The Zambrów Yizkor Book
The English Translation

Courtesy of the United Zembrover Society

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Editor’s Foreword

After several years of strenuous effort, the Yizkor Book about our tragically destroyed home town of Zambrow finally is appearing.


Many strands tied me all of my life to Zambrow, the town where I was born, more than sixty years ago. I left it as an 11-year-old boy. I have wandered a great deal since that time, and absorbed both familiar and unfamiliar cultures – however, I have never forgotten my ‘Old Country’ [home] with its Mameloshn1 culture. And when Zambrow was so tragically wiped off the Jewish vista, it came back to life again before my eyes, as a ‘spiritual’ Zambrow, and a mysterious impulse began to nag me: get up and set down a spiritual memorial for Jewish Zambrow! Record its history, its balebatim2, and Jews who were common working people, her clergy, and those activist Jews in secular life, scholars and simple people who just recited Psalms, the synagogue and the houses of study, societies and institutions. And if not now – by the last generation of those personally from Zambrow – it will never come to pass. And so, I took to the creation of the book with affection and longing, but the task was a difficult one.

The memorial has been placed, the book has already appeared. Regrettably, I was not able to accomplish this for everyone:


Zambrow was a small shtetl. There is practically nothing written about it in Jewish and non-Jewish writings. Also, our ‘old home’ is mentioned very infrequently in newspapers. And the municipal archives no longer exist, and in the best circumstance they are no longer available at our disposal. The older people, who were eye witnesses, and can tell us [what we want to know] – have passed on a long time ago. So we turned to our landsleit, older and younger, who remember, and are capable of writing. But few volunteered – not believing that anything would come of this.

What remained was for us to fashion something about the history of the town from remnants and old documents and from glimpses and minor observations, going from point to point, item to item, to create an organized list of the history of the town and its Jewish settlement. And who is to know how many facts disappeared from our view, and how many personalities were forgotten by us? We could not resolve this issue. Despite this, we established this initiative, and the book was published, in which the entire town passes before us as if in a play. So, here and there, personalities and facts are perhaps missing. Despite this, we put together a book about our Jewish Zambrow, from its inception to its destruction.

We have written this book in both languages, as our traditional literature had been written at one time: ‘The Holy Tongue’ (Hebrew) and ‘Ivri-Teitch’ (Yiddish), together. The reader will have to make an effort to find the translation on the second side – but in this way we have done justice to our two languages: The Mother-language (Yiddish) and the Father-language (Hebrew). We are providing a short overview in English – let the grandchildren of those from Zambrow come to know something about their grandfathers and grandmothers... In a few places, we shortened the text in one of the languages, or made use of only one of the two languages. We took care to preserve the Zambrow Yiddish idiom3 as far as possible.


We have been able to provide somewhat more in the line of pictures, as much as we could, and as much as we had in our ambit, and as far as they were in good condition. We incorporated into the book more that two thousand images of the Jewish Zambrow Heder schoolchildren, with their Rebbes and teachers. We incorporated several hundred young people – pictures of societies and the committees of parties, to the extent that we had them, making no distinction with regard to party and political persuasion. We have also incorporated a few pictures of townsfolk. For the majority of them, their sole remembrance is to be found in this book.

We have included things about the ambience of the town – this freshens our memory, and links us all the more so to the cradle of our childhood.

Regarding the eve of the destruction of Zambrow, and the Holocaust itself, we exclusively relied on primary sources: from letters and eye-witness accounts. Regardless if certain details are not consistent, dates, etc., we have included everything, just the way it was recalled.

The material of the book can, in part, serve as historical sources for Jewish life in Poland, of the last century in general, and of the last several decades in particular. To this end, we have included Zambrow into the golden chain of Polish Jewry, that was uprooted by the German Amalek4 with its accomplices.

It is my responsibility here, to bring to mind, with gratitude and respect, those numbered few who helped me with my work:

My friend, Mendl Zibelman (son of R’ Israel-David, Miami, Florida), adorned this book with his inspiring memories. Professor Ber’l Mark (Warsaw). Chaim ben David (Moshe-Aharon the Painter’s son, Detroit – Israel). Zvi Zamir, Sender Seczkowsky (Itcheh the Painter’s son, Tel-Aviv), Joseph Srebrowicz (Tel-Aviv), Joseph Jerusalimsky (Ashkelon), The three Yitzhaks: Golda, Golombeck, and Stupnik, and Moshe Levinsky – smoking embers snatched from fire and sword. And last, but not least: My beloved father and teacher, Israel Levinsky k”z, who did not write just a little for the book, but was not privileged to see it come to fruition. Chaim Zur (son of Fyvel Zukrovich, Ramat HaKovesh) designed the cover of the book, and drew a map of the town from memory.

Three landsleit-organizations seriously participated in the material expenses for the book: The Organization of the Zembrover Society in New York, with its brother societies, headed by our American ‘ambassador’ Joseph Savitzky, Yitzhak Rosen, Isaac Malinovich (who gathered untold tens upon tens of pictures for the book), Eliezer Pav and many others. With their broadness of heart and full and open hands, the book became a reality.

Our landsleit in Argentina, led by the prematurely deceased Ch. Y. Rudnik k”z, and to be mentioned for long life: Boaz Chmiel, Joseph Krulewiecki, Yaakov Stupnik, Crystal, and many others – also contributed to the book, and from time-to-time offered us encouragement.

The Organization of Zembrover in Israel, headed by the comrades: Zvi Zamir (Hershl Slowik), Zvi ben Joseph (Hershl Konopiateh), Pinchas Kaplan, the sisters Malka and Liebehcheh Greenberg, Leib Golombeck, etc. They were the ones who led the creation of the book.

At the end: Our small Zambrow families: In Mexico City, our comrades Chaim Gorodzinsky, Yitzhak Rothberg, and others, and in France – Esther Smoliar-Shlieven, and others.

All – Those whom I have mentioned here, and those that I have perhaps forgotten – may they be designated for good, and may they all bless themselves with this book, that they cooperated in producing.

Yom-Tov Levinsky, Tel-Aviv

A Word from the Zembrover Organization in Israel


The Pinkas5 of Zambrow is edited and partly written by our landsman Dr. Yom-Tov Levinsky.

A full eight years have gone by since we decided to publish a Yizkor Book about our Zambrow. In that time, we made strenuous efforts – but I will not exaggerate when I will say that were it not for the editor, Mr. Levinsky, the book would not have appeared: his phenomenal memory made it possible to dig up from the past, and from forgotten memories, men and facts, incidents, ways of life, the history of families and other interesting things that ran their course in Zambrow years ago. He searched, rummaging relentlessly, day and night, and uncovered sources relating to the history of the town, especially in the Hebrew newspapers of the times. He looked after giving a voice to the landsleit in Israel, and the world at large, especially those not inclined to take pen in hand, encouraging and directing many in writing. An now, when the book lays before my eyes, and the book of some 700 pages – beautiful Zambrow passes before my eyes like a panorama: The streets and byways of the shtetl, the Pasek6 and the marketplace, its synagogue and houses of study, its clergy, the Rabbis, Dayanim7 and Shamashim8; and community political organizations, their leaders and hordes of members; HeHalutz; prominent families who were so extensively branched out, porters, wagon drivers, storekeepers and bakers, the erudite bookseller Abba Rakowsky, and other prominent townsfolk, the young schoolchildren and the elderly – hundreds of pictures, that preserve every aspect of the town of those days, up to the Holocaust. Many pictures, that were donated, were gotten only with great difficulty in Israel and the United States, It seems to me that, the whole town, as it existed, appears in the book. Not a one has been overlooked.


The special chapter about the destruction of Zambrow during the Holocaust is written by Yitzhak Golombeck, one of the living [eye]- witnesses, and a survivor of Auschwitz, and with him: Yitzhak Golda, and others. Read it with an ache in your heart, but with respect and recognition for our heroic martyrs, parents, brothers and sisters, – from the beginning of the predation, the concentration in the ghetto, to the extermination – you hear the reverberation of the cries of those who were taken to slaughter, and you breathe in their final minutes.


The folklore pages of the book have special meaning. The editor has incorporated words and expressions from Zambrow, which in part, we still use to this day, in our daily affairs. Special chapters are dedicated to education, political movements, and social assistance. In addition there are descriptions of various type of Zambrow folks, writings about the way of life, etc. Using this, he truly takes us into the ‘old home’... he deals here with the young people in the synagogue, societies, work and industry, mutual aid, etc. The Zambrow societies of all countries are described, their activities on behalf of the local landsleit, and for their brethren in all corners of the world. I will not exaggerate when I say that our Yizkor Book will be one of the best of those that have already appeared, up till now, and we may take pride in it.


Our ‘old home,’ Zambrow is no more. The sacred bones, and remains of our townsfolk have not been given a proper Jewish burial. Their remains lie in the great mass graves in the forests of Szumowo and [Rutki]-Kosaki, and in the ash heaps at Oswiecim. In the town, only Christian peasants go about, who have seized Jewish assets, and no one remains to take it back from their hands. Only a few faded headstones remain in the cemetery, among the overgrowth and thorns, that indicate, at one time, there was a Jewish life and a sizeable Jewish city.


This book is, and will remain for generations to come, the truest memorial for Jewish Zambrow. In it, we have preserved the memory of the lives and the echo of the suffering of the Jews that no longer exist. It is here that we have put a ‘Place and a Name9’ to their light and their memory.


We therefore wish to thank our brother-organizations in The United States, with our comrade, Joseph Savitzky at its head, and in Argentina, and so forth – for their material help, and great interest in the book. We thank those who took part in the book by sharing their memories. We thank all of our landsleit in Israel, and outside the Land, and especially our friend Zvi ben-Joseph in Israel, who gave so much of his energy and attention to the book. All of, who participated, encountered difficulties with all of the obstacles that lay in our way, and despite this, we produced a book that is both pleasing and substantive. At a suitable time, let our townsfolk consult it, and let us leave thereby, a legacy to those children who will follow us, about the eternal way of life of our people, who lived it in our shtetl of Zambrow


All, all of you, consider yourselves saluted, and blessed.

In the name of the Zembrover Landsleit-Organization in Israel

Zvi Zamir (Slowik), Chairman





The Historical Pages
                                                                                      By Dr. Yom-Tov Levinsky




Dr. Yom-Tov Levinsky


A. When Did Zambrow Become a City?


A city does not simply spring into being all at once. First, a small settlement appears, afterwards a village, and later, when the village spreads out, it becomes a town. This certainly must have been the case with Zambrow. It was a small village for many years, and after that a village. It was first, only in the second half of the 15th century, that it grew large, and the residents demanded from the authorities the Mazovian Principality that they grant it the status of a city. Their request was accepted, after it was certified that Zambrow satisfied all the criteria to be considered a city.

In the year 1479, 5239 after creation, the ruler of Mazovia, who ruled over the Plock Region, the Prince, Janusz II, was persuaded to grant the Zambrow settlement the right to call itself a city (Zombrow/Zomrow) And from that time on, to enjoy all the privileges of a city. Several years later, the residents of the city again petitioned on the basis that they did not have any regularly scheduled fairs and the merchants of the surrounding towns avoid coming to Zambrow, and therefore compel the residents to travel to buy goods at the market fairs of neighboring cities. Then, Prince Janusz II officially designated this privilege for Zambrow, even nominating it to be a Powiat (a central city). At this time, it was already being called Zombrowo (Zambrowa).

B. The Privileges of the City


The ruler granted the right to the city to conduct two fairs a year. One on June 24 (Czerwiec), on the day of St. John (Swiaty Jan) and the second – on September 21 (Wrzesien), meaning: one fair before the harvest, and the second after the harvest. The populace needed to wait three-quarters of a year until the new fair. First, 44 years later, when the city had developed further, and a number of villages became affiliated with it, in the year 1523, the government of the Kingdom of Poland, to which Mazovia de facto already belonged at that time, decided to designate four additional fairs for the year – a total of six fairs. This was a symptom of a progressing city. With ceremony, it was, once again, designated as a Powiat. In 1527, when Mazovia officially became part of Poland, the privileges of Zombrowo were again certified.


In the year 1538, Zambrow was destroyed by fire and sword. The war between Poland and Prussia, by happenstance, took place in Zombrowo. The Prussian military fortified itself in this place, afterwards called Pruszki. The Poles – were on the other side. The city, which was in the middle, was meanwhile burned down, and the residents – all fled. In the year 1575 – Zambrow belonged to Ciechanow, where the castle of the ruling noble was located.


The new Polish King, Zygmunt I, son of Casimir IV, heartily received a delegation of balebatim from Zambrow, and listened to their complaints, and took a hand in their plight, promising to alleviate it. There were no Jews among them. He lowered the taxes of the city, annulled all of their debts, and renewed the privileges of the city, that had been lost when the original copy of their official charter was burned. The members of the delegation certified the details of the burned declarations by oath.


C. The First Sign of Jews


Were there Jews already [present] in Zombrowo? It was not made clear to us whether there was already an established Jewish community in the city, but what is known to us [is]: The city government turned to the King, Zygmunt I10 to have him permit the movement of the market day from Wednesday to Thursday, so the Jews would be able to purchase their requirements for Shabbat, the Jews being present in the area in not insignificant numbers. However, a number of incidents took place in the city that caused its decline. It is possible to see this from the revenues [sic: of the market days}: in the year 1620 those revenues from meat, honey, liquor and grains were close to 508 Florins (approximately like Gulden), and those [same revenues] in the year 1673 had fallen to an income of 35 Gulden. The area of the city, and its environs reached 52 voloki (the volok was 20 marg11), and only 9 of them constituted land that was being worked, with 49 volok remaining fallow.


D. The Name of the City


We have already documented the fact that the name was first written as ‘Zambrowo,’ and later as ‘Zombrow.’12 Stanislaw August II who ruled from 1764-1795, called it ‘Zembrow’ (according to ‘Starozhitnya Polska’ 530-523). In the 19th century, it was already being called ‘Zembrow,’ and in Russian, ‘Zambrow.’ The Jews always called it ‘Zembrow’ (according to Pinkas Tykocin13), and in the last century – ‘Zembrowo.’ In the list of the Jewish census in Warsaw, from the year 1781, there are listed, among others Jews that lived in Warsaw, but that came from ‘Zembrowo.’ One individual registered himself as follows: ‘I come from Zembrowo,’ and another, ‘from Zambrow...’

The name Zamrow-Zambrow appears to be derived from the small river, Zambrzyce which is beside the shtetl, or perhaps the other way around – does the river take its name from the shtetl? One is led to believe that in the 13th or 14th century, there was a Prussian colony of the Teutonic Knights (who were crusaders). Here, a summer vacation spot was located for the German rulers, because the location was encircled by forests. It was called the Sommerhof – which [it is believed] that the Poles later modified to Zomrow and according to the linguistic rules, either a ‘b or a ‘p’ gets inserted between the ‘m’ and the ‘r,’ for example, Klumar – Klumfurst, Kammer – Chamber, Numer – Number, etc. [In this way] Sommerhof became Zombrow – Zambrow.


