The History of Radomsk
by T. M. Rabinowicz
A. The Oldest Times
The city of Radomsk is one of the oldest settlements in Poland; its name comes from the river Radomka, which flows in the region. At the beginning, the city was called Radomsko, later Radomsk, and in the 19th century the Russians gave it the name Noworadomsk. With the re-establishment of Poland after the First World War, she returned to her old name: Radomsko.
Radomsko was already known as a settlement in the 11th and 12th centuries. Poland was then a typical feudal country, divided into feudal princely states: Radomsko belonged to the Sieradz principality. The feudal castle in Sieradz [at that time] ruled over the settlement: Warta, Lask, Radomsko, and the neighboring settlements: Kowalowice, Brzeznica, Wazniki, etc. The first official document about the city comes from 1243 and in it is mentioned Konrad I, Prince of Krakow and Lentshitz? [and] the new Radomsko settlement, in relation to the privileges given to the Dominican monks.
However an extremely important document originated in the year 1266 and was authored by the Sieradz Duke, Leshik the Black. In [this] document all the privileges were [listed] which were given to the Radomsker inhabitants. This document gives us picture of the life in the Polish settlements in the 13th century. The suburbs around the settlement were covered with thick forests and the inhabitants [obtained their sustenance] through fishing and hunting. They [cleared] the forest and it was gradually transformed into agricultural areas for the princely court. As a result, artisans were found [there]: shoemakers, blacksmiths, etc., who were obliged to provide their work to the prince. Internal trade was not developed. Money had meager use as a medium of exchange and [goods were the means of exchange].
According to the [above] mentioned document from the year 1266, the [prince] received the right of sovereignty over the Radomsk community, for a payment of 20 grivenes (10 kopecks) which went through [the right of] inheritance to his children. The residents were freed from having to pay taxes during the course of 3 years in relation to agricultural areas, and during the course of 12 years in relation to forest areas. After [this] said term, it was necessary to pay the princely [treasury] four pieces of silver for every field (30 acres, nearly 150 dunam). The inhabitants were obliged to pay taxes to the city management. The municipal artisans butchers, shoemakers, bakers and the mill owner by the Radomka River-were freed from paying. The city residents enjoyed the right to hunt animals in the surrounding forests.
Special coins, [which] were minted by the duke, served as [the coinage] which the residents were obliged to use.
The lord also had the right of judgment, punishment and carrying out death sentences with the sword.
The designated privileges were given in Melushin in the presence of the military, the finance minister and his treasurer [and] also of the vice-secretary and his representatives. The document [which] was written on parchment was found during [this] century in the Radomsk City Archives. Its writers have remained anonymous.
With the consolidation of the Polish kingdom in the 14th, the land was divided into wojewodztwa (provinces). Radomsk and the [towns in its] vicinity were included in the Province of Sieradz and that is how it remained until the 18th century. The city of Radomsk itself was transformed into a 'princely city' with special privileges in the area of self-government [and] legal and economic [matters]. In 1466 the privileges of the city of Radomsk were [ratified] by Kazimierz Jagiel Lonczyk and in 1511 by King Zigmund the First.
In the 17thand 18thcenturies, Radomsk also suffered from the [same] general decline of the Polish State. At the end of the 18th century (1780) King Stanislaw August established a special commission assigned to elevate the status of the Polish State. This commission visited Radomsk (in 1785) and on the basis of a special map created the boundaries of the city and of the suburb Bugai. The previous year's Siem had also established a commission for State Affairs which visited Radomsk and resulted in the decision that established three powiats (counties or districts) in the Sieradz Wojewodztwo with the cities Sieradz, Piotrokow, Sadek and Radomsko.
After the Partition of Poland (1793) Radomsk found itself under Prussian rule. The occupied area was divided into "departments" and Radomsk belonged to the Kaliszer Department. This division existed until the year 1806, when the Prussians left Poland and even later [as the "Warsaw Duchy."]
With the return of the Russians
in 1816, [the] new administrative division, the [Kingdom] of Poland, organized
a Russian police [force] in the city and gradually brought in various changes
with a view towards Russifying the former Polish realm. In 1837 Poland was
[divided into] provinces or województwos and gubernias.
[At] first Radomsk [was part of] the Kalisher gubernia, in 1845 [it was
transferred to] the Warsaw gubernia , and in 1867 [it became part
of the] Piotrkow gubernia. The city proper had strong growth and it
was transformed into a District city with a new name: Nowo-Radomsko.
This situation lasted until the year 1914 namely until the First World
In that year Radomsko was taken by the Austrian [forces]. In 1915 the occupation authorities divided the territory into sections, and Piotrokow and Radomsk were subject to the Lublin Governor-General. In 1918 the Polish Republic was established. Radomsko was again transformed into a district-city of the Lodz Military Wojewodztwo.
In 1939, there was the outbreak of another world war and Radomsko was
under Nazi occupation [for the duration of the war], until the hour of the Nazi
defeat by the Allied nations in 1945.
During the course of a
generation in Radomsko a small [Jewish] settlement [developed] and at the
beginning of the 19th century (1808) [the city] had a [total] population of
1108 people. In [the 19th century,] there was strong development in the city.
By 1827, the number of inhabitants had increased to 1792 people (including 369
Jews), in 1858: 3605 inhabitants (1554 Jews), in 1897 the population had
already reached 11, 761 (including 5054 Jews 43%) and in 1921 the population
had reached 18,732 (7,774 Jews 41.5%). Before the Second World War the
general population was counted as 25,000 people, [with about] 10,000 Jews.
The Economic Life
Radomsko, which from the start of the Middle Ages was surrounded by forests, developed during the course of the century into a commercial and trade center for the surrounding rural locale. In the 19th century strong growth increased the importance of Radomsko so that it became a district-city (1867) and especially when the railroad line was built between Warsaw-Krakow-Vienna. The city found itself between the Piotrkow train station on one side and the Czestochowa station on the other side. Schools, hospitals, a Circuit Court and district offices were opened, which served [all the villages in the vicinity]. In the city, trade and industry also developed. Two bent furniture factories and a wool factory were built, which employed 961 workers. Radomsk furniture was exported from Odessa to the Caucasus and Asia Minor. The wool was sold in Bialystok. In addition, Radomsko was a center of grain marketing in the vicinity. The grain was exported to Prussia. In the city were found hotels and about 110 businesses.
