by Mordechai Hampel
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
The idea regarding the immortalization of the Zagłębie communities, who were cut down by a atrocious beast of mankind in the first half of the twentieth century, arose at the initiative of Zagłębie émigrés in Australia. They were a little group, a small number of survivors, scorched by the flames, who had wandered after the sufferings of World War Two to distant Australia and rebuilt their shattered lives, and they achieved, thanks to their labor and dedication, an important status in the Jewish society of Australia.
Ten years ago, when the Pinkas Bendin was published (1959), I was amongst the editors, I received a message from our people, Zagłębie émigrés, about their intense desire to publish a memorial book, dedicated to the annihilated Jewish Zagłębie, known for its greatness, its glorious past, of its being a esteemed Jewish center in Poland, Mother of the Diaspora. I was asked to support them, together with them, this project that was near to me. I replied to their request, since the idea had captured my heart, knowing that the holy goal of this project, of which many didn't believe in its realization, since there were quite a few difficulties, in various areas, that were placed in front of the initiators on their way to publish the book. However, it should be said in praise of the proponents and creators of Pinkas Zaglembie, that they knew how to overcome the many obstacles and their idea took shape and became fact after years of diligence and dedication.
In the beginning there was an idea to publish Pinkas Zaglembie in Yiddish only, however later on, with the visit in the State of Israel of the representatives of the Organization of Zagłębie Émigrés from Melbourne (Australia) and of loyal people dealing with the writing of the book and taking care of its completeness and accuracy, became convinced, that the book needed to appear in part and not as a minor section in Hebrew as well, for the coming generations and the descendants of Zagłębie émigrés in Israel. The writer of these lines was given the task of editing the Hebrew section, that was carried out with great respect, with the concern of giving the tens of Hebrew pages of our book some type of view of the vibrant Jewish life of Zagłębie, of praiseworthy activities in all fields of life, its struggles and convulsions during the years of her destruction. During the work for the Hebrew section about Zagłębie, oozing blood in the years of its annihilation, we discovered a great deal of material, enough to write a whole Hebrew volume, however we were compelled to reduce because of limitations.
We the Zagłębie émigrés in Israel and the Diaspora, children of our destroyed place of birth, which excelled in its lofty virtues and attributes, which served as a home for Torah and Chassidism, for Zionism and pioneering, for love of our parental homeland, for Jewish culture and all its values and assets we eternally carry in our hearts a memory of our communities, in which stood the cradle of our birth and the center of our youth.
The communities of Zagłębie have passed and have been lost from the world, they have been completely erased with the tens of thousands of its Jews, its children, its women and its elderly, by the scum of mankind the devastating Nazi devil.
We were able to erect a memorial monument in the form of a book extensive and rich in content, now presented here to the Zagłębie émigrés and their descendants in Israel and in every place that we were distantly dispersed. The hundreds of pages and the hundreds of photographs in this book of life, only serve a page in the history of Jewish martyrology in our generation and we, stirred and dreaming, echoes of our past emerging and rising, have glimpses of descriptions of the experiences of their lives and deeds, their struggles and the tragic deaths of our fathers and our mothers, our brothers and our sisters and all the other beloved souls, who were killed, whilst innocent of any crime. Their dear personalities float in front of our eyes and we will remember them forever.
The Zagłębie on the ground no longer exists, but Zagłębie of above is elevated in the heavens, she is deeply engraved in our souls, we yearn for her and nostalgia of what was there and is no longer.
May the souls of the holy Zagłębie communities be signed and sealed and engraved in blood, may their souls be kept in eternal life of the suffering Jewish people and resurrected, to a life of freedom and independence in its historical, old-new homeland, the State of Israel.
The 29th year after the annihilation of the Jews of Zagłębie,
and the 24th year of the existence of the State of Israel.
Tel Aviv, 5732 1972
by Szymon Rotenberg (Będzin)
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
The first Jews appeared in the Zaglembian region in 1226, and in the main they were engaged in agriculture and were compelled, as were the rest of the cities' citizens, to pay a tithe tax.