E. the Political Situation


Zambrow is administratively divided into two parts: the city proper (called the Osada in Polish) and the Gmina (the greater vicinity). The city itself was small, encompassing one market square (Rynek), from which small streets emanated in all directions. The horse market bounded the town on the west, and the ‘Poswiatne’ on the east.


The Gmina, however, had under its jurisdiction, 20 villages and hamlets. By 1880, the Gmina had 44 villages under its jurisdiction, and numbered 12,154 souls. Jews also lived in those villages, some as tenant farmers (pokczary, but the majority, up to about ten or more, were: Gardlin (Galyn, the Bialystoker Road, where Shlomleh Blumrosen’s brick works was located), Grabowka, Gorki, Grzymaly, Dlugoborz, Wadolki, Wiśniewo, Wola [Zambrowska], Wiebrzbowo, Tabedz, Cieciorki, Laskowiec, Nagorki [-Jablon], Sedziwuje, Poryte [-Jablon], Pruszki, Konopki, Koretki, Klimasze, etc.


Zambrow belongs to Mazovia, and independent, but poor land, which is rich in water, arable land, forests, cattle and fish – but is little-developed and stands at a low cultural level. After the Crusades in Germany, from the year 1096 onwards, the local Jews began to emigrate to Poland. In the 12th century – thousands streamed here – thousands of German Jews. Thousands also took up residence in Mazovia, in the older cities such as Plock, Czersk, Sochaczew, Wyszogrod, Plonsk, Ciechanow, etc.


With their full ardor, the Jews began to occupy Mazovia and industrialize it. The lived here in tranquility, and were not subject to predation. Only when Mazovia first began to draw close to Poland [proper] – did limitations begin to be imposed on Jewish citizenship rights. Nevertheless, Jews enjoyed the privileges in a special law for Jews, ‘Jus Judaicum’ (Privilegium Judaeorum). The Jews integrated themselves well in local life, and the Mazovian laws, even calling it ‘our law’ (Jus Nostrum). In the year 1526, Mazovia is integrated into Poland, and they become one country. The Mazovian Jews now fall under the laws and limitations that apply to Polish Jews.


F. Geography and Topography


From time immemorial, Zambrow belonged to the Lomza Guberniya (Province), and is counted as the second largest city according to its population. At the end of the 15th century – Zambrow was officially a Powiat (center). In the year 1721, the Polish Sejm divided the Lomza Guberniya into two municipal districts: Zambrow and Kolno. The Chief City Elder (Starosta), resided in Zambrow.


Zambrow lies among the Cieciorki and Wandolki forests, among others, not far from the famous forest area of Czerwony-Bor (about 13 versts from Zambrow). And between the cities: On the east – Czyzew, which has an important train station to Warsaw and Bialystok, Wysoka, and Jablonka to the west, the train station Czerwony-Bor and Lomza, the provincial capitol of north Bialystok and south Ostrow-Mazowiecka.


Three small rivers ring the town: A. The Jablon – whose headwaters are in the town of Jablonka, courses through Zambrow, flowing for a distance of about 20 versts to Goszt. B. The Prątnik, which emanates from the town of Prątnik, near Sedziwuje, and C. The Zamrzyce, which emanates from Wiebrzbowo, and flows into the Jablon. Jablon (or Jablonka) is the principal river of the area.


Following a regulation promulgated by the Zambrow community, at the proposal of the Rabbi, all of the little rivers were officially referred to as the Jablon, in order to facilitate the preparation of ritual divorce documents (e.g. a Get) in Zambrow: this is because the town river has to be documented in the Get. The provincial leadership accepted this proposal.


About one verst from the town, to the east, the ‘Uczastek’ of the military region is located. There were not few Jews who lived here, who made a living from the military. They had their own Bet HaMedrash there, two bridges –one of wood, and was on the Ulica14 Ostrowska, and a concrete one on the Ulica Czyzewska – connecting the town to the surrounding settlements.


G. Jews Build the City


The Jews built out the market square (Rynek) and one after another, they erected houses around the marketplace, opening stores, and in this way worked over the center of the town, and took commerce and industry into their hands. The gentiles concentrated themselves around the horse market and the Poswiatne, and engaged in agriculture. Zambrow had good drinking water from its streams. The principal stream was behind the Red Bet HaMedrash, which provided for more than half of the town. A second stream was on the Rynek itself, and the water was obtained by a pump. Water-carriers would also draw water from the river.


There were two (Jewish-operated) steam-driven mills, one was a water-mill, and 4-5 Jewish manufacturing facilities. On the Ulica Ostrowska, near the water, there was a large Jewish dye plant. On the other side of the city – a large Jewish brick works (Gardlin). Jews participated in small industry/business: distilled whiskey, made wine, brewed beer and made kvass and soda-water. According to the census of 1578, there were six distilleries and eight shoemakers, that also employed workers, five butchers, and eight bakeries. Having about itself the rich Jalowcowa forests, much beer was brewed, that was given the name ‘Jawlocowca Beer.’ In the referenced year, in accordance with the tax rolls, it was established that 241 barrels of beer were brewed in Zambrow.


The city was consistently ruined by fires, plagues, peasant uprisings, invasions by the Tatars, Swedes and Prussians, such that, in the year 5560 (1800) it only had 81 houses in it, and a population of 564 residents. Part of the population lived in barracks, and they cooked and baked under the open sky. In the year 1827, there were 91 houses already (10 new houses in 27 years!) And the population numbered 88615 people. And it was at this time, that the Jewish initiative and spirit of commitment to develop the city got started. In the passage of 4-5 years, the entire Rynek was built up, with 30 new houses of Jews. In each house, there was one or two stores. The city established a cemetery, retained a Rabbi, built a synagogue, two houses of study, a bath house with a mikva, established a building for a religious court, founded a yeshiva and – Zambrowo was a Jewish city.


In the year 1868, there are 1397 Jews in Zambrow, approximately 60% of the general population. In the year 1894 – there are, already, 1652 Jews in Zambrow. In the year 1895, at the time of The First Great Fire – according to the newspapers – more than 400 Jewish homes were consumed, among them, about 100 Jewish stores, and eating places, and about 2000 Jewish residents were left without a roof over their heads. The numbers – speak for themselves.


The Jews of Zambrow had an interest in making the city attractive to Christian worshipers, the lesser nobility (szliachta), peasants, and dyers, who, in going to church, would along the way, buy all their necessities. So, outside the city, there stood a half-built church dating back to 1283. It became ruined and had been burned several times. At the end of the 18th century, the Canon of Plock, Martin Krajewski became the senior cleric of the Zambrow parish, and in memory of his parents, he reconstructed a wooden church, with a bell and a mortuary. The Christians in the villages would go to worship in Szumowo, Jablonka, Sedziwuje, etc., so that in Zambrow, a larger central church could be built, which could accommodate hundreds of worshipers every Sunday. The old church stood at the west of the city, beside the horse market, to serve the worshipers there. The new church stood to the east, and attracted scores of peasants from all of the villages, filling it on Sunday, along with the city streets and stores...


Two years after the fire, the number of Jews rose substantially, as seen in the census of 1897, where in the Zambrow Gmina (including the surrounding villages), there were 10,902 residents, among them 3463 Jews, nearly 32% of the general population.


H. From When On, Were There Jews in Zambrow?



The Market Place (Zambrow Rynek)


It is difficult to answer this question. Jews were already in Mazovia, the part of Poland where Zambrow is located, since the beginning of the 14th century. However, impoverished Mazovia did not have much attractive power, and consequently, few Jews settled here. Apart from this, the political situation was not conducive; there were continuous invasions by the Prussians, and others, that destroyed the land. It was first at the beginning of the 15th century that the circumstances began to improve, with the Lithuanian princes16 Janusz I, in Warsaw, and Ziemowit IV in Plock, who strove for peace, under the aegis of Poland. Consequently, economic conditions also improved. Fields and woods bloomed anew, fish and wildlife, leather and hides, flax and wool, honey and oil, all developed, and the Jews found an attractive location here. Cities were established here, and therefore, for the first time, in the year 1471, we hear about Jews in Lomza for the first time; the diocese of Plock spread its ecumenical purview also to cover the Lomza district, and accused the Scholastic, Stanislaw Modzielow of Lomza, in an assault on Jewish merchants of Lomza and has him arrested.

I. Tykocin Protects the Zambrow Jews


Since the year 1549, the Jews of Mazovia paid their national head taxes through the ‘Va’ad Arba Aratzot,’ the Jewish Sejm, which was required to present the kingdom with a specific sum of taxes on an annual basis, which was collected in accordance with a set formula from all cities and towns. Zambrow does not appear in this list, because a Jewish community did not yet exist there. Tykocin, which was one of the three central cities of Podlisze, and collected the Jewish head tax from the residents of Lomza, Grodno and other centers, imposed a levy on the surrounding small settlements, where there was no community, and strictly demanded taxes, and regulated issues between Jews and gentiles, and took care to assure that one party would not unjustly take away the livelihood of the other, in land leasing, and in liquor distilling, fields and gardens, milk and cattle, mills, and the like. If there was a larger settlement – then Tykocin would impose the mission on the community or on the religious court of the shtetl, to the point that if a city in the area was mentioned in referenced acts, for example, even one that was as large as Bialystok, it was added to be ‘in the vicinity of Tykocin, because Tykocin was the capitol city of the district up to 1764, until the Polish regime dissolved the Jewish Sejm – the Va’ad Arba Aratzot, which was a government within a government, and adopted other, and better, means to collect more head taxes from the Jewish populace. Also, afterwards, Tykocin continued to be the chief city of the district. Regarding Tykocin, we know that in the year 1676 (5436) the community adopted a resolution “under penalty of excommunication consisting of seven decrees, and extinguishing black candles, with trumpets and blowing of the shofar: that no one has the right to raise either hand or foot to deal in strong drink, not as a business or for sustenance, whether by license under the government, as a tenant, under beverage-making duty, or beverage-selling duty, etc., without the cognizance and express permission of the community. Everything must first be presented to the community, and its leadership, who must thoroughly and completely examine it, without the presence of the petitioner. Whatever they decide is to be recorded in the Pinkas of the community (all this according to the Pinkas of the Va’ad Arba Aratzot, p. 148, sign c”ba). The Pinkas of the Tykocin community no longer exists, as was the fate of many of the Pinkasim of other cities. However, in The First World War, when the Jews of Tykocin were compelled to abandon their city – the Pinkas was placed in the hands of the Rabbi of Bialystok, Rabbi Chaim Hertz. His grandson, who is today a professor of Jewish history at the University of Jerusalem, Dr. Israel Heilperin, secretly made a copy of the protocols of the ancient Tykocin Pinkas and in this way, managed to preserve them for posterity. Among the protocols (which are still in manuscript form) we find the name of Zambrow mentioned in isolated places, and we have made note of them.


J. The Jews of Zambrow in the Year 1716




Ulica Kościuszki (Koshare Road)


We now turn back to Zambrow, as it was in those times. There is a theory that in this location, there already was a small Jewish settlement in the 16th century, but that it was disbanded in response to the residents, who had the had the discretion not to tolerate having Jews in their city (de non tolerandis Juudaeis), as was also the case in Lomza and other tens of cities and towns in Poland. We do not possess any documents with which this can be established. Zambrow was also not an important point and did not have any substantial undertakings that would merit mention in government regulations.


We are able to extract from the Tykocin Pinkas that in the year 5476 (1716) there still was no Jewish community, despite the fact that Jews lived here, and ran substantial businesses. On page 164, volume 748 of the Pinkas, it says: “income producing business and the house where R’ Shmerl ben Yitzhak lived, passed into the hands of the brothers Yehuda and Shmuel, the son of the previously mentioned Shmerl and they are entitled to right of enjoying its benefits in perpetuity. This remains the case even if there is a change in city Elder, or the Elder’s death, or if a gentile will have possession of the business for a number of years, and if someone wants to repurchase the business from gentile hands – he has no right to do so, because it belongs only to Shmerl’s children. This was approximately in the year 1716.


On page 271,volume 796 of the year 5476 (1716) it is again told that Yitzhak son of R’ Yaakov of Jablonka bought the franchise (the right of Furmanka – use of a wagon) to collect ‘franchise taxes’ from the Zembrowski Powiat in the Lomza Guberniya. All the franchise promissory notes from the previously mentioned Powiat, are his prerogative in perpetuity, even in the event that he should no longer reside in the Powiat.


K. Zambrow Has No Control over Cieciorki


In the same Pinkas, page 797, of the year 5476 (1716) there is a reference to a ‘sharp discussion’ that took place between Tykocin and the Jews of Zambrow, with regard to the control of the liquor franchises in Cieciorka. The noble of that region has constructed a distillery on his estate, and leased it to the Jews. As was the custom, a Jew could not independently come to lease such a facility – only with the facilitation of the Tykocin community, could that be accomplished. And here, the community permitted the lease to go to one, R’ Jekuthiel. The Jews of Zambrow argued that they had a prior right to the lease, based on proximity.


In the same year, and on the same page, it is recorded that the lease to the distillery of Cieciorki, which is near Zambrow, was sold by the Dozors of the community to Mr. Jekuthiel son of R’ Mordechai, and ‘no Jew may approach there (to infringe on his territory) because it belongs to him, in perpetuity” – after it was certified that ‘Cieciorki is further from the boundary of Zambrow, and that is why it was sold in perpetuity to R’ Jekuthiel.’ This means: the Zambrow community has no say in whether the distillery is leased to a Jew from Zambrow or a Jew from Jablonka, because Cieciorki is far from the Zambrow border and therefore does not belong to it.


L. To Whom Does Sedziwuje Belong?


It appears that the previously mentioned R’ Shmerl was a businessman on a large scale, and had leases on businesses not only in the city of Zambrow, but also in the Gmina, meaning the larger district encompassing Zambrow and its surrounding villages (Wola Zambrowska), Nagorki, Klimasze, who according to all our information, were attached to Zambrow, and whoever had a franchise for a certain way to make a living in Zambrow – that privilege extended to the villages. Sedziwuje was excepted because allegations were made that it was far from the Zambrow city limits, and is therefore not included, and as a result a local resident has the right to take the franchise for this village.


In protocol number 784 of the same Tykocin Pinkas, we read:


‘The decision of the chief Rabbi, Rabbi Yehuda, son of the [former] chief Rabbi Shmeri’ Zembrover, that all the villages in the ambit of the city of Zambrow are under his jurisdiction, and no man has the right to infringe upon that right, as if it were in the city of Zambrow itself, and within its borders. And these are the villages, whose status was clarified as being within this ambit: Sedziwuje, Wola, Nagorki, Klimasze. However, a protest went out regarding Sedziwuje which is further from the borders [of Zambrow] and an outcry was made to settle the matter by measurement, by someone trusted by us, and for as long as the matter is not clarified, the village will remain under the jurisdiction of the [Zambrow] community.


