the Feldscher that fought the typhus plague and dysentery
during WW1, without seeking reward
The shops in which most of the Jews made their living, were not built according to regulations, and it was difficult to maintain the required level of cleanliness. More than once, flammable material like kerosene was found in the grocery stores. The shopkeepers needed instruction in the rules of elementary hygiene, and Mosze Mitelman was their instructor. His appearance in the shopping center induced a feeling of security amongst the shopkeepers, knowing that he was a defender of their rights.
As a feldscher in the times of typhus plague and dysentery, he would trudge to
the Jewish homes in order to serve food and render assistance, he didn't take
money for his visits and there were instances that he even handed out
additional medicine. In cases where the medicine that he had prescribed had not
been purchased because of a lack of funds, he would take out money to give the
patient's family so that they could purchase it themselves. He was an
exceptional personality that the Jews of Dąbrowa could be proud of. His son,
Dr. Szmul Mitelman passed away in Israel.
Generation upon generation saw the bringing of a bride to the chupa as a fundamental mitzvah. Our ancestors became very anxious when A daughter reached maturity and was still unmarried, fearing that she would miss the opportunity and, Heaven forbid, not obtain a husband, and forever remain single. Many legends amassed on this subject in Jewish folklore, on a single tear of a Jewish bride under the chupa which opened Heaven's gates and atoned for the iniquities of the society.
In Polish towns it was customary to give a dowry to the husband so that he would have the initial foundation for creating a source of income, and it was deemed inconsequential that the bride was endowed with special talents there had to be a dowry ! More than one father broke his heart on seeing his daughters reach maturity without their having a dowry, and in several places in the town there were committees for this purpose and secret funds to save brides from disgrace. One of these funds was organized by Wawa Fajner, Jekutiel Kajzer, Akiba Wajnsztajn, Mordechai Fuks, Mendel Balicki and Emanuel Zilbersztajn. The fund that they ran was to secretly provide for the outlay of a wedding, to purchase bridal wear, and, sometimes, helped with sums of money for the dowry.
It is related that, more than once, the committee sent a messenger to town
councils, to meetings and to houses of learning in order to find an orphaned
groom to match him up with a poor bride from his town. The joy at this type of
wedding was great, and those that took part in its attainment were particularly
The craftsmen were a special type of Jew. Their hands were coarse, they spoke
loudly and flamboyantly, they were broad shouldered and their hearts warm and
were mindful to every Jewish problem. In the town there were shoemakers,
tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, milliners, locksmiths and a number of
builders. There were petty craftsmen that only dealt in repairs, whilst on the
other hand, there were craftsmen that worked for wholesalers in Bedzin and
Sosnowiec: these were shoemakers, tailors and milliners. There were a couple of
blacksmiths who worked for industry, and manufactured all sorts of accessories
for the factory.
The craftsmen were connected to the Bedzin Zach organization (a type of professional association), and each craftsmen that sought to be independent and employ workers had to undergo an examination in the Zach association. The diploma he received would grant him the title of a certified craftsman. The craftsmen belonged to a union called Handwerker Fareyn (craftsmen union) and their presence in the town was pronounced. They had a strong feeling of communal responsibility: they had a benevolent fund which gave small loans for the purchase of materials, a disciplinary court for internal matters, in the case of trespassing or unfair competition in receiving tenders. They appeared in the municipal elections as a separate party and achieved their own delegate. The committee members were: Beryl Fuks, Szlomo Wiener, Jekutiel Kajzer, Akiba Rubinsztajn (chairman), Emanuel Zilbersztajn, Eliezer Rubinsztajn, Mosze Zilbersztajn and Abraham Lajtner. Representing the tailors were: Kanarek, Wajszalc, Pomocnik and Josef Szymon. On behalf of the shoemakers: Jakob Fuks.
They had their own synagogue on The third of May Street and they would pray there on Shabbat and holy days only. Rabbi Jekutiel Kajzer would stand at the reading desk.
The rabbi of the craftsmen was Rabbi Shapira, who was the brother of Rabbi
Shapira from Bedzin. He was a tall Jew, with a small blond beard. They called
him Der Plompel Rabbi, since his home was next to the public water pump. Abe
Kalish lived in his house. The craftsmen liked their rabbi and any quarrel was
brought before him and his judgment was humbly received.
First row, standing from right to left:
Chaim Lewi, Israel-Jicchak Fajner (Wawa's son), Zilbersztajn, Jicchak Moneta, Jekutiel Kajzer.
Second row, standing:
Unknown, Chaim Ziszl Szwimer, Guterman, Emanuel Rubinsztajn, Unknown Zilbersztajn,
Lajbl Grynbaum, Chaim Wekselman.
