In the 16th century, the early days of Jewish settlement in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, economic condition of the Jewish population was favourable. The Jews were allowed to settle down in Grodzisk, unlike the nearby towns, where the “de non tolerandis judeis” law issued by the Mazovian Duke Janusz was in force. As a result, a large number of Jews settled down in Grodzisk. In the years 1750-1769 they were allowed to build their first synagogue, as approved by parish priest Klemens Mokronowski. From that time until the early 20th century the Jewish community constituted a majority amongst the population of Grodzisk and was the most numerous one in the whole region of Mazowsze. In the 19th century they constituted as much as 86.6 percent and at the end of the century this proportion dropped to 76.5 percent, which was characteristic of the whole Mazowsze region – Jews emigrated to Warsaw located nearby in search of a better future. At the beginning of the 19th century, Jews engaged mostly in trade. Jews generated significant profits also from selling imported alcoholic beverages. In the Prussian period, Grodzisk Jews owned three bars selling imported drinks[1.1]. However, most of them traditionally engaged in crafts and trade. After World War I, Jews constituted only 20 percent of the total number of Grodzisk inhabitants, while crafts and trade continued to be their main occupations. They were responsible for 51% of Grodzisk artisan produce. They associated in their own guilds and occupational organisations, with majority of them being craftsmen - tailors, shoemakers, hosiery makers and butchers. Some Jews owned small industrial shops (tanneries), and often found employment as workers themselves, becoming members of the Bund party. In his 1917 book entitled The Church and Parish of Grodzisk, Father Mikołaj Bojanek wrote: “Jews are said to have lived in Grodzisk for more than 500 years, as confirmed by the stone over the rabbi’s grave at the Jewish cemetery. They engage in trade and small industrial undertakings. They are in no respect different from their fellow citizens in our whole country. From the turmoil of history that milled our nation, even a handful of millionaires emerged on the cobblestones of Grodzisk. Wonderful Rabbi Szapiro, who had everything in his hand, ruled the entire Grodzisk because the number of Jews was five times higher than Christians. The synagogue has a folded shutter with a white eagle painted on it, apparently left from the olden times.”

Translated by LIDEX

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Dzieje Grodziska Mazowieckiego pod red. Józefa Kazimierskiego (The History of Grodzisk Mazowiecki, edited by Józef Kazimierski); Mazowiecki Ośrodek Badań Naukowych im. Stanisława Herbsta, Urząd Miasta i Gminy w Grodzisku Mazowieckim, p. 139