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Jews were not permitted to settle in Kielce until the 1830s as a result of the city remaining under the jurisdiction of the bishops of Kraków, who in 1535 had been granted the de non tolerandis judaeis privilege by King Zygmunt I. In the 16th and 17th century, this ban was frequently broken; hence in 1761, under the bishops’ decree, all Jews living in Kielce were expelled from the city. Nevertheless, many kehillas continued to develop in the surrounding towns, like Chęciny, Pińczów, and Chmielnik[1.1].

Jews began to resettle in Kielce in 1833, after Jewish merchants from Chęciny had intervened and obtained permission to live in the town from the Municipal Office. Although Kielce’s inhabitants, fearing economic competition, succeeded in suspending this decision, a large number of Jews lived in the city illegally, while another group was formally registered in the nearby Pakosz Municipality. In 1843, Kielce’s inhabitants forced the Council of Administration to ban Jews from the city starting from 1 July 1844. However, in the years 1858–1862 Jews returned to Kielce. At that time the city welcomed dismissed Russian-Jewish servicemen and their families, as the ban did not apply to them. In 1852, ca. 100 Jews Jews lived in Kielce; they belonged to the Chęciny kehilla and constituted a small percentage of the city’s population[1.2]. It was only after Aleksander Wielopolski introduced his reforms that the tsarist authorities issued a decree that permitted the Jews to settle freely in Kielce in 1862. Just six years later, in 1868, an independent kehilla and the first Jewish cemetery were established. The first rabbi in Kielce was Tuwia Gutman HaCohen. His successor was Mosze Nachum Jeruzalimski, an expert on rabbinic literature[1.3]. There was also an active Hasidic community in the city.

Towards the end of the 19th century, in early 20th century, and during the interwar period, the kehilla of Kielce underwent rapid demographic and economic development. By 1873, Kielce was inhabited by 974 Jews, and by 1909 as many as 11,206. Depending on how wealthy they were, Jews lived in the city centre or in the poorer suburbs – Szydłówek, Psiarnia, Piaski, and Barwinek. Before World War I, Kielce had a large synagogue constructed in 1902, nine prayer houses, over 30 cheders attended by more than 900 boys, and several private secular elementary and secondary schools for boys and girls. Jewish merchants had a significant number of industrial plants, among them the vast limestone processing plant “Wietrznia”, quarries, tanneries, woodworking plant, plus nearly half of the city’s shops, bakeries, and furniture stores. Jews also ran many smaller industrial plants manufacturing footwear, metal goods, candles and soap. The richest Jewish inhabitants of Kielce during this period included the Rozenholc, Goldfarb, Lifszyc, Chelmner, Gołębiowski, Machtynger, Ajzenberg, Bugajer, Orbajtel, Kaminer, Waksberg, and Tenenbaum families, as well as Josef Orbajel, Lemel Kahan, Herszel and Eliezer Rajzman, and Joel and Icchok Klajnman[1.4].

On 11 November 1918, Jews in Kielce held a rally to demand political and cultural autonomy for all Polish Jews. In response, Polish right-wing activists destroyed many Jewish-owned shops and houses.

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[1.1] Sefer Kielce. Toldot Kehilat Kielce mi-yom hivsada ve-ad churbana, ed. P. Cytron, Tel Aviv 1957, p. 11 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/kielce/kielce.html [Accessed: 28.05.2014].

[1.2] Sefer Kielce. Toldot Kehilat Kielce mi-yom hivsada ve-ad churbana, ed. P. Cytron, Tel Aviv 1957, pp. 11–15  [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/kielce/kielce.html [Accessed: 28.05.2014].

[1.3] Sefer Kielce. Toldot Kehilat Kielce mi-yom hivsada ve-ad churbana, ed. P. Cytron, Tel Aviv 1957, p. 16 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/kielce/kielce.html [Accessed: 28.05.2014].

[1.4] Sefer Kielce. Toldot Kehilat Kielce mi-yom hivsada ve-ad churbana, ed. P. Cytron, Tel Aviv 1957, p. 22–23  [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/kielce/kielce.html [Accessed: 28.05.2014].

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