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The History of the Jews in Radom


Chapters from the Past

by Dr. N. M. Gelber, Jerusalem

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The city of Radom is one of the oldest cities in Poland. It was already mentioned in the year 1154. King Kazimierz Sprawiedliwy built a church and a fortified palace there in 1187.

During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Russia-Greater Poland highway branched through Radom.

The fortified palace of the 12th century was rebuilt by Kazimierz the Great, who founded new Radom.

In 1613, the regime created a treasury commission there, which later became the “trybunał skarbowy Radomski,” and existed until 1764. This brought economic profit, and stabilized the material and societal situation of the city.

In the year 1656, Radom suffered from the Swedish invasion, and in 1661, from the Cossack and Tatar attacks. It suffered at that time from epidemics and fires, which diminished the population and number of houses. Of the 180 houses in the year 1564, there were no more than 84 in 1629. In 1660, there were only 37 houses and 395 residents. However, in 1776, there were already 252 houses.

The majority of the residents earned their livelihoods from hand-working, which was organized into seven guilds. There was a guild for salt merchants, in which there were Jews. However, in 1724, when Radom once again received the privilege to not tolerate any Jews (according to a decree of King August II), the Jewish membership in the guilds was annulled.

In the year 1812, there were 2,550 residents in united Radom (the old and the new cities), and in 1821 – 3,400 residents in 285 houses. In 1863, there were already 9,359 residents in 326 houses. After the building of the railway lines, a larger number of industrial undertakings developed there.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Radom was already a modern city with all the technological amenities of that time. The population grew from 29,896 in 1897 to 61,599 in 1921. In 1931, Radom already had a population of 77,902 individuals.

* * *

The very first information about Jews in Radom is from 1568.

The fact that Radom received the privilege of Władysław IV in 1633 demonstrates that this was after the expulsion of the Jews. However, we have no information regarding the number of Jews, nor about what took place in Radom prior to receiving the privilege. It is only known that the Jews settled in Przytyk at that time.

During those years, representatives of the Council of Four Lands, intercessors, and communal administrators would come there for the treasury tribunal to lighten their tax matters. Therefore, they also made compromises between communities in tax matters, such as with the community of Zawiercie in the Krakow-Tzuzmir (Sandomierz) region. All the representatives had to be hosted in the city. We therefore read in the ledgers of the Council of the Four Lands that “Our trustee has to take along all the means related to the royal taxes, both while he is in Radom, and while he is in Jaroslaw. He will be given the means for that task.” Every representative would receive 50 guilden for his mission, for trip and accommodation expenses.

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The privileged cities in which Jews did not have the rights of residency had to permit, through special royal privileges, Jews to come to the fairs. This was the situation with Radom – especially regarding the Sejm or tribunal sessions, which lasted for three or four months. From this we can deduce that Jews were permitted to remain in the suburbs of Radom even after the fairs and sessions. Of course, they required accommodations and kosher food, and, in any case, they eventually built a small Jewish settlement.

Many landowners, priests, and claimants from the tax adjudications would also come to the tribunal sessions. They all required various things and they already found Jewish merchants who provided all that they needed at cheap prices, as in Christian shops. It is self-evident that the Christian merchants and shopkeepers did not tolerate the Jewish competition and they brought the matter before the royal assessor court (in 1743), which issued a decree to expel the Jews from Radom. However, the Starosta (district governor) Stanisław Antoni Szwedzinski, who had legal competence, took the Jews under his protection – for a large sum of money – and permitted them to remain in the city.

The city dwellers did not make peace with the situation, and their continued battle was against the Jews as well as the Starosta. The matter again came to the court on January 10, 1746. The verdict was against the Jews, who were fighting against the edict of 1743. They were obligated to pay 1,000 as a fine and leave the city. In the event that they reject the verdict, they will be sent to prison.

After that verdict, the Jews were forced to leave the city and leave behind all their property.

However, that victory also brought no good luck to the city residents. On the contrary, after driving out the Jews, an economic stagnation ensued, which lasted until the fire of 1752, when a large portion of the old and new city went up in flames. Later, despite the help of the authorities, thy ran into difficulties in rebuilding the city.

In the year 1758, one of the last conferences of the district council took place in Radom, in which representatives from the Przemyśl region took part. The tribunal in Radom was liquidated in 1764, making the economic situation more difficult. Radom became an impoverished town, and became more similar to a village.

According to the census of 1765, 67 Jews lived in the peripheral and surrounding villages. During the 1780s, when special commissions began to reform and beautify the city, the Radom Starosta, Aleksander Podkonski, set out to make broad steps, and, with the agreement of the city council, again took in Jews. He annulled the decree of 1746, and came to an agreement with the Jews that they may settle in one area, around the royal palace in Podzamocka.

