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[Page 134]

11. The Demographic Development of Sosnowiec

Translated by Bill Leibner

The Number of Inhabitants

The basis for the future development of the city of Sosnowiec was created during the years 1878-1881. During this time, the city population grew yearly.

Year Number of Residents
1886 9,318
1897 36,289
1904 57.190
1905 61,000
1906 63.000
1907 67.000
1908 70.000
1909 80.710
1910 89.000
1911 98.748
1912 114.000
1914 118.475

Sosnowiec rapidly swallowed all of the surrounding villages and industrial settlements. The male population reached 53.6% of the total population, as opposed to 46.4% for the female population, a ratio of 115 men to 100 women.

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Name of Place Kind of Place Men Women total Catholics Jews
Konstantinow Settlement 1,837 1,295 3,132 2,701 316
Kuznica Settlement 963 685 1,648 1,275
Milowice Coalmine 1,053 637 1690 1,678
Modrzejów Settlement 698 660 1358 911 401
Ostra-Górka Village 759 728 1,497 1,263
Pogonia Village 2,143 2,031 4,174 3,943
Sielce Village 1,493 1,148 2,641 2,433
Sielce Foundry 869 853 1,722 1,618
Sielce Spinnery 257 304 561 487
Sosnowiec village 4,694 4,354 9,048 5,271 2,921
Sosnowiec Rail-station 588 501 1,089 988
Sosnowiec Old village 788 689 1,467 1,408
Wigwizdow Village 3,562 2,970 6,532 6,087
    19,684 16,845 36,529 30,063 3,638

The amazing factor in the growth of the population was in the growth of the male population. 80% of the present population was not native born. The census of January 1st 1911 indicates that 20,028 citizens were born locally, while 79,437 people were born in other places. Thus, the city had a population of 99,465, of which males comprised 57,342 and females 41,406. During the war years of 1914-1918, the population declined, since many workers migrated to Germany, especially to the Upper Silesian factories. Hunger drove the farming population to seek work in other areas.

Below are numbers indicating changes in the population of Sosnowiec during the years of the First World War.

  Total population Men Women
January 1st 1914 118,475 71,934 46,541
October 1st 1914 51,854 24,579 27,275
September 1st 1915 56,876 25,647 31,229
November 20th 1916 69,957 33,427 36,530

The numbers indicate that the city population took a plunge, but some of the people returned to the city after a period of time. Only with the annexation of the communities of Konstantinow, Pekin, Srodula, Zagorze, Modrzejów, and Milowice did the population of Sosnowiec start to rise again.

In 1921 there was a census of the population and Sosnowiec had a population of 86,497 people. Since that date, the population of the city did not stop growing, and in 1939 there were 139,610 residents.

Below are the population tables:

Year Residents   Year Residents
1921 86,497 1931 102.000
1922 87,079 1932 102,959
1923 88,305 1933 112,000
1924 95,296 1934 114,000
1925 95,833 1935 116,000
1926 100,445 1936 119,000
1927 101,997 1937 121,000
1928 102,805 1938 124,536
1929 102,920 1939 129,610
1930 103,441    

The growth of the population between the years 1922-1939 amounts to 43,000 people. The growth between 1922-1931 was about 22,000, but as the table indicates, the real growth occurred in the following years. Due to the lack of precise birth records for the city of Sosnowiec, we are not in a position to determine precisely the number of native-born as opposed to the number of those born elsewhere. We are particularly impressed with the growth of the population in 1923-1924 (6991 residents) and 1925-1926 (4612 residents), which seems to have been mainly achieved through internal growth.

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The German occupation of Sosnowiec in 1939-1945 profoundly altered the population of the city. The destruction of the Jewish population, and to a certain extent, the Polish population, as well as the massive transfers of people from the area and the implantation of Germans to the area brought great changes to the area population. The chart below indicates the changes over the years:

Year 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946
Total 127,000* 114,630 118,131 109,792 90,041 93,225 86,658 83,418
Poles 98,000 87,032 85,315 78,452 77,229 77,074 82,674 80,666
Germans ** 2,592 5087 10794 12033 13272 1395 828
Jews 27,000 24,860 27583 20395 2400 1220
Others 2,000 146 146 151 779 2879 189 704

  * 129,610 – this data is extracted from additional sources from before the year 1939.
** The row "Others" includes a small number of Germans.

The population of Sosnowiec declined in 1940 by 12,000 people, due to the decline of the Polish and Jewish populations with the arrival of German settlers. In 1941 we see an increase in the population of 4,000, which is primarily due to the concentration of the Jews of Zaglembie in Sosnowiec and an influx of German settlers. The Polish population declined slightly. The year 1942 further indicates the decline of the Polish and Jewish populations. The year 1943 shows the elimination of the Jewish population, namely the extermination of the Jews, and the year 1944 shows an increase of others, namely French, English and Italian prisoners of war. With the liberation of Sosnowiec on September 30th 1944, the population of the city stood at 86,658 residents.

