Aaron Freimann

History of the Jewish Community of Ostrowo

(Ostrowo, 1896)

Gratefully dedicated to my esteemed teacher

Dr. Berliner

In Berlin

Originally published as Geschichte der Israelitischen Gemeinde Ostrowo

The translation of this monograph was the group effort of

Victoria Barkoff, Peter Cullman,

Nicole Heymans and Werner Zimmt




In his book “Zur Geschichte und Literatur, S. 404” (On History and Literature), Zunz councils that great care should be taken with the preservation of gravestones.  When extended to documents, such as congregational records, “privileges” etc., this advice is nowhere more applicable than in the Jewish communities of the province of Posen. Except in the most important towns, one rarely finds any community or congregational archives, but only a collection of documents concerning the establishment or development of these communities. Monographs have been written only about the city of Posen, and more recently Schneidemühl.

Although the sources available for this work are incomplete, they were still able to shed light on the beginning and development of this relatively young community. The oldest community book begins with the year 1724. When no documents were available, I consulted the oldest members of the community. I also had access to the city records for the town of Ostrowo, which I was able to examine in Berlin. In addition, I found in the Berlin Privy State Archives a number of documents concerning the Jewish community in Ostrowo when it was part of South Prussia. I had the full and gracious cooperation of the Royal Privy State Archives, allowing me to examine these documents in their rooms. I want to take this opportunity to thank both archives for their assistance. I also would like to thank the leaders of the local congregation.

Ostrowo, 14 September 1895

The author


According to the document in the Codex Dipl. Majoris Poloniae n° 701, on 30 June 1293 “Secundus Premuzl dux Polonie” [Premislas II, Duke of Poland] offered Count Tarscin his heritage Ostrowo for services rendered by the Count. If this document refers to our Ostrowo, which seems likely from the words “nostram heriditatem que Ostrovo vulgariter nuncupatur, circa rivulum Prosnam jacentem” [our hereditary possession, commonly known as Ostrovo, lying near the Prosna River], this could be the first mention of the town of Ostrowo.

In the 16th century, Ostrowo was a fairly important village, receiving rights to establish as a town in 1564. Earlier, Nicolaus v. Oschonice had been designated as Lord. In the 16th century, the village belonged to the Chielzeski's, and in 1685 it became the property of the Lescynski's.1 In the beginning of the 18th century, the place acquired city rights, which it gave up again voluntarily, however, in 1711.2 In 1714, the Lord of Przygodzic, Count Johann Georg Przebendowski, Grand Treasurer of the Crown of Poland, called for the re-establishment of the town, to which he granted many rights.3

It is likely that there were Jews living in Ostrowo village; we would have known this for certain if the community books of the Jewish Community of Kalisch had come down to us, but, sadly, they were destroyed in a fire in 1852. What is certain is that, among the settlers who responded to Przebendowski's call, there were also several Jews. We know only by hearsay that in 1717, it seems they “took the liberty of complaining about the burgomaster and head of police” and consequently were placed under the jurisdiction of the Council.4 We can learn nothing more of this matter; at the time, records were not kept by Jews.

The question of a Jewish community does not arise until 1724, when on 26th September Przebendowski granted a privilege “not only to the Jews who are already in Ostrowo, but also to others who may wish to move to Ostrowo in the future.” Only 12 Jewish heads of household would be tolerated, to whom ground and buildings of similar size as those belonging to pre-established Jews would be granted without charge. These 12 would be allowed to take others into their houses as tenants. Among these heads of household, no more than 4 butchers were allowed, to whom many liberties were granted, and who had to pay 100 Gulden yearly to the Count in money or goods. Trading in various goods took place in shops; the tax for a shop amounted to one ducat, which was to be given to the Count’s treasury at Martinmas. The yearly ground tax for a house was set at 12 ducats. The only restrictions were that they were obliged to buy salt and brandy solely from the Count's administration. Civil conflicts were settled by the town magistrate, but Jews could always appeal to the administrator of Ostrowo. Criminal matters were settled by the Count, who had the right to confirm the choice of Jewish elders. The community paid the Catholic Church a yearly contribution of one stone of tallow, specifically at Easter, and two pounds of powder “for salvos at the Resurrection.” It was stressed that the Jews would in no way belong to the Ostrowo town jurisdiction, but came under the Ostrowo court. Besides this, they were free of per capita tax, and of civil and military taxes, except in time of war; however they had to contribute to the upkeep of the city scribe and watch, maintenance of springs etc. They were forbidden to live on the Ring  (am Ring), but were confined to an alley and built there. Przebendowski allowed them to measure out a place where they were allowed to build a synagogue, and the same applied to a burial place.5

In those days, at the place where the auxiliary synagogue (Beth-Hamidrash) [place of Torah study, meeting and prayer] stands today, a building 53 feet long and 30 feet wide was built, with planked walls, no flooring and a shingled roof. The house had 3 doors, and 6 large and 6 small windows.6 A second building was added three rods away in 1785. This building, if possible even poorer than the first, was also of wood. It was 21 feet long, 11 feet wide and 7 feet high, and consisted of an entrance hall and two-and-a-half rooms. First used as a hospital, it was modified slightly in 1823 and became the rabbi's dwelling. Since 1760, behind this building, there had already been a house of similar construction, for which Przebendowski's successor Bielinski had provided the wood, and which became the school. The little house built in 1828 beside the present-day cemetery, now the dwelling of the cemetery janitor, was used as a hospital, though probably only in times of cholera. Next to the rabbi's house was the burial place, 40 1/4 square rods in size; opposite this has stood the bathhouse since 1790.7

