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Translation of Hrubieszow chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Morris Gradel z"l
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Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume VII, pages 147-152, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(Region: Hrubieszow, Province: Lublin)
Hrubieszow (H) is first mentioned in the middle of the 14th century as a village in the district of Chelm. Owing to its geographical situation, on the main road from Lithuania in the north to Ukraine in the south and to Greater Poland in the west, it was a commercial centre for its agricultural environs and a transit station for the export of goods. In 1400 Wladislaw Jagiello, King of Poland, granted H urban status, and even built a palace there. In 1450 King Kazimir Jagiello confirmed its status, and moreover issued a decree whereby all the merchants and carriers transporting goods from Rychnov to Greater Poland (to Poznan and other towns) as well as to Wroclaw, had to pass through H and pay customs duties to the king. After the great fire in Chelm in 1473 the Bishop of Chelm moved his see to H.
The era of prosperity and plenty, however, came to an end at the end of the 15th century, and the town fell prey to anarchy and crisis. In 1498-1500 H was invaded by the Tatars, who set most of its houses - made of wood - on fire. Between 1502 and 1526 H was also attacked four times by the Tatars.
In 1576 King Stefan Batory presented H as a gift to the nobleman Andrzej Tanszynski. The new owner succeeded in developing the town into a regional centre for crafts. At that time H included bakers, weavers, tailors, blacksmiths, gunsmiths, locksmiths, tinsmiths, shoemakers, furriers, gold and silversmiths, and butchers.
In 1648 H was attacked by the bands of Chmielnicki, who destroyed its houses and the palace; and in the 18th century it suffered badly during the War of the Confederations. After the Third Partition of Poland in 1795 H came under Austrian rule, in 1807 it was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, and in 1815 - until the First World War - it formed part of Congress Poland. In the second half of the 19th century several industrial plants were established in H.
At the outbreak of the First World War, in the summer of 1914, fierce battles raged around H, and many houses were destroyed in the bombardments. In 1915 the town was occupied by the Austrians and the Germans, who remained there for three years. The invaders imposed heavy taxes on the inhabitants and confiscated their goods, and poverty and hunger reigned in the town. Many people were rendered destitute.Young people were rounded up forcibly to lay a railway track. In 1915-16 a cholera and typhus epidemic broke out and claimed many victims.
H. was occupied by the Germans on September 14th, 1939. Three days later they withdrew and were replaced by a unit of the Polish army. The Polish troops opened fire on a unit of the Red Army that was the stationed on the outskirts of the town. There were casualties on both sides in the ensuing battle. On September 23rd the Russians occupied the town - but 11 days later were obliged to evacuate it in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and the Germans returned and took possession.
During this period the Jews of H played an important part in the import and export of goods, and their activity extended as far as Wallachia, Turkey, the Crimea, and Kiev. Their routes were infested with robbers and other dangers. R. Meir Ber Gdalja of Lublin (1558-1616), author of the responsa Mavhir Einei Chachamim (for this and other terms, see Notes at the end of this translation), refers to witnesses who talked of the murder of Moshe from H by robbers on his way to Constanza and Wallachia.
At the end of 1578 King Stefan Batory granted the Jews of H a general bill of rights, including permission to build a synagogue and dwellings for the Rabbi and the Cantor, and exemption from urban taxes of all the community's religious articles. As with the Christian townsmen, the Jews were allowed to engage in trade and crafts, build houses, open shops, establish breweries, and sell food and drink of all kinds. In return, they were obliged to pay annual taxes to the palace - 15 stones of milk for the production of candles, for the right of ritual slaughtering, and possibly other taxes also.
This bill of rights proved an incentive to the rapid development of the community, but the town and the community went through periods of boom and slump. The worst experiences of the Jews were in the year of decrees (1648) when Chmielnicki's bands brutally slaughtered them - as described in the book of R. Szmul Feibush Ber Natan Feitel of Vienna Tit Hayavon. A mere handful of Jews managed to survive by escaping to Lublin. Shortly after, however, the community recovered from this calamity, and even experienced a period of renewed prosperity.