Josef and Szymon Pomocnik, Wawa Fajner, Ruwen Wekselman, Szymon Szwimer and Szlomo Wiener
We have presented a comprehensive review of the lengthy establishment of the Dąbrowa Górnicza Jewish community and efforts to create foundations there, the consistent and unrelenting battle against the eviction edict, the establishment of communal institutions, communal assistance, integrating into the town's life and its development. The material on which this document is based comes from encyclopedias, magazines, history books, and from Jewish newspapers that appeared in Zaglembia before the war. Above all, Rabbi Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg, of blessed memory, will be fondly recalled as taking an active role in the community and from him I heard a great deal of the material which is now before you. He was so afraid, that the community's annals would be lost forever, and I did as he requested and wrote down the words as he had related to them to me. The first Jews reached Dąbrowa when it was still a barren region, filled with swamps and forests of oak (Domb) trees. In 1931 there were 5,150 Jews making up14% of the total population. In 1940, before their deportation, there were 5,663 Jews (according to documents from the General Encyclopedia, New York).
We have skipped over the political parties that existed in the town, on the Jewish representation in the town council at the head of which were Bernard Rechnic and Lejbl Steschagowski. Over the Jewish trade and the war against anti-Semitic incitement, standing at the head of which were, Rechnic, Szpilberg, Walterfreynt, Neyfeld and Zindband. Over the Lodovian Bank whose operators were Nachman Gutman, Herzl Liberman, Kalman Gurfinkel, Lipka Futerko, Ruwen Grosfeld, Chanoch Zalatnik, Lejbl Manela, Herszel Rivsczteyn, Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg, Itche Majer Luksenburg, Jakob Frydman, Jakob Parasol, Chaim Dawid Wajnreb, Israel Welner and Szmul Malsztajn: (Zagłębie Zeitung, 1929). There was an institution that dressed those without clothing headed by Szlomo Zeywencz, Mendel Bielicki, Jicchak Kruz, Jicchak Hersz Rotsztajn, Cukrowski, Wawa Fajner and Szpilberg.
There was a women's society headed by Chawa Minc and active women like Lea Zygrajch and Saraleh Bajtner. There were also religious institutions with their organizations, youth movements and so on. We have not mentioned the tens and hundreds of anonymous characters who did not stand out in public activities, but their simple lifestyle glorified the landscape of this community.
On these pages we have given them an everlasting memorial.
by Mosze Fajnkind
Translated by Dr. Hannah Berliner Fischthal
Dąbrowa itself is still young. The first settlers of the Dąbrowa neighborhood were the Prussians who occupied Poland. In 1790 they proposed the establishment of Reden, where their colony of workers and other residents were gathered.
In the second quarter of the nineteenth century, Huta Bankowa, Ksawer, and so on, came into being. Later all the colonies were united under the general name of Dąbrowa, the settlement located in the center of the coal-mining complex.
Jews first settled in Dąbrowa in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Jewish population in Dąbrowa was less than 500 persons in 1897. The Jews in that neighborhood belonged to the Będzin kehila [Jewish community], where they paid Jewish community taxes, buried their dead, and so on.
When Reb Berisz Graubart, of blessed memory, took over the Będzin seat of Rabbis (1893), he appraised the revenue of all the neighborhoods in the town, including Dąbrowa. Because of the development of the iron industry in that region, the number of Jewish residents grew every day. They no longer wanted to be dependent on Będzin, and they wished to create an independent community. It happened like this:
Several leaders of Zagórcze, Józefów, Gmina Górna, Gołonóg and Ząbkowice, in 1908, directed a petition to the governor of Piotrków requesting to separate from the Będzin community and to create an independent one, together with Dąbrowa, under the name of Dąbrowa kehila, the Jewish community of Dąbrowa.
Formation of the petition was motivated by the fact that the Będzin community was far away as well as totally unconcerned that the Jews in Dąbrowa lacked religious necessities at their own location. Therefore, the Jews had to, unquestionably, form an independent community. They were ready to build a synagogue in Dąbrowa, and so on. The officers of the province sent this very request to the proper official in Będzin, so that he would express his thoughts about the matter.
The official answered that the Jews of Dąbrowa, and the other areas
listed, were the very poorest of the Będzin locale, and that it was very
difficult to force them to pay the small Jewish tax. If the Jews wanted to form
an independent community, they would end up having a great financial burden if,
for example, they needed to build a shul [synagogue], a mikve, or to buy
a place for a cemetery. Furthermore, they would have to include a budget of
several thousand rubles a year to pay the salaries of a rabbi, cantor, shochet
[ritual slaughterer] etc., which would cause enormous hardship on the impoverished,
small population, and it would make them even poorer.
Separately, the majority of employers in that neighborhood turned to the governor with their own request, that because of the above reasons, they should not break away from the Będzin kehila, and so on.
Taking into consideration the official's points, the managing committee of the province, at a meeting held 23 June 1909, refused the request to create an independent Jewish community of Dąbrowa (ukase number 4592, 1 July 1909).