The cemetery was only in use for 56 years, between 1724 and 1780; on 7 September 1780, a strict order was issued to the Jews to buy a burial place in the country within a fortnight and henceforth to discontinue use of the former location, “because it was unpleasant to the Christians near their houses.”8 This term was extended by 4 weeks on 28 September; however burials already took place in September in the new cemetery, one morgen [approximately 2/3 acre] in size, on the territory of Krępa. This place was under Radziwill rule and hence could not be sold, and its use was granted to the community for a low yearly rent. The same occurred on 21 June 1824, when Count Radziwill granted permission to enlarge the cemetery to two morgen, with a yearly rent of 2 thaler.

The small community was compelled from the start to take out loans in order to undertake all this construction. According to the Przebendowski statute, the administrator who had to certify the loans had to make sure these amounts were not too large. The Count loaned only 100 gulden, which was sufficient to start with; probably the majority of the building costs could be covered by contributions from individual community members. Soon the amount borrowed increased considerably, because with time, the freedom of profession that Przebendowski had granted them progressively became restricted. Thus in his statute of 1730, as well as recognizing all the earlier restrictions, Bielinski forbade the trading of salt,9 and also excluded an increase in the size of the community beyond what Przebendowski had allowed. In 1747, they borrowed 100 gulden from the lord once again, 1000 gulden from the Catholic Church on 24 July 1735, the same amount on 1 June 1760, and again on 30 May 1764. We do not know when or for what purpose the community had to borrow a very considerable amount from a Jesuit College. According to the conclusions of a commission of the Royal Treasury in Warsaw on 29 July 1765, the synagogues of Greater Poland were ordered to refund several sums that had been loaned to them by the Jesuit Colleges. A judgment of 17 February 1785 established a special commission in order to determine the situation of the contributions of the Jewish community towards the reimbursement of these debts, and to divide the contributions only among the synagogues. We learn that this commission made a distribution judgment on 5 March 1787 according to which the Ostrowo synagogue was to pay 3 installments:

a. on Monday after Epiphany 1780 821 Flor. 19 gr. 1 Sch.

b. on 10 July 1788                                              821   “      19 “   1  “

c. on Monday after Epiphany 1789 821   “      19 “   1  “

In total2464 Flor. 28 gr.

or about 411 thaler. But in no way was that the end of the matter. A debt table of 1822 shows the contributions that they were supposed to pay to the Przygodzic lordship, and those that they paid.

         To be paid                              Paid

1806/7     1666 Gulden ......... 1803/4      1666 Gulden

1807/8     1666 Gulden ......... 1804/5      1666 Gulden

1808/9     1666 Gulden ......... 1805/6     1666 Gulden

1809/10   1666 Gulden ......... 1806/7     1607 Gulden

1810/11   1702 Gulden ......... 1813/14   1702 Gulden

1811/12   1702 Gulden ......... 1814/15   1702 Gulden

1812/13   1702 Gulden

One can see that from 1807 to 1813, the community's account was in the red. From 1815 to 1822, it paid very irregularly. We know nothing of the manner in which the authorities behaved towards the Ostrowo community during the South Prussian period, when the government was very aggressive regarding reimbursement of the Synagogues' debts. In no way was everything fully paid off; for in 1835 they had not yet paid the amount that, after repayment to the Jesuit Colleges, was due to the tax collector who was to transfer it in part to the school fund, and the payment was only complete in 1836. In the course of these 30 years, various circumstances entered into the absorption of the debt. On 13 May 1833, the community dissolved the yearly shop tax of 3 thaler, and agreed with the owner of Przygodzic properties that 56 thaler per capita would be paid. On 30 October 1839, the contribution to the Catholic Church of 1 stone of tallow and 2 pounds of gunpowder was replaced by 100 thaler. In this period, a large portion of the debts was also repaid, so that in 1873, real estate worth 25,000 reichsthaler outweighed the outstanding debts amounting to 8,000 reichsthaler.

The improvement of the community's financial situation led in part to the possibility for expansion. According to the Przebendowski privilege, only 12 Jewish heads-of-household were allowed, although they could sublet to others. Community officials were tacitly excluded from this number, in the opinion of the community. In 1740, there were already 79 individuals present. In 1748, 16 houses were occupied by Jews.

In 1770, they occupied 23 houses; among the owners were 9 tailors, 3 furriers, 2 doctors and 9 tradesmen.

In 1776, the first general census took place, revealing 156 individuals. In 1779, the figure had risen only slightly to 158 individuals.

On 10 January 1794, there were 381 individuals in Ostrowo, including 31 tailors; altogether there were 2,541 inhabitants.10

In 1800, Ostrowo had 2,719 inhabitants, 356 of whom were Jews. Of 46 tailors, 31 were Jews, of 30 furriers 8 Jews, 1 was a trimmings maker.11

In 1803, 37 Jewish families lived in Ostrowo, including 17 shopkeepers.

In 1815/16, 39 families, including 13 shopkeepers.

On 12 February 1819, the community numbered 28 shopkeepers and 12 craftsmen, i.e. 40 families.

From a complaint by the community to the government about illegal action of the lord's administration regarding taxes, we learn that the community, which was quite impoverished in 1822, numbered 120 families living in 38 houses.

