|Moshe Tsahi (Ciechanowski) Chairman|
|Haim Opatowski||Nehemia Deutschman|
|Mordehai Urshtein||Yehezkel Weinmann|
|Abraham Grinblat||Israel Yakobowitz|
|Book Committee in the U.S.A.|
|Haim Gershonowitz||Betty Davner|
|Baruch Goldberg||Sol Ryshpan|
|Editor: Shimon Kanc|
|Assistant Editor: M. Tsahi (Ciechanowski)|
Drawn by Moshe Tsahi (Ciechanowski)
|Edited by the Przedborzer Association In Israel and U.S.A.
|The Marketplace in the background, the Clock Tower|
Town in Kielce province, S. Central Poland. Jews lived in Przedborz from the time of the town's earliest development. At the beginning of the 15th century, urban population increased when King Ladislaw II, Jagello, granted the merchants of the town privileges according to the Magdeburg Law. In the years 1550 and 1570, King Sigismund II Augustus further aided the town's Jews by exempting them from customs duties and certain other payments. In 1595, King Sigismund III restricted their rights to own houses. The restriction was lifted, however, in 1638 when a fire destroyed the town and it had to be rebuilt. A second fire destroyed Przedborz in 1834. The Jewish population increased during the 19th century when Jews established trade relations with markets of the Russian empire. In 1865, about 75% of the town's population were Jews; in 1921, Jews numbered 3,749 (63%) of the total population.
Before the outbreak of World War II, there were about 4,500 Jews in Przedborz. The Jewish community was liquidated on October 9-12, 1942 when all Jews were deported to Treblinka death camp. After the war, the Jewish community of Przedborz was not reconstituted.
(drawn by Moshe Tsahi (Ciechanowski)
The ancient synagogue of Przedborz, which was a wooden structure, was counted among the most beautiful synagogues that Jews had built in central Poland. Art connoisseurs, Jews and gentiles alike came from all parts of Poland to observe the remarkable monument of the Jews of Przedborz. The synagogue has been described as a piece of art by both Jewish and Polish writers. It was built from a sort of pine tree which was worm-resistant. The walls were built of boards up to fourteen metres of length and thirty centimetres of width. One could imagine how tall the original tree must have been which, was also the strongest type of wood in the world.
The synagogue was situated on the bank of the Pilica River and had two entrances: one on the northern end and the other on the western one. The main entrance was on the northern end, through
which one came into a large square foyer. In the wall was fitted a Koneh made of iron one to lock around the neck and the other one to lock by the feet.
On the full height of the eastern-wall stood the holy-ark. This by itself was a true masterpiece with its carved crowns, birds and lions. Through a semi-circular window shone a dim light creating thus an atmosphere of awe and holiness.
The pulpit, steps leading to it from either side, decorated by beautiful wood-carvings, formed a magnificent piece of art in the centre of the synagogue.
|Inside the synagogue
The Eastern Wall with the Holy Ark
The entire combination was one of excellent harmony. In the Holy-Ark, where the Torah Scrolls were kept, scrolls were found whose origin dated back hundreds of years. Among the many Parocheths (curtains of the ark of the law) was one made of a Napoleonic flag bearing the national emblem on which the Polish Eagle was embroidered with gold threads. This Parocheth was hung only once a year on the Feast of the Torah.
There were many more antiques and religious articles made of silver and copper by Jewish artists in various periods. One of them was Yehudah Leib whose name was printed on one of the pieces of art together with the date 5520 (1760). That year, the synagogue went through a complete renovation and redecoration.
The synagogue was built on the site where, many years previously was situated the first synagogue which was completely destroyed by fire. The synagogue burnt down in 1636 and was rebuilt in the year 1638 (according to the Russian Jewish Encyclopaedia).
Among the many treasures of the synagogue were also some prayer-books and prayer-books for the Holidays written on parchment in a very ancient style and probably hundreds of years old.
The town Jews were proud of the treasures and treated them with great respect. The central Polish government, as well, proclaimed the synagogue of Przedborz as a place of high artistic value and entrusted it to the care of the special department in charge of the up-keeping of national historic sites.