Tuesday, 14 Iyyar 5476 (1716)


This means: The previously mentioned Yehuda son of R’ Shmerl, one of the two brothers who inherited the franchise for the spirits business in the city of Zambrow from their father, and no one is permitted to infringe on their franchise in the city – registered a complaint in the religious court in Tykocin, that other Jews were grabbing pieces of his income, and violate his right. because they have income from the nobles, part of whose assets is from Zambrow. The defendants defended themselves with the excuse that they transact business only in those villages that are not under the control of Zambrow. A special session was called to clarify this matter. All the previously mentioned villages were measured, to determine if they were close to Zambrow, from the border to the city. They discovered that the villages of Sedziwuje, Wola, Nagorki and Klimasze were close to Zambrow, and therefore are included in its ambit. For this reason, no one may infringe on the franchise of R’ Yehuda son of R’ Shmerl. The protest of the accused is just, in that Sedziwuje is more distant from the Zambrow border. However, their complaint was not yet researched enough, and ‘calls to attain the truth’ by means of measurement. Because of this, Sedziwuje was declared to be a ‘free-city;’ it did not belong to Zambrow, but was not considered out of Zambrow’s ambit. In the interim, the Tykocin community will manage the village, and will designate who may practice the businesses and estates of the nobles of Sedziwuje. The judgment was carried out on 27 Iyyar of the year 5476 (1716).


A short time after this, we read, in volume 785 of the Tykocin Pinkas (page 269) that the religious court determined that the village of Sedziwuje is at a further distance from the border of the city of Zambrow, but not more than one quarter of a verst. This became clear through the testimony given by someone who had personally measured the distance. The judgment was carried out on Monday, 2Elul, of the year 5476 (1716) and the protocol was signed by: Abraham Auerbach, Yitzhak son of R’ Abraham, and Gedaliah son of Menachem the Kohen.


The previously mentioned R’ Yehuda son of R’ Shmerl appears not to have remained silent, and complained that one quarter of a verst was hardly a distance that was significant, and that he alone, had the right to [the business of] Sedziwuje, and that right was his as a citizen of Zambrow, and did not belong to anyone else. This matter dragged on from the month of Elul 1716 [5476] to Iyyar 1717 [5477]. And finally, in the end, a judgment was promulgated on the basis of research and investigation, and credible witnesses that Sedziwuje is ‘far’ from Zambrow and does not belong to it, therefore it is under the aegis of the Tykocin community, and that the owner of the Zambrow franchise has no longer any basis for dispute and complaint against the village, [written] Wednesday, 16 Iyyar 5477 (Lag B'omer eve, 1717). Signed by Yitzhak ben R’ M”Y.


We did not find anything else in the Tykocin Pinkas about Zambrow. We can, however, infer with great confidence, that if there had been a community in Zambrow with its own religious court building, that Tykocin would not have involved itself in the issues of the city. Zambrow would have independently defended its own interests, even if it would have had to secure the concurrence of Tykocin.

M. The Founding of the Chevra Kadisha in the Year 1741

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 Zamborow 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 Gorzelczany) – the Chevra was established on 17 Kislev 5501 [Tuesday, November 25, 1740].17 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 Zamborow 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.18 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.


N. By 1767 There Still Is No [Jewish] Community


On March 21, 1767 (20 Adar 5527) the government commission of the royal treasury (Kommisja Rzeczypospolitej Skarbu Koronnego) designated those communities that now belong to the Tykociner region, with regard to the level of taxes and the collection from both. Nineteen towns are enumerated there: Augustow (Jagustowa), Boczki, Bialystok, Goworowo and its surroundings, Goniadz, Wizna and its surroundings, Zawady and its surroundings, Jesionowka, Jedwabne, Loszyc, Niemirow, Sokoly, Sarnak, Konstantynow, Rutki and its surroundings, Rostki and its surroundings, and Rajgrod.


Zambrow, which is not far from Jablonka, and Rutki are not in the list! And yet, we know from the dispute between Yehuda son of R’ Shmerl and other lessees, in connection with the rights over the Zambrow [liquor] franchise, Tykocin got involved and decided who was right. [We deduce that] Zambrow was, indeed, under Tykocin tax control. This means: Jews were living here, but not organized into any sort of a community, without a Rabbi, without a mikva, and without a cemetery.


It is only first, at the beginning of the 18th century, that the history of the [Jewish] community in Zambrow begins. The original settlement was in the villages of Pruszki and Nagorki. The distance between these two villages was not great, and it was there that a Bet HaMedrash was built, that also served as a Heder for the children. Older children were sent for education to the surrounding towns: Jablonka and Sniadowo. Sniadowo has a reputation as a large Jewish community, and its Rabbi even had aegis over Lomza, which at that time, still did not have its own Rabbi, and not even a bath house. (According to Polish municipal regulation, it was necessary to have a special concession for a bath house). The Jews of Lomza, from one side, and the Jews of Zambrow from the other, would travel or walk on Friday, so... as to go to Sniadowo to bathe, and wash themselves, get their hair cut, and sometimes be cupped or have blood let – all in honor of the Sabbath.


O. The First Cemetery – In the Year 1828



Ulica Wodna (Wodna Street)


The number of Jews, who took up residence in Zambrow proper, grew larger and larger. They observed that it did not make sense to go from Zambrow to pray at the Bet HaMedrash in Pruszki, so they formed their own prayer quorum in Zambrow and two Torah scrolls were brought in from Tykocin, borrowed for a short period of time. The Jews of Zambrow set about having Torah scrolls written for themselves. The settlement in Pruszki supported its existence, and remained connected with the Zambrow Jews, as if they were one shtetl. An incident occurred where a Jew in Zambrow died, and it was necessary to have him taken for burial to Jablonka, by way of Ulica Sedziwuje. The weather was bad – with heavy rain, and the road was covered in mud, rivulets of water and potholes, because no paved road existed there yet at that time. Therefore, it was necessary to defer the funeral to the following day, and the day after, and this was considered to be a great offense to the deceased. So, on Saturday night, the Jews of Zambrow and Pruszki came together in an assembly, and decided to create their own cemetery, on the way that was, indeed, between Zambrow and Pruszki. R’ Leibeleh Khoyner, the ancestor of the Golombecks, then donated a parcel of land and with ceremony, it was decided to step up to the preparations: obtaining permission from the authorities and indeed, also the concurrence of the Chevra Kadisha in Jablonka, which each year demanded a certain stipend from the Zambrow Jews towards the upkeep of their cemetery, and the expenses of the Chevra [Kadisha]. A liberal wind was blowing through Poland at the time, under Russian rule. This was evident in the relationship of the Poles to the Jews, in Lomza, the provincial capitol, from which the permission was supposed to come. When the permission arrived, they began to cordon off the field, and build a small structure for purification of the deceased bodies. In the year 1828 (5588) the first cemetery was dedicated.


The community in Lomza was established anew in the year 1812, under the influence of the spirit of Napoleon, who created the slogan among the Poles, with regard to the Jews: – Kochajmy się, meaning, ‘Let us love one another!. In 1815, Poland came under Russian rule. The Russian authorities wanting to disrupt the unity among the Polish population, removed many of the Polish limitations placed on Jews. Despite this, the ‘Polish Kingdom’ under the Russians, resisted this, and in the effort of a delegation sent before the regime in Warsaw, in the year 1822, they succeeded to create anew, a ghetto for the Jews, and limit their rights in Lomza. This was also the case in Ostrolenka, and other places. It was first, in the years 1827, 1828, that Poland secretly began to prepare for its first uprising (powstanie) against Russian rule (1831). It was necessary to co-opt the Jews, and because of this, liberal winds began to blow in Poland. It was therefore not difficult to establish a Jewish community council in Zambrow. The Jews of Zambrow, at that time, actually favored Poland, and were patriots on its behalf, even in the uprising of 1863.


The Chevra Kadisha grew and reorganized itself. A Pinkas was initiated. The first Gabbai was the father of R’ Chaim-Pinchas Sheinker. Later Gabbaim were: Monusz Golombeck, Shmueleh Wilimowsky, Binyomleh Golombeck, Abraham Moshe Blumrosen, Abraham-Yossl Wilimowsky, and Yankl Zuckerowicz. Zuckerowicz was the last Gabbai. The Nazis drove him to Germany, and tortured him. When he returned exhausted, at the end of 1939, under the rule of Russians, he collapsed and died.


Of the martyrs, the names of the following are recalled: Abraham-Moshe and Wolf-Hirsch Kuczapa, his son, El’yeh, Israel-David Zibelman, Mottl Melsheinker, and Yitzhak the Dyer.


Approximately in the year 1890, the cemetery was filled to capacity. The community then purchased a new location for a new cemetery, which bordered on the old cemetery, and appeared like an extension to it. It is told that a question arose among the Gabbaim at that time, what is to be done with the ‘Ohel’ (The small building for purification of the dead): should the old one remain in place, which will now be at the [extreme] end of the new cemetery, and the deceased will have to be carried through the cemetery to be purified, over all of the graves that will, in time appear – or build a new ‘Ohel,’ at the entrance of the new cemetery. R’ Shmueleh Wilimowsky said that the Ohel should remain in its old location, and all that is needed is to re-build it and enlarge it. Monusz Golombeck argued – that it makes better sense to have it at the entrance, so that it will not be needed to carry the deceased for a long distance, if it should be on a rainy day or during a snowstorm. To this end, he proposed with humor: we are not going to live here forever. In a hundred years, we are going to be buried somewhere here, in a respectful place, at the front – as Gabbaim, and in the coming generation when the cemetery will be full of graves, and the members of the Chevra Kadisha will exhaust themselves by carrying the deceased for such a long distance – they will point to other graves on their way through, saying: here lie the elder sages of the community, who lacked the common sense to build the Ohel at the entrance, and put it so far away... [at that time] will it be pleasant for us to hear such talk? When no good will be said about us at the entrance, at least we will not be in a position to hear this embarrassment... At this, Shmueleh Wilimowsky laughed heartily, and agreed to what R’ Monusz proposed.


In the government regulation about having their own cemetery, they already had incorporated the right to create a Jewish ‘community’ in Zambrow. And this did not take very long. The communal statute was declared in the same year.


P. The Synagogue and Houses of Study



The Synagogue



The Entrance of the Synagogue

At first, prayer was conducted in small quorums. In general, the town consisted of small, wooden buildings, with straw roofs, and, without making any comparison, even the church was made of wood, just outside the town, not far from the horse market.


One of the wealthy balebatim, R’ Leibeh, the son-in-law of El’yeh Katzin, built the first building on the marketplace, and opened a very large tavern there. He was schooled in Kabbalah, and a very decent Jewish man. R’ Leibeh died suddenly – while still young. His young widow, ‘Rosa the Tavern Keeper’ or ‘Rosa of the Building’ gave over part of her house to be used as a Bet HaMedrash, and this was the first house of study in the shtetl.


They were not, however, content with this: the town needed a synagogue. Accordingly, a collective action was taken. Balebatim bought ‘places’ even before the synagogue was built, and up front they paid a larger amount of money – for the good of the building. R’ Monusz Golombeck donated the parcel which stretched past his yard in the direction of Ulica Lomzynska, for the synagogue. The provincial engineer permitted a street to be cut between his house and the synagogue.


The synagogue was constructed of stone and mortar, made of strong bricks, and stone walls. At the beginning of the construction, the history of the synagogue building was written down on parchment, who donated the parcel, and who made contributions to the building fund, and it was sealed well in an earthenware pot, and imbedded in the foundation19. When the foundation was torn apart in later years, at the time the new synagogue was built, it was found – it was re-read, and once again, imbedded in the foundation.


After the construction of the barracks, when the town had grown by several hundred new worshipers, and the synagogue became crowded – it was decided to build a large Bet HaMedrash. A ‘dispute’ arose in the shtetl: the grumblers complained: it is necessary to build a stone Bet HaMedrash, on the other side of town, on the way to Cieciorki, so that it would be nearby for those that lived far off. The ‘Golombecks’ argued: we don’t have to be pretentious, and if the synagogue is made of stone – the Bet HaMedrash should be made of wood, since this is the way things are done by Jews.


Until the time Monusz Golombeck turned over his parcel, which bordered on the synagogue, and wood was procured, and boards were carpentered, and the wooden study house started to go up slowly, beside the synagogue... at which time Shlomleh Blumrosen and his partners donated ten thousand bricks from his brick works, Herszak Bursztein donated a place and a stone Bet HaMedrash was erected. It was at that time that they began to call [them] the ‘Wooden’ Bet HaMedrash and the ‘Stone’ Bet HaMedrash, or the ‘New’ Bet HaMedrash. During the time of the First Great Fire of 1895, the wooden Bet HaMedrash was consumed along with the synagogue. The stone Bet HaMedrash remained intact. In place of the wooden synagogue, a stone synagogue was erected already, in about three years time, made of red brick, in accordance with the initiative of the ‘forthcoming Golombecks’ – Leibl and Binyomleh. It was therefore called the Red Bet HaMedrash, and the ‘New-Old’ Bet HaMedrash, which was colored white, was called the White Bet HaMedrash, until the town was destroyed. The synagogue remained in burned ruins for nearly 13 years. At first, when the Red Bet HaMedrash was not yet available, they would worship in the burned out synagogue, between the walls, covered with a sort of tarpaulin.


Rosa’s building, where the first Bet HaMedrash in Zambrow was housed, went into the hands of R’ Hirsch Michal Cohen. When the synagogue was built, the Bet HaMedrash was liquidated. This then became the location for R’ Chaim Nahum’s dry goods store. The house was rented to the municipal chancellery, and in place of the old Bet HaMedrash.... the municipal jail was put in place [die Kozeh]. The building was last bought by Yisroeleh Shia-[Be]zalel’s.20


Q. The Bath House and The Mikva


There is no city that does not have a bath house and a mikva. There had been a mikva in Zambrow for many long years. Without one, a Jewish settlement cannot exist, however, a bath house requires special permission from the authorities. It was difficult going with the bath house: the authorities were not easily persuaded to permit a bath house to be built – that is to say, a place to bathe in honor of the Sabbath. From the perspective of the authorities, it had not yet been demonstrated that this was necessary for the populace... the Poles actually did not bathe. Up to the 19th century, only special towns had concessions for a bath house. It was the Gabbai Shmueleh Wilimowsky, who built the bath house in Zambrow. The Jewish community invested about 1500 rubles in the building. It was built on community land, near the Hekdesh. The bath house had its own special brook, a cold and warm mikva, a sauna to steam one’s self, and a cold room, after being switched with branches. The bath house was leased for either a year, or three years, and the community had a significant income from it. It was lit and heated on Thursdays for the womenfolk, and on Fridays for the menfolk. Occasionally, the baths would be kindled in the middle of the week, and it was shouted out in the streets: ‘the bath is being heated!’ Friday, at midday, when the bath was thought to be sufficiently heated (only men used the steam room) the stones in the oven would glow, and Jozef the Shabbos-Goy had provided for enough switching branches, the Shammes would go out into the street intersections and announce: ‘To the baths!’ The military represented a large clientele for the baths. Soldiers, officers would fill up the baths, sometimes causing a scandal.. accordingly, for a while, the bathing season was regulated: after candles were lit – the soldiers can come and a gentile keeps watch and collects the entrance fees.


