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[Column 69]

The History of the Town

 

Once, Once…

Translated from Yiddish by Judie Ostroff Goldstein


It is difficult to know when the first Jews settled in Czyzewo as it was a small community that transformed itself into a village. In Brokhauser's “Jewish Encyclopedia”, written in Russian, we are only told that Czyzewo was one of the places where Jews were not limited in their living-rights and that in 1856, 34 Christians and 1457 Jews lived there. According to the census of 1897, the total population amounted to 1785 people of whom 1596 were Jews.

From the same source we also learn that Czyzewo then belonged to the Ostrów District in Lomza Province. According to the general encyclopedia of 1861, Czyzewo belonged to Plock Province and Ostrolenka District.

Old documents from the end of the 18th century, that were in the Provincial archive in Bialystok, show that during the years 1770-1780 Czyzewo – that was the name of shtetl even back then – had 47 houses and 370 inhabitants. Of those, over three hundred were Jews.

Development at that time was very slow, as shown by documents of 1827 stating there were 74 houses and 811 inhabitants.

The mail highway between Warszawa-Petersberg went through the shtetl. The shtetl had no other distinction, except its poverty. The Jews, mostly ran small businesses traded among themselves and later with surrounding honorable Polish nobility. With time various artisans arrived, but in general, the craftsmen trades were difficult to develop.

Czyzewo did not have any economic base and therefore, at the time, the Jewish population of the community was not able to grow as in other places.

[Columns 71-72]

In 1854 the railroad line was built between Petersberg and Warszawa and went through Czyzewo. This helped the shtetl flourish.

The Polish Slownik Geograficzny (Geography Dictionary) of 1880 mentions the date of the new railroad line as a turning point in the development of Czyzewo. Then the businesses grew because of the grain industry. There were also new opportunities for artisans.

At the time, new sources of income were being creating. The manufacture of tsitses (the undergarment with four tassels worn by Orthodox Jews), developed and because of the excellent quality of the goods, they were greatly appreciated throughout the country. This product was also exported and was in great demand by American Jews, but the highest demand for tsitses, until 1914 – was from Russian Jews. The trade with Russia was cut off at the outbreak of the First World War in the aforementioned year.

So, life for the Czyzewer Jews alternated between sad and happy, cheerless and sunny days, black and bright spots – two colors that accompanied business and economic life up until the outbreak of the brown plague that led to the complete destruction of the Jewish community in Czyzewo.


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[Columns 73-74]

A Tear For A Generous Friend

by Julian Dawidowicz

Translated from Yiddish by Judie Ostroff Goldstein


Julian Dawidowicz, a writer and journalist of Polish radio, warmly responded to our appeal for help in gathering particulars about the past and present in Czyzewo. At the risk of his life, he traveled from Warszawa to Czyzewo several times during 1959, hanging around with Poles who looked at him with suspicion and hatred. He assembled even the smallest trace from the past about the life and destruction of the Jews with great dedication. He gathered them bit by bit and created his finely designed articles about the past and present of the desolate village, where gentiles have taken over the places of the former Jewish residents and since then the village has remained a wasteland. He absorbed the cries that were still carried in the air and described all of it in several articles that are included in various sections of our yizkor book.

Julian Dawidowicz followed our work to perpetuate the memory of the murdered Jews with interest and was prepared to give further help in publishing the book faster. He did not succeed in seeing the fruit of his significant help. A terrible illness interrupted his life.

[Columns 75-76]

An Overview of the Origin and Growth
of the Jewish Community in Czyzewo

by Dow Gorzalczany / Tel Aviv

Translated from Yiddish by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

We can and we must with amazement and with satisfaction find the joyous phenomenon in our difficult Jewish lives: ordinary Jews writing history!

It is an amazing, but certain fact that surpasses all dreams. Who would have thought it possible that an ordinary Jew would be able to revive a story from once, once upon a time. To assemble, brick by brick, all that he knows about his shtetl, about past generations, about all the parts and corners of Jewish life and tell this in chronological order. In striving to revive, to create for future generations, the history of a destroyed and obliterated shtetl, I endeavored to comply with the immense will and strength to perpetuate the struggle of generations from our shtetl. This is not an academic article, because nobody in our poor village, myself included, had received the necessary preparation to be a historian. Also there was not any indisputable source about Czyzewo and its Jewish community. The old pinkus (Jewish community book of records) that I remember from Rabbi Boruch Herszman's time, who we all knew so well as Reb Boruch Krajndl's, was given to Jakow Deb Rav's (Plocker) after Reb Boruch's death. Later it was burned along with the village and there were no other books written about our shtetl because it was too small to be included in the general geography or Jewish life in Poland. The only remaining source for my historical “research” was my memory. Therefore, I felt strongly that it was my duty to write and recount

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everything that I know about our shtetl, about its rise and development. I did this to the best of my ability, embracing everything, exhausting everything, but with the same love that I devoted to helping establish and publishing this yizkor book. With the same persistence, in spite of all the Jewish deaths from hatred, to tell and tell again about the horrifying story of destruction, and the ordinary chapters of daily life.

