First Jews began to settle in Jędrzejów only after 1862, following the issuance of an emancipation edict by Aleksander Wielopolski. Before its implementation, the town had held the de non tolerandis Judaeis privilege, similarly to many other localities in the Kingdom of Poland. Nevertheless, individual Jewish merchants and craftsmen had been coming to Jędrzejów even before 1862.

The first Jewish residents of the town after 1862 were butcher Moszek Pępek (also referred to as Berek Wypłosz in historical sources) and supplier Gitla Szpricwaser. Among the inhabitants of Jędrzejów there was also Lejbuś Berger, who had lived there for many years as the lessee of “consumption.” Subsequent Jews arrived to the town in 1863 – a merchant, baker, and courier. According to data contained in the Memory Book of Jędrzejów Jews, among the group of the earliest Jewish settlers there were three butchers, two shammosim, Rabbi Jerachmiel Mincberg, teacher (and butcher) Kuncpolski. The first community head was Jechiel Gersztajn. Other community members were Natan Zerach, Nechemia Ajzenberg, and Jona Ajzenberg.

In the early second half of the 19th century, Jews constituted only 2.6% of the total population of Jędrzejów. In 1866, the town became the capital of a district, which prompted its intensive economic development. Further administrative changes in 1869 (loss of municipal privileges) were “met by the Jewish population […] with disbelief and distrust”; moreover, Jews lost the right to vote on issues pertaining to the everyday life of the town dwellers. These events, however, did not thwart the development of the Jewish community, which continued to grow throughout the latter part of the 19th century.

The Jewish community was officially established in 1875, making Jędrzejów the third synagogue precinct alongside Wodzisław and Sobków. According to the account of Horowitz, that year marked the arrival of the tenth Jewish family in the town – its head was Josel Blacharz (Rubinsztajn) from Wodzisław. A big ceremony was held to officially welcome the newcomers. The establishment of the Jewish community made the social life of Jędrzejów Jews easier and better organised, especially thanks to the foundation of the first house of prayer, mikveh, and cemetery in the town.

The first rabbi in Jędrzejów was Jerachmiel Mincberg, who had previously held the same function in Łuków. He was aided by Berl Zalcberg and Eliachu Gilberd. Izrael Jechiel Gersztajn chaired the synagogue supervision, whose members included Natan Zerach and Jon Ajzenberg. The primary sources of income for the community included taxes and fees collected from the mikveh, marriages, funerals, circumcision, reading Torah scrolls, the sale of seats in synagogue pews, and charges for ritual slaughter. In general, these payments were not sufficient to cover the community’s expenses, which encompassed the salary of the rabbi and the maintenance of the mikveh. The financial struggles, characteristic for a number of towns in the region, resulted from the occupational structure of the Jewish community. There were very few wealthy Jewish merchants and traders in Jędrzejów. According to a journalist of Gazeta Kielecka, “the town of Jędrzejów previously had a ban preventing Jews from settling in the town and hence there are still very few Jews there and no rich merchants at all”.

The economic situation of the Jewish community improved in the late 19th century, when its members became more socially and economically active. Jewish families living in Jędrzejów ran small shops and artisan workshops. Entrepreneurship, development of a network of trading connections, and the growth of competition gave a boost to the economic development of the local Jewish community. In the years 1862–1880, ca. 100 families settled in Jędrzejów. In 1878, there were 10 Jewish bakers in the town. Several Jews bought houses in the most prestigious areas of the town, including the Market Square. In 1881, Jędrzejów had a population of 3,519, including 521 Jews (15%).

Jędrzejów soon became an attractive town for the Jewish population. Many Jews migrated there from Wodzisław, Działoszyce, Chęcin or Pinczów, even though these localities had a much longer tradition of Jewish settlement. While in 1885 Jędrzejów had 577 Jewish inhabitants, this number skyrocketed to 948 people in 1888 (20% of the population). The growth of the Jewish population resulted in organisational changes in the structure of the community. New cheders and a Jewish library were founded in town, and its residents were able to subscribe to a wide range of press publications: Izraelita, Ha-Tsefira, Haynt, and Der Moment.