They did not always succeed in having a good bath house manager. The last of these was R’ Alter Dworzec (Koltun) and it appears that the whole history of the baths came to an end with him.


R. The Poswiatne


Together, with the growth of the [number of] Jews in the city – the Christian population also grew. They began to settle in the northeast side of the outskirts of the town. Here, also, is where the post office was set up, the court, and the religious Catholic institutions. And this is the history of the gentile section at the outskirts:


Behind the Rynek, on the way to Czyzew there was a large stretch of government land, that was called Poswiatne. Shmueleh the Butcher bought this land from the government for a song. Shmueleh the Butcher had an ‘in’ with the government, and was the contractor who supplied meat to the military. Accordingly, he got this parcel for a cheap price. A short time afterwards, the Zambrow parish decided to build a large, stone Roman Catholic church, in place of the older wooden building that stood at the entrance to the town, not far from the Jewish cemetery. Since Shmueleh the Butcher sold off a parcel at a cheap price for the construction of a church, Jews also bought parcels and built new little houses along the church street, Ulica Kosciolna, because this location had developed into a source of livelihood: every Sunday, when the gentiles would gather from the surrounding villages, to perform their religious rites – they provide a great deal of earnings. The Jewish settlement grew and branched out further in this manner.


S. The Military District


In the year 1882, Zambrow became a military [focal] point. The Russian authorities decided to garrison two full infantry divisions and an artillery brigade there. Smaller detachments of soldiers had been in Zambrow for a while, before. Immediately after the Polish uprising (powstanie) of 1863, soldiers were stationed in Zambrow. Seeing as there were yet no barracks, they were dispersed throughout the town. At the location where later there was a place for receiving guests, and the old home of the Rabbi, and his small court house – was the post, and at the place of the Red Bet HaMedrash – a mustering place for the soldiers. The Jewish populace suffered some bit of morale problems from the soldiers. They would constantly come around begging for food, especially on the Sabbath – a piece of fish and a piece of challah. Jewish daughters would be fearful of answering the door at night. Jewish children learned the profanities used by the soldiers. On the other side, they brought in income to the town. Jewish tailors and shoemakers, bakers and storekeepers that sold clothing, made a good living, and the population of Jews in the town increased. It was only after deciding to station two divisions of soldiers, that consideration was given to constructing barracks. To this end, Captain Radkiewicz was sent to Zambrow from the Warsaw Military District. He then purchased a large parcel of land from Shmueleh the Butcher, on the road to Czyzew, on which to erect the military compound: tens of barracks, places for drilling and mustering, a Russian Orthodox chapel, housing for the officers, warehouses and stables, an arsenal for ammunition, clothing, etc. The contract to put up the entire military compound was taken by a Jew from Lomza, named Manes Becker. He was an orphaned and solitary young boy, and studied at the Talmud Torah in Lomza. Later on, he apprenticed with a mason, and worked his way up a little at a time, u8ntil he became a contractor for sizeable structures. Together with his son-in-law Abramowicz (the son of the coppersmith of Lochow), he built the first of the military barracks on Ulica Kosciolna, and the street then took the name Koszaren. Many Jews, tradespeople, merchants, contractors, all made a good living at the Koszaren. Those Jews who were engaged in the construction, were called koszarers’: Avreml Koszarer, Herschel Koszarer, etc.


Zambrow became a large Jewish town, that provided sustenance to hundreds of families, and people came to engage in employment from all directions.

T. The Post Office


With the growth of the town in line with the needs of the Jewish populace, which made meaningful use of the post and telegraph services, the small post office on Ulica Wola near the nobleman Sokoliewski, moved over into the large premises, in Bollender’s house, on the ‘Uchastek.’ The post office was in Jewish hands, and was closed on the Sabbath. Letters and other posted articles were conveyed by Jewish wagon drivers, to the train station, and from the train station, in accordance with an annual agreement with the postal authorities. The first mailman was Jewish, ‘Alter the Mailman.’ His mother was a midwife, and had relationships with the wives of the nobility and the wives of appointed and employed people. It was because of her connections that he became the mailman. The post office served the entire Zambrow Gmina. However, it would not distribute to local addresses in the villages. They would have to come to get their mail...


No small number of Poles fled the country after the Polish uprising. Accordingly, their parents and relatives would come every Sunday to Alter the Mailman, to inquire whether or not a letter had arrived. Often, he would set out a small table on Sunday, not far from the church, and respond to the interested parties. He was well compensated for letters with produce from the villages and money. So Alter became rich. His two-story wooden house on Ulica Ostrowska was one of the nicest in the town.


In time, the post office bought its own horse and wagon, and transported the postal items to the train, as well as passengers. The post office could no longer remain closed on the Sabbath because of the Jewish mailman.


The post office became secularized, and the meaning of ‘Jewish Mail’ was again applied to letters that were not delivered in a timely fashion, but languished somewhere in a pocket... Alter’s position was taken over by a gentile from Goworowo.


U. The First Great Fire


As previously mentioned, Zambrow survived a number of fires concurrently. However, of special note, was a ‘Jewish fire’ that broke out in the month of Tammuz (July) of 1895, that burned down the entire Jewish settlement, the synagogue and the Bet HaMedrash. From that time, Jewish Zambrow began to reckon time with reference to this fire: [to wit]: ‘I was born a year after the fire.’ ‘Such-and-such was before the fire,’ etc.


The first great Zambrow fire – made [quite] an impression, and was written up in HaMelitz and HaTzefira – the two Hebrew daily newspapers of Russia-Poland. No Yiddish newspaper existed yet.21


Mr. Benjamin Cogan writes in HaTzefira, Friday, the Parsha of Balak, 5655 (1895), that a large fire broke out. Approximately 400 houses were consumed, and 100 stores, food shops and storage facilities, two houses of study, and the synagogue. Only 20 houses remained, and about 2000 people were left without a roof over their heads. When the news reached Lomza, R’ Nachman Drozowsky organized an aid initiative. The Rabbi, R’ Malkhiel, went on the Sabbath, with balebatim from house to house to collect food, clothing and money.


In HaTzefira of 15 Av 5655 (1895) number 167, the committee thanks Mr. Eliyahu Frumkin of Wysoka, on behalf of the victims of the fire, for the bread and 100 rubles that he came up with. The committee approaches the public with a request for assistance to the unfortunate of the town after the fire. When Czyzew, Sedziwuje, and Rutki had burned down – Zambrow did not rest, and it collected a lot of money and clothing. Accordingly, it was now time to return that help....


In HaMelitz of November 19,1895 in 29/11. the Rabbi, R’ Dov Regensburg thanks his friend, the editor, for the aid initiative that he published in his newspaper, which on one occasion brought in 150 Rubles and another time, 50 Rubles.


In HaTzefira, number 55 of 3 Nissan 5556 (1896), the correspondent complains that since the Kozioner Rabbiner22 R’ Moshe David Gold moved to Nowogród, municipal affairs have been neglected. The Chevra Kadisha required 1000 Rubles a year for its needs, and no fence has been put around the cemetery. Today, one finds bones there...the money that was sent for those who were burned out, has been distributed without an accounting, and those who stood closest to the trough were the first to benefit from it...


In HaTzefira Number 36, from the year 1897, Y. Gurfinkel writes that the economic situation in the town has already improved, the kosher canteen for the observant soldiers, who do not wish to eat unkosher food from the [regular] canteen, has re-opened, after two years of dispute. Before this, a midday meal would cost a soldier ten kopecks, and as a result there were few patrons. Now, a midday meal is much cheaper, because the contributions from the supporters has increased.


V. The Zambrow ‘Gangsters’


Every town had its own pejorative nickname. For example there were the ‘Wise Men’ of Chelm, and Warsaw Thieves. In the Zambrow area there were: The gartl-wearers of Czyzew, The Bullies of Ostrow, The Kolno package [carriers], the Jablonka Goats, the ‘Guys’ from Lomza, the Jedwabne Crawlers, the Cymbal-players from Staewka, etc. Every town knew how to describe its pedigree, and the story of its nickname.


Zambrow also had such a nickname: The Zambrow Gangsters, meaning, bands of thieves. This name was notorious in Poland. In a book, ‘By Us Jews’ which appeared in Warsaw in the year 1923, Mr. Lehman tells in his article ‘Thieves and Robberies’ (page 56) why people from Zambrow are called ‘gangsters:’ ‘In the 60-70 years (it really should be 70-80) of the previous century, there were gangs of horse thieves in Zambrow. It is told that the horses were stolen deep inside Russia, and at night, they were brought to Zambrow, and they were quartered in the stables of the large Zambrow taverns. A couple of nights later, the horses were taken out of their clandestine stalls, and taken off to the Prussian border. The investigating judge, Tuminsky, undertook to excise these gangs, and he succeeded. That is what is written there, in the book.


Correspondence concerning the trial of the gangsters was printed in the two Hebrew daily newspapers at the end of the prior century – [in] HaMelitz in Odessa, and HaTzefira in Warsaw, and we will introduce them here, in abbreviated form: A certain A. Z. Golomb wrote the following in HaMelitz Number 123, on June 4, 1887: Approximately 90 men joined together, from the entire area, even as far as Grodno, and carried out large scale thievery and murders, assaults with intent to rob, and so forth. However, they were especially notorious for the stealing of horses. The Chief of the Secret Police in Lomza harassed these thieves, so they stole his horse as well. When he became very upset and ashamed, the thieves told him: he was to put 200 Rubles in a certain place, and they will then return his horse to him. He placed the money in that spot – and they took the 200 Rubles and didn’t return the horse as well. At that time, he did a very daring thing: he traveled to Petersburg, and went through a course on how to apprehend thieves. Upon his return to Lomza, he had acquired the [added] title of court-Investigator’ and had obtained all the rights to arrest the gangsters. His attack against the gangs lasted for three years, until he captured and arrested them all in Lomza. The trial took place in May 1887 in the Lomza district court. Among the accused, held in irons, were 33 Jews from Zambrow. The sentence was announced on May 28: Of the men, 23 were found guilty, and 10 – innocent. One of them, Moshe, was accused of informing on a gentile. Joseph L. and Joseph Sh. robbed and raped a noblewoman. A boy, Mikhl L. stole a goose and a few days later, attacked the owner and beat him, because the goose was so scrawny. Among those arrested were a number of prominent and respected balebatim from Zambrow, owners of taverns, who were sentenced to several years of imprisonment. Two prominent horse dealers from Zambrow Y. and N. were sent to Siberia with their wives and children.


In the June 28, 1887 edition of HaTzefira Abcheh Rokowsky (see a separate chapter about him later on) offered a rebuttal to the article by Mr. Golomb, indicating that he was guilty of a sacrilege, because the Russian and Polish dailies seized on it, and reprinted it. Mr. Rokowsky argued that the court had added a variety of criminals to the trial of the gangsters, because the police, in this manner, wanted to raise its prestige. [He complained that] prominent balebatim from Zambrow were arrested not because they were partners in the gangs, but – because they were considered disloyal citizens: they had not told the authorities that the gangsters were stopping off in Zambrow on their way to the Prussian border. Abba Rokowsky writes that Mr. Golomb created a tempest in a teapot [literally: a storm in a glass of water] and insulted the Zambrow Jews....


This matter was discussed for many years in the shtetl. It was later shown that a political issue was involved here: Germany was interested in buying Russian dragoon horses. A gang of non-Jews, Poles, carried this out. They would bribe soldiers who stood watch, officers, etc., and they opened the military stables. Some of them would then mount some of the horses, tie a row of other horses to them, and go off n the dark night to the border. Zambrow was a strategic point for them. It was possible to reach the border in one night. Here, there were large stables that belonged to the three brothers B. who owned taverns. From time to time, the gangsters would lodge there, posing as horse merchants. The local Polish community put pressure on the Zambrow Jews, the owners of the taverns, to maintain silence. Also the Gabbaim of the community, who were responsible for the deeds of their brethren, had to keep quiet. For this reason they too, were arrested – but later on they were released.


However, for purposes of enhancing their prestige, the criminal police added charges of ordinary theft and murder to the charges against the gangsters, which had been ‘discovered’ and were, incidentally recorded in reporting to the authorities. It was told: Horses were stolen from a nobleman near Zambrow, night after night. the Chief of Police said to the nobleman: leave two good-looking horses in the stable tonight, and I will hide in the haystack, and will harass the thieves. So that night, they not only stole these horses, they also stole the jacket and sword of the secret agent...


For many years, the family of horse traders that was sent to Siberia were called – the Siberians,’ when they came back from Siberia. In town, the truth was known, and the dignity of those who were mixed up in this trial was not impaired.


So this is the story of the Zambrow Gangsters, who marked out town with a less than stellar reputation in the larger world.


W. The Second Great Fire


After the [First Great] Fire, the town got itself back up on its feet. The marketplace, and the surrounding side streets were quickly rebuilt. Instead of single small houses, two-story houses were built. Several tens of additional Jewish homes were added on Ulica Ostrowska, on Ulica Bialostocka and Ulica Cieciorka. Commerce flourished, and the houses of study – full of worshipers. Zambrow became the principal city of all the surrounding settlements. Zambrow looked after the Jewish settlement in Brzeznica, in Szumowo, etc.


Approximately 400 Jewish recruits were installed in Zambrow, and the town had to provide for their kosher food., for their Sabbaths, and Festival holidays, and other matters pertaining to their Jewish faith. In general, it was the military that contributed most of the income to the town. During the summer, the Jewish small businessmen and tradespeople would be drawn to the ‘summer residence’ in Goszerowo, where the Zambrow soldiers would spend the summer in camp. Maneuvers would frequently be conducted – and at that time, the town was packed with soldiers and the stored were full of them. The town considered itself to be entirely Jewish, and was enclosed in an Eruv,23 thereby permitting the town Jews to carry a handkerchief, or a prayer book on the Sabbath, or to carry a cholent, etc, until the Second Great Fire arrived, which broke out on Saturday night, May 1, 1909.


About 500 Jewish houses were burned down. The misfortune was laid at the foot of the Zambrow Christian Fire Fighters Command, which was anti-Semitic in its sentiments. Once again, the town got back on its feet quickly, and became much more beautiful and prosperous than before. Ulica Kosciolna, with its sidewalks and pretty businesses, became equivalent to what one would see in a large city.


From Bygone Zambrow
By Mendl Zibelman
(Miami, FL, USA)


Mendl Zibelman




How old was Zambrow of yore? Who were its first Jews? How did they make their living:


The Pinkas of the Zambrow community was in our yard, from the first day of its existence in 1828 until 1914, as well as the census books of the same period, which were also in our possession, and therefore, I can remember things that I would see, from time-to-time, in the Pinkas. I also remember what it was that I heard from elderly Jews of that time, and that which I am capable of remembering on my own.

