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[Page 125]

Organizations of Religious Institutions of Orthodox Jews in Ciechanow


Moishe Fuchs

Community of Cultural Activities of Religious Jews

Up to the time of World War I, the Jewish Ciechanow led a small-town life, without major conflict or aspirations. Modern Jewish life started to develop only during World War I. At that time splits arose in nearly every Jewish family. The parents were frum and conservative and the children started to look for a new spiritual life, connected with a different way of life.

Great tragedies played themselves out in the Jewish homes. Parents did not feel that because of the new culture their children were being distanced from them. It was a time of social upheaval, and this brought about a modern life. On the one hand there was the influence of the enlightenment-Zionist youth that had a strong influence on the life of the Jewish community at that time; on the other hand the Bund carried on activities caught up in the stream of the revolutions after World War I.

There was no lack of work for the youth then. Ciechanow was one of the few cities that had suffered very little from World War I and therefore refugees were attracted to it with the stream of refugees, epidemics began. The spirit of volunteers was great, not stopping their work, and in the face of all danger they gave the greatest help for the unfortunate. It was in the work that we found the organized Zionist youth.

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Thanks to the important community work the youth felt like an independent factor, and did not want to go in the steps of the older generation. This brought great strife in every Jewish home in Ciechanow. There was another reason that brought to a halt the religious life. Namely: the neglected Bais Medreshim, packed with the homeless. The Bais Medresh ceased to have an influence.

At that time we found an original Jew in Ciechanow whom not everyone understood -- Reb Avraham Aaron Kalman, the later Kadosh, the first Jew to be a victim of the Germans in Ciechanow. Reb Avraham Aaron could not make peace, at that time, with the idea that the religious education is coming to an end at that time, so he organized a committee together with Reb Chaim Mordecai Bronrot at its head, that undertook to shake up the religious education and established a modern Talmud Torah school.

The very active Reb Avraham Aaron Kalman
The very active Reb Avraham Aaron Kalman

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Without financial means, simply with great energy, he undertook to save the soul of the Jewish child. He understood that with the old ways it was no longer possible to educate the Jewish children. He could not make peace with the idea that, in order to bring Yiddishkeit into the lives of the children, physical strength must be used. Reb Avraham Aaron sought ways in which to reach the soul of the child.

One day a Jew from Lodz appeared in the shtetl, one whom the Jews of Ciechanow remember. This was the Rebbe Reb Shlomo Zalman, who did much to update the religious education. He introduced the system of discussions with the students. With these discussions he attracted the students to himself with great love. Learning there then became a pleasant educational experience where the student lived out his young life.
Rebbe Shlomo Zalman
Rebbe Shlomo Zalman

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Rebbe Shlomo Zalman organized committees of the students. An inner discipline was established, not because of fear of the Rebbe, but out of respect.

The Rebbe used to teach the students hearty Hasidic nigunim melodies (songs), tell them Hasidic tales, and above all, used every pedagogical means to win the soul of the child.

In his private life Rebbe Shlomo Zalman suffered a lot. His whole consolation he got from his students. Understandably, such education bore fruit. His students did indeed grow up to be a creative force in religious life in Ciechanow.

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