and simplification. He was calm, open-minded and aspired towards peace. He was beloved by all in the city. His house was always full with people who used to come to him for various reasons, businessmen asked him for advice, people came to him for judgements, and people used to come to him also just to chat about Torah or worldly matters. Many legends were told of him about his work in charity and kindness, he was considered one of the hidden righteous. He was killed by the German Nazis together with his community. From him there remained one grandson and he resettled in Israel.
The Hasidic population in Poland grew to be immense. The movement developed deep roots. Jewish Wolbrom was mostly hasidic. The hasidim had many strong students and talmud- chochams and had a good name in the city. The Wolbromers were greatly devoted to their principles.
In the early years Hasidism in Poland drew support especially from the small towns, and their rabanim were forced, because of the need to make a living, to bow their heads to the Rebbis and hasidim. The handful of Rebbis in Poland brought in the essence of royal dynasties. And a wall was established between them and the outside world, and they joined with the masses who yearned for faith in tsadikim. Wolbrom was included in these towns, and her hasidim were industrious people, artisans, merchants and small-businessmen. They felt united by Torah, service to Hashem and good deeds and in the evenings of Shabbat they were liberated from their weekly chores and applied themselves diligently in spiritual goals. The Wolbromer hasidim serves as a sample of the other towns.
Wolbrom was also worthy of having two hasidic dynasties. They were: Rebbi Haim (known as: R. Haim Wolbromer) who besides the rabinic throne wore the crown as Rebbi, and he concentrated around himself students and hasidim and they led spiritual lives of faith and belief. The development of Wolbrom as a place of Torah and Hasidus began later in the second generation of Polish Hasidus. Afterwards R. Haim the Rebbi opened wide horizons in the hasidic movement through his active ways, and with his abilities he drew to Hasidus many followers from near and far, and even Misnagdim joined with him. RebbHaim had a stormy and dynamic personality, and he was a great influence in the city. R. Haim did not leave any children, and after his death there remained, for a long time, a vacuum in the city.
Rebbi Haim did not come from a family of tsadikim, but he did inherit from tsadik-Rebbis. After him there arose in Wolbrom a second dynasty which was not new in the Polish- hasidic world, rather a continuation of one already established. It was Rebbi Yitzhak Menahem, a son of Rebbi Pinhas, a son of Rebbi Meir'l the Apter Rebbi. Rebbi Meir'l was the greatest amongst the Lubliner "Seer's" students and was crowned heir as Rebbi in Poland, Rav in Stafnits and Apt, great in Torah, and left after him a book "Light of Heaven". He died the 25th of Tamuz, 5591. His son, Rebbi Pinhas, followed in his footsteps as Rebbi in Apt, and died in 5597. His son, Rebbi Yitzhak Menahem, was unable to remain in Apt, therefore his brother, Rebbi Meir (the Second) inherited the dynasty-chair after their father. He left his city and chose Wolbrom. Since 5597 he further extended the Rebutva in Wolbrom as a branch of the great Rebbi Meir'l of Apt. He married with Golda- Esther, the daughter of Rebbi Moshe from Lelov a son of the famous Rebbi Dovid'l Lelover. In his older years, Rebbi Moshe made Aliyah to Jerusalem with his sons, Yitzhak-Dovid and Elezar- Menachem, and he was buried near Zacharia the Prophet's grave on the Mount of Olives (he died in 5610). Rebbi Yitzhak Menahem did not attract to himself nor to Wolbrom a big community of hasidim. He died the 20th of Adar 5634 and upon his grave was erected an "ohel" (memorial).
About the Rebetzin Golda-Esther it was said that for years after her wedding she did not have any children, and her father the tsadik told her that he could do anything to change her suffering, and that she should turn to the Radashitzer Rebbi, Rebbi Ber. She traveled to him with her mother-in-law. She approached the Rebbi and lamented to him that she did not have any children. The Tsadik grabbed a stool as if he was going to throw it at her, and in angry reproof he said, "Wanton woman. Get out of here and don't defile my home." Her mother-in-law understood that this was more than merely strange, and she went to the Rebbi alone, to hear from him an explanation regarding his conduct against a Rebbi's child. The Tsadik received her warmly and wished her good luck: "Your daughter-in-law has been helped. Only in that way could she have been helped. After Golda-Esther went to him and also she was warmly received and assured that she would have a son and that he would be a Great of Israel. His blessing was fulfilled, and she had Rebbi Alter Meir Dovid Halevi, the Wolbromer Rebbi, who followed in the footsteps of his father Yitzhak Menahem, after his father's death.