Natural Changes Within the Local Population

(Marriages, births, deaths, and native growth)

The table below shows us the patterns of the Jewish population during the war years.

Jews 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946
Marriages 236 407 283 72 1 3
Births 588 724 488 109 2 6
Living births 578 734 488 109 2 6
Deaths 242 256 599 297 32
Deaths inf. 26 16 49 48

According to the chart we notice that the birth rate of the Jewish population reaches a high point in 1940 and then declines in 1941. The number of deaths of Jewish children is on the increase as of 1942 and represents 44.8% of the total birth rate for the year of 1942. The Jewish birth growth for the year 1939 is 13.4%, in 1940 it is 18.8%, in 1941 it is 4%, and in 1942 it is 9.2%.

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The Composition of the Local Population

Prior to 1914, Sosnowiec had a larger male population than female population. This was a result of the usual process in fast growing industrial centers where men seek work, and then the women join them. Thus, in 1897 there were 100 women for every 115 men, and in 1904 there were 100 women for every 111 men. The ratio jumped dramatically in 1911 to 100 women to 138 men and in 1914 to 100 women to 154 men. During the war years we see a growth of the female population due to the draft, migration, and disappearance of men.

The Ratio of 111 Women to 100 Men in 1914

The ratio increases to 121 women to 100 men in 1915 and then falls slightly to 109 women to 100 men in 1916. The census of 1921 indicates that the ratio was 100 men to 108 women.

The Religious Makeup of the Population of Sosnowiec

The sole source of information about the religious affiliation of the population prior to 1914 is from the various religious groups. Prior to 1914, the local Polish population was predominantly Roman Catholic, the Russian population was Russian Orthodox, and the German population was Lutheran. In 1897, before Sosnowiec officially became a city, the population consisted of 30,063 Catholics, 3,802 Jews, and 2,424 others. Thus the total population was 36, 289.

The above figures indicate that the Poles represented 82.8% of the population of the city and the Jews represented 10.4% of the population. The latter group was far larger than the following groups, namely the Russians and Germans, which had a mere 6.8% of the population.

The statistical figures for 1911 are as follows:

Roman Catholics 65,837
Russian Orthodox 2,137
Lutheran 10.752
Mariavites 1,279
Jews 18,012
Others 81
Total 97,098 residents

The above table changed radically following WWI as we see from the figures below.

Catholics 71,485
Jews 13,646
Lutherans 753
Others 613

These figures represent the census of October 30th 1921. The Catholic population increased by 6,000 because several areas with a total population of 10,000 inhabitants were incorporated to the city during the war. This increased the percentage of the population that was Catholic from 66.6% to 85.4%. The German and Russian populations practically vanished from Sosnowiec. The Jewish population also declined somewhat. The city of Sosnowiec entered the 20th century with a population that consisted basically of Roman Catholic Poles and Jews.

The second census of December 9th 1931 did not produce great changes, as the religious affiliations remained almost static during the period between 1921-1931. The Poles were in first place, and the Jews in second place with 17.6% of the population, a slight improvement from the 15.8% that they had in the previous census.

Year Total population Christians % Jews %
1931 181,959 88,154 80.9% 20,805 19.4%
1937 124,536 97,632 79.3% 26,904 20.7%
1938 129,610 100,717 77.7% 28,893 22.3%

We conclude from the above table that the Jewish population steadily grew in the city of Sosnowiec in comparison to the total population. The Christian population grew by 10.7% or 9,478 people between the years 1931-1937, while the Jewish population grew by 32.5% or 6,099 during the same period. Another factor to be considered was the total growth of the population of Sosnowiec during the years 1931-1937. 15,575 or 14.5% of residents were added to the city population. If we deduct the Christian population growth from the figure, we see that the main boost of the population growth came from the Jewish sector.

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12. The Creation of the Jewish Community

Translated by Bill Leibner

The Jews of Sosnowiec belonged to the Jewish community of Bedzin until 1899. Nevertheless, the Jewish population of Sosnowiec kept growing at a steady pace and reached the number of 350 taxpayers to the community. This number indicated that the Jewish population was well established.

The Jewish population was primarily young, and grew with the growth of the city. The small Jewish communities that existed within the villages or settlements that became part of the city of Sosnowiec formed the base of the Jewish population of the city. They provided the basis for the many small one-room synagogues or tiny congregations that functioned merely for the purpose of providing services on Shabbat or holidays. Some of them expanded and became well known as the so-called "Der Shneidersher Minyan" [tailor congregations].