The first Jew who received permission to settle in the city, with his family of five, was the hat maker Zelig Szmulowicz. The first Jewish quarter that was built at that time, was made of wood.

It is interesting that according to the census of 1789, Jewish butchers paid 512 guilden of taxes. There were no Jewish merchants in the city, aside from one, Mendel-Zelig, who had a food shop near the palace. He paid 800 guilden of taxes, whereas most of the residents paid only four guilden!...

As the Jews settled, the economic situation in the city improved. Jews paid well for the permission to live there, and the paid their taxes. With that money, the Starosta began to repair the destroyed palace and also to dig a canal behind the Jewish quarter to protect the city from invasions. However, the situation of the Jews was not shiny. Despite the money that they took from them, and despite the agreement, they still suffered from the Christian residents, who could not come to terms with even such a small number of Jews living in Radom.

Radom came under Austrian rule after the third partition of Poland in 1795. The same laws as applied to the Jews in Galicia applied to the Jews in Radom. Austrian rule lasted for 14 years. On July 4, 1809, Radom was taken by the Polish army under the leadership of Duke Poniatowski. In the Radom district, as in the entire Duchy of Warsaw, Prussian law applied from 1797, which made it especially difficult for Jews to purchase real estate. A Jew could only purchase a lot upon which no Christian wanted to build. Therefore, the Christian residents had to give their approval for this.

Despite the fact that there were no more than 34 Jewish individuals in Radom in 1812, the city residents did not give up their fight against them. On November 3, 1814, the highest council issued an edict that the Jews may live only in certain designated streets in the city: in Podwola an in Stara-Miesto. The must leave the other areas. Since it was winter, the police prefect specified that the eviction was to be pushed off until July 1815. He then told the city president to demand that the Jews prepare building materials in a timely fashion to build their houses in their new living quarter.

The city council asserted that the regime permitted the Jews to live only in two places. The city president must therefore move the Jews out of the center of the city. Since there was no more building place in Podwolia, they wanted to concentrate the Jewish dwellings in the new city: from there, where the statue is located, along

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the path, until the road to Stara-Miesto. On the other side, along the lots of the hospital, until Mlodzionow, near the tavern of Ludwinowska and Podwola; from the wall that surrounds the city until about 35 meters further (to the street that born the name Perec Street during the final years). The Jewish building area extended from that area until the small windmill.

At that time, Podwola was a swampy area, with difficult building and living conditions, which the Jews did not succeed in overcoming. At that time the city president banned all Christian householders from renting their dwellings to Jews, other than in the designated ghetto area. Their houses would be confiscated if they disobeyed that ban.

Aside from the difficult building and living conditions, the newly designated area was far from the center of the city, and the Jews had no desire to go there. Thus, the lessee of the kosher slaughter tax Moshe Handelsztajn, Wolf Cytryn, Chaim Muszkatblit, Chaim Frenkel, Yitzchak Wajntraub, Jonas Pinkus, and Zelig Mendel remained in their dwellings in the center of the city, which they decided not to leave.

A few days before July 1, 1815, a trumpet announced in the streets of the city that the deadline for evicting the Jews was approaching. On June 28[1], the city president sent notices to the householders and tenants that if they do not go voluntarily, they would be evicted from their dwellings by force. On July 1, the city president summoned ten soldiers and 32 guild members to carry out the evictions. He did not even take into account Handelsztajn's permit from the prefect to remain for a few months.

Despite all the drastic means, however, no Jewish resident moved from his place.

Then, fines were imposed upon the Jews that were so large that they did not have the ability to pay.

Frenkel and Muszkatblit were then forced to leave the city, leaving behind their families and property. The decree against the Jew Cytryn was suspended by the prefect.

Suddenly, a new request: Mr. W. Olblinski, the owner of the bath on Starokrakowska, approached the prefect with a request that Jews be permitted to build houses on his baths, because Nowy-Swiat in fact begins from the other side of Mletszna. The prefect accommodated his request and also informed the city president, who was against it, that he claimed that the border that Olblinski designated is not in accordance with the privileges of the city.

The prefect took the protest of the city president as impinging on his competency as an insult to the office, and as a brazen matter. He requested a written clarification, and also ordered the military commandant to call back the ten soldiers that were placed at the disposal of the city president. The prefect also ordered the city president to issue his instructions under the prefect's personal auspices. The city president then issued a memo to the supreme authority of the regime.

In the interim, the vice president began to carry out the eviction of the Handelsztajn and Cytryn families, who the prefect had permitted to remain until October. The prefect regarded this as insubordination toward the authorities, and he fined with vice president the sum of six guilden.

