The exact beginnings of Jewish settlement here is not known. The first Jews to live in Mińsk came in the 17th century and engaged in alcohol production[1.1]. In the 18th century, Jews were no longer in Mińsk, although it is probable that some Jews (barber-surgeons or some lessees of inns) still remained in the city and belonged to the kehilla in Węgrów [1.2]. Larger scale Jewish settlement in Mińsk took place after 1768, following the lifting of restrictions on permanent Jewish residence in the Mazowiecki Province.
Until 1822, Jews who lived in the town belonged to the Kałuszyn kehilla. An independent Mińsk community was established after the kehilla law was abolished and arrangments for synagogue supervision were in place.
By 1867, the local Jewish Community Council had its own synagogue (on ul Karczewska 2), mikvah and a Jewish cemetery situated nearby[1.3]. It was 1 morgen (1 morgen ≈ 0,56 ha) and 169 rods (1 rod ≈ 5,03 m) in area. Around 1870, Jews established a second cemetery, outside the town, in the direction of Cegłów[1.4].
Mińsk synagogue supervision included the city itself and some of the towns in Mińsk county (from 1867, the New Mińsk County) such as Cegłów, Siennica, Latowicz, Iwowe and Jeruzal. The jurisdiction of the Jewish Community Council covered paying rabbi’s living expenses; maintenance of the synagogue, cemetery, mikvah and ritual slaughterhouses; taking care of religious upbringing of youth; providing the faithful with kosher foods; managing communal property and organising charitable activities.
Minsk's first rabbi was Israel Jankiel (last name unknown). He was followed by Menashe, Mosiek Nejman and Majer Selson[1.5]. At that time, Josek Grynberg deputised for the Mińsk rabbi[1.6]. In 1835, Szymsio Kligman became the rabbi and held that position for 40 years. He contributed to the development of the community by, among many other things, building a wooden synagogue and apartments for the rabbi and for a scholar – Josek Arson[1.7]. In 1874, Jechiel Michel Rabinowicz became the rabbi.
Mińsk Jews quickly became interested in Hassidism. By 1873, a tzadik, Jakub Perlow, son of Szymon of Zawichost, had set up his court in Mińsk[1.8]. In 1896, thanks to funds provided by Szlomo Folman, a Hasidic Jew from Warsaw[1.9], Perłow established a yeshivah in Mińsk Mazowiecki. The school, attended by around 200 students, had a dormitory and a dining room. Dean of the school was Moses Mass from Siemiatycze[1.10]. following his death, his son, Alter Israel Szymon, was appointed to continue his work. In 1916, the tzaddik moved his court to Warsaw.
Hassidic Jews constituted a fairly large group within Mińsk Mazowiecki. They were divided into supporters of seven tzadikim - those from Góra Kalwaria, Aleksandrów, Parysów, Radzymin, Skierniewice, Piaseczno and Nowomińsk[1.11].
[1.1] T. Lalik, Mińsk Mazowiecki…, p. 99
[1.2] T. Lalik, Mińsk Mazowiecki…, p.100; J. Kuligowski, Z dziejów osadnictwa żydowskiego w Mińsku Mazowieckim [in:] W 50 rocznicę zagłady mińskich Żydów, dodatek do MIM, 1992, p. 3
[1.3] J. Kuligowski, Rejestr pomiarowy placów i ogrodów Miasta Mińska Mazowieckiego, [in:] Rocznik Mińskomazowiecki, z. 11, p. 23
[1.4] L. Kłos, Mniejszości narodowe i religijne w Mińsku Mazowieckim (do 1939 r.) [in:] 585 lat Mińska Mazowieckiego, edited by J. Kuligowski, Mińsk Mazowiecki 2006, p.18.
[1.5] A. Gontarek, Społeczność żydowska w Mińsku Mazowieckim [in:] Miniprzewodnik po cmentarzu żydowskim w Mińsku Mazowieckim, TPMM, Mińsk Mazowiecki 2008, brak numeracji.
[1.6] Archiwum Państwowe w Siedlcach, Akta Stanu Cywilnego gminy wyznania mojżeszowego w Latowiczu, sygn. 4-9. Od 1830 r. do 1835 r. zaświadczał przed urzędnikiem Stanu Cywilnego o zawarciu ślubu.
[1.7] Archiwum Państwowe w Siedlcach, Akta Stanu Cywilnego gminy wyznania mojżeszowego w Mińsku Mazowieckim, sygn. 8.
[1.8] S. Stampfer, Hasidic Yeshivot in Inter-War Poland, [in:] POLIN. Studies in Polish Jewry, v. 11, ed. A. Polonsky, London 1998, p. 8.
[1.9] B. Gładyś, Mińsk Mazowiecki z dziejów społeczności żydowskiej, Gmina Wyznaniowa Żydowska w Warszawie, Warszawa, p. 9.
[1.10] S. Stampfer, Hasidic Yeshivot…, p. 8.
[1.11] Mosze Ziserman, Życie gminy i kontrowersje rabinów [in:] Sefer Mińsk Mazowiecki, (ed.) E. Siedlecki, Jeruszalaim 1977, p.93-95.
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