In 1859, Jewish businessmen Henryk Rajcher and Szmul Gincberg came from Czestochowa to settle in Sosnowiec. Adolf Openhajm and William Bergman joined them in 1862. With the development of the coal mines, factories and commercial ventures, Jews began to stream to the city from all corners of the land. In 1898, the Jewish community of Sosnowiec already had a population of 2,000 families. Most of them were conservative with a variety of small groups of Hassidim. A small but influential group of Jews represented the ideas of assimilation but called themselves "progressive". All Jewish groups were subordinated to the Jewish community of Bedzin and this is where the dead Jews of Sosnowiec were buried, for the growing city had no community to represent it. The bereaved families had to transport their departed dear ones to Bedzin at great expense and had to pay for the services to the kehila of Bedzin.

In 1893, a severe cholera epidemic swept the city and caused the death of many people. The Jewish leaders met and discussed the problem of burying the dead. Transporting them to Bedzin was out of the question; furthermore, there was fear that the disease would infect other people. A decision was made to create a Jewish cemetery, independent of the Bedzin community. Lajb Bedzinski was the initiator of the project, and with the financial backing of the Rajcher family, proceeded to establish a cemetery. At the corner of the cemetery, the Rajcher family built a house where the final preparations were made for burial of the deceased. Adolf Openhajm built the fence surrounding the entire cemetery, and Adam Bergman cleared the area and dug a well.

In 1897, a special committee was elected that included the following people: Adolf Openhajm, Adam Bergman, Moritz Gincberg, Jermolowicz, Planer, Leopold Kohn, and P. Majman. The chairman was Stanislaw Rajcher. The committee was determined to obtain the necessary legal permits for the local burial society as well as the cemetery. The Bedzin community tried to obstruct the work of the committee, but eventually the local authorities approved the legal existence of the Jewish cemetery in Sosnowiec. In 1880, Rabbi Arie Lajb Gitler became the Rabbi of the community. He was formerly the head of the Jewish Judicial council in Krakow. Rabbi Gitler was soon asked to leave his post, since he was a Russian citizen. The rabbi took up residence in Bedzin. The Jewish community of Sosnowiec grew, and soon Rabbi Gitler was asked to assume the judicial office of the community of Sosnowiec. He held this post until he passed away in 1888. The leaders of the community met and selected his son Abraham to continue in this position. He presided over the office for 37 years. He passed away in 1925.

The governor of Piotrkow, Miller, recognized the independence of the Jewish community of Sosnowiec, and insisted that it select a rabbi. In 1900 the community selected an official rabbi named Dawid Sztajnzaltz. His selection was strongly supported by the assimilated Jews of the city.

His salary consisted of one thousand rubles per annum. Rabbi Gitler was appointed the head of the Jewish judicial council of the city. The Jewish population grew very rapidly. In 1880 it consisted of 120 families, but in 1887 the population reached 2.291 people out of a total population of 9,848.

In 1898, Miller ordered the Sosnowiec and Bedzin Jews to meet and decide whether the two communities should be united or independent. All the Jews of Bedzin attended the meeting; however only a few dozen Jews from Sosnowiec partook in the meeting that took place at the synagogue in Bedzin. Of course, the Bedzin Jews insisted that the two communities remain under the leadership of Bedzin and offered all kind of flimsy pretexts. The official government then decided a few days later to grant the community of Sosnowiec its independence from Bedzin. Thus, the Jewish community of Sosnowiec became independent, and to it were attached the small Jewish communities of the area, namely Milowice, Debowa, Góre, Pogon, Sielce, Ostra-Górka and Modrzejów. The proclamation also stated that within the year there must be elections to select the members of the community council. The Jews of the city were very pleased with the news.

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The date for the elections was set and the following members were elected: Stanislaw Rajcher, Dr. Jakob Neufeld, Adolf Openhajm, and Adam Bergman as treasurer. The Bedzin Jewish community did not readily accept the separation and tried to reverse the decision. In the meantime, Adolf Openhajm, the great benefactor of the Jewish community in Sosnowiec, died at age 51. He was a well-to-do merchant and contributed generously to the Jewish community. He also left a sizable amount of money for Jewish institutions in his will. Time healed to a certain extent the rivalry between the Bedzin and Sosnowiec Jewish communities. The Czestochower Rabbi Nahum Ash consented to swear in the newly elected council of Sosnowiec. The event was celebrated in the local synagogue of Sosnowiec. The mayor and other government officials attended the ceremony, as well as most of the local Jews of Sosnowiec.

