Jewish Life in Jezów
(From Pinkas Ha Kehilot be Polin – Vol 1.0.
translation by Amy Samin)
Until 1793, the town of Jezów was the property of the monastery in Lubin. Its status as a city was taken away in 1870. Only at the time of the Prussian occupation, towards the end of the 18th century, did the first Jews – the family of a Jewish innkeeper - settle here. The Jewish community in Jezów began to grow in the second half of the 19th century.
During the First World War, heavy battles between the Russian and German armies took place in the area around Jezów. Control of the town changed hands many times. The suffering of the Jews at that time could not be blamed entirely on the battles. The Russians hanged three Jews from Jezów, claiming they were German spies, and a number of Jews were exiled to Siberia. They only returned to their homes after the revolution. In 1931 and in 1937 fires struck the town; a number of wooden homes owned by Jews burned down, and a few families were left homeless and destitute.
Until the 1860s, the community of Jezów was subordinate to the community of Brzeziny. The laws of kashrut were supervised by a rabbinical judge who lived in Jezów and who performed this service without recompense. Starting in the 1820s a rabbinical judge named Shlomo Weinberger served the community. In 1852 he was formally appointed to his position on the recommendation of the rabbi of Brzeziny. In the 70s, the community of Jezów was given its independence, and the cemetery was consecrated. At that time, Rabbi Yaacov Landau, the son of the Admor (master, teacher and rabbi) Rabbi Avraham of Ciechanów, served the community. After the death of his father (in 1875) and his brother Rabbi Zev of Stryków, Rabbi Yaacov was crowned the Admor of Ciechanów. At the end of the 19th century Rabbi Moshe Yoel served for a time as the rabbi of Jezów; he later served the communities of Cyców and Zarnowiec. From 1908 until his death in 1927 Rabbi Moshe Menachem Mendel Cohen served as rabbi. In 1927 Rabbi Yosef Alfus took over the position, serving until his death in the Holocaust.
A few of Jezów's native sons took part in the Polish revolution in 1863, including Yosef Fuchs, who took part in battles against the Cossacks in the area around the town.
Many Zionist organizations were established in Jezów during the period between the world wars, including: the General Zionists, Hashomer Hazair, and Young Mizrachi. In the elections for the Zionist Congress, the General Zionists won all the votes: in 1935 – 30 votes, in 1937 – 67 votes. The Zionist organizations in Jezów established a public library. Agudat Yisrael was also active in the town.
Between the wars, the neighboring Jewish community of Rogov joined with the community of Jezów (161 Jews in 1921). In 1931 two Zionists were elected to the community board; one was a representative of Agudat Yisrael and the other was a representative of the workshop owners' organization. Two representatives of the Jews of Rogov, one of whom was a Zionist, also joined the board.
In the period between the two world wars, the Jews of Jezów suffered from anti-Semitism. In 1923 the infamous Haller's Army took advantage of the fact that, in 1915, the Germans had executed one Pole and jailed an additional fourteen, and accused the Jews of having turned them over, so to speak, to the Germans. A few Jews were jailed, though after a while they were cleared of all charges and released. In May of 1935 there was an outbreak of violence against the Jews. The rioting lasted for two days; Jews were beaten, a few of them injured seriously, and the Jewish library suffered massive damage. There was a repeat of this kind of violence against Jews in October of the same year. Only one rioter was jailed; the court sentenced him to either pay a small fine or spend two days in jail. However, a few years prior to these events, there had been signs of a good relationship between the Jews and Poles. For example, at the time of the town fire in 1931, the priest and good number of Poles hastened to save Jewish children and property from the flames.
During the Nazi occupation, the number of Jews in Jezów increased due to the influx of refugees and exiles (from, among other places, Lódz, Stryków, and Glowno). On 1 February 1941 there were approximately 1,570 Jews (600 of whom were refugees) in the town. In that month, the Jewish settlement in Jezów was destroyed, and the Jews were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto.
AP Lódz: Anteriora PRG 2498; LDS 448.
Y. Paks, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotchk, Jerusalem 1967, page 47.
“Heint” 21.9.1923, 21.9.1925; 19.4.1931; 27.5.1931; 31.7.1935; 14.7.1937.
“Niya Palksavlat” 19.9.1923; 21.9.1923; 1.10.1923; 27.5.1934; 29.6.1937.
“Niya Palks-Zeitung” 26.5.1935; 29.5.1935.
“Nasz Przglad” 18.9.1923.
“Kurier Lódzki” 25.10.1935; 30.6.1937.
Additional information about Jezow
The history of the Jews from Jezów has not been presented in any detailed historical study yet. Monika Borkowska writes in her Bachelor’s thesis “Monografie cmentarzy Jezowa” ("Jezów cemeteries - monographs"), individual cases of Jews living in Jezów as early as at the end of the eighteenth century.
