Jews started to settle in Kcynia at the end of the 15th or in the early 16th century. In 1507, they were obliged to pay three zlotys in coronation tax. Blood libel accusations were waged against local Jews in 1559, but the alleged culprits were granted protective letters by the king. The Jews living in 16th-century Kcynia already formed an organised community. In 1565, they owned a synagogue and a schoolhouse. That year, they paid 31 zlotys in poll tax. They must have been strong competitors for the local burghers, as the latter eventually petitioned to King Sigismund III Vasa to issue a ban on Jewish settlement in the town. The monarch acceded to the request and on 12 September 1594, he issued a privilege imposing numerous restrictions on the Jewish population. However, the new regulations were not strictly obeyed.

During the Polish-Swedish War, the Jews of Kcynia were decimated by the Polish army led by Stefan Czarniecki. As a result, in 1658 the king exempted local Jews from paying taxes for four years. The political chaos of the turn of the 18th century significantly hampered the development of the community, which was steadily depopulating. Nonetheless, on 14 February 1770 its members were granted permission to renovate the synagogue erected in 1700. The renovation was likely never carried out, as in 1773 the town did not have any Jewish residents. Still, it seems that the interruption in the history of local Jewish settlement was not long, since not much later, in 1788, Kcynia already had 159 Jewish residents. The community continued to intensively develop until the 1850s, reaching ca. 1,000 members in 1849. Afterwards, the trend turned and the number of Jews living in the town was progressively decreasing. On the eve of World War I, the community had ca. 200 members. 

The statute of the Jewish congregation in Kcynia was approved on 19 August 1834. The community also comprised the municipality of Mieczkowo. A folk school was founded in the town, first operating as a two-grade facility and then converted into a one-grade school towards the end of the 19th century. In 1903, it was attended by 45 children. Another school in Kcynia was run by the Association for the Promotion of Christianity among Israelites in Poznań.

A part of the Jewish community in Kcynia supported the proponents of Reform Judaism, thus opposing the erstwhile rabbi of the town, Klausner. In 1846, the authorities of the kehilla sent a letter of appreciation to the editor and publisher of the Orient magazine, Zacharias Frenkel, supporting his moderate, positive yet not uncritical stand on the Reform movement. After 1848, the advocates of Progressive Judaism established their own group in Kcynia – the Association of Support (at the end of the 19th century, its head was M. Fuchs). After the local yeshiva was closed down, the Orthodox Jews formed a group around the Chevra Kadisha society (led by Philip Seemann). The Women’s Association played an active role in the life of local Jewish women (it was presided over by Leser).[1.1]

The interwar period marked a significant outflow of the Jewish population from the town, headed primarily to Germany. In the early 1920s, there was no rabbi in Kcynia. Religious services were performed by cantor Abraham Lubiński from Żnin, replaced by one Wrocławski in the late 1930s. The Jewish organisations which had been active in the 19th century were largely obsolete in the interwar period. On 25 August 1921, the following people were elected to the council of representatives: Samuel Cohn, Heinrich Rehfisch (chairman), Arnold Süsskind (deputy), Louis Salomon, Bernard Loew, Raphael Raphael, deputies: Oskar Moses, Jeruchim Michaelis, Dawid Moritz and Lesser Sittenfeld. On 9 September 1921, the community board was elected: Moritz Loewy, Meier Jacoby, and Isidor Salomon (deputies: Izydor Leszczyński, Markus Erb, Moritz Raphael). The following election, planned for 23 May 1922, did not take place. As many as 17 out of the 39 members eligible to stand in the election in July 1922 opted out of the race. Among those who were left, only seven people were eligible to vote. Ultimately, Chone Warschauer was co-opted as a member. In 1923, the community board comprised Moritz Loewy, Izydor Salomon, and Meyer Jacoby. The community decided not to hold the election in 1927. The authority to elect officials was transferred to a general assembly of all members. In 1928, the community board was composed of Meyer Jacoby and Eliasz Zajde (deputies: Raphael Raphael, Bernard Loewy and Moses Raphael). In spite of financial hardships, the kehilla owned a synagogue, the cantor’s house, a building once housing a school, a cemetery with a dwelling house for the caretaker (Poznańska Street) and a mortuary. Prayers were regularly held at the synagogue.

On 1 November 1932, the community was dissolved and incorporated into the kehilla in Szubin. Most of the local Jews made a living from trade. A few worked as craftsmen: Nusyn Buchbinder (capmaker), Josek Liwczak (tailor), Moses Raphael (glass-maker), Lejzor Rosenberg (metalsmith). In the late 1930s, Jewish merchants coming to the local fairs were refused access to the town, only Christians were let in. The issue prompted Senator Mojżesz Schorr to intervene. On 12 April 1936, he petitioned to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the provincial governor of Poznań to investigate the case. However, the intervention proved unsuccessful.

In 1939, the following Jewish families lived in Kcynia: Toruńczyk, Kalman, Berholc-Papierowicz, Meyer, as well as the families of Nusyn Buchbunder, Berta Cohn, Mordka Gutgold, Róża Jacob, Dawid Koroczyński, Joska Liwczak, Moses Raphael, Raphael Raphael, Lejzor Rosenberg, Auguste Salomon, Arnold Süskind, Szyja Szmulewicz, Jakub Zandman. The Haase family lived in Mieczków. In September 1939, most local Jews were displaced to the General Government. Those who stayed in the town were executed by a firing squad on 19 November 1939. The bodies were buried on the Piaśnica hill and at the old Jewish cemetery. The Jewish community of Kcynia was not revived after the war.[1.2]

Bibliography

  • Guldon Z., Wijaczka J., “Osadnictwo żydowskie w województwach poznańskim i kaliskim w XVI–XVII wieku,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego 1992, no. 2–3.
  • Heppner A., Herzberg I., Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Juden in den Posener Landen, Koschmin – Bromberg 1904–1908.
  • Kawski T., Kujawsko-dobrzyńscy Żydzi w latach 19181950, Toruń 2006.
  • Kawski T., Gminy żydowskie pogranicza Wielkopolski, Mazowsza i Pomorza w latach 1918–1942, Toruń 2007.
  • Kemlein S., Żydzi w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim 18151848. Przeobrażenie w łonie żydostwa polskiego pod panowaniem pruskim, Poznań 2001.
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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Heppner A., Herzberg I., Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Juden in den Posener Landen, Koschmin – Bromberg 1904–1908, Table “J,” pp. 284–285, 376–379; Guldon Z., Wijaczka J., “Osadnictwo żydowskie w województwach poznańskim i kaliskim w XVI–XVII wieku,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego 1992, no. 2–3, Table 1, p. 67, Table 7, p. 76; Kemlein S., Żydzi w Wielkim Księstwie Poznańskim 18151848. Przeobrażenie w łonie żydostwa polskiego pod panowaniem pruskim, Poznań 2001, passim; Guldon Z., “Skupiska żydowskie w miastach polskich w XV–XVI wieku,” [in:] Żydzi i judaizm we współczesnych badaniach, vol. 2, eds. K. Pilarczyk, S. Gąsiorowski, Kraków 2000, Annex, p. 22.
  • [1.2] Kawski T., Kujawsko-dobrzyńscy Żydzi w latach 19181950, Toruń 2006. Kawski T., Gminy żydowskie pogranicza Wielkopolski, Mazowsza i Pomorza w latach 1918–1942, Toruń 2007, pp. 85–87.