The Shtibel of the Alexanderer Chassidim
The roots of the Alexanderer Chassidim lie in the 4th generation of Polish Chassidism. Following the teachings of Wurka, it was a Chassidism noted for its emotions and virtues, joy, brotherhood among the Chassidim and the love of the Torah. The Alexanderer Chassidim in Przedborz, contrary to the wit and fervour of the Gerer Chassidim, were known for their moderation and restraint, though they were quite fond of drinking which had the power of bringing people together. Any pretext was used to organize a Kidush; be
it on the Shabbath after the prayers, the Melaveh Malkah (a gathering on the conclusion of the Sabbath), a Yorzeit meal (a meal on the anniversary of the dead) or religious ceremonies. Sometimes they drank Lechaim even on a week day, between the afternoon and the evening prayers. There was always someone who undertook the organization of these festivities. In his time, it was Reb Berish Maltz, who was himself a member of the Amshinover Chassidim, but since
In the centre of the Synagogue
there was not a sufficient number of Amshinover Chassidim in the town to support a separate Shtibel, they joined the Alexanderer Chassidim and were members of the latter.
Reb Yankel Maltz, the brother of Reb Berish, was one of the town's wealthy citizens and supported generously the Shtibel of Alexanderer Chassidim. He donated great sums of money to cover its expenses.
Highly esteemed among the Alexanderer Chassidim was also Reb David Gotesman who attended regularly the Shabbath Services in spite of having to walk a great distance and to cross the bridge which connected both parts of the town. He was a wealthy man known for his charity and benevolence.
The Shitbel of the Radomsker Chassidim
The Shtibel of the Radomsker Chassidim was in the house of Reb Abraham Hernshtat (Abraham Chassid). Reb Abraham was fortunate enough to immigrate to Israel with his wife and settled in Petach Tikva where they died at a ripe old age. His house in Przedborz built of red bricks was situated in the market-place. Its entrance was through a tall arched gate leading to the yard.
The community of the Chassidim of Radomsk represented faithfully the various sections of the town's Jewish population. Among them were a small number of affluent people, some one-wealthy people, small merchants, shopkeepers and craftsmen. Most of these people were learned; some were Torah Scholars and there were even some prominent Talmudists.
The Chassidim of Radomsk, following the example of their rabbis' intense love of music, were great admirers of Chassidic songs and compositions. It was simply a spiritual delight to partake in their Third Meal (eaten on the termination of the Shabbath) and Melaveh-Malka and enjoy the traditional lovely melodies of Bnei-Heicholeh, Yedid-Nephesh, Kel-Mistater, etc., and the new melodies brought from the courtyards of the various Chassidic Rabbis of Sosnovitz, Modzitz, Amshinov and others. Rabbi Mosheh'l Chazan (the
Cantor), who, because of his obligations as the cantor of the synagogue, was unable to join the services in the Chassidic Shtibel, would attend regularly the Third-Meal, Melaveh-Malka, etc., and delight the public with his songs and hymns. Most of the participants had established claims on this hymn or the other. For instance: Reb Moshe Cahzan, Reb Meirel Krakowsky, Reb Alter Lauffer, Reb Joseph Baruch the Melamed, Reb Nechemia Zuker, Reb Israel Nachman's, Reb Shmuel Joseleh's, etc., the sons of Reb Leibush Dietchman and Reb Israel and Reb Yankel Nachman's, accompanied them with their youthful and pleasant voices.
The Shtibel of the Gerer Chassidim
The Shtibel of the Gerer Chassidim was situated in the small market-place (Maly Rinek). It was a low-ceiling house built of plastered wood and in a big courtyard. Its entrance was through an ancient gate supported on both sides by ancient buildings. Passing through the gate, your eyes would come upon the far wall an extremely thick stone wall, covered with moss which enclosed the yard from its northern end. In this wall there were two grilled openings and a closed gate, apparently a remnant of the castle of Kazimir the Great; for another part of the castle shaped like a sloped corner of a high stone wall, was just across the yard on the other side of the Bridge Street,. It supported Reb Emanuel Volinski's house on the corner of Konsk Road.