At the end of the thirteenth century there were a substantial number of Jews in Będzin. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, they abandoned agriculture and moved on to trade. Some of them opened stalls for exchanging currency.
The highest institute in Jewish life was the kehila, which was elected by the city's elders. At the head of the kehila were the rabbi and legal advisor. During the second half of the sixteenth century, a special envoy was dispatched to Kraków, to the Council of the Lands; the name of the envoy from Będzin was Rabbi Israel Ben Szmul (Szmulewicz).
|The Eastern Wall
in Będzin's Synagogue
The Jews of Poland were considered foreign subjects and, hence, were under the supervision of the king, who appointed special governors to operate under his auspices. These governors, who were called woiwoda, in turn, transferred their authority in towns like Będzin to the starosta.
The civic legal authority was not binding on the Jews. They were initially tried by a Jewish bet din. It was possible to place an appeal to the woiwoda or the starosta or even to the king.
The Jewish court was comprised of a rabbi, a legal advisor and observers (lavnik), who were elected by the kehila. Quarrels between Jews and Christians were brought before the Jewish court while the woiwoda and the starosta participated.
The trials took place in the synagogue. The jail, whose upkeep the Jews had to maintain, was also located next to the synagogue.
The laws of the Jewish court included 12 sections, written in Hebrew and Polish, and were engraved on the walls of the synagogue for all to see.
For their participation in the courts, the Jews gave the woiwoda a sum of 12 guilder annually, as well as open and secret gifts
Initially, the rights of the Jews were limited. They were only allowed to live in special quarters and partake in trade on certain days of the week. The number of traders was also limited. During the reign of King Kazimierz Jagiellonian, in 1453, the Jews managed to receive further rights, though not full rights.
The fact that the Jews dealt in foreign trade can be proved by the fact that in the year 1695, a Jew by the name of Moshe Bendiner participated in the Leipzig Fair.
In 1527, Zygmunt the First matched the rights of the Jewish traders to those of the Polish traders with regards to customs levies and taxes, and 15 years later Jews were already running taverns, trading in spirits and engaging in other occupations that had been previously forbidden.
During the reign of King Stefan Batory, the Jews were allowed to live in the center of the city and sell their wares in the general market with Christian traders.
In 1592, the civic authorities of the town were sued by King Zygmunt the Third, who ordered them to defend the rights of the Jews and held them responsible for harm inflicted upon them.
The Jews received full rights during the reign of Wladislaw the First, who granted them full rights matching those of the Christians.
Each time a new Polish king was crowned, the Jews of Będzin sent an envoy requesting that they be granted rights. A parchment charter that was approved by King Jan Sobieski has been kept in a sealed iron vault in the Będzin Town Hall to this day. [Note: These lines were written before the Second World War M. H.]
After the ascent to the throne of Stanislaw August Poniatowski, a Jewish delegation set out and returned in July 1776 with a new charter signed by the king himself and by the royal notary. This document is also kept in the Będzin archives.
In order to improve their circumstances, the Jews came up with all sorts of inventions. In Poland, there was a tax known as the chimney tax and every Jew had to pay a sum of 30 piasters for each chimney in his house (non-Jews paid 6 piasters). This burden caused the Jews to combine all the chimneys of their house to one common one. This invention was discovered, and the guilty were punished, evicted from the city, and their houses confiscated.
|Podzamcze Street in Będzin
Before the war, was mainly inhabited by Jews.
In the background The Zamek [Fortress].
The houses are reflected in the
Czarna [Black] Przemsza River.
In their struggle for their rights, the Jews even tackled the Council of the Lands, which occasionally had caused them certain injustices. A revolution of a sort erupted in 1666, and the authorities were forced to intervene. Similar instances of rebellion against the Council of the Lands were not unknown, and the history of the Jews of Będzin contains quite a few instances of this type.
