Our Community and Its Institutions
Others have already written about the history of the Jewish community in Częstochowa since its establishment. In this article, therefore, I shall deal with matters relating to the period from the beginning of the 20th century until the horrendous destruction in which Częstochowa Jewry and its institutions were annihilated.
A. The Horticultural Farm
In 1900, the Jewish community (“Die Jüdische Gmina [Pol. Jewish Community Council]”, as it was called) bought eleven acres (and, in the course of time, six more acres) and set up a horticultural farm that became famous throughout Poland. It also allocated a budget of 3,000 rubles a year for its maintenance ‐ a vast sum in those years. The remaining expenses of the farm were covered by the ICA (Jüdische Kolonizacja‐Organizacja [Jewish Colonization Organisation]), which dealt with the settling of Jews in different lands, from the estate fund of Baron Moritz [von] Hirsch.
Tens of young people studied at the horticultural farm, according to the established educational plan and, in it, they received a thorough training in agriculture and in gardening, as well as a general education, of course.
Many of them immigrated to Palestine as pioneers and, with their professional knowledge and experience in working the land, brought a blessing to the agricultural settlement in the country.
A testimony to the extent of the school’s pupils’ expertise is the fact that, in 1907, when the national gardening exhibition was held in Poland, the farm received second prize, which caused the Poles to become angry towards the honest judges ‐ a hatred and jealousy that they had conceded giving Żydzi [Pol. Jews; here meant derogatively] such a great honor.
B. The Crafts School
In 1910, the renowned philanthropist Henryk Markusfeld and his family founded, with their money, the large school for crafts, which was equipped with everything such schools require. Some of the best craftsmen it was possible to find, at that time, were invited to be the school’s directors and teachers in all its departments.
Hundreds of young Jewish men from the city and its vicinity, who studied at this school, emerged from it as professional experts in all branches of technology and crafts and found their livelihoods in different professions, bringing benefit to the city and to the entire country.
C. The Old Synagogue
In 1928‐1929, the Old Synagogue (which was built in 1855) was renovated.
[This was done] according to plans created by Professor Willenberg and which excelled in authentic Jewish character and with a wonderful artistic decoration of the letters. It praised by all.
(This synagogue, of which our community was so proud, was destroyed in 1939 by the Nazi marauders at the beginning of the war.)
D. The New Synagogue for Progressives
At the beginning of the 20th century, several public figures from the progressive circles decided to build themselves a special synagogue, following the example of their enlightened brethren in Western Europe.
A Building Committee was chosen, at the head of which stood Markusfeld and with him Henig, Tempel and others, who donated large sums. This also caused other philanthropists to contribute and they erected a magnificent building of which the city could be proud.
At first, the building was legally listed in the names of these public figures. However, at H. Markusfeld’s suggestion, the contributors and worshipers of the synagogue elected a “Synagogue Committee” to which the legal ownership of the building was transferred. Markusfeld explained this step thus:
And truly, thus it was ‐ the worshipers searched for and found spiritual leaders from among the most important of the Jewish academic community in Poland (the renowned historian, Professor Majer Bałaban and after him ‐ Dr. Ch. Z. Hirszberg).
It is noteworthy that Dr. Hirszberg, while he lived in Częstochowa, also laid the foundation stone for The Jewish Academic Institute; he established a rich library for Jewish academics. He organised lectures at which Professor Mojsze Szor, Dr. M. Broda and others lectured.
E. Reb A. B. Birnbaum’s Cantorial School
Next to the New Synagogue, the famous cantor and man of Torah and wisdom, Reb Abram Ber Birnbaum, established a cantorial school. As one of the creators of original Jewish liturgy, he propagated his teachings and ordained acclaimed cantors, who secured distinguished positions, not only in Poland and Russia, but also throughout the Jewish Diaspora. In the last years before the Second World War broke out, our Jewish Community Council planned to transfer the New Synagogue to its ownership, seeing as how it supported the synagogue heavily from the Council’s budget.
(On December 24th 1939, the Nazis burnt the building down and all its contents were incinerated. Only the soot‐covered walls remained. The ruins of the synagogue then passed through various permutations. At first, they were used as a storage‐room for scrap iron. Afterwards, it became a place for the collection of stolen Jewish property (linen, clothes, shoes and the like). Finally, in 1955, the municipality’s “pity” was aroused. It had been freed of “its Jews” and adapted the remains of the deserted synagogue for a “municipal philharmonic”.)
F. The Bathhouse and the “Mikvah”
At the same time during which the New Synagogue was built, at Reb Nachum Asz’s initiative, the Jewish Community Council established both a bathhouse and a purification mikvah [ritual bathhouse].
The building was built on a size, scale and in accordance with sanitary and hygienic standards not to be found elsewhere throughout Poland.
G. Charitable Institutions
Our city also excelled in institutions for social welfare. The generous hands and kind‐heartedness of its philanthropists in charitable matters allowed it to establish important institutions and to raise them to an exemplary level.