The market, from which
[radiated] 11 brick streets, was located in the center of town. There were
approximately 4000 houses. Radomsko became the trading center for the
surrounding shtetlech: Przedborz, Plawno, Wolin, Wloszczowa,
Koniecpol, Pajeczno, etc.
B. The Beginning of the Jewish Community in Radomsk
The beginning of the Jewish community in Radomsk is [hidden] in a mist. The Archive of the old city was burned during the big fire of 1624. The documents [granting] the first privilege[s] which were given to the city in 1266 by Leshek the Black were [lost in] smoke at the same time. [No longer kept out] several Jews were already living in Radomsko during the 16th and 17th century, mainly in the neighboring village of Bugai.
After the previously mentioned edict, the Polish residents pressed for a 'privilege,' which would ban the Jews from settling in the city, and they achieved this. According [to] the 'privilege' received from King Wladyslaw the Fourth, the Jews were banned from settling in Radomsko.(1643). This privilege was valid until 1862. During that whole epoch a Jewish settlement with a shul existed in Bugai. The number of Jews was small and up to the end of the 18th century (1765) there was in the whole of the Sieradz Wojewodztwo (province) not more than 4950 Jewish inhabitants. This number included the Jews from the towns: Lask, Warta, Dobra, Blaski, Lutomiersk, Piotrkow, Koniecpol, Kaminsk, Przedborz. According to the official census of 1808, there were 1808 (the number is correct) Christian inhabitants and not any Jews ([they were, in effect, living in Bugai]). By the second official census of 1827 the city [contained] 1792 inhabitants including 369 Jews. The Jews didn't live in the city itself, but outside its boundaries. Because of the ban against living in Radomsk, they called the city "treif mkum" (unkosher place). A similar situation [occurred in] a lot of [other] Polish cities. The Jews settled in the neighboring areas of the places that was forbidden to them, in the surrounding landlord's estates and villages and they came into the city only because of the business which they [had to do]. Such settlements were founded in Rozprza near Piotrkow, Przytyk near Radom, Boblik near Samber, etc. In addition these settlements were thorns in the eyes of the Polish city dwellers who constantly [presented] protests to the king and the Siem. These protests for the most part were futile, because the lords were interested in keeping the Jewish settlement near them [because they were] a source of income.
First, the Jewish settlement in Radomsk belonged to the adjacent Pzredborz community and their dead were brought for burial to the Sulmierzycer cemetery. In this era, the Jewish population spread through the villages that had started adjacent to the larger communities. In the Jewish history in Poland there were known to be a lot of cases in which the Jewish settlements were able to free themselves from the guardianship of the neighboring communities after long disagreements and disputes.
A similar situation originated in the 18th century in Radomsko. In Bugai bit by bit a Jewish settlement grew up with a shul, a mikvah and their own rabbi. Striving to [build up] a separate community with its own communal institutions, the Radomsko settlement built their own shul and a mikvah and started to pay taxes to the Przedborz community.
The Bugai Jews weren't actually
permitted to trade in Radomsk, but the [reality of] life was stronger than the
law. The Jews had consulted with different police agents and [tried various]
remedies in order to [get around] the law and heartily traded with the surrounding peasants.
The community grew [steadily] and the whole economy developed well.
The year 1821 brought with it a significant change in the situation of the Polish Jews. Polish society was under the [continuing] influence of the French Revolution for almost thirty years [which] led first to the four year Siem and later in the different occupied realms [to] an incessant debate about the rights of the Polish Jews. Liberal views were permitted to be heard about the need for direction in educating the young Jewish population in Polish schools, to bring them closer to Polish society and to assimilate them. The proponents of the old "traditional" opinions took a stand which desired still more to limit Jewish rights, to expel the Jews from the villages and to block them [from] the way to new sources of [earning a] living. Although there were various projects dealing with equal rights and the like, in general nothing happened. Yet something did occur: the Jewish community and its elders, unchanged in form for generations, was [disbanded]. The community was always a thorn in the eyes of the Jewish enemies and, anyway, in the eyes of the Jewish assimilationists and the Maskilim, which saw in them a fortress of Jewish nationalist and religious solidarity which they strove with all [their] strength to eradicate.
In 1821 Jewish kehileus (organized Jewish communities) were abolished in Congress Poland and in their place shul committees were established in which were represented the Rabbi and three gabaim (trustees). In practice these committees had enough latitude to compensate and fulfill the functions of the former kehileus. They had the right to tax the Jewish population and to collect taxes with the help of the City Council and the village judges (bailiffs). The shul committee was a legal administrative body and bore the character of an official public institution.
The first document which throws a light on the history of the Radomsk Jews in the [1820's] is the report the 'shul committee' presented to the regime about its activities and this is the contents (translated from Polish):
The shul committee was employed in 1822 with the collection of the receipts from the shul.
In accordance with the regulations from the Piotrkow County Manager of 1.11.1828 (November 1, 1828) and of the representative [with authority] over the town in the same county, of 19.1.1829 (January 19, 1829) the Radomsk municipal office carried out on 3.3.1829 a check of the accounts of the shul committee for the years 1821-1825 (inclusive) and also listened to the opinions of distinguished residents of the Jewish religion.
One result coming out of the 1822-1825 era is that the shul committee did not [have any cash surplus] and in 1826 the committee showed a surplus of five gilden.
The cited prominent residents of the Jewish religion were:
N. Brandeis, Josek (Josef) Birger, Wolf Rozenstein, Herszl Ru-Araham Epshtein, Herszlik Grosberg, Eliahu Rozenstein, Zinfeld, Israel Gliksman, Abraham Grosman, Aron (Ahron) Sobel, Efraim Altman, Lewek (Leib) Altman, Dawid Gliksman, Josef Sklarczyk, Aizyk-Kopel Rapoport, Wolf Lubelski.
