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Five Years of Communal Work. 1931-1936

by J. M. Heber

Herewith, we offer a first attempt to give the Jewish Community in Kalish a report on the activities of the Community Council during its five years of office. The Council decided to publish this Report in accordance with a resolution of the 1935 Executive. In submitting this comprehensive account, we have had the following purpose in mind: 1. To give Kalish Jews, who bear the burden of the Community, a clear description of the purposes for which the funds, placed at the disposal of the Council, have been expended; 2. To prepare statistical material for later community Councils so that they can learn what good actions deserve to be imitated and what actions should not be imitated. Let us stress here that this comprehensive Report marks the end of an epoch which has possibly been the most difficult and responsible in our history. Hence, it is a weighty undertaking and a contribution to the communal experience and life of our City.

In summing up and surveying our activities, it is first necessary to consider the conditions under which the work has been done. Let us pause to consider some of these conditions more particularly.

One of the main difficulties against which the Council has had to struggle consistently in order to keep its budget balanced was the weak and irregular flow in the payment of communal taxes. A large proportion of those owing taxes, and particularly persons of means among them, were in no hurry at all to pay. Furthermore, they demanded that their charges should be reduced to a half or a third. In most cases, the Council had to agree so our accounts have always been at a deficit.

The Council often sought for ways of influencing those who were in arrears but to our regret were not always successful. The compulsory collection also did not have the success it deserved. It was found that the crisis was stronger than all the laws and the tax payers were in such a bad situation that they simply disregarded the level of tax imposed on them and were in no way alarmed by the “yellow form” of the Collection Department since they no longer had anything to lose. If the Council, nonetheless, succeeded in paying all allocations and wages of its staff to the last farthing, that had been its greatest achievement.

In considering the budgetary difficulties of the Community and the main reasons for this, we must re-examine the years 1932 when Kalish Jewry suffered a severe blow with the death of its great leader and guide, the learned Rabbi Yehezkiel Liebshitz, of Blessed Memory, one of the great luminaries of Polish Jewry, chairman of the Society of Polish Rabbis and Rabbi of Kalish for many years. During his years of office, peace and harmony prevailed in our midst and the majority of the Council conducted communal affairs firmly and resolutely to the benefit of all sections of the Jewish population in the city. His death has shaken communal life to its very foundations and we can still feel its effects. Our community cannot console itself for this irreparable loss.

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Almost all the charitable institutions without exception are in considerable deficit on account of the constant decline in income. This situation has led everybody to impose the principle of pressure on the community on the assumption that it has to help all who are in need. And although the demands from the community increase from day-to-day, we succeeded in surmounting the difficulties and obstacles, and to the best of our ability, largely satisfied the needs of the Jewish population.

In considering cultural institutions, we may state with assurance that if the fine, modern Talmud Torah, where 450 children of indigent parents study and are fed, continues to exist, this is thanks to the Community Council which regularly pays all allocations.

The Council has also elevated the Rabbinate to a level befitting a city like Kalish. The religious institutions are maintained, the Rabbinate has been paid a regular salary. Kashrut is under proper supervision. In particular, there is the major Passover undertaking and a kosher kitchen for Jewish soldiers and prisoners and many other activities which swallow up a large part of the communal budget.

In setting out to sum up the activities of the present Community Council at the close of its period of office and on the eve of new elections, we look back with pride on our activities during the last five years. What has been done reflects credit on the doers and those faithful communal workers who helped. More than once our opponents brought us to the verge of despair but our strong feeling of responsibility gave us the strength and energy to bring the hard work to its close and pass it on to those who will be elected as the forthcoming representatives of the Community of Kalish.

Kalisher Leben (451) 28, 3rd Elul 5696, 21.8.1936


(Błaszki, Poland)

51°40' 18°27'

by B. C.

There is a little town most of whose inhabitants were Jews. The place has remained but the Jews are no longer there. Those who came to Eretz Israel or emigrated elsewhere were saved. The rest suffered the fate of the six million.

From the account of friends, we have reconstructed the story of this place although the account is certainly incomplete. Whatever was told was written down. There are no reliable documentary sources.

The little town was fairly close to Kalish, only 28 kilometres away. On the one side was the Joszanka tributary of the Prosna which came from Joszema Village. This was a little stream whose water was drunk by the townsfolk. They washed and did their laundry there; they caught fish in traps and they built their ritual bath (Mikveh) over it. On the other side was the railway line. Between the railway station and the little town was the graveyard.

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There was a bridge over the stream. Then there were two main streets. Sieradz Street and Kalish Street which were the entry and exit. They met at the very large market-place which was divided into upper and lower sections. Every Monday and Thursday was market days. The Jews did not build stands in the market. They put boxes there and fixed covers over them. In the centre of the market-place was a wheel pump, a rope and a bucket. In winter, they used to slide on the ice here. There was a big building in the market-place called the “Blaszkowianka” with shops below and above a hall for performances, a gymnasium and a bath-house.

Only Jews lived in Kalish Street while in Sieradz Street, more than half of the inhabitants were Poles, chiefly craftsmen – shoemakers, carpenters and pork butchers. There was also a street of the Dutchmen. These were Christians from Holland and were chiefly shoemakers.

What did the Jews do? They made their living from the neighbouring villages by means of the market days. There were also Jews who used to exports eggs and had grocery shops. The trade in grain and seeds played a big part and the merchants were the important people of the town. But crafts played an important part too. Ready-made clothing for men was important. The goods were sold to the peasants at the market and were also sent to Poznan. Of the Jews, 15% were tailors. The hat-makers also went their goods to Poznan. Jews worked as tinkers, carters, watchmakers, porters, owners of hand-carts, carriage drivers to the railway and on inter-urban lines and were also water-drawers. The line to the railway station, which was 3.5kilometres from the town, was in the hands of Jews who owned open carriages. There were also goods carriers. Nor should we forget the bakers, barbers and barber-surgeons.

The latter, known as feldshers, were doctors to all intents and purposes. They carried out minor operations, dressed wounds and set fractures. In particular, Itzik Feldsher and Feivel Feldsher should be remembered.

When the Polish reactionaries began to encourage the anti-Jewish boycott, a Christian shop was opened next to or opposite every Jewish shop. The activities of the anti-Semitic Rozwoi Organization could be clearly felt.

It is estimated that until the 20's, more than 400 Jewish families and 215 Christian families lived in Blaszki. Afterwards, there was an extensive movement from the village to the town and the number of Christians increased to 50%.

The Great Synagogue also contained a women's section. In the House of Study, there were several Minyanim (prayer quorums) and young men also studied there. Likewise, there were Hassidic Stieblech of the Hassidim of Gur – Alexander and Sochaczow. The secular minded Jews sent their children to the Polish elementary school and gymnasium. The observant maintained a “Bet-Yaakov” School for girls. There was also an Agudat Israel School. In 1919, a “Yavneh” Hebrew School was founded and became a model institution.