The burden of taxes and other payments borne by the Jews of H was extremely heavy. In addition to the poll tax, there was also a tax on plots of ground, impositions to help repay the country's war debts, as well as indirect taxes such as customs duties, bridge tolls, market fees, yearly gifts to the local clergy and to the Starusta (the king's representative in the town) - all these besides taxes to the community to finance its expenses. In order to meet the debts accrued in the decree year and the war with the Swedes and the Russians, the community had to borrow large sums of money from the church. The agreement signed by the community with the local priest in 1678 laid down that it had to pay, in addition to the various taxes, also duty on rare products such as pepper and spices. In 1705 the community was summoned for not redeeming its debt, but five years later, in 1710, the matter was settled. The leaders of the community pledged, in the name of all the Jews of H, to pay the debt of 4,000 guilden - together with interest, a sum of 6,930 guilden.
In 1736 a great fire broke out in H and destroyed the synagogue, the ritual bathhouse and 27 Jewish houses.
The economic prosperity enjoyed by H in the second half of the 18th century contributed to the development of the community. The Jews had a considerable share in trade in grain and agricultural produce from Rychnov via the rivers Bug and Wisla to Gdansk (Danzig). In this period the number of shops increased, as did warehouses and workshops run by Jews. To the tailors and hatters were added carpenters, tinsmiths, painters and other tradesmen. In the middle of the 18th century it was estimated that there were 135 out 375 houses in the town owned by Jews. This number also included 15 warehouses and 13 shops built of bricks.
In the second half of the 19th century the Jews of H established a number of industrial enterprises - two steam-driven flourmills, a brewery, a large plant for repairing agricultural machines and tools, and a printing-works. These industries gave employment to many Jews. A good many workshops were also begun by the Jews and the number of artisans increased - building workers, carpenters, tinsmiths, glaziers, painters and carriers, as well as small merchants.
During the same period the Jews were also prominent in public affairs. Some of the younger ones in H took part in the Polish revolt of 1863, among them a pupil of the local Gymnasium (roughly High School), Ignacie Cukier, who distinguished himself in the fighting.
The first rabbi of the community in the 17th century whose name is known to us was R. Chaim (Chajke) Ber Shmuel Halevi Horowitz ( a pupil of R. Yaakov, Head of the Rabbinical Court in Lublin). In 1665 he was appointed rabbi of Grodno, where he died in 1675. He was succeeded in H in 1667 by R. Meshulem (mentioned above); then came R. Yakov Ben Tsvi Hirsz; R. Avraham - Avli Ber Beniamin Bones (great-grandson of R. Avraham of Lwow); and R. Yitzhak Charif (see above) - mentioned in 1695.
At the beginning of the 18th century the rabbinate was occupied by R. Shmuel (Shmolke) Margules (see preceding paragraph); then by R. Aryeh Leibush ben Meir Kantschiner (1698-1786), author of A'teret Zkeinim, who in 1728 moved to Zloczow.
In the middle of the 18th century appear the names of R. Yoel ben Dawid Kacenelenbogien (died in 1769); R. Ze'ev Wolf; R. Moshe Yitzhak; and R. Chaim Hochgelernter, author of Mishnat Chachamim, who died in a plague.
In 1818 H acquired its first Chassidic rabbi, R. Yosef ben Mordechai Kacenelenbogien, the Admor of Naskiz (died in 1830). One of the leading Chassidim in Poland, he was an energetic leader of the Jewish masses in the town and devoted himself mainly to public service. On his initiative, a Jewish hospital and pharmacy were established in H, and also a mental hospital. (This hospital was among the first Jewish medical institutions in Poland run and maintained by the Jewish community. Its first doctor was Dr. Tsvi-Hirsz Goldszmidt).
R. Yosef Kacenelenbogien was succeeded by R. Hillel (died 1824). The next rabbi was R. Josef Eliezer Gelernter (died 1864). The rabbi of the community in 1878 was R. Moshe Klug, author of Halacha LeMoshe and Tikun Olam . At the end of the 19th century H's spiritual leader was the Chassidic Admor R. Efraim Zalman Rokach, grandson of R. Shalom of Belz; and in 1896 it was R. Izrael Isser Jawic (died 1924).