According to Virtual Shtetl, Jews first arrived in Jezów in 1793. In a book by Jan Józefecki, Maria Piekut and Jan Wieslaw Wysocki “Zarys dziejów Jezowa” ("Jezów history - an outline"), there were 27 Jews in Jezów in 1793, 27 in 1808; 67 in 1830; 72 in 1835; 183 in 1840; 254 in 1845; 246 in 1850; 300 in 1855; 335 in 1860; and 455 in 1872. The Jewish community of Jezów developed in the 19th century and by 1897, it numbered 733, 38% of the total population.
Virtual Shtetl states that "Jews lived in the area which was assigned to them in 1826, located in the neighbourhood of Piotrkowska, Brzezinska and Stodolna Streets. Most probably, a synagogue was built and a cemetery was established in Piotrkowska Street in the first half of the nineteenth century. The first wooden synagogue burnt down in one of the fires that destroyed the city and a stone one was built at the site of the original synagogue in circa 1890."
Szlama Wajnberger (or Weinberger) was the rabbi of Jezów until age or infirmity forced him to resign. In 1879, he was replaced by Rabbi Yakov Landau, son of the famous rabbi of Ciechanow, Abrahamele Landau. Rabbi Yakov Landau is buried in Warsaw. (Thanks to genealogy researcher David Landau for this information about Jezów's rabbis.) For more information about the Jewish life in this village, see the translation of the Pinkas Ha Kehilot be Polin – Vol 1 for Jezów.
The census of 1921 showed that 1,048 residents of Jezów (i.e. 39.5% of the whole population) declared their Jewish origin. The economic crisis of the 1930s contributed to anti-Semitic outbreaks were frequent between the World Wars, especially in 1935.
World War II
According to the Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945, following the occupation of the town by the Germans in September 1939, the German authorities introduced a series of anti-Jewish measures in the fall. Jews were forced to wear the Star of David armbands; Jewish children were no longer permitted to go to school; and Jews were subject to forced labor. On September 9, 1940, the Kresihaptmann in Skierniewice, Regierungsrat Dr. Rupe reported to Governor Hans Frank in Krakow that there were 1,400 Jews living in Jezow.
The Jezow Ghetto was probably established in fall, 1940. The ghetto was set up over a period of time. The Germans divided the town and moved the Poles into the better Jewish hosues and then crammed the Jews together. Even some houses were divided, half with Poles and half with Jews. In January, 1941, about 1,600 Jews were living in Jezow with about 600 were refugees from Lodz and other towns. At that time, the Jews were informed that they would be transferred to the Warsaw ghetto. On March 4, 1941, most of the Jews had voluntarily moved to Warsaw.
On arrival in the Warsaw ghetto, most of the Jews from Jezow were put into improvised hostels designated for refugees. A report noted the terrible conditions in one of these shelters. A large numberof the refugees from Jezow died of starvation and contagious diseases in the Warsaw ghetto. Most of those who survived until the summer of 1942 were among those deported to the Treblinka extermination camp at that time.
Other WWII Accounts
In 2011, I listened to the 1996 Shoah Foundation interview of survivor Maurice Rosenthal. He reported that Jewish people were very discernable from non-Jews in Jezow because of their appearance (notably, dark curly hair) and their distinctive accent (Yiddiih-accented Polish. Mr. Rosenthal stated that when the Germans invaded, German soldiers rounded up all of the men in Jezow, including non-Jews and kept that imprisoned for several weeks. All but the Jewish men were released. A ghetto was established in Jezow at this time, and all the Jews had to wear the Star of David. They were not allowed to cross the highway which led to Warsaw.
According to Virtual Shtetl, the Nazis destroyed the Jezow synagogue as well. According to one source, on February 1, 1941, the 1,570 Jews of Jezów, including more than 600 refugees were expelled to the Warsaw Ghetto. (This information was also found in Rabbi Shepansky's "Holocaust Calendar of Polish Jewry").
However, in a recent interview (June 2010) I had with a town resident, I learned that Jews were rounded up in 1942 and deported to the ghetto at nearby Rawa Mazowiecka and from there were taken to Treblinka. (For more information, go to Rawa Mazowieka Pinkas) In his testimony, Mr. Rosenthal indicated that Jezów Jews were given a choice of being deported to Warsaw or Rawa Mazowiecka.
Virtual Shtetl states that "more than 900 people of Jewish origin settled in Jezów after the liberation. Surely, this number included not only former Jewish residents of this town. On average several dozen of people from much bigger “shtetls” managed to survive the Holocaust. It is believed that they were mainly repatriates from the east, many of them having settled down at that time e.g. in Lódz. However, most of them left Jezów soon. Out of 937 persons of Jewish origin living in Jezów in 1945, only 229 were left by 1950 and five years later Jewish population numbered 25. There were officially no Jews there in 1970."
A list of 19 Holocaust victims from Jezow can be found at Yad Vashem. Type in "5729405" under "general search" to find the list. The list is obviously incomplete.
