Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
Several revelations about the Jewish community in Modrzejów
The Catholic law ne tolerandus judaeis (non-sufferance of Jews) that did not apply to the city of Bedzin, did not apply to the city of Modrzejów either. However, there were places in the area for which Jewish settlement was forbidden, like Slawków, Czeladz and Siewierz.
After Congress Poland became part of Russia in accordance with the decision of the congress in Vienna (1815), a law came out in 1823, according to which Jews from outside were forbidden to settle in Bedzin or its surroundings without receiving a license from the central regime, using the excuse that the city was located 21 verst [measurement of distance] from the border with Prussia and Austria. This law remained in force till 1862, when the emperor Alexander the Second cancelled all the decrees and restrictions relating to Jewish settlement and trade in the cities of Congress Poland.
Due to the restrictions to settle in the region close to the border, it wasn't easy for an ordinary Jew to receive a license from the central authorities in Warsaw to settle in Modrzejów or in the Zaglembian region. The Jews would settle in the area outside the 21 verst distance from the Prussian or Austrian border. Because of this law, the towns and villages of Modrzejów, Sielce, Slawków, Ladzice, Strzemieszyce, Grybow, Siewierz and others were affiliated with the Bedzin community. Hence, the growth in the Jewish population in Modrzejów as in other places was not substantial.
The city of Modrzejów together with the area of Zaglembie was part of
the Olkusz district in the Radom region. In 1867 there was a rearrangement of
the regions in Poland: instead of five, ten regions were designated and amongst
them Piotrokow was nominated as the regional capital and it was then that
Bedzin and its surroundings were transferred from the Radom to the Piotrkow
The breaking away of daughter communities from the mother community Bedzin was a common occurrence at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, even before Sosnowiec and Dabrowa received authorization as cities and the Jews of these places were given the option of founding independent communities, the community of Modrzejów was the first that dared make the claim to break away from the Bedzin community and stand by itself.
It was in 1865, that local activists M. Szarf, J. Szajnweksler and M. Goldfeld presented an application to the regional minister in the name of seven families, to approve them a special rabbi, since Modrzejów was a city with a majority of Jews. They had a synagogue, a Bet Midrash, mikve and also a cemetery, and the distance of seven verst from Bedzin made it difficult for them to arrange their religious needs. They also presented the candidate Reb Bonim Brechner, a local settler, and the city had promised to pay him an annual wage of 100 roubles and an apartment.
In fact, as early as 1851 the Modrzejów community nominated Rabbi Ruwen Biksman as its rabbi, however since the city did not declare its obligation to him, the regional minister delayed the release of the license. When the authorities agreed to present the license, he had left the country and gone to far away places.
This time the mayor intervened on behalf of Reb Dawid Brechner, in his letter to the regional minister in which he informed him, that Rabbi Brechner knew Polish, German and Yiddish. Brechner also showed certificates that he was politically acceptable, and also had received the teaching credentials from Rabbi Reb Mosze Zajonc from Olkusz, Rabbi Reb Mosze Baum from Dzoryk [?], Rabbi Reb Israel Icek Klinger from Plewna, and Rabbi Reb Gabriel Dancyger from Radom.
Rabbi Brechner was born in Bedzin in 1844, the son of Reb Jochanan Joachim Witel. His father was a trader. He studied torah up till the age of 14 in his parent's home, and later traveled to Plewna to study with Rabbi Klinger. He later received teaching credentials from the Rabbi from Plewna and married a woman from Modrzejów and remained there as a dayan and representative of Rabbi Langfus from Bedzin, and received several gulden each week from the Bedzin community fund.
The regional minister in Radom did not approve Rabbi Brechner's appointment as Modrzejów's rabbi at the demand of the committee council, but as the assistant to the rabbi from Bedzin (1866). The community council in Modrzejów was not satisfied with this and approached the regional minister again through via the Olkusz district minister to separate Modrzejów from the Bedzin community and allow them a special district for Modrzejów, Niwka, Sosnowiec and Sielce and thus release them from tax payment Etat to the Bedzin community.
The regional minister approved this, but the district minister found the separation from the Bedzin community very complicated from a financial viewpoint, and demanded to receive an accurate proposition of the outlays involved in separating the communities, in such a way that damage would not be incurred to the Bedzin community, and such that there would be census of the homeowners in the suggested area, and what would be involved in it.
In the meantime, the regional minister forcefully demanded from the Bedzin community to suggest as soon as possible a candidate for the rabbi instead of Rabbi Langfus who died at a young age in Bedzin on the 30th of November 1864, since if not they would be compelled to determine a rabbi on behalf of his choice. However, the Modrzejów community wasn't at all willing to agree to the fact, that the new rabbi of Bedzin would haven't have knowledge of the city matters, and a dispute erupted between the two cities for altruistic reasons. Modrzejów was assisted by the fact that Bedzin was unable to finance a rabbi on its own, after it had obligated itself to pay 30 roubles a year to the widow of the deceased rabbi. Wishing to save the situation, Bedzin hastily elected a rabbi, and suggested the teacher from Piotrokow, Reb Icekl Kimelman an annual wage of 360 roubles, a free apartment and more. Rabbi Kimelman neglected to attach an original copy of his rabbinical credentials to his request, and because of this Radom only appointed him as a substitute rabbi in the Bedzin area. Only after some time, when Rabbi Kimelman presented his original credentials, was he approved as the permanent rabbi of Bedzin, and in the meantime the Modrzejów community continued to be subject to the Bedzin community.
Jews from Bedzin and the region showed great support for the Polish Rebellion against the Russians in 1794, and supported the Kosciusko Rebellion, collecting money for the rebellion, and many Bedzin homeowners personally participated in the battle for freedom. According to the inspection books of the gendarmes in the regional office, Joachim Mundsajn from Modrzejów was sentenced to three years of strict supervision by the police for distributing pamphlets against the Russian regime, together with many other Jews (Police supervision in the Piotrokow district, page 294 and so on).
There were also internal disputes in Bedzin during the period in which Rabbi Kimelman served, regarding the mikve, its lease and upkeep, and people connected to the subject would inundate the office of the district minister with accusations and claims. The Modrzejów community took advantage of the situation, and after a great deal of effort was finally able to break away from the Bedzin community.
After Rabbi Brechner, Reb Iszajahu Englard took over as the city's rabbi.
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