On the initiative of R. Josef Gelernter, a building was added to the hospital. In 1874 a new synagogue was consecrated to replace that of 1578, which dated from the beginnings of the community. In 1905 an Old-Age Home was opened, with ten residents.
H was a veritable Chassidic town, containing stiebelech (prayer-houses) of the Chassidim of Turzysk, Kock, Gur, Belz, Radzin, and the courts of other Admorim. The town's social institutions included a Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society), a Chevrat Midrash (to buy holy books and help the needy), and a Provident Fund that gave low-interest loans to artisans and small merchants.
The end of the 18th century witnessed the appearance of the Haskalah movement. Among its local proponents was the doctor, Szlomo Jakob Klemensohn (1722-1811), who completed his studies in France and worked in Warsaw. In the period of the Four-Year Sejm (1788-92) Dr. Klemensohn worked politically on behalf of the Jews. In 1797 he published a book in French : Comments on the Present Position of the Polish Jews and Ways to Improve It. He was a fierce opponent of Chassidism, seeing it as the main obstacle to Jewish assimilation in the Polish nation. Another intellectual, Avraham Jakob Stern (born in 1768), learned watchmaking in H. His skill and energy came to the attention of the priest S. Staszyc, who - although known as an enemy of Israel - gave Stern his patronage and supported his studies. Later on, Stern invented a calculating machine, together with his brother-in-law, Chaim Zelig Szlonimski, the first editor of the Hebrew periodical Hatsefira . They were given a prize of a thousand rubles by the Tsar. Stern translated into Polish the book of Natan Nute Hannover, Yon Metsula, on the disturbances of 1648. Although he was a leading maskil , Stern pursued a religious way of life and wore traditional Jewish dress. He died in Warsaw in 1872.
Also worthy of note is R. Simcha Aryeh Halevi Kleiner, a native of H and author of Mei Maleh (Warsaw 1839) on Linguistics. Josef and Jakob Goldszmidt, sons of the doctor Tsvi Hirsz Goldszmidt, read Law at the University of Warsaw, where very few Jews were allowed to enter. They published the works The Laws of Divorce according to the Law of Moses and the Talmud (Warsaw 1870), and Renowned Jews of the 19th Century (Warsaw 1867), both books in Polish; and a book on the Jewish cemetery in Lublin.
At the beginning of the 19th century Menachem-Mendel Finkelstein, Moshe Cukier and Shaul Moshe Goldstein established a Hebrew printing works. Between 1816 and 1826 it produced 34 books, a few of them in Yiddish - including a translation of Gdolat David VeMalchut Yisrael by Yosef HaEfrati of Troplowic; and Sefer Chassidim by R. Yehuda Chassid.
At the beginning of the 20th century the majority of Jewish children still attended the traditional cheder and Talmud-Torah of the community. Others - the girls and a few children of wealthy and educated parents - went to the municipal elementary school. In 1881 nine Jewish youngsters attended the Pro-Gymnasium (High School) out of a total of 187 pupils. There were six Jewish girls in the General School for girls, out of a total of 29 pupils. In 1907 the brothers Shalom and Avraham Wiener opened a private boys' school, with Hebrew as the language of instruction.
The community continued grow at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, although many families were poor and received help from the welfare institutions. In the period 1890-1905 many Jews left H for the USA and other countries in their search for a living.
On the outbreak of the First World War the Russians accused the Jews of aiding the enemy, and many were forced to leave their homes and flee to villages in the vicinity.
At the end of this war the Jews set about restoring their houses and their businesses.The American Joint assisted them, and in 1921 a Cooperative Jewish Association was established, which - among other things - helped acquire building materials. The economic crisis that beset the young Polish state on the one hand, and the government's fiscal policy on the other, hit the Jews harder than other segments of the population. Together with the high rate of unemployment, these factors led to the emigration of hundreds of young people overseas - mainly to Argentina and Mexico, and even to Palestine. In 1929 the depression returned in full force, and this time was accompanied by open anti-Semitic economic policy and incitement by Nationalist and anti-Semitic elements to boycott the Jews. The economic situation and social status of many in the community deteriorated and the number in need of welfare increased greatly.