Rebbi Alter Meir Dovid was born in 5600 and married with the daughter of Rebbi Moshe Rukeach, the Karaver Rebbi, a son of Rebbi Shalon of Belz. He preached Hasidus not only in Wolbrom, his home, but he used to travel to different Jewish towns and propagated the hasidic learning amongst the Jewish masses. He erected in his yard/court a house of prayer, in which he used to pray an entire year, and during the Days of Awe his davening was filled with music, new and old, and the listeners reveled in them. He had a name as "B'al Mofet", and had many hasidim. The old hasidim who knew him well and in whose hearts was carried the memory of his pure and dear ways. He did not lock himself away in the confines of his walls. As a beautiful Rebbi he used to travel in search of rebishe houses and courts, and was very close to Rebbi Haim, the Tsanzer Rav and Rebbi, and was united to him by marriage. He died the 27th of Adar 5671 and upon his grave was erected an "ohel". The same dynasty existed for several generations, until the last Rebbi was murdered by the Nazis.
After his death, his son Rebbi Yosef Natan Halevi followed in his ways in the year 5671. However, he did not live long. He died the 24th of kislev, 5675 (in the First World War) and did not leave any children. After him came his brother-in-law Rebbi Shalom Rukeach and led the rebustva in Wolbrom until the last World War and he perished in Tsamir (Sandomierz), hoping that there he would be able to save himself. Also the other children of Rebbi Alter rebustva in various cities. His son, Rebbi Yitzhak Menahem Halevi, established a dynasty in Bendin from 5671 and received a name "The Shiniver Rebbi", because his house was near to the train-tracks. Rebbi Shalom Halevi sat as Rebbi after his father's, Rebbi Alter, death, in Apt, the "City as the Source of Light" of the dynasty. With the last annihilating battle of the German murderer Nazis, the dynasty was destroyed, and only a few were saved and live in Israel and in America.
The hasidic fervor found its expression also in the numerous little homes in Wolbrom, as the Gerer, Radamsker, Hentshiner, Aleksander, Krimalaver, Fintshever, Gradjisker, Katsker and Others. Generally, the hasidim profited in the times of the visitings of the different rebbis in the city, and they led tishn(sessions at table) on Friday evenings and Motsi-Shabbos. The enlightenment movement did not effectuate a deep impact in the city, and did not wage a battle with the hasidim.
The first population census in Poland took place in 1764. This was the first counting of the Jews in Poland since 1550. The last counting took place several years before the partition of the Polish Republic. The census gives us a statistical picture of the Jews of the Eastern-European community. According to the census there were 324 people in Wolbrom, 149 men, 154 women, 21 infants. In all, there were approxiamately 430,000 Jews in Poland. Amongst the clergy mentioned in Wolbrom there were one Rav, two shameshes, one "Namn" (counselor). Together, 85 families.
With the abrogation of the "V'ad Arba Artsot" all of the Jewish communities remained liable to Jews and wealthy landowners and also the government treasury. Further, Wolbrom was mentioned as liable to 16,000 gulden. In non-Jewish sources, we find that in 1765 the collectors from Wolbrom collected from the Jews 400 gulden for cabbage that they received from the economics gardener.
From a list of Jewish names which were found in later documents, from the year 1791, one sees that there were already Jews living in Wolbrom who owned properties of over nine acres. The Jews in Wolbrom already had a shul, a mikveh, a slaughterhouse, and more. The Jewish settlement was concentrated in the section of the city called "Nove-Lanka". Reading the Jewish names in the documents one sees that there is not any common link between the first original Jewish list and the new family-names. We bring here the Jewish family names:
Estreich, Leizer. Applebaum, Hershl. Invald, Tuvia. Bruckner, Levak. Bran, Zeinvel. Binshtok, Binyamin. Gershtenfeld, Mordecai. Dafner, Heshlik. Huberman, Avraham. Hocherman, Gimper. Veindling, Shmuel. Valhendler, Avigdor Hersh. Velner, Shmuel. Veinshtien, Yisroel. Veinspekir, Yaakov. Veisvald, Mordechai. Zanabend, Ozer. Zingerman, Miriam (widow), Freiman, Zzusman, Yekubavitsh, Ozer. Cohen, Paltiel. Cohen, Kopel. Katz, Hershlik. Levit, Yaakov. Lubling, Michal. Meitlis, Alter. Meitlis, Yitzhak. Meitlis, Malkah. Matshnik, Eizik. Neifeld, Moshe. Srebrni, Leibish. Slatnitski, Reuben. Akiva, Kalman. Potash, Pesla. Fulturak, Yitzhak Meir. Falk, Feitek. Fletsher, Meir. Tsimbalisa Shimaon. Kritsher, Greains. Razmarin, Litman. Raznshtein, Leizer. Radgeberg, Yosef. Raucher, Pinhas. Rinsky, Mendl. Shmulevitsh, Simha. Shental, Shlomo.