On 27th March 1899, an organization was founded. It carried the name Dobroczynność. This institution, which was approved by the authorities under the Polish name (which actually means, “good deeds”), was worthy of its name under which it began. Its welcome activities would benefit the poor and helpless in all areas of social welfare
H. The Jewish Hospital
One of the first and most important functions of the Jewish Community Council was to building a Jewish hospital in which the patients would feel at home and where they would be treated by Jewish doctors, nurses and sanitation workers.
The land had already been purchased on 5th December 1900. For various reasons, the building permit was postponed until 28th September 1908.
Plans were drawn up by the engineer Mankowski with the aim of making possible a [future] expansion.
The “Building Committee” comprised Dr. Józef Markusfeld, Dr. Batawja, Dr. Alexander Wolberg, Herman Ginsburg, Markus Gradsztajn, engineer Karp, Izydor Frajnd, Ludwig Tempel, Stanisław Herc and Leopold Werde.
The “Building Committee” collected funds for the building, its furnishing and, above all, for the purchase of the very best medical and surgical equipment.
Four wards were built, which enclosed reception and emergency rooms, a clinic, a dispensary, two operating rooms [and] four inpatient rooms for the internally ill, contagious diseases and the mentally ill. There was [also] a kitchen, a washhouse and apartments for the hospital workers, who needed to be always near the hospital.
Dr. Batawja was appointed as the hospital’s Director, with the head of the surgical department being Dr. Broniatowski. As internal physicians, doctors Edward Kon, Wacław Kon, Stefan Kon (gynecology) and Mrs. Dr. Etinger were appointed. The main paramedics were Torbeczko and S. Zelten.
Over the course of the years, other doctors also worked at the hospital but, in our list, are only those, at the time it was founded, are mentioned.
I. Aged Care Home and Orphanage
With his own money, Leopold Werde, one of our city’s great philanthropists, established large buildings in which dozens of elderly were place and where all their needs were provided.
He also provided for homeless, orphaned boys and girls.
Among the female public workers, who dedicated themselves to these unfortunate ones, Mrs. Salomea Sztarke distinguished herself.
J. Children’s Home
The philanthropist Leopold Werde did not content himself with his generous and exemplary works, but also, with his own money, constructed a large building that became a Jewish “children’s home”.
Dozens of boys and girls were plucked out of the dilapidated houses and the horrific cellars of the slums, in which they were born and lived, and were transferred to the spacious and beautiful rooms of the “children’s home”. This was a place where a healing sun shone for them. It warmed their tender hearts and allowed them to inhale fresh air in the marvelously, well‐kept garden.
Teachers, with vast pedagogical experience, taught the children and prepared them for a better and more productive life than that in their poor parents’ homes.
Mrs. Wierzbicka and Mr. W. Gostynski especially distinguished themselves in their devotion to this institution.
K. “Hachnoses Orchim” [Hospitality for Guests]
At the initiative of simple, ordinary people, and with the help of Rabeinu [our rabbi; master], Reb Nuchem Asz, a house, containing twenty beds, was built to accommodate poor wayfarers.
The same building also housed as a prayer‐house and a cheder for the children of poor religious circles.
L. Jewish Educational Institutions
After the First World War, with the monetary aid of our brethren in the U.S, a school named after Y.L Perec and a children’s home for the children of workers were opened. During that same period, the public Hebrew high school was established and opened. It concentrated the best of the Jewish intelligentsia and even pupils from among assimilationist circles.
The high school’s management was in the hands of public Zionist figures such as M. Neufeld, city‐council member Felix Szapira, Leon Kopinski, Dr. Mering and others.
The first pedagogic headmaster was Dr. Szymon Berysz and, following his leaving his position due to an illness, Professor Majer Bałaban took his place. He brought in a staff of teachers at the highest level and also saw to the expansion of the study of Scripture and the Hebrew language. The school was fitted out with the best equipment of modern secondary schools in Europe and its good name travelled far.
M. Renovation of the Study‐Hall
At the initiative of Rabbi Nuchem Asz and with the help of the Jewish community and a group of public figures and philanthropists, the study‐hall was rebuilt and stood out in its beauty and size.
Years afterwards, after Rabeinu’s death, it was decided to name the study‐hall, after the great deceased one, “Ohel Nachum” [Tent of Nachum] [and] further renovations were introduced, which added to its glory.
(With great sorrow and anger, we mention here the shameful behavior of our good Polish “neighbors”: after the prayer‐house was miraculously spared from the vile hands of the accursed Nazis and remained standing, the “Polish authorities” (already after the War) decided to demolish this wonderful building for “urbanistic” reasons…).
N. The Jewish Community Council Committee
As a rule, the best and most important of the [city’s] residents were chosen for the community’s leadership and, of course, Henryk Markusfeld sat at its head. But, the Council lacked a democratic character and the wealthier residents gathered around ‐ those from assimilationist or semiassimilationist circles.