My name is Mendl. a son of Israel-David the Shammes, of the former red Bet HaMedrash in the Zambrow that used to be. My father was a son-in-law to Moshe Shammes k”mz. These two people, my father and his father-in-law, were the administrators of bygone Zambrow, for approximately one hundred years.

A. Moshe Shammes, and My Father, Israel - David




Monument-Pillar in the Center of the Market Place

Moshe Shammes was the one who started the Pinkas, and began to document the out of the ordinary Jewish incidents that would take place in the shtetl from time-to-time. He was also in charge of the graves, because in that time, when an incident of death occurred in Zambrow, the deceased would be taken to Jablonka for their final resting place, and this is the way it is described in the Pinkas.

Moshe Shammes also managed all the books where all births, deaths and weddings were recorded. The census books were kept in the Polish language. From 1863 onwards, the census books, as well as all meeting minutes, had to be kept in the Russian language. As can be seen from the books themselves, Moshe Shammes had a good command of both languages. Apart from this, he was a substantial scholar, because many books remained behind him in our house, about which he wrote commentaries which took up tens of sides, and he added them separately to each book. He was also schooled in secular subjects. This could be seen from the correspondence that he carried on with world-famous people of that time. One such person was the world-famous mathematician and astronomer, the editor of ‘HaTzefira,’ R’ Chaim Zelig Slonimsky. As a fact about Moshe’s knowledge of astronomy: he composed a 100-year calendar and displayed it to be engraved on a tobacco snuff box. It was engraved beautifully and artistically. That snuff box was in our home for decades after he passed away. His penmanship in the languages that he knew was clear and understandable, as if it were printed. It appears that he engraved his own headstone 37 years before he died, and the headstone was put in a place that he had selected for his burial spot, and on that spot he planted the sapling of a sweet cherry tree. This was the only fruit tree on the Zambrow cemetery.

My father would tell, that in the summertime, when it got hot, that Moshe Shammes would go to the cemetery, and lay down on his future grave, and would often sleep this way for several hours. He did this for many years. I can still recall a part of what was written on his headstone: His soul is still within him, he returns easily to the ground of his creator...’ Moshe Shammes died at a very advanced age. His son-in-law, my father, Israel-David k”z took over all of his responsibilities.

My father also possessed all of the knowledge required to manage the census books, the Pinkas, as well as all the functions that Moshe carried out, and he did this without an interruption in service until 1914, when he was already at a very advanced age, over 80 years of age. Being alone (my mother v”g died in 1912), his six sons in America brought him to Philadelphia. He died here in the year 1918, leaving eight sons. Two continue to live here, in America, my brother Caleb, and myself, Mendl. Two remained in Europe: The youngest, Baruch, was in Knyszyn until the Nazi bandits invaded there, and one older than I, Naphtali, who lived in the Caucasus since 1905, in the city of Baku. Naphtali survived the First World War, serving in the Russian Army, and later on, during the entire time of the revolution. He came back sick, and was given a post by the Soviet regime, until after The Second World War. He died in Baku in 1946.

B. Zambrow in the First Half of the 19th Century



The Market Place on Saturday Afternoon

Jewish life in Zambrow officially starts from the years when the Pinkas was opened, and the cemetery was begun, along with other Jewish institutions. All these events begin with the year 1828. However, there is no question that Jews were already in Zambrow for many years before this. In order to understand what sort of place Zambrow was at that time, it is necessary to grasp what sort of Poland existed at that time.


In Poland, there was still a feudal system in place. 95% of the Polish population worked on large landed estates, in the employ of the wealthy nobility, and lived from whatever the earth gave forth to satisfy their daily needs. They received no money for their labor. Not only had no industry developed, but also manual trades stood at a low level.


With what did the Jews of that time, engage, in order to make a living? Most of them had gardens, orchards, fields and parcels of forest. 95% of the Jews already lived a little better than the 95% of the Poles, but not very much better, because they were living in a static, unmoving world, which bore no resemblance to the world in which we find ourselves today.


It was first later, after the Napoleonic Wars, when the Czarist Russian regime began to arm itself against further incursions across its borders, and decided to build paved roads to its towns and villages, that were not far from the German borders — and Zambrow was one such town – the economic condition in Poland first began to improve, and it got better from year to year. In that time, without machinery, every undertaking took tens of years. There were no locomotives or automobiles. Accordingly, it took years, to bring in all of the materials on peasant wagons required for the construction of the roads. Accordingly, quite a number of years went by, before the roads were completed.


Zambrow was ringed by a network of roads from all sides, cutting through the town, both in length and breadth. – This provided an opportunity for hundreds of peasants from the surrounding villages to come to Zambrow, with their accumulated rural produce. The Jews purchased this produce, and for the first time, the Poles obtained money for their produce. Jews opened small stores, taverns; Jewish craftsmen started to get organized; Poles, in growing numbers, began coming to Zambrow with their rural produce, and it was decided to renew the old weekly market day. Every Thursday became the weekly market day, in order that the Jews should be able to purchase items in anticipation of the Sabbath. The gentiles, indeed, immediately spent their earnings in Jewish businesses. And this is the way it went on for a stretch of years. Zambrow garnered a reputation in the area as a small town where money could be made. Many of the Jews from the surrounding villages sought to move into Zambrow, and open stores. The peasants would come and visit Zambrow with increasing frequency, bringing their produce. With time, a large Roman Catholic church was built there, for the mass of Poles who would come to Zambrow on a weekly basis. Sunday also became a day in which Jews could earn a living, and it was in this manner, a little at a time, the number of Jews in Zambrow grew, as well as their wealth. In those years, there were no large cities in Poland, in general. Bialystok was also not more than a small town, not larger than Tykocin, and Zambrow – smaller than Jablonka. It is possible to imagine what Zambrow looked like in those years: small, muddy, no paved streets, small wooden houses, many of them with thatched straw roofs. Decades went by this way, until something like progress began to develop, and brought to a war, or a rebellion somewhere.


In the second half of the 19th century, something happened that shook up Poland – this was the uprising of Poland against the Czarist regime in the year 1863. Russia immediately sent in a large force of Cossacks and they quickly put down the rebellion. However, Russia no longer withdrew the army from Poland. Russia began to construct barracks for an entirely new army. named ‘Warszawski Voyenyi Okrug.’ – The Warsaw Military District – with a Governor-General in Warsaw. He had control over all the military contingents in all of Poland, as well as 10 civilian governors of the 10 Polish provinces. In general, Russia entered Poland, as it were, with both feet. Poland, having lost in the rebellion, had now also lost many liberties that it enjoyed up to that point, and became fully controlled and ruled from Russia. However, Russia invested hundreds of millions of new Rubles into the economy of the country. Poland began to come to life, and the Jews of the country took a substantive participation in the economy. Poland, however, accused its Jews of informing the Cossack commanders of where the cohorts of the Polish patriots could be found. Accordingly, the Jew was made to be a scapegoat, that was directly responsible for the failure of the ‘Majtez’ (The Polish Rebellion). As detailed in the Zambrow Pinkas, tens of Jews were seized in the surrounding villages, and their tongues were cut out. The Jews who were killed, were brought to their final resting place in the Zambrow cemetery...


C. The Zambrow Barracks




The Solemn Reception for the President of the Polish Republic, Mr. Wojciechowski
(The Representative of the Jewish Community Left, beside the lamppost).


When Russia decided that the army it had sent in to Poland to suppress the rebellion and quiet the uprising, will remain there, it began to build barracks for a quarter of a million soldiers in a variety of cities and towns in Poland, including Zambrow as a strategic point. However, it took approximately ten years for the engineers to get the plans finished. In the 80's, contracts were signed with hundreds of contractors who had to provide a variety of building materials for the barracks, and they began to assemble the various craftsmen from the building industry. The contractors and craftsmen were, mainly Jewish, however there were not enough qualified workers, because in the cities around Zambrow, such as Ostrowa, Lomza, etc., barracks were also being built at the same time. It was therefore necessary to import 500 skilled craftsmen from deep inside Russia. This meant a great deal to Zambrow because, along with the local workers this provided a great deal of income to the Zambrow economy. And this meant a great deal, giving a living to Zambrow store keepers, and people in the manual trades, and the Jewish population in Zambrow grew in number from week to week. The original Zambrow Jews, whose business consisted of gardens, orchards, fields and parcels of forest, now also ran taverns, stores, and became contractors for specific materials for the barracks. It was in this way that the resident Blumrosens provided millions of bricks from their own brick works that they had erected for this purpose in Gardlyn, on the Ulica Bialostocka. Also, two Jews constructed two steam-driven mills on Ulica Ostrowska, one on the right side by Mr. Grayewsky, and the second on the left side of the road, by Mr. Goldin of Tykocin. Years later, Grayewsky’s mill was burned down, and it was never rebuilt. Goldin’s mill was later sold to three partners and it was still in existence in 1910, when I left Zambrow.


D. Good Times Arrive...




The Market Place in the Days of the Czars. First on the Right, Sholom Rotbard, the Fruit Dealer.


From all appearances, the oldest families in Zambrow were the Bursteins, Golombecks, the Kuszarer, or Levinskys. In former times, they engaged , as was previously said, in forest products, orchards, gardens and fields. However, with the passage of time, they also had taverns and other undertakings. The barracks were finished. In the first years of the 90's approximately 9000 soldiers arrived, and it just so happened that when the soldiers arrived in Zambrow, the officers barracks were not yet completed. So, temporarily, the officers were billeted in private homes, naturally, mostly in homes of Jewish balebatim. Among the officers there also was found a Jew, I think the only such Jewish officer in the Russian army. He was Baron Ginzburg from Petersburg24. He was quartered with Shlomleh Wilimowsky, who was one of the most prominent of the balebatim, a Gabbai of the Chevra Kadisha and the Bet HaMedrash. With the opening of the barracks, and the arrival of so many soldiers in such a small town like Zambrow, a new, good era was launched for Jewish Zambrow, with good hopes that the shtetl would grow larger, as well as the number of Jews and their wealth. The contractors that provided all of the provisions for both of the divisions and also for the artillery brigade – were the Jews Chomsky, Bollender, and Binyomleh Golombeck – all residents of Zambrow. Also, the other things that soldiers needed, were provided by Jews. Also, the officers and their families would buy everything from Jews. The officers’ tailors, shoemakers, and hat makers were all Jews. The Jews also set up the stores for soldiers and officers, everything, even the wood to heat the barracks was provided by the Blumrosens, kerosene for lamps – by Abcheh Rokowsky. The barracks provided several million Rubles of income to Zambrow’s Jews. The Jewish population more than doubled, because the contractors, and most of the Jewish craftsmen that worked for the barracks, remained already, as permanent Zambrow residents. So the town built another Bet HaMedrash – the previous ones had become crowded for the large number of worshipers. It was called the ‘White’ or ‘New’ Bet HaMedrash’, because its exterior walls were colored white.


From the past, there already were a large stone-built synagogue, and a wooden Bet HaMedrash. There was also a Shas study group and a variety of Hasidic shtiblakh, and a variety of assistance groups such as: ‘Hakhnasat Kallah, Gemilut-Hasadim, and certainly, Chevra Kadisha and a variety of others. By that time, Zambrow also had the well-known Maggid, R’ Eliakim Getzl, a formidable exponent of Musar, and a very animated individual. Later on, a controversy erupted because of him, and he was compelled to leave Zambrow (see Section F). Also, another shokhet was retained. With the arrival of the soldiers, every year, it was necessary to swear in several hundred new Jewish recruits. Because the Rabbi of Zambrow k”z did not know any Russian, it was necessary to procure a Kozioner Rabbiner, recognized by the Russian regime. And so, this is how Zambrow grew, from year to year. In the last ten years of the 19th century, several significant events took place in Zambrow, which I will describe in the following text: the great epidemic, of cholera, the controversy over the Maggid, and The First Great Fire.


E. My Father Rides a Horse, and Cholera is Driven from the Town


When the barracks were nearing completion, a terrifying epidemic broke out, cholera, and it kept on spreading in Zambrow and its environs. Medical science, at that time, was on a very low level, and the epidemic took away tens of lives each week. When all of the superstitious treatments and remedies proved to be of no avail, the central authorities from Warsaw brought in a doctor by the name of Delaney, a specialist in these sorts of things. He began to create discipline in order to arrest the epidemic.


First, he prohibited consumption of water from the river, or from brook, that had not been previously boiled. Large containers of water were put up beside the various houses of study, that were boiled day and night, to be used as drinking water for the town. Also, in the community houses, he set up first-aid stations. If someone came down with an attack of cholera, he was immediately isolated from the healthy and brought to a first-aid station, where first aid was immediately administered. With time, the doctor managed to control the epidemic. However, the religious Jews organized a procession to the cemetery, in order to make certain that the cholera not ever return. To this end, the discards of old sacred texts, in the attics of the Bet HaMedrash (called Shamos) were collected and packaged. the Jews gathered near the synagogue, surrounded with lit wooden torches, to light the way to the cemetery, because the procession took place in the evening. I was, at that time, still a little boy, but I have a strong memory of the incident, because my father was a Marshal and Commandant of the procession. When the Jews arrived with the Shamos from the synagogue, they were placed on the same bier on which the dead were placed, on their way to burial. My father rode on a horse, this was the first and last time that I saw my father riding on a horse. He gave the signal, and the procession began on its way to the cemetery. Coming to the ‘field,’ prayers were recited, and the Shamos received a suitable burial. Since that time, cholera did not return to Zambrow.

F. The Maggid Eliakim Getzl Forced to Leave Zambrow (1895)




Herschel Kuszarer, building contractor of the army barracks and his wife, Esther-Mattl.


At the time that Zambrow retained an additional shokhet, because of the increase in population, both Rabbis needed to certify his capacity to perform slaughter in accordance with ritual. The Kozioner Rabbiner immediately offered his concurrence. However, the old Rabbi, Regensburg k”mz was opposed. Meanwhile, the shokhet performed slaughter, and Jews ate from his produce. The town Maggid, as usual, sided with the old Rabbi. In town, two sides were formed immediately. The majority sided with the Kozioner Rabbiner. the Maggid, who was a great exponent of Musar, in his usual Sabbath sermon, exhorted and indicated to the Jews that ate from the new shokhet’s produce that they were eating trayf25, and they will suffer for it in this world and the world to come. He also called out balebatim by name, whom he knew to be eating from this shokhet’s produce. A dispute broke out immediately between the two factions of Jews in the town. It was taken to Lomza, to the provincial committee, where it was averred that there was such-and-such who was a trouble-maker. An investigation committee then arrived, and it decided that the prominent people of the town would decided by a blackball vote: each person would receive two balls, a white one and a red one. If he throws in the white ball – he favors the Maggid, a red one – opposed. The side that held in favor of the Kozioner Rabbiner was in the majority. So, the Maggid lost his position, and was compelled to leave Zambrow within two week’s time. He went off to Bialystok, and was a Maggid there for a couple of years. After that he became the Maggid for the city of Brisk. In his final parting sermon that he held in Zambrow, before he went away, he said that the sin committed by Zambrow will not be silenced, and the entire town will suffer for it. He even went so far as to say that the very stones in the streets will burn... When he went away, two weeks later, Zambrow burned down, and the entire town went down in a terrifying blaze. The Jews, who held with the Maggid, interpreted this as ‘God’s Finger,’ while other said that the Maggid had cursed Zambrow. In the history of Zambrow, this is called ‘The First Great Fire.’