In 1823, the ghetto consisted of 40 houses and 3 buildings belonging to Christians, and contained 136 families. Of the 24 shops in the town, 18 belonged to Jews.

In 1827 the community had 111 paying members.

In 1826, 103 families lived in 41 houses.

In 1833, the community numbered 1,205 individuals, plus 78 individuals living in the surrounding villages.

In 1834, there were 207 paying members.

On 22 March 1835, there were 1,256 Jewish individuals (267 families). Among these were 2 teachers, 1 rabbi, 1 assistant rabbi, 1 cantor and kosher butcher, 2 synagogue servers, 1 banker, 1 liqueur manufacturer, 8 drapers, 2 dealers in fancy goods, 14 fabric dealers, 1 fur dealer, 1 leather dealer, 3 employed in industry, 3 innkeepers with land, 2 bartenders, 2 grain dealers, 2 flour dealers, 34 clothing traders and shopkeepers, 8 greengrocers, 3 commercial clerks, 13 brokers and agents, 2 peddlers, 65 tailors, 11 furriers, 9 butchers, 3 bakers, 1 gold worker, 1 cigar roller, 1 watchmaker, 1 hatter, 2 glaziers, 2 soap boilers, 1 tanner, 1 cabinetmaker, 1 trimmings maker, 1 bookbinder, 2 cotton-wool manufacturers, 4 factory clerks, 2 carriage drivers, 4 employed in fisheries, 3 dairy farm tenants, 39 domestic servants and journeymen, 7 living on charity, 2 of undetermined resources, and 1 delivery man.

In 1840, there were 207 paying members, and 239 in 1844.

The number fell to 158 in February and March 1848 12, but rose again to 276 paying members in August of the same year.

In 1843, there were 1,498 souls in Ostrowo, and 1,709 in 1846.

In 1855, there were 266 individuals, and in 1865, 248 individuals had the right to vote.

On 3 April 1873, there were 350 families, 270 of which were taxpaying members.

In 1890 the number of Jewish souls amounted to 1,870.

The following gives a clearer overview:

1776    156 souls

1794    381 souls

1800    356 souls

1817    709 souls

1833    1,205 souls

1835    1,256 souls

1840    1,498 souls


As mentioned, by the end of the 1830s, the community was in a better position to manage its own institutions. In 1841, it became necessary to construct a new building for the two-class elementary school that had been founded in 1835. This massive two-storey edifice still houses the elementary school to this day.

The first grade had 42 children who were taught by Baruch Bloch13, the second grade had 94 children and was taught by Isaac Callomon.14 

In 1843, Dr. M. Piorkowski from Kreuzburg was called to the school; he resigned in 1851.15

In 1847, Aron Weg was hired as second teacher to the school, which now had three classes. In 1852, Mr. Igel became first teacher; however, he left the school in 1860 and went to Poland to a local elementary school. In 1853, Mr. Bergmann became third teacher. In 1860, Mr. Magnus intermittently taught first grade, although he had already resigned by 1861 and was replaced by Mr. Nürenberg (formerly teacher at the Jewish school in Schwerin a. W.).

In 1862, a fourth class was established, which Gabriel Cohn from Chodziesen (formerly teaching in Lyck) was hired to teach. In 1863, Mr. Magnus left the school, his position being given intermittently to Mr. Rose who handed over his work to Mr. Bruck in 1865.

In 1883, Mr. Weg retired (he died in 1892), followed by Mr. Borchartd from Rogasen. In 1884, Mr. Nuremberg also retired, his position being taken over by Rector Haym.

In 1888, Mr. Cohn retired (he died in 1890). The school was again reorganized into three classes. In 1889, Mr. Nadel took over the third grade and by 1892, Mr. Borchardt’s position was assumed by Mr. Körpel from Samter.

In 1860, a more dedicated religious class became necessary for the 362 schoolchildren, of whom 240 were attending the elementary school. Thus the religious school came into being, originally serving only the pupils of the three grades, although Rabbi Dr. Freeman is credited with expanding these. The Rabbi is also known to have given Jewish religious instruction at the local Royal Gymnasium from 1874 to 1884. Today Rabbi Dr. Plessner and head teacher Mr. Haym fill that position. The religious school is a private institution, subsidized by the community. The number of pupils attending the elementary school is as follows:

1835    162 children

1862    262 children

1864    266 children

1865    279 children

1866    265 children

1870    244 children

1875    258 children

1880    210 children

1885    163 children

1888    148 children

1890    134 children

1893    104 children

1895     90 children


Following the establishment of the school, a new synagogue was built in the mid-1850s. Given the earlier primitive building techniques, the old synagogue was rotten and threatening collapse. Because of its low position, water frequently collected inside the building, making the synagogue unusable. In 1856, the community decided to build a new House of Prayer for which the foundation stone was laid during the early hours of  7 April 1857. The documents for this occasion, in Hebrew and German, read as follows:

With the help of God Almighty, on this 7th of April of the year 1857, the foundation stone is laid for a House of God for the 300-family-strong community. The festive occasion was attended by the Royal Landrat and Regierungs-Commissar Mr. Woke, as well as the Mayor and head of the Municipal Authority Mr. Augustin, and Rabbi M. A. Stössel, together with the Committee of the representatives of the community, as constituted according to the laws of 23 June 1847. The work of the building lies in the hands of Mr. Moritz Landé, master bricklayer and member of this congregation, under the supervision of the Royal Building Inspector Mr. Tassel.