Only after the First World War and the resurrection of an independent Poland, did Marshall Józef Piłsudski decree democratic foundations for Jewish community councils.
It was then that, for the first time, including in Częstochowa, elections for the Council were held and Mr. Szmul Goldsztajn, one of the foremost figures of “Ha’Mizrachi” [a Zionistic movement], was elected Chairman of the Committee, and, as Chairman of the Jewish Community Council, Chaim Weksler was elected. He was also one of “HaMizrachi’s” prominent public figures. They both carried out their duties for a period of eighteen years.
During this entire period, all the civic parties were represented on the
Council ‐ the “Bund” and the
“Poalei Zion” [Jewish Marxist–Zionist movement] workers’ parties, as well as all the financial institutions.
As a leader of the community, after Goldsztajn left his post, Jakob Rozenberg was elected. He retained this position until the Holocaust.
during its last decades of existence, various reasons caused the Council’s activities to be limited to religious matters only ‐ Halachic queries to rabbis, judges and ritual slaughtermen, and also regarding the cemeteries and a few questions also concerning the different types of cheiders. It was not given the possibility to expand and to become a true autonomous representative of all Jews.
Three reasons can be provided for this:
It stood to our city Częstochowa’s great merit that, in the bygone “good days”, all the necessary public institutions were established, which were under independent public management, outside the Jewish community’s framework.
(Indeed, its merit did not stand in its times of trouble and, when the Nazis came to annihilate Polish Jewry and its institutions, the killers fell both upon us and the institutions we took pride in.
The permanent and industrious Jewish citizens of Częstochowa numbered 33,000. Another 20,000 of our brethren, who had been expelled from their homes, gathered in our city, hoping yet to see the downfall of that known evil entity.
But the greatest Asmodeus [king of demons; destroyer] of all generations ‐ may his name and memory be obliterated ‐ overcame them too, as the rest of our six million martyred brothers and sisters, may God avenge their blood, and celebrated his Satanic victory.
They are no more. Our dear and beautiful Częstochowa ‐ is also no more!
Please, God, avenge the blood of thy servants that has been shed! [from Psalm 79:10])
In May 1939, just months before the outbreak of the Second World War, municipal council elections were held in Częstochowa. These were the last election in which the Jews of our city participated.
The antisemitic parties, the “;Endecja” [National Democratic Party] and the “Chrześcijańska Demokracja” [Christian Democracy], conducted unbridled propaganda against the Jews at their rallies and, above all, printed and distributed provocative leaflets, mainly in Jewish neighbourhoods.
In their propaganda material, our haters dared to threaten the Żydzi not to participate in the municipal elections and that, as “foreigners”, they had no say in matters that did not concern them – otherwise, their end would be bitter.
To our great joy, the Jews were not intimidated by these threats. On the contrary, national sentiment and civil responsibility prevailed and they swarmed, in numbers, to the ballot. Affairs reached a state where, whilst only 60% of the Poles voted, the turnout of Jewish voters was 98%.
It should be noted that the Election Commission, obviously comprised by Poles mainly, formally harassed Jewish voters, by all legitimate and illegitimate means, in order to keep them away from the ballots, but the Jews stood the test and did not leave the polling stations, without first fulfilling their civic‐Jewish obligation.
Although the Jews did not come to these elections as one body, and though two factions were actually waging a fierce electoral war against each other (between the “Civic Block” and the “Leftists”), the two currents, who fought in the Jewish street, succeeded in introducing ten of their members into the municipal council ‐ eight from the civic circles and two as representatives of the workers. From the Civic Block, which was comprised of representatives of the Zionist parties and general associations in the city, the following were elected:
The second party list, which included the workers’ parties “Bund” and “Poalei Zion ‐ Leftist”, won two representatives and they were:
The following characteristic fact should also be mentioned:
Dr. Mikulski, a Pole born and bred, who appeared in the Polish party list of “Ozon” [Obóz Zjednoczenia Narodowego; Camp of National Unity], was elected as a municipal council member in an electoral area that was entirely Jewish. They voted in gratitude for his humane attitude and esteem for Jews.
The following fact shows the extent to which antisemitism had spread in Poland:
The PPS party [Polska Partia Socjalistyczna] (Polish Socialist Party), which had received a majority in the city council in the previous elections, this time received a miniscule amount of votes, while the “Endecja” and “Chrześcijańska Demokracja” attained a significant majority and took control of the city and its institutions. The “Ozon” party, too, which had certain liberal views, also then left the political stage.
The cause was a sentiment of hatred towards Jews, which that increased from year to year. Its main goal was the annihilation of the Jews.
(This satanic goal was achieved with the help of the German Asmodeus, may his name and memory be obliterated, and it began in that same year as the elections ‐ in 1939).
