Early Jewish History
Osjaków Synagogue 
The synagogue (located at 3 Czestochowa Street) was built in 1803 and remained in use until 1939. The façades of the building are still intact but nothing remains of the interior furnishings. The building is today a historic monument in private ownership.   
Czestochowa Street
A photograph (circa 1920) of Czestochowa Street, Osjaków looking toward the synagogue and church - courtesy of the Wielun Museum.  

Founding of the Jewish Community

A small Jewish community was established in Osjaków in the first half of the 18th century. Its earlier origins are not identified but it foundation coincides with the period of final expulsion of Jewish people from the adjacent city of Wieluń; where a Jewish community was recorded from the early 1500’s. The professional make up of the community in the 18th century was as follows: three innkeepers, a small group of merchants who were active in business in Poland-Silesia, and several artisans. Their lives and livelihoods were closely linked to the regular local village market and its ties to the larger markets of Działoszyn and Wieluń. 

The Działoszyn Kahal

The Osjaków Jewish community was governed by the larger community of Działoszyn and its communal and religious life was controlled by the pre-eminent Działoszyn Jewish Council (Kahal). This council had been designated by the state as the regional Jewish governing body for the purposes of collecting taxes and managing the Jewish affairs of the county; which according to the existing financial minute books it undertook with vigour. The Działoszyn Kahal became heavily indebted, as a result of loans and taxation requirements. During this period, the mid to late 1700’s, a number of disputes between governed individuals and the Działoszyn Kahal occured as the Kahal tried to extract payments from the people of the affiliated Jewish communities including Osjaków. One such recorded dispute was between Itzik ben Elkhanan and the Działoszyn Kahal. It occured in the summer of 1788 when “the Jew lcek, son of Elchanan of Kempno, expressed himself offensively regarding the dignitaries of the Działoszyn community, who had imposed excessive taxes on his mother-in-law of Osjaków. This came to the ears of the Kahal Elders (governing body) who immediately prohibited him from trading with Jews of their community. Only after he had apologized, did they authorize the renewal of his trading with the Jews of that community.”2 Such a prohibition would have effectively meant that he would have been prevented from all trading and he and his family would have been reduced to poverty unless he recanted. Around 1800, in common with other formally dependent communities of the area, Osjaków established its own formal communal structure with its own rabbi and in 1803 built its synagogue.
Sources 2. From the foreword to The Wielon Memorial Book by M. Mendelovitch & Halina Birenbaum Osjaków The Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities in Poland, Volume I (Poland) -  Pinkas Hakehillot Polin. Translated by Morris Wirth The Osjaków Information website
Compiled by Martin Davis © 2017