The Jews continued to engage in trade and crafts, and a few were hired workers in the incipient industrial plants. Incomplete data from 1937 show the Jews owning some flourmills, a soap factory, a leather-processing plant, some sawmills, a printing-house, and a metal foundry. Enterprises owned by Jews employed both Jews and non-Jews. The same period saw the development of home industries in tailoring and shoemaking. In 1937 there were 372 shops in the town, 333 of them owned by the Jews. A few Jews were engaged in the grain trade, in timber and in furs. The number of members of the free professions - doctors, pharmacists, lawyers, engineers and teachers - increased greatly.
Amongst the help and welfare institutions existing at the time mention may be made of the old Provident Fund, which was reorganised after the war, and which gave small enterprises interest-free loans. The Bank Amami , founded in 1928 with the assistance of the Joint, gave low-interest loans. Other mutual help organisations appeared - of artisans, clerks, factory and shop workers, etc. The first group to organise were the tailors, and some time later 600 skilled artisans banded together in a Craft Association - which included needle workers, timber workers, leather workers and transport workers. Employees in offices and shops were organised in the Shop and Office Workers' Association.
The community expanded its activities in the field of welfare and new bodies were formed. The Bet Lechem Committee gave food to the most needy, and Linat Zedek and Agudat Nashim Yehudiot aided the sick and their families and contributed to the maintenance of the hospital, the Old-Age Home and the Orphanage. The Hospital director, Dr. Fistel, was assisted by Doctors Szlomo Rapaport, Moshe Perec, Grynszpan, Lifszyc, and Szajnicki (a Polish doctor). All these institutions were supported by the community and the municipality.
In the inter-war period, as before, the traditional and religious Jewish way of life was paramount, though the influence of the Zionist movement increased steadily. In the years following the war the Community Council comprised representatives from all groups - Orthodox, Zionists, and Bund members. In 1931 elections to the council gave four seats to the Artisans, three to the Zionists, three to Agudat Israel, and two to non-Party candidates. Szmuel Brand was elected Chairman, and served for many years.
As early as 1917 the first Zionists in H organised themselves in Agudat Zion , and in the course of a few years Zionist activity in the town embraced all the movements and ideologies. In 1918 came a branch of Tseirei Zion, to be followed by branches of Poalei Zion in 1919; the General Zionists and Hapoel Hamizrachi in 1925; and the Revisionists. The year 1924 saw the establishment of a Hechalutz Group - to be followed by other young Zionist groups, such as Hashomer Hatsair and Dror in 1924; and Hechalutz Hatsair and Beitar in 1927.
The members of Hechalutz formed a training group, which worked in the sawmill of Szydlowski, a Zionist sympathiser. Hashomer Hatsair followed suit in 1934, and these youngsters worked in the flourmill, in grain warehouses, and in sawmills owned by Jews. In August 1932 a Congress of Beitar in the Province of Lublin took place in H. The members of Beitar in H were given weapons in that year and had instructors who were former officers in the Polish army, and began military training.
Many members of these youth groups emigrated to Palestine in this period. Among them was Yosef Almogi, later Chairman of the Zionist Organisation, an Israeli minister, and Mayor of Haifa.
The growth of Zionist activity in H and its strength relative to other factions may be gauged from elections to the Zionist Congresses. On the eve of the 1927 Congress 229 shekels were sold, and in 1939 this number had risen to 883. In this latter congress Poalei Zion in H received 631 votes, Al Hamishmar 202 votes, and Mizrachi 50 votes.
In 1927 eleven Jews were elected to the Town Council of H (out of 24 members). Three were from Poalei Zion, three from the Bund, three from Independent lists, and two were Communists. Two of the Polish Councillors, the lawyer Tchaikowski and the teacher Swierczynski, of the Agrarian Party, cooperated with their Jewish colleagues on the Council against the anti-Semitic Councillors.