M. Ch. Tiberg
Even before Jewish public life had reached a state of community organisation, the Angel of Death did not ignore the first Jews who had settled in Częstochowa. Therefore, they would transport the deceased to neighbouring Janów, which had public institutions, including a cemetery.
When the residents of Janów and its leaders began to weigh down on the people of Częstochowa by demanding from them exorbitant payments or by delaying the burial of their dead, our townspeople decided to establish a cemetery of their own and a “Chevra Kadisha” was then also established.
It is quite possible that the distinct liberality and easy‐going approach of the local “Chevra Kadisha”, in relation to those in need of their aid, came directly from the fact that they wished to prove that there was now no place for the difficulties that the Częstochowa Jews had faced, in the past, from Janów community leaders and from its “Chevra Kadisha”.
Another factor that hastened the arranging their own cemetery was the distance of the location and the bad state of the roads in autumn and winter and, above all, the strange incident that had once occurred while transporting a body to Janów. This is the story, as told by the members of the “Chevra Kadisha”:
One of the bodies was strapped to the wagon upon which it was carried in order to ensure its safe transportation to Janów for burial. The undertakers had carelessly failed to put the strap ends inside the wagon. During the journey, it became wrapped around one of the wheels and pulled the corpse with it, who then seemed to “sit up” in the wagon. The escorts were startled and fled ‐ only after one of them recovered [from the shock] and returned to the wagon, did they all understand that the corpse had not risen and then continued on their way.
At the “Chevra Kadisha” that was established, it was the custom that, when sad tidings came of a sick man on his deathbed, they would immediately send a vigil to sit with him. That person would take care to be by his side at the time of death, reciting psalms and the customary prayers.
A black carriage was purchased for the bier and two horses, draped with black mantles, pulled it to the deceased’s residence. The two drivers were also dressed in black uniforms, with top hats on their heads, and they marched on foot in front of the carriage.
All bodies were transported on this bier, wealthy as well as poor, save for exceptional cases ‐ when a Chassidic Rebbe, a rabbi or a distinct scholar had died. They would carry these important deceased on their shoulders. Obviously, they avoided passing, with the bodies, near any churches.
The funeral procession always made its way, slowly, slowly, on foot until it came to the bridge crossing the Warta River, which was next to the Old Synagogue and the study‐hall. There, the carriage would stop and the entire public would approach the bier to ask the deceased for forgiveness.
Important and eminent people were always represented in the “Chevra Kadisha” ‐ both Ashkenazim [adherents of the German Jewish rite] and Chassidim. There were no Misnagedim [orthodox opponentss of Chassidism] at all in Częstochowa.
Once a year, on 15th Shevat, it was the custom to assemble in order to issue regulations and to supervise the “Chevra Kadisha’s” affairs.
It was also the custom in [the “Chevra Kadisha” of] our city, to hold, twice a year, a “Kiddush” [post Saturday/Holiday morning prayer‐service social event with refreshments] at the house of one of the gabayim [wardens] and to preach on matters pertaining to the season ‐ on the holiday of “Shmini Atzeret” [the last of the High Holidays, following Sukkot] and on Shabbat Bereishit [first Saturday after the High Holidays]. On “Shmini Atzeret”, the members would gather for prayer at the gabay’s home and, afterwards, hold the “Kiddush” and sermon. It was every member’s obligation to attend the Old Synagogue on Shabbat Bereishis for prayers, as this was where the city’s rabbi also prayed. For the Chassidim in the association, who were used to praying in the “shtieblech” [small Chassidic prayer‐ rooms] and not according to the “Ashkenaz” rite, this was an inconvenient matter. On the day, they only called members of the “Chevra Kadisha” up to the Torah. They would end each reading after just a few verses and even ending with the word “Veyomot” [“and he died”]. There are many such verses in the Bereishit [Genesis 1:1–6:8] weekly section, on which the readings do not normally end in this manner. After the prayer‐service, they would all go together to the gabay’s house for the “Kiddush”.
A special assembly was held on the day that new ground was consecrated to expand the cemetery. In our times, this happened on 28th Sivan 5681 [4th July] (1921). Then, a great crowd of our townspeople gathered at the cemetery, together with the members of the “Chevra” and, with the gabayim at their head, they circled the ground intended for the new cemetery seven times, while saying psalms and “tikunim” [kabalistic passages recited as a liturgy]. The rabbi, Reb Nachum Asz z’’l, the local rabbi, as well as Reb Józef Szymon Koblenz z’’l (the maggid [religious itinerant preacher] and Reb Mojsze Halter z’’l delivered sermons relevant to the event.
(The cemetery at Kucelin in Częstochowa, where Jews were buried for generations upon generations until today, including the victims of the horrific holocaust who were moved there ‐ is now, according to the plans of the Poles, to become a municipal park or to be annexed to the surrounding industrial zone.