The first Jews to arrive in Będzin settled behind the defense walls of the city, in the area around the present Zawlek and Modrzejewska streets, later in the area around Zawala street, and finally in the area around Rybna and Berek Joselewicz Streets (formerly Grzychowska).
In the fifteenth century, on this same street, a wooden synagogue was erected, and it was during this period that the first cemetery was established. Its remnants remain to this day in Zawale Street, and it was in use up until the year 1831. Not only Będzin residents were buried there, but also those from the whole region: Milowice, Beuthen, Tycho, Chorzów and Kielce. [This cemetery was completely destroyed by the Nazis M. H.].
Since the cemetery was located in the city area, a tithe tax was imposed by the Church, which until 1588, required the Jewish kehila to give to the Church fund for every deceased. This special payment was known as a burial tax, on the background of which quarrels occurred quite often between the clergy and the Jewish kehila.
It so happened that the Jews of Beuthen buried their dead secretly in order to avoid this payment, and the kehila did not pay the Church its dues. As a result, the priest of Będzin, Jan Katolski, sued the kehila for embezzlement under the existing law. The priest brought forward as a witness a Jewish woman who confirmed that on the 5th of May 1687, Jews from outside Będzin had buried their dead in the cemetery. This case continued for eight years and even reached the office of the bishop of Kraków. The priest proved that the Jews of Beuthen had collaborated with the Będzin kehila and that in Myslowice there was no synagogue or even a cemetery. The priests of Myslowice and Grodziec called for an investigation of this matter. Testimonies were taken from various Jews, who swore in synagogue that they were telling the truth. Following the investigation the verdict reached was that the Będzin kehila should pay the burial tax that was owed to the Church.
The life of the Jews of Będzin circled around the synagogue. At the head of the kehila there were a rabbi and four dayanim [judges], whose task was to supervise the community's institutions: chevra kadisha [burial society], Talmud Torah [school], hospital fund, maoz dal [institute for providing for the poor], providing for brides, clothing the poor, and a loan society (a type of philanthropic society). These institutions carried a heavy responsibility, since Będzin was a border city where refugees who had been exiled from various countries found refuge. As a result, the financial situation of the kehila was not terribly good, always needing loans in order to be able to assist the needy.
Nearby the existing synagogue there were chederim [religious elementary schools] and a large yeshiva. It was here that the very famous Rabbi Natan Mitlas sat; he was also head of the yeshiva. When in the armies of the Austrian, Maximillian, confronted Będzin in 1587, the rabbi collected a sum of fifty ducats in order to build the city walls. Rabbi Natan passed away at the age of 105 and was buried in Zawale Street.
Until 1538, the Jews dressed like the rest of the Christian community. However, in accordance with the law imposed by Piotrkow, the Jews were forced to wear berets and special yellow-colored hats.
It is difficult to determine the number of Jews living in the seventeenth century in Poland, and in Będzin in particular. Due to the high head tax, the kehila did not report the correct number of Jews, in order to avoid paying the tax, which was three guilder per person. In addition to this, there were religious and political considerations. The Jews tried to abolish the head tax and in its place establish a one-time bulk payment. Indeed, in 1590 the Polish Sejm [Polish parliament] decided to cease taking this tax and fixed an annual tax for all the Jews of Poland of 10,000 guilder.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, the Jews were already a majority in Będzin, and they ran the butchers, taverns and public houses. They also leased a beer-making factory, the flourmill, and the gardens near the fortress.
It was during this period that the kehila built a new synagogue that stands to this very day [the synagogue was burned by the Nazi invaders and later completely destroyed M. H.]. In the synagogue's cellars there was a jail meant for the Jews.
The synagogue was initially renovated in 1921, and in the years 1925-26 it underwent internal decoration by the painters, Moshe Apelbaum and Szmul Zigler, [You can read about them in the Shreiber and Kinstler section in this Pinkas M. H.] and by the sculptor, Haim Hanft. The artistic work carried out on the synagogue was of a high standard; reproductions of this work appear in homes for the disabled in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and in the Jewish Scientific Institute (YWA).