Jews were not permitted to study at the Tsarist School but teachers used to give lessons in the Hedarim (private Hebrew classes). In 1913 a four-

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class school was built and the Heder children used to visit it for half-an-hour a week in order to learn Russian.

In 1907, Rabbi Isaac Meir Kanal was appointed rabbi and held the post until 1922 when he became Head of the Rabbinical Court in Warsaw. He accepted the post only after talks with representatives of all groups and was received with much honour. He brought Rabbi Fuchs, a member of the Mizrahi and an active Zionist to town. It was his practice to gather the younger generation in his home and familiarize them with Zionist ideas. He also used to teach Bible in the Polish School. One day, the Hassidim who were opposed to this practice, sent a boy to remove the Ikon (Holy Christian picture) in the class-room. The Ikon fell from his hands and broke. The rabbi was charged and imprisoned. He was so distressed that he grew ill and died.

Relations with the Christian population were characteristic. In 1910 during an important fair, a Jewish pickpocket who did not belong to Blaszki was caught while at work. The peasants beat him murderously and later crushed his throat under a wagon-wheel.

Following the declaration of Polish Independence in 1918, the Christians wished to conduct a pogrom. A meeting of the Town Council was held with Rabbi Kanal's participation. A number of the large estate-owners of the vicinity were also present together with the Priest. All of a sudden, shouts were heard and there was a state of alarm. A crazy Jewish lad was wandering around in the town and rumour spread that he had shot at the Poles. An anti-Semite went to the railway station and shouted: “The Jews are murdering Christians!” He had no answer. Peasants began to arrive from the neighbouring villages with their scythes in order to engage in riots against the Jews. The Municipal Council and the Priest took up positions at every entry into the town and prevented the peasants from entering.

In the same year, soldiers of General Haller's army arrived by train. The Jews at the station were busy sending off chickens and eggs. The soldiers began to beat them and they ran away looking for hiding places in attics. The soldiers chased them yelling: “Where are the Jews?” When they found them, they beat them and also injured a woman who had refused to tell them of their hiding-places.

In 1934 another attempt was made to cause an anti-Jewish riot. At a Friday market, a Pole went to Samuel Rockman's shop to buy boots. He took them and went on his way. It was already sunset and the Jew locked up his shop. Meanwhile, the Christian showed the boots to his friends who decided that the Jew had swindled him. The man went back to the shop and when he found it closed, he began to smash the door. The Jews were already on their way to the Synagogue and the Poles began to beat them up. The Christian porters came out with knives in their hands. When a Jew went to speak to them, they declared: “We shall kill all the Jews”. Many Jews were wounded.

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The Rabbi went to the Priest who calmed the crowd down. The Jews did not go to the Synagogue that Sabbath.

The Nazi concentrated the Jews of Blaszki in three places: Sarniaki, Losiec and Sikilow Podlaski. They encouraged flight beyond the frontier and many ran away to Russia and the Warsaw Ghetto. The rest were either shot or sent to extermination camps. When they entered the town, the Nazi took ten hostages of the leading townsfolk, brought them to the Christian cemetery and shot them. In those days, the roads were crowded. Many Jews came to Blaszki in the hope of saving themselves, only to meet their death there.


(Stawiszyn, Poland)

51°55' 18°07'

by Shraga Engel

The little community of Stawiszin lived its quiet life in the Kalish District, about 17 kilometres from the city. The 80 Jewish families made up 12% of the population. It is known that under the Polish Kingdom, Stawiszin had the status of a city. The ancient buildings and cemetery served to show that the Jewish Community had existed here for hundreds of years.

Together with the 80 families, there was a neighbouring village, Hutasz, containing another 10 which made a total of 90 in all. Together they provided a living for two slaughterers, a rabbi and a shamash (synagogue attendant), maintained a House of Study and a Hassidic centre for various groups. The men were organized in various traditional Jewish Societies such as the Society for Visiting the Sick and Burial, Reciting Psalms, etc. The women had a society of their own.

There was no special Jewish street or quarter. Jews lived in every second or third house and here-and-there they were more widely scattered. They had been living in that way for hundreds of years and had preserved their customs and character. For the greater part, relations with their Polish neighbours were satisfactory. The only important even which I remember was in 1918 when anti-Jewish excesses were the fashion. Some unknown person then broker down the synagogue fence at night. But, on the other hand, the townsfolk regularly came to enjoy our Simhat Torah processions and took part in the reception for a new rabbi. The young butchers and horse-dealers, who were on very close terms with the villages because of their business, told how their comrades used to defend them in Fairs and Markets elsewhere, while they also used to come to the aid of their neighbours if they were being attacked.

The Zionist Society was founded in 1916 by a group of young men. A special Society of Youths for the study of Torah was founded and the rabbi Tamarson and other scholars gave lessons in Bible every Sabbath afternoon. Gradually, they began to invite lecturers who were not very orthodox. In due course, the Society became definitely Zionist and women were also accepted as members.

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I would like to mention one simple but exceptional person. When jewellery was contributed to the Jewish National Fund after the Balfour Declaration, we went from house-to-house. I was secretary. We specifically left out the home of the late Abraham Gruenbaum, the only porter in town. But he came and complained. We went to him. In his clean and very modest dwelling, his wife gave us her gold earrings. Such people are not forgotten.

We have no details about the end of the Community.

Religious life in the City

by Rabbi Dr. Meir Schwartzmann

Kalish prided itself on more than its great rabbis. Almost every Hassidic rebbe had his own Hassidim there. The Hassidim of Gur had several Shtieblech. One of these was known as the Shtiebel of the “Young Men” where the young, newly married men who were supported by their wealthy fathers-in-law, used to meet and study together.

The Hassidim of Alexander also had a big Shtiebel. I should also mention the Shtieblech frequented by the Hassidim of Sochaczow, Skiernewic, Kotzk, Sokolow, Parisow and Radomsk. Nor were they all.

Reb Velvel Mozes, one of the rabbis of the city, used to teach a special daily lesson in Talmud to the keenest students. A lesson was also taught by the Dayan, Rabbi Morgenstern, who was shot by the Germans in 1914.

Many youngsters from outside the city also studied at the Yeshiva and each of them ate on different “days” of the week at the homes of various householders. Apart from this, fathers taught their sons and fathers-in-law their sons-in-law. Every pious and observant home was a small-scale House of Study.