G. The First Great Fire


The Great Fire took place in July 1895. It was a hot summer day, and ??? during the day. The fire started on Ulica Ostrowska, near the river, in a smithy. It was a hot summer day, and a warm breeze was blowing towards the town, where all the houses were made of wood, most of these with straw roofs, dried out from the intense heat. It was sufficient for a single spark to ignite such a straw roof, and for the breeze to blow such burning straw fragments toward tens of other such houses, and in this way, ignite entire streets in a hellish fire. And, indeed, this is exactly what happened. The entire town burned all at once. There was not yet any organized fire fighting command. [To boot], it was Friday, and most of the Jewish men were in the bath house, on the first bench, shouting let’s have steam!’ and they were sweating themselves, and being switched in honor of the coming Sabbath. Women were occupied with their tsimmes26, with cooking gefilte fish, with getting the cholent ready to be placed in the oven27, and also wanted to keep an eye on the children, so they would not go run in fire. The town was burning. The stores in the marketplace had small casks of kerosene, which immediately went up in flames. A detachment of soldiers came from the barracks, to see if they could be of any help. But once they saw how taverns were burning, and stores with all their goods going up in flames – they first helped themselves... the children were rescued, and people went off into the forests and fields around Zambrow, and that is where we remained already for the Sabbath. On the field and in the forest, it was possible to see Sabbath candles being lit, and hear blessings being made over wine, as well as the sound of songs being sung... and so they remained this way in the fields and woods until Sunday, while quite simply: their meager houses were left open to entry by anyone. The fire consumed property from the houses of Avreml Kuszarer, which stood beside the bridge on the Kuszaren, to Ulica Lomzynska and the synagogue street, up to the bath house, including the synagogue [itself] and the wooden Bet HaMedrash, and from the river on Ulica Ostrowska – where the fire started – enveloping the marketplace from all sides, and penetrated deeply into Ulica Bialostocka, where Khachnik’s orchard was located, and where the ‘Wiendznie’ stood, where transient prisoners were brought from the prison in Lomza and needed to be sent to other prisons, or be sent to hard labor or off to Siberia. Beyond the previously mentioned places, there were not yet any houses. It was first, on Sunday, that the children were gathered up, and using the wagons of peasants, rode off to the surrounding villages, or the nearby towns – to wait while Zambrow would be rebuilt. On that first Sunday, help arrived in the form of bread from all of the cities and towns around Zambrow. Wagons full of foodstuffs arrived, from as far away as Bialystok. The burned down store keepers began to set up temporary stores, nailed together from charred boards on the Pasek which stretched from the middle of the marketplace from Ulica Ostrowska to Ulica Bialostocka. Such booths were put up on both sides. And the store keepers brought their small amount of merchandise to be kept there, in order to serve the residents who had been burned out – until such time that a new Zambrow would be built, and it didn’t take very long. Before the year was out, a new, modern shtetl was erected, and the ‘town’ of Zambrow became the city’ of Zambrow, and from the small, wooden houses, many of which had straw roofs, were replaced with two-story houses with balconies. Instead of straw roofs, all the stone buildings were required to have tin roofs. And all the houses, stretching form Ulica Lomzynska, on all four sides of the marketplace, and also all of the houses on Ulica Kosciolna, were required to be made of stone, and not wood. This was a new requirement of the province, and when the city had more-or-less rebuilt itself, all those who had taken up residence in the villages and towns around Zambrow, began to return to the new houses, and the store keepers began to be drawn to the just rebuilt stores, configured in the latest style, with all manner of merchandise and goods, as is appropriate to an urban Zambrow. Zambrow acquired a more modern appearance, and people began to dress better, because it is not proper for a newly ‘developed’ city to have its citizens walk around bedraggled. Accordingly, the people did not want to detract from the new houses, and they began to primp, and one thing leads to another, and Zambrow became the second city as most beautiful and also aristocratic in the entire province of Lomza.


Regarding what I write here, that one thing leads to another, reminds me about a Zambrow Jew, I believe his name was Yitzhak Velvel Golombeck, a son of Monusz. He had a building for Kuszaren, opposite Abcheh Frumkin’s building. He dressed modestly. He was, however, quite a clever Jewish man, and he was once asked how is it that he is never seen with his boots shined. He then did a calculation: were I to shine my boots, I would then have to buy new socks. And if one had shined boots and new socks, new trousers would be needed, with a new jacket. For a new jacket, one then needs an armoire, where it can be hung, and to accommodate this, the house needs to be expanded.. so he computed that to shine his boots, it would cost him 1200 Rubles, and it is therefore better, and cheaper, not to shine the boots, and to wear torn trousers... The wags in Zambrow good-humoredly nicknamed him ‘the man without pants’ for his cleverness.


H. Zambrow Also Crowns Nicholas II (1896)


Zambrow also had to participate in the celebration, when Nicholas II ascended the throne, just as all other cities and towns of the Russian Empire. Naturally, most of the ceremonies took place in the barracks, but also in the city, it was a week full of celebrations. First, all the houses in the city had to hang out new Russian flags. Beside the white Bet HaMedrash, a gate was erected, fashioned from colored flowers, and at night, they were illuminated by colored lanterns of red, blue and white – the colors of the Russian national flag. the same was done on the balconies of the new Jewish houses on the marketplace. Poles got drunk, soldiers drank, and the Jews offered ‘Mi SheBerakh’ blessings in the various houses of study, and sang [the national anthem] ‘God Protect the Czar,’ the new king, Nicholas II. And Nicholas immediately repaid them with taking away the taverns from the Jews, and replacing them with [state-run] monopolies. Perhaps, it was necessary to stop drunkards from drinking, but many Jews lost their livelihood. Nothing else newsworthy happened in Zambrow in those years. Poland was already on the way to becoming industrialized. This had the greatest effect on the large, landed estates of the nobility, and this brought tens of thousands of the rural element into the cities, to compete with the urban people. And this, in turn, drove thousands of people out of the cities, mostly Jews, causing them to emigrate to other countries, to America. Zambrow was no exception. One would travel to earn and save a few hundred dollars, and then come back. People would even return to serve in the military, because no one wanted to be cut off from their birthplace. In the later years, when the anti-Semitism had worked its way into the fabric of the economy of the land, emigration to America became permanent – to never again look upon Russia.


The beginning of the 20th century heralded the coming of great change, because the masses of two of the largest countries, on two continents, had harbored revolutionary ideas for years: to topple their monarchial governments and to establish a constitutional government. These were Russia and China. The opportunity to do so came quickly, when the Czarist government sought to weaken the revolution, by dragging Russia into a war with Japan. This had exactly the opposite effect – because the Russian masses did not want wars, and this led to sever defeats on the battlefields of Manchuria and forced the Czar to issue a Manifesto, introducing a constitutional monarchy in the Duma.


The economic plight of the Jews in Poland grew worse and worse. The Czarist regime curtailed political rights. This caused a great emigration of Jews, from all cities and towns, to America – and Zambrow was among them.


I. A Jew is Murdered in Zambrow (1905)


During the war with Japan, from time-to-time, 500 or 600 soldiers would be selected from the Zambrow garrison, and sent to the Japanese front. Older soldiers, from provinces deep inside Russia, would be brought to replace them. These were middle-aged men, bearded nomads. On one morning, an officer, riding on his horse in the woods, not far from the barracks, on the road to Czyzew, spied a horse and wagon standing in the woods, and he didn’t see anyone hear the wagon. This stuck him as suspicious. He rode over to the wagon, and saw a couple lying near the wagon, killed. He immediately began to search and look for clues about the murderers, and discovered them immediately. Not far from the wagon, he discovered a heavy piece of wood, covered in blood, and also a letter written by one of the nomadic soldiers from the Tambov Province, and seeing that the letter contained the name of the soldier as well as the name of the division and the number of his unit, he was immediately arrested and he was asked why he did this. He said that at first he robbed them, but was unable to find more than a ruble and 50 kopecks, and this enraged him so, that he killed them. The most severe sentence in those years was 12 years at hard labor for a murder, and that is what he got.


Who were the two people? This was a Jewish couple from a village not far from Zambrow. They were traveling from Lomza, from a visit to their son, who was studying at the Lomza Yeshiva. The two murdered people were brought to burial in the Zambrow cemetery. Their son, from the Yeshiva, came to mourn them, standing between the two graves, bending over to the father’s grave, and took his leave of him with a heart-rending cry, and afterwards, the same with his mother. And anyone who was at the cemetery at that time, wept along with him. It rained, and it looked like the heavens themselves were weeping along with us... a headstone was set at the one year anniversary, which was made by Broder the gravestone maker, beginning with the words: lovers During Life, and not Parted in Death...”


J. The Revolutionary Parties in Zambrow


In that period, there were a variety of revolutionary parties in Zambrow. For the most part, it was the craftsmen of the shtetl who belonged to these parties. The leaders, however, were the children of the balebatim, or the so-called ‘intelligentsia’ of the shtetl. A few of the parties had a Jewish following in it, such as the Bund, or the S.S.( Zionist-Socialist) parties. There were other, simply international [parties], such as the Social-Revolutionary and Social-Democratic parties. The Communist Party did not yet exist then. However, there was an anarchist group, whose program was communist. The Jewish revolutionists from Zambrow could not play a significant role in the revolution, because, as was the case with all small towns, they were only small-town workers, and not industrial workers, and they were rarely visible in times of revolutionary upheaval. The parties belonged to a regional committee which was found in Bialystok. From time-to-time, a speaker would come down from Bialystok or Warsaw. Occasionally, [a speaker would come] from more distant cities, from Russia. A gathering was then called, somewhere in the woods, outside of the city, where the young people would get together, and the speaker would give a report on what the party was doing, and also determine what the smaller towns can and must do. From time-to-time, demands were presented to the balebatim to improve the conditions of their workers, and those who did not want to cooperate, were written up with communication to other cities where the balebatim travel to either buy or sell goods, and they would be met there. Upon returning to Zambrow, they would treat their workers better. The work of the parties had to, however, be carried out in a strictly conspiratorial manner, so that the gendarmes and the police should not be able to discover who was a party member, because for the smallest infraction, in those days, carried with it the possibility of years in Siberia and sometimes also the death penalty. One individual was sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor, and this was because he accosted two gendarmes with a revolver in his hand. He was a tailor, and had to be grateful for his life to Abcheh Rokowsky, because he [Abcheh] gathered signatures from the resident townsfolk; and Abcheh wrote a petition to the Czarina, and she set aside the hard labor in favor of a 20-year sentence of ordinary prison. Later on, this was further reduced to 9 years. Today, this person is located in New York, and his name is Yankl Grzewieniorz.

K. A Mutiny in the Zambrow Barracks


The defeat of the Czarist régime in the war with Japan profoundly demoralized the Russian armies, and the revolutionary spirit also took hold among the garrisons of the army. In many places, there were open manifestations of armed forces, and they refused to suppress the strikes of students and workers. In the Zambrow garrison, there also was an uprising. It first started in the 15th Rota of the Lodozhsk Division. The soldiers presented a set of demands to the Rota commander. This, of course, was contrary to military discipline. When the commander demanded that they discipline the revolutionary committee, the entire battalion went to the side of the revolutionary soldiers. In a short time, the entire Lodozhsk Division and the entire artillery was on strike, and it instilled a fear among the officers. Most of them fled to the villages and cities around Zambrow, taking their families. The second division, Schlüsselburg, and a very good and wise commanding officer, and he immediately mustered his division, that was already getting ready to support the mutiny, and he won them over with gentle persuasion, saying that everything that the striking soldiers want to win, they will also get, but if they lose, they most certainly will be punished. ‘But they will not be able to do anything to you, because you did not take part in this.’ Accordingly, his division did not stand with the mutiny. Because of this, he was later made a Brigade Commander, and promoted to the rank of General. He was the Brigade Commander of the Zambrow garrison for many years – this was General Salanin, who was also favorably disposed towards Jews, and he did favors for the Jews. The rebellion was suppressed within a day, because several divisions of soldiers arrived from other garrisons, composed of infantry, dragoons, Cossacks, and artillery as well. The mutinous soldiers were surrounded, and they were disarmed, and many were sent to the stockade in Lomza, where a military tribunal sentenced them to a variety of terms in discipline-battalions. One was sentenced to death by firing squad, because he slapped his commanding officer. He was shot in the woods beside the Zambrow barracks.


 L. An Officers’ Revolutionary Organization is Uncovered – Because of a Zambrow Merchant


By coincidence, a revolutionary group among the officers in Zambrow came to light in the following manner: In Zambrow, there was a Jew by the name of Prawda, who would often come to the officer’s club, where he would sell cigars and cigarettes. He would do this in the garrisons of Ostrowa, Ganszerowa, and the officers knew him quite well. So an incident occurs, that when he came to the officer’s club in Zambrow, with is cigars and cigarettes, an officer came up to him and asked him if he was planning to be in the Ostrowa club any time soon, and could he take along a letter to a friend of his, [also] an officer, whom he will find in the Ostrowa officer’s club. He immediately composed the letter, and gave it to Prawda. When Prawda came to the Ostrowa club, and asked for the addressee by name, they pointed out the officer, and he gave him the letter. Prawda did not know that there were two officers in the same club with the same name. And indeed, he switched the two identities... this officer, upon reading the letter, and seeing that it dealt with a revolutionary officers group, immediately turned it over to higher ranking authorities. The officer, along with Prawda and his two sons, were immediately arrested. And immediately, an investigation ensued. In the meantime, Prawda and his two sons were sent to the Warsaw Citadel, and they were held until the trial. The investigation uncovered a rather completely networked revolutionary officers group involving many garrisons, in the Warsaw military war zone. Thirty-eight of these officers were arrested, from a variety of garrisons. Five of them were from Zambrow. They were sentenced to 5 and 6 years of hard labor, and service in disciplinary battalions. Prawda, along with his sons, were released. At the same time, it was uncovered that the writers, in the Zambrow military headquarters, were printing up revolutionary proclamations, and distributing them among a variety of garrisons. This revolutionary group was also arrested.