With my recounting I was not only delivering, releasing, throwing down the large story of survival and memories, but also felt a clear, distinct and firm mission, an iron duty not to fail, so the life and destruction of all those murdered should not disappear without a trace. I also put demands on myself to collect every detail of our old life in Czyzewo. This is not simply a memorial, not only sitting shiva (observing seven days of mourning for a close relative) and bringing comfort to a mourner, this is a condemnation of the destruction of those murdered. This is our perpetual demand for dues from the world not only for the murdered fathers, mothers and children, but also for the children never born, killed together with their mothers, in their mothers' wombs. And they demand the continuity of their spiritual existence, of their dreams about a beautiful, brotherly, humane life.

The exact date of the establishment of Czyzewo is not clear. But it is certain that it existed for hundreds of years. The old people said that Czyzewo was one of the first Jewish communities in the area, a lot earlier than Ostrów Mazowiecka, but later than our neighbor Zaremby Koscielne[1].

The witnesses to the age of Czyzewo were the gravestones in the old cemetery. They told of hundreds of Czyzewer Jews already at rest under them. In 1820 there were about

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800 souls living in Czyzewo and the old cemetery was already, at that time, no longer used. The area of about 4000 square meters was already, at that time, completely used.

Until the outbreak of the Second World War, the area of Czyzewo took up one square kilometer. It was located on the borders of the following three noble estates. The terrain on the north and southeast belonged to porec (Lord) Sokolowski. On the west the village bordered the fields of the manager's courtyard that belonged to porec Poznanski.

[Columns 79-80]

The southwest portion lay on the border of the land belonging to the Kosker Lord Marzik Godlewski.

We also know that the Jewish community in Czyzewo began to develop along porec Sokolowski's border because all the Jewish institutions were located in the area that had once belonged to his estate. Both bote-midroshim (study and prayer houses), to be precise: both locations on which stand the first and second besmidresh (study and prayer house), both old and new cemeteries, the Jewish slaughter house, in passing, served as the community slaughter house; the steam bath, the almshouse, etc. All of them were built on porec Sokolowski's land.

The public town institutions were also, for the most part, in the same area. Only the new Christian cemetery and the later marketplace were located in the area of the manager's courtyard. Just like all towns and villages[2], Czyzewo was built near a river, the Brok, which did not have an excessively large amount of water during the summer.

No ships sailed this river. But in bygone years, when the village was surrounded with dense forests, in the pre-spring weeks logs we sent from there to the sawmills using the Brok River and then to the Bug River and from there to Danzig using the Wisla (Vistula). Supposedly wood was furnished by Czyzewo to build the capital Warszawa.

 

Geographical Position

Czyzewo is located on the 107 kilometer-long Warszawa-Bialystok railroad line. One of its closest neighbors was the very ancient village Andrzejewo, 7 kilometers northwest, a small village that existed for many, many years but has only a small population, located off to the side, without any highway connecting it to any neighbors.

Only in the late 1930's, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, was a road built through Andrzejewo from Czyzewo to Ostrów Mazowiecka. 14 kilometers to the west was the village of Zaremby Koscielne. Between the two was located the small village Szulborze that later in 1941, played such a shocking role for both towns. Zaremby Koscielne also did not have a highway connecting it with any of its neighboring villages. South of Czyzewo was located the small village Nur through which ran the large Bug River.

From the river Jewish fishermen and in later years the well-known Jechusza Dojcz, supplied Czyzewo with fish for shabes and yontef.

To the southeast is the town Ciechanowiec, which was connected to the Czyzewo railroad station. Ciechanowiec had strong commercial ties with Czyzewo, particularly through the grain industry.