In 1914, matters took a turn to the worse. The Germans brought both economic and spiritual destruction to the city. The “free” wind that blew from Germany accelerated the process of mass secularization. The workers began to organize. There was an increase in the number of parties and organizations. The Houses of Study began to empty. The younger generation began to abandon the old-fashioned style of life. The Trade Unions inherited the Shtieblech and the party club premises replaced the Houses of Study.

This development aroused observant Jewry to action. Outstanding figures headed by Reb Abraham Mordechai, of saintly and blessed memory, the Rebbe of Gur, established the Agudat Israel which was first known as “Shelomei Emunei Israel” (The Entirely Faithful of Israel). Something fresh emerged in Jewry. Hassidic rabbis and rebbes, together with the rabbis of Lithuania and Germany, united in order to rescue Observant Jewry.

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In Kalish, the Agudat Israel was headed by Reb Joseph Moshe Heber and Hananei Rosenblum who established one of the strongest branches of the country in the city. After the death of Rabbi Ezekiel Liebshitz, there was a dispute about the new rabbi to be elected. The Mizrahi and the Hassidim presented candidates of their own, each of whom was actually worthy of the rabbinical seat. In this struggle, the Hassidim of Gur were successful together with the Agudat Israel. The younger son of the Rebbe of Gur was elected to the office. This was Reb Mendele, until then the rabbi of Pabianice and brother of the later famed Rebbe of Gur, Reb Mendele was also elected President of the Rabbinical Association of Poland, thereby continuing the tradition established by his predecessor and maintaining the golden chain of the great scholars of Kalish. His opponents also accepted him fully. He was slain and hallowed the Name together with the members of his congregation.

The “Magen Abraham”

by Moshe Feinkind

Reb Abraham Abelle Gombiner, known as the “Magen Abraham” by Jewry suffered the fate of Jewish sages and lived in poverty and need all his life. That, as is known, is the way of the Torah.

He was born in the hamlet Gombin in 1636. In 1655 his father, Reb Hayyim Halevi and his mother, perished in that town at the hands of the “Confederates” under the Polish Hetman Czarnecki. After the Polish-Swedish War, those brigands finished what the Cossacks of Bogdan Chmielnicki did not do in 1648. Whenever these Confederates came to any town they slaughtered the Jews who lived there. A similar fate befell Poznan, Kalish, Lenczic, Piotrkow, Przedboz, Gombin, etc. Reb Abbele was nine years old and his younger brother was seven when he left home to study Torah. In Lissa, he had kinsfolk among whom he grew to maturity. He came to Kalish bearing heavy burdens. In those days Kalish was known as the centre for advanced students of Torah.

Reb Abbele began to teach Talmud to young men in order to make a living. His dwelling was a cellar in the house of Alrich where he dedicated himself to Torah by day and night in spite of his poverty. These facts are confirmed by Reb Joseph Samuel, Rabbi of Frankfurt, in the Haskama (Approbation) he wrote to the work: “Magen Abraham”.

Reb Abraham Abbele was very modest and dedicated exclusively to his studies. For a long time the townsfolk were not even aware that they had an outstanding scholar in their midst. His knowledge and perspicacity were discovered in the course of a Halachic debate on a grave problem concerning Hametz (leavened food during Passover) which was discovered within the Community. The Rabbinical Court found it hard to issue any judgment for the problem was very difficult. Reb Abbele expressed his views among his

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acquaintances, from whom the community suddenly learnt that the simple Hebrew teacher was an outstanding Halachic authority. The Court adopted his decision.

Thereafter, the Community appointed him Head of the Yeshiva and Dayan (Member of the Rabbinical Court). However, Reb Abbele refused to deprive any former Dayan of his livelihood and accepted the post only on condition that he was appointed: “Synagogue Dayan”. He was known accordingly as long as he lived in Kalish. It was only when Reb Israel, son of Reb Nathan Shapira, became rabbi that he summoned Reb Abbele to be a member of the Communal Court.

Reb Abbele began to write his Commentary on the Shulhan Arukh before he was thirty years old. He used to write on torn paper bags. When some relevant thought occurred to him at night, he would write it on the wall with charcoal in order not to forget before morning. He continued to write even during the illness that afflicted him on account of his poverty. However, he never lived to see his work published though it had received the approbation of Rabbi Isaac, son of Rabbi Shalom Gombiner, Rabbi of

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Lissa in the year 1671. His brother Reb Judah Gombiner of Cracow went especially to Amsterdam in order to publish the Commentary but he died on the way and the manuscript was lost.

After the death of Reb Abbele, his son Reb Hayyim set out to seek for the manuscript. The person holding it was commanded to return it by the Council of the Four lands. Two years later, the printer, Reb Shabtai Meshorer Bass, published the Commentary on his own account and it was printed in his press at Duerenfurth in 1692. There it was given together with the Shulkhan Arukh and the Commentary entitled: “Magen David” (Shied of David- written by Reb David Halevi of Lemberg, usually referred to as the “Turei Zahav” or TAZ. The name of the new Commentary was given as: “Magen Abraham” (Shield of Abraham). Reb Abraham Abbele himself had called it “Ner Israel” (Light of Israel).

The publication of this new Commentary together with the already authoritative Commentary of the “Turei Zahav” immediately established the author of “Magen Abraham” as one of the leading Halachic Authorities of Poland and Germany. The rabbinic world began to respect him and accept his reasoning in their decisions. The Commentary is very succinct, clearly written, deeply logical and shows a consistency of thought. It deals with the customs of East European Jewry which were not mentioned by Reb Moshe Isserlein in his work: “Darkei Moshe”, whereby the originally Sephardic Shullhan Arukh was adapted to the needs of the Ashkenazic Jewry. For this reason, we are not going too far if we claim that after Reb Moshe Isserlein, the Magen Abraham became the most widely accepted Halachic Authority in Poland.

So succinct was he in presenting his thoughts and views that Reb Shlomo of Cologne found it necessary to write an elucidation entitled: “Mahtsit Hashekel” (The Half-Shekel) which serves to complement the major work.

Reb Abraham Abbele also wrote a Commentary on the Midrashic Collection Yalkut Shimoni which he entitled: “Zayit Raanan” (Fresh Olive, printed in Dessau in 1704); a Commentary on several Talmudic Tractates of the Order Nzeikin (Amsterdam 1771) and sermons on certain weekly section of Genesis called “Shemen Sasson” (Oil of Gladness) which were published by his son-in-law Reb Isaac Meir Kaufman, Rabbi of Kutno.

Reb Abraham Abbele also wrote religious hymns which were recited in the Kalish Synagogue during his lifetime. Two of these hymns were published in his son-in-law's own books of commentaries but did not win the heart of the Congregation. They lacked religious poetic inspiration and the poetic language found among other hymn writers, and has, therefore been forgotten.