[They] asserted that in the years 1822-1824 there hadn't been any distinct expenses and income in support of the shul, the rabbi and the shochet.
As permitted by statute, the salaries of the rabbi, the Shamos and the other leaders of the shulcommittee were paid from the receipts from the shul cashbox and from the religious activities of the shul.
The community leaders did not pay any special duties (taxes).
The treasurer of the shul committee in 1829 was Hersz Besser. The committee
distributed [to] the poor two measures flour.
|1. From donations in the school twice weekly||30 gilden|
|2. From estrog and lulav||(erased)|
|3. From worshipers on Yom Kippur||27 gilden|
|4. From the pushke||12.25 gilden|
|2. From Leaseholders|
|1. Payments for Kosher meat from Gabriel Goldberg||62 gilden|
|2. Payments for 13 seats in the shul from Nahaman Brand||36 gilden|
|3. Payments for seats near the Holy Ark||10 gilden|
|3. [Miscellaneous] Income|
|1. From wax which is leftover from the Yom Kippur candles||12 gilden|
|2. From weddings||30 gilden|
|3. From aleiyas||36 gilden|
|4. From wheat money ('contributions for providing the poor with Passover cakes)||32 gilden|
|5. From obligations (pledges) from all community members||649 gilden|
|1. Balance||5 gilden|
|2. Personal salaries (pensions)|
|1. For Rabbi Johanan Kligerman||200 [gilden]|
|2. The Treasurer Krulikewitsh||120 [gilden]|
|3. The Cantor Wolf Lubelski||72 [gilden]|
|4. The Shamos Leizer Pelman||150 [gilden]|
|5. The Bal Koyre Wolf Zeidman (reader of the Torah in the Synagogue")||50 [gilden]|
|6. The Hospital Overseer Herszel Spitelnik||25 [gilden]|
|3.||[In addition] Maintaining the Synagogue|
|1. For 100 pounds candles||80 [gilden]|
|2. For the ethrog from Wolf Shoykhet||24 [gilden]|
|3. Straw on the ground, Yom Kippur in the Synagogue|
|4. Writing materials for the Committee and Treasurer||36 [gilden]|
|5. or the Woyewodisher Special newspaper||10 [gilden]|
|1.||Charges for the Synagogue site||15 gr[oshen] 4 [gilden]|
|2.||For cleaning the chimneys, (preparations) (?) and fire extinguisher according to the certification of Bugai village baliff (on the place where the Synagogue is located).||24 [gilden]|
|5. Support for the Poor [people]|
|1.||Three sacks of flour on Passover ("Passover flour"*)
* "flour distributed tothe poor on for Passover"
|2.||Support for the local poor [people and those who are] strangers|
|6. Other expenses||15 gr[oshen]|
|Signed by the Treasurer Krulikewitsh and the members from the Radomsk Synagogue
Mair Brandes/Abraham Beser/Shmul Zilbershatz
From this document and from the statistical data, we can paint a picture of Jewish life in Radomsk at the start of the 19th century. The settlement totaled approximately 400 Jews. They had a Synagogue committee, which carried on all [the] functions of a community. Official[ly it] was asked to collect special taxes [which were] advantageous to the community, different taxes. The community consistently had a teacher, a pious man named Reb. Johanan Kligerman and of the other ecclesiastical offices [there] was a cantor, a Bal Koyre(reader of the Torah), a shamas (caretaker), a shochet (ritual slaughter), a treasurer of the committee and a secretary. All were partly paid.
The Jews lived on the borders of the suburb Bugai, which was [separated] from the city of Radomsk by a special entrance with a gate. At the gate a Jewish guard [stood watch].
Charitable activity was also carried on. There was a distribution of flour for the poor,
collections of Moes-khitim (alms for providing the poor with their Passover needs for
Passover, [money to provide support] for the local [poor] and [for] poor strangers, and [for] the
Jewish hospital and the separate hospital overseer (shpitolnik), (perhaps, here was meant the
Bikur Holim), and medical help in the form of a "lines-(ha)tze'dim"
(hospital for the poor) and the like.
C. The Jewish Population in the 19th Century (1830-1900)
In 1832 a new influence began in the life of the Radomsk Jews. The number of Jews living in the city constantly grew. The community decided to hire a rabbi and a president of the Tribunal and chose Rabbi Shloma Hacohen from Wloszczowa whom they were obligated to pay a stable salary, 15 Polish gilden, rent a special apartment for him and so forth. The document that the Radomsk community sent to the Rabbi describes the outpouring of joy that they were worthy in the end of becoming an important Jewish cultural center.
From the beginning Rabbi Shloma did not want to take upon himself the yoke of the Rabbinate. His rebbes and Hasidim and separate[ly] Rabbi Dov Ber from Radoszyce, advised him to accept the Rabbinate, assuring him that in honor of his sacred activities he would soon no longer suffer from the trouble or worry of raising children. Rabbi Shloma decided to travel to Radomsk and stay there several weeks, in order to meet the residents, and only then first decide if he would [accept] the Rabbinate.
The flowery answer of the Radomsk community to Rabbi Sholma's letter describes the following characteristic conditions of the Rabbinate in the community in the past.
[From] all of the income from the rabbinate, namely [the fees from betrothals, weddings, etc.] from our town and from the vicinity, the rabbi would take three fourths and the Keheilah officials would receive the [remaining] fourth.
Sandekus (the person holding the child at circumcision) and Sedor-Kodushin (prayer books for marriage ceremonies) for here and for the district were of concern to the Rabbi. In the event when it would be the goodwill of the residents of our city to be honored with mitsves of holding the child for a circumcision for another, he was obliged to give the above-mentioned rabbi three gilden.
For Succoth each year, the community was obliged to rent rooms for him as a gift.
The inhabitants of our town were obliged to endeavor to [keep] him from standing [with] someone whom the "sond" (correct) found guilty [and] to take a solemn oath to put someone else in his place.
