The first Jewish settlers arrived in Aleksandrów Łódzki approximately in 1818. In 1897, 1,673 Jews dwelled in the town, constituting about 28% of the total population. They engaged mainly in the trades and crafts.
In 1822, government regulations limited Jewish settlement to only the designated area between Warszawska and Wiatraczna Streets (currently Daszyńskiego Street). A separate marketplace was also created for the Jewish population of the town, where some characteristic butcher stalls were built. The stalls were connected with the town hall by an indoor gallery where Jewish merchants had their shops. In 1830, Fajbuś Pieczewski established a cotton handkerchief factory. Shortly after the factory was established, other new manufacturing plants and factories were built. There were 17 Jewish merchants in Aleksandrów including Chaim Rosenbaum, Gabriel Ebsztain, Józef Wolman, Layber Neyfeld, and others.
Some Jews, including Marcin Popławski and Rozyna Linczowa, earned their living through rental properties, as well through the textile industry. Traditionally, Jews of Aleksandrów were involved in crafts, especially tailoring and shoemaking. Others also worked as bakers and coachmen. Their strong economic position gave the town’s gentry competition, particularly in the trading and selling of alcohol.
As they prospered economically, Jews of Aleksandrów became able to increasingly support charities that provided aid to their community. From 1836, an inexpensive restaurant for less wealthy Jews was regularly visited by a merchant – Yitzchak Kutner. In the years 1909–1912, the Supporting Association for Poor Jews was founded in Aleksandrów. It was subsequent to the amendments of the tsarists legislation, concerning the procedures of starting charitable organisations, associations, and unions which widely supported philanthropy and an organisation of cultural activities.
It is difficult to determine the exact date the Jewish community settled in Aleksandrów, though it was certainly in the 19th century. Initially, the Jews who settled here from the very beginning belonged to nearby communes. In 1822, a synagogue was built in the northern part of the town. It was a small wooden building covered with shingles. Subsequently, a brick synagogue was built in the years 1897–1902. The synagogue was built at the junction of Warszawska and Piotrkowska Streets. Shortly after the German troops entered Aleksandrów in 1939, the synagogue was burned down.
Soon at Górna Street a cemetery, which had an area of 0.8 hectares, was built. Only few tombstones - matzevot, and a landmark Ohel a Tzaddik, where the Tsaddik of Dancyger was buried, have survived. This landmark has important significance for the Hasidim, who have continued the tradition of the Aleksander court.
In the years 1866–1939, Aleksandrów Łódzki became one of the most important religious centers in Poland, the Tzaddikim and rabbis residence, who descended from two Hasidic dynasties the Hanoch and the Dancyger – the dynasty of Aleksander. In 1866, a Tzaddik Hanoch Levin ben Pinchas ha-Kohen (called Chejnech of Aleksandrów) settled with his court in Aleksandrów. This settlement turned Aleksandrow into a strong Chassidic center, which affected not only the immediate area, but also the entire country. The fame and the significance of the Tzaddik attracted crowds of observant Jews. The court of the Tzaddik was built in 1935 and was located in a brick building at 10 Warszawska Street. Today, it is a dormitory for students of the High School of Nicolas Copernicus. The Hasidim of Aleksandrów established their own schools and houses of prayer, amongst other places in Łódz. A rabbinical school and a Jewish religious library functioned in Aleksandrów.
During the interwar period, Jews became more interested in politics. Jewish political parties and factions started emerging. Zionist political parties, especially Aguda, which was supported by the Tzaddik of Góra Kalwaria, played an essential role among the Hasidim. Hasidic courts competed with each other because of political differences. Yitzchak Menachem Mendel Dancyger (1880–1943) founded his own party called the Kneset Israel (Heb. The Concourse of Israel). Currently, the court of Tzaddikim of Dancygers (the dynasty of Aleksander) has been residing in Bnei Brak, Israel, and continues the traditions of Aleksandrów Łódzki.
On September 7th, 1939, the German troops started to occupy Aleksandrów. On September 14th, the Jewish population began to be harassed. That September approximately 30 Jews were murdered at the local Jewish cemetery. On 27 December 1939, over 4,000 Jews of Aleksandrów were displaced to the General Government. The Jews thence were deported to the German Nazi concentration camps. [1.1]
- [1.1] Aleksandrow, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish life before and during the Holocaust, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, t. II, New York 2001, p. 27.