After a prolonged illness, Reb Abbele passed away on 15th Adar 5443 (1683) when he was not yet fifty years old. In his will, he left instructions that nothing more than his name and the name of his Commentary should be engraved on his tombstone.

The beginnings of our Old Cemetery go back to the year 1287. On the height within it lie buried the outstanding rabbis of Kalish and their

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disciples who are known as the Sages of Kalish. There the grave of the Magen Abraham was also placed. At the head is a simple stone bearing the legend: “Here lies Reb Abraham Abbele, son of Reb Hayyim Halevi, the Magen Abraham”. This inscription was recently restored by the town scholar Weltsman. On the 250th anniversary of his passing, it would be proper to fence in the tomb of this holy and humble scholar and authority.

Kalish Leben, 9(79): 19th Adar I 5689, 1-3-1929

The Gaon Reb Abbele Harif

by Mordechai Weiss

Reb Abbele Harif (the Keen-minded) was born in Lask in 1738 and was a member of a distinguished family. He served as Rabbi of Kalish for 42 years/ Details of his period of office have not been preserved but on the other hand, there are several legends about his first year as rabbi.

The rabbinical chair of Kalish was far-famed. Rabbis who assumed office there had all had outstanding careers elsewhere. In spite of this, Reb Abbele Harif was elected to the post in 1767 at the age of 29 and had never exercised his rabbinical authority anywhere else.

There are various legends as to how he came to be elected. Here we shall only quote those that seem the likeliest.

Reb Abushel Lisser, Rabbi of Frankfurt, married a second wife in his old age. This was the daughter of Reb Nahum, one of the magnates of Lask. In the year 1767, a major dispute began between Reb Abushel and other rabbis regarding his approval of a divorce. Owing to this dispute, the Rabbi of Frankfurt became known throughout the Jewish world. In the course of that year, Reb Abushel returned from Lask, passed through Kalish and spent a few days there. The communal worthies entreated him to suggest a suitable candidate for the vacant rabbinical office. The rabbi recommended Reb Abbele, a youthful resident of Lask whom he had recently met. The leaders of the community accepted his counsel, prepared a Certificate of Appointment as Rabbi and sent two sages with it to Lask.

When the emissaries came to Reb Abbele's home, they hesitated to offer him the document for they could not imagine that such a young man should be worthy and fitting to become their rabbi. However, no sooner did they begin discussing Torah with him that they realised that Reb Abushel had been correct. When they told Reb Abbele why they had come, he refused to believe them until they presented the Certificate of Appointment to him. His wife also could not believe them until they left a large sum of money

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with her in order that she should be able to clothe all the members of her family in a fashion worthy of the Kalish Rabbi. In any case, Reb Abbele requested them not to say anything about his appointment in Lask in order that no mocking remarks should be made.

Kalish welcome the new rabbi with much pomp and circumstances but the veteran scholars decided that they would not permit him to assume office on account of his youth. They, therefore, decided to heckle him with Halachic questions during his initial sermon until he would be so confused that he would not be able to answer them and would leave the City in shame.

However, Reb Abbele answered all their questions. As soon as he realised that these were not intended for purposes of clarification or for the sake of Heaven, but the men asking them were trying to trick him and trap him he said to one of the hecklers: “May the Lord cut off all smooth-speaking lips” and immediately began giving a sermon on matters connected with the Temple and Levitical purity which are not frequently studied whereupon all the scholars grew perfectly silent. And indeed, Reb Abbele completed his sermon very successfully and his appointment as Rabbi was confirmed. As for the man to whom Reb Abbele had applied the verse quoted above, he perished that very years; and this brought the awesome power of Reb Abbele home to them all.

However, there were still opponents to him. Reb Mordechai Parnass wanted one of his kinsmen to obtain the post and plotted against the rabbi. Reb Abbele, however, had a wealthy kinsman in Plotzk, a great scholar known as Reb Itshele. The latter wrote to Reb Hayim Parnass requesting him to cease persecuting the rabbi and enclosing a gift – a currency note of one hundred roubles. After that Reb Mordechai Parnass began visiting the rabbi and indeed became his friend.

When Purim came around, Reb Mordechai sent the hundred rouble currency note to the rabbi as a Purim gift. Neither Reb Abbele nor his wife knew much about currency notes. She went out next day to do her market purchases and paid with the note. However, the shopkeepers could not find change for this huge sum and they wondered how such a treasure could have reached the rabbi. The rabbi's wife swiftly returned home and told him what had happened. Reb Abbele feared that there might be some hint of bribery in this gift and at once sent to summon Reb Mordechai. The latter told him where the note came from and refused to take it back. Reb Abbele then sent it back to his kinsman.

In due course, the rabbi and Reb Mordechai Parnass made a match between their children. The kinsman of Plotzk then sent back another hundred rouble note, this time as a wedding gift to the young couple.

Reb Abbele Harif passed away in 1809 after having served as Rabbi of Kalish for 42 years. To this day, his name is mentioned with the utmost respect. And there are some who say: From Reb Abraham Abbele (The Magen Abraham) to Reb Abraham Abbele (Harif) there was none like Reb Abraham Abbele.

Kalish Leben 25 (107). 8th Elul 5689. 13-9-1929

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Rabbi Hayyim Eliezer Wachs

by M. Kalishai

Reb Hayyim Eliezer Wachs was generally known among the Jewish population by the name of his scholarly work: “Nefesh Hayya”. (A Living Soul). The story of his life and his public stand and struggles display a natural leader who did not enclose himself within the four ells of Jewish law but lived a full and entire life and was strict rather than lenient. Some interesting information about him is found in the volume of reminiscences: “Poland” by the Yiddish journalist J.J. Trunk, the great-grandson of Rabbi Joshua Trunk, teacher of Nahum Sokolow who was famed throughout East European Jewry as Reb Shiele Kittner (i.e. of Kutno).

The fame of the “Nefesh Hayya” in Poland did not actually come from the genius displayed in the work but from its enlightened approach. The great rabbis of Poland were familiar only with the four ells of Jewish law and were not particularly well versed in everyday affairs. They lived simple lives after the fashion of scholarly teachers. This was not the case with the “Nefesh Hayya” who used to run his household after the fashion of the wealthy. He belonged to a rich family that came from Galicia and introduced this wealthy and enlightened style of life to the casual and rather impoverished atmosphere of the world of the Polish rabbis and Hassidic Tsadikim. This made a tremendous impression. He also sent his daughters to school. They could speak German and Polish and could read Schiller and Mickiewicz. The spoiled and prideful girls played the part of grand ladies rather than daughters of a rabbi and there was nothing in common between them and a simple Jewess like our saintly Aunt Saraleh. The rabbi of Kalish married off his children to the families of wealthy Polish Hassidim like Reb Isaiah Prives, Reb Jacob Engelman and Reb Itshe Blass.