The Gerer Chassidim, mostly merchants, were Torah scholars, some of them outstanding ones, who considered themselves the elite of the town's Chassidim. Among them were: Rabbi Itcheh Meir Akiva's, Reb Moshe Yechiel Belzitsky, Reb Elazar Lichtenstein the rich, and his brother Reb Simcha the pauper, Reb Joseph Lipkeh and his son Shlomo, a fine young man, a scholar and a strict person (if you were sent to him for examination you were doomed to restlessness throughout that entire Shabbath). Reb Yosel Frish, Reb Abrahameli Zlotogorsky (my teacher), Reb Abraham Jonathan, the tutor (Melammed) who mastered a psychological approach which made
him beloved by all his pupils and Reb Shlomo Michael. The latter two were both sons-in-law of Reb Mendel Sinai.
The Gerer Shtibel was a place distinguished for its Torah learning. In the mornings and between the afternoon and evening prayers the attendants would learn the Daph Hayomi (daily page of the Talmud) and throughout the day the sound of the Torah could be heard from within its walls. Among those learning were also some young boys who were not included among the Gerer Chassidim. I myself spent a period there learning Torah by Noah Lichtenstein who immigrated to Israel in the thirties. Unfortunately, due to family obligations, he was forced to return to Poland where he perished in the Holocaust.
The Braslaver Chassidim
The Braslaver Chassidim mostly people of poor means did not own a Shtibel of their own. They used to pray by Reb Pinchasl, the Prodigy in Widama, which was situated in the western part of the town across the bridge of the Pilica River. Reb Pinchasl's father-in-law, Reb Alter Kupermintz, a wealthy Jew before World War I, was the owner of much property. When he purchased a son-in-law a prodigy of a high-born family, he dedicated one room of his spacious house, put in the Torah Scrolls and had it converted into a synagogue to enable Rabbi Pinchasl to dedicate himself to the studying of the Torah without the need to pray elsewhere. In the meantime, Reb Alterl died. Reb Pinchasl became a Chassid in Braslav and the Minyan (ten adult male Jews, the minimum for congregational prayer) turned gradually into the centre and prayer house of the Braslaver Chassidim.
The community of the Braslaver Chassidim in Przedborz was composed of various divisions and sections of Przedborz Jewry; from Rabbi Ephroiml, the Rabbi to Reb Hillel, the shoemaker, Reb Pinchasl the Prodigy and Reb Yeshaiahu the tailor; Reb Wolph Yaakov the tutor, Reb Yaakov Tenzer, the haberdashery shopkeeper; Reb Abraham Gancarsky who owned a small store of shoemakers' supplies, etc. But the remarkable fact about these Chassidim was their union, with no
trace of partition, neither a feeling of superiority nor one of inferiority. Everyone was equal and following every prayer, whether on the Shabbath or on festivals or every-day, they would all join in a dance imbued with emotions and yearnings, enthusiasm and soul poring. You could feel their hearts beating together and sense the sparks of the fire which was foreseen by Rabbi Nachman of Braslav more than a hundred years before.
How heart-breaking is the knowledge that none of these Jews survived except for Rabbi Ephroiml who had immigrated to Israel before the Holocaust.
We shall present here a world populated with towering spiritual figures: Zaddikim and great scholars who lived and served as spiritual leaders in Przedborz and whose influence extended as well to the entire Jewish Diaspora of Poland. Their life stories are extremely profound and extensive; their scope is impossible to perceive and many a lesson could be learned from every detail of their lives including their every-day conversations. All these people undoubtedly form but a fragment of the renowned Chassidic leaders of our hometown. For Przedborz, as is well-known, was an ancient Jewish community which was looked upon as the stronghold of Torah learning in Poland. It was the home of great Torah scholars and Chassidic leaders who were greatly admired by both the people of the community and the entire Polish Jewry.
Each of these magnificent personalities is a chapter in itself to study and to teach. Each of these towering figures symbolizes a unique way of life.
Rabbi Aaron of Przedborz, who lived in the 17th century, was, to our knowledge the first person to be appointed to the Rab-
binical seat of our town. It is not known from whom his position was inherited, however, it is established that he himself was a descendant of a distinguished family. He established various regulations in our town so as to safeguard the keeping of Jewish laws and also dedicated himself to assuring a high moral standard of the public.