Many tombstones have been removed and tombs destroyed. Who knows what will happen? We pray that the verses “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces” [Isaiah 25:8] and “God shall avenge before our eyes his servants’ shed blood” [based on Psalm79:10] be fulfilled upon ourselves).
A partial list of “Chevra Kadisha” members in Częstochowa from the beginning of the 20th century until the Holocaust:
The “gabayim” before the First World War:
Reb Abraham Hamburg, Reb Jakob Dawidowicz (Kleinhendler), Reb Jakob Grylak, Reb Mordka [Mordche] Markowicz, Reb Nusen Gerichter and Reb Fiszel Wajdenfeld.
Reb Rubin Imich, Apter, Baumac, Majer (Bychner) Baum, Reb Dawid Burnsztajn, Reb Józef Behm, Reb Szmul Goldsztajn, Reb Chaim Leib Goldberg, Reb Majer Leib Helman, Reb Mojsze Leib Haberfeld, Reb Szymon Woznica (der geler Szymon) [Simon the Yellow (Blond)], Reb Anczel Warszawski, Reb Szaja Windman, Reb Itche (Furfer) [?], Reb Berysz Zeryker, Reb Berysz Tiberg, Reb Michał Lipski, Reb Szlojme Józef Fajnsztadt, Reb Pejsach (Greber) Percik, Reb Fiszele (klein Fiszele) [tiny little fish], Reb Szmul Cygler, Reb Isrulke Częstochowski, Reb Berysz Częstochowski, Reb Józef Szymon Koblenz, Kopinski, Reb Jakob Rubinsztajn, and Reb Haskel Rozenwajn.
Mrs. Rudla Efroim, Mrs. Chana Haskel’s [wife of Haskel] Gerszonowicz, Mrs. Perl (die gele) [the Yellow] Smursz, Mrs. Fajga Minca Częstochowski, Mrs. Malka Rubin’s [wife of Reuben] Szwarcbaum.
Gabayim who served until the Holocaust:
Reb Mojsze Halter, Reb Chaim Don Lypszyc, Reb Mordka Sudowicz, Reb Berl Potaszewicz, Reb Kalman Sztal and other members whose names we do not remember.
Dr. W. Gliksman
There are no completely accurate figures regarding Jewish settlement in 1856. However, based on the population in 1857, which numbered 2,976[a] , we may assume with certainty that, in 1856, the number of Jews was the same as in 1857, or at least not much smaller.
There is also no archival material to provide us with a picture of the life and activities of this small community. Moreover, Częstochowa Jewish community archives were not protected well enough and, after the Second World War, they were completely destroyed. Therefore, any written documents concerning our community, which were saved, constitute an important contribution to its history. One document, about the Jews of Częstochowa, is a municipal tax [payers] list, which was compiled in 1856[b] . This record provides a picture of the socio‐economic composition of the communal taxpayers [in general] and, on a smaller scale, of the contemporary Jewish community.
According to that list, there were then, in Częstochowa, 438 families, of which only 340 were communal taxpayers. They were divided into 5 categories.
The first category paid 2 rubles and 50 kopeks a quarter (i.e. 10 rubles a year). There were four such payers: Eisik Ginsburg, Icchok Keller, Aba Landau and Józef Zand.
The second category paid only between 1 ruble and 25 kopeks to 1 ruble and 50 kopeks a quarter. In total, eleven payers belonged to this category. They were: Izaak (Icchok) Fajgenblat[c] , Majer Ginsburg, Dawid Goldman, Herc Kon[d] , Józef Kon, Ber Kon[e] , Szaja‐Jonas Landau, M. B. Moszkowski, Szmul Najman, Izydor Posnanski and Iser Rus.
The third category comprised 57 payers who paid between 25 kopeks a quarter to 1 ruble and 12 and half kopeks. This group also contained [some] families who, in reality, should have been in the fourth category, who paid only 25 kopeks a quarter. But, because among them were important people whom it was not desired to belittle, they were put into the third category.
The fourth category comprised 81 payers, who paid between 15 kopeks a quarter to 37 and a half kopeks.
The fifth category had the greatest number of communal taxpayers ‐ 187 families. They paid between 4 kopeks a quarter to 22 and a half kopeks.
These 340 communal taxpayers covered the entire budget of the Jewish community of the time, which totaled 445 rubles and 58 kopeks.
The Socio‐Economic Composition of the Payers Communal taxpayers were divided according to their professions as follows:
22 tailors, 12 tanners, 1 distributor , 4 journeymen, 2 waciarze , 2 commissioners , 18 weavers, 11 bakers, 1 restorator, 13 goldsmiths, 6 cap makers, 2 cobblers, 37 shopkeepers, 3 butchers, 81 tradesmen, 3 plea writers, 1 porter , 2 dyers, 1 bakałarz , 1 suit maker, 7 brokers, 4 tinsmiths, 18 tradesmen‐peddlers [forestallers], 2 joiners, 6 [other] brokers, 1 turner, 15 large merchants, 10 smaller merchants, 3 glaziers, 2 watchmakers, 25 speculators , 1 saddle maker, 2 collectors , 3 musicians, 2 barbers, 1 brass founder, 10 contractors , 1 soap boiler, 2 sub‐collectors, 1 teacher , 1 scribe.
