On Wednesday, 17 July 2019, representatives of Kehilat Nitzanim from Jerusalem visited Kałuszyn. One of the members of the congregation – Joseph Gellman, whose ancestors were born in Kałuszyn – is the main initiator of a project to commemorate the Jewish community of the town. The group was headed by Rabbi Shai Finkelstein, and the visit was organised by David Bernstein, Ph.D., dean of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

Initiated in 2007, the commemoration project resulted in the construction of a monument at the so-called new Jewish cemetery; it was unveiled in September 2017. Another part of the project were the cleaning and clearing up works carried out at the cemetery by employees of the Public Utilities Department.

The visit took place just before the publication of a study on the Jewish history of Kałuszyn, based on existing archival documentation and the Survivors’ memories included in Sefer Kalushin. The work is intended to compile the available historical knowledge in a single publication and to familiarise readers with the history of Kałuszyn Jews. Its publisher will be Dr. Avraham Gamzu Kalushyner Society of Israel, established by Joseph Gellman in 2018.

On their way to Kałuszyn, Joseph Gellman introduced the visiting group to the historical context of Polish-Jewish relations on the eve of the Holocaust, Poland’s geopolitical situation, and profiles of the most significant figures of those days. He also mentioned that the weekly Torah reading, held in synagogues in Poland and across the world during the first Sabbath after the outbreak of war, i.e. on 2 September, contained ominous words:

“In the morning, you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening, you will say, ‘If only it were morning!’ because of the fear in your heart which you will experience and because of the sights that you will behold” (Deuteronomy 28:67).

The solemn visit began next to the entrance to the Catholic church, where one of the few preserved matzevot from the Kałuszyn cemetery was placed in 1990. From there, the participants headed towards the so-called Old Market Square. The first mincha since the Holocaust took place at the former site of the Great Synagogue, blown up by German troops in 1941. It was the most touching part of the visit. It helped revive the Jewish religious life of Kałuszyn, if only for a moment.

The last stop was the so-called new Jewish cemetery, where the visitors said a prayer repeated every year by the burial society on the day of Moses' death in order to apologise for any misconduct during funerals. It was a sui generis summary of more than a decade’s worth of efforts to commemorate the Kałuszyn community and all the works performed at the cemetery.

Przemysław Jaczewski