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[Page IX]

The Great City Shul


Monument for fallen Russian soldiers on the spot of the City Shul shown above

[Page X]

The Holy Ark of the Siedlce Shul


[Page XI]

A Word from those Responsible
for the Siedlce Yizkor Book in Argentina

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

At the end of the bloody Second World War, after the sad reality of the tragic killing of six million Jews had hit us, although we could not believe, or did not want to believe, that in the midst of a civilized world such a misfortune was possible; and when, among the ruins, there appeared small remnants of our unburned brothers and sisters, and, among them, some from our hometown of Siedlce–then the people from Siedlce in Israel, as also in Buenos Aires, understood that their first responsibility was to confront with their fraternal hep the sacrifices of a murderous world and to help, as was required, in different lands and to comfort the victims.

The people of Siedlce in Argentina also understood that along with those who remained alive, the sacred memory of our destroyed holy community of Siedlce should be eternized for all generations and receive redress, the Torah followers and the people of deeds, the simple people, of every type and form who characterized our city, as well as many other cities and towns in Poland; that there should be a symbolic monument that wind engrave in memory for generations not only their tragic destruction but also their beautiful Jewish lives.

Thus arose the thought of issuing this Yizkor Book, which we are bringing out for all Siedlcers throughout the world.

The labor of bringing out the Yizkor Book was not so easy; we dealt with formidable technical and financial difficulties, and at the realization of the plan, we approached Siedlcers in different countries. Finally

[Page XII]

Our brethren in Israel assumed the difficulty duty of assembling and editing the material for the Yizkor Book. Congratulations!

The financial burden, as also the publication of the book and everything connected to it, was assumed by the Siedlcers in Argentina; this required three years of strenuous labor, which we did with the intention of making it excellent.

We offer special thanks to all the Siedlcers in Argentina who wholeheartedly supported us and made possible the publication of the Siedlce Yizkor Book, and we will have satisfaction, when all Siedlcers throughout the world will understand and recognize that we felt a sacred historical mission and a responsibility toward our martyrs.

Finally we want to extend our congratulations to our proofreaders, the brothers Menashe and Moshe Constantinowski, for their professional and accurate work. We consider them, together with the editor in Israel, A. V. Yasni, as partners in this gigantic sacred work. May blessings come to them!

[Page XIII]


by the Editors

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

With great sorrow we take the step of publishing the book “Yizkor Lik'hilas Siedlce.” This kehilla, this community, where we were raised and grew up, exists no longer. A horrible, vicious hand destroyed it.–With the “Sefer Yizkor” we will introduce into history the life of the holy Siedlce community and its tragic end.

For hundreds of years on the soil of Podlask in the state of Poland there was a Jewish settlement. It grew. It developed and created a unique Jewish life with synagogues, beis–medreshes, religious institutions, Talmud Torahs, and yeshivas–suitable for an observant way of life. Every new spiritual direction in Jewish life found an outlet there. Chasidic devotion and raptures entered the heart of the simple Siedlce Jew and imbued him with deep faith in the Creator of the world. A network of Chasidic prayer houses bound Siedlce to the rabbinic courts of different cities in Poland.

The Jewish national revival that stormed through the Diaspora–found in Siedlce a ground prepared with Jewish feelings and thoughts. The first stirrings of Zionist thought struck deep roots there. In this settlement grew up R. Yehuda Ha–Chasid, the fantastic dreamer and mystic, who saw in his fantastic world the nearing of the end–redemption–and went to Eretz Yisroel in anticipation of the messiah. The Jew. Siedlce experienced the development from R. Yehuda Ha–Chasid's messianic redemptive thought to the modern Love of Zion movement, from the agricultural settlements to Herzl's political Zionism. To all of these stages of renewal of Jewish national thought, Jewish Siedlce made its rich contribution and helped propel Zionism to its goal as a great mass movement.

We all have in our memories the images of

[Page XIV]

the great manifestations of the revival and building of our old–new homeland–Eretz Yisroel: the Lag B'Omer celebrations and torchlight parades, the Keren Kayemes bazaars in which our young people showed their enthusiasm and took with them most of the population of Siedlce, the mass support for each new aliyah, and the mass sorrow and protest at the time of the bloody events in Eretz Yisroel in 1920 21, 22, 29, and 36.