Ninety‐eight people were exempt from the communal tax. Among them were the four judges [of the rabbinical court] ‐ then, Reb Jakob Rozen, Reb Nachman Oderberg, Reb Szlojme Sztencel and Reb Nechemie Landau . The two schoichtim [ritual slaughterers], Alexander Kaufman and Zeew Taub also paid no communal taxes. Besides these, the cantor, shamoshim [sacristans], melamdim [religious primary school teachers], the assistants to the melamdim, carriers, barbers and simple beggars were also exempt.
In addition to the residents of Częstochowa, the Jewish community council also imposed taxes on the following neighbouring settlements:
Mstów (a total of 8 rubles and 50 kopeks a year) and Kamieniec, Siewierz, Kamień, Kiedrzyn, Poczesna, Nowa Wieś, Kościelec, Radostków, Bychlew [?], Wyczerpy, Błeszno, Rędziny and Wrzosowa; the division between these settlements is not specified, only that in these settlements, 27 men paid the communal tax, which brought in a total of 23 rubles and 15 kopeks annually.
In this manner, the 340 payers from Częstochowa itself and the 27 from the surrounding settlements covered the entire budget of the Jewish community, of the time, in Częstochowa.
* We bring here the details from 1856 because it is the only accurate archival material which was found and which the author studied closely and we may receive from it a description of the Jewish community at that time. The footnotes are from the author. The Editors return
It is appropriate to recount episodes of the bygone reality of the Jewish communities, amongst them, our Częstochowa also:
In the years 1888‐1891, Karl Ginsberg stood at the very top of our community ‐ a Jew who, it seems, was a bit obstinate regarding his principles, from which he “would not or could not yield, even up to a “kotso shel Yud” [the tip of a Yud; i.e. not even the smallest part of the smallest letter]”.
This community leader desired to “modernise” Jewish life in Częstochowa and he began with the following “reforms”:
All these decrees were planned by a certain Jew, Mojsze Rubin Tendler, a former Chassid, who had relinquished his faith and had become a great maskil, as well as being the highest religious authority for the Moderate Jews.
Understandably, the religious and Chassidic Jews protested vociferously and applied themselves to annulling these decrees.
The community leader Ginsberg bought the necessary brass plates, with the aforementioned inscriptions. The Chassidim mobilised and all came into the synagogue on Shabbat in order not to allow the annulling of the old Jewish custom of calling to the Torah by name and father’s name.
The city cantor, Londyński z’’l, refused to call to the Torah according to the “German” rite and the task was fulfilled by the city shames, Reb Aba Pelc. But the Chassidim also did theirs and barricaded themselves in front of the “Cohen” and prevented him from ascending to the Torah, thus further delaying the reading.
This found favour with a certain section of the worshipers. The gabayim, with dozór Ginsberg in the lead, then left the synagogue angrily. They immediately rented an apartment at Aleja 10 and, there, arranged a prayer‐house for the Moderate Jews and also, from there, they began to implement the aforementioned reforms in real life.
Meanwhile, new elections for the dozores were imminent. The Chassidim united with the “non‐modern” balebosim [residents; heads of families], and, together, wrought a victory over the reformist people.
As new dozores were elected ‐ from the Chassidim ‐ Reb Daniel Bem; from the balebosim ‐ Reb Icchok Kruk and the always “neutral” Michał Herc, who continued to pray at the synagogue, when the “moderates” had moved to the rented synagogue.
Over the course of time, it turned out that M. Herc thoroughly desired that those ascending to the Torah be not called by their names, but actually with the “brass plates” ‐ the previous community leader’s legacy.
A great conflict broke out in the synagogue amongst the worshipers and, especially, between the dozores ‐ Herc and Bem.
At that time, in 1894, ‐ the new rabbi, Rabbi Nachum Asz, came to Częstochowa.
It seems that the dozores, too, wished to put an end to the constant quarreling. So they came before our new rabbi and asked him to decide in all these matters according to his understanding. They thus relinquished their mandates as dozores to choose otherwise.
The rabbi called together a few dozen public figures and worshipers from all the factions and heard out all their arguments.
The spokesperson for the “moderates” was the already mentioned former Chassid, Mojsze Rubin Tendler, who argued that, in the Books of Moses, there are no prohibitions appertaining to the reforms planned for the synagogue and cheder. Nevertheless, he finally declared that the moderates would also be bound by the rabbi’s ruling.
Our clever rabbi immediately explained the reason why, in certain synagogues in Western Europe, it is not accustomed to call up “so‐and‐so son of so‐and‐so” but “stand, Cohen” etc.
