The Jewish kehilla in Zwoleń was one of the oldest communities between the Wisła and Pilica Rivers. The Polish kings: Stefan Batory, Zygmunt III, Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki, August III and Stanisław August Poniatowski, confirmed the privilege granted to the Jewish population, which allowed them to live, trade, construct a synagogue, a mikveh and cheders in the town. In 1554, two Jews were listed in the town and in 1567 as few as three Jews inhabited Zwoleń. In 1579, King Stefan Batory issued a privilege which allowed them to stay and trade in the town[1.1]. Another privilege of December 1591 limited the number of houses owned by Jews to 10, but, on the other hand, allowed them to trade and use the prayer house without restrictions of any kind. King Zygmunt III in a privilege issued on 22 August 1615 allowed Jews to possess 20 houses. In 1661, there were eight Jewish houses, 20 debt collectors, Jewish bakers, alcoholic beverages producers and vendors in Zwoleń[1.2]. The Jews who lived there in 1671 complained that the town incessantly fell pray to robberies of marching soldiers. Particularly damaging was the Swedish army in the 1660s.
An organized kehilla was established in the 1590s. A wooden synagogue was erected after 1591, and the cemetery was situated on a hill at the left bank of the river, far from the compact buildings. In 1765, the Jewish population of Zwoleń was estimated at about 400 people[1.1].
In the 19th century, Zwoleń became an important Hasidic centre, gathered around rabbi Szmuel Elijahu Tauba (died 1888), who established a court and a tzadik dynasty there. During the November Uprising (1830-1831), the Jewish cemetery suffered serious damages. The Russian army demolished and used its wooden fencing, the pre-burial house and ohels as fuel materials. In 1834, a huge fire destroyed Zwoleń. The synagogue, which was also damaged, was reconstructed in the same year.
In 1864, there were 2,894 people in Zwoleń, including 1,760 Jews[1.1], who lived in 325 houses (of which 93% were wooden[1.5]). Economically active were 338 residents, including 88 craftsmen, 18 tradesmen, 12 inn keepers and 220 farmers.
In the 1860s, the Synagogue precinct was led by a well-known rabbi Chaskiel Cukier[1.6]. A modern mikveh was constructed on his initiative in 1895. The same year a kosher slaughterhouse was built and later, in 1902, a detached cheder and a new house of prayer in 1913. In 1905, Abram Chaim Filderbaum became a rabbi. In 1907, Zwoleń had 7,266 inhabitants and 545 (505 wooden) houses. In 1915, 131 shops, excluding booths and stalls, operated within the town.
The regained independence of Poland fostered the town’s development. In 1921, there were 3,787 Jews who constituted 51.2 % of the total population. In the period between 1918 and 1939, the number of houses grew by 30%, but still there were no paved streets, sidewalks and lighting in Zwoleń[1.7]. The prestige of the town was dependent on trade and small craft, which provided products for the needs of the neighbouring villages. The People’s Bank, Cooperative Credit Bank and Trade-Cooperative Fund offered loans to residents[1.8].
[1.1] Zwolen, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, S. Spector, G. Wigoder (eds.), vol. 2, New York (2001), p. 1522.
[1.2] A. Penkalla, Żydowskie ślady w województwie kieleckim i radomskim, Radom (1992), p. 168
[1.3] Zwolen, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, S. Spector, G. Wigoder (eds.), vol. 2, New York (2001), p. 1522.
[1.4] Zwolen, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, S. Spector, G. Wigoder (eds.), vol. 2, New York (2001), p. 1522.
[1.5] E. Bajek, “Na drodze do kapitalizmu i w powstaniach narodowych”, [w:] Zwoleń, dzieje miasta i ziemi, K. Myśliński (ed.), Lublin (1976), p. 115
[1.6] A. Penkalla, O biegu życia rabinów guberni radomskiej w okresie Królestwa Polskiego, „Kieleckie Studia Historyczne” 1999, no. 15, p. 172
[1.7] R. Renz, Społeczności małomiasteczkowe w województwie kieleckim 1918-1939, Kielce (1990), p.22
[1.8] List of the participants of the P.K.O. cheque transaction, Warszawa 1933, p. 743
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