In 1896, some wealthy Jews decided to build a new synagogue. The existing small synagogues were overcrowded, and the big synagogue in the rented hall on Targowa Street was also crowded. This synagogue was called the "Daytche Shul" [German synagogue]. The main movers behind the building of a new synagogue were Chaim-Josef Zalanc, Joszua Pachter, Jakob Wajnberg, and Josef Lidzbarski. There was prosperity in the city and no one foresaw financial difficulties in building the new synagogue.

The Jewish community council slowly evolved and grew into a full-fledged organization. The records and budget were kept in good order and officially approved in accordance with the required procedures. Most of the members of the council belonged to the assimilated milieu but they devoted themselves to their elected tasks. The religious Jews in the city accepted the community council and received support for their demands from the council. The fanatical religious elements often criticized the council but cooperated in certain areas. Frequent clashes occurred over the selection of new rabbis for the community. The assimilated members of the council insisted on the selection of Rabbi Dawid Sztajnzaltz as Rabbi of the community. The extreme orthodox Jews protested the selection. Finally, Rabbi Dawid Sztajnzaltz was selected as the official Rabbi of the community, and Rabbi Gitler was appointed to head the Jewish judicial council.

During this period, a certain Rabbi Itzhak Glikman, a son-in-law of the Rabbi of Welbrum, offered his services as dayan [judge] to the Jewish community in Sosnowiec. He was a scholar and well versed in Talmudic law, a prerequisite to sit on the judicial council. Rabbi Gitler objected to the appointment on the grounds that he was not consulted in the matter. Clashes now occurred between supporters and opponents of Rabbi Glikman. Rabbi Gitler and the head of the community council, Rajcher, opposed the appointment while many Hassidic Jews supported the appointment and succeeded in their efforts. He was finally appointed dayan in Sosnowiec, and remained in this post until he passed away in 1929. He was well respected by the Jews of the city.

The Jewish community had serious financial problems and its income in 1901 dwindled to 3,049 rubles. The deficit of the community amounted to 2,137 rubles. Conditions worsened in 1902--the income was 945 rubles and the deficit mounted to 3,143 rubles. Only in 1903, did the financial affairs of the council begin to improve, for the city magistrate began to collect money debts. In the first years of its existence, the community council built a progressive synagogue, a hospital, a trade school, a mikvah [ritual bath] and modern bath facilities. It created a mutual fund, a women's committee to help pregnant women, a Talmud Torah, a special fund to help immigrants with their needs, and a medical assistance program.

The mutual fund experienced great difficulties since many religious Jews were suspicious of the organization. The difficult financial situation made it also difficult to collect monies and members. This resulted in low budgets that did not enable the fund to extend the necessary medical help for poor sick people. The Talmud Torah alone needed 2,400 rubles out of a budget of 3,000 rubles. The last elections to the community council brought in new forces. A special committee was created to handle educational matters, and a goal was set to raise 5,000 rubles to establish a school for Jewish children. The committee submitted the plan to the government for approval. Meanwhile, medical help was given to the needy via the available ambulatory services. The assimilated Jews made a contribution of several thousand rubles to the committee for the purpose of building a hospital.

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13. Religious and Social Institutions

Translated by Bill Leibner

The first Jewish community council functioned for eight years and achieved remarkable accomplishments on behalf of the local Jewish community. The members of the council were wealthy people and gave a great deal of themselves as well as of their wealth towards the wellbeing of the community.

The second community council consisted of conservative and progressive elements that worked together harmoniously. They tried to address the grievances of the previous council in regard to the tax assessments. The new council formed a tax committee of 12 members that decided on the assessments and disbursements of the community monies. These people were familiar with the local Jewish population, and with their financial abilities as well as their needs.

The council faced the serious problem of the Jewish schools. The problem was solved with the opening of schools for Jewish children and closing of the Talmud torah. The council decided to open trade schools and workshops and organize evening trade courses for Jewish children. The management contacted the I.C.A organization (Jewish Colonization Association) in order to get financial help to build a school building. Several wills that contained substantial sums of money were also directed towards this aim.

Jehoszua Slotszewski, a member of the council, was also very active in the “Chevra Kaddisha” (burial society) together with Lajb Federman and Jakob Sztal. In 1907 a plea was entered in the courthouse against them by Fiszhof and Fajchter to the effect that the burial committee was extorting large sums of money for burying the deceased. The fact that they were a monopoly strengthened the case of extortion. Many examples were presented to prove the case, amongst them the case of a widow who was asked to pay a considerable sum for a burial plot for her husband. She did not have the sum of money, and the body was left unattended for two days, whereupon the burial society demanded 2,000 rubles for the plot. The children of the deceased took the body to Modrzejów for burial. But Slotszewski telephoned to Modrzejów and warned them of the dire consequences. Burial of the corpse in Modrzejów was refused, and it was returned to Sosnowiec. Long and arduous negotiations ensued, and the party was buried at the Jewish cemetery for 1,200 rubles.