Jewish life there had modernised, the rabbi explained, and there may be sometimes a basis to suspect, as the Talmud says, “perhaps [(the man that he struck)] is not [(actually)] his father” [Chullin 11b]. Therefore, nobody is called to the Torah with his father’s name. But, seeing as how the Jews of Częstochowa had always led a modest‐kosher family life, such a concern, heaven forbid, was irrelevant and thus there was also no basis to change the tradition of generation upon generation.
Also, on the question about religious studies in the cheder in German, the rabbi was of the opinion that the study of the German language should also be introduced, but not at the expense of our mother tongue ‐ Yiddish, which must be held dear by all Jews. He suggested having a one‐year trial and afterwards it would be seen if this satisfies both sides, because the children would know Yiddish and German.
Regarding the cemetery question, the rabbi proposed appointing a commission with the participation of the dozores, the Chevra Kadisha and others interested, which would find an appropriate location for a new cemetery. However, until then, [the deceased] should continue to be buried in the old cemetery.
Both sides accepted the rabbi’s ruling.
Afterwards, the representatives of the Chassidim, Reb Nutl‐Nussen Pankowski and Reb Avrum‐Szulim Weksler, declared that, in order to avoid conflict, they agreed that all three dozores be representatives of the moderates, on condition that all religious matters be decided upon exclusively by the rabbi.
The other side agreed to this and, at the next dozór elections, the following people were elected: lawyer Gliksman, Markus Henig and Markus Rotszyld, who gave over all religious affairs to the competence of the rabbi himself.
The new community leadership, with the rabbi’s help, collected around twenty thousand rubles, with which a road was built to the old cemetery. Adjoining properties were also in order to enlarge the cemetery, so that it was no longer necessary to relocate to a new location.
(Sadly, Hitler with his gangs, may his name and memory be obliterated, later transformed the whole of Jewish Częstochowa into one cemetery!
May the details of how Rabbi Asz, thanks to his wisdom and tact, definitely put an end to a bitter conflict and made peace between Częstochowa public figures, be annotated for eternal memory in our “Sefer Częstochowa”!).
(Quoted from “Częstochower Zeitung” #20 from May 20, 1938)
* A remark from the editors:
This issue ‐ of changing the old tradition at the calling up to the Torah ‐ also found opposition with the great world‐prodigy Reb Yehoshuale [Trunk] of Kutno z’’l in his book of [halachic] questions‐and‐answers “Yeshu'os Malko” [Salvation for his King], which was printed in Piotrków in 5687 , in the “Orach Chaim” [Way of Life; section of the Shulchan Aruch] section, answer 12 (from Nisan 12, 5643 [April 19, 1883]), [where] the prodigy from Kutno z’’l appeals to the “dear distinguished ones and leaders” in Częstochowa, not to change the Jewish tradition of calling each one ascending to the Torah by his name and his father’s name. return
Częstochowa was known throughout Poland as a city that could be proud of its social institutions, even compared to the greatest Polish‐Jewish cities.
One of its institutions, worthy of mention, was the new bathhouse and mikvah.
In comparison to that which formerly was, we must mention the old mikvah as well, on ulica Prosta, near the Warta River.
It was situated between the study‐hall and the Old Synagogue, by the poultry slaughterhouse. It even had two [separate] areas, but everything was old and primitive, so much so that it drove [people] away from it.
The new bathhouse and mikvah were very different. They were located in a two‐story building, built within the better part of the city. Beautiful on the outside and more so inside, everything was modern and in line with the latest word on hygienic and sanitary requirements. The bathtubs were spotlessly clean [and were] fitted with two taps, for warm and cold water.
Besides the general mikvah (which was also always kept clean), there were also separate mikvahs for individuals, the water in which was changed after every immersion. These were made available for use to all factions of the Jewish population.
The mikvah was built in 1904‐05, under the supervision of Mordka Chemia [Mordche Nechemie] Kaufman, the son of the well‐known Reb Abale Schochet.
The mikvah, situated on ulica Garibaldiego (formerly Spodek), was located outside the “Jewish ghetto” and, to this day, has not been destroyed.
After the War, all Jewish institutions were concentrated there, (a prayer‐house, the Jewish religious leadership, the Jewish Culture Committee, as well as a “children’s home” and a school for Jewish children).
If, in those years, Poland was blessed with the “Endecja” (National Democratic Party) ‐ the greatest opponent of Piłsudski’s “Sanacja” [Reform] Party [i.e., the PPS; Polish Socialist Party] and moreover the bitterest haters of Jews, whom they were prepared to drown even in a “teaspoon of water”, [then] this “plague” was particularly strengthened in our Częstochowa.
It is very possible that the “holiness” with which the Catholics endowed our city, due to the icon of the “Mother” [Madonna], also had large influence, in that the “Endecja” were able to turn it into one of their largest and strongest strongholds.