Jędrzejów Jews formed an economically diverse community. It should be noted that Rabbi Aron Wienberg received a yearly salary of 520 roubles, which made him one of the highest paid rabbis in Kielce District. However, only a small group of Jewish community members were affluent merchants and entrepreneurs. In the late 19th century, 26 wealthy families owned some of the most impressive buildings in Jędrzejów, situated at the Market Square and along the main streets.

Wealthy individuals constituted only 10% of the Jewish community. In fact, many local Jews lived below the poverty line. Nevertheless, the vibrant Jewish population of the town altered Jędrzejów’s overall economic structure, converting it from a predominantly agricultural settlement to an important trading site. Jędrzejów was transformed into a large economic, commercial, administrative, and service-oriented centre.

In the early 20th century, the size of the Jewish population in Jędrzejów became much more stable. In 1909, Jews accounted for 30.9% of the total population, in 1913 – 31.6%. The census of 1897 provides for a larger percentage of the Jewish population (43.5%), possibly because it drew from data on the presence of Jews in the town on a given day, regardless of whether they were registered as its citizens or not. The number of Jews in the town would substantially increase during fairs and market days, when Jędrzejów was visited by throngs of people from the nearby towns and villages.

The number of Jewish residents of the town stabilised in early 20th century. By the 1920s, 4,585 Jews lived in the town (44.3% of the population), ten years later – 4,440 (47.1%). In 1921, out of the 4,585 people living in the town, 38.9% were Jews. The Jewish residents of Jędrzejów settled primarily in the Market Square and the following streets: 11 Listopada, Pińczowska, Kościelna, Kielecka, Strażacka, Łysakowska, Browarna, Piłsudskiego, Kolejowa, Poklasztorna, and Skroniowska.

In the years 1919–1921, the largest professional group in Jędrzejów were merchants (over 61%), working primarily as petty tradesmen, travelling salesmen, and pedlars. The second largest group was formed by craftsmen – 27.2%. Most of them were shoemakers, tailors, bakers, and, to a lesser extent, tinsmiths, leather-stitchers, carpenters, painters, and butchers.

There were also three Jewish bookshops and a printing house owned by Zełma Mordkowicz in the town. Local merchants would open their shops mainly at the Market Square and in the adjacent streets: Łysakowska, Klasztorna, Kielecka, Pińczowska.

The town’s elite was formed by representatives of liberal professions: doctors (6), feldshers (3), and a magistrate judge Mojżesz Tenenbaum, the head teacher of the Jewish lower secondary school for girls, as well as teachers from the cheders, the rabbi, and members of the kehilla authorities.

In the years 1924–1939, the function of the rabbi was performed by Szaja Wajsberg. His predecessor was Aron Weinberg.

In Jędrzejów, there was one synagogue and several prayer houses, so-called shtiebelekh, catering to various branches of Judaism. As Sabina Rachel Kałowska writes in her memoirs,

[…] they had a prayer house in Jędrzejów, the so-called shtiebel. I remember that once a tzaddik from Chełm came to Jędrzejów, I was about eight years old then. Crowds of Hasidim came to the railway station to welcome the famous rabbi. The tzaddik rode through the town in a horse carriage with big wheels. Young Jews and children were running around, full of exaltation and joy. […] There was also a prayer house at my grandparents’ house. In the corner of a large room there was a special cabinet in which the Torah was kept. People gathered there to pray. […] Father used to pray in a different place, as in Jędrzejów there was also a Hasidic prayer house – a shtiebel. There, my father led the prayers, he was known for his powerful voice.[1.1]

In the interwar period, the Jewish community was not particularly rich. For example, in 1939 only 531 members of the community (which comprised a total of 5,446 people) paid any contributions. Moreover, wealthy people who paid a contribution of 100–500 zlotys constituted only 7% of the community. In contrast, members of the middle class, paying 25–100 zlotys per year, constituted 31%. The rest paid less than 25 zlotys, with 176 members of the community paying the lowest rate – 2 zlotys. Several Jews paid contributions despite living in a different town, for instance Izrael Rozenberg, Zysia Szwarcbard, and Gocel Wilczek from Łódź, Izrael Posfinowski from Miechów, Chan Rubinek from Kielce. All of them, however, owned craft workshops in Jędrzejów.