Non-Zionist parties in H were Agudat Israel and its Youth Movement, based mainly on the Chassidim, and the Bund - which was established in H in 1904 - and its Youth Section Zukunft (Future). The Bund, whose base was mainly among workers in the crafts (apart from those in the Timber Union, who were mostly members of Poalei Zion), exercised much influence in the trade organisations. Other young people in the community belonged to the Communist Party, which was a clandestine movement in Poland at the time. In 1923 some of its active members were arrested, and three of them (Moshe Kornblit, Berisz Weisbrot and Yehoshua Eisenberg) were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment..
From 1924 to 1935 the rabbinate of H was occupied by R. Josef Wertheim (1881-1946). one of the leaders of the Mizrachi in Poland. In 1935 he returned to his native town of Bendery in Roumania, and in 1940 emigrated to Palestine (he died in Jerusalem). The last rabbi, from 1936, was R.Yochanan Twerski, a scion of the Chassidic dynasty of Chernobil and son-in-law of R. Issachar Dov Rokach of Belz. Rabbi Twerski was born in Turiysk in Volhynia in 1900. Together with the Dayanim (Judges) Hirsz Rozenszweig and Naftali Rokach he was murdered by the Germans in December 1939 (see below).
At this time most of the Jewish children attended the state elementary schools. In 1919 the Zionists in H established a Hebrew elementary school called Hatikvah - affiliated in 1924 to the Tarbut network. This school closed in 1928, and instead the General Zionists, together with Poalei Zion, set up another Hebrew school - Tel-Chai. At the same time a Hebrew kindergarten was opened in H. For a few years there was also a school of the Bund, called Medem, with Yiddish as the language of instruction. The daughters of religious families went to the Bet-Yaakov school of Agudat Israel. Other Jewish educational institutions in the town were a Talmud Torah, run by the Community Council, and the yeshiva Bet Yosef for boys from H and elsewhere. The few Jewish girls who finished elementary school continued their studies at the Vocational School for Girls, where there were also Polish girls. The practical subjects taught at this school were sewing and weaving. Only a handful of Jewish boys attended the local Polish Gymnasium.
The Public Library that was opened in 1917 split after a time into two parts - a Zionist Library named after J.H. Brenner, with 7,000 books; and a Bund Library named after Y.L.Peretz, with 3,000 books. There was also a cultural club of Poalei Zion, with a reading room and with drama and literary groups, and a sports club of the Bund, called Spartacus.
In the inter-war period there appeared from time to time issues of Yiddish periodical - Unser Wort - published by Poalei Zion and edited by Meir Hofman and Eliezer Ploszkin. In 1930 another periodical - Hrubieszower Leben emerged as a supplement to the newspaper Chelmer Stimme - published by the General Zionists.
The wave of anti-Semitism that swept over Poland at this time did not pass H by. In 1926 a 19-year-old Jew, Asher Segal, was stabbed to death by a functionary in the office of the Starustra (the Government Representative). His funeral turned into a mass demonstration against anti-Semitic incitement, with the participation of the trade associations in the town. In the course of the 30s the power of the local anti-Semites increased. Members of the Andak Party declared a boycott of Jewish businesses. The Jewish pupils at the local Polish Gymnasium were harrassed by the anti-Semitic attitude of some of the teachers.
On the entry of the Germans into H they began at once to round up Jews for slave labour, and to loot their property. The hunt for slave labour was accompanied by violence and degradation. Persecution became even more intense when Gestapo troops came to H and police units consisting of Poles and Ukrainians were formed.The Germans forced the Jews to make a contribution of 120,000 zloty, and when this sum was not forthcoming, a further fine of 80,000 zloty was added to it. The Gestapo made the rabbi Yochanan Twerski responsible for the failure to raise the required sum. He fled to a nearby village, but the Germans seized him there and executed him. On November 15th, 1939, the Germans announced that Jews wishing to move to the Soviet zone in eastern Poland could obtain a permit to do this against a payment of 10 zloty. Hundreds of Jews were beguiled by this offer and obtained such permits. However, when they neared the frontier, they were set upon by the S.S., who beat them brutally and deprived them of all their valuables.