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the following were the noblemen of the city: Herszel and David Aharonowicz, Jakob Lewkowicz, Majer Szapira, Herszel Rubin, Jakob Erlich, Yitzhak Gitler, Szymon Londner, Lajb Zondelewicz, Wolf and David Brauner.
Among questions and answers in Noadei Yahadut (First Edition, Even Ezer, question 62) it is apparent that in the year 5535 (1775) there was a rabbi by the name of Rabbi Majer working in Będzin. From other sources, it is known that his surname was Orbach.
In the chevrat kaddisha ledger it was noted that in 1765 the head gabbai [manager of synagogue affairs] was known as His Eminence Rabbi Moshe. In this same ledger, it is noted that in 1783 Rabbi Tuvia was elected and that following him came his son, Rabbi David. Following Rabbi David, Rabbi Moshe Hamburger, who was the brother-in-law of admor Rabbi Elimelech Mlysensk, who served for some 30 years.
|The cemetery in Będzin
In the ledgers of chevrat tehilim [Psalms Society?] and chevrat kaddisha from the years 1807-1835, we found the signature of a teacher by the name of Menachem Nachum Rozanis, who was later elected to be the Rabbi of Będzin.
During the same period the Unteren Schlossberg [Below the Fortress] cemetery, well known to Będzin residents, was dedicated. It should be noted that in the year 5591 (1831), the kehila purchased a plot from local residents for the sum of 300 guilden and an annual payment of 20 guilder. In this cemetery there are a number of gravestones that have the Polish eagle engraved upon them. The eagle symbol was engraved at the demand of the Polish community, which wanted recognize the Jews who participated and distinguished themselves in the Polish uprisings of 1831 and 1863.
In 1831, more than a hundred Jews died within two weeks from a plague that erupted in Będzin during this period or by falling in the Polish uprising.
Following the period of Rabbi Nachum Rozanis as Będzin's rabbi, Rabbi Hirsch Rozanis served for a short time but was persecuted, for reasons unknown, by some house-owners and was forced to leave the city.
After him, came Rabbi Berisz Hercyger, who passed away on the 25th of Shevat, 5606 (February, 1846) and was buried in the cemetery on Hagura Zamkova; a tent was erected over his grave. [Today, nothing remains of this cemetery, either M. H.]
In 5599 (1839) the famous gaon [highest rabbinical authority] and founder of the Sochachev dynasty, Rabbi Avremele Borensztajn, was born (son of the rabbi from Biala, Rabbi Zew Wolf, and son-in-law of Rabbi Mendel, the rabbi from Kozak). The mother of the rabbi from Sochachev, Dabrish, was the daughter of the Będzin resident, Rabbi Mordechai Hirsch Erlich.
In the years 1807 to 1813, the Jews had limited political and civil rights. There was a law that forbade Jews from getting married without permission from the authorities. A Jew wanting to marry had to have capital of 1,000 taler, be 25 years old, and prove that his father and grandfather were residents of the city of his birth.
After part of Poland was annexed to Russia following the Vienna Congress of 1815, a law appeared forbidding non-local Jews to settle in Będzin which was located 21 km from the Austrian and German borders without permission from the authorities. Hence, Jews were forced to settle in the area around Będzin, beyond the 21 km perimeter forbidden by law for settlement.
Because of this law, the following villages belonged to the Będzin kehila: Sielce, Modrzejow, Łagisza, Gezichow, Siewierz, Strzemieszyce, Slawków and others. In Będzin there were 2,440 Jews and 1780 Christians. The Czar, Alexander the Second, canceled this law.
In 1867, Będzin was proclaimed a district capital and annexed to the Piotrkow region. Up until then the city had been part of the Olkusz district and the Radom region.