The community members were obliged to make an effort to obtain for the above-mentioned rabbi a Rabbinate concession [granting him] permission to transfer here at the expense of the community.
The Rabbi's, may he live to see happy days, wife would be permitted to [conduct business] in our town [for as long as] she wanted to.
[As soon] as Reb Solomon was accepted as the Rabbi of all of Radomsk, he, as it
is told, [recited] the Posek: 'Lord hearken unto my voice; Let
Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.' (Psalm 130:2)
In this posek the Radomsk residents and Hasidim later saw an allusion to the rapid economic development of the Radomsk Community, when from a [small number] of Jews [it became] one of the rich and respected communities in the Jewish world. A great deal of industry developed here and [both] the general and the Jewish population [exploded]. Radomsk became a center of Hasidism ('Justice will spread far') and 'a superb place which wore the gaze of tens of thousands.' The new rabbi particularly endeavored to lift the spiritual position of the constantly growing community. In the first drosh (sermon) that he gave on Rosh Hashanah after coming to Radomsk, he spoke with 'flame-fiery words' about the secret of the answer to lifting the, for the most part, fallen people, who had already withdrawn from Judaism:
'[There are] those who were disappointed with the answer then stated: it is not possible to do the charity after the transgressions which I had done and even when I should fast the fasts and do charity my whole life it is not possible to correct that which I have badly done It is said in Ezekiel 30:3, "For the day is near, Even the day of the LORD is near, A day of clouds, it shall be the time of the nations." And if the person doesn't want to have, G-d forbid, any remedy, what is his life for? If everything that the Holy One, blessed be He, created in His world He created because of His divine [plan], where it is written: 'whoever is called in my name to my honor was created, etc.' The purpose of the creation of man is only because of this, that he should turn away from evil ways and towards a purpose. 'G-d gives to them sustenance and returns to them their soul everyday. Every person, even the simple folk, have four levels of the soul corresponding to the four letters of G-d's name." And of that it is said 'Since G-d walks in the midst of your camps" the folk are the body and soul which [is] in peoples' body. The G-dly strength is that which awakens a person's soul to teshivah (repentance). This strength finds itself in every person where he wouldn't find it himself.'
The place of teshivah had influence over the leaders of the community. They strengthened themselves in Torah and Tefillah (prayers), erected the Torah Institutions and the influence of their rabbi grew from day to day. He reformed many institutions in the town to strengthen Judaism. Through his initiative many associations were established, among them the 'Psalm Society' which was founded in 1839 and from which institutions there remained writings. The society members took upon themselves, with the approval of the president of the tribunal our community, may he live to see happy days, 'to be among those who make sure to daven every morning. We took upon ourselves rising in the early morning [each day for] a whole week, collecting ourselves in a given spot in order to glorify and to praise the Creator through saying the Psalms for Tefillah Shris (Morning prayers).' A few years passed and Rabbi Shloma of Radomsk became one of the most famous rabbis in Poland and [people came to him for help] in general matters and in matters of Halakah and Hasidism.
After a short time a dein (assistant to the rabbi, charged with deciding questions of ritual cleanliness and settling minor disputes) was also engaged, Reb Joel, a grandson of Reb Joel Sirksh, beli-btim (proprietor, boss). After which Reb Sholom became the Radomsker admu"r (our lord, teacher and master [title of a Hasidic rabbbi]) (about 1851) and Radomsk became a center of Torah and Hasidism. Hasidim [numbering] in the hundreds and thousands would come to the city. Large masses of Jews would come particularly on Yom-tovim, Shavous and [the] Days of Awe. This also had an economic significance for the city. Hotels and guesthouses opened for [those traveling through] and for poor guests on Shabas and Yom-tov.
The economic significance, of the city of Radomsk particularly, grew with the
building of the Warsaw-Vienna train line (1845) which went through the city.
The Radomsk station served the whole [surrounding area], it was located 177
verstn [or 116.82 miles] (verst: a measure of distance formerly
used in Russian equal to about .66 of a mile) from Warsaw, 40 verstn
[or 26.4 miles] from Piotrkow, and 40 verstn [or 26.4 miles] from
Czenstochow. The city became a trade center for the whole
area. From every town [in the area], from the old Jewish communities:
Przedborz, Brzeznica, Rozprza, Plawno, Sulmierzyce, Kamiensk, etc., [people]
came for trade to Radomsk and a large number of residents from the
shtetlech settled [here]. The statistics from Przedborz, neighboring Radomsk, proved
that the number of Jews there didn't grow, but [in fact] the number continued
to get smaller. [There was a] similar situation in the other
shtetlech around Radomsk. Radomsk built itself from the ruins of the smaller
D. Economic rise (1834-1862)
A big change in the economic and political situation of the Radomsk community
occurred after the Crimean War and the liberal reforms of the Russian Czar
Aleksander II. In 1861 the Czar nominated Count Wielopolski as the overseer of
Poland. Wielopolski believed that it was necessary to better the position of
the Polish Jews whom he had seen [as] third [world]. In June 1862 the Czar
[issued] an edict which partially [granted] the Jews equal rights. The
intention was to befriend the Jews and to create a split between them and the
Poles. In the same year, Alexander II issued a decree that permitted the Jews:
With the political liberation came the start of the economic boom due to the
[close proximity] of Radomsk to the Warsaw-Vienna train line. Radomsk became a
magnet for all the shtetlech in the vicinity and industrial and [marketing]
enterprises came into [being]. Radomsk became the center of 'folk-driven'
Hasidism, an heir of Hasidism that was [created through the] "visionary"
in Lublin, and Rabbi Meir After. After the death of Rabbi Dov Ber of Radziechowice
and after the aliyah of Rabbi Moshe Lelow to Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Solomon
remained the only "Hasidic teacher and master" in the whole area. His
fame reached as far as Western Galicia. Thousands of Hasidim would come to
Radomsk from the Krakow region (Auschwitz, Kishinev, Chebin etc.). The small
Bet Midrish soon became too small for the masses of Hasidim who
[traveled] here from all corners of Poland. In 1861 the new special
Beth Midrish was built (the Reb's Bet Hamidrish), a large
uilding which could hold thousands of Hasidim.