To the east was Wysokie Mazowiecki, a village no larger than Czyzewo that served as the District

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City for many years. To the north of Czyzewo was Zambrów that was also tied to the Czyzewo railroad station. Another neighbor, Tykocin was 40 kilometers away and in the past it had been the seat of the “council of the four lands”. 50 kilometers north was the Provincial City of Lomza with its famous yeshiva, where many Czyzewer young men went to study.

Bialystok, the large industrial city, was 67 kilometers away. Before Polish independence it was also a Provincial City.

 

The First Step on the Road to Development

In earlier times, before the development of Czyzewo, Jews lived in various villages throughout the area. There were Jews in the villages Dombrowa, Godlewo, Rosochate, Przezdziecko, Sutki, Chmielewo, Koski, Brulin, Siedlisk, Zaliesze and many others. The Jews in all the villages were busy trying to make a living as mill lease-holders, distillers, milk lease-holders, etc. It seems that the Czyzewo court attracted the best as tenants. This attracted more Jews from the area to settle on the Czyzewo porec's land.

Among the first Jewish inhabitants besides the water mill tenants, were the windmill owners.

At the eastern border of the village there were four windmills belonging to the old Czyzewo families Glina and Hersz Nata. As the Brok River had little water during the summer, the water mills could not work and they had to use the windmills. The four Jewish families, young and old, stood watch in order to use all the wind. Day and night the large sails turned and ground the grain that brought by the peasants and was processed it into bread and feed for the animals. The shtetl children were allowed to climb and play on the sails on shabes and yontef, because no matter how much wind there was, the mill had to rest and the sails were not allowed to turn.

The blacksmiths were also important to the porec.

Next to the windmills, on rented court land, the Paw, Kowadlo and Kon families, stood at their forges from generation to generation.

A strong attraction for Jews to settle in Czyzewo was the fact that the fair took place there.

Jewish traders and artisans were attracted from the surrounding villages to Czyzewo. This is how things went for hundreds of years. Czyzewo grew bit by bit and in 1820 the village had grown to 800 souls.

In the second half of the 19th century, the shtetl began to grow faster

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when the railroad line connecting Petersberg with Warszawa and with Western Europe (built in 1854) went through the village.

The fact of why the railroad station was built two kilometers from the town is explained two different ways. One version is that the Tzar's engineers purposely moved the station away from Jewish Czyzewo. Another version said that according to the calculations of the Czyzewer porec, the station would have to be built on his land. Therefore he demanded an extremely high price for his land from the Russian government. Instead, they bought land from the Siedlisker porec at a cheaper

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price and built the Czyzewo station there.

The railroad created new sources of income for freight forwarders, guest-houses, etc. From that time on we note a faster growth of the Jewish population in Czyzewo.

In the vicinity of the railroad station, in the villages of Biala and Siedlisk, lived the three brothers Abram Chaim, Szlama and Judel Lubelczyk as well as Mendel Zusman. They were the owners of the kretchmas (inns) and the milk leases. After the rebellion in 1831, the Russian government forbade Jews from keeping kretchmas. The Jews were advised

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to take Christian partners who would figure officially as the owners. With time the new partners began to be seen as the only legitimate owners and pushed out the Jewish partners.

After the Czyzewo station was built, the first of the Lubelczyk brothers settled there and made a living as a freight forwarder. The Zusman family, who held the milk lease, opened a kretchma called “China”, a teahouse where also, unofficially, strong drink was sold. Among the first inhabitants at the railroad station was also the Czyzewer family, but from the time of the First World War none of them were left in the village. They had all immigrated to America. The Lubelczyk and Zusman families were also drawn here, as well as the Gromadzyn, Wrona and other families who settled at the railroad station. These families, as far as Jewish affairs were concerned, were independent of the Czyzewo rabbi, ritual slaughter, mikvah (ritual bathhouse), cemeteries and the like. But they had built their own besmidresh with Szlama Lubelczyk and created a miniature community.

[Columns 83-84]

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Reb Zajnvel Ajdelsztejn, from the respected old heder. A Gerer Hasid and a distinguised scholar. At the same time he was also the largest manufacturer in town, a generous donor and hospitable man. He was greatly loved by the entire Jewish population, regardless of class.   Reb Aba Rotnberg, born in 5595 (1835) in Suwalk, died - 5690 (1930) in Czyzewo, a sharp mind from the Wolozhin yeshiva, traveled to see the Kock. Along the way he stayed in Czyzewo where he married Szejna-Chai'ke.