On December 1st, 1939, all Jewish males aged 15 to 60 were ordered to assemble on the Wigun common (a cattle-grazing area). On the morrow, a thousand or so Jews turned up there. S.S. troops and a company of Ukrainians surrounded them, and under pain of death robbed them of all their money and valuables, except for 20 zloty per person. The Germans then brought in a further 1100 Jews from Chelm and forced the whole body to run at the double to the River Bug, the Soviet frontier. In the course of this death march, which lasted four days some 1,500 Jews from H and Chelm perished and their corpses left lying in the fields. Many drowned in the Bug, and only a handful succeeded in crossing the river. The few other Jews who survived were returned to H a few days later.
At the beginning of 1940 the Germans moved the Jews of H to a separate area in the eastern part of the town. Some 6,000 Jews - both local and refugees from surrounding townlets - were crammed into this ghetto, with several families sharing a flat. All Jews over the age of 12 were ordered to wear a white armband with a Shield of David on it. The Germans appointed a Judenrat of 12 members. Its chairman was Szmuel Brand and his deputy Joel Rabinowicz. The Judenrat was given the same tasks as in other communities - to supply the Germans with slave labour, to collect contributions and other items of property, etc. The Judenrat continued to see itself as an institution of the community and to the best of its ability helped the poor and the orphans and performed other public services. A soup kitchen was opened in the ghetto, as was a hospital with 30 beds, and medicine was given to the sick.
In August 1940, 500 Jews from Czestochowa, destined for labour camps in the Lublin district, arrived in H and the Judenrat cared for them as best it could.
The Germans set up four labour camps in the vicinity, and each day hundreds of Jews, including young boys and girls, went off to pave roads, dig ditches, build bridges, and also to work on Polish farms.
On August 13th, 1940, the Germans, aided by Polish policemen, shut 800 Jews into a local school building, and kept them there for three days without food. Some 600 of them were then sent to the labour camp at Belzec and set to work digging trenches on the Soviet border. Half of them perished from hunger and disease.
In November 1941 there arrived in H 300 Jewish deportees from Krakow, and in March 1942 some hundreds from Mielec. The Jews of H tried to help them but the means at their disposal were few. The Jews were forced to give the Polish peasants their remaining possessions in return for food.
In May 1942 there were 5,690 Jews in H. In the summer of that year the Germans informed the Judenrat that they intended to send the Jews of H to work in the Pinsk district. On June 1st and 2nd the Germans, assisted by Polish policemen, assembled 3,049 Jews in the market square, put them aboard goods wagons and sent them to their deaths in Sobibor. Forty Jews, who resisted in the market square, were shot on the spot.
A few days later, on June 7th-9th, the Germans removed hundreds of Jews from their houses. Some knew or guessed that they were to be sent to their deaths - and resisted. 180 such Jews were taken to the Jewish cemtery and murdered there. The remainder, among them Jews from Grabowiec, Uchanie, Dubienka and Bialopole, were taken to the extermination camp at Sobibor.
In command of the elimination of the Jews of H were the Gestapo Commandant Weidermann, the Commander of the Gendarmerie Henig, and the Police Officer Dymant.
The last of the Jews of H, some 2,500 in number, worked in German plants and were concentrated in a small ghetto not far from the cemetery. On October 28th, 1942, this ghetto too was closed down, and most of its inmates sent to Sobibor. Some 400 of them who showed resistance at the time of deportation were annihilated in the cemetery area. Only 600 young Jews remained. They were lodged in a labour camp and employed in cleaning up the ghetto and in destroying the cemetery. In September 1943 this labour camp was also dismantled and the inmates sent to the camp at Budzyn, near Krasnik. A handful managed to escape to the woods.
Since 1941 a pioneer training kibbutz of the Dror movement had existed at the sawmill in the nearby village of Werbkowice, with 40 members. Its Mazkir (Secretary/Leader) was Moshe Rabinowicz. In August 1942 , upon the destruction of the community of H, these youngsters decided to become partisans - but this idea was foiled, and they were all killed by the Gestapo.
