The oldest notation of Jews in Staszów dates back to 1578. The town was granted a charter in 1525 by King Sigismund I[1.1] and developed mainly as a result of its inhabitants’ pottery and cloth-making. Having been expelled from the town on the pretext of a ritual murder in 1610[1.2], the Jews came back eighty years later in 1690. Elzbieta Szaniawska played an important role in the development of a Jewish settlement in Staszów by granting them privilege in 1718 . It gave Jews freedom to settle, trade, build a synagogue and establish a cemetery. The privilege was aimed at helping to restore the town after the Great Cholera Epidemics.
A registration form from 1765 showed that there were 64 Jewish houses and 607 Jewish inhabitants in Staszów. The Jews settled down mainly in the market square as well as in nearby Krakowska and Rytwiańska Streets. Whereas some Jews engaged in craft such as dressmaking, capmaking, shoemaking and goldsmithing, others earned their living as stall holders near the town hall. Although, Jews were the only peddlers in town, they were not allowed to sell vodka[1.3].
Jews and Poles were obliged to pay similar taxes[1.4].
Another important factor in the development of the Jewish settlement was a privilege granted by Adam Czartoryski in 1772 which allowed them to have a synagogue and a cemetery, engage in craft without limitations, produce beer and honey and allow rabbis’ trials to take place with the right of execution. Cases between Christians and Jews were to be judged by both the elders of the kehilla (community) and the mayor.
Eighteen years later, Staszów was inhabited by 1902 people, including 394 Jews. Unfortunately, events during the years 1795-1863 led to economic decline and impoverishment of the town’s population. In 1795 the town fell under the Austrian rule, between 1809-1815 Staszów was in the Duchy of Warsaw and after that in the Kingdom of Poland. In 1846, trying to encourage Jews to work on the land, Duke Adam Potocki bought a farm near Staszów and called it “Palestynka” (“Little Palestine”).
At that time the situation of the Jewish population was very difficult since they were obliged to pay not only taxes but also additional fees for weddings and the permssion to leave town.
In 1865 in Staszów there were 6150 inhabitants, including 3947 Jews who made up 64.2% of the total population[1.5]. At that time Jews possessed 151 houses ( 42% of all houses) 28 of which were located in the market square.
In 1873 a visit of an energetic Rabbi Baruch Rotblach, educated in Turobin and Radom, became a great event for all Jews of Staszów, and especially so for the Orthodox ones[1.6].
In 1886 Staszów was already a big town with 8000 inhabitants, 66% of whom were of Jewish origin. Jewish merchants started to play a significant role in the town as they owned 80% of the town’s 120 shops. Not only did they have an important position in trade of grains, meat, wood, leather, and drinks, but also in craft, especially in shoemaking.
The Jewish community of Staszów maintained the synagogue, bet ha-midrasz and five cheders (religious schools). Wolf Tuchman was the chairman of the community whereas Jechuda Grojbert was its rabbi.
The cultural life developed significantly with a number of musicians becoming recognized outside Staszów such as Abram Szerman, Pinczes Szerman[1.7], Jankiel Goldman, Motel Goldfarb, Mojżesz Rotenberg, Abraham Josel, Izrael Schwoger, Halina Wolman and Zimra Zeligfeld.
In 1919 P.Szerman received the second prize just after the famous Gierszon Sirota in the cantor’s competition organized in the synagogue in Warsaw. M.Rotenberg created a choir at Ha-Szomer ha-Cair in Staszów, I.Szwoger worked as a musician and as a conductor between 1917 and 1919 and enjoyed great success in Radom during the years 1920 to 1926. The violinist Jakub Cymerman became famous in Warsaw as a violin-maker.
According to Maciej Andrzej Zarębski, “the town began to recover due to the establishment of a garrison of 800 soldiers at the end of the 19th century. Large barracks, big military storehouses, stables, and riding arenas were built to meet the needs of the cavalry regiment” [1.8].
The town’s brewery and two factories of soda water belonged to Icek Wajnberg and Chaim Kokuski. There were also two mills which belonged to Bejnis Tenenwurcel and Duke Maciej Radziwiłł respectively. The latter mill was leased by Izrael Kapen. Furthermore, there was a paper factory, a printing house and a tannery.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, Staszów was inhabited by 11,275 people, including 7635 Jews who made up 67.8 % of the total population. Of the 424 houses, 65% belonged to the Jews who lived mainly near the market square, Kirkucka Street, Złota Street, and Czysta Street. There lived the families of Grojbart, Zylberman, Lewkowicz, Grynwald, and Daltebój.
Wedding ceremonies took place in the square between the synagogue and a nearby house of prayer[1.9]. In the town there were two houses of prayer, one at Kirkucka Street and the other at Dolnorytwiańska. Natan Mełamed and Mendel Lewkowicz were the teachers; Jechuda Lejb Grojbrat was the rabbi, whereas Izrael Wajcman and Jaske Dyzenhaus were cantors. Additionally, the town had its own Funeral Fraternity.