[Columns 85-86]

The founders of the Jewish community at the railroad station

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Reb Szlama Lubelczyk, father of the wide-branched Lubelczyk family   The wife of Mendel Siedlisker. The grandmother of the wide-branched Zusman family

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Szlama Lubelczyk – the father Mendel Sielisker's wife, the of this branch of the Lubelczyk grandmother of this branch family of the Zusman family

 

Village Jews, Who Belonged to the Czyzewo Community

The Jewish community in Czyzewo also spread its spiritual domination over the individual Jewish families in the neighboring villages. In Rosochate, 7 kilometers from Czyzewo, there were several Jewish families who had lived there for generations. There were several Jewish families also in Dombrowa. They prayed together on shabes and yontef as a minion. These families remained in the villages until the end. There was a score of Jewish families living in the villages Przezdziecko, Sutki, Godlewo and Chmielewo,

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but under the pressure of anti-Semitism they did not feel that their lives were safe and at the end of 1930 they moved to Czyzewo. The blacksmith Icchok Wapniak moved from Brulin to Czyzewo and later moved to Israel where he died a ripe, old age.

Only the daring Okon family kept their windmill in Kosk until late in the 1930's, until they also in the end could not resist

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the pressure and left their home where their father and grandfathers had lived for generations.

The following people paid a heavy price for living in Polish villages. In 1921 the miller, Gdalia from Godliewe was murdered together with his wife.

For having the nerve to be a good settler, the Jewish landowner Meszel Wolfsman and his wife paid with their lives in 1905. After he had already both the estate, he and his wife were murdered at his son's house in Chelenowe village.

 

About the Community and Immigration

At the end of the 17th century there were about 400 people living in Czyzewo and 150 years later, there were about 2500 people, including all the Jews in the surrounding villages. The Jewish population in Czyzewo remained the same until the end of the 19th century.

In the last 50 years of the town's existence, the young people emigrated and went to the New World, mainly to North America and in the last 20 years, also to Israel.


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Welwel Jabka, the famous droshky driver, at the station in Czyzewo – Leja Zylbersztejn and a tourist

 

The Relationship between Jews and their non-Jewish Neighbors

The relationship between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors, with a small number of exceptions, was good. The entire area was made up of aristocratic courts (estates) and semi-enslaved farm hands and the rest were gentry, the so-called “pans” (squires).

As the Polish gentry had always found commerce and trade distasteful, they had come to an agreement with the small merchants and traveling peddlers to act as a go-between between those in need of a service and the Jews. They were happy to provide

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they service and would send Jews from the nearby town. Jewish merchants, butchers and artisans were able to go out freely by day and by night, without fear, and travel around to the near and far villages. Every Christian house was able to serve as an inn. Every peasant cooked, with pleasure, (in the special pot that the Jew had brought with him) a little something for the Jewish artisan, or traveling peddler. The peasant always took the Jew with him to milk the cow, so he would be sure that the milk went right into the special pot and the Jew would be able to drink it.

 

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Volunteer fire brigade with Shalom Grynberg (in the center)

 

Only during the week of Easter, the Jews did not travel

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in the villages among the gentiles. For the most part, during the week of Passover, Jews avoided leaving their homes.

Relations with the Polish population were truly friendly. Every Pole was loyal to his stores and merchants. They never forgot to bring a gift in honor of a Jewish holiday: a fat hen, a basket of eggs or only a sack of apples and pears.

Also, a Jewish storekeeper never forgot before Passover to distribute matzah to all his important clients. Fridays he would honor them with gefilte fish.

Even the town intelligentsia had Jewish friends. How often for example, the apothecary Paris had theorized about what a pain the Jews generally were, but Lejzor-Salte's stood as the master of honesty.

[Columns 93-94]

The idyll ended in 1935/36 with the heavy boycott lead by Organinski.

 

The Town's Christian Intelligentsia

There were about 30 to 40 non-Jewish families living in Czyzewo. They were the community officials, post office, police, teachers, private tutors, 2 or 3 storekeepers, a baker, a wine tavern, priests and their families, an apothecary, 2 doctors, 1 artisan, 2 agents, etc. The officials did not have any competition from the Jews. On the contrary, the Jewish population was necessary for their material needs. Consequently, everything superficially was in order. Those who were forced to earn a living in pursuits similar to those of the Jews exhibited certain hatreds. The professionals belonged to the extreme right in Polish society and were exposed to negative ideas and an attitude of hatred for Jews. One did not expect to be liked by them. However, it must be said that their attitude towards the Jewish population was correct. Naturally they took care that there would never be a Jewish doctor in Czyzewo. During the years when the Jewish doctor Gelbaum lived and practiced, they did everything to make his life difficult. The attitude of the Christian doctors was downright hatred. Even Paris, the apothecary, sabotaged him whenever possible. When Dr. Gelbaum was forced to leave Czyzewo, the Jewish doctors who came after him, without exception, were not able to exist. One after the other they left town.

