– Kruke was historically the second Polish
crowning of Wladislaw Lokietek in 1320 Wawel Castle became the throne of Polish
kings until Sigmund III Wasa moved the capital to Warsaw in 1596 after the unification
of the kingdoms of Poland and Lithuania into one government. Wawel
remained a place of coronations until 1734, 38 years later Poland began to lose it independency
and was divided among three neighbors; Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In 1794 Tadeusz Kosciuszko, hero of the American independence War came back to
Poland and in Krakow’s central market began his unsuccessful attempt to restore
the Polish government.
1918 – the year of the reposition of Polish independency, Krakow was under the Habsburg
Jewish presence in Kracow’s vicinity dates from the very beginning of the City’s
history. In 1335 the Polish King Casmir the Great established a separate town
nearby the original Krakow, the name of the town was the
same as the King’s name – Casmir - Kazimierz in Polish. Quickly Kazimierz
became the center of Jewish life when after the establishment of the University
Jews sought to avoid harassment from its students. In 1495 King Jan Olbracht
expelled the Jews from the capital, most of them settled in Kazimierz which later
became part of Krakow anyhow, as the city
few hundred years Kazimierz was one of the main centers of the Jewish community
worldwide. The founder of Krakov’s Yeshiva and method of Talmudic study Pilpul
is Rabbi Yaakov Pollak; he is one of the first on the list of the most
prominent and influential personalities in Jewish History that lived in Krakov.
Rabbi Shlomo Shachna, the founder of the Lublin Yeshiva, Rabbi Moshe Iserles –
Remu, Rabbi Meir ben Gedalia – Macharam, Rabbi Yoel Serkis – Bach, Rabbi Yom
Tov Lipa Heller – the Tosefos Yom Tov and many others spent years and were
buried in Kazimierz’s Bais Hachaim.
times during its History, the Jewish population of Kazimierz was reinforced by Jews
who were expelled from other countries. Numerous Jews from Spain resided there including the
Royal doctor Samuel Kalahora. After the expulsion of Prague’s Jews, many of them settled
1917 Sarah Schenirer established the first Bays Yaakow School and it became the cradle of
Jewish Girls education. Within the next 22 years there were more than 300 Bays
Yaakow schools in Europe.
Krakow remained one of the most
influential Jewish centers until the Holocaust. From approximately 64,000s of
Jews that lived in the city before WWII(28% of Krakow population), only about 3,000 returned after the war, many
of them left the country within the year of 1946, after the pogrom in Krakow.
Jewish history gained its fame among the general society after the Oscar wining
movie depicting the story of over thousand Jewish lives spared by Oscar
Scindler; the German factory owner in the occupied Poland.
– Warszawa is a relatively young city and
third Polish capital. Established as a settlement at the beginning of the 14th
century by Masovian’s prince Boleslav II, it became capital of the country only
in 1596 after King Wladislav III Vasa moved his court from Krakow.
for Jews, Warsaw will be remembered as a
cultural capital of the nation. With the biggest Jewish population in Europe escalating over 330.000 just
before WWII, Warsaw was the center of Jewish
political, economical and of course religious life. At some years, the Jewish
population of Warsaw contained over %40 of its total
number of inhabitants.
of Jewish dailies were sold on Warsaw’s streets and major
publishers printed the books in all languages used by Jews. At that time Europe just started to organize its
education for children, more than %90 of Jewish boys attended Chedurim.
the end of the Jewish existence in Poland as the center of Jewish
civilization, Warsaw was predominantly Hasidic, with
many Rebbes residing the city for most of the year. After the Bolsheviks
revolution in Russia, Some Rebbes and many
Lituanian Yeshivos found their shelter in the Polish Capital. Even before WWII
the Jewish cemetery at Okopova Ave was the biggest one in Europe. During the war, when Nazis
concentrated over half a million Jews in the Warsaw’s Ghetto, Warsaw itself became the Bais
Hachaim for many. Today, Warsaw’s Jewish community is still
rebuilding, however, without any chance of reaching its past glory.
Warsaw is one of the most visited
Jewish cities in the world. For its glorious history, for its cursed history
and, L’chvdil, it is visited by many Hasidim going to pray at the graves of
their Rebbes from the past; Tzvi Hirsch Radzyminer, Rabbi Menachem Kalish
of Amshinov, Rabbi Isruel Meir Taub of
Modrzic and his son the second Rabbi of Modrzic -Rabbi Yakov Duvid Taub, Rabbi Alter
Isruel Shimon of Novominsk, Ostrover Rebbe, Rabbi Yacov Arie and Rabbi Aaron
Menachem Mendel Guterman of Radzimin, Rabbi Elimelech Menachem Landau of
Strykov, Rabbi Mordeche Menachem Mendel
Kalish of Vurke, Rabbi Yitschok Yakov Rabinovich of Biala, Rabbi Shlomo Hanoch
Rabinovich of Radomsk, Rabbi Shmuel Weinberg of Slonim, Rabbi Dov Ber Meisels (the
chief Rabbi of Krakov and Warsaw), Chaim Soloveychik of Brisk. These are only
some of great Rabbinc leaders of our nation who find their rest on Warsaw’s Bais Hachaim.
If you would
like to leave a Kvitel by let alone the Hasidic Rebbes Qevurim you would need a
notebook. To visit this place where our brothers and sisters are resting, a
city of such Jewish prominence is an experience to remember for anyone.
the Nazis closed the Ghetto by separating the Jewish population with the masonry
wall and numerous watchtowers and checkpoints, over half million people were
congregated within its walls. Many stories were told about heroism of
individuals and groups who were denied from basic humane conditions.