The crowds were particularly big on the Sabbaths and holidays. Four thousand Jews would usually come for Shavous from all corners of Poland and Galicia. The number of visiting Hasidim outnumbered those living in the town. The visitors effected the development of commerce in the town. The Radomsk Jews saw in the economic development of the community a miracle from the tzadek (holy man) who occupied the chair of the Rabbi and Rebbe in their town.
E. The Uprising of 1863
The attempts by Count Wielopolski to calm the Poles were not successful. On the 22 of January 1863, an uprising broke out against Russian rule. The National-Radomskonary government had proclaimed in their first declaration, equal rights for all residents of the country without discrimination [as to their] beliefs and standing. In all jurisdictions of the country camps [arose] and the Jews participated in them on the side of the Poles. True, the majority of the Jewish inhabitants were not happy with the uprising. The disturbances brought losses to the merchants and [to] industries that had begun in the 1850's and [in] the beginning of the 1860's. However, the Enlightened and the Poles from the common people participated in the uprising with enthusiasm. The religious Jews and Hasidim silently thought of the uprising as a misfortune from heaven. They found themselves, however, "between a hammer and an anvil." Closely linked with the Poles, the Jews helped the uprising with money and in other ways. The [fervent] activities of Reb Dov-Berish Meizels on behalf of the Polish uprising are known. The Warsaw rabbis participated in a demonstration against the Russian regime. In the synagogues, prayers [were said] for victory for Poland and the Polish national hymn was sung.
In the suburbs of Radomsk, too, the uprising brought with it a lot of misfortune for the Jews. As a result of the neglect of one side, which is an attendant manifestation of uprisings, and the might of the regime on the other side, [there was many cases of looting]. In general, the relations between the Jews and [those in the uprising] were good. The Polish landlords would come to Reb Solomon Hacohan as it was told "to ask him for advice when unrest would occur in the land among the Jews" and the pusik (verse from the Scriptures) was for him fulfilled in "All the nations of the world will see the name of God upon you and they will fear you." According to the Hasidic narratives, Reb Solomon Hacohan rescued a lot of Jews from the rebel's hand. Reb Aron Markus tells, that he heard from [Reb Hacohan] himself by the Shabasdiker table, a long time before the uprising, words of encouragement when he said: "As long as you see the above mentioned hand, you shouldn't have any fear. Later, it will happen what will happen; it should at least be with mercy."
The legend says that during the rebellion, the rebels came near to capturing the owner of the Plawno estate, which was located next to Radomsk. The wife and members of the household left quickly for Radomsk. They pleaded strongly with Reb Solomon for the liberation of their father and husband from the rebels' hands. [They begged] Hacohan to take pity on them and right the wrong, which was Reb Solomon's usual way. [He] was angry with them, [but] finally they were advised to give a large sum in ransom for the benefit of the rebels, in promise that [Reb Hacohan] would return and the [rebels] would leave with this money. The family bargained with the rebels and told him to pay a ransom in the amount of eight thousand rubles.
The leader of the rebel detachment, a Polish landowner, who collected the money, heard that the Rabomsker 'prophet' had told [them] to give the money to the rebels. This pleased him and he didn't give the money to the rebel committee, but hid it in a sealed envelope on which was written the amount and from whom it came.
Shortly after that, General Bremzen, leading a section of Cossacks, attacked the estate of the Radomsk landowner and when [a survey was made in the landowner's] house, the envelope with the money which was destined for the Polish rebellion was found. The general immediately said to bring to him the rich Jew from Plawno. He was put in chains and accused of helping the rebels.
And later, they ran with tears in the eyes to Reb Solomon Hacohan, to ask him
for advice. Reb Solomon told them to go the Russian general and to tell him the
whole history of how the money was extorted from them after the capture of the
Jews. When the general heard [the story], the rich man's family was sent to him
through the Radomsker Tzadek. [The general] had 'not wanted to cause any
trouble.' He said to free the rich man and, even, gave him back the money. And
that is how the Tzadek's blessing was fulfilled.
F. The city to the end of the 19th century (1863-1897)
After several months of campaigns, the Czarist military dominated the situation
and suppressed the rebellion. The Polish Jewish brotherhood which was born in
the years of the rebellion [continued] and brought with it assimilationist
tendencies in Jewish society in Congress Poland. [In addition], economic
prosperity was not disrupted. The liberation of the peasants [caused] the
Polish landowners to change their way of living and turn to new professions.
They started to trade and primarily became involved in industry. Poland
started to industrialize. Lodz became a center of the textile industry and,
within a short time, the Jewish community there grew to one hundred thousand
souls. Other industrial branches developed in the Polish State. The country
became a gravitational point for the Litvaker Jews (Lithuanians) who settled by
the tens of thousands in all parts of Poland. The earlier liberation became a
[stimulus] for local production. Exports to Russia grew and this [led] to the
development of industry and [to its] growth. The above mentioned economic boom
did not [bypass] Radomsk. It is here [that] the furniture factory of the Thonet
Brothers of Vienna was established, which created nearly a thousand jobs in the
Thonet Brothers of Vienna factory and the oil cloth factory of Ruzshevitch,
True, the factory workers were Polish, but also a large number of Jewish women and girls came home to work and twist chairs for Thonet's Factory. The majority of the Jews in the city [were occupied] with selling and trade. The city was a trade center for the local workers and for the peasants from the adjacent villages who would come to the city for the weekly fairs. A thin stratum of rich Jews supplied the government with timber, and so forth. The total inhabitants of the city grew in 1897 to 11, 767 and the number of Jews to 5,054, in other words 43% of the total population.