May God lend his blessings to this endeavor!

Thus signed and executed here in the town of Ostrowo, Kreis Adelnau, government district Posen of HRH Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia.

On the above date, Rabbi Stössel gave the speech of the day which later appeared in print.16 The synagogue was completed in 1860 and represented one of the town’s more beautiful buildings. The relatively large loan, sought by the community from v. Nasirowski, was repaid within a few years.

Since 1868, the synagogue had the benefit of gas lighting, which contributed to its overall beauty. However, the introduction of gas lighting was soon to have hitherto unimaginable disastrous repercussions. During a service on the evening before Erev Yom Kippur (10 October 1872), the synagogue’s gaslights suddenly dimmed, causing a panic among some of the congregation who feared that this was a fire alarm. A particularly grave situation developed among the women who attempted to rush down the staircase, only to find that one of the members, an overweight elderly woman, had fallen and blocked the way of escape for the rest of the women. During the ensuing stampede, fourteen women, two girls and two children fell victim to the catastrophe. The entire congregation was in shock and mourning. Even HRH the Empress enquired by telegraph via the local magistrate whether any assistance could be offered to the families of the victims in the days following the disaster.

In 1867, a new bath was built; as mentioned, the first one had bordered the rabbi’s house and had later been moved to the lower floor of the new school building that was erected in 1841. Since 1869, an auxiliary synagogue (Beth-Hamidrash) has stood on the grounds of the old synagogue that was demolished in 1862. By 1873, a hall for the preparation of bodies [Beth Tahara] was erected, following the demarcation of the cemetery. Many a member of the congregation endeavored to leave a lasting mark on the community. One person, having had the honor of using the mason’s hammer for the first time, made a donation of a pair of silver candelabra to commemorate the laying of the foundation stone. The brothers Moll in Lissa provided the funding for the acquisition of a hearse. In May 1871, another member provided the funds to clear the old cemetery that had been used as a dump for rubble and to have it planted with trees. In that way the locale was preserved in memory of its former use; the place was then named “Peace Garden”, commemorating the 1871 peace treaty with France.


When the congregation was established in 1724, a scarcity of funds prevented the community from the luxury of employing several officials. A strong connection was kept with the congregation of Kalisch, regarded at the time as the “mother congregation” since a large portion of the Ostrowo community originally hailed from there. Thus we find, as late as the year 1773, several ordinances (taqanoth) of the Kalisch rabbinate mentioned in the books of the Ostrowo community. We notice that the number of Elders dealing with internal arguments regarding the rabbi had risen from three in the first few years to four in 1730; by 1814 there were five Elders.17 They represented the community to the outside world and distributed the taxes; in other words they policed community matters. As late as 1841, they were still elected inside the synagogue. The fact that matters did not always run smoothly during these elections is evident from the existence of a letter by a certain Major von Usedom, dated 18 October 1797, in which he reported to a minister that he personally had to resort to force during elections in order to re-establish peace.18

In 1834, the first community statute was created, followed by a second one on 23 August 1836, designed to regulate the affairs of the community. Apart from a few minor changes that were necessary over the years, the revised statutes of 7 May 1877 remain in effect to this day.

From the beginning, the community employed a shochet [ritual slaughterer] who also served as cantor. Not until 1773 did the community decide to employ a permanent rabbi, the eminent Talmudic scholar Jacob Lande, who led the congregation until his death in 1787. He was followed, from 1787–1807 by Rabbi Seeb Wolf. During those years, the Jews had their fair share of difficulties with officials who were prone to disturbing their rituals. Thus on 26 October 1794, a decree by the War-and-Tax official Mr. Mente stated that thereafter it would no longer be permissible for meat to be sold by Jews to Christians. Furthermore, the community was advised to employ a particular official whose task it would be to oversee the bloodletting during slaughtering. Given the impecunious situation of the community, it simply was not possible to employ an additional official. It was felt that if the Jewish butchers were no longer allowed to sell meat to Christians, then all such trade had to cease altogether. A complaint to the current minister Hoym resulted in the reinstatement of the “status quo ante” [former status quo].19