Rabbi Naphtali Herz Landau
Rabbi Aaron was followed by Rabbi Naphtali Herz Landau who was the son-in-law of the renowned scholar, Rabbi Zvi Ashkenzei, the author of Chaham Zvi a book of Rabbinical Response. He was loved and trusted boundlessly by all the Jews of Przedborz.
Rabbi Shaul, the son of Rabbi Shmuel Landau
Rabbi Shaul, the son of Rabbi Shmuel Landau, lived in Przedborz in the 18th century. He was followed by Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Leib who later moved to the city of Dembitz where he was also considered by his admirers as an outstanding scholar. His son, Rabbi Isaac Moshe, was among the disciples of the Seer of Lublin. He followed in his father's footsteps and delved with much fervour in his search for the truth with regards the learning of the Torah as the driving force with which to achieve that goal.
Rabbi Natan Notah Eibeschitz
Rabbi Natan Notah Eibeschitz was appointed to the rabbinical seat after Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda. He was the nephew of the famous scholar, Rabbi Yehonathan Eibeschitz, who was the author of many books of Rabbinical Response: particularly noted for his book: Yaaroth Devash (Honeycombs). His Response and sayings, his speeches and argumentations were well-known for their profundity and wit.
After the decease of Rabbi Notah, Przedborz appointed Rabbi Yeshaya'leh as the town Rabbi. Rabbi Yeshayeleh the founder of the Chassidic dynasty of Przedborz-Rosphsha opened the Chassidic era of the Jewish community of Przedborz.
Mitnaggdim and Chassidim
In the dawn of the Chassidic movement the system of Tzaddik by heredity was nonexistent. Each Tzaddik was an authority by the rights of his own spiritual powers. Upon the death of the leader of the community, the leadership was passed over to his most prominent disciple; the one who was distinguished from the rest of the group and was referred to by his colleagues as The Ari of the Havurah (the greatest and most important in the group). The arrival of Rabbi Yeshayaleh to the rabbinical seat in Przedborz established a new procedure. From now on, leadership began to pass from father to son.
Rabbi Yeshayaleh was the only son of Rabbi Meir and the grandson of Rabbi ElyakimGetz. He was the first Chassidic rabbi of Przedborz which was considered for a long period the stronghold of the Mitnaggdim. They saw in the learning of the Torah a beginning and an end by itself and considered the Torah to be a guard and shield to all those who sought shelter in Judaism. The only world which existed for a Jew, according to their opinion, was the world of the Mishnah and the Talmud, the world of Rashi and the Tosafot, the world of the Shulhan Arukh (the authoritative code of Jewish laws) with all its sections, details and restrictions. Every ounce of Jewish though should be dedicated to the Torah, its knowledge and profound studying. The Torah should be pure with no mixture of outside ideas.
The Pious Jew (Rabbi Yaakov Isaac of Pshischa) and the story of Chassidism in Przedborz
With the passage of time, Przedborz turned into a distinguished Chassidic town and was called the Miniature EretzIsrael. Chassidism was no synonym to abstinence, to one's cutting oneself off from the joys of life; on the contrary, it symbolized a complete harmony with life. Chassidism served as an expression to a generation which longed for the revival of the heart and the awakening of the soul. The Pious Jew Rabbi Yaakov Isaac of Pshischa, was born and brought up in Przedborz. He was a disciple of the Rabbi of Przedborz,
Rabbi Leibush Harif, Dean of a rabbinical college and the author of the book Hidushel Maharah.
Rabbi Asher the father of the Pious Jew
The tomb of Rabbi Asher, the father of The Pious Jew stood in the ancient cemetery of Przedborz. He was a narrator in our town and Rabbi Yaakov Isaac, growing in poverty, was secretly accustomed from early childhood to independence and to facing all suffering and sorrow.
There were certainly social causes which influenced the spread and strengthening of the Chassidic movement in Przedborz. But on this point, Professor Buber is correct in noting that the economic development is but a fertilizer, while the seeds are supplied by the spirit. Thus, in our town, the sources of Chassidism were deeply buried in the soil of the belief and scholastic powers of the people of Przedborz the Mitnaggdim who put special stress upon a life of purity and abstinence, and were ready to sacrifice their lives for Sanctification of the Holy Name. When Rabbi Yeshayaleh was appointed as the town rabbi, Przedborz already had become a Chassidic town true to all the various trends and divisions of Chassidism.
