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Jews were not permitted to settle in Kielce through the 1930s, as a result of the city being within 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 sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this ban was frequently broken; hence in 1761, under the bishops’ decree, all Jews living in Kielce were expelled from the city. Nevertheless, many kahals 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 intervened and obtained permission 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 Pakosz municipality. In 1843 Kielce’s inhabitants forced the Council of Administration to ban Jews from the city starting on 1 July 1844. However, in 1858–1862 Jews returned to Kielce. At that time the city welcomed dismissed Russian servicemen of Jewish origin and their families, as the ban did not apply to them. In 1852 approximately 100 Jews Jews lived in Kielce; they belonged to the Chęciny municipality 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 in 1862 that permitted the Jews to settle freely in Kielce. 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 nineteenth century, at the beginning of the twentieth century, and during the interwar period, the kahal 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 that was constructed in 1902, 9 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 which there was 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 Kielce inhabitants of the Jewish origin 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 Eliezera 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. Miyom Hivsuduh V'ad Churbanah, ed. P. Cytron, Tel Aviv (1957), p. 11 [online]  [Accessed: 28.05.2014].

[1.2] Sefer Kielce. Toldot Kehilat Kielce mi-jom hiwsada we-ad churbana, ed. P. Cytron, Tel Awiw (1957), p. 11–15. [online] [accessed: 28.05.2014].

[1.3] Sefer Kielce. Toldot Kehilat Kielce mi-jom hiwsada we-ad churbana, ed. P. Cytron, Tel Awiw (1957), p.16 [online] [accessed: 28.05.2014].

[1.4] Sefer Kielce. Toldot Kehilat Kielce mi-jom hiwsada we-ad churbana, ed. P. Cytron, Tel Aviv 1957, p. 22–23 [online] [Accessed: 28.05.2014].

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