Finally, the Jews were forced to leave their houses, because the community became involved in the matter: the city president asked that soldiers be housed in the dwellings. The communal administrators [parnassim] Chaim Simchowicz, Aharon Landau, Leizer Margolis, Avraham Lazarowicz, and Zelig Mendelowicz were then requested to conduct a census of all the families in Radom, so that all the taxes would be collected. The city president asserted that no outside Jew could enter the city, and that the community was would be held responsible for every new Jew that entered the city.

He also rejected the request of the Christian householders to free them from the fine for maintaining Jewish tenants. Their request to extend their contracts with the Jewish tenants was also rejected, for otherwise, they would have to return the money. In the refusal, it was claimed that they must not take the contracts into account, because the Jews cannot come with any demands, and that extending the contracts would lead to a situation in which the Jews will never leave the city.

The city president also requested from the directors of the royal palace authority to evict the Jews from their area. The Starosta was against that demand, claiming that they cannot annul an agreement that was signed in 1789 by both the Starosta and the city council.

There were also Christian householders who fought for their rights to maintain Jewish renters in their houses. Olblinski indeed received a special permit for Wolf Cytryn in August 1816. He took him in despite the opposition of the city president.

That step upset the city council, which met on September 26 to deliberate over the conduct of Mr. Olblinski. However, that same day, a second notice arrived from Mr. Olblinski regarding the Jew Yitzchak Wajntraub, who was evicted from his dwelling, and had now returned from Warsaw with a certificate from the Interior Ministry, stating that evicting Jews from their homes is not allowed until the commission decides whether Oblinski's house is located in the area where Jews are not allowed to live. The certificate permitted Jews to enter their dwellings until the commission issues a decision.

The city council responded to the ministry that Oblinski

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is following crooked paths and they accuse him of misleading the authorities.

Finally, however, Olblinski was victorious. He received a permit from the Wojewoda commissioner to take back the Jewish residents into his house. The city president also received a warning that he must no longer disturb the homeowners.

A certain Lewi, a wealthy Jew, received a permit to build the first Jewish house in the city, because he “took on the local customs.”

The hat maker Yosef Mendelowicz built the first wooden house in Podwola in 1813.

Yaakov Berkowicz built a house in 1814, and Leibka Majerowicz did so in 1815.

The Jews built 32 houses in their district during the years 1813-1816.

* * * In the year 1815, Czar Aleksander I signed principle laws for the Kingdom of Poland, which were edited by Adam Czartoriski at the Vienna Congress. It states in paragraph 35: Rights of citizenship for the Jewish people, which are guaranteed through existing laws and ordinances, are to be upheld. Special services will be created to make it easier for Jews to take greater advantage of those rights.

Nevertheless, despite the reform, the Jewish question remained an unsolved problem for a long time.

In the year 1816, the Wojewoda commissioner came to Radom in the place of the prefect, which was uncomfortable for Jews. That commission demanded that the city president explain: which Jews purchased or rented a place or a house from a Christian during 1815. It was demonstrated that only the Jew Leibush Barochowicz from the village of Kaptur purchased a house from the Christian Wojciech Lijudowinowski in Nowy-Swiat, where Jews were permitted to live.

Aside from the residency restrictions, the city council made efforts to remove business and trades from Jewish hands. Due to the ban of maintaining stores in the city, Jews conducted business in their homes as well as on the streets. The people could purchase products at the street businesses more cheaply than in the Christian shops. However, the city council did everything to liquidate them.

The population in 1815 was 2,726 individuals, of which 413 were Jews – which was 16.5% of the population.

There were 200 wooden houses and only 36 brick houses in the entire city. In general, there was no developed business in the city at that time, and the tradesmen produce inferior merchandise.

The Zgromadzenia Kupiecki – Polish merchant's union – complained that the Jewish street businessmen offer lower prices because they do not pay taxes. The council then issued a command to capture the Jewish householders, bring them to the police, and confiscate their merchandise. Only when a Jew would bring the merchandise with a written order would he be free from a penalty.

The number of Jews in Radom grew despite all the restrictions. The central regime organ had to protect and recognize the Jewish accomplishments, and their economic place in the life of the country. They were interested that the Jews should be employed in all branches of business and industry, despite the protests of the guilds and other factors. Such directives were sent to the Radom city president by the prefect on January 2, 1816. Theis time, it forced the city council to break its stubbornness and work toward compromise. The city council put forward a motion to make a differentiation between Jews who were useful – such as merchants, house owners, and tradesman, who would be permitted to live in the city, and those who did not have the designated employment, who would be sent back to where they came from. They also sent the Wojewoda commissioner a list of Jews who were living in the city without a permit. Those Jews received an order to leave the city by May 1828. The Wojewoda commissioner went further and even demanded the eviction of those Jews who had already lived in the city for about twenty years, and owned their own houses and businesses.