Rabbi Seeb Wolf, who died in 1807, was succeeded by Zebi (Hirsch) Peiser —known as Hirschele Charif — who passed away in 1823 after many years of highly valued service. That same year, the community decided on a new rabbinic election that fell, after considerable indecision, to Mannheim Auerbach from Lissa. Born in Lenczyce [Poland] in 1773, the son of the well-known Rabbi Chajim Auerbach, Mannheim Auerbach had become known in Talmudic circles, among others for his preface to the book Divre Mishpat (Krotoschin), written and published by his father. Mannheim Auerbach was widely recognized as an expert on the Talmud and his certification for new books was widely sought.20 When, after 25 years in the pulpit, the rabbi died on Sunday 19 March, the community provided for the widow and her children. Typical of the financial situation of the congregation in 1823 is the fact that, in order to be able to pay a new rabbi, they had to borrow 400 Reichsthaler from the rabbi’s father-in-law, Joel Halberstadt of Lissa, a loan which they promised to repay in 6 installments. During his tenure, until 1833, Rabbi Auerbach enjoyed the assistance of Joseph Pilz as Dayan (rabbinical judge). He was followed after his death by Joseph David Holleschauer, son of the late Holleschauer Rabbi, Arje Jehuda.21 Joseph was born in Lissa in 1785 and died in Ostrowo in 1862. After the death of Rabbi Auerbach, Aron Stoessel from Neu-Rausnitz in Moravia was chosen as his successor on 15 July 1849. He assumed office on September first of the same year and served with great conscientiousness until his death on 31 March 1861. He was instrumental in the construction of the new synagogue. The congregation honored his memory by providing for his family. After his death, the office of rabbi remained empty for an extended period. In the interval, the functions of the rabbi were performed by the assistant rabbi (Rabbinatsassessor) Nathan Holzmann (died 1884) and Samuel Fraenkel (died 1878). Moses Ungar, rabbi in Raschkow, was brought in as assistant rabbi (Dayan) August 13, 1865. He was born in 1814 in Niss-Paluga, Hungary, was slaughterer for a time in Essek, became rabbi in Raschkow in 1864, moved to Ostrowo in 1865 and then to Jutroschin in 1870. He is the author of a pamphlet “The Path of Religion” 12o Krotoschin 1869, which summarizes everyday morality in a simple manner, something that many others had done, as, for example Jacob Lisser in his book Ahavat ha Brit,22 8o Krotoschin 1869. In 1870, it was decided that, to prevent the decline of the congregation, it would be necessary to hire a rabbi. In December of the same year, Dr. Freimann was invited from Filehne to Ostrowo and on 21 May 1871 unanimously elected as rabbi. Dr. Israel Freimann was born in Krakau. He received his early education from his father. At the age of 13, he went to Hungary, studying with several noted rabbis. After staying with his highly educated brother in Leipzig for a year, he moved to Breslau where he graduated from the Gymnasium and matriculated at the university, mainly attending lectures on philosophy. He received his doctorate in 1860 in Jena with a thesis on the Ophites [one of several Gnostic sects that regarded the serpent as hero] and was invited to become the rabbi in Filehne. He assumed his duties in Ostrowo on 7 October 1871 and carried them out until his death on 21 August 1884. The deceased was not only a noted scholar, as shown among others by his opus Wehishir, Part I, Leipzig 1873 and Part II Warsaw 1880, but also an exceptional and self-sacrificing spiritual advisor and shepherd, as evidenced by the esteem in which he is still held by the congregation today. He was succeeded by Dr. Elias Plessner on 29 September 1885. Born 10 February 1841, he was the son of the noted preacher Solomon Plessner. After he finished his Talmudic and scientific studies, he became rabbi in the seminary in Hanover and had been rabbi in Rogasen since 1873. He has striven mightily for the last ten years to the benefit of the congregation, and may it be his fate thus to continue.23

The interests of the congregation have also been furthered by the numerous associations active previously as well as currently. They are involved mainly in providing support for the poor and care of the sick. Among the oldest are the Chevra Kadisha, an association involved in the care of the sick and the preparation of bodies for interment. During the cholera outbreak, its members did not differentiate between Jews and Gentiles, helping all without distinction.24 The Association for the Training of Jewish Artisans, founded in 1849, is an offshoot of the Youth Association founded in June 1833. There is also a Wood Club, a Women’s Club and a Young Ladies Club.25

After a very unpromising and difficult start, the community is now among the most important in Posen.



Privileges of the Jewish community in Ostrowo, as of 26 Sep 1724

I, Johann George von Przebendowski, Count of Przebendow, Crown Grand-Treasurer, Administrator of Mirachow, Pokrzywin, Grabow, etc., the Prygodzicer estates, the town of Ostrowo, as well as other estates and inheritances belonging to these, hereby declare to all and every man, as well as those who will follow us in the future, but especially to my successors, since they will possess all these estates as their inheritance, that I found my inheritance in ruin, with very few inhabitants, and that I made a great effort to bring in craftsmen and other people to live here and furnished them with dwellings at considerable expense to improve the conditions of these properties. I also established regulations and privileges to insure administrative order for the residents, which are to be observed in the future, in towns and on the estates, and which are designed to assure prosperity, abundance, and wellbeing. Since the Jewish nation, which, according to the laws of the Kingdom of Poland has specific rights, has many useful members, skilled in trade and crafts, which are of value to their Christian neighbors in such towns, I have arranged for them to move here and have taken them under my protection. I bestow, confer, and direct for the safety and development of these Jews who reside in the town of Ostrowo, and to their descendents who may find themselves in Ostrowo, these rights and privileges as described below, including these points:

1st. By the authority of my current privilege, I grant and permit to the Jews places and grounds (including those already built here) with no more than 12 Jewish houses, with lots to be no larger than those already established here. My administrative Representative in Ostrowo, who has been designated for this purpose, will personally measure each location, and will also enter each Jewish head of household into the Ostrowo “Provent-Inventarium”. These heads-of-household (Juden-Wirte) have permission to take other Jews as lodgers but under the condition that each head-of-household has to obtain from any unknown Jew testimony stating where he came from, how he has supported himself, how he behaved, or else the heads-of-household need to get approval from the elders of the Jewish community, and with the approval of the Representative, or else the heads-of –household are subject to punishment by the Court. [Note: This refers to the court of the count.]