Impulsive was the Jewish community and cultural life in Siedlce out which grew the Zionist movement with all its variations. The “Mercaz” of the General Zionist Organization, like the trunk of a tree, developed branches of various Zionist groups, from the very religious to the socialist–Zionists. Among the whole variety of pioneer youth organizations, training farms, and pioneer kibbutzim, a special branch from the trunk was the Zionist cultural activities: Hebrew schools, evening classes, lectures, discussions, libraries, and the great part in the library taken by “Ha–Zamir” and “Jewish Art.”

Parallel to the Zionist movement was the Jewish socialist workers movement–the “Bund,” which bound up the Jewish national revival with life in the Diaspora, and the “Poalei–Tzion” [Zionist Labor], which made a bridge between workers and Zionists. Both parties brought revolutionary spirit into the life of Siedlce's Jewish masses, built economic and professional organizations and led the political battle of the Jewish laborers. In that spirit of the people, the socialist parties created the folk schools, homes for children with a Yiddish basis, organized courses and lectures, and enriched the spiritual life of Siedlce's Jews.

This relatively small Jewish settlement produced writers, poets, journalists, who in their creations mirrored the Jewish life of Siedlce. When Jewish life went haywire, Siedlce created its own Yiddish press, which roused, warned, and motivated community activities, which grew and branched out.

Jewish Siedlce had its philanthropic institutions and pillars of social help, like: “Ezras Y'somim,” [orphans' home]

[Page XV]

“Moshav Z'keynim” [old people's home], “Bikkur Kholim” [for visiting the sick], “Linas Ha–tzedek,” “Beis Lekhem,” “Taz,” “B'ri–us” [various helpful agencies], a Jewish hospital, and others.

The artisans and the merchants, both large and small, formed credit unions, charity foundations, and fought for economic rights for Jews. A significant part in Siedlce's Jewish life was played by the religious community organization, which upheld and maintained strict religious standards, the rabbis, and so on.

The Jewish lives of the nearly 20,000 Jews in the settlement were multicolored and multifaceted. The greatest majority lived through honest labor, with their firm ethics and morals–Jewish morals. But then, from time to time, bitter, evil actors brought ruin and destruction into this Jewish life. In pain and sorrow we recall: the Czarist pogrom against Jews in Siedlce that brought ruin on Jewish existence and took three score Jewish lives; the excesses at the time of the Polish–Bolshevik war; the various later trials of alleged traitors, which incensed the Polish government; the antisemitic provocations that were made with the intention of destroying Jewish economic life.–The culmination of all of these attempts to uproot the Jewish people came the great destruction that the German hordes brought upon the Jewish population of Poland.

The Siedlce Jewish settlement was razed. Crazily were our dear fellow citizens killed–dying as martyrs, remaining true to their Yiddishkeit.

The Jewish community life of almost four hundred years, their spiritual ascent, their battle for life, their outstanding labor and aspirations for more beautiful and better lives–all of these we will eternize in this Yizkor Book. Let this Yizkor Book be a monument on the unmarked graves of our martyrs. Let this Yizkor Book provide material for the historian who will compose the coming great history of the thousand–year Jewish residence in the state of Poland.

* *

The publication of “Sefer Yizkor Lik'hilas Siedlce” that tells the four–hundred–year story of this community was made possible thanks to the great efforts of our friend Yitzchak Kaspi, who

[Page XVI]

for years studied there development of Jewish life in Siedlce and gathered a mass of documentary material about the settlement. His work formed the foundation of this book. A large contribution presented the book with the memoirs of the martyr Yitzchak Nachum Weintraub and the work of the tragically deceased B. Mintz about the Jewish credit bureau in Siedlce. The material from Yitzchak Nachum Weintraub and B. Mintz were preserved by David ben Yosef (Pasowski) and transferred to the Yizkor Book.

The section dealing with the tragic time of the ghetto was written by survivors who themselves had suffered terrible tortures. We present them exactly as they were written. In them can be found omissions and repetitions that we leave for the discretion of the future historian, who will investigate the material.

We feel obliged to express our thanks to Professor A. Wolf Yasni, who spared no labor in editing the various manuscripts and helping with his wise advice.

A special thanks and congratulations to our friends and fellow townsfolk in Argentina who assumed the burden and worries of putting out this book and to all who took part in this great labor. The Siedlce committee in Israel, especially our friends B. Vyman, Yisrael Mendelssohn, Moshe Steinberg, and A. Bar–Chaim (Berenhaltz).


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