The control over newly arriving Jews was even more stringent. Every legally arriving Jew had to fill in a questionnaire and state the reason he had come. If he did not leave the town at the designated time, he would be sent away, and the owner of the house in which he lived had to pay a fine of 50 guilden. Of course, this gave the officers and police an opportunity to extort money from the Jews.

Thus, a number of Jews who were well-off, or who were tradesmen, succeeded in settling in the city, acquiring houses, renting shops, and setting themselves up in business and industry.

In the year 1820, there were 3,365 Christians and 505 Jews (13%) in Radom. Seven years later, there were 3,314 Christians, and approximately a thousand Jews (23%).

In the nearby area, such as Dzierzków, there were 24 Jewish families in 1830. In Gołębiów – 13 families, and in Wola Gołębiowska – 3 families. The Wojewoda commissioner also ordered them to expel even those who had lived there for about 20 years.

In the house of the lessee Moshe Goldsztajn, whose expulsion was pushed off until the end of September, and who had not left the place on that day, they housed soldiers whom he had to support.

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The city underwent economic development, upbuilding, and broadening during the time of Congress Poland. Factories and businesses were set up, which contributed to the stabilization of the Jewish community.

From 1816 until 1844, Radom was the capital city of the Tzuzmir (Sandomierz) Wojewoda.

The Jewish settlement grew from 1,161 to 1,640 individuals during the years 1838-1840.

At first in 1841, the liquidation of the ghetto boundaries took place in an orderly fashion.

After the uprising of 1831, a competitive struggle broke out between the Christian tanner August Sznirsztajn (who came from Posen) and the Jewish tanners Adler and Najman. Desiring to liquidate his competitors, Sznirszajn claimed that they did not belong to the tradesmen's guild, that they did not pay taxes or payments to the regime, and, first and foremost: they were Jews. The battle led to a harsh economic crisis, fluctuating between shortage and excess markets of their products.

Sznirsztajn's tannery was later given over to the German Freulich, and then to the Jew Brams, who built a large crockery factory there, which belonged to Rotenberg at the end.

* * *

In the year 1841, the lessee of the royal assessment office, Shabtai Finkelstajn, left the ghetto and rented a dwelling in the center of the city, where he also opened an office. The Wojewoda commissioner issued a complaint against him, which brought along a great surprise: the Interior Ministry determined that Finkelsztajn must be permitted to live in the center of the city, for he is useful for the state treasury.

In 1840, Netanel Bekerman set up a factory for spirits, drinks, and liquor. His son, Itchele, purchased the mill in the Firlej area, and he set up the largest steam mill in Poland, as well as a cereal mill, a rice cleaning enterprise, an oil mill, and a factory for agricultural implements. All of those factories were later united in the “Firlej Factories.” Later, he built a nail factory and a steam kiln.

Many small workshops expanded during the years 1845-1867. The founders were wealthy and invested the money in setting up factories. Yankel Zajfenzyder set up a factory for soap and candles. Goldblum set up a metal factory, etc.

There were 2,724 Jews in Radom in 1862. The came mainly from the surrounding area.

A year earlier Jews already received voting rights for the district and city councils. Aleksander Wielopolski made the first steps in giving the Polish Jews equal rights. In the Radom district council, which consisted of 18 members, one Jew was elected: Hirsch Rozenblat. Two representatives were elected to the city council, which consisted of 12 members and 12 representatives: Yaakov Handelsman and Imanuel (Mendel?) Kirszenbaum.

In the gubernatorial accounts from 1867-1870, we learn that the Jews in Radom and the area succeeded in concentrating all the trade with Russia in their hands, and there was a significant number of wealthy Jewish merchants. Commerce mainly centered around grain, lumber, wool, and iron. The factories were also in Jewish hands.

There were a series of Radom Jewish personalities who played an important role in the economic and cultural development of Poland as well as Russia. Of them, we must mention Natan[Gotlib] Bloch (Jan Bogomil) and David, or Karol, Rozenblum. (We will do this under a special chapter called “Three Personalties.”)

During the times of the Polish uprising (1861-863), the were Jewish sympathizers of the Polish national movement. The Radom Jew M. Benzion was arrested in Warsaw for his “political treachery,” and he appeared before a wartime court in November 1861. The Jew Handelsman was active in the uprising. He was turned in by the Christian Wyncenty Markowski. He was arrested and deported in 1863.

It could be that this was the Jew Jozef Handelsman, a doctor who donated 500 rubles for the purposes of the uprising. He served as the commandant of the Gostynin district for several weeks. He traveled abroad in September 1863 to check on the emissaries of the national regime and to obtain weapons for the uprising. He appeared before a military court, and spent time in the Dęblin fortress and was later under police supervision.

* * *

Until the year 1831, the Jews in Radom did not have a cemetery. They buried their dead in Przytyk. That year, the difficult cholera epidemic broke out, and the Jewish cemetery was set up in the Rajec area.