2  Among the 12 heads-of-household there are to be 4 butchers, of which 2 may butcher at the same time in sequence and who may sell their wares from their houses and tables. At the time of the annual fairs, all four may bring their meat to the marketplace to sell it. From these butcherings, the Ostrowo butchers are required to pay a butchering tax to the Ostrowo court and the Representative, a quantity of meat equivalent to 100 Polish florins, or they may pay it in the form of cash. In addition, The Ostrowo Jewish butchers also shall pay annually one stone of tallow to the Representative every year at Martinmas [Nov 11], and also specifically one stone of tallow to the Przygodzic rulers, which entitles them to make candles and to sell these in Ostrowo for the comfort of workers and all other people.

3  As all nations (with the exception of pagans) in the kingdom of Poland serve God in some form, I give permission to the Jews of Ostrowo to build a school to hold their religious services. The Representative will determine and measure the location, as well as that for a cemetery to bury their dead. They will have to build all houses and the school at their own expense and they are not allowed to borrow money, using their houses as collateral, from the nobility or the churches or other persons, either individually or collectively, nor using their synagogue without my knowledge or that of the Representative, and approval as their lord, under threat of severe punishment from the Court. It is the duty of the Representative to make sure that no secret arrangements involving substantial sums cause the city or the rulers to be involved in legal intrigues. Therefore, according to the law of the land, no one is permitted to make the loan of substantial amounts, under the punishment of loss, except with the prior knowledge and permission of the Representative or the ruler, which also requires the publication of the event in the city of Ostrowo by order of the Representative.

4  The Jews in these 12 houses have permission to build chambers and cellars and to deal in all kinds of wares, cloths, materials and spices; to buy and sell wool at the market. A Jew who is doing a substantial trade in Ostrowo, or who has a store that does a significant business shall pay into the ruler’s treasury one ducat each Martinmas. All Jewish heads-of-household are obligated to pay a tax of 12 ducats “in species” [cash] at Martinmas. Lodgers are obliged to pay their share of this tax. How this is to be divided between the owners and their lodgers is best left for them to arrange among themselves.

5  Jews are obliged to buy and sell the ruler’s salt and herring, and to furnish these to the taverns, just as they are free to brew mead and to sell it. If he wants to sell brandy he will have to take that of the Przygodzic court of the rulers, but only the ordinary kind from the Przygodzic distillery. Those Jews already residing here may take up to 3 tons annually and concentrate this in their own stills according to their pleasure. They may not, however, take more ordinary brandy to concentrate, but they will then have to take that of the Przygodzic distillery. If someone wants to serve brandy at the market, he is free to do so together with the sale of other goods, for example small pieces of linen, lace and Jewish handiwork during the annual market fair as well as on the weekly market in the town of Ostrowo on the Ring at the usual locations and he will be free from any interference from the other residents. They may not import or sell brandy from any other sources under threat of punishment and confiscation of the same for the benefit of the Przygodzic court. To enforce this, the ruler’s court, the town and the watchmen will be on the lookout.

6 Since Jews also require means to live, eat and drink, they are free, as in other places, to buy at the weekly market and the annual market fair such items as they need and to take these to their dwellings, without interference from the town. However, when dealing with Christians and Ostrowo citizens, Jews must avoid trying to best them, and this also applies to Christians as well, and the court will adjudicate to determine the guilty party. No Jew may charge a higher price for grain but must deal as do the citizens when Jews buy this for their needs.

7   Should a Jew need to sue a citizen or have suffered damage from a citizen, he must first try to find a settlement from the town administration. If, however he fails to obtain justice after the first summons and term, or at most after the second, or if he does not get a fair resolution because the town administration has ruled against him to his detriment, he may appeal to the court of the Representative of Ostrowo, because everyone is entitled to justice according to the law and the principle of fairness. The nobility and the church as well as citizens who are involved in legal disputes with Jews will need to obtain satisfaction and justice through the rulers and the Representative. The same applies to disputes between Jew and Jew; if the congregation elders of Ostrowo cannot arrive at a satisfactory settlement, then they are free to appeal to the Representative. Where criminal activities, if any, are involved, the judgment will come from the ruler, or in the case of great distance, the Representative. The Representative from Ostrowo shall also approve the elected congregation elders, certify the election and give his signature for a period of three years. If any of the elected elders should die during the three-year period, the congregation shall elect a replacement, who also must be approved by the Representative. It is the obligation of the Representative from Ostrowo to protect the Jews from all undue attacks, from the nobility as well as the church as well as any other person, to assist them, so that they will not be subject to injustice that could ruin them.

8  The Jews are jointly obligated to provide the parish church in Ostrowo with one stone of tallow at Easter for lamps, and two pounds of gunpowder for salvos at the resurrection. The Jews of Ostrowo shall make these contributions collectively.

9   These Jews are not to be subject to the Ostrowo town jurisdiction, but as planned only directly to the court of the rulers of Ostrowo. They will not be asked to pay any civilian taxes or head taxes or military taxes (except during times of war, may God prevent this), nor shall they be forced to erect signposts, nor furnish horses or wagons, because they make special payments to the republic and to their district. They are however required to contribute to the maintenance of the town secretary, the fountains and wells, the town night watchmen (who also watch and call the time for the Jews). Every Jewish head-of household has to make a weekly contribution of three Polish groschen, as do all citizens. They shall not live in the Christian houses on the Ring, but in the smaller streets, until their own houses have been built. Hence they should make every effort to build rapidly, without delay so that they need not live among the Christians, but as has been stated above, to find their lodgings among the twelve Jewish heads-of-household. I expect my various successors to uphold the validity, the provenience and affirmation of these rules which I have made under my privilege and affirmed with the impression of the aristocratic seal. Given at the castle of Przygodzic the 26 September 1724.