During Rabbi Yeshayaleh's period, the Polish government issued a decree compelling all people to adopt second names and he chose for himself the name Weltfreid (the joy of eternity), obviously with good intentions. The name has remained unique ever since.
He passed away on the 17th of Elul 5991 (1831) being over seventy years of age. A Mausoleum was built atop his grave and many people came there to pray, particularly on the anniversary of his death. He left two daughters, an only son and manuscripts of commentaries on the Torah in Halacha and Aggadah, which were never published.
Rabbi Emanuel and Rabbi IssacharBer The Senior
Rabbi Emanuel, born in the year 5562 (1802) was so named by
instructions of the Seer of Lublin. He was the only son of Rabbi Yeshayaleh. In the year 5579 (1819) at the age of 17, he married Zviah, the daughter of Rabbi Israel who was the oldest son of the Seer of Lublin and his wife Hanaleh, the daughter of the holy Rabbi Duved'le, the brother of Rabbi Moshe of Pshevursk, the author of Or Pnei Moshe (the light of Moshe's face). Hanaleh was brought up in the household of Rabbi Elimelech, the Tzaddik of Lizansk and it was he who married her to Rabbi Israel of Lublin. Hanaleh, the wife of Rabbi Israel, passed away on the second day of Hanukah, the 26th of Kislev 5604 (1843).
Rabbi Emanuel refused to serve in his father's rabbinical chair immediately after his death, saying that he was too young. Therefore, Rabbi Issachar Ber, Rabbi of Radoshitz, was appointed as the Rabbi in Przedborz as well. He continued to live in Radoshitz but every year he would visit Przedborz and spend a few months there. A special rabbi gave his judgment in questions regarding the legal part of Jewish traditional life and was paid for his services by the congregation. The fee which the Senior received in Przedborz was passed on to his disciple, Rabbi Emanuel, by himself.
Rabbi Moshe of Lelov Senior President of Rabbinical Court in Przedborz
In the year 5603 (1843) after the decease of The Senior, Przedborz appointed Rabbi Moshe, the son of Rabbi David, the Tzaddik of Lelov and the soninlaw of the Pious Jew as the Senior President of its Rabbinical Court. Rabbi Emanuel inherited the Rabbinate only after Rabbi Moshe of Lelov left the Rabbinical office and immigrated to Israel in the year 5610 (1850). Many benefited from his sound counsel. In the year 5625 (1865) Rabbi Emanuel fell ill and went to seek the advice of specialists in Warsaw where he passed away on the 27th of Shvat at the age of 63. A mausoleum was erected on his grave where people prayed in time of trouble.
Rabbi Abraham Moshe of Rosspsha
Rabbi Moshe was a handsome and tall man. His appearance bespoke of splendour, grace and nobility. As is recounted, he was charitable and a humanitarian and he drew thousands of Chassidim. He gave particular attention to the simple people of the masses guiding them to follow the way of the Torah and its commandments; and he made many repent. He passed away on the 22nd of Elul 5678 (1918) at the age of 78 and his body was laid to rest in the Mausoleum of his grandfather, Rabbi Yeshayaleh.
He left five sons and five daughters who were brought up under his supervision to the Torah and Chassidic way of life and whose offspring were rabbis and great Torah scholars.
Rabbi Ephroim Zvi Krakovsky, called affectionately, Rabbi Ephroiml, was born in the year 5640 (1880) in Przedborz, the youngest son of Rabbi Alter BenZion.
Rabbi Ephroiml inherited the seat of his father in the rabbinate and together with Rabbi Nathan David Grinbaum (Rabbi Noseleh) and Rabbi Isaac Meir Elchanovitz (Rabbi Itcheh Meir Akiva's) formed the rabbinical court of the town from about the year 5670 (1910) until Rabbi Ephroiml's immigration to Israel.
To the Jews of Przedborz and the neighbourhood, Rabbi Ephroiml was much more than an ordinary rabbi, a renowned scholar loved by all. As far as the city's poor were concerned, he functioned as an institute, supplying them both with socialaid and a ready ear to attend to their troubles.