M. The Zambrow Military is Robbed, and a Jew Finds the Thief in Prussia


The custom of the time was that each division maintained its own treasury, and this money was kept in a closed and locked wagon. The wagon could be found outside, near the window of the headquarters. A soldier, with a gun, was stationed beside the treasury [wagons]. Every hour or two, the corporal would come and change the guard, replacing the first soldier with a fresh one. And so it occurred, that once, when they came to change the guard, they found no one there, and the treasury had been emptied. Naturally, the entire division was sent out, to look for the soldier and the money on all roads, fields and woods, but without success. It was a cold and dark night, and the thief understood that an intensive search for him would be launched, so he scaled a tree, and observed how he was being sought so intensely in the area. And since nobody noticed him, and it was cold, the soldiers of the division decided to turn back and return to the barracks, and as soon as he saw that they were falling back, that is how quickly he came down the tree, looking about thoroughly, and not seeing anyone in this part of the forest, he sorted out all of the money. He immediately buried the coupons under the tree that he had been sitting in, and set off with his packet of money to the first village. Along the way, it appears he was able to procure civilian clothes, and when he arrived in Rutki, he went into a saloon and hired a wagon driver who took him to Bialystok, and there, for money, he found people who took him over the border into Germany. He was a ‘Latisch’ and spoke German well, so he felt very much at home in Germany.


In Zambrow, the higher officers of his division were very depressed by this whole incident, and didn’t know what else to do. So they decided, to consult with the Brigade Commander – Salanin. When the entire officer ranks of the brigade assembles to deal with this question, of where to find the soldier and the money, having no trace of him, the general’s batman, named Shapiro, a familiar educated Jew, from among the Zambrow intelligentsia, asked the general if his idea for finding the thief would be acceptable. The soldier had, most certainly, already crossed the border, Shapiro said, and before the thief is able to travel further, Shapiro wants to be given papers to cross the border, and also identification papers for the Prussian police. He takes on the task, meaning, locating the soldier, and bringing him back to Zambrow. None of the officers had any better approach, and so Shapiro was given all of the necessary papers, and he went off to Germany to look for the soldier. As soon as he crossed the border, he immediately presented himself to the Bureau of the Gendarmerie, showed his papers, and told the reason for his arrival. He wants to, he said, to have two German gendarmes accompany him to the emigrant-control station. He does not know the thief, and he is certain that he used another name [than his own], and if one calls out his real name – he will certainly look around, and he will then go over to him and speak to him in Russian, and at the same time, the gendarmes should also come nearby and take part in the investigation. And this is the way it was done. When Shapiro approached, the soldier denied nothing. The soldier was immediately arrested. He argued, however, that he was a political refugee, and Germany has no right to return him to Russia. Shapiro, however, wanted him to show where he had buried the coupons. The Germans agreed to this, and on a Saturday during the day, Shapiro, the soldier and two German gendarmes arrived in Zambrow. It was not permitted to turn over the soldier to the military, but he was held in Plotnikawa in the Hotel – he showed them where the coupons were buried, and he was taken back to Germany.


N. Jozef Pilsudski Robs the Government Treasury in Wysokie-Mazowieckie and Stops at the Zambrow Market



The Marketplace on a Market Day


This matter took place in Wysokie-Mazowieckie, but a vary large part of it has to do with Zambrow, and it took place at the same time, and it also has to do with the soldiers of the Zambrow garrison.


In the years after the war with Japan, many revolutionary parties organized assaults against government banks, to obtain enough money to carry out their revolutionary work. The Polish P.P.S.28 carried out such an assault in Wysokie-Mazowieckie, and as usual, such an assault was planned and executed with great care. First an investigation commission came to se how the bank was guarded, the entrances, and escape routes. The bank in Wysokie was guarded by a unit of soldiers from the Zambrow divisions. On the last day of the month, the unit of soldiers returns to Zambrow, and a day later, another unit comes to take its place. On that day, a well-organized group can assault the bank, because all that remains in the city are a few policemen, who can be quickly disarmed, and the entire town, during the time of the assault, can be under control of the [attacking] group. On the last day of the month, approximately forty members of the Warsaw P.P.S. arrived, and carried out the assault on the Wysokie government bank. For a little under an hour, the entire town was under the control of the group. The police were disarmed. The telegraph and telephone lines were cut, and the guard at the bank was absolutely powerless to resist, and he had to open the bank to them. Several horse-drawn cabs rode up, and the group loaded the money from the safe on these vehicles, and set off in a variety of directions to different towns. When they left Wysokie, one of the group made a speech for the frightened populace, and told for what purpose the money is being taken, and that no one should make a move to pursue them, including the police. The residents released the confined police, and told them along which roads were taken by the robbers of the money. The police then too, set out in pursuit along these roads. One of these cabs, with money, and two of the robbers stopped in the Zambrow marketplace, in Mordechai Aharon’s tea house. Meanwhile, two Wysokie policemen arrived in a carriage. Recognizing the carriage that stood near the tea house, they immediately began to whistle, calling the Zambrow police to help them. The robbers heard the whistling, and immediately ran out, shot to death the two Wysokie policemen, got on the carriage with the money, and quickly set out on the Lomza Road. Having thus traveled several viorst from the city, they stopped and took the paper money with them, which were in sacks, leaving the small change behind, which remained spilled out inside the carriage. In this way, they took off for the first village and asked one of the Poles, if he will take them to Lomza in his wagon. The Pole went to hitch up the horses, and meanwhile, they went into his house to get something to eat. Meanwhile, the carriage with the spilled coins, stood on the road, and the Zambrow police took Sadawki’s (the Zambrow warrior) carriage, and went to find the robbers. Arriving at the place where the carriage with the spilled coins was standing, the police first helped themselves to some of the coins, filling their boots with as much as could be put in, and they then rode to the nearest village where the robbers were, and immediately entered the peasant’s house. Before they even had a chance to ask anything, the two guests took out revolvers and shot them. They came out of the peasant’s house got into the cab with which the police had come, and fled the village. The peasant took the two dead policemen, and put them into the wagon that he had hitched up for the robbers, and set out to ride to the magistrate in Zambrow. It was here that it became evident that their boots were full of coins, which they had poured in there. The names of the two policemen were Kocko and Efrimov. The magistrate went to the military garrison for help in apprehending the robbers. Hundreds of soldiers on horseback were sent to pursue and find the robbers, but without success. Police in other cities, who gave pursuit had the same (sic: unsuccessful) outcome. All in all, about ten policemen were killed, and not one of the robbers was apprehended alive or dead. When all of the forty men who carried out this act for their party came back alive to their central committee, alive, with money, they sent a letter to the head of the Wysokie bank, that they had confiscated the money. The head of the robbers signed the letter – Jozef Pilsudski.29


O. Zambrow in the Year 1905


A general strike broke out in all of Russia in October 1905. After three weeks, the government was compelled to concede to many of the demands, and the Czar Nicholas II proclaimed a manifest that he will introduce a constitutional government like the one in England. In all cities and towns, the people came out en masse with their standards, to celebrate the victory of obtaining a constitution. They marched, and nobody stopped them. The gendarmes, police and also the military, did not interfere with the joyful movement of the civilian populace, and that day was also a festive day in Zambrow. It was Sunday, the portion of Noah. Jewish revolutionary groups came together after the midday on the Ostrowa highway. Bercheh the Melamed released his Heder class and sent the older children to go from Heder to Heder, to let the Melamdim know that they have to let the Heder class go on a day such as this. It is a holiday for everyone. The Rothberg brothers Malka-Cymal’s children, Elyeh and Itzl, raised a read flag, and they were followed by a group of young people singing revolutionary Jewish songs. The Chief Guard Bamishov, a stout and short man, arrived, holding his hand on his sword, but not knowing what to do: to disperse the crowd or not? – This is something of a constitution, new times in Russia, and specific orders from the province were not yet here. In the meantime, a claque of white-comrades ran up to him, grabbed him and lifted him into the air, and shouted: “The Cow’s Ass, Hurrah!” – “The Cow’s Ass” which was the secret name given to him by the revolutionary Jewish youth in Zambrow. The Chief Guard let himself down, and embarrassed and confused, he didn’t know how to react...


In the evening, however, the general festivities of the revolutionary populace took place on the Kuszarer Gasse, Gentiles and Jews. The young people, and especially those who belonged to the conspiratorial revolutionary parties, came together on Kuszarer [Gasse] many of them in their uniforms, in red or blue shirts. And as if it had sprung from the earth, there sprouted a red flag. Several Polish nationalists put on their Polish national hats, with four corners (Konfederatkehs), which until that time, were forbidden to be worn. The Chief Guard Bamishov again stood, and looked on, asking only that they not create any disorder. The provisioner from Skarzinsky’s pharmacy, a person of short height, but a great Polish patriot, came outside with his Polish hat with the four corners, and joined in standing with the Polish and Jewish revolutionaries. His name was Strupczeski. In former times, his father was also a pharmacist, until the First Great Fire, he went into the pharmacy and brought out fireworks, which was then lit, and it then burned and spread various colors about. and this illuminated the entire Kuszarer Gasse. Bamishov and the gendarmes stood by and kept an eye on order, but they did not interfere nor did they stop anything. Six of the young people again went over to the Chief Guard Bamishov, and picked him up in the air again, shouting: “Hurrah! Hurrah!,” and the gendarmes laughed. However, they interfered with nothing.


The reactionary elements in the government, though at that time they seemed to be in the minority – they were a strong minority. This was because on their side stood the Czarist family, the strongly reactionary Russian Orthodox Church, and the reactionary elements of the Army, and the conservative right-wing press. all these united in one union, and began a strong movement against the constitution. The reactionary element became terribly frightened when they saw how the people accepted the news of the last few days, and the newspapers began to write and demand even more freedom. The reaction became confused, and Czar Nicholas II began to insist that if the people will be unable to control themselves under a limited constitutional monarchy, he will be compelled to revoke various liberties that he had proclaimed in his manifesto, in the month of October. the reactionary newspapers began to accuse the Jews for all the troubles that befell Russia, and called upon the darker elements of the land to launch pogroms against the Jews. Day in and day out, the newspapers brought more and more accusations against the Jews, and the darker elements permitted themselves to be incited, and in tens of cities and towns, pogroms were carried out against the Jews. Hundreds of Jews lost their lives and their possessions. Millions of rubles were wiped out in fire and plunder. The pogroms went on for several days. When the government finally put a stop to the pogroms, it immediately enacted many of the liberties that were promised in the manifesto, to all nationalities that occupied the Russian Empire. However, the right to elect a parliament (The Duma) was not enacted.


The people got ready for the first Duma elections, and all nationalities and all parties had the same, equal rights to vote and be elected; accordingly they all began to prepare for the elections. After the elections, it became apparent that the first Duma was the most Left constitutional parliament in the world, because the reactionary elements were in the minority. The majority consisted of various types of socialist parties from all nationalities of the Russian Empire.


P. I Am Arrested


I was arrested in March 1907, and it seemed like I was going to get long, hard years in prison. I was working for Berl-Leibl Finkelstein on Kuszarer [Gasse]. Across the street from Skarzinsky’s pharmacy, he had a leather business, and also a boot manufacturing operation. In the small towns, the workers and employees would work from quite early in the morning until late at night. the salary was also small; the first and second year were worked entirely without any pay, and so it was decided to shorten the long hours and also to demand a little better pay. The demands were presented by the professional union to the balebatim of Zambrow. Many of them immediately agreed.

Berel-Leibl was, however, an angry and stubborn Jew, and did not want to agree. The professional unions, however, had means that they would utilize, from time-to-time – to compel those employers who had refused to comply. Each union had a committee that had the Russian name ‘Воевй-Отряд’30 which would carry out a variety of actions against the employers that would not comply. The committee took down the signs of Berl-Leibl’s business. They also broke all the window panes in the windows of his business, and his house. It did no good. He then went to the police. but since no one had seen who did all of this, the police were unable to hold anyone responsible. At that time, I was already working at a different leather concern. The professional union also did not remain silent, and adopted more severe measures against Berl-Leibl. The work of the Воевй-Отряд was very conspiratorial, and nobody knew what or when something was going to be done, because if they were caught, it carried the implication of many years in prison, or Siberia. So they wrote to the union in Czyzew, and they waited for Berl-Leibl coming into the train station, and they gave him a warning, he said that they beat him, but it didn’t help. He remained even more resolute in not conceding. Once again, he went to the police, who could do nothing. Several weeks later, the regional committee of the union, which was to be found in Bialystok, wrote a warning letter to Berl-Leibl, and they referenced my name in the letter and since the letter bore the stamp of the union, and the party, both of whom were underground organizations, and to be a member carried with it the possibility of jail, Berl-Leibl immediately turned over the letter to the chief of police, and told him what the letter contained, and he connected this to the threats that he had previously received. the chief of police gave the letter to Szczynka the Teacher, from the public school, to translate, because it was written in Yiddish. The chief of police prepared two charges. One, that I belong to an underground revolutionary party; and the second that, in the name of the party, I participated in criminal acts against Berl-Leibl. He sent a gendarme to bring me to the chief of police, and asked me three times, whether I understood well the seriousness of the two charges. When I answered him in the affirmative, he ordered me to go home, but that I should not travel away from Zambrow. My mother pleaded with me to temporarily travel off to somewhere, in another city, because I will certainly be arrested. However, I did not want to be a fugitive. On the same day, in the evening, the same gendarme returned, [accompanied by] a policeman, and a patrol of soldiers, and did a search of the house, and found nothing, because, as it appears, the police chief gave me plenty of time to clean the place out, so that they would not find anything. However, I was immediately arrested and taken to the Zambrow jail. The police chief immediately places soldiers with guns to guard me. For a whole three days, the shtetl youth as well as the curious older people, stood and looked at the bars of the jail, wanting to know who it was that the soldiers were guarding so carefully. On the fourth day, I was handcuffed, and put up into a wagon with two gendarmes and also two policemen, and the soldiers were put into two other wagons, one in front, and one behind my wagon. The chief of police, with the charges, sat in a carriage, and he traveled off to Lomza immediately. A little later, our wagons, also, went off to Lomza. This was three weeks before Passover.


When the chief of police went off, a gendarme boarded the chief’s carriage, and traveled with him, and two soldiers were boarded onto my wagon. I knew the soldiers from before, because they secretly belonged to a revolutionary group and every first Sunday of the month, I would meet them at a specific place, where I would turn over hundreds of pamphlets that had been printed in Bialystok, especially for soldiers in the entire region. I thought that these two soldiers also had something to do with my arrest, and so a thought occurred to me to ask one of them if he could take off the handcuffs, and descend from the wagon with me for a couple of minutes, and we will follow the wagon, because I am very cold. I wanted to find out if they had any part in my arrest, because they would be the best witnesses against me. In several minutes, I concluded that no only did they say nothing, they even told me what the chief of police had said, and this was very necessary for me to know.


We arrived in Lomza, to the district commander’s office on the Langer Gasse, near the new marketplace. The police chief was there already, and they began to question me, and sought to entrap me in a variety of pitfalls. Seeing that they are unable to do anything with me, they said that an examining magistrate will come to see me at the magistrate building at the old marketplace. Two weeks later, an examining magistrate came, and posed the same questions to me, and I gave him the same answers, because they could not connect anything to Berl-Leibl’s complaint. Regarding the letter, I said to him that, since the letter was not written by me, I cannot be responsible for it, and as far as I know – the letter could have been written by a provocateur. He began to shout that he was going to send me to jail that very day, and an examining magistrate from a higher court will come there because the complaint is tied up with underground parties from other provinces.