Statistics show that in 1880 there were 5,424 residents in Będzin, of whom 3,800 were Jews.
Today [In the 1930s] there are 50,000 residents in Będzin and its environs, of whom 24,000 are Jews.
In 1850, the rabbi from Cheradz, Rabbi Langfus, was elected as Będzin's rabbi, and a wage of 180 rubles was allocated, as were a free apartment and other expenses. Rabbi Langfus presided over the Rabbinate for 14 years and died in 1864. During his time a temple was built at a cost of 2,500 rubles. The plot on which the temple was built belonged to Wolf Feldman, who transferred it to the kehila.
The budget for the kehila in 1854 reached 672 rubles. Part of the budget was covered by income from the mikve and other sources, however, the prime concern for covering the outlay was the undertaking of the home owners in the district. The budget for the kehila reached only 495 rubles. There were 374 Jews who owed community dues; of these, only 209 homeowners paid and the rest were exempt, since they were regarded as unable to pay.
In 1856 Lajb Potok filed a complaint with the governor of Radom, in which he claimed that the last dynasty of community leaders had been embezzling community funds; an investigation was undertaken, which showed that the allegation was unfounded. Potok was sued for vicious libel and unfounded accusations.
After Rabbi Langfus passed away, the kehila did not have the strength to look for a rabbi to replace him and wished to make do with a dayan, Rabbi David Szlesinger, who had taught in Będzin from 1849; however, the authorities refused to allow this and demanded that a qualified rabbi be brought.
In 1865, the kehila suggested Rabbi Majer Englard from Czekochin as the rabbi, but he passed away suddenly. In 1866 Rabbi Itchele Kimelman from Piotrkow was elected rabbi. During his period in office, the following community leaders functioned: Eliezer Rinski, Mordechai Plesner, Mosze Herman and Berisz Sztatler.
During that period Będzin began to develop rapidly, thanks to an increase in production of coal and steel, which were mined in this region.
Rabbi Kimelman passed away on the 30th of June 1893. Following his death, a temporary substitute was elected, the teacher Rabbi Yoshuale Telner. Around September 1893 Rabbi Berisz Graubart was elected as the city's rabbi. The kehila undertook to pay him 1,500 rubles annually, including 800 rubles to cover the transfer from Czeladz to Będzin and 400 rubles to maintain a teacher in Sosnowiec, which was then considered a village belonging to the Będzin district.
[An article on Rabbi Graubart appears in this book]
During the period of this rabbi, who passed away in 1913, the community leaders were: Berisz Sztatler, Ruwen Liwer, Yoshua Lajb Wajngrot, Avremel Tropauer and Yiszeya Rotner.
|The wealthy women's group Negidestes in Będzin
in their full glory at the beginning of this century.
From left to right: Mrs. Kaufman (owner of the Karsa cinema);
Gitla Hampel (mother of Motek Hampel)
The general population numbered 24,000 people in 1897, of whom 11,000 were Jews.
Jekutiel Zalman Graubart zl
Rabbi Graubart passed away on the 25th of Heshvan, 5674 (26 November 1913). On the 30th of December elections were held to choose a new rabbi. There were two candidates: Rabbi Yekutiel Zalman Graubart, son of the late rabbi, and Rabbi Bornsztajn from Wyszgrod, who was supported by the Sochaczev Hasidim.
Cwi Chanoch Levin zl
Through a complaint to the authorities that the new rabbi was too young, the elections were cancelled and new elections were called for the 20th of June 1914. Once again, Rabbi Graubart received a majority of votes and was elected as rabbi, and he served in this capacity until 1920. He later traveled to America and served to this day as the Rabbi of Brooklyn [he passed away in 1942 M. H.]
In 1921 Rabbi Tzvi Chanoch Levin, of blessed memory, was elected as rabbi. [He was the brother-in-law of the admor Rabbi Abram Mordechai Alter from Gur and the father of Rabbi Itche Majer Lewin, who was a Knesset member and leader of the Agudat Yisrael movement in Israel M. H.] He died in 1935, and since then Będzin has remained without a rabbi.