Rabbi Ephroiml was not only beloved by the people and devoted to fulfilling their needs, but he was known as well for his remarkable kindness to animals. After World War I, he lived for a period at the house of Rabbi Haim Marmelshtein on Krakovska Street. The yard of that house was populated with fowls which belonged to the Christian guard of the area. Preceding each meal, Rabbi Ephroiml used to scatter bread crumbs in front of the fowls. The fowls became accustomed to this practice and would keep watch at the house's entrance. As soon as he walked out the door they would follow him, flying in a column through the street, jumping on his shoulders. Rabbi Ephroiml didn't even attempt to disperse them, just as he would never chase away a fly which landed on his forehead while he was involved in learning.
Throughout his life and particularly after approaching the Braslaver Chassidim, Rabbi Ephroiml yearned to immigrate to Israel. While Reb Israelki Michalitz and his son Rab Hillel prepared for immigration to EretzIsrael in the year 5693 (1933), Rabbi Ephroiml wrote them: Could you possibly register me on your passport as a servant and, with Gd's will, I am prepared to serve you during the voyage so that this declaration would not be false, Gd forbid… and when we arrive in the Holy Land, you will have no further obligation towards me.
His longing for Israel was so great that he was ready to serve other people so as to enable himself to reach the Holy Land.
But even in this case, the benefit of others was held by him in
in the highest esteem. Some relatives caring for their personal interests came wailing to him demanding: Who will care for us? How dare you leave us behind? Pitying them, he notified Rabbi Israelki that he was forced to give up his dearest wish and must postpone the immigration to Israel until salvation came through different channels.
Indeed, the salvation did come. His stepson who left for a training Kibbutz, immigrated with his wife to Israel in the year 5694 (1934). Immediately upon their arrival they dedicated themselves to assure the immigration of Rabbi Ephroiml and his family. Some remarkable miracles took place on the way to achieve this goal.
Rabbi Ephroiml passed away on the 16th of Tevet 5706 (1946) and was buried in the plot of the Braslaver Chassidim on the OliveMount in Jerusalem.
Rabbi Noseleh's House
The house of Rabbi NathanDavid Grinbaum was open to whoever needed help. Indeed, many people wandered in to take care of various problems. They consulted the Rabbi in Halachic problems such as a drop of blood which was found in an egg, or a needle in the gizzard of a chicken; or they came for trials according to the Jewish Law concerning monetary disagreements, or to settle family quarrels. Some came from the towns surrounding Przedborz in order to arrange a letter of divorce. Sometimes a Jew on his way back from the morning prayers would come in to wish the Rabbi a good day. Even more hospitable than Rabbi Nathan David Grinbaum (called by everyone Rabbi Noseleh) was the Rabbi's wife Reizeleh, known for her warm hospitality.
Rabbi Noseleh was a remarkable scholar who did not limit himself in Halacha alone; he was well aware of what was going on in the world. He was greatly admired and appreciated by the whole population of Przedborz, including people from all levels of society and almost never encountered opposition. He was humble and was supported by the whole Jewish community. He was esteemed and beloved
By everyone and all, always respecting his fellowmen and causing satisfaction to whoever came in contact with him.
The Rabbi's wife, Reizeleh, a descendant of a rich and noble family from the district of Lublin, became successfully accustomed to life in the town and was on friendly terms with the majority of the population. She expressed her opinion on many general matters regarding the public and her opinion was taken into account.
She was noted as a sharpwitted woman. Her oldest son Ephraim received a good upbringing. He was a gifted man; a great scholar who came in contact with people and was knowledgeable both of Jewish and general history. He used to spend his days in the house of learning nearby, delving in the Talmudic discussions of Abayey and Rava. When he brought his friends home from the house of learning, they were instantly influenced by the liberal and noble atmosphere of the house initiated by the Rabbi's wife. This spirit fascinated the boys to such an extent that they became almost regular members of the household. This lasted until the coming of the Nazi oppressor cursed be he. During the process of disaster and destruction, this noble household, which was full of Torah and wisdom and saturated with belief, hope and vision, was wipedout, together with the masses of the Jewish population of Eastern Europe.
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