The community was managed by the kehilla, whose responsibilities, in accordance with the official regulations of 1927, were limited to providing the Jewish community with religious and communal services: education, management of the cemetery, synagogues, kashrut, etc. In addition, board members were authorised to administer aid for the most needy. Contributions covered the salary of the rabbi, the secretary, and shochetim.

One of the main tasks of the kehilla was managing the annual budget. The community drew revenues primarily from the aforementioned contributions, as well as fees from the cemetery, the sale of graves, koshering furnaces, and contributions from ritual slaughter. The expenditures included: the salary of the rabbi and religious officials, the cost of maintaining the prayer house, the bathhouse, the renovation and construction of religious and administrative buildings (e.g. renovation of the bathhouse and community offices, construction of the cemetery wall), and charitable activities (e.g. the “coal initiative”). Part of the community budget was allocated towards subsidising schools, such as the Talmud-Torah, Beit Yaakov, and Tarbut, as well as an interest-free loan society, the Linas Hatsedek Society, and the Beit Yaakov library. Emigrants were supported by the kehilla as well.

Unfortunately, no list of cheders situated in Jędrzejów has been preserved. We only know that in 1939, there were 400 children in the community, 100 of which received special Judaic instruction, while the rest – only basic education.[1.2] The community also ran a Talmud Torah school and a Beit Yaakov school for girls; however, there was no religious secondary school in the town. Thus, a small group of students received general secondary education at the Coeducational District Secondary School in Jędrzejów. In the years 19381939, the percentage of Jewish students (among the total number of 415 schoolchildren) in the town amounted to 4.6%. As described by S.R. Kałowska,

[…] There was no general Jewish school in Jędrzejów, there was only the so-called Beit Yaakov school which taught the Jewish language, Torah, Jewish history. It was a school for girls and my father sent me there when I came to live with him. I was not very eager to go there... We had to wear clothes with long sleeves, stockings. […] I stopped attending Beit Yaakov and enrolled in a Polish elementary school. […] There were several elementary schools in Jędrzejów, but in our part of the town a new school was under construction. It was made of wood left around after dismantling the Radziwiłł Manor near Nagłowice. The new school, built near the railway station, was given the number 3. The old elementary school was located in the centre of the town. There was one lower secondary school… there were 25 children in our class, including five Jewish students. As I remember, the atmosphere in the school was not particularly anti-Semitic. I only recall one incident. One of the teachers, Maria Pawlikowska, who came from Kraków… once in the fourth grade she said… “I’d give 20 zlotys for the poor to get rid of those Jews…” she sometimes gave us detention without any reason. […] During the war I no longer attended school, but secret classes were held and I also participated in them. They were held at the house of the Leszczyński family and conducted by Mr Żurek. There were 10 students, including one Jew – me.[1.3]

In the interwar period, the Jewish political, social and cultural life flourished in the entire district. The first political organisations opened their branches in Jędrzejów in the years 1902–1903. At the time, the first Zionists appeared in the town and significantly influenced the life of the inhabitants, for instance by establishing the first public library in Jędrzejów in 1909.

The party which enjoyed greatest following among the local Jewish population was the Mizrachi. Significant influence was also enjoyed by the Zionist Organisation and the local cell of Revisionist Zionists.