That same year, the community and its administrators were active in building a synagogue. Yitzchak and Mendel Kirszenbaum, Yaakov Yechiel Margolis, Netanel Bekerman, and Yankel Ditman the soap maker were involved in that endeavor. In 1844, an agreement was signed with the Warsaw artist Shmuel

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Reingewirc to direct the carpentry, carving, engraving, painting, and locksmithing work for the synagogue according the plan. A year later, the architect presented an invoice for his work for the sum of 4,036 guilden and 20 groszy. The dedication of the synagogue took place a short time later.

At around the same time, they began to deal with a plan to build a Jewish hospital. A tax of one groszy per kilo of kosher meat was imposed to create a fund for that purpose.

The Jewish population in the city and the region grew in the interim. Of course, the number of ill people who were in need of a hospital also grew. The district authority approached Warsaw regarding this, that they should decide regarding this urgent matter. However, Warsaw did not act quickly, and the matter went on for years.

Due to the crowding of the Jewish living area, the community began to branch out. They set up a temporary hospital in the communal building. This building stood in a marsh near the Radomka River, about 50 meters away from the synagogue, and was soaked with dampness and mold. Approximately 50 sick people were housed on the floor of the attic of that building. They were covered with rags, in filth and with cool drafts. This was called the Hekdesh. There was no money for medicine, and the conditions were poor for the wellbeing of the sick people. However, they could not send them to the Christian hospital, for there were no special rooms for people of other religions.

The supervisory committee and aid institutions examined the living conditions of the Jewish quarter, and came to the sad conclusion with all its ramifications. The largest proportion of the Jewish population lived in unimaginable poverty. Only a few tens of Jews were well off. There was only one option: to create a Jewish hospital in a legal fashion and with the help of the regime. The communal heads and Rabbi Yehoshua Landau declared explicitly that they did not have the possibility of establishing a hospital with their own forces.

A special committee was set up with Mr. Papriek, the overseer of the medical office, as president. The committee members were: the city president Takowski, member of the district council D. Rubczinski, Rabbi Landau, Yitzchak Kirszenbaum. N. Korman, and Netanel Bekerman. That committee was given the task of quickly establishing a modern hospital in the building where the Christian hospital was previously located. They had to provide funding through the groszy tax on kosher meat, which was leased by Mendel Altman and Yaakov Weisbrot. It was also decided that the tax on Jewish clothing, which used to go for social assistance, would now go to benefit the new Jewish hospital.

The Benedictine Order in Sieciechów donated a lot of one-and-a-half morgen (on Mariacki baths) “as a perpetual acquisition for Michael Sobolewski” to be given over to the building of the Jewish hospital in 1848. The church overseers also gave over their rights to the baths, thanks to the efforts of Reuven Bekerman. Bekerman himself also gave over an adjoining lot for the hospital. Then, the society for social affairs gave over their rights to the lot that had belonged to the Christian hospital.

The building of the hospital was completed on September 13, 1859, and it opened with twenty beds.

Netanel Bekerman was the active leader of the hospital. The hospital committee, consisting of important people of the city, was set up and headed by him. His son, Reuven Bekerman, became the overseer of the hospital. He also donated generously. He was also the founder of the senior's residence and the orphanage.

The hospital director and surgeon was Dr. Szpilrajn. Working together with him were Dr. Fidler, Feldsher (medic) Yisrael Finkelsztajn, and administrative director Kamer. The city council designated a special contribution to uphold the hospital.

In the interim, the Jewish community grew. In 1856, there were 6,546 Christians and 1,495 Jews. A year later, there were 7,960 Christians and 1,618 Jews – i.e. 30%. A strong growth began in 1862 after Wielopolska canceled the “privileges” and granted equal rights to the Jews. The situation became even better in 1867, when the Radom district was created within the Radom Gubernia.

* * *

During the 1870s, the Jews of Radom experienced a change in the spiritual-cultural realm. Two camps were active at that time: The Orthodox who opposed any change in traditional ways of life, especially regarding education; and the Maskilim, who were faithful to Jewish tradition, but also strove to draw nearer to Polish culture. They were followers of European modes of living. However, it was incomprehensible that the primary struggle took place specifically in the camp of the Maskilim. In fact, it was not an ideological struggle, but rather a conflict of personal ambitions.

During the 1820s, there was already a teacher in Radom, Menachem-Mendel the son of Reb Shimon Zylbersztajn, who was active in disseminating Haskalah. He was also a writer, who wrote the allegory “Good and Bad” about a dialog regarding the “current times” and a four-act drama, published in Krakow in 1822.