It was the eve of Passover, an hour later five soldiers arrived and led me to the old marketplace into the great prison, near the public hall. On my way to the prison, I was met by Berl, the son of Nachman-Yankl the Wagon Driver, quickly hurrying to get to Zambrow for the Seder. In prison, I was given a solitary cell, and a Jew brought in matzo, and told me to see that there was no leavened produce in the cell, and that there would be a Seder that evening, where all the arrested Jewish inmates will be together. Seven weeks later, an examining magistrate from a higher court arrived, because on the door of the room where he interrogated me was written: Следователь поВажнйшйам Делам (An investigator of the most important issues). He began to question me, and the court secretary began to write. He was, however, a very intelligent and liberal man, because when the secretary left the room for several minutes, he said to me, this is the result of when a party writes a letter, and no name is to be mentioned, because those mentioned are placed in danger of being sent away. He immediately had me freed on bail. However, I was never called up on a complaint. I think he was a bigger revolutionary than I was. Two years later, I was taken as a soldier, and in the papers there was no mention that I had ever been arrested.


Q. The Fear of a Pogrom in Zambrow


In the year 1909, I was taken to be a soldier in the Russian army, and was sent to serve in the Amur area. And since soldiers were sent in freight wagons, the ride took more than forty days, traveling through all of Siberia in colds of minus 40 and 50 degrees. We arrived in the city of Khabarovsk, after which papers arrived from Lomza that I had a ‘legota’ (a privilege that freed me from military service), and a high number, so I had to be let go. On the eve of Passover I arrived [back] in Zambrow, learning that Zambrow had just lived through a week of terror, because there was imminent threat of a pogrom that certain anti-Semitic elements, with the help of the Polish press in Warsaw, attempted to incite [as follows]: Jews from Zambrow had allegedly, on a certain night, gone to the Polish cemetery and desecrated graves, and broken headstones. The Polish newspapers from Warsaw even provided names of specific Jews that had been seen on that night when they went out to the cemetery. In the newspapers, the Polish populace was called upon not to ignore this, and to settle accounts with the Jews because of this. Gentiles began to prepare themselves for a pogrom, during the Holy Week of Easter, when they would be coming to the Roman Catholic Church. Jewish contractors, with Binyomkeh Golombeck at their head, went off to the brigade commander and he posted heavy patrols near the Roman Catholic Church, as well as along all the roads that led into the city, and all the suspicious characters were not permitted entry into the city. Afterwards, the culprit was found. [He was] a Polish baker who worked in the German bakery Piper-Kasper. He got his punishment. Passover for the Jews was not disrupted.


R. The Second Great Fire


A few weeks after Passover, on May 1, 1910, a terrifying fire broke out in Zambrow yet again. It was given the name “The Second Great Fire.’ And for the second time, Zambrow was burned to the ground. The fire started on a Saturday night in the stable of Elkanah the Wagon Driver, and in Avreml Kuszarer’s houses on Ulica Kosciolna, not far from the bridge. And since a small breeze was blowing into the city, it quickly ignited many houses simultaneously, and now a larger and more prosperous Zambrow was on fire, and the damages were greater that in the case of The First Great Fire. However, there were more houses that were insured, and so the losses actually didn’t come out so large, and it was possible to re-build more quickly. By the time of this fire, there was already an organized fire brigade, but almost all of them were Poles, and instead of putting the fires out, they aggravated the burning by pouring kerosene on the Jewish houses. Meanwhile, the city went under with the fire. A short time after this, I left for America.


Zambrow in the Suwalk-Lomza Kollel in Jerusalem


In 1949, there existed in Jerusalem a unified appropriations committee that allocated the support funds that came from outside the Holy Land to the ‘Kollel of Pharisees’ meaning the Mitnagdim, and the ‘Kollel of Hasidim.’


However, when the olim from Germany and Holland established that most of the monies came from their countries, and that the allocation process was short-changing the Germans – they decided to separate, and to form a united Kollel for the Jews of Germany and Holland called Kollel Ho”D (Holland and Deutschland).


However, even here the unity did not continue for any length of time. The people of Lithuania and Poland – established a Kollel of their own. In the year 1850, the scions of Poland separated from Lithuania, and established ‘Kollel Warsaw’ – that received the funds from the Jews of Poland, and distributed it to the émigrés from Poland in Jerusalem. A hundred years ago, approximately in 1863, the émigrés from Lomza and Suwalk who were consolidated from an administrative point of view with the rest of Poland, found they were being short-changed in the allocations, because in those cities and their surroundings, people tended to give more generously to the Land of Israel, for their kinfolk who went ‘either to live or die,’ but here, no one was taking this into account. Accordingly, a ‘Kollel for Suwalk-Lomza’ was established for the purpose of allocating those funds raised from the environs of these cities. The Kollel of Suwalk-Lomza was one of the most active among the Kollels of Europe.


The first president of Kollel Suwalk-Lomza was the Rabbi of Zambrow, R’ Lipa Chaim HaKohen. We have no insight into why they chose the Rabbi of Zambrow in particular, and not the Rabbi from Suwalk, Lomza or Szczuczyn31, as it were. Apparently he was very well-respected, trustworthy and someone you could depend on. All the monies collected for the Land of Israel in all of the cities and settlements that were in Suwalk and Lomza – came to the hands of Rabbi R’ Lipa Chaim. After the dignitaries in Zambrow assisted him in the counting of the total – the funds were transferred to the treasurer in Szczuczyn, and from there – to the Land of Israel. The emissaries, who were designated to empty the charity boxes of R’ Meir Baal HaNess had to receive permission to do so from R’ Lipa Chaim. In 1876, Tuvia Fenster, a scion of Szumowo tells from his memory, that when his father wanted to tour the Land of Israel, many tried to persuade him against it, because all the ways of travel were dangerous, etc. His father, Yaakov Moshe, decided to travel to Zambrow, to the president of the Kollel, R’ Lipa Chaim, to seek his advice, and he would do what he said. And as it turned out, R’ Lipa-Chaim encouraged him, and even wrote letters on his behalf to his acquaintances in Jerusalem, to R’ Meir Auerbach who had been the Rabbi of Kalisz and to R’ Eliyahu Sarasohn, who received R’ Fenster with respect.


Emissaries would come out of Zambrow, to distribute and set up charity boxes of R’ Meir Baal HaNess, and also to empty them, for the entire area, and they would say: ‘Put some money in the box, or it will be an embarrassment when The Emissary from Zambrow arrives, who will be coming shortly to empty the charity box.


From the accounting records of the Kollel, “The Sun of Justice” signed by Rabbi R’ Lipa, on this side, and the heads of the Kollel in Jerusalem, as well – it is difficult to find support, for Jews from Zambrow among the hundreds of recipients of the allocated funds, because all of them signed themselves ‘from Lomza’ – the provincial capitol, and not their native towns. Occasionally, some name from Zambrow shows up, but without any family identification, such as: R’ Israel Shammes from Zambrow, etc.


When R’ Lipa Chaim passed away – his son-in-law, R’ Yehoshua Heschel Shapiro was appointed president of the Kollel, the Rabbi of Szczuczyn, and after him, the grandson of R’ Lipa Chaim – R’ Joseph HaKohen. The last president of the Kollel was the son-in-law of R’ Lipa Chaim, the Rabbi Dov Menachem Regensburg. The treasury was in Szczuczyn.


If anyone from the Lomza-Suwalk area made aliyah, he was entitle to receive financial aid from Jerusalem from the allocated funds, but he did not receive this without the consent of the Rabbi of Zambrow. The last appointed head of the Kollel in Jerusalem was the Rabbi R’ Moshe Kharl”p k”z, who worked faithfully, and knew all the émigrés from Lomza-Suwalk up to the year 1952.


The first emissary that was sent by the Kollel of Suwalk-Lomza to America in the year 1892, to arouse the hearts and to donate for causes pertaining to the Land of Israel, on behalf of the Kollel, was R’ Abner, a scion of Zambrow.


A Blood Libel
By Tuvia Fenster



Tuvia Fenster


This took place in the 1870's in our town of Szumowo, between Purim and Passover. I remember it as if it were today, and the newspapers also reported it.


The peasant Maczei was a forest worker for Graf Zamoyski. In his old age, he purchased a small parcel of land, between Szumowo and Srebrna. His wife had already died, leaving him with three children – two girls aged 5 and 7, and a young lad of thirteen. One day, when Maczei returned from church on a Sunday, he found all three of his children murdered. This had a terrifying impact on everyone. Maczei sits and mourns, and his loyal neighbor, Bartek is comforting him. Everyone wondered: three souls slaughtered, and no blood was found beside them. What a wonder – Bartek argues: ‘It’s Jews, Passover!’ – That means: ‘Jews murdered them in honor of their Passover, and have used all of their blood...


A rumor then spread, that the Jews of Zambrow, the closest town, came to slaughter them, and use their blood to prepare matzos...

In Szumowo, a police detail had been stationed since the last Polish rebellion, consisting of three policemen and a senior over them, Semyon Gavrilicz (Shimon ben Gavriel) a grandson of a Cantonist32 (who had been snatched as a Jewish child and was turned over to serve as a soldier, and needed to adopt the Russian Orthodox faith). Semyon Gavrilicz was quick-minded and smart – he had a Jewish head. He was the first to arrive and ask the old man a variety of questions. From this he learned that 150 rubles were also taken by the murderer, and nobody, apart from the neighbor, Bartek, knew about it.


Semyon immediately cast suspicion on this so-called loyal neighbor, and ordered his policemen to investigate what Bartek was doing. He personally investigated, and poked around, and came to the conclusion – that it was only Bartek who was the murderer. But there is no trace, no evidence!


In the meantime, rumors circulated about how the Jews has sucked out the blood from the children. Also, the anti-Semitic Polish press from Warsaw portrayed all of these rumors and incited the masses. Accordingly, all of the Jews from the villages fled to Zambrow. Also, in Zambrow, the priest in church spoke about this, and said that suspicion had fallen on the Jews. A special meeting was called at the home of R’ Shmuel Wilimowsky the head of the Zambrow community, and it decided to immediately travel to the Governor in Lomza. The Governor heard everyone out, and promised that he would not permit anything unlawful and without legal permission, and he will personally come down to investigate the matter. Semyon Gavrilicz, however, did not rest. As the suspicion against Bartek acquired more of a basis, he decided on a bold move: In the middle of the night, he took his three assistants, and suddenly woke Bartek out of his sleep, with the shout: ‘Thief, where did you hide Maczei’s 150 rubles?’ Bartek became confused... The police began to conduct an intensive search, and in poking around, they found the money. Bartek was immediately put in chains, and taken off to Szumowo.


As it happened, that morning, the Governor arrived from Lomza. He ordered Bartek released and brought to him. The Governor called him to the table, put a glass of whiskey in front of him, with great ceremony, and asked him amicably:


Listen, Bartek, we are after all nothing but people. Every one of us can fall into the clutches of Satan, and you too fell, and you transgressed. Confess, and you will not be punished. But first eat something, and tell me everything afterward.


Bartek took note of the great respect he was being shown to him by the Governor, and so he crossed himself, emptied the glass, and followed it with a slice of white bread and related the following: I have to buy a horse for my work, because what good is a peasant without a horse?


And for what purpose does Old Maczei need money? So I quickly disposed of the children, while everyone was in church, but I had to struggle with the boy, he was strong.... The details he provided were terrifying. The Governor heard it all, and his face flamed, but he kept control of himself.


– but tell me, Bartek, the Governor says, why is it that not a single drop of blood was found in the house? All are wondering about this? – it is quite simple, Bartek says, I called my dog, and Maczei’s big dog, and they licked and licked...


With this, the Governor could no longer contain himself, and began to bang on the table: Keep still you dog, it was not enough that you murdered three children, you wanted to throw the responsibility onto the Jews! You filthy vermin! – Semyon Gavrilicz, he shouted to the police senior, take this criminal away from me and shackle him in irons, hand and foot, and bring him immediately to Lomza, to the prison...


Bartek was sentenced to life at hard labor, in Siberia. Semyon Gavrilicz received a commendation with a “Похволнй Лист” (a letter of commendation) and he became renown. Part of the Jews from Szumowo and Srebrna chose to remain in Zambrow.



By Aryeh Golombeck




Executive Committee of the Young Zionists


Standing (R to L): David Rosenthal, Abraham Krupinsky, Yekhiel Don;
Sitting ( R to L): Mayer Rutkevitz, Sarah Rebecca Slovic,
Leib Golombeck. Herzkeh Skozendanek, Sarah Rosen

A. I Am the Zambrow Commissar


In the summer of 1920, we prepared ourselves, I and my friend Yitzhak Gorodzinsky, Chava’s son, to make aliyah to the Land of Israel. It was wartime between Poland and Russia. We waited for passports and visas. In the meantime, I came back to Zambrow, because it was harvest season, and I needed to help. In this time, the Bolshevik invasion occurred. A militia of fire-fighters was formed in the city. The commandant of the fire-fighters left the area, and wanted to take along the Jewish fire-fighter Shlomo Yaakov Kukawka, whom he valued highly. But he [Kukawka] said: I want to remain among my brethren. So the first militia commandant was the Polish harness-maker, Manyk Wysotski, a member of the P. P. S. and a vice-commandant of the fire-fighters. He was not satisfactory to the Russians. So everybody proposed me to be the commandant of the militia. I did not want to do this, because I was not close to the communists, and after all, I was imminently going to make aliyah to the Land of Israel. So pleading began to come from all sides, that in my position, I will be able to do favors, and rescue many, even from death. So I accepted the post, and became the chief of police of Zambrow, and they brought me a Jew from Wysokie, Srebrowicz who dealt in foreign exchange, a serious offense. I made an extensive ‘investigation,’ and then released him. Simcha Stern set up a bottle of vodka for a Jewish soldier of the Red Army – and he was under the threat of a death penalty, so I ‘investigated’ shouted at him, and set him free. Abraham Shlomo Dziencial (Pracht) committed a severe crime, and a Polish militiaman brought him in chains: he illegally sold a can of kerosene...


So I sent him home, etc. When the Russians retreated, I wanted to flee with them, fearing that the Poles would take vengeance on me. But the Poles asked me to I showed myself running with the Russians on the outskirts of the city, and I secretly got down, and returned home. Afterwards I came to Warsaw, and from there I traveled to the Land of Israel. Six years later, I came back as a visitor. I was then informed on that I was a communist commissar. However, respected Poles gave testimony that I was OK, and I was not detained.


B. Two Tables


The fire-fighters used to have an annual dinner. One time, there were only two Jewish fire-fighters: Gordon the Photographer, and Yossl Mozzik (Modrikman). Since The Second Great