The Aguda nominated the son of the late rabbi, Rabbi Mendel, and the Zionists elected Rabbi Grossman from Gayawa, so that Będzin gained two rabbis who were chosen by their supporters but were not lawfully elected by the kehila and not by election of the Jewish population. This impossible situation caused constant friction and scandal in the public Jewish life of Będzin.
[The squabbling regarding the rabbinate in Będzin continued until the beginning of the war, which brought an end to the four-year-old Rabbis War. Both rabbis who worked in the city were killed together with their people M. H.]
Sections taken from Ilustriter Almanach fun Yiddishen Zaglembie by S. Rotenberg, that was meant to be published but the war preceded it.
by Dr. M. Gelber (Jerusalem)
Translated into Hebrew by M. Hampel
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
Dąbrowa Górnicza is located in the Czarna Przemsza valley, in the beginning a village, that became over the years, an industrial town, an important coal-mining center in the country of Poland. The emergence of Dąbrowa as a mining center began in 1796, when the Prussian authorities discovered coal deep underground in this region and established a settlement there by the name of Reden, named after the mine manager.
In the years 1815-1823 the suburbs of Huta Bankowa and Ksawera were founded, that were under the jurisdiction of the Polish banks. In 1816 there were three Polish neighborhoods, in 1823 54 residential homes and offices. In 1825 there were four zinc manufacturing plants and four furnaces for firing quartz that employed 250 workers. According to records from the year 1823 in Dąbrowa there were 97 industries, 31 furnaces, 1 coal mine, one quartz mine and their output reached 20,000 centners (1 metric centner =100 kg, an English or regular centner = 50 kg) and 60,000 gallons of quartz. The production value reached 660,000 zloty.
In the years 1826 1842 additional steel and zinc industrial plants were founded.
In the years 1854 1861 new mines were excavated. As the industry grew so did the settlement that numbered 600 people in 1861.
In 1878 there were 9 industrial plants, that employed more than 1,000 workers and the number of residents was 3,000.
In 1921 the population numbered 39,860 in which 3,304 (10.8%) were Jews.
In 1863, during the Polish Uprising, rebel units in Dąbrowa achieved, with the aid of the workers and clerks, an important status. The workers prepared weapons and took care of aprobitzia (provisions). In February 1863, these rebel units liberated Dąbrowa from the Russians. The mines and tax offices were transferred to the Polish national royalty, however after several weeks the Russians retook it.
Following the organization of the quarry and mine owners in Dąbrowa, the mine management gave an order that forbade Jews to possess inns or taverns. By the order of 1818 the Jews were disassociated from the mines and quarries and they were not allowed to look for coal resources and to excavate the ground.
When the mines suffered a lack of workers during the years 1815 1825, not even being able to supply local consumption, the minister, Lubecki, gave an order to prepare a plan for expanding the industry and finding labor.
The Jews looked for work in the mines during these same years. Through a severe lack of workers the minister allowed Jewish workers to be employed, however on condition, that they be employed as day and not permanent workers. In 1828 the first Jews were given positions, however they were only employed in the mines themselves at a later period. The Russian decree of the 28th of April 1892 limited Jewish labor in the coal mining industry in Poland.
In truth: a few Jews overcame this limitation by founding plants, that were run by non-Jews as, for example, did Zmigrod from Będzin.
Amongst the first industrialists and mine leasers in Dąbrowa was the Rechnic
family, that came to Dąbrowa in 1864 and was active in Jewish public life. In
the beginning, Rechnic managed a transport factory.
His sons, Henryk and Szmul, were already coal traders and slowly became mine leasers.
In 1934 Henryk Rechnic, under pressure of a company from Sosnowiec, that cancelled a lease agreement, to close down the Karol mine. His sons continued to manage his businesses till the Germans invaded Dąbrowa. They were killed in the Holocaust. (According to J. Jaros: Information on the Jews active in the Polish mining industry a bulletin of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, 1960).