G. The community (congregation) and their representatives
In the internal life of Radomsk's Jews there weren't any noticable changes. The city found itself substantially under the influence of Hasidism, the rabbis' house and the houses of the pious men. Reb Solomon Hacohen died in 1866 and his place was taken by Tzvi Meir Hacohen, as Rabbi and president of the tribunal, and Reb Issachar Hacohen, as "teacher and master."
Every three years representatives were elected to head the community. The voting took place in the shul or in the Beis Midrash in the presence of the government's representative, who never interfered in the choice of the leader of the community. The election [contest] [for] the leadership [of] the community was between the local rich men, 'respectable men,' half-enlightened Jews, who had the right to own their own homes. This was Herszl Bankir, Josef Hersz Shatz, Fiszel Danski, Gabryel Goldberg, Izrael Recterman, Meir Rozenbaum, Judge Berish Fershter, etc. Their principal task was collection of the Jewish community taxes from the community (keheilah) members. They also represented the community before the authorities.
In addition to the official community, there were also several philanthropic and service institutions, such as the Khevre Kedishe (the voluntary burial society), the Talmud Torah, the Hakhnoses-Orkhim (the Sabbath bath shelter for poor wanderers), etc. In general, community life flowed [smoothly] and only from time to time do we read about it in the Hebrew press of that period. We [might] read in Hatzfira* and Hameilitz**, a corresponden[t's report] about an extraordinary instance, for example, about the big explosion of a barrel of dynamite during which eight people were killed and five [were] wounded. A school was located in the vicinity, but with luck the children were let out shortly before the explosion.
* "The Dawn", Hebrew periodical, published in Warsaw, with
interruptions between 1862 and 1931.
** "The Defender", name of the first Hebrew periodical in Russia, published in Odessa in 1860; from 1866 to 1904 a daily newspaper in Petersburg.
Other correspondents in the press describe the various forms of philanthropic activity [and] religious celebrations that made an impression in the city and the like. From the above-mentioned correspondents we know who the active doers were and [who were] the influential people in the city.
Here is an interesting corresponden[t's report] for 1893 which describes the life of the Russian soldier in the Radomsk military garrison and tells about an old Jewish soldier, who participated in a lot of campaigns.
"In the city of Noworadomsk, this day, on the hundredth anniversary of his [birth, [there] died a military tailor from Plock who was stationed [in Radomsk]]. His name was Kahan. From the day he entered the military--i.e. from his twentieth yearuntil his death, he earned his living as a military tailor. During his lifetime, the deceased participated in a lot of wars waged by our military. While still serving in the military he arranged for the writing of a Sefer Torah and thanks to him, the Jewish soldiers davened in public during the Sovestipol War. The Sefer Torah was presented before his death to the soldiers serving in the military. The leader of the division Turnovski commanded that the wishes of the dead [tailor] be carried out and the Sefer Torah was carried with singing and dancing from the city shul under a prepared [canopy]. After yom-tov, the Jewish soldiers wanted to take the canopy with them to the field-camps in which they would find themselves during the summer months.'
In the same year we find a report from B. Statler, the Radomsk contributor for the Hatzfira, about a 'culture-fight' in the city. The Rasha-kool (the leader of the community) Mr. Bankir, a Jew, a powerful maskl (an adherent of the Jewish Enlightenment, Haskalah), once argued with a wandering magid (preacher) who gave a droshe (sermon) about the masklim.
'The previous weekit was told in the report'one of the magidim who wander from town to town traveled through our city Radomsk. He started a big commotion and uproar against the masklim who read devilish seferim with the sermon he gave in shul. He proclaimed to the community, that he would stand against those who do bad [because they are responsible for all the evil found in our city. During the course of several months several hundred children died in the city. He also [spoke against] the masklim in strong, haughty language, [against] their books and readings from which our city, one should understand, is not free. [He was moved] to say such strong words by the fact that someone tore down from the shul wall the note in which the magid [displayed] the Maymer Khazal ' (Aphorisms of the learned which are recalled in the Talmud): 'A wise talmid may exploit himself.' He strongly praised himself and he unleashed his whole wrath on the Enlightened.
'A large thank you [is owed] to the leader of the community from our city. Mr. Bankir informed himself about the magid, he closed the mouth of the ass and on the holy Shabbos cried out from the synagogue reading desk, that Jews don't want such sermons and the doors of the shul were closed to this Mishrim magid. His name is not known, because for an unknown reason he conceals it and he calls himself 'the Polish magid.' His home city is Biala and his speech is similar to the Lithuanian speech.'
In another report it is told about the group [among] the community leaders who do not help the leader of the kehile, Mr. Bankir. The reporter painted, in black excess, descriptions of the state of the community. Here are his words:
"In our city, which counts itself among the large cities, there are not
found institutions for interest-free loans which finally were established in
the other cities where our [Jewish] brethren live. Doubly, [it must be
mentioned that there] is fourfold anger in our city [because] we also have no
shul, no Beis Madrish nor mikvah such as are found
in other cities. While the shul keeps collapsing, the Beis Madrish
was built five years ago and the mikvah is [probably] dangerous
for all of her visitors and no one is concerned [enough] about [repairing] it.
Two years ago the distinguished Mr. Bankir who knows the afflictions of our city was elected as leader of the community. He is but one [person] and no one comes to his aid while several have in mind their [own] business and one swallow cannot a summer make. He screams 'gevald' ' (help): ten years in succession our residents have gathered every Pesach Kholemoid (the days between the first two and the last two days of Pesach and Sukkot) and Sukkot but without an order. Friday, erve Shabbos of the [week of the] most holy Torah portion Aeikev (the 46th), our residents gathered together according to the command of the community leader. With those with whom they converged, they diverged, achieving nothing, and in all community concerns was seen only grumbling without any progress.
Another report from 1894 tells about a concluding-celebration for a sefer-torah, the writing of which was sponsored by the musical band at the head of which stood the founder of the Zionist Union, M. Levkovitsh.