A list of 35 survivors who indicated that they were from Jezow, (Documber No. 78823188#1, from the ITS Digital Archives at Bad Arsolsen can be found here.
Jezów’s 2006 population was approximately 3,600. There are presently no Jews.
Interested individuals can read more about Jezów by searching the town name at Virtual Shtetl (https://sztetl.org.pl/en/search-results?as_q=jezow) as well as
1] Monika Borkowska "Monografie cmentarzy Jezowa", praca licencjacka, Uniwersytet Lódzki, Katedra Geografii Miast i Turyzmu, 2001 r.
2] Jan Józefecki, Maria Piekut, Jan Wieslaw Wysocki "Zarys dziejów Jezowa”, 1985 r
3] Shmuel Spector "The Encyclopedia of Jewish life before and during the Holocaust"
Some pictures of old Jezow and an old map can be found at Bagnowka.
Compiled by Deborah H Long
Updated January, 2020
Copyright © 2010-2020 Deborah H Long
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A Poet from Jezow
Yiddish writer Icchok Janasowicz, also known as Yitzhak/Isaac Janasowicz, wrote a book of poetry titled A House in Town (or Una Casa en el Pueblo). His poems describe his shtetl home, Jezów, and the journeys he took as a boy to the “big city” of Brzezin. He also describes these two communities in “My Gate to the Great World.” (see below)
The relevant sections have been borrowed here, with permission, from the Yiskor book of Brzezin. For the entire essay, go to http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/brzeziny/brz108.html
to the Great World
Translated by Renee Miller
Edited by Fay Bussgang
Born in the small town Jezow, I took my first step into God's great and broad world by way of Brzezin. I do not remember exactly when I was in that town for the first time, but I am sure that the trip was the first khalemoyed [period between first two and last two days of Passover or Succos trip of my life. I must have been about eight or nine at that time, and I remember very well that this trip was an award for the zeal I had displayed studying the mesekhte [tractate] Nadirim [vows] with Rashi [comments by Rashi] – during the entire winter with the old Jezower rabbi, Reb Menachem Mendel HaCohen Segal, zts”l [zeykher tsadek livrokhe – may the memory of a righteous person be blessed]. At that time, he, our old rov [town rabbi], took me with him to Brzezin for a day, together with his grandson Issachar – who was my companion in studying with him during the long winter evenings in his not very warm house and not very homey besdin shtub [room where rabbi's court was held].
Between Jezow and Brzezin stretched a road that one could traverse, with a decent wagon driver, in two and a half hours. Jezow did not have its own river or its own hospital. If a Jew, rakhmone litslan [heaven preserve us], got sick in Jezow, and reciting prayers and the feldsher [barber surgeon] did not help, they used to take him to the Brzeziner doctor. If the sholem bayes [harmony] in a Jewish family was disrupted, and now the tsvelf shures [divorce] had to be written, they used to go to the Brzeziner rabbi. If God helped, and a man married off a son or a daughter, he used to bring both the klezmer band and the entertainer from Brzezin. If one sold or bought property, he used to go to Brzezin to the notary to sign it over. For a lawsuit in court, you had to go to the Brzeziner court. To take out a passport or get a permit for an amateur theatrical performance, make a large purchase, repair a sewing machine – the way always went through Brzezin, the powiat town [county seat] to which our town belonged administratively and in police matters.
Brzezin and Jezow were, as we say in plain language, a kind of house with an alcove. A Jewish child grew on the Jezower soil with imaginary fantasies about the big city Brzezin where there was such a thing as electricity. Brzeziner Jews, on the other hand, came to the Jezower fairs, bought oak-tanned oxen pelts from Jezower tanners, and sold all kinds of merchandise that twinkled with glistening sheen and quaintness. Khalemoyed Jezower grooms went to their Brzeziner brides, and the Brzeziner brides were invited by their Jezower mekhutnestes [in-laws]. The strolling about of these brides on Brzeziner streets was a review of the latest styles before the town, and from them, one found out the trends in public attire. Generally, all the news used to come to us from Brzezin, and we were closely linked to that town and bound through thousands of familial, economic, behavioral, and cultural threads from which were woven our common life on Polish soil.
Jezow was located approximately fifteen kilometers from Brzezin and approximately twenty-five kilometers from Rawa Mazowiecka. So we were farther from Rawa, and we seldom had any contact with it at all. There were two streets in town – Rawa and Brzezin. People used to go along Rawa Street to the besoylem [cemetery], and it would have looked strange if one of the young people had gone out walking on that street. The way to go for a walk from the town was on the street that led to Brzezin. Middle class Jews used to go up to the first bridge and turn back. Young people would go walking up to the second bridge, near the windmill. The dreamers like me were really not particular about tekhum-shabes [distance an observant Jew did not exceed on Shabes] and used to stray all the way to the state garden. Thereby they came closer to Brzezin, which really was a piece of the wide world, and even more, the gate to that world to which we were bound through our constant dreams of the future.