After looking up in various books the count from the Jewish population in Wolbrom, we get the following picture: in 1765 there were 324 Jews. In 1827 2716 habitants, 724 of them were Jews. In 1857 2479 of which 1465 were Jews. 1867 3085 total, 2028 were Jews. 1895 7850 total, 3064 of which were Jews. 1921 according to the first population census of independent Poland, 7229 total inhabitants in Wolbrom, 4276 among them werJews.
In the year 1931, when Wolbrom became declared as a city with a mayor, the Jewish population totaled 5340, and until 1939 she was comprised of 40% laborers, 59% merchants and small businessmen. The rest were farmers, clerical personnel, and others. In 1942, during the resettlement by the Nazis, the Jewish population numbered 9300 people, and all were murdered after the resettlement of Wolbrom.
The Wolbromer Jews were amongst the few in Poland who had a definitive connection to agriculture. They were employed in all fields, both in business and labor. However, amongst them there were also to be found those who inherited land and estates and engaged themselves in agriculture. And not only in Wolbrom, in many villages around Wolbrom there lived Jews who worked as farmers. The names of some of the towns were: Bedlin, Zalentshe, Zavadka, Zagrabie, Mashnitsa, Brzazavke, Makav, Faremba, Labzov, Dluzshets, Elgota, Shilisov, Stotshe and others. In the region of Wolbrom there were not few Jewish landlords who acted as "Pritsim" (aristocrats), breeding livestock, milking, eggs, etc., and brought their products to Wolbrom. Some of them acted as noblemen and came to Wolbrom in half-covered wagons hitched to 4-6 strong horses and in Wolbrom people went out gladly to the market to look how the "nobles" drove in their "droskies." Also in Olkuszer estates the Jews were engaged in agriculture in the towns, and the Polish peasants looked at them as farming-colleagues.
It seems that luck did not last long. First, the Jews had with their diligence and commitment awoken the jealousy of the Christian peasants, they did not mix with the non- Jews and built "a town in a town," and they even built a house of study in the town. And if they didn't have Minyan they used to mobilize the Jews of the surrounding towns. The peasants began to trouble the Jews by stealing from their fields, taking "potatoes" at night. The Jews, seeing that they were working "for the devil" began working in other fields which had connections to agriculture. As such, one exported eggs to Germany. Others purchased from the peasants their produce and sold them in the city. They remained living in the towns and busied themselves with business. Just after the third partition of Poland and after Napoleon's defeat in Russia, the Russians began to issue decrees prohibiting the Jews from living in the towns, even in Poland (in Russia, this prohibition had existed for some time), and they began to move gradually into Wolbrom.
Before Poland's partition there did not exist in Poland any decrees against the Jewish population with regards agriculture. On the other hand. The Polish Parliament tried to get the Jews to leave the cities and go to the villages to work in agriculture, and the parliament decided to exempt from the head-tax forever, all Jews who would work the earth as farmers and also exempt them from these taxes which even peasants had to pay. The Wolbromer Jews, as it seems, took advantage of the new decree and were freed of having to pay various taxes.