'The musical band was praiseworthy [and] although they were meagerly paid and the Creator had not created them wealthy, they still donated from their earnings, to sponsor the writing of a sefer-torah for themselves and celebrated its completion the previous week. The director of the band, Mr. Moishe Levkovitsh, endeavored that the conclusion should be impressive. He loaded together all the respectable men from our city, among them Mr Fershter and Mr. Recterman and the sefer-torah was led into the shul with much pomp and parade. There the Chazen with the accompanying escort of the musicians sang "The One Who Gives Salvation" and 'Psalm to David.' After that musicians prepared a big banquet (sude) for the guests and with that it ended.'
And this is a report from 1895 about a philanthropic activity in the city:
'In the city of Radomsk (Piotrokow Poviot) the esteemed rich man Reb Izrael Recterman, himself took an interest in the need of the poor Talmud Torah children, who would not be able to go to study because of the lack of shoes. He concerned himself with [supplying] shoes for the poor children and he provided warm clothes for some of them. G-d forbid, other rich men also should speak up and do the same, for example, and the prayers of the poor children will rest on their heads.'
Thus was Jewish life recorded in the city, [proceeding] calmly and earnestly
until the Zionist movement came. The generation long affection for the ancient
homeland grew in the hearts of the Radomsk Jews with a new strength and
revealed the deep of love of Israel which had been hidden in them.
H. Community life on the threshold of the First World War (1897-1914)
The reputation of Dr. Theodore Herzl and his Zionist activities found a strong resonance in Hasidic Radomsk, too. Among the students in the Rebbe's Beis Midrash there were many 'lovers of Zion.' Many of them were involved in activities in the new movement because of their parents' indifference to it and out of [the parents'] fear, that this might cause them to have contempt for the Torah. The Zionist propaganda had an influence and friends from different circles joined the movement, among them Beis Midrash teachers such as Reb Solomon Krakowski, Azriel Pzyrowski and Reb Abraham Minski. Reb Moishe Lewkowitsh, the conductor of the aforementioned orchestra, especially distinguished himself with his many activities. He was the first chairman of the Radomsk Zionist Movement. Reb Moishe was a simple Jew, but he gave himself with love and life to Zionist activities, abandoning his private business. He didn't tire of hourly preaching on behalf of Zionist thought and during the whole of the movement's existence, there was sometimes in him the 'devil beast.' In addition to him, Leon Ruzshevitsh, a son of an assimilated family which [kept itself] far from Yiddishkeit and Jews, was also active and there grew in him a total nationalism and he became one of the most active in the movement. Elsewhere in the other Polish cities, the Zionists met strong opposition on the part of the Hasidim, [but] the Radomsker court remained neutral to Zionism. About Reb R. Tzvi-Meir it is told that he bought a share of Colonial Bank and he even yelled once at a Hasid who had compared Zionism to the 'Bund,' as [being] two parties which cause harm to Judaism. Rev Tzvi-Meir told him that love for Erezt Yisrael would spread over the Zionists and rescue them from all evil. Among those having the run of his house, there were also devoted Zionists. Chazen Solomon (Zaks), Herzl's friend was one of Reb Tzvi-Meir's most loyal friends. [Another excellent Zionist propagandist was ] the Shammas of the community, Reb Kopel Glidman (a son of Reb Abraham-Leib Glidman, Shammas for the "Tiferes Solomon" of Blessed memory) who with his whole heart devoted himself to the Zionist idea and in terror brought Zionist propaganda to the municipal Beis Midrash.
In 1898 it was told in one of the official Zionist [publications] of the Zionist movement about the establishment of the Zionist Union in the city.
'Nowo-Radomsk, the 21st of November 1898, Thanks to the efforts of Mr. M. Lewkowitsh, A. D. Bril and B. Statler, on Shminatseres (the eight day of Sukkous) a Zionist meeting was held in the house of Mr. M. Grinberg. At the meeting the important people among them were pointed out and the community leader Mr. Z. Goldman, delivered two Zionist speeches. After him, our friend the[man of opinions,] Mr. M. Lewkowitsh, whom we are indebted to for the rejuvenated start of his institution gave a better speech about the course of the Second Zionist Congress in Basel and everyone listening to him applauded. After him, the city Chazen, Mr. S. Zaks, sang Zionist songs.'
At that time, also in the Hatzfira, a longer article [appeared] about Zionism in Radomsk:
"A Zionist association was founded in our city, that has 200 hundred
[members], which underwrote through the government committee the certification
supporting agricultural workers in the colonies of our Holy land and they also
signed their names to two hundred shares. The leaders of this association took
it upon themselves to spread the idea of Khibes-Zion
("Love of Zion") in the neighboring towns. At the head of the
association stand the respectable men: L. Ruzhewitsh, E. Feldman, M.
Lewkowitsh, L. Tentser, B. Statler, Ed. Bril;. I. Zilbershtein, Sh. Zaks and
After the first ardor came the reaction to the Zionist movement in general. The situation of the Russian Jews had worsened from day to day. The pogroms which had spread in Russia in the first years of the twentieth century were loosed on Poland in the suburbs of Radomsk. In 1902 anti-Jewish riots broke out in neighboring Czestochowa, but they were quickly suppressed by the regime. The impatient Zionist masses looked over the Charter from the Sultan and [there began] the start of a large colonizing movement in Eretz-Izrael. This [colonizing] spirit also predominated in Radomsk. In the travel notes of a journalist with the pseudonym "Yehudi" which were published in "Hameilitz" at the end of 1899 the Zionist movement in the city is described this way:
"I travel further. A journey from P. (Piotrkow) I find myself in Nowo R. (Nowo-Radomsk). Two thousand families live there. Here lives also one of the 'Holy' and with him his Hasidim. The economic situation of the city is not a bad one. There are found [in the city] different factories and a lot [of residents] earn, thanks to them, their bread honorably and cleverly. Her moral position isn't different from the other Polish towns. There are 'Zionists' [and] in the city among the Hasidim and [the] enlightened, [there is a great deal of] money collecting. The N.R.'s (Nowo-Radomsker) Zionists do not know anything and they [don't] exercise any ideological influence. Like the whole of Zionism they limit themselves only to the giving of money. It isn't any wonder that their first rapture is over and they stand as on 'red hot coals' waiting every day for the 'Charter' which should come. And if [it takes] too long, their entire Zionism would disappear, if Dr. Herzl [himself] would not hurry up and at least honorably write for them a confirmation letter assuring, on his word of honor, that he had already made a serious first attempt to finish the 'Charter.'