The small group of Jews did not let the matter end there. They asked the Senate in Petersburg to repeal the decision. As soon as the Senate received the document to consider, the genteel businessmen of Dąbrowa, Huta Bankowa, Reden, and Gołonóg, brought a second petition to the governor to break away from the Będzin community. The opposition was busy again campaigning against the revolutionary petition, declaring that they were happy with the activities of the Będzin kehila, which also concerned itself with the religious interests of their own areas. Principally, however, they were not strong enough to maintain independence by themselves.
In response, the managing committee of the province ordered the official to research, in every area and town, the number of those who wished to separate and the number of those opposed. He should also find out if those in favor of secession were willing to assume all the expenses involved.
Those in Dąbrowa, Huta Bankowa, and Reden who were earning salaries and paying taxes, promised to be responsible for covering all the expenses, including religious necessities, if the authorities would agree to not allow Zagórcze, Józefów, Gołonóg, and Ząbkowice to be a part of the Dąbrowa kehila.
There were more disputes: the governor received a complaint that the people were bribed. Hence those who were previously nay-sayers now supported the yea-sayers. Since a creative majority was created, the petition ought not to be considered because nobody would pay the taxes.
But it came out, that practically all the Jews who were the yea-sayers, suffered to pay the taxes on time in order to support a Rabbi and other religious necessities, securing them with all their own earthly goods. Thus the managing committee of the province, in a meeting on 10 September 1910, decided that the request of the majority of the Jews in the previously listed communities would be accepted. They would be permitted to establish a new independent kehila in Dąbrowa, which would include the colonies of Huta Bankowa, Reden, and Dąbrowa , as well as the village Gołonóg, all of which took financial responsibility to support their religious needs.
As a matter of course, the earlier petition to repeal the decision of 23 June 1909 was nullified.
On the basis of the concession, the Dąbrowa kehila was established 1 January 1911. In the struggle to break away from the Będzin kehila, those from Będzin were not opposed; they acted as though the matter did not interest them at all. This made the impression that they were happy with Dąbrowa's separation, because those Jews did not want to pay their taxes anyway, or because of other undetermined reasons.
That the Będzin Rabbi, Reb Graubart, was thereby greatly aggravated, was
only discovered when the Dąbrowa Jews voted for a new Rabbi, and Reb
Graubart had to take a cut in salary.
As soon as the kehila was organized, the people voted for a Rabbi; the candidate for the Rabbinical seat was Rabbi Alter Lewi of Parzynów.
Then the first real war between the nay and yea-sayers flared up. It was just discovered that a certain side led an intrigue against the Będzin Rabbinical Seat in Dąbrowa.
According to the visible protests of the nay-sayers, the Parzynów Rabbi had bought a house in Będzin three years before the separation, and he lived there after he left his shtetl. From time to time he came to Dąbrowa and took charge of the Jews' religious needs.
The Będzin Rabbi regarded this behavior as out of bounds. He referred the matter to the genius Rabbi Elijahu Chaim Majzel in Łódź, and to Rabbi Natan Nachum Rabinowicz of Kromołów. Both the genius of Łódź and the Rabbi in Kromołów were actually against this stepping out of bounds. But they could do no more than write letters. The Rabbi of Parzynów replied with a letter dated 5 November 1910, that this game had already cost him some 3,000 rubles. The nay-sayers took the letter from the Rabbi in Kromołów and attached it to their protest to the governor.
Libelous statements flew from one side to the other, and the end was, that the Parzynów Rabbi was elected by a majority to take the rabbinical seat, and 20 June 1911 the governor confirmed the votes. The Rabbi swore to be faithful to his country, and in July he officially took office, to the delight of the entire population, with the exception of the embittered nay-sayers.
The nay-sayers, however, were still not silent. They appealed again to the governor, repeating all their former complaints, asserting that the Jews in Dąbrowa were promised that they would not have to pay taxes for a period of time if the Rabbi was elected. Many nay-sayers were rebought and told to vote for Rabbi Lewi. They had other complaints, referring to the letters presented earlier about the Rabbis and to a large list of witnesses who would, supposedly, confirm everything.
But the authorities did not research the witnesses and they were not able to sort through the overstepping of boundaries, about which the Rabbis wrote. They also did not consider that, according to Russian law, a Rabbi who attended to religious matters in the city of a large province, needed permission from the Rabbi located in the province city, and he had to prove that he had the necessary qualifications to be a Rabbi. The nay-sayers protested, yet the governor general Skalan still confirmed the votes. The nay-sayers turned to the senate in Petersburg to repeal the decision of the governor general.
In the appeal, all the old arguments were repeated. Soon the World War ended the Dąbrowa war.
In the end, Rabbi Alter Lewi remained in the Rabbinic chair of Dąbrowa, a village which had recently become a shtetl. And nobody says a word
Because of the war, the heads of the community were not able to produce a report to the province about their deeds in the first years of their term in office. They also did not present their budget for 1912-1914.
After the death of their first Rabbi, the feud about the Dąbrowa rabbinic
seat flared up again.
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