The parties played an active role in the lives of Jews in Jędrzejów. They would organise numerous lectures and debates; for example, on 18 May 1937, a lecture was held on “The Struggle for a Jewish Palestine.” Political activists were also involved in pre-electoral campaigns, campaigning on behalf of various organisations – on 18 October 1930, for example, Levi Majer gave a speech at the synagogue (600 Jews were present). On 25 October 1930, a meeting of the Orthodox Committee was held in Jędrzejów (also 600 people present), during which the rabbi made a speech. On 7 November 1930, a Zionist rally took place in the town.

Nonetheless, Jewish political activists did not gain a prominent presence in the municipal and district authorities, which were dominated by Christians throughout the entire interwar period. In the 1930s, the town council had roughly 15–17% of Jewish members. In the years 19181922, M. Tenenbaum held the position of a magistrate judge.

There were also several charitable organisations operating within the community, which supported entrepreneurs and the local population:

  • the “Last Offices” Charitable Society
  • the “Linas Hatsedek” Jewish Charitable Society
  • the “Muza” Jewish Musical and Dramatical Society
  • the “Gemilut Chesed” Charity
  • the Society for the Aid for Learning Jews
  • the Association of Jewish Craftsmen

In 1927, Jews subscribed to the following newspapers published in Jędrzejów District: Haynt (58 copies), Der Moment (17), Nasz Przegląd (7), Welt Shpigel (14), Unzer Lebn (20), Der Jugnd (20), Jung Wetter (10), Naye Folks Shtime (7), Dos Wort (from Lviv; 2 copies), Der Morgen (1).

In 1929, the I.L. Peretz library in Jędrzejów had a collection of 1,360 volumes. Branches of the Peretz Library were established in the region throughout the 1920s, but were not received well by local authorities, who believed they were attracting “communist and leftist youth.” Unsurprisingly then, the libraries were subject to strict supervision on the part of the police and the administration. The library of the Zionist Organisation in Jędrzejów had a collection of 416 volumes in 1929.

A branch of the Talmud Torah Association, together with a Talmud-Torah school, was established in the town in the interwar period. The association ran a nursery for young children, a school, and organised craft courses. The Talmud-Torah schools were subsidised by the community, and their aim was to provide education for the Jewish poor.

Jędrzejów was a typical town in Kieleckie Province, where Christians and Jews lived together side by side. Sabina Rachel Kałowska described the reality of their mutual relations in her memoirs:

In Jędrzejów we felt at home, though in different ways they let us know that we did not belong. Once, when I was four or five years old, a Polish child shouted: “You Jew, you crucified Jesus. Go to Palestine, where you belong, you kike.” […] In the last years before the war, anti-Jewish sentiments were expressed openly. […] In Jędrzejów, the mastermind behind most ant-Semitic incidents was Siewior, a nationalist who lived at Klasztorna Street. Thursday was a market day in Jędrzejów and many farmers came to town from nearby villages. The nationalists picketed Jewish shops in order to prevent people from buying Jewish goods, smashed windows, provoked various brawls. Once they also attacked my grandfather. Another time, they vandalised my father's house, throwing stones at it. They set fire to Jewish houses in the area... for example the house of the Weinterbs, relatives of my grandmother […] Twice, after dusk, they destroyed my grandfather’s farm, setting fire to the outbuildings. The second time it burned to the ground, but the house was saved. […] They also set fire to the house of the poor Borensztajn family, who sold milk […] the instigators set fire to the house of Borensztajn’s brother.[1.4]

Zofia Przypkowska née Horst wrote in her memoirs:

Catholics disliked Jews, treating them with certain disdain, and this was mostly caused by competition and jealousy. They were more resourceful and industrious, whether in trade or in education. So it was difficult to compete with them.[1.5]

The 1930s saw an intensification of anti-Semitic violence. For example, in September 1939, the police in Jędrzejów prevented anti-Jewish riots planned by the District Board of the National Party at the initiative of their Vice President, Wojciech Siewior. On 2 May 1937, militias of the National Party tried to prevent people from purchasing meat in Jewish butcheries.