[During] a temporary decline of the Zionist movement, we read from time to time about different Zionist money collections at meetings. This is told in a corresponden[t's report] from 1906:
'A general meeting of the Zionist party took place here at which was given a report from the Helzingforster Conference and a resolution was introduced to [create] a self-imposed tax for the benefit of the Zionist organization.'
In another corresponden[t's report] it was told that at the 10th Zionist Congress 24 rubles [worth of] ancient shekels were sold.
Beyond the Zionist activity, the community developed further and took part in all manifestations of Jewish communal life in Poland.
In 1898-99 the building of the large Jewish synagogue in Radomsk was completed. This was a beautiful structure which [evoked pride for] the city's Jews.
Mr. Jehiel Weintroib, a Radomsk resident (now in Tel Aviv) described the synagogue in his memoirs as 'a Bais Migdesh' [the Temple in Jerusalem] [because of] its splendor. In front of the four-story structure was a tablet with the Ten Commandments in gilded letters. The magnificent doors were furnished with windows on which were drawings of lions. The door led to a long and wide corridor, through two other doors into the synagogue. In the center of the synagogue stood a high reading desk. On the ceiling hung beautiful chandeliers. Still other chandeliers hung down from the ceiling which was painted in the form of a blue sky with stars. On one side was a painting of night, the moon and the stars, on the other side a painting of the sun and the zodiac. In every chandelier there were a lot of smooth glass sparkling lights and when the lights were lit, one got the impression of finding themselves in another world. In addition, the factory windows threw light on the shul. Around the temple [on the second floor] on three sides was the big women's shul. Those who were fortunate to see Mr. Solomon Saks and to see how he sang and davened the prayers with his sweet voice, which flowed from the heart, had the impression that they heard the voice of the Leveim and their singing of the very ancient times.'
Characteristic of the inner life of the city's Jews and their relation to power is the solemn response to the book dedication to the Russian military in 1900:
'Friday, erev Shabbas kodesh, the Jewish community in other cities arranged a ball in honor of the military divisions which were stationed here and which [would be going] off to the war in the Far East. At the head of the organizations stood the distinguished persons Mr. Tzvi Banker and Mr. D. Bugajski, who were capable of preparing everything [properly] and suitably to the satisfaction of the official and important guests who came to the festivities. The Russian Orthodox priest said a prayer for the welfare of the soldiers and blessed them, that they should be successful in their endeavors and return in peace to our land. Later, the enlightened Rev Z. Goldman, the Kazjoner Rabbi in Brzeznica, made a speech in the language of Israel. His enjoyable words with verses from the holy writings made a big impression on the listeners and from the multitudes was heard shouting of 'hurrah' in the sense of a sign, that his speech had found favor in the eyes of the people. The important guests clapped their hands in love. During the high ball the enlightened Rabbi gave a toast in honor of the Emperor, 'may his glory be enhanced' [the traditional words added after the name of a ruler in the prayer for his welfare] and of the soldiers. And he again let be heard his smart illustrations and subjects and the guests were satisfied when they returned] to their tents.'
In a later issue of the Hatzfira appears a correction, that 'the ball, which was underwritten through the dedication of a martyrs' book to the soldiers who are leaving for the war in the Far East, had the participation of the respectable Christian residents of the city, whether according to their property and whether according to their accomplishments. And only because of an error, only the names of the Jewish community were published in the Memorial as having underwritten the ball.'
During the same years, emigration from Radomsk to the United States began. Until 1898, there were only single Radomsker Jews in America. They referred to their organization with the name: 'Nowa-Radomsker Society to Help the Sick.' The emblem of the organization was two outspread hands in the prayer of benediction of the Cohanim in memory of Rabbi Solomon Haconan the " Bal Tiferes Solomon."
In 1906 after the Kishinev pogrom, the Society was strengthened and was
occupied with providing aid among their membership and especially among the
emigrants from Radomsk. When the First World War broke out the Society
began to occupy itself with sending support to their old hometown in Poland.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the development of the Jewish Workers Movement, which took part in the Revolution against the Czar in 1905, started [to develop] in Radomsk.
Radomsk also served as a refuge for the revolutionaries who had crossed the nearby German border. The poet Lewik would always remember the revolutionaries Eli Elibarde and Zakn Shreiber who had taken him and other revolutionaries in with love and made an effort to help them to travel safely across the border.
At the start of the 1900's (1903) an attempt was also made to open a Jewish modern school in Radomsk. Education in the city was generally strictly traditional. All young men were educated in Chedorim. The individual enlightened Jews sent their sons and daughters to the [public] schools, but because of the difficult which the children found in studying together with the Christian children, they had to open a separate school. And in an article of the Radomsker Theme:
'Until now, the Jewish children studied together with the Polish children in the government school. But because of the difficulties in being welcomed in this school, the Jews strove and received permission to open a Folks Primary School. But, unfortunately, an inappropriate spot was rented for a school. The rent was very expensive. There wasn't any money to engage another teacher, because there were only a small number of children in the school. Perhaps residents from other shtetlech would understand in time, that by renting a location for the school, one must take account of the good of the children and the [school's] educational usefulness and not of the good of either of the other Gabaim, who had fortuitously a proper dwelling.'
The leader of the community in Radomsk in past eras was: H.B. Ferszter, died on 26.8.1898; after him the leader of the community was H. Gerichter, an eminent philanthropist who each year in the winter would donate wagons of potatoes and coal for the poor.
A still newer era in the life of the Jewish population in Radomsk began with
the outbreak of the First World War, and during the course of the war, As in
the history of Polish Jewry in general, after the First World War in Radomsk,
too, this era was distinguished by its roaring business activity an era of a
new life and new movements.
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