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In 1859, the Maskil Yehuda Leon Liberman from Krakow settled in Radom. He opened a bookstore and taught secular studies to children. Later, he opened a private school for children, which he maintained. Instead of appreciating his work, they persecuted him for a long time, until the school was closed. In the year 1869, he was selected as an administrator [parnas] in the community, where he attempted to introduce reforms. “He dedicated two hours a day to teaching children religion and Hebrew, according to the principles of grammar.” He was liked by the authorities, which opposed all requests for the benefit of the community. The sharp politics in the Haschachar newspaper in 1875 shed light on the battle against him, both from the side of the Hassidim and the side of the Maskilim. The well-known bookseller from Warsaw, Avraham Cukerman, wrote there as a headline: “Liberman, who created good and needed things in Radom, receives denigration and shame from his opponents.” He was slandered to the authorities and derogatory words were spread about him among the merchants with whom he conducted business, in order to discredit him. The poison had its effect, and people demanded loans from him to shut the mouths of his enemies. He liquidated his store to pay off the loans, aside from two promissory notes of 600 rubles. His enemies purchased the two promissory notes and submitted them to court. When Liberman traveled to Tomaszew to fetch the money, they hastened the court proceedings and a verdict was issued. They confiscated all of his household belongings, which were worth double the value of the debt, only to pay the court costs. The debt remained unpaid, so that they could arrest him. Liberman was forced to abandon his house, the city, and “Today he wanders from place to place, running away from his pursuers.” The writer Cukerman is not astonished at the Hassidim, but rather at those who appreciated Liberman's earnings and spread light and Haskalah: “How could they sit on the side and nobody could be found who to offer him help? How did they so quickly forget all the good that Liberman did, shining the way so that they would not go in a crooked fashion!”

Yisrael Frenkel responded in a letter that one must not believe that every person who dressed in European fashion and talks about Haskalah is honest and correct. Liberman besmirched and cursed the people of the city in the newspapers. Frenkel writes that Liberman came to Radom as a teacher for the children of the wealthy, and he later opened a book businesses. Were it not for the luxury and fashion that pervaded in his home without bounds, he would today be prominent in the city. The luxury ruined his businesses, and even the help of the Bekermans was to no avail. Liberman therefore went to the Hassidim, who selected him as the head of the community. However, to court favor with the gubernator, he suddenly fought hatefully against his electors, the Hasidim, and began working on behalf of the Haskalah. He liquidated four Hassidic shtibels, removed the collection plates of the eve of Yom Kippur, arranged for a black funeral wagon, and created a choir with four singers.

As his debts grew, he opened two schools in the name of the regime. He was the chief supervisor, and selected the teacher on his own. He stood at the head of the schools for three years against the will of the entire city, until it was established that his selected teacher knew nothing. He again tried his luck with the Orthodox, who no longer wanted to choose him as head of the community. Therefore, those to whom he was in debt brought him to court. Liberman is alone guilty in his situation. Thus did Frenkel write in Hashachar. His letter was also signed by the communal representatives Yoel Bialski and Chaim Kirszenblat.

Regarding that letter, Hashachar received a response from the Maskil from Opatów Gavriel Yehuda Lichtenfeld, who explained who Frenkel was. He wrote: “I am aware that in Radom, the writer Frenkel is a young man, a grandchild of Tzadikim. Some time ago, the spirit of Haskalah took control of him and he became a proselyte. The source of his pamphlet is Reb Naftali Lewi, who earlier supported Liberman and praised him. Later, however, they fought in the synagogue, and Lewi had to pay a fine of ten rubles for the Jewish hospital. From that time, he became Liberman's enemy. Lewi influenced Frenkel to write the pamphlet against Liberman and his words are false from beginning to end.”

Thus ended the polemic, which was a sad chapter in the history of the Maskilim of Radom[2].

Liberman later became a Hebrew teacher in Warsaw. He published the Kol Yehuda Siddur with a German translation, and also a commentary on the Torah that was not completed. He lived in want and need. His grandchildren supported him (among them was the renowned conductor Zdzisław Birenbaum). He also made the rounds to the houses. His end was even more tragic: he was run over by a tram when he was 90 years old.

Despite the error, or the travesty, that Frenkel made with the pamphlet against the Haskalah pioneer, he remained the chief pillar of the Maskilim and progressives in Radom. Among his sympathizers was Avraham Yitzchak (Adolf) Cuker, who was among the central personalities in the fight between the Hassidim and the progressives, attempting to promote peace between them. With the rise of the Zionist movement, Frenkel became a supporter and one of its first activists.

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Reuven Bekerman also became a sympathizer and represented the Zionists of Radom at the Zionist Congress in Basle. He was active until he became ill in 1914. He died abroad on the 11th of Nisan, 5675 (1915).

In the same circle were: Reb Simcha Bunim Cuker, Meir Malcman, Dr. Avraham Posner, Dr. Hillel Ajzenbet, the lawyer Lictensztajn, Prof. Palti Muszkatblit (who translated the letters of Maria Konopnicka[3] and Szimanski into Hebrew), Mordechai Wajsman (the prominent one), and Yaakov Potasznik. The Hibbat Zion and the Zionist movement of Radom were under the influence of Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever.