The judge investigating the case sent the protocol of the trial to the Governor General in Warsaw. The latter instructed the governor of Pietrkow to investigate the entire case. The chief of police of Sosnowiec led the actual investigation. The witnesses corroborated the evidence. The executive officers of the burial society replied that they did not have to answer all the inquiries of the relatives of the deceased. Slotszewski, who was also a member of the auditing committee of the Jewish council, informed the hearing that he spent the money for communal needs.

The Fiszhof family also sued the burial society for a refund of the 1,500 rubles that they paid for a burial plot. On September 2, 1908, a decision was made public to the effect that the entire case was being relegated to the district court of Pietrkow. The governor general of Warsaw subsequently nullified the decision. The case continued in the courts of Saint Petersburg until World War I started. Meanwhile, the parties settled the case out of court.

The third Jewish council consisted of Mosze Fiszel, Jehoszua Pachter, and Mosze Kenigsberg. The fourth council consisted of Mosze Fiszel, Adam Branicki, and Grunem Sapir. These were the last elections under the Czarist regime.

The fifth council was elected in 1917 when the Germans occupied the city. The council consisted of Israel-Mosze Wajnreb, Chaim-Josef Zajonc, Mendel Szapiro, Hersz Lipszyc, and Lajbus Zendel. This council functioned until 1924.

The elections in 1924 produced a council that consisted of five Zionists and five orthodox Jews. The chairman of the community was Abram Perlman. The presiding officer of the council was Lajbus Zendel and the presiding officer of the community executive office was Dr. Tobjasz Melodista, assisted by Lajbus Szwajcer. In 1928, Dr. Abram Perlman died and was replaced by Lajbus Zendel, who remained in this office until 1935. In that year the advisory committee ceased to exist due to the difficult financial situation and the rivalry between the community council and the committee over the election of a rabbi for the community. The government then appointed a special committee headed by Berysz Tencer to manage the community affairs.

In September of 1935, elections took place for the council and the various committees. The council consisted of Szlomo Lajzerowicz, chairman (a Zionist), Simche Wilczyk, vice-chairman, Ruwen Czapnik, Ajzyk Lajb Fajerman, Szlomo Chaim Warman (religious-social block), Dawid Lewartowski, Icchak Lajbus Sztajnfeld (Mizrahi), Szalom Pilc (League in Support of Working Palestine), Szlomo Nachum Langer (artisans), and Mosze Kajzer (Aguda). The executive committee consisted of the following members: Josef Majtlis, chairman (religious-social block), Bernard Jasny, vice-chairman (Revisionists), Szlomo Dalesman, Chaim Dancyger, Dawid Lenczner, Abram Liberman (religious-social block), Dr. Tobjasz Melodista (Zionist), Josef Goldberg (League in Support of Working Palestine), Dr. Hersz Liberman (Left Poalei-Zion), Baruch Zepkowicz (Mizrahi), Baruch Secemski (Aguda), Joel Diamant (Artisans), Baruch Dawid Dudkewicz (small merchant association), and Abram Ratner (religious independent). On December 5, 1938, Ruwen Czapnik left and was replaced by Mendel Czechowski. Icchak Sztajnfeld left on January 18, 1939 and was replaced by Mosze Meryn.

The annual budget of the community was 100,000 zloty in 1938. There were 2628 communal taxpayers (from 5-1000 zloty) during this year. The main sources of revenues were assessments, religious slaughtering, and the sale of burial plots. About 25% of the budget, or 50,000 zloty, went for social help and religious and cultural institutions.

The community employed 25 people, five of them at the main office. The city of Sosnowiec and vicinity had 125,000 residents; the Jewish population consisted of 27,000 people, about 22% of the total population.

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14. Rabbis and Religious Judges

Translated by Bill Leibner

Sosnowiec did not have a long-established rabbinical tradition, nor did it have old cemeteries, holy places, or old palaces. The city was young and on the move. The city was relatively new and growing rapidly. It was a modern city and its geographic location assumed important strategic importance in the growth of the city. It became an important commercial and trade center that attracted many people.

The Jewish population of Sosnowiec consisted of many different groups. There were Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Galician Jews. The city was inspired by Western trends that emphasized education and assimilation. The leaders of the community called themselves “Polish children of the Old Testament”. There were also Hassidic and pious Jews. The religious and progressive Jews co-existed in the city, as did their institutions.