Nevertheless, the Jędrzejów Jewish community had as many as 5,440 members in 1934. It had jurisdiction over Jewish residents from Sobków, Przesław, Mierzwin, Brzegi. At the time it was actually eligible to seek the status of a greater community, but the idea was abandoned because of the fear of new fiscal burdens.

With the outbreak of the war, Zofia Przypkowska née Horst recalled that one of the first acts of terror was the shooting of an innocent Jew on the Market Square.

By 1939, 9,513 Jews lived in the entire district, with 3,000–4,000 Jewish people residing in Jędrzejów itself.

As Sabina Kałowska recalled,

before the Germans entered the town, people fled… But what an escape it was. The Chorzewskie Woods were just outside Jędrzejów and that is where we went. We left the house before the arrival of the Germans […]. The Germans were everywhere. They did not attack civilians. There was no point in hiding […] when we got home, the house and the shop had already been plundered and everything was stolen. There was almost nothing left […]. Once a week my grandmother baked bread by herself. She secretly ground the grain at home. That was at the turn of 1940 and up to the year 1941.[1.6]

The Jędrzejów Ghetto was established in the spring of 1940 and operated until 16 September 1942. Germans gathered all the Jews from the surrounding villages and transported them to Jędrzejów. The perimeter of the ghetto ran along several streets, including Łysakowska and Pińczowska. In the autumn of 1942, Germans deported the majority of the ghetto prisoners to Treblinka. After the liquidation of the ghetto, Germans placed the remaining people (ca. 100) in the so-called small ghetto, which was then liquidated in February 1943. The victims were transported to German labour camps established at the factories in Skarżysko-Kamienna and Częstochowa.

Individual Jews managed to escape from the ghetto, but only a few survived the war.

Out of more than 4,000 Jews living in the town, only 80 people survived the war. Fifty-seven people returned from concentration camps, 11 survived in hiding, and 12 returned from the area of the USSR.

 

Bibliografia:

  • Kałowska S. R., Uciekać aby żyć, Lublin 2000, ss. 93, 107
  • Pawlicka-Meducka M., Kultura Żydów województwa kieleckiego w latach 1918–1939, Kielce 1993, s. 41.]]Urbański K., Gminy żydowskie duże w województwie kieleckim, Kielce 2003, s. 72.
  • Piasecka R., Społeczeństwo powiatu jędrzejowskiego w latach 1918–1939, Kielce 2000, s. 143.
  • Pinkas ha-kehilot. Enciklopedia szel ha-jiszuwim le-min hiwasdam we-ad le-achar szoat milchemet ha-olam ha-sznija, t. 2, Mehozot Lublin, Kielce, Jerusalem 1999, s. 260 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/pinkas_poland/pinkas_poland7.html [dostęp: 17.01.2021]
  • Sefer ha-zikaron le-jehudej Jendrzów. Jendrzewer jizkor-buch, red. Sz. D. Jeruszalmi, Tel Aviv 1965.
  • Urbański K., Almanach gmin żydowskich województwa kieleckiego w latach 1918–1939, Kielce 2007.
  • Wiech S., Osadnictwo żydowskie w Jędrzejowie do 1914 roku, „Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego” 1996, nr 3, ss. 3–16.

 

 

 

Print
Footnotes
  • [1.1] Kałowska S.R., Uciekać aby żyć, Lublin 2000, pp. 14, 23, 26.
  • [1.2] Piasecka R., Społeczeństwo powiatu jędrzejowskiego w latach 1918–1939, Kielce 2000, p. 138.
  • [1.3] Kałowska S.R., Uciekać aby żyć, Lublin 2000, pp. 21–22, 23, 32–33, 53
  • [1.4] Kałowska S.R., Uciekać aby żyć, Lublin 2000, pp. 23, 43, 45.
  • [1.5] Piasecka R., Społeczeństwo powiatu jędrzejowskiego w latach 1918–1939, Kielce 2000, p. 141.
  • [1.6] Kałowska S. R., Uciekać aby żyć, Lublin 2000, pp. 51–53.