Those people made efforts so that Jews would study in gymnaszjas and universities.

Thanks to Frenkel, Mordechai Ferszter founded the Talmud Torah for poor children. That same year, a society was founded to disseminate culture and education. The Hebrew schools and the courses for beginners were under its supervision. The founding of the middle schools was also under its program.

The Daat Society in Poland maintained 21 schools in Poland: 9 in Warsaw, 9 in Lublin, and 3 in Radom. The language of instruction was Yiddish.

* * *

In 1897, there were 576 units of real estate, of which 219 belonged to Jews. In 1902, there were 664 units of real estate, of which 274 belonged to Jews (41%). A large proportion of them belonged to several wealthy families.

A period of economic growth took place after the Radom-Ivangorod (Dęblin) railway line was constructed. Tanneries, factories for iron and ceramics, a steam mill and a sawmill were founded. Radom became an industrial center. The situation of the Jewish handworkers, especially in the shoemaking trade, improved. The production of shoes, tailored products, furs, and hats was completely in Jewish hands. Business improved, and commerce flourished.

In 1921, there 24,465 Jews in Radom. They owned 1,177 enterprises, including: 3 oil mills, 52 metal workshops, 25 building machine workshops, 37 woodworking enterprises, 2 rubber factories, 43 leatherworking enterprises, 12 textile workshops, 790 cutting enterprises, 15 paper working workshops, 105 food products enterprises, 4 chemical factories, 58 building materials enterprises, 11 graphic workshops, 20 laundry and cleaning depots.

Only 643 enterprises employed employees. The owners and their family members worked alone in the rest.

There were 1,702 Jewish hired workers, forming 73% of all the employees.

The Zionist activity broadened in Radom during the period of Austrian occupation. The city became the Zionist center and the fortress of Zionism in the occupied areas.

Cultural and educational activities were conducted. A Jewish middle school was founded, over and above the 45 cheders in Radom.

A new chapter in the history of Jews in Radom began with the revival of independent Poland.

(Yiddish: Y. L. Cuker)

From the Editor:

We apologize to the important historian Dr. N. M. Gelber, whose important work covered a broad spectrum of general history, but we had to include only the essential facts of Jewish life in Radom.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The text says July 28, but I believe it meant June 28. Return
  2. There is a footnote in the text here: See the article “Y. L. Liberman and Yisrael Frenkel” in “First National Educators.” Return
  3. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Konopnicka Return

Three Personalities

Translated by Jerrold Landau

1. Natan Bloch (Jan Bogomil)

He was born in Radom on July 24, 1836.

Even though his father, Shlomo Selim, was a tradesman, he already dressed in European fashion and sent his children to study in the public school. He had a permit to live in the city, and he opened a weaving business with the help of a royal subsidy.

Shlomo Selim had five sons and two daughters. The sons studied Jewish studies privately, and attended the public school. The oldest son, Feivel, moved to Warsaw in 1842 at the age of 17. He became an apostate a short time later.

In 1851, the younger brother, Natan, came to him in Warsaw. The eldest brother convinced him to follow in his path, and Nathan also became an apostate, and changed his name to Jan Bogomil.

Bloch studied in the Real School in Warsaw. In the afternoons,

[Page 25]

he worked in the bank of his Radom fellow-native David (Karol) Rozenblum, and later in the bank of Henryk Teplic.

When he completed the Real School he had to go to work. To earn his livelihood, he became an administrator for a Polish landowner. He saved a bit of money and traveled to Petersburg. There, he connected with several Jewish bankers who undertook the enterprise of building the Warsaw-Petersburg railway line.

That undertaking brought him great profit. Then, he returned to Warsaw, where he opened a bank. David Rozenblum worked as a purchasing agent for him.

During the years of the uprising, he moved to Berlin, and studied there. Thanks to his activeness and diligence, he obtained a great deal of knowledge in economics. He displayed a special interest in the problems of military strategy and political economy.

When he returned to Warsaw, he married Emelia Kronenberg, the daughter of Dr. Kronenberg, who was a brother of the famous banker Leopold Kronenberg [1].

Natan-Jan Bloch again became involved with building railway lines. He built the Łódź-Lubowo, Brisk-Kiev, and Southwestern Dąbrowa railway lines. Thereby, he entered into a difficult battle with Leopold Kronenberg, who was his greatest competitor. That battle was even perpetuated in the novels of Józef Ignacy Kraszewski[2]

Aside from building railway lines, Bloch set up the steam mill industry, the sugar industry, and the lumber sawmill in Polesia. He employed many Jewish employees, who lived in his houses on a rent-free basis.