But the political factor of the Polish reaction did not allow the Wolbromer Jews to rest calmly. Wolbrom was one of the cities where the Bishop issued decrees (in 1800) against the Jews: "They are prohibited from being on the street during Easter, during parades and marches, and when the priest is in the street with "sacramental bread"; Jews are prohibited from celebrating weddings during "Advent" and the Polish fast-days; Jews are permitted to have funeral processions only at night, and if by day, in private, quietly, at home; Jews are prohibited from working on Sundays and on Christian holidays; Christians are prohibited from "passing time" with Jews and are prohibited from attending Jewish weddings; Jews are prohibited from having non-Jewish maids and are prohibited from using non-Jewish mid-wives." All these decrees were meant to injure Jewish honor and left the Jews feeling fear of the priests.
The crises which began with Poland's partition amongst her three great neighbors was not only a purely Polish crises, rather also for the gathering of Jews in Poland, which was the greatest gathering of Jews in the world, and the tracks of the crises were felt by the Jews of Wolbrom.
Wolbrom was divided three times amongst Russia, Prussia and Austria. With the third partition in 1796 Poland disappeared from the political map and it began a new era. Wolbrom experienced various metamorphosis along with Poland. Once Wolbrom was occupied by the Austrians, and her Jews suffered as all other Jews under her occupation. After Napoleon the Great became ruler over Europe Wolbrom became incorporated into the Polish "Warsaw Principality", under French protection. Napoleon's war against Russia affected Wolbrom which served as a passageway for the French army on their march to Warsaw and Russia. And again the Wolbromer Jews suffered, however, not for long. "Fridn's-Conference" in Vilna (1815) determined that Poland would return back to a Kingdom and her King would be the Russian Czar, Aleksander the First, and Russia would rule her. From then Wolbrom remained under Russian rule until 1914, when she became occupied anew by the Austrian military in the First World War, until November 11, 1918, when Poland was once again independent.
Under the Russians the Jews experience was both good and bad. Bad -- the Jews had to go into the military, and the Pale of Settlement assigned to the Jews by Czarist Russia in Poland was abolished for them. However, they were permitted to learn different trades and make a living in manufacturing and business in all of Russia. The gates of Miechov, Skala, Kielce, and other cities opened for Jews and Wolbromer Jews were amongst the first who moved there and created new income opportunities. There Jews were not permitted to live in the villages of the border territory. Wolbrom was included in the territory in which the Jews inland were forbidden to live.
The new military-decree for Jews brought with it a decree of "Kantonistn", which was especially difficult for the Jewish community. "Kantonistn" was the name given to the still immature young men in the Russian Czarist army, in the first half of the nineteenth century, who were taken into the military by compulsion. The Jewish community were required to provide every year during mobilization to the military a specific number of young men from 12 to 25 years old. The service in the military lasted 25 years. The years until the age of 18 were not included in this counting of 25 years. The boys were raised outside the scope of the Jewish community, in Siberia, in the furthest regions of Russia. Thousands of Kantonistn were converted and they were lost to the Jewish people. However, several of them were obstinate and held by the "old" ways and remained Jews. Most of the Kantonistn were poor children, as the wealthy redeemed their sons with money, and by other means. The community which had given the name "The Capers" to captured children of the poor who were delivered to the Russian military. The Kantonistn-order and the problem of the police who fulfilled the administration of the Jewish community demoralized the Jewish community in Russia and caused a deep hatred of the army class.
Furthermore, Jewish Wolbrom greatly suffered from the Kantonistn-law. Because of the lack of archival material and chronicles of the community, we do not know how many children this law cost Wolbrom. However, the survivors of the city who live in Israel remember several kontanistn who served 25 years in distant Russia and came back to Wolbrom. They were called "the Czar's children" in the city, and awoke interest and enthusiasm with their tales of their strength and stubborn determination to remain Jews. One of them was Rueben Tshuper, who was so called because he was from the town of Tshup, near Wolbrom, where he lived. He was captured with other children from their parents when they were 12 year old during Nikolai the First's reign and were sentto the furthest ends of Russia, and there they were intimidated to convert. Reuben served 25 years in the military and then came back to Wolbrom, and the whole city covered him with honors and adoration. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning a second Reuben, "Reuben Zelner", who coming back from the military he settled in Wolbrom and lived in the apothecary's house. Also, he bore the heavy years of his long service in the military and he remained steadfast in his Yiddishkeit. And yet a third kantonistn was Itshe Setsemski, who, thanks to good credentials, had the rare privilege to be sent to Moscow and there he learned in school and after in gymnasium. He suffered little from his colleagues. After returning to Wolbrom, he inherited property near the city and led a normal life thereafter. The kantonistn never were bothered by police or clerks of court because of their csarist privilege.
