HISTORY OF VENGROV'S JEWISH COMMUNITY



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Krasinnski

Jan Kazimierz Krasinnski, 17th-century owner of Vengrov



Although the first mention of Vengrov in historic documents was in 1414, the town was not chartered until 1441. However, the Jewish community was said to have been much older than this and, at the time of its destruction during the Holocaust, may have dated back some 800 years.[1] Certainly, there were Jews confirmed to have been living in and around Vengrov by the early 16th century, who were involved in local and foreign trade and tax-revenue collection.[2] An extant Hebrew manuscript on medical and kabbalistic matters, dated Vengrov, 1596, suggests a high level of scholarship and erudition may have existed among Vengrov’s Jews.

By the mid-16th century, there was an organized Jewish kahal [community] in the town, which eventually had jurisdiction over a number of other Jewish communities in the region.[3] In the mid-17th century, Vengrov was owned by Jan Kazimierz Krasinnski (1607-1669), a member of the szlachcic or noble class of Polish property-owners, who then was Grand Treasurer of the Crown.[4] Either an enlightened or a practical man, Krasinnski apparently believed that it would be beneficial to the development of the towns he owned if there were Jewish residents. In an effort to attract them, he allowed them certain rights. As proprietor of the town of Sokolow, he had offered the Jews his protection, secured membership for them in local professional guilds, and threatened to punish local anti-Semites.[5] Similarly, in 1655, he granted judicial autonomy to Vengrov’s Jewish community and guaranteed their "freedom to engage in trade and crafts, and exemption from municipal taxes."[6] However, he also "imposed on the Jews an annual tax of two zlotys per household, and a one-time payment of six zlotys by new families as a domicilary fee."[7]

Records of the dayyanim [Jewish judges] sitting in Vengrov survive[8] to provide insight into 18th-century life in the town, where Jews were tailors, weavers, furriers, bakers, carters, and tanners. In 1794, a branch of the Hebrew printing press of Nowy Dwor printed books in Vengrov, including an edition of Josippon.[9] By 1815, there were 1,463 Jews in Vengrov, which was 48% of the town’s total population. Prior to World War II, the town’s Jewish population had increased to between 6,000[10] and 8,000[11] residents, almost all of whom perished in the Holocaust.



Endnotes:

  1. "Introduction," in Kehilat Vengrov: Sefer Zikharon. See also the yizkor book articles entitled "Vengrov and History" and Nissan Slotzky’s article, "History of the Jewish Settlement in Vengrov." For more information about the Vengrov yizkor book, click here.
  2. Krakowski, Stefan, "Wegrow/Vengrove," in Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, Keter Publishing Company, 1972), volume 16, pp. 371-73.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Website of the National Bank of Poland.
  5. "Sokolow Podlaski" in Pinkas HaKehilot: Polin [Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities: Poland], (Jerusalem, Yad Vashem), volume VII, pages 339-342.
  6. Krakowski, supra.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid. These are said to be in the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem.
  9. Ibid. Josippon is an historic narrative about the period of the Second Temple, written in southern Italy in the 10th century. See Flusser, David, “Josippon,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica, supra, volume 10, pp. 296-98.
  10. Ibid.
  11. "Introduction," in Kehilat Vengrov: Sefer Zikharon, supra.




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