With Wolf Tuchman as the chairman, the board of the Jewish community was located in the market square in a house belonging to the Solniks and the Dyzenhauses. Staszów was also a strong center of Hasidism with a few houses of prayer (called “sztible”) belonging to supporters of a tzadik from the Kalwaria Mountain –Rabbi Motel. “There were also small groups of Hasidim (…) who prayed in a small school in Dolnorytwiańska Street” [1.10]. An outstanding personality was the Reb Izrael Wajcman since “he was known not only for his Hasidic-folk style but also for dancing while performing with a youth choir” [1.11].
The First World War brought hardship to the population of Staszów .In the nearby Strzegom village ten Jews were executed by a firing squad on a charge of espionage and one Jew was hung in the market square in Staszów. Also, rabbis L. Grojbart and D.Goldfeder were taken to Russia as hostages.
In the years 1918-1939 Staszów was a town in Sandomierz County and had a narrow-gauge rail link with Jędrzejów and Szczucin as well as a bus link with Kielce. There were also well-known transport companies belonging to Szmul Kamacher and Icek Mendel. Markets were organized twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. At the beginning of 1930s the following companies were owned by Jews: N.Wolman’s brickyard, J.Baum’s cement plant, A.Krygsztajn’s whips factory, H.Prajs’s printing house, Sz.Brendzel’s tannery, J.Frajlich’s soap and candles factory,and J.Sznifer and B.Wajnberg’s soda water company. Jews played an important role in crafts such as: linen production, capmaking, hairdressing, shoemaking, specialist upper- shoe making, tailoring, and garment manufacture. Staszów was well known for it production of whips and pipes.
Furthermore, Jews dominated in the trade of textiles, accessories, horses, shoes, drinks, grocery products, clothes, and iron[1.12]. Loans could be taken out at five banks including Bank Spółdzielczy (the Collective Bank), Bank Kupiecki (the Merchant Bank), and Bank Ludowy (the People’s Bank). W. Horowitz, A. Szmul Kryksztajn, Ch. and H. Nisencwajg as well as H. Wajbrot were allowed to sell PKO cheques[1.13]. The town’s elite was made up of the dentist A. Rubinsztajn, the midwife M. Rotenberg, the printer H. Prajs, booksellers B. Tochterman and F. Zynger as well as the defense attorney W. Horowitz.
In the inter-war period, the Jewish community in Staszów was quite wealthy . It possessed a well-preserved synagogue, a mikvah (ritual bath), a cheder (religious school), three houses of prayer, two cemeteries (the old one in Kirkutowa Street and the new one in Dolno-Rytwańska Street) and a ritual kosher poultry abbatoir. Also, they owned four squares of land worth 18,000 zloty and two houses worth over 12,000 zloty[1.14].
During the elections in 1924 the authorities recognized Staszów as a big Jewish settlement. This resulted in Wolf Tuchman, Froim Zynger, Kopel Meisel, Beniamin Tochterman, Abram Nisenbaum, Dawid Tauman, Josek Zalcberg, Izrael Wajsbrot, Majer Goldhar, Wolf Frydman, Izrael Wajcman, Pikus Nisengarten, Lejzor Wincygster, Ryzman Groshaus, Wolf Kohn, Lejbuś Pfeferman, Chaskiel Herszkowicz, Chaskiel Warga, Jankiel Wagner, Abram Rajch, Matys Frydman and Chaim Albaum becaming members of the community authorities. W. Tuchman, L.Wincygster and M.Goldhar were re-elected[1.15].
Until 1929 the chairman of the community’s board was W.Tuchman. After his death, Efroim Singer fulfilled his duties until the liquidation of the community by the Nazis[1.16]. On 2 March 1926 Izrael Josek Gerszt, a Misrachist, became an assistant rabbi. The Jewish community had two cantors: Izrael Zylberman and Josek Dyzenhauz as well as three melameds: Abram Dyksztajn, Kiwa Goldsztajn, Morgensztajn. Aron Fiszman, Motel Bloch and Icek Paulinczow were shechitas[1.17]. The board of the community had its office in a cheder. Until 1929 Szymon Braun was the secretary of the community and was later replaced by Icek Szaniecki[1.18].
A modern ritual bath was built in Staszów in 1926. Also, there was an orphanage with about 70 children. Four teachers taught at the Mizrachi cheder which every year was attended by about 160 to 180 boys. In 1929 the Bejs Josef school was established with about 80 children attending. Maintenance of the school amounted to about 1500 zloty[1.19]. A year later Jesoda-Hatora was established. In 1930, Hebrew courses were organized at the community’s expense[1.20].
In addition, there were two yeshivas in Staszow, where Herszel Wolman, Mendel Lewkowicz and Izrael Górzawski taught. J.I.Perec Library is worth a mention. In 1938 fifteen richest Orthodox families established the Yeshiva Beit Torah – the Association for Supporting Talmudic Education[1.21].