I had the honour of being delegated to the Zawodzie [neighbourhood] ballot, as the representative of the Zionist Organization and the “Ha’Chalutz‐Craftsmen” which was part of that organisation.
The streets Nadrzeczna, Garncarska, Mostowa, Targowa and the rest of the little streets of Jewish poverty were added to this electoral district. This was done with the obvious intention of “drawing out” the Jewish vote from a purely Jewish electoral district, in order to increase the chances of the “Endecja” being able to snatch up Jewish mandates as well.
It is interesting to recount that, at the voting location where I was delegated, there were two doors, one wide and the second narrow. According to the rules, the voters were supposed to enter through the wide door and exit through the narrow one. However, the Jews were not permitted to use the wide door and they were forced to push tightly through the narrow one ‐ or entirely to give up and not participate in the elections at all.
The lawyer Koniarski, who was the representative of the general Jewish lists, ran from one electoral neighbourhood to another in order to prevent trickery against Jewish voters. However, his success was small. The Jewish public doers, therefore, decided to demand from the authorities that the elections be declared void. A commission of inquiry was appointed, which started its work on 31st May 1935 – actually, a date that, for me, had a separate historical significance. ‐ it was the happy day on which we had the privilege of immigrating to the land of Israel.
I still managed to give my testimony before the commission of inquiry, which was made up of representatives from the Warsaw Ministry of Interior, [the] Kielce Województwo and from the Częstochowian starostwo [district office], as well as the local police commander.
Lawyer L. Asz, Szmul Frank, the prezes [Pol. President, Chairman] of the Jewish Community Council Jakob Rozenberg and the lawyer Koniarski presented arguments on behalf of the Jews.
The commission interrogated me at length and it ended with a bit of an incident:
31st May 1935 was a Saturday and I refused to sign the protocol, because I did not wish to desecrate the Shabbat.
That was my last action in those elections.
Dr. W. Gliksman
The internal life of the Jews in Poland was, during their entire history, usually reflected upon the domain of the Kehilla (Jewish Community Council). From reports regarding the activity of these Councils, we may glean a concept of the daily concerns and necessities of a Jewish congregation. Their conflicts in private and in general interests, their ups and downs, became apparent, in large part, in the meetings and general assemblies of these community organs. The activities of the individual and the public were recorded in the Community Council reports - the community management and the relevant institutions.
Between the two World Wars, the wealth and poverty in Poland, [both] shared and individual, in Jewish life on the one hand, and the government's anti-Jewish politics on the other, demanded a broad area of work for the kehilla and made its existence necessary. Both aspects gave purpose to the communityorganization and determined its autonomous character.
Jewish life in Częstochowa also created a broad field of work for the kehilla as an organisation. The political and socio-economic interests, the religious and cultural-educational needs of the different political parties on the Jewish street were mirrored within the community's council. Its autonomous character - although limited mainly to religious functions - provided the only opportunity to freely discuss the diverse programs of parties such as Zionists, Mizrachi, Aguda, Bund, Assimilationists, Democrats, diverse Chassidic courts, retailers, artisans, the impartial [factions] and other currents on the Jewish street. This same composition also gave purpose to the community organisation, which needed to regulate the internal life of the Jewish public. After all, it dealt with the management of the Częstochowa Jewish community's assets. It had to allocate its incomes and expenditure - the money coming both from the individual and from the public. The positive and negative of its agencies - all this, indeed, must have dictated the course of Jewish life in Częstochowa.
Although internal differences of opinion existed within the kehilla, to the government, it was the only external representative of the entire Jewish public. Surely, different opinions also existed in the approach to the authorities' demands. The question was debated whether the kehilla should be limited to religious activity only or should it also deal with national-cultural issues that fall under the community council's autonomous jurisdiction. Opinions were divided - certain factions represented the minimal program, whilst others demanded a maximal program. It is noteworthy that, in both cases, the kehilla spoke for a united Jewish public and with its good in mind.
The result was, we may say, that in the forum of the kehilla, the best traditions of the Częstochowa Jewish community were upheld. Their initiative, their political and social creations, made the most marked impression and found the correct form in all sittings of the kehilla organs, and it would have continued till the end of time.
(Alas, the annihilation of Polish Jewry by the German murderers also put an end to the beautiful and ideal life of the Częstochowa kehilla).
|Eastern Orthodox Slavs||447|
|Directors and teachers||186|
Clarifications to the statistical figures:
From the same sources - the Jewish press in those years - we bring a few more interesting details:
It is interesting that at that same period, the magistrate carried out the measuring of Częstochowa's streets.
It turned out that already then, Częstochowa had about 70 kilometers of streets, but, it seems, that from measured streets no livelihood is to be pulled…And the 2500 voting citizens had to seek it elsewhere…
From the same sources - the Jewish press in those years - we bring a few more interesting details:
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