A few young Jewish natives of H fought against the Germans and their allies - in the ranks of the Polish Army, in the Red Army, and as partisans. Among the Jewish underground fighters from H were Jukiel Brenner, who at the time of the German occupation lived in the district of Zaglembie, and Szlomo Brenner, a member of the underground fighters of Vilna - both of them members of Beitar. Leon Perec (Percki) and Izrael Weiss took part in the Warsaw Rising of 1944. Jakob Biszkowicz was 15 when in June 1942 he was sent to Sobibor and there joined the underground movement and took part in the revolt - under the leadership of Captain Alexander Paczowski, a prisoner from the Red Army.
Notes (in order of appearance in the text):
Council of the Four Lands: the Jewish self-governing body in Russia-Poland originating in the 16th century. Named for the four regions of Major Poland, Minor Poland, Red Russia and Lithuania, it was called in Hebrew 'Va'ad Arba Artzot'.
Chassidism / Has(s)idism: the Jewish revivalist movement originating in eastern Europe in the late 16th century. It maintains many of the characteristics of the time, such as its dress. Diverse sects of Chassidim hail from different towns and follow different leaders or 'rebbes'.
Admor: title given to a learned Chassidic rabbi; Hebrew abbreviation of 'Our Master and Teacher'.
Haskalah: European Jewish 'enlightenment', which introduced Jews to modern ways of expression and thought from about 1750 to about 1880.
Maskil: an adherent of the Haskalah. Also used in modern Hebrew generally for an educated person.
Hatsefira: the first Hebrew journal in eastern Europe. Several possible translations, perhaps 'The Dawn'.
Cheder: (pl. cheder / chadarim). Actually a 'room' - religious Jewish elementary school (also 'Sunday School' in the West).
Talmud Torah: religious school for the study of the Torah; also pre-yeshiva school.
Joint: 'Joint Distribution Committee' - an American Jewish organisation founded in 1914 to provide relief to European Jews during World War I, later expanded to service Jewish communities worldwide.
Bank Amami: People's Bank.
Bet Lechem: House of Bread.
Linat Zedek: basically a hospice for the poor and homeless, it also carried out a number of other welfare tasks.
Agudat Nashim Yehudiot: League of Jewish Women.
Bund: Jewish political organisation formed in Vilna in 1897 to promote labour causes and Jewish nationalism - but opposed to Zionism.
Agudat Israel: the Orthodox Jewish (anti-Zionist) political movement organised in 1912 in Europe, seeking to sustain the values of traditional eastern European Jewry.
Poalei Zion: 'Workers of Zion', a marxist Jewish party founded in 1906. Its ideological 'father' was Dov Ber Borochov.
Hapoel Hamizrachi: the labour wing of 'Mizrachi' (see below).
Revisionists: followers of the radically nationalist Zionist movement led by Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
Hechalutz: 'The Pioneer', an organisation to train youth for immigration to Israel /Palestine, primarily to a kibbutz.
Hashomer Hatsair: 'The Young Watchman', a socialist youth movement.
Dror: 'Freedom', a youth movement, now defunct, at one time moderate, then tending to socialism.
Hechalutz Hatsair: The Young Pioneer. ?
Beitar: right-wing youth movement, formed in 1923 and closely connected with the Revisionists, and later with the Israeli party 'Cherut'.
Shekel: a symbolic coin, indicating a membership fee to the Zionist Organisation, with the right to vote, or delegate a vote, at its Congresses.
Al-Hamishmar: 'On Guard', left-wing movement, later name of Israeli newspaper.
Mizrachi: the Orthodox Zionist movement, founded in Vilna in 1902.
Hatikvah: 'The Hope'.
Yeshiva: a school for training younger students in traditional Jewish sources and an academy for older students to prepare them as rabbis.
Unser Wort: Our Word (Yiddish).
Hrubieszower Leben: Life in Hrubieszow (Yiddish).
Chelmer Stimme: Voice of Chelm (Yiddish).
Andaks: a Polish anti-Semitic organisation.
The above notes were compiled by the translator/editor. Many of the definitions were taken from The Timetables of Jewish History by Judah Gribetz with Edward L. Greenstein and Regina S. Stein (Simon and Schuster, 1993).
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