When Sosnowiec was under the control of the Bedzin community, the Rabbi of Bedzin had great influence in the city of Sosnowiec as well as throughout the area of Zaglembie. The office of the rabbinate of Bedzin was the final authority in all matters pertaining to Jewish life. The rabbi of Bedzin as head of the religious council authorized all sermons in the area and presided over the election of the kehila leaders.

With time, the power of the community leaders increased over that of the Rabbi. The Rabbi had income from weddings, divorces, circumcisions, authenticating documents, judicial hearings, and of course an annual salary.

We will review some of the Rabbis who had a great influence on the development of the Jewish community. The first Rabbi of great authority in Sosnowiec was Rabbi Icchak Kimelman, also known as the “old Rabbi”. He became Rabbi of Sosnowiec in 1866. His annual salary was 360 rubles, in addition to a rent-free apartment. He also had additional incomes. He gained the respect of the entire Jewish community and was very involved in the community. He heard many judicial cases and was frequently consulted on judicial matters. Even the secular judicial officials were influenced by his legal views. During the period in question, few Jews took their complaints to the civil courts. The Rabbi was a follower of the Hassidic Rabbi of Radomsk. He had a sizable following and was well known amongst the Russian officials. His son-in-law, Rabbi Icchak Tobjasz Fryde was Rabbi in Modrzejów. Rabbi Kimelman died on June 20,1893.

Rabbi Jehoszua Telner was appointed acting Rabbi. He was nicknamed Jehoszua the Judge. He was a scholar and knew all of the Jewish communities in Zaglembie well since he was born in Bedzin. The Jews of Sosnowiec treated him with great respect. He was Rabbi for only three months, since the government insisted on elections for a permanent rabbi.

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The election took place on September 2, 1893, and Rabbi Izachar Ber Graubard, who had been the rabbi of Czeladz, was elected to the position of Rabbi of the Jewish community of Sosnowiec. He was an excellent speaker and a scholar. He was very smart and had a warm approach to Jewish matters. In his youth he was called the “genius of Szrensk,” and later became one of the great interpreters of Jewish Halachic law in Poland.

He wrote the book “The Words of Izachar” and expected to concentrate his time in research and lectures. Instead he was soon involved in the struggle of the Sosnowiec community for independence. The community leaders were in the forefront of the battle, and the Rabbi felt a left out.

Rabbi Graubard was one of the initiators of the first rabbinical conference of the Pietrkower region that took place in 1909 and dealt with the strengthening the religious basis of Jewish life and the problems that rabbis faced in the communities of the region.

At the conference of Polish Rabbis in 1909, Rabbi Graubard called on the participants to strengthen Jewish religious life in the community. He felt ashamed that the secular government had to remind the religious elements that the law must be observed. Rabbi Graubard insisted that the participants must instill greater observance of Jewish law and a greater love for Jewish life.

This congress that was convened on the insistence of the Russian Government, notably the minister of interior, was devoted to Jewish problems. Rabbi Graubard opened the conference with a speech that insisted that the problem of economic improvement of Polish Jews be dealt at the conference. In 1910, he appeared before the rabbinical commission that dealt with Jewish problems as a spokesman for Polish Jewry.

The rabbinical congress played an important role in the life of the Russian Jews. The speeches and explanations of Rabbi Ber Izachar regarding the essence of Jewish morality and education were a revelation to the Russian officials. He remained the speaker for Jewish Zaglembie even after the Jewish communities of Sosnowiec and Bedzin separated. His remains were brought in 1965 to Israel, where they were buried at the Jerusalem cemetery. Zaglembie Jews in Israel visit his grave on his Memorial Day, which is the 25th day in the month of Heshvan (October/November).

Between 1860-1865, many Jews from Pinczew, including Rabbi Lajbus Gitler, settled in Sosnowiec.

With the growth of the Jewish population in Sosnowiec, there was a need for a Jewish judicial court. With the permission of the rabbi of Bedzin, the Rabbi Abram Gancwajch from Zawiercie moved to Sosnowiec and assumed the post of Judicial judge of the Jewish court in Sosnowiec. He remained at this post for two years and then left. There was bitter rivalry between him and judge Gitler. When Gancwajch left, Rabbi Icchak Glickman was appointed to his position. There was a bit of resentment, but he was accepted, and was eventually accepted as Rabbi of Sosnowiec.

Rabbi Icchak Glickman (nicknamed “Icekel”) was born in 1876 in the house of the Rabbi of Zolkiew, Rabbi Alter Rokeach, a relative of the Rabbi of Belz. As a child, he excelled in his studies and was ordained to be Rabbi at the age of 12. He was called the “Zolkiewer Prodigy”. He married the daughter of the Rabbi of Welbrum and continued his studies. After his death he was represented by his son, Rabbi Jehoszua.