In General, the Christians lived apart from the Jews, even the youngsters scarcely met together. Once, once, at a ball organized by the firemen, one Christian took part in a Jewish entertainment for a charity.

 

Economic Structure

The economic structure of Czyzewo was not very complicated. Artisans and merchants – they were at the high end of the economic scale. There was no industry, even in the surrounding area. To reach the nearest industrialized town, Bialystok, one had to travel 67 kilometers.

 

Stationary and traveling Artisans (Tradesmen)

One encountered a variety of tradesmen among the Jewish artisans: shoemakers, blacksmiths, carpenters, cabinetmakers, tinsmiths, shinglers, roofers, bakers, butchers, hairdressers, watchmakers, wheelwrights, bricklayers, thatchers, turners, cap makers, tanners, etc. There was not a trade in which either the Christian or the Jewish populations were in need of that the Jewish artisans were not able to provide.

There were stationary and mobile

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artisans. In the category of mobile or wandering artisans belonged the carpenters who would travel to the villages from Monday to Friday afternoon and build houses for the peasants or stables. They lived in the village the entire week. Friday afternoon the “gospodarz” (landlord) took him home for Shabes. Monday morning he would bring him back. Among those who belonged to the wandering artisans were the tanners and tailors. Monday morning one would see a peasant wagon go to pick up the tailor, his associate and machine and then bringing him back Friday before candle lighting.

Some of the artisans would travel with their merchandise to the fairs in neighboring towns and villages. They were the so-called second class artisans. They would turn out ready-to-wear boots, clothes, furs, hats, various tin bowls, furniture, wagon wheels, spinning wheels and also bakers. There were also blacksmiths would travel around to the markets with a stock of various horseshoes and shoed the horses on the spot. Aside from several Polish shoemakers who made shoes for Jewish businesses and a baker, there were not any Christian artisans in Czyzewo.

 

Commerce

Jewish commerce encompassed all possible and necessary branches. The economically strong businesses were 2 iron stores, 2-3 wood warehouses, two shoe businesses, 2-3 wholesalers of building materials and also several manufacturing concerns. The rest were small food stores, fancy and dry goods stores, wine taverns, grain traders and horse dealers.

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The butchers were in charge of cattle trading and they would buy up cattle for slaughter. Livestock sales took place only at the fairs and peasants would buy one or two animals, sometimes for milk. Horse dealing was also done at the fairs. But there were stables where horses could be bought on certain days, besides at the fairs. The poorest of the fancy goods manufacturers and shoe merchants would also pack up their little bit of merchandise and leave for the neighboring towns and villages along with the artisans to sell their wares at the fairs.

 

Small Industry

Except for the specifically Jewish Tzitzis industry, Czyzewo also had a brush factory, that employed 4 to 6 workers and would deliver brushes from Rejz-Wurcel to Grodno, Suwalk, Wolkowisk and even Bialystok. In the Czyzewo area there was a source of soft wood trees and cheap, unorganized labor. Meshal Blajwajs, who was smart, had developed this trade into a respectable scope. Until the First World War there was also a good, firmly established soap factory that belonged to the Rabinowicz family. The factory burned along with the shtetl during the retreat of the Russian military in 1915. Also the four windmills were burned at the same time.

After the doomed windmills, two steam mills came into existence and were able mill all of the flour and feed for the entire area. And in a year when the wheat harvest was good, they were able to export flour to Bialystok and Warszawa. The two mills were able to give employment, along with the owners, to 15 to 20 families.

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Passenger Transportation

About ten families were able to earn a living by passenger transportation and transporting goods. Besides the railroad line, the main connection with the neighboring towns and villages was the horse and wagon. Every morning Szlama Zelman Hofman would come to the market with his covered wagon, harnessed with three horses (he spoke of them as “eagles”), round up his passengers and at the appointed hour he would get on the road to Lomza, a journey of 50 kilometers.

Szlama Zelman Hofman went to Zambrów, 22 kilometers away; Lejzor Nebach had the concession for Ciechanowiec, 20 kilometers away and his son, Jehuda Mendel, inherited this run.