J. v. Przybendowski

Crown Grand Treasurer


Information of particular interest


The election of an administrative body consisting of a Council of Representatives, headed by an Executive Board of Directors, became imperative following promulgation of the Law of 23 July1847.

The following executive has been active since 1847:

Abraham Cohn, merchant

Mannheim Cohn Baum, merchant

Louis Hellinger, merchant

Moritz Wehlau, merchant

Simon Spiro, merchant

Moritz Pulvermann, merchant

Josef Landé, merchant

David Goldstein, Counsel of the Royal Economic Commission (resigned for medical reasons; acting deputy: M. Rothstein)

Fabian Fränkel, factory owner


Of particular mention is the charitable society (Gemiloth-Chassudim) [sic]—founded in 1882 by community members M. Brandt, H. Kaiser, M. Pfeffermann, A. Schloss, S. Unger and H. Warschauer—, a society that advances interest-free loans to needy tradesmen, thereby protecting them from financial ruin and poverty. Currently, the society is administered by the remaining founders Schloss and Unger, as well as by S. Spiro as chairman, together with S. Holtzmann, S. Josephi and J. Hermann.

Bequests and legacies

a)  The community has received the following bequests from:

Pfeffermann, Abraham and Luise600 Marks

Zuckermann, Lippmann300 Marks

Guttmann, Moritz and Amalie900 Marks

Landau, Mendel300 Marks

Cohn Baum, M.1,500 Marks

Moszkiewicz, Salomon and Hannchen1,000 Marks

Galewski, Benjamin1,916 Marks

Jareczewer, Max500 Marks

Grabowski, Meier300 Marks

b)  Various items were donated for the adornment of the synagogue and the altar, and some seats were donated, respectively by:

Landé, Löbel; Friedländer, Nathan; Cohn, Löbel; Lissner, Marcus; Fränkel, Boas; Spiro, Simon (trees for the Peace Garden; see p.10) Cohn, Heimann; Marcus, Mannheim; Fuchs, Jacob; Katz brothers (Berlin); Marcuss, Caroline; Pulvermann, Moritz; Pilz, Moritz; Landau, Elias; Krauskopf, Heimann.

The community is entitled to use the accrued interest from the above bequests only for the usual services in the synagogue on the donors’ days of yahrzeit, lest the bequests would serve as diversions of the community’s tax base. The needs of the congregation are covered by way of an annual income tax that burdened its members, levied during the past few years at an average rate of 70%, or by way of the not unsubstantial Krupka (slaughter tax). However, in our community, as is the case in so many other congregations, the community’s income available on the above basis tends to shrink from year to year as a result of loss of membership since more and more member move to larger cities or to foreign lands.

Yet, it is heartwarming to know that former members of our congregation, now in distant parts, still show an interest in our community, as evidenced by their requests for this paper. May this slim compilation renew in all Ostrowers the love for their home congregation.



of the current heads of household of this congregation

Abbe, Isaak

Abbe, Samuel

Abbe, Selig

Bär, Adolf

Bergmann, Gabriel

Bergmann, Gerson

Bergmann, Joseph

Bergmann, Julius

Bialecki, Isidor

Bielski, Salo

Brandt, Abraham

Brandt, Hermann

Brandt, Salomon

Braun, Mannes

Callomon, Heimann

Callomon, Marcus

Callomon, Lazarus

Cohn, Tobias

Cohn, Abraham

Cohn, Benas

Cohn, Max

Cohn, Lazarus

Ehrlich, Mannes

Fränkel, Boas

Fränkel, Emmanuel

Fränkel, Fabian

Fränkel, Isaac

Fränkel, Louis

Friedländer, Elkan

Friedländer, Max

Friedländer, Jacob

Friedmann, Julius

Fuchs, Jacob

Gabriel, Philipp

Getschlig, Marcus

Glaser, Julius

Goldmann, Isidor

Goldstein, David

Grabowski, Leopold

Gross, Sinai

Haase, Elias

Haym, Jacob

Hartmann, Daniel

Hermann, Isidor

Herzfeld, Samuel

Hirsch, S. J.

Hirsch, Louis

Holzmann, Sinai

Holzmann, Louis

Hoppe, Daniel

Jacob, Pinkus

Jacobowitz, Emanuel

Jasculewicz, Hermann

Josephi, Salo

Imbach, Wolf

Imbach, Isidor

Imbach, Siegfried

Kaiser, Heimann

Kaliski, Moritz

Kaliski, Heimann

Karpe, Jacob

Katz, Salomon

Kraus, Salomon

Körpel, Isidor

Krauskopf, Jacob

Lachmann, Aron

Lamm, Heimann

Lamm, Mannheim

Landau, Elias

Landsberg, Dr.