During the Russian rule, Sosnowiec was the only town in the Zaglembian region that had a “Kazioner Rabbi” (modern rabbi). It was Rabbi Dawid Zalcsztajn. His primary function was to record births, deaths, and marriages in the Jewish community.

Sosnowiec also had another religious judge and head Yeshiva, namely Rabbi Szlomo Sztencil. He was a son-in-law of Motel Shohat (Cwajgenhaft) the head of the yeshiva in Old Sosnowiec, and later headed the study center yeshiva in the city of Sosnowiec. He was one of the spiritual figures in the city. He was born in Czeladz and showed great aptitude in his studies. He grasped with ease difficult concepts and was considered a local genius. He was a religious judge for almost ten years and was greatly respected in the community. Some of his rulings were published in the important religious publications of the time. Rabbi Sztencil also headed a yeshiva in Sosnowiec where many students studied. He died at 35 years of age. His relatives posthumously published his writings in a book called “Kehilat Szlomo”.

Rabbi Henoch Jungster was the spiritual leader of the community of Katarina and was well known in the region as a scholar. He was a student of the Rabbi of Sochaczew, and participated in many difficult Halachic cases that also involved Rabbi Glickman of Sosnowiec.

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His brother, Chaim Jungster, was a great scholar and a modest person. He was popular with the influential people in Bedzin. Rabbi Henoch Jungster eventually retired from the rabbinate and settled in Bedzin. He died at age 63 in 1934.

His son-in-law, Rabbi Jonatan Sztark, assumed his post first as Rabbi of Katarina and then Rabbi in Sosnowiec. He attracted a great deal of attention due to his involvement in community affairs. People respected him. His ability to speak and his sermons attracted a large following in the community. He served as a model in the community for others to follow. He helped the poor and the indigenous people in the city. He died in Auschwitz during World War II.

In Wigwizdow lived Rabbi Jakob Shohat (from Makow), who was very influential in rabbinical circles and had great influence on the religious judges. His opinions were sought in difficult cases. His wife was the sister of the Rabbi of Bedzin. She was well versed in Jewish law. There was another Rabbi in Wigwizdow, namely Rabbi Mendel Hacohen Szwarc. He gave sermons every Saturday at the shul, and many people attended them. He was very popular amongst the simple people. He was very strict in his interpretation of the kashruth laws and was known as “Rabbi Trefon”, (a play on the Hebrew word taref – not kosher). The Rabbi eventually retired to Sosnowiec. All the Rabbis and judges listed here served in Sosnowiec prior to World War I.

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15. Hassidim and Rabbis

Translated by Bill Leibner

Amongst the first Jews to settle in Sosnowiec were Hassidim. Some of them were members of the “Sznajder Minyan”, the first shtibel of the Sosnowiec Jews. This congregation included many artisans, but especially tailors and shoemakers. Of course there were followers of various Hassidic courts. These Hassidic Jews brought relatives and friends to the city with opportunities, and the number of Hassidic Jews kept growing as the city population grew. The various Hassidic groups helped each other to absorb the new arrivals, and a form of brotherhood developed between the various groups.

Sosnowiec did not as yet have a rabbi but the Hassidim were under the influence of the Ishpiciner Rabbi, Rabbi Berysz Fromer, and Rabbi Szlomo Buchner of Krzanow. Following the Polish uprising in the sixties, strong border controls along the Russian and Austrian borders prevented the Hassidim from visiting their rabbis. The Rabbi of Radomsk, author of the book “Tifereth Shlomo” frequently warned his followers against the new winds that were blowing from the Austrian part of Poland. He was referring to the Jewish enlightenment, or Haskalah, that was becoming popular in that area.

Eventually, the first congregation became too small to contain all the newcomers. A building was rented on Targowa Street that was converted to a big study center where 150 people could pray simultaneously. Eventually, in 1894, a synagogue was built there. The Hassidim also began to plan building small congregations.

The first Hassidic congregation or shtibel was the Radomsk Shtibel in the house of Nathan Wiener. Then a Sochaszewer shtibel was opened; that was followed by the Gerer, the Alexander, the Amszinower, the Radoszycer, the Krimilower, and so forth. There were also Hassidim who did not have a shtibel of their own since they were few in numbers and they prayed in various shtibelech of other groups. For example, Reb Lajb Englard was a Hassid of the Boyaner court, but there were not enough Hassidim of this court to organize a congregation, so he prayed with another group. Melech Milchior was a Grodzisker Hassid and had to pray with other groups.