“…The rabbi of Kalish lived in a fine dwelling and lived the life of a wealthy man rather than in the usual style of the rabbi. He planted a flower garden in front of his house and went out every morning to tend the fine and beautiful roses which he grew. This was very exotic for a rabbi in Poland. There was something of a Jewish nobleman about him.

…”He dedicated himself to the resettlement of Eretz Israel, according to the conceptions and possibilities of his period. He very much desired to improve the charity-ridden approach to the Haluka (collection and distribution of Funds for the Jews of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias). He used to encourage wealthy supporters in Warsaw to build houses in Jerusalem. Since the constructive purposes of the rabbi were not sufficiently clear, these houses finally fell into the hands of the Haluka authorities. His plans for settlement in Eretz Israel were more modern than those of other Polish rabbis. He approved of Jewish settlement in the country.

“In Poland itself he did his effective best to convince his fellow-Jews that at the Sukkot Festival they should only use the citrons of the Land of Israel. For some reason, the Polish rabbis did not approve of the citrons from the Holy Land. In their opinion, the Korfu citrons were more fully suitable

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(Kosher) for fulfilling the festival commandments. The Hassidic rabbi of Gur, who afterwards wrote the work “Sefat Emet” (True Speech), was particularly unenthusiastic about the Eretz Israel citrons as was Reb Gershon Henech, the rabbi of Radzin who fought a bitter fight against the rabbi of Kalish on this account and wrote a polemic on the subject.
The Rabbi of Kalish set out to defend his citrons with a lengthy “Teshuva” (Responses) which is printed at the beginning of his work 'Nefesh Hayya'. But since the rabbi of Radzin knew only how to fight in a save and insulting polemic style, the legal and theoretical differences of opinion were swiftly transformed into savage animosity.

The rabbi of Radzin engaged in coarse and personal attacks on the rabbi of Kalish, his fine living rooms and his roses. He claimed that all such rich men's habits belonged to the things proscribed under the rule that Jews should not follow the practices of non-Jews. He objected to the fact that the Rabbi's daughters were learning foreign languages and above all, that non-Jewish servant-girls were to be found in his home.

This opposition to non-Jewish servant-girls was a favourite theme of his. He wrote a long Teshuva on this in savagely polemic style including cruel and bitter attacks on Reb Hayyim Eliezer Wachs, the rabbi of Kalish. This response was also printed. Matters reached the point where the aristocratic Aunt Shifra-Mirel, who was his second wife, came in tears to her father and begged him not to permit the rabbi of Radzin ever to enter his home again. That is, the home of her father Reb Shiele whom the rabbi of Radzin often used to visit as a kinsman and friend.

The highly-regarded and aristocratic rabbi of Kalish had to leave the city for the following reason: Kalish was a frontier centre near Germany and contained many wealthy and progressive 'maskilim' (Enlightened Jews). Berlin breezes began to blow in the city and the Maskilim wished to 'reform' the synagogue by placing the bema beside the Holy Ark and not in the centre of the building. The rabbi of Kalish was sharply opposed to this. Finally, the Berlin-style reformers took the tried and tested means of deciding such disputes; namely: they found an excuse for denouncing the rabbi to the District Governor. The 'Nefesh Hayya' had to leave Kalish and move to Warsaw. Since he was known to be familiar with daily affairs and business problems, the richest Jews of Warsaw began to submit their business disputes to him for adjudication according to the Torah (Din Torah).

In Warsaw as well, he lived in a fine dwelling and ran his household in a lordly fashion. In due course he was elected rabbi of Piotrkow.

Reb Hayim Eliezer Wachs was born in Tarnogrod in the Lublin District in the year 1822. He studied with the leading scholars of the day but followed his own course. One of the things that characterized him was that he never went to the Courts of any of the Hassidic Wonder-Rabbis. His second wife was the daughter of Rabbi Israel Joshua Trunk, the rabbi of Kutno who was one of the leading men of his generation in Poland and who was widely known as Reb Shiele.

When he was about forty years old, he became rabbi in Kalish after having served as rabbi in Tarnogrod for twenty years. It was he who had the New House of Study constructed and gathered scholarly householders around

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him. He taught in the Kalish Yeshiva and handled rabbinical affairs firmly, not submitting to the Wardens and holders of vested interests (Takkifim). When he introduced the Eruv in the year 1878 (and thus permitted the carriage of necessary objects within the Jewish Quarter on the Sabbath), the Christians found it an excuse for riots. (See the article on the 1878 Riots and the story of the Eruv). He initiated regulations to encourage modesty of clothing and behaviour at festivities.

But his national activities deserve a chapter to themselves. Apart from the Israel citrons which were a central issue in his life, he supported the Warsaw Polish Kolel (Community in the Land of Israel) and did much for it. He visited Eretz Israel himself in 1866.

His work 'Nefesh Hayya' is a collection of Responses on the four sections of the Shulhan Arukh which is the standard codification governing the life of modern orthodox Jewry. His work displays his deep knowledge and independence in the interpreting of Jewish law.

He became Rabbi of Piotrkow in 1882 and held that office until his death. He passed away in 1889 in the vicinity of Kalish and was buried in that city.

Rabbi Ezekiel Liebshitz

by A. K.

Rabbi Ezekiel Liebshitz was born in a small town of the Kovno District. His father, Reb Hillel Elijah, of blessed memory, was rabbi first of Suwalk and later of Lublin. Even in his youth, Reb Ezekiel was known to be an enlightened prodigy. He learnt several European languages and was ordained rabbi at an early age. Blessed with a clear and sharp mind, he studied incessantly and was, therefore, at home in world literature as well.

He began his rabbinical career at Yarburg in Latvia then proceeded to Boisk in Courland and later to Plotzk. From there he came to Kalish where he was rabbi for 25 years. He achieved renown in the rabbinical world with his work “Hamidrash vehamaaseh” (Theory and Practice). Large communities such as St. Petersburg, Tel-Aviv and London requested him to be their rabbi but he remained faithful to Kalish.

He served as President of the Rabbinical Association of Poland. This enabled him to take steps towards solving the grave problem of agunot (forsaken wives who cannot obtain a divorce under Jewish law). For this purpose he visited the U.S. where he was received by President Calvin Coolidge.

Rabbi Liebshitz was an outstanding Lover of Zion and was in constant touch with Rabbi Kook, of blessed memory and saintly memory. When the Jewish Agency for Palestine was established in 1929, he joined as a representative of non-party Observant Jewry and was elected a member of the Presidium

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at the Constituent Session. He was an ardent supporter of “Totzeret Haaretz” (all products manufactured or produced in Eretz Israel). During the final years of his life, he published an ardent Appeal in the world Jewish press calling for the use of Eretz Israel citrons rather than those from Corfu. He passed away in Adar II, 5692 (spring 1932) at the age of 73.