The Ivangarad (Demblin) Dambravo- Gurnitshe train-line went through Wolbrom. The vocation of coachman was strongly developed in Wolbrom and many city-Jews made their livings in this trade. It was understood that the train would seriously compete with the coachmen. It was said that the social- workers intended to arrange things such that the train would not pass too near to the city, rather at a certain distance, in order to leave the coachmen a place to drive passengers to and from the station. However, no special profit was brought to Wolbrom by the train, because the city did not possess industry nor mines. However, communication between Wolbrom and more distant cities became easier. The station in Wolbrom was constructed in 1880.
The train which passed through Wolbrom was the second in Poland, after the first, the Warsaw-Vilna train- line, was built in 1842, which figured as the oldest in Russia, then the train from Petersburg to Csarskaye-Sela was destined more for the Czar's family. In Wolbrom the train station was erected one and a half kilometers from the city. The train was necessary for exportation and importation with Germany, and the second with Austria. Furthermore, the Dembin-Dambrover train created a passageway for coal-production from the Dambraver side over Poland and also to Russia. Poland used to use wood from the great forest for heat. However, coal was better and easier to use. Wolbrom also began to make use of coal.
The Jews and Christians of Wolbrom participated in the mobilization of the military with the outbreak of the Russian-Japanese war. This war ended with a Russian defeat. The war exilirated the spirit in Wolbrom and opened the gates for reading newspapers which until then were considered "non-kosher." Many of the city saw in the Russian defeat a punishment for Russia's evil decrees against the Jews, and each Russian defeat in the war strengthened the spirit and brought with it a liberation of the population. The parties which strove to throw off the Csarist regime spread their secret activities, and even the freedom-fighters in the Jewish street raised their head.
After the Russian defeat by Japan and her victory against the revolution in 1905, the counter-reaction ruled life. The Russian regime turned the point of the sword chiefly against Jews, and in Poland, the Russian reaction found a faithful partner in the anti-Semite, Raman Dmavski and his comrades, who began to lead an open battle against the Jews, and raised the sword in a boycott against Jewish businesses. The Polish newpapers were full of inciting-venom and the days came where purpose and ideal became lacking in Poland. Nevertheless, the Poles grinded their teeth when the Jews dared to go to the city-elections and vote for the Polish representatives. Also in Wolbrom, Dmavki's comrades committed their deeds, and the Jewish-hatred amongst the Christian population in the city and vicinity was sufficiently great.
The last year of the Russian regime in Poland in general and in Wolbrom, especially 1914 excelled in measure of hatred and accusations against the Jews. A year earlier there took place the Bailes Process against the Jew Mendel Bailes from Kiev, which was a cause of great consternation and excitement amongst Jews of Poland and in foreign lands. Further, the Polish boycott against Jewish businesses swept over all Jewish settlements in Poland. And in the same year Wolbrom became wealthier with new blood-accusations (accusations of using the blood of murdered Christian children in the making of matzah) against the Jews, like those of a hundred years before.
The last two years before the World War, the enemies of Israel did not cease to spread the blood- accusations and incited the masses against the Jews through meetings, newspapers and with lectures in the Russian "Duma" (Parliament), about the blood-accusation of Bailes. The world-culture from Russia and foreign lands called for the Csar to cancel the trial. But the trial took place, and although the trial was carried out by a judge who was "an enemy of Israel", they were unable to demonstrate that Bailes was guilty and he was freed. However, the atmosphere of hatred of the Jews remained everywhere for a long time, and especially in Poland. And even further, in Wolbrom the hatred took root and the Christian population looked for an opportunity "to entrap" the Jews.
In the Olkuszer circle the blood- accusation was not a new phenomenon. In the year 1779 in Kshanov, there took place a tribunal about a blood-accusation, in which the king got involved in favor of the Jews standing accused. In the year 1887 a blood-accusation broke out in Olkusz. One Jew was sentenced to death and the heads of the community were freed thanks to the king. The blood-accusation was made against a tailor, Mordechai from Famarze, traveling from Balaslov to Olkusz, and other blood-accusations cost the Jews sacrifices and people's lives. How many fabricated blood-accusations took place in Wolbrom is unknown, this quiet community always tried to keep quiet about such things.