The most prominent groups of Hassidim were the Gerer and Alexander Hassidim, followed by the Suchatchewer, Radomsker, and later by Krimilower Hassidim.

A grandson of Rabbi Duwidl Lelewers, Rabbi Alter returned in 1910 from Palestine and settled in Sosnowiec. Thousands of Hassidim began to stream to his house for blessings and advice. He was nicknamed the “Rabbi from Jerusalem” and was known to perform miracles. At first, the Russian authorities tried to create obstacles in his stay. They claimed that he was a foreigner and needed permission to settle in Russia. Eventually, he stayed and became well known in the area. He died on 25 Elul 5693 (September 16th, 1933) and was buried in Jerusalem. His son-in-law and relative, Rabbi Mordechai Eliezer Menachem Biderman, assumed his position. He dreamt of residing in Palestine, but the war intervened and he was killed in the Shoah.

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Rabbi Duwidl Pardes, a member of the Pardes dynasty that lived in Staszow, settled in Sosnowiec in 1910. His house became known as the “island of tears”, for many misfortunates and helpless people came to him for help. Here they received sympathy and occasionally some help. The Rabbi was a dynamic and impulsive leader. He led his Hassidim and attracted new ones. There were always Hassidic melodies and tunes sang at his court. Of course, Shabbath and holidays were special days for melodies. His court always created new Hassidic melodies and tunes for the High Holidays, which were soon copied by all the Hassidim.

Rabbi Duwidl died in Sosnowiec on 8 of Iyyar 5682 (May 6th, 1922) at the age of 78. His position was given to one of his three sons, Israel Jakob. His son-in-law, Jakob Szymon Szternszus settled in Jerusalem and published his book “Shagat Jerusalem”. The Germans killed Rabbi Israel Jakob.

The Rabbi of Pinczew, Rabbi Eliezer Finkler, also settled in Sosnowiec. He was a grandson of the Radoszycer Rabbi. Rabbi Eliezer was born in 1860 and soon showed great musical talent. Through music he tried to encourage religion. His melodies and tunes called for repentance and good deeds. He started out in the city of Kielce but later on, in 1929, moved to Sosnowiec where his influence was great. He became with time one of the great Polish rabbis. To his house streamed many simple Jews, tailors, shoemakers, market vendors and so on. They were nicknamed the “The Proletarian Hassidim”. He died on 10 of Shevat 5697 (January 22nd, 1937) at the age of 77. His oldest son, Rabbi Israel Izachar, continued in his father's path until the Germans killed him during World War II.

The Radomsker Rabbi, Rabbi Szlomo Henoch Rabinowicz, settled in Sosnowiec following World War I. He was the fourth generation of Radomsker Rabbis. The author of “Tifereth Szlomo”, he was born in Radomsk in 1879. In his youth he studied with the genius of Amstew and showed great potential. He was smart, sharp, penetrating, and had an excellent memory. His innovations in the religious concepts were printed in the various authoritative books. He married the daughter of the Rabbi Duwidl Lelewers, and entered the business world, where he was very successful. He had business dealings with various cities and countries. With the death of his father in 1911, he assumed his father's position, but continued his businesses.

He was in Hamburg, Germany, when World War I started. He remained in Germany for some time and bought some houses in Berlin. He made excellent deals and owned textile plants in Lodz, Sosnowiec and Bedzin. He also owned smelting plants and brick factories as well as real estate holdings in Warsaw, Krakow, and Sosnowiec. He settled in Sosnowiec following World War I. He was never dependent on his Hassidim for support. He never accepted gifts, but contributed heavily to various yeshivas and other Jewish charity institutions.

The Rabbi created a network of educational yeshivas throughout Poland that carried the name of “Keter Torah”. There were 36 yeshivas, where thousands of students studied. These institutions were well-known in Poland and the world. The supervisor of the educational network was his son-in-law and relative, Rabbi Dawid Hacohen Rabinowicz. He married the only daughter of the Rabbi of Radomsk. He maintained a high standard of learning in these yeshivas. He gave the students three lectures a day to help them with their studies. He paid particular attention to the “Kibbutz Gavoah Yeshiva” in Sosnowiec, where 150 students were studying. In contrast to his father-in-law, he showed no inclination for commerce. He was busy day and night studying the Torah.

When World War II started, the Rabbi of Radomsk and his family were at the spa of Krinica. He left the place and headed to Lodz and then to Warsaw. On the 18th day of the month of Av, 5700 (August 22nd, 1942), the Rabbi and his family were murdered by the Germans.

There were also in Sosnowiec some members of the Hassidic dynasties, namely the Elkiszer Rabbi, Rabbi Jehoszua Herszl Horowicz-Szternfeld, the Kentrzyner Rabbi's son, and so on.

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