A large number of Jews in Dąbrowa and its environs did not want to belong to the institutions of the Jewish kehila [community] in Będzin and began trying to receive recognition as an autonomous kehila. In 1908 a number of Jews from Zagorze, Josefów and Zomkowieca approached the guwernator [governor] in Piotrkow, with a request to detach them from the Jewish kehila in Będzin and allow them, together with the Jews of Dąbrowa, to establish an independent kehila, that would stand as an autonomous authority. The reasons they gave for this was that Będzin was far from their settlements and the kehila took away their religious requisites, through the claim, that the aforementioned settlements that were generally poor did not pay their taxes to the Jewish kehila in Będzin.
On the other hand, other Jews claimed, that establishing an independent kehila with all its needs: rabbi, synagogue, cemetery, bathhouse and so on would burden them and they did not have the means for this. Hence, they requested that the guwernator not consent to the request of the plaintiffs. The guwernator, in fact, decided on the 23rd of June 1909 not to establish an independent community. The plaintiffs served an appeal to the senate (the supreme council) in Piotrkow.
In the meantime, the homeowners from Dąbrowa, Huta Bankowa, Reden and Golonóg sent a second request to the guwernator to approve an independent kehila. In opposition, the rivals requested that a status quo be maintained, that is to say, to keep the present situation, since they were unable to meet the burden of independence.
Out of the 136 Jews in Dąbrowa, Kolonia, Huta Bankowa, Reden, Josefów and Golonóg, 125 were in favor of an independent kehila, and the rest (11) opposed. The wealthy amongst the plaintiffs undertook to maintain the independent kehila institutions at their expense.
On the 16th of September 1910 a decision was reached in the administration of the guwernator to establish a sovereign kehila, that would include, apart from Dąbrowa, Huta Bankowa, Reden and Golonóg. Thus prevailed the affirmative side. The Będzin kehila did not object to the detachment of Dąbrowa from their authority.
On the 1st of January 1911 an independent kehila was established, whose elders immediately set out to select a rabbi. The candidate was Rabbi Moshe Aharon Levi from Peczniew Rabbi Levi who had bought a house in Będzin in 1908 and had settled there. From time to time he traveled to Dąbrowa for local religious matters. Rabbi Graubart from Będzin, who was also Dąbrowa's rabbi, saw this as trespassing and approached the rabbis, Rabbi Chajm Majzl from Lodz and Rabbi Nachum Rabinowicz from Kromolow, in this regard. The rabbis from Lodz and Kromolow intervened in this dispute and approached Rabbi Levi in order that he not interfere with the rabbinate of Rabbi Graubart. Rabbi Levi replied to them in a letter, that under no circumstances could he relinquish Dąbrowa and the matter had already cost him 2,000 rubles.
|Rabbi Moshe Aharon Levi,
of blessed memory
Somehow Rabbi Levi's letter reached those opposing an independent kehila in Dąbrowa and, once again, approached the guwernator in protest and included the letter as a proof of bribery.
|Rabbi Baruch Epsztajn,
The opposition did not stand silent, did not rest and continued to persevere in their campaign. They approached the senate in Piotrkow and submitted a protest to the election of Rabbi Levi. In the meantime, World War 1 (1914) erupted, that put an end to the rabbinical dispute that had continued for several years. Rabbi Levi remained in his rabbinical chair till his death. In his place, his son-in-law, Rabbi Baruch Epsztajn (may the Lord revenge his blood), was elected after a great dispute. (This dispute is discussed in an article by Mojsze Fajnkind in Zaglembier Zeitung, on the 10 March 1934, called Di Geshichte fun der Dambrower Kehile [The history of the Dambrowian Jewish community] ).
This is a portion of a comprehensive essay on Jewish Zagłębie in Pinkas Zaglembie (Yiddish section)
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