From the Memorial Notes of M. Carmel:

Reb Yehzkiel Liebshitz was an exceedingly deliberate person. It seemed as though he weighed and measured each word before he uttered it. His pleasant Lithuanian pronunciation sounded like fine poetry. A tributary of the Prosna flowed along the street in which he lived and trees grew on the bank. It was the rabbi's practice to take a walk in their shade every afternoon and his attendant, Moshe Baruch, would accompany him. All who passed, whether Jews or non-Jews, were enchanted by the spell of his personality. For indeed, he was honoured by all. His wisdom was accepted by all and people came for his advice on all serious problems whether private or public.

…When my father put on his Sabbath garb and took me to the rabbi's home, I did not yet know the truth. Only when we arrived there did I learn that Reb Itshe Podaretzki had carried home the rabbi who had suffered a heart attack and had summoned physicians. But they came too late.

[Page 100]
In the large room the tables had been pushed aside. The rabbi lay on a poor straw mattress covered in black with large candles burning at his head. At the side sat women sewing the shrouds.

…The great synagogue was full to overflowing with all the three storeys of the Women's section and the galleries around. There was tense silence charged with grieving honour. It seemed as though the glass of the ancient candelabra was vibrating. The same silence used to be felt in the synagogue on the Great Sabbath (before the Passover) when Rabbi Ezekiel Liebshitz used to deliver his sermon which was a delicate fabric of deep thought and sarcastic remarks about communal worthies and affairs. The congregation would hold its breath in order not to miss a word he said. He used to speak and pause while a deep sigh of weariness would leave his lips; the weariness of one who bore the weight of the whole life and problems of the congregation.

Now his gentle voice will no longer be heard; only sorrow and sighing and bitter weeping and mourning ….

Rabbi Ezekiel Liebshitz

by Aryeh Bornstein

I do not claim to indicate the full range of religious life in the city but merely to raise a memorial to several outstanding centres of Torah and prayer and tell a little about Torah students.

In a separate wing of the Great Synagogue was the House of Study of the “Magen Abraham”. Householders prayed there all week round and also studied their daily passage of the Talmud. On the second storey were the lads and young men who studied on their own. Some of them studied all day long and were supported by their parents while others studied together in a group after the day's work. Every year they elected a committee of their own headed by their most mature members. Up there they also had at their disposal the Library containing all the relevant Torah and rabbinical literature. It was the largest in town and all who studied Torah made use of it. The after-work study was organized by Aryeh Knoblevitch, who passed away in Israel, Mordechai Roy and others. About four hundred young men participated in it.

The older of the young men used to guide and instruct the youngsters, all on a volunteer basis. When it came to the study of Torah, both the Hassidim and the Mitnagdim, who were opposed to Hassidic practices, took part on an equal footing.

The Magen Abraham Yeshiva was housed in the rooms over the House of Study. This Yeshiva was established by the young men themselves, headed by Pinhas Goldberg and Mordechai Kaperman. Boys studied there from the age of 11 until they were capable of studying on their own, after which they went over to the House of Study. About 100-150 pupils attended the Yeshiva. At its peak, the Head of the Yeshiva was Reb Mendel Wechsler.

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Reb Idel Traube founded and conducted the Etz Hayyim Yeshiva for more than twenty-five years. The Yeshiva Committee was headed by Reb Ezekiel Liebshitz. The Yeshiva Heads were Reb Hersh Yehuda Mamlok and Reb Katriel Stein, who are still with us. The committee maintained the Yeshiva thanks to contributions of members and individuals and did not collect any tuition fees. Students without means from small country towns used to eat on different days with various householders. There were Jews who preferred to pay money instead.

The Hassidim were concentrated in Shtieblech. Most of them were Hassidim of the Rebbe of Gur who had about ten Shtieblech in town. About thirty prayer quorums used to pray in succession in the two largest and from three to five in the smaller ones.

There was also a centre for Alexander Hassidim with several hundred in the congregation. The permanent warden there was Reb Moshe Wolf Traube. Then there were the Piltz Hassidim of several score only; the Skiernevitz Hassidim numbering between a hundred to hundred and fifty; the Hassidim of Strykow, of Radomsk and of Sochaczow, each with their own congregations.

There was the Society for the Study of the Mishna (Hevrat Mishnayot). Householders used to pray in the New House of Study. The Hassidic Rebbe of Zychlin and the Rebbe of Wola also lived in the city.

In addition, there was a branch, in actual fact a Contributing Committee of the famed Yeshiva of the Sages of Lublin. Its members were: Rev Velvel Mozes, David Perle, Shlomo Jarecki, J.M. Heber and Arieh Bernstein, secretary.

A particularly impressive occasion was the meeting of the Jews of the city after evening prayers on the Eve of the New Year at the crossing of the Nowa and Ciasna Streets when it was the custom for them all to wish one another a good New Year.

The Cantors of Kalish

by E. Krotianski

Kalish was highly respected for its synagogue Hazanim (cantors) and music. Not because there were so many cantors, on the contrary. During the last century there were only four or five cantors in the two principal synagogues. For it was the local practice to engage a cantor for life.

The old synagogue-goers still remember that the series began with Reb Srolke, a Lithuanian leader in prayer and scholar of impressive appearance. Some of the older folk still remember his works which were all impromptu, that is, sung spontaneously as he stood at his post. These melodies were not written down. In his old age he left to join his children in Eretz Israel.

Reb Srolke was followed in Kalish by Reb Noah Zaludkowski who possessed a powerful and lyrical baritone. He was an outstanding musician and great

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Cantor Noah Zaludkowski
Cantor Shlomo Kupfer


scholar. His prayers and choral singing used to arouse the congregation, particularly at the High Holidays. His “Avoda” on the Day of Atonement was famed far beyond Poland. From him we learnt his compositions and songs for four voices. He himself conducted the choir and usually sang his own works which were “stolen” by other cantors. After Kalish was burnt by the Germans during World War I, Reb Noah served as chief cantor in Rostow on the Don. When the war was over, he came back and remained in Kalish until his death. For 45 years, he prayed before the Ark in the Great Synagogue which had no regular cantor after his death because it was difficult to select a worthy successor.

Kalish also had a modern synagogue in the Western style which was built by the wealthy local Jews in 1912. At the time, it had about thirty members with Raphael Frenkel as chairman. The members included local Jewish magnates such as Dr. Zucker, Markus Holtz, Alexander Preger, Adam Schreier, Herman Gurny and Isaac Meisner. This was a lofty synagogue and was official known as “The New Synagogue” but Kalish Jewry named it “Die Deutsche Schul”. In Russia a synagogue of that kind was called a Choir Synagogue. The building had the form of a little Temple, as in Berlin. It contained a large harmonium which the townsfolk called the “organ”. The Hassidim boycotted it and held that Jews were forbidden to pray there.

