The Museum of

       rites of passage

Yom-Tov Lewinsky
From the Zambrow Memorial Book, Tel Aviv, 1963. Courtesy of the United Zembrover Society.

The cemetery at Jablonka served Zambrow also, as well as other towns in the area including the villages of Nagorki, Pruszki, etc. At the beginning, the bodies of the deceased were brought to Jablonka, by wagon, as they were. The Chevra Kadisha of that town then dealt with the bodies – subjecting them to ritual purification, dressing them in burial shrouds, and interring them. However, this was not out of respect for the deceased – having to leave him for a period of time without undergoing purification, but this was the custom in the smaller settlements. When the settlement at Zambrow grew more populous, it was decided to establish a Chevra Kadisha here, that was to deal with the deceased in that location, and to bring him already purified to Jablonka to his final resting place. As is recorded in the Pinkas HaYashan [The Old Folio] (according to the eye witness R’ Yehoshua Grozholczany) – the Chevra was established on 17 Kislev 5501 [Tuesday, November 25,1740]. It seems that the founding was accompanied by a festive banquet, because the above date is the day of the Chevra banquet in several [sic: neighboring] communities. Because the simple goal of the Chevra, the “dirty” work, was – the digging of the grave, and performing the burial – that was done by the men of Jablonka, the men of the Zambrow Chevra permitted them to add a condition in the Pinkas: whoever is not knowledgeable in the study of a chapter of the Mishna – cannot be a member of the Chevra Kadisha. In a similar fashion, the honorific, ‘Morenu’ [Our Teacher] that is added to one called for a Torah aliyah, was given to a man only by the Chevra. The heads of the Chevra were learned men, and it was possible to establish who was a scholar, and rightly could be called: “Let Our Teacher R’ So-and-So the son of So-and-So...,” and from whom to take away the title of ‘Morenu’ if it was improperly bestowed. From this point in the Pinkas, it is possible to easily infer that these were learned Jews. The Chevra Kadisha was a catalyst to the formalization of a community, with all of the requisite appointments, and that did not tarry in coming.

1 The Hebrew text says 1741, which does not agree with the calendar.

2 It is significant that the Yiddish voice is positive: He who is able to learn a chapter of Mishna, has a right to be accepted as a member of the Chevra.

Copyright © 2007-10 Museum of Family History. All rights reserved. Image Use Policy