The only driver to go to Zaremby was Szmuelke Koszleon. The road to Zaremby was difficult, as it was sand. Therefore he never had any competition. His son Michal took over after him.

Andrzejewo, the closest town to Czyzewo, about 8 kilometers distant, was connected with a regular horse and wagon passenger service, but this route belonged to an Andrzejewer, perhaps because he was a Czyzewer son-in-law.

The above-mentioned three passenger services, running on good highways, were at the beginning of the 1930's done away with. Horses and wagons gave way to the newly arrived automobile.

There was not any stable connection with Wysockie Mazowieckie, Nur, Sterdyn and Sokolów. Within the district, people would travel through the Szepetów by train. “Nur” would come with it's wagons. Sterdyn and Sokolów were connected to Czyzewo

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through family affairs and Hasidim who did not need daily transport.

 

Transport

Some of the drivers started passenger traffic to the railroad station. About eight families were employed at this. Others were occupied by transporting goods from the station and back. Some families lived by being porters, loading and unloading heavy cargo.

 

Religious Personnel and Professionals

At a certain time there lived in Czyzewo a dentist's family that did not stay long, especially when a Polish dentist arrived. A Jewish doctor lived and practiced for a long time. In the late 1930's there were three Jewish teachers in the state school, also 5 to 6 teachers in the Jewish schools such as the modern heder, Beis Yakov, heder, Yesodi haTorah heder. There were two ritual slaughterers, two sextons, 1 bath attendant, two gravestone engravers, a scribe (for religious purposes, i.e. Torahs, phylacteries, etc.), melamdim (heder teachers) for all grades and a rabbi. For the last 36 years until the Second World War, the rabbi was Rabbi Szmul Dawid Zabludower.

 

Various Businesses

The following businesses were in Czyzewo: a cotton wadding factory, a wool carder, a small soda water factory, a soap factory. Egg and fowl merchants, lease holders and several families made oil for domestic use. There were freight forwarders and a specialist for sick horses who did not have a university education.

Until Poland's independence, a number of Czyzewer Jews were occupied with illegal emigration. They smuggled emigrants going to America across the border.

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Social Life

Until the end of the 18th century, social life was very limited. During the week Jews were busy earning a living. In the early hours of the morning (from 3 am until they had to work) and evening hours, Jews would go to the kloiz (small prayer room in a person's house or business) and pray as a minion. After Maariv, they would sit for a while in the bes midresh (house of study and synagogue) near the warm oven and talk about various subjects that were of concern to everyone. The scholars were not occupied with this nonsense. They used the early morning hours to study Torah.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Hasidic wind began to penetrate the town. At that time the ruling of society went over to the Hasidim and dominant among them were the Ger Hasidim and they cooperated in getting Rabbi Boruch Szapiro of Stuczyn to settle in town. He was one of the followers of the Kocker court and and a supporter of the later Ger rebbe.

For a short time Rabbi Chaim Lejb Kaliszyner lived in town, also a supporter of the Kocker rebbe and later the founder of the Kaliszyner dynasty.

Playing second fiddle in society life were the followers of the Aleksander rebbe. Both had Hasidic shtiblach (prayer rooms) with rich religious libraries. Besides concentrating on Hasidism, both also concerned themselves with all learning and making sure the town was G_d-fearing. There were also Sokolower and Amszynower Hasidim in town. The latter had a great influence on the common people, on the bes midresh Jews. It was the cause at that time of a sadly, famous “difference of opinion”. The Snaidower-Wizners

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kept the Amszynowers with them and even became leaders of that faction. It is worthy of mention that at the end of the “difference of opinion” in 1903, Czyzewo chose an Amszynower Hasid as rabbi. This shows that there was a compromise as everyone was tired of the “difference of opinion” that had lasted for years, brought insults, anger and worse still disgrace and shame.

The main faction in the difference of opinion was the Gerer and therefore it is not difficult to understand why the official greeters of the young rabbi were two respected men from the Aleksander shtibl, Israel Icchok Gorzalczany and Israel Tyktin, who had been sent to Ostrolenka to give the rabbinical contract to the young, 23 year-old gaon (genius) Reb Szmul Dawid Zawlodower.

It is worthwhile mentioning that after Reb Szmul Dawid became the leader, there were no longer any disputes between the Besmidresh Jews and the Hasidim. On the contrary, the shtiblach gave the besmidresh prayer readers, a cantor who was a Ger Hasid, a cantor for the additional service who was an Aleksander Hasid and even a reader of the law who was a shtibl Jew, for the Days of Awe (High Holy Days).