The “Germans” soon advertised for a cantor. Before long they invited Shlomo Kupfer, the best student at Abraham Birnbaum's School for Cantors. He was a little man with an echoing and lyrical tenor. In his recitatives, the tones were weighed and measured and always fitted within the setting laid down by his great master.

The question of a conductor for the choir promptly arose. The Synagogue warden asked: “Why do we need a conductor? Mr. Cantor, don't you have hands?” And Kupfer had to explain that while the choir stood above and the cantor below there had to be a conductor between them, using his hands. Nor was that all. The conductor had to train the choir. Thereupon, an advertisement for the post of conductor was issued. The writer of this article, Elimelech Krotianski, who is the son of a famous cantor, was invited to conduct the choir. I set up a large choir of over twenty singers, men and boys. The outstanding soloists were Moshe Golombek, first tenor and now in America; Leizer Traube, first baritone; Isaac Bordowitch, alto; Welvel Tennenbaum, bass; Gershon Messer, soprano and Wachtel, alto. These laid the foundations of the New Synagogue Choir.

The question of the repertoire also arose. The “Germans” desired the works of Lewandowsky. It stood to reason. If this was a German-style Synagogue, then the works of a Berlin conductor should be sung. However, Kupfer, who was a devoted follower of Birnbaum and Seltzer, wished that their works be heard. I myself came from the vicinity of Odessa, Yekaterinoslaw and Kiev and was very fond of Nowokowski, Dynayewski and Minkowski. I even made it a condition with Kupfer that if he did not include two pieces by Dunayewski in the service, he could go and find himself another conductor. Finally, we had to sing some of the works of all the above in order to satisfy everybody.

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However, I was not satisfied with my synagogue work alone and desired a wider field of action. With the aid of music lovers such as Mrs. Merantz, Mrs. Kletchevsky, Mr. Hammer, Mr. Ahronowitch (now Arnold), Mr. Leib Wolkowitch, etc. I succeeded within a single year in setting up two large mixed choirs. There was the Sports Club with 30 vocalists and the Choir of the Bund and Poalei Zion Members. Alongside the Sports Club, a Brass Band with twenty-five players was also established. In preparation for the opening of the “Hazamir” Society initiated by the banker Landau and Handwurzel, a String Orchestra was also established. Unfortunately, the District Governor dispersed the Society after the first concert as he refused to issue a permit for a Musical Society in the Hebrew language. In spite of this, the Hazamir Society organized several concerts at which extracts from the works of the classic composers were held. There were passages from Handel's oratorios, Handel's Halleluiah Chorus, Haydn's works, Mozart's Requiem, etc. Indeed, those years were full of musical activity in Kalish and song and melody could be heard in the Jewish streets. Those who could not afford a piano played the violin or the mandolin – but they all played.

Let us return to the cantors. After the death of Reb Noah Zaludkowski, the Great Synagogue remained without any cantor for a long time. After several auditions, a young man named Israel Boniufka, with a good tenor voice and a sound musical sense, who himself conducted a choir, was invited. From time-to-time he would sing Lewandowsky's “Lecho Dodi” and Sirota's “Retzeh” and would close with a finale by Koussevitsky.

Now began the competition between the synagogues. Two rival groups began to crystallize: the “Jews” and the “Germans”. One party claimed that all the geniuses belonged in the “Jewish” synagogue while the other claimed the opposite. If you wished to hear a fine “Lecho Dodi” or a “Kedusha” with a finale in C – the highest possible – you would go to the German Synagogue. The dispute reached a point where Rabbi E. Liebschitz was told that women were singing in the German synagogue choir. He promptly ordered that the women should be sent away; but there was nobody to send. However, Cantor Bonofka did not stay long in Kalish. He wished to pray in a “modern” synagogue. Heaven helped in this and in 1933 he was called to pray in the New Synagogue in Lodz in place of Alterman. Thereupon, the competition between the two Kalish synagogues vanished as though it had never occurred.

Once again Kalish was left without a cantor. However, the German synagogue was also left without a cantor, though for different reasons. A strange epidemic spread among those who prayed there and they perished one after the other within a few years. The only ones left were Shimon Preger and Moritz Friedman. Cantor Kupfer was a realist. He understood that there was no sense in exhausting his throat for “Germans” who were already at rest, so he made his way to Leipzig and left German Jews for by this time he had achieved a reputation thanks to the records in which he effectively imitated Yossele Rosenblatt. From Leipzig, he made his way to Manchester where he is to be found until the time of writing. Not long ago, he wrote to me that the high C was still functioning in his throat…. After Kupfer left, the Synagogue Choir also came to an end. In due course, the Cantor Israel

[Page 104]

Kowalsky was engaged but served only for a short while and then went to England.

Once again there was a cantorial competition at the Great Synagogue. Many hazanim came for auditions. Three came for one Sabbath. One was given the Eve of Sabbath Prayers, a second the Morning Prayers and a third the Additional Prayers. There were numerous gay occasions. One week the cantor Mottel Schwarzenberg arrived and remained another week for the High Holidays. The congregation took a liking to him and the competition was over. However, he never prayed without a choir. Negotiations about a conductor began again and after prolonged discussions I was summoned to conduct the choir.

The Hassidim protested vehemently against appointing a conductor of the Germans. Was it possible that a godless fellow, who for eighteen years had been a conductor in a synagogue with an organ, should enter the synagogue of the Magen Abraham? (Truth to tell, the harmonium was played only on Hanukkah and Purim and during vacation periods)? However, Noah Hiller, the vice-chairman announced at a meeting that the Hassidim were the very people whose duty it was to transform the godless one into a fit and proper Jew and they accepted his argument.

Now began Sabbaths that were really concerts. On Friday evenings, the synagogue was full from wall-to-wall. There was something new in having a conductor in the synagogue and above all in the music. On Sabbath Eve they could hear the works of Zeidel Rovner – “Emes Ve-emuno” and on Sabbath mornings came “Borikh Shemeih”.

Unhappily, these were the final Sabbaths. On the New Moon of Elul 5699, September 1939, World War II broke out and destroyed both synagogues of Kalish together with all its cantorial music which had flourished for almost a full one hundred years. If a son of Kalish now comes to the city, he would have to search hard in order to discover where the two synagogues once stood.