Ledermann, Marcus

Lewkowicz, Wolf

Lissner, Isidor

Liebes, Hermann

Liebes, Carl

Littwitz, Julius

Mamlok, Salomon

Marcus, Efraim

Marcus, Siegismund

Markiewicz, Michel

Markiewicz, Salomon

Mendelsohn, Martin

Mendelsohn, Salomon

Michel, Aron

Michlowicz, Wilhelm

Moses, Julius

Moskiewicz, Salo

Moskiewicz, Salomon

Müller, Aron

Müller, Jacob

Müller, Marcus

Müller, Nathan

Nadel, Isaak

Nathan, Julius

Peiser, Gerson

Peiser, Elias

Pfeffermann, Amalie

Pick, Leopold

Pilz, Arnold

Pinkus, Max

Pinkus, Isidor

Pietrkowski, Louis

Pulvermann, Mendel

Radt, Julius

Remak, Hermann

Rosenthal, Hermann

Rosenthal, Samuel

Rothstein, Max

Salzmann, Fabisch

Salzmann, Marcus

Schall, Hermann

Schall, Marcus

Schloss, Alexander

Schön, Carl

Seidel, Conrad

Seidel, David

Seidel, Ernestine

Seidel, Löbel

Seidel, Scheie

Seidenberg, David

Seidenberg, Samuel

Simon, Leopold

Skaller, Isidor

Skaller, Berel

Skaller, Moritz

Sommer, Ludwig

Spiro, Simon

Springer, Hermann

Starkmann, Baruch

Sternberg, Julius

Stillschweig, Jacob

Süssmann, Mendel

Teichmann, Max

Tisch, Hermann

Tisch, Julius

Tuch, Adolf

Tuchmann, Paul

Tworoger, Albert

Tworoger, Seelig

Unger, Eva

Voss, Isidor

Weg, (widow)

Wegner, Baruch

Weiss, Benno

Weiss, Jonas

Weiss, Marcus

Weitzen, Leopold

Wiener, Meier

Wisch, Simon

Wolf, Paul

Zellner, Joseph

Zellner, Salomon

Zellner, Moritz

Ziegler, Hermann

Ziegler, Eugen



1 Wuttke Städtebuch des Landes Posen [Book of the Towns of Posen Province] Leipzig 1864, p. 388

2 Remarks on the history of the town of Ostrowo in the Sängerzeitung [Singers' Journal] on the occasion of the 20th provincial singing festival in Ostrowo, 15–16 July 1893.

3 Wuttke, Städtebuch... Appendix p. 19

4 Remarks on hist. of Ostrowo

5 See Appendix.

6 Appendix II shows the plan of the synagogue.

7 Appendix I shows the buildings as well as the whole Jewish quarter.

8 City book of Ostrowo C.12 Dispositiones Aulica(e) p. 1

9 Wuttke, Städtebuch, Appendix p. 20

10 Acts of the Privy State Archives.

11 Wuttke, Städtebuch. p. 388

12 This decrease can be explained by the fact that a large number of inhabitants left Ostrowo during the troubles of 1848. The anonymous author of the text Erinnerung an unsere Erlebnisse in Ostrowo während der polnischen Insurrection im Jahre 1848 [Memories of our experience in Ostrowo during the 1848 Polish uprising], Ostrowo 1849, on pp. 32 and 38, praises the Jews here for supporting the German cause and taking part in the watch that was needed after the military had withdrawn.

13 Born 1794 in Sohrau, in 1835 he became the first teacher of the newly founded Jewish elementary school; he died in 1842. He was noted for his excellent knowledge of the Hebrew language.

14 Born in Kempen, he lived four years in Kreuzburg, and thereafter four years in Schildberg; he took a position as private tutor in Blaschke [Poland] where he remained for four years. From 1816, he lived in Ostrowo, working as teacher and community secretary. He resigned his position In 1845.

15 Piorkowski is the author of a handwritten Partikelconcordanz [concordance to the Bible] that is currently located in the British Museum, according to Dr. Berliner.

16 Breslau 1857

17 During the “South Prussian times,” the Elders were known as “Deputierte,” i.e. deputies.

18 Acts of the Privy State Archives, Ortschaften Litt. Os. Fach 147 Nr. 7, Acta “Die Angelegenheiten der Juden zu Ostrowo” (1795), Fol. 15 Geh. Südpreuss. Reg. Nr. 870, 1797 Oct. 1003

19 Cf. previous note

20 For example, his certification of 27 Ab 5604 (1844) for the book “Siwche Razon” of Phoebus Fränkel, Krotoschin, 1845

21 Arje Jehuda died in 1794 in Holleschau (Maehren). He is the author of “Jaloth Chen”, see Zolkiew, 1802. The Fraenkel and Kaliski families are descended from him.

22 Compare Rec. of the article in Steinschn. Hebrew Bibliography, 1858 #5, p.92

23 Special mention must be made of the merchant Mannheim Wiener who died in 1892, and who, because of his extensive knowledge, was able to substitute for the rabbi when the latter was absent, an honor he was ready to carry out any time.

24 Refer to All. Zeitung des Judenthums, 1852 # 35, after a story in the Breslauer Zeitung.

25 The founder of the Wood Club (Etz Chajim) and the Women’s Club was Jacob Wehlau, who died here on 20 June 1867, at the age of 73. Equally valued for his efforts on behalf of the congregation and as a scholar, he left behind a number of hand-written Hebrew poems that followed the accepted form. Prof. H. Graetz was a teacher in his house, and Eduard Lasser was a frequent visitor while studying here.



Juden Revier …………..……..  Jewish Area 

Judenstrasse ………………….  Jews’ Street

Viehmarktstrasse …………….  Cattle Market Street

Friedhof ……………………...  Cemetery

Rabbinerhaus ………………...  Rabbi’s house

Born ………………………….  Water pump

Synagoge ……………………..  Synagogue


Copyright © 2008 Victoria Barkoff

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