Bloch preached that the Jewish masses must be made productive. He had a special advisor for such mattes: the lawyer Kirszrot Prownicki.

Despite being an apostate, he felt like a Jew. His entire societal interest was devoted to Jewish matters. His societal and economic influence grew unceasingly in Poland and Russia.

He was a great philanthropist, and donated large sums to existing Jewish institutions and for establishing new ones.

During the times of pogroms, in the year 1881, he financed the collection of material regarding the pogroms. He concentrated all the collected information and documents. He demanded, via the Jewish activists in Petersburg, that a military court be set up to sentence the pogrom perpetrators to death. He was not concerned that the Poles did not like that demand.

He supported the interests of the Jews at every opportunity, and demonstrated his connection to them. Bloch was against the Polish uprising, and he desired Russian-Polish equality.

In 1885, he organized delegations to investigate the economic situation in Poland and Russia. Based on the material, he himself published the following books: 1) “Industry in Poland During the Years 1871-1881; 2) “The Influences of the Railways on the Economic Situation in Russia”; and 3) “Finance in Russia During the 19th Century.”

In all his works, he always stressed the Jewish point of view.

He maintained correspondence with Baron Hirsch, Samuel Montague, Baron Günzburg, and Dr. Theodore Herzl regarding Jewish matters. He met Dr. Herzl at the peace conference in the Hague on May 15, 1889. That conference was convened at the initiative of the Czar through the auspices of Baroness Suttner.

Bloch visited Dr. Herzl in Vienna on December 29, 1889, and held him in great esteem. Herzl regarded him as an old-time Jewish businessman and an intelligent Maskil. Bloch promised Dr. Herzl to arrange an interview for him with the Czar, and to make the Czar interested in the matter of Zionism. He took interest in the concept of a scientific investigation of anti-Semitism. In 1901, he proposed to Herzl to publish his book about the Jewish question. In the book, he wanted to analyze the economic reasons behind the persecution of Jews.

In 1890, Bloch set up a special office to investigate the economic situation of the Jews in Poland. Shmuel Adelberg directed the office, with the participation of Yitzchak Leibish Peretz. Bloch gave to Dr. Herzl the necessary material from his Jewish office for his book on the Jewish question.

In a five-volume work, Bloch clarified the economic and material situation in Russia and Poland. The entire edition of the book was burnt in a fire, and only 25 proofs were rescued.

Bloch especially entertained the thought of world peace. As a convinced pacifist, he wrote his work “The Future War.” This is a seven-volume work, which was translated from Russian into four languages.

His entire life, he not only emphasised, but also grew his Jewishness, to the point that many people did not know at all that he was an apostate.

Natan Bloch died on December 25, 1904 in Warsaw. In his will he made it clear that he was a Jew for his entire life, and that he died as a Jew.

[Page 26]

2. David (Karol) Rozenblum

Our fellow native, the banker Karol Rozenblum, was a completely different type.

He was a partner in the discount bank that was founded by Aleksander Goldsztand in Warsaw. He was the founder of the large sugar industry in Poland, together with Miecław Epsztajn.

During the time of the Turkish-Russian war, he was the agent for paving the streets of Bucharest. He became very wealthy from that.

Aside from industry, Rozenblum was a partner in banks. He was a member of the management of the Bank Dyskontowy and Bank Handlowy in Łódź, in the Karel Szibler stock company, in a coal mining company in Sosnowiec, and in the management of Bank Polski. He had a great influence on Polish commerce as a member of the merchants' union.

Karol Rozenblum was a great patron of the arts, and he supported Polish painters. He purchased Matejko's[3] famous painting “The Battle for Grunwald” for 40,000 rubles, and he donated the painting to the Polish Museum in Warsaw. The “thank you” from the painter Matejko was published in the anti-Semitic Rola newspaper. He warned there that we must not support “the believers in the Talmud, who regard us as – dead people. This is because they are the money hoarders…”


3. Dr. Bojerdorf

In that same period, our fellow townsman, the son of David Bojerdorf, who was born in Radom in 1845, studied medicine in the Warsaw Szkola Glowna. He completed gymnasja in Germany.

While studying in Warsaw, he played an active role in student organizations. When he completed medicine, he worked for a few years in various hospitals in Germany, France, and England.

He lived in Warsaw from the year 1882, and was an assistant in the Dzieczanka Jezuz hospital. At the same time, he was one of the editors of the famous medical periodical, Kronika Lekarska.

Dr. Bojerdorf specialized in nerve pathology, and he conducted research work in that field. He was a friend of the famous Polish writers Henryk Sienkiewicz and Bolesław Prus.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_Stanis%C5%82aw_Kronenberg Return
  2. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%B3zef_Ignacy_Kraszewski Return
  3. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Matejko Return


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