Later, in the second half of the 19th century, the charges that Jews were murdering Christians and using their blood for Pesach, affected even Wolbrom, and the history is not mentioned in the historical books, lest out of fear and this is what happened: In Moshe Berls' (Patash) house which was in the market place, there lived a housekeeper named Bernard. He took great care in keeping the house clean. He took in a prostitute who gave birth, as a result, to a son, a bastard. The housekeeper wanted to free himself of the child, and he consulted with his friend, a Pole, and he advised him to throw the child in a cellar of a Jewish home. During the search for chometz (the night before Passover), Moshe Berles was not of good spirits. He performed a fundamental search for chometz of the entire house, and finally he found the child in the basement. He quickly threw the baby over the fence into the yard of a Polish neighbor. The next day, the peasants of the town and villages came together with a scream that the Jews had killed a Christian child for Pesach and that the Jew's house should be searched. The police came and searched the entire house and found nothing. Moshe raised his hand and slapped the harlot who stood near, screaming at her: Murderer! Admit how you got rid of your bastard child. The peasants and the "burmistrez" stood still and quiet. In the middle of them came the Christian neighbor who brought the dead child and threw him down before the crowd. Moshe slapped the harlot again and demanded that she confess that she murdered the child and how she got rid of it. Even the burmistrez inflicted her with slaps, until she confessed that it was her child and she had killed it. The judge punished her. However, the community of Wolbrom did not make a fuss, figuring that such an occurrence could never happen again in that town.
The painfully unpleasant atmosphere in the last two years of the czar's regime brought another blood- accusation against the Jews in Wolbrom. This was the seventh of Adar 5573, something more than a year before the beginning of the First World War beGermany and Russia. The enemy of the Jews in the town and surroundings had grown strong and the Wolbromer Jews felt that these enemies were preparing something against them, once again. And their fear proved to be for real. And these are the details of what happened:
On Lgato Street there lived a Christian named Carl Shtshialski, and he had a daughter. The enemies arranged things such that the daughter would complain that the Jew, Reuben Frumer, seized her and wanted to draw blood from her for matzot. They hid the shikse and spread a rumorthat the daughter disappeared without a trace. The rumor quickly spread among the Christians in the town and surroundings, and Thursday, the market-day in the town, the Christians began to gather by a shop and pointed out Reuben Frumer: Here is the Jew who grabbed the shikse to draw out blood from her for matzot. Reuben fled from his shop and hid in the basement of Mical Lubling. The Jews of the town became frightened with the huge turmoil. After consulting, the Jews decided to send a delegation to Olkusz, the district city, in the delegation were Ephraim Lubling, who spoke fluent Russian, and the warden of the synagogue Reuben-Dovid Sapir. In Olkusz they turned to members of the courts, nominated over the Vons District, to relate to him what was happening and describe to him what could happen in Wolbrom if rigorous measures were not taken quickly and especially when even the Christians in the town were prepared to fight the Jews on Sunday. They turned also to the city-commandant and called for him for urgent assistance. Heir Vons was under the impression that the delegation had appraised the seriousness of the situation and he went that same day to Wolbrom with police. Coming in the town he turned to the commandant and asked the lost girl's father: How is your daughter? Upon his answer that he does not know he received two slaps, and then he confessed and told where the girl could be found. The police ran and brought the daughter, and she soon confessed that they told her to pretend that the Jew had seized her, etc. The police went out into the streets of the town and dispersed the gathered mob and arrested several of them, and thus Wolbrom was saved from a pogrom. From then on, Reuben Frumer used to make the day a day of celebration to remember the event.
The situation for the Jews in Wolbrom was never wonderful, because of the anti-Semitism and the standing fear of potential enemies of the Jews, and many Wolbromer Jews searched for economical footings in other, healthier places. They thought the Zaglembie territory would be opportune, and they found employment there in all fields. Nevertheless, they did not settle down in poverty in Bendin and Sosnovits, and they took employment even in community affairs, and their representatives were in different unions and societies. They did much for their new fellowmen who searched for employment, and also founded loan- organizations to help with lending (without interest). The Wolbromer Jews excelled in their energy and drive to work, and their businesses in the Zaglembier towns served as main bridges to assist in the process of the Wolbromer emigration and settling their lives into the economy.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Wolbrom, Poland Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2013 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 4 Jun 2010 by LA