The bes midresh Jews were the so-called “common people”, Jewish artisans and workers, hardly scholars. If in the last years pretty gamara melodies were heard coming from the bes midresh, it was the daily page, led by Israel Jona Raczkowski, a Ger Hasid. Mainly Hasidic youngsters were learning there.

In the bes midresh there was a table where a Hasid would constantly study a Mishna (collection of traditional laws) lesson, or something else. There were also half-slumbering bes midresh Jews sitting there. But the study of Torah with enthusiasm, ardor, and the right traditional melody

[Columns 101-102]

could only be heard in the two Hasidic shtiblach. Therefore it is no wonder that when a young Litvak misnaged (those against Hasidism) groom arrived, who was receiving room and board from his father-in-law, a scholar such as Israel-Icchok at the beginning against his will had to go to the shtibl. Only there could he find his equals. Besides him, there was the famous “missionary” Wolf Lejb the melamed, who if he cast an eye on a good young misnaged, a good student, or a recently returned students from the yeshiva, had to rescue him and make a Ger Hasid of him.

There was also a small “Khevre Mishnayos” (Mishnah study group) in the bes midresh in which the comfortable Misnagdim Jews, who were not great scholars but also were not ignorant, studied every day a Mishnah chapter with the people. There were “shtibl-Jews”. The first lesson giver was Israel Tiktin, then later Szlama Israel Gdalja's.

The founders of the “Khevre Mishnayos” were the brothers Mendl and Nuske Gromadzyn, the brothers Mosze and Mendl Niewad, Jekel Wibitker, Abraham Chaim the “zimer”, Szmulja Gaczer, Kelman Zajonc, Judel Orlinski, Icchok Hersz the melamed, etc.

 

The First Winds of Enlightenment

During all the hundreds of years that Czyzewo existed, in this area virtually nothing changed.

When a boy was three years old, his father wrapped the boy in his talis (prayer shawl) and took him to heder to the grammar melamed. From the grammar melamed he went to the humash-melamed (Bible teacher). Later he went on to Gemara with the Toisefes (additional discussions of the Mishna) melamed. The last stage was undertaken ordinarily only by children from Hasidic families, or sons of rich Misnagdim. Later they traveled the roads to the various Polish yeshivas in Radun, Lomza, Brisk, Warszawa and others. Still later, to the Lublin yeshiva. During the era of Russian rule, there was a law about compulsory schooling, but Jews ignored the decree. It was rare that somebody attended the government school. This was also perhaps because to study with a multitude of gentile boys, meant risking your life.

Those who had the desire to study were self-taught. There were several who received an academic education, i.e. Chaim Szmul the schochet's son. He had the strength to fight for the title of engineer. There were also private teachers, who gave Russian lessons, or Polish and arithmetic. Of course these lessons were only available to the children of rich parents.

There were also Rebetzin (Rabbi's wives) who taught young women to pray, write and do simple arithmetic. The first public school for Jewish children was founded in 1916 during the German occupation. The principal of the school was Lewi Icchok Rubinsztejn. The boys went to school in the afternoon. At first the school was in a room at the hospital and later in Surewicz's house.

With the coming of Polish independence, the two Jewish professionals, the Jewish Dr. Gelbaum and the Jewish dentist Szachnerowicz (the first dentist in the shtetl during its existence) began to organize

[Column 103]

a Jewish public school that was run by Mrs. Gelbojm with the help of Miss Blajwajs. The school only had the lower grades. Those who wanted to continue in public school through grades 7 and 8 had to go to a larger town. Only westernized Jews sent their daughters to study in other towns, i.e. Lewi Belczyk, Gorzalczany, Lepak, Prawda and Kejmowicz.

In the 1930's there was already a government public school for Jewish children that was run according to the government plan. Jewish teachers were Kliar, Chmiel etc and there were also Christian teachers in the Jewish public school.

The winds of enlightenment first began to blow during the German occupation in 1916. The older young people received a taste of knowledge. They wanted to broaden their amateur ideas and then a Jewish public library was founded. The following young people were among he first founders: Alter Szerszyn, Alter Baran, Dow Brukarz, Bucze Jablonka, and Plocker. The first managers were Dr. Gelbaum and H. Szachnerowicz.

Also at that time a Dramatic Circle was created in order to support the library.

During the time of the Japanese-Russian War in 1905, when revolutionary unrest broke out in Russia, the Jewish youth in Czyzewo also revolted. But this was not a class struggle. This was a revolt against the social slavery of their parents.