Kalish, October 1947

In the Yeshiva

by Shlomo Yehiel Nobel

I can still picture before my eyes Kalish as it was from 1908 to World War I – Kalish of the Jews with the Jewish Street. On the one side was the House of Study of the Magen Abraham, of blessed and saintly memory, in Grabski Street. It had two floors. On the ground floor was a Prayer Hall where hundreds of Jews of all sections of the community used to pray. On the first floor was a large Study Hall – a true Bet HaMidrash, or House of Study seating about 300 young fellows of all ages – from thirteen to early twenties. They studied there from morning until late at night and their voices could be heard afar. On the other side was the New Study House.

In addition to the House of Study which I have mentioned, there was a Yeshiva with four classes. The head of our Yeshiva was Reb Yehiel Lasker whose

[Page 105]

Pupils used to make his life a misery with all kinds of tricks. The manager of the Yeshiva was Reb Yudel Traube who used to devote himself to his work from morning until late at night. He regarded us as his children because he had none of his own. His wife used to treat us very affectionately when we came to his home on Friday in order to receive slips instructing us to whom we were to go on Sabbath for examination in our week's studies; and on Sundays when we brought back the slips with the marks.

The Jubilee of the Eruv

by M. Ben Menahem

The story of a Pogrom

The Eruv we have in town is now all that it should be according to Jewish law and practice; and it is almost always in proper order. This is due to the watchful activities of three or four people who constitute a committee for the purpose. But, in the past, the Eruv led to a bitter quarrel between Jews and Christians. On the Jubilee of the Eruv, let us record what happened then.

Fifty years ago, the Rabbi of Kalish was the scholarly Gaon Reb Hayyim Eliezer Wachs who was honoured and esteemed by all. One of the matters to which he devoted himself was the establishment of an Eruv in town. Dozens of meetings were held in this connection. Everybody wanted to help the rabbi somehow in this holy task but the poverty of the community caused the matter to be deferred for a very long time. However, at length, the actual sketching and construction of the Eruv began. The Rabbi himself supervised the execution. When no more pillars were available, the Rabbi called on the wood merchants who responded favourably.

Work continued for months. The Eruv was spread around the urban area s it then existed: from the “Rogatka” as it was then called, beside the Christian Hospital as far as the bridges across the Stawiszin and Turek Streets. It was completed around midsummer of 1878.

In those days the Russian authorities tried to frighten the Poles away from politics. Those, after all were the years following the second Polish revolt. So they decided to exploit the Eruv for their own base purposes.

Within a few days the rumour spread among the Polish population that the Eruv was a piece of witchcraft. The rumour was spread by Russian agents. Reb Hayyim Eliezer Wachs, they claimed, had surrounded the whole city with an iron wire so as to bring the entire Christian population within the field of operation of the witchcraft. Oil was poured onto this fire of incitement against the Jews by the evidence of the wife of the Christian physician, Remarkevitz, who claimed that she had seen Jews throwing stones at a passing Christian woman. The doctor's wife was telling the truth but this was a Russian provocation. The supposed Jew was a disguised Russian provocateur.

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On Sunday, 3rd July, 1878, when the Christians went to church, the priests delivered sermons of incitement against the Jews, particularly against the rabbi and the Eruv served as the excuse. When the Christians left the church they proceeded to the Jewish Quarter in masses and began to riot.

They began thrashing every Jew who came their way – they pillaged Jewish property and wrought destruction in the synagogue and Jewish Hospital. When they finished all of this, they gathered around the home of the rabbi. Here, however, they met with the effective resistance of the House of Study students, headed by Tratel Green the butcher. The crowds had to withdraw.

Three Jewish children were killed in these riots while many grown-ups were injured while defending life, limb and property. It was estimated that goods to a value of more than 100,000 roubles were looted and stolen.

The Russian authorities in Kalish, who had planned and executed this fine piece of work, were very satisfied at the results but concealed the whole incident from the knowledge of the Colonel of Hussars who was a liberal and would undoubtedly have protested against the whole proceedings. And sure enough, as soon as he did learn about the pogrom he came to the town at the head of his regiment and put an end to this dreadful game. At his order, the Hussars placed many Heder children on their saddles to save them from the crazy crowd and to bring them to their homes.

Against their will, the Russian authorities had to approve of his actions and round off his humane measures. They imposed a fine of 120,000 roubles on the Christian population of Kalish and the vicinity.

However, the late Reb Hayyim Eliezer had to resign his rabbinical office in Kalish on account of the incident. That was the beginning and the end of the Eruv Pogrom in Kalish fifty years ago.

A Pogrom in Kalish in 5638
(another version)

by M. Menahemai

The Jews of Kalish have had plenty of trouble during recent years and new trouble makes one forget old trouble. Little-by-little, the history of the city is being forgotten. The old folk depart without recording what happened to them and maybe they do not wish to tell their children about the troubles they saw. In either case, a large part of the history of Kalish, where every joy is mixed with tears, is being forgotten.

We shall describe on such incident fifty years after it happened. This was on the Christian Green Festival one Sunday in 1878. A tremendous crowd of Christians from the city and all around gathered to pray in the churches of Kalish. Their priests had summoned them in particular to gather on this Sunday and prophesized that there would be great events.

[Page 107]

The clergymen ordered platforms to be erected in the city squares, in order to be able to preach to the crowds who were waiting for them. But nobody knew what was liable to happen. So early in the morning believers in crowds began flowing to the City and gathering at the Churches and round the platforms in the open air. After prayers were over the priests mounted the platforms and in their sermons ordered the crowd to go and pillage the Jews. Nobody knows what the excuse for this incitement was, to this day. Some claim that it had some connection with a Liberation Movement of sorts in Poland. In any case the Order was carried out at once. A mob of more than 10,000 began dashing down into the Jewish Quarter with clenched fists, yelling all kinds of curses at the Jews.

With particularly savage rancour part of the mob burst into the Synagogue courtyard and broke open the doors. They dashed to the Holy Ark, where they began tearing Torah Scrolls. One of these had been written by the learned scholar who was the author of “Bet Yehudah.” (The House of Judah). Many legends about this Torah Scroll were current among young and old in the City. The mob also smashed the Hanukka Lamp.

The Russian Army emerged from its aloofness at last, and made an end of the savage rioting of the heated mob.

This happened on 22nd Sivan. The local Rabbi, author of the “Nefesh Hayya”, ordained a Fast in Kalish as a memorial for this Pogrom. Since many of the Torah Scrolls had been rendered unfit for use the Rabbi renewed the old Society known as “Tikkum Sofrim” (Corrections by Scribes) whoe first task was to engage in the restoration of the Torah Scroll written by “Bet Yehudah.”

These events were recorded in the proceedings of the Tikkun Sofrim Society by Reb Israel Yaffe, who was the Cantor of Kalish in those days.

Dos Kalisher Leben 13 (41) 20 Sivan 5688. 8-6-1928


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