The Jewish community also had a No-Interest Charged Fund, and a charity association called Linas Hacedek with 110 members. Two paramedics Chaim Raj and Bersz Knobel as well as two doctors Adam Ratinow and Jehiele Kirszenbeum helped the sick. More serious cases were treated in the hospital located in the market square. Wealthier Jews relied on doctor’s home visits. The Association of Performing the Last Offices dealt with burials.
It must be remembered that in Staszów there were the following political parties: Aguda, Mizrachi, Poalej Syjon and Bund. The Jewish Craft Union defended the rights of craftsmen.
The first detailed budget of the Jewish community dates back to 1928. 601 families were obliged to pay the community fees whereas 76 families were exempt from payment due to poverty. In 1932 the fees of 5 to 15 zloty were to be paid by 444 families; the highest fee amounted to 80 zloty and was paid by two people. Hence, it can be concluded that the community was not rich.
The community earned about 58,000-60,000 zloty a year including: 40,000 zloty from ritual slaughter, 8000 zloty from fees, 1000 zloty from burials, 500 zloty from wedding certificates and announcements. In 1930 the expenses were planned to reach 52,921 zloty. However, the planned sums were never raised as the planned fees could not be exacted.
In 1933 the authorities assumed that the Jewish community of Staszów had 5000 people therefore it was able to get 58,346 zloty in total including: 40,000 zloty from animal slaughter, 15,245 zloty from fees, 3,100 zloty from other sources. The expenses of the community were as follows: 4,800 zloty for a rabbi’s assistant, 29,820 zloty for other officials, 7500 zloty for investments and 4100 zloty for charity. Due to numerous arguments on the community’s board, the place of a rabbi was not filled until 29 May 1934 when an Orthodox Alter Lejzor Horowitz got the position.
In 1937 there were 4879 Jews in Staszów with only 328 families obliged to pay fees, which proves that the community was getting poorer and poorer. The community’s movable goods were assessed at 38,202 zloty, real estate at 108,700 zloty whereas the debt was 31,623 zloty[1.22]. The community maintained the synagogue, three Bet ha-Midrasz schools, two cemeteries, a bath and a mikvah. Also, Talmud Torah, a yeshiva, and the Society for Health Protection were subsidized by the community. Palestinian funds were supported as well.
Members of the community board included: : Lejbuś Szafir, Noech Blusztajn, Gabriel Bekier, Mejloch Gerszt, Szmyl Gliklich, Szyja Linefeld, Motel Pomerancblum, and Froim Zyngier[1.23].
[1.1] J. Kwiatek, T. Lijewski, Leksykon miast, Warsaw 1998, p. 816
[1.2] Almanach gmin żydowskich, Warsaw 1939, p. 238
[1.3] Z. Guldon, K. Krzystanek, Ludność żydowska w miastach lewobrzeżnej części województwa sandomierskiego w XVI – XVIII wieku, Kielce 1990, p.147,148.
[1.4] Almanach gmin żydowskich, Warsaw 1939r., p. 239
[1.5] A. Makowska, Prywatne miasto Staszów, Warsaw 1981, p. 203 – 208.
[1.6] A. Penkalla, „O biegu życia rabinów” guberni radomskiej w okresie Królestwa Polskiego, „Kieleckie Studia Historyczne”, 1999, no 15, p. 178
[1.7] J. Fater, Muzyka żydowska w Polsce w okresie międzywojennym, , Warszawa 1977, p. 178
[1.8] M. A. Zarębski. Staszów naszych pradziadków, Staszów 1988, p. 6
[1.9] M. A. Zarębski. Staszów naszych pradziadków, Staszów 1988, p. 27
[1.10] M. A. Zarębski. Staszów naszych pradziadków, Staszów 1988, p. 50
[1.11] E. Słabińska, Działalność kulturalno-oświatowa inteligencji prowincjonalnej w województwie kieleckim (1918 – 1939),”Studia Kieleckie” 2004, no 4, p. 55
[1.12] Księga Adresowa Polski (wraz z W.M. Gdańskiem) dla handlu, przemysłu, rzemiosł i rolnictwa, Warsaw 1930, p.300,301
[1.13] Spis uczestników obrotu czekowego P.K.O., Warsaw 1933, p. 673, 74
[1.14] APK, UWK I, sygn. 1516, k. 17
[1.15] APK, UWK I, sygn. 1501, k. 239
[1.16] APK, UWK I, sygn. 1708, k.115; M. A. Zarębski, Staszów wczoraj i dziś, Staszów 1999, p. 46, 52
[1.17] APK UWK I, sygn. 1708, k. 21, 96, 97
[1.18] APK UWK I, sygn. 1663, k.172
[1.19] APK UWK I, sygn. 1663, k. 15 – 17
[1.20] APK UWK I, sygn. 1708, k. 96, 169
[1.21] APK, UWK I, sygn. 3911
[1.22] APK, UWK I, sygn. 3354, 14 – 17
[1.23] Almanach gmin żydowskich, Warsaw 1939, p. 240
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