Yecheskiel Halshtuk, the Ostrovtzer Rav and his Hasisdim are one of them. Rabbi
Menachem Ziembas death on the streets of ghetto is the subject of another
story. Matasyahu and his group of youth that were so devoted to learn in the extreme
ghetto conditions can inspire a stone to look for spiritual growth.
Breslau – Wroclaw. This less known European city is almost as old as Prague, and although it’s not the state
capital it was always the capital of the Silesia region. For over a thousand
years of its history it was known to be Polish, Czech, Moravian, German,
Prussian and again Polish for the last 65 years city.
Jewish tombstones are more than eight hundred years old, which proves that Jews
were part of the Breslau’s Society from almost very
beginning of its history. They were expelled from the city in 1455 by the Czech
king Ladislav and were allowed to came back two hundred years later, and even
then only limited number of people were allowed in. There was a great improvement
to the situation the Jewish community was in when in 1744 they got permission
from the Prussian government to establish an official Kehila and build Synagogue.
In 1812 the Jews of Breslau acquired equal rights with its other inhabitants of
community of Breslau was one of the most important
and influential community within all of Germany. It was the location of the
fierce battle of Orthodoxy against reform represented by Rabbi Gedalye Tiktin
on one side and Abraham Geiger on the other.
also not that known that Breslau is the birth place of the Conservative
movement. With the establishment of Jidishe Teologishe Seminarium in
1854 by Zaharias Frankel and the publishing of his “Darkei Mishna” commentary
on Mishna initiated the movement which grew up significantly in United States. One of the main Seminaries
lecturers was the Professor of Breslau’s University, Heinrh Greatz author of popular
“History of Jews”. He’s style is still followed by other modern presentations
of Jewish history.
worthy to note that all of the three peoples, Geiger’s, Frankel’s and Greatz’s
writings, were subjected as the most fascinating polemics of their time, and to
a certain extent this disagreement still
Samson Raphael Hirsch, writes in Introduction to the volume V of his “Collected
Writing” devoted to Jewish historiography, primarily aimed against Greatz’s
History: “To him, Talmudic Law, which through all of the centuries of or exile
has upheld the Jews and shaped every aspect of Jewish life, is merely the
product of temperamental and psychological characteristics of these eminent
figures…and… is not a tradition that harks back to Mount Sinai”.
than I have examined this work in detail and checked it against the cited
sources… I have found it to be, even from purely scientific point of view, a
product of the most outrageous, irresponsible superficiality”. Book of Greatz,
serves as a base for whole movement calling itself – Jewish.
is interesting, with two of them Rabbi Hirsch has previously had close
relationships. Geiger was Rabbi Hirsch’s Chavruso (partner in Jewish study) at
the time of his academic year in University of Bonn and Greatz was Rabbi Hirsch
Talmid (student) living even in his house for a few years.
Wroclaw is also one as one of the
most beautiful European cities with the Old Market and magnificent Old “Town
House - Rathaus”.
Lublin. How many facts do we associate with this city? Its name
alone sounds holy.
can still find on the shelves of Synagogues of our new home in America some old Sefurim with
yellowed pages remembering the Alte Heim. When we look at the title page, it is
written that the place of its publishing was Lublin. Sometimes in Hebrew letters,
sometimes Polish and sometimes even Russian Cyrillic font. Those Books were
printed under the ruler ship (government) of Tsar of Russia.
Lublin was the capital of the region
and not only Europe but in the world scale of the
Jewish community. In some of the towns around Lublin, like Chrubieshov or Lubartov,
over half of its inhabitants were Jewish. In other smaller towns sometimes more
than 90% of the people were decedents of Israel.
Lublin is mostly known for its
Rabbis and the Yeshiva Chachamey Lublin. Before Rabbi Meir Shapiro – who was
also a member of the Polish parliament, established his first modern yeshiva in
the city, Lublin has had a long list of
personalities of the greatest magnitude in Jewish History.
Choze (Seer) - Rabbi Yakov Yitzchok Horovitz of Lublin is one of them. This great
leader of the later Hasidic movement influenced others through his teachings
and example. He was a guide for hundreds of thousands of Hasiddim, whether through
first hand or not. Many of his own Talmidim became Rebbes themselves. His greatness
was counterbalanced by another great personality sharing the influence over the
city at the same time, Rabbi Azriel Horovitz – the Aizene Kop – although he opposed the Hasidic path.
quarrels between Hasidim and Misnagdim is another example of Hashem’s
providence and way how the spiritual balance of his chosen people is
maintained, as it is said by Rabbi Betzalel Landau in his book depicting the life
of Rabbi Eliahu – the Vilna Gaon. Without Hasidim, Judaism would blunder on the
paths of legality and stiff forms. Without Misnagdim, Hasidism would perhaps derail
as a heresy or cult similar to those of Istanbul and its followers in other
countries, resulting in apostasy and moral degeneration.
to the strong leadership of individuals such as Rabbis Yakov Yitzchok Horovitz
and Azriel Horovitz, Judaism proved to be a life organism strongly rooted in for
3,000 years of Torah, and yet always ready to adjust to the changing conditions
without resigning from any principals.
back in history of the Jewish Lublin Rabbis: Meir ben Gedalia the Maharam,
Shlomo Luria – the Maharshal and Shlomo Shachna the Rosh Yeshiva of the first
Yeshiva in Lublin 400 years before the establishment of the more known Yeshiva
of Rabbi Shapiro.
of a thousand years, half the time Lublin was one of the most important
centers of Jewish life in the world, it soon ended no less than 70 years ago it
the town that it’s name will forever bring terror to the mind of every Jewish
person. That name is Maydanek.