With the suppression of the revolution in Russia, the social uprising in

[Column 104]

Czyzewo also came to an end. Once again daughters were slapped by their fathers for only being suspected of speaking to a young man. Once again the father waited for evening when he could catch his son or daughter with a Yiddish book. The first enlightenment was suppressed but not extinguished and it awoke ten years later.

The younger generation carried on difficult wars with the older generation for every concession. Only with great difficulty were they able to get a room for the library. Excommunication was the main weapon against the rebels. There were never ending disturbances at the theater.

First at the beginning of the 1930's it stopped. The older generation had to capitulate to the coming generation of middle class young people who did not have the same politics as the old Hasidic world. On the wings of the Zionist movement they built new cultural institutions in the shtetl.

Besides the government school, during the late 1920's, Agudas Israel (Orthodox group) founded the modern girls' school called Beis Yakov. One of the best graduates from Sara Szenirer's Beis Yakow seminary, Professor Tojba, was brought to the shtetl. Also founded through Agudas Israel was a school for boys called Heder Yesodi HaTorah. In both schools secular and religious subjects were taught.

Through the Zionist youth, under the leadership of Jechiel Oszer Prawda, the “modern heder” was created where boys and girls learned together. Starting with pre-school, Hebrew and other subjects were taught according to modern methods. The directors of the

[Column 105]

school brought qualified, young, Jewish teachers, graduates of the Tarbut seminary in Wilna and Warszawa. Special buildings were erected for the above mentioned schools.

 

Jewish Parties (Political)

There were always sympathizers of the Lovers of Zion movement in Czyzewo, but these sentiments were only strongly expressed after the Balfour Declaration. Then parties of all shades and directions were established. The General Zionist Organization, Mizrachi, League for a Working Eretz Israel, Bet'ar, HaShomer HaLeumi. All had a headquarters where the youth would gather and talk about events, study and broaden their general and political ideas. Also Agudas Israel and the Tzeiri Agudas Israel carried out substantial activities.

The leftist organizations showed very little life. The Communist Party was outlawed. There were, it seems, no Bundist activities in Czyzewo.

From 1923 to 1926 the left took part in certain activities. These consisted of ransacking the public library and in other demonstrative acts of this nature. The Communists were brought to trial and as a result one young man was sentenced to a year in jail.

 

Institutions

In Czyzewo there existed government institutions such as the Polish “gmina” (community) and the Jewish Kehilla (community council). There were also religious institutions such as the synagogues and Hasidic prayer room. Additional institutions were the Jewish People's Bank, Free Loan Fund run by the Zionist youth, Agudas Israel, Tarbut library, “Centos”, (orphanages run by the “Joint”), “Toz” (the “Joint's” health care for children), Bikur Holim (visiting the sick),

[Column 106]

Linat HaZedek (caring for the sick), Zionist organization clubs, League for a Working Eretz Israel, Mizrachi, Tzeiri-Mizrachi and Bet'ar (belonging to the Revisionist Party). There was a modern heder and Beis-Yakov a merchant society and artisans' union.

All the institutions were partially or totally run by young people who developed these activities and demonstrated that it was possible for young people and also entire families to go to Israel.

The 1st September 1939, the Second World War broke out. The tragic events of this war put an end to all of this. The 7th September 1939, the shtetl was taken over by the Hitlerites.

The 10th October the Hitlerites retreated and the shtetl was occupied by the Soviets.

The 22nd June 1941 – The Hitlerites occupied the town.

The 15th August 1941 (25 Av) – The first round-up, 1750 Jews were murdered in Szulborze.

The 10th September 1941 the ghetto was created in the shtetl.

November 1942 the ghetto was liquidated. All the Jews who were still alive were taken to Zambrów.

January 1943 – The rest of the Czyzewo Jews were sent to the crematorium in Auschwitz.

Those who survived along with who had immigrated to Israel and with the help of the Czyzewo landsmanschaft in New York, Mexico, Buenos Aires and around the world created this memorial book to the memory of Czyzewo that once was, is no more and will never be again.


  1. From the poll tax taken in 1765 in Ostrów Mazowiecka, there were 68 Jews (20 families) and a gravestone found in Zaremby Koscielne was dated 1681. (trans. note) return
  2. Ostrów Mazowiecka was one of the few towns, perhaps the only one, not near a body of water. There is only a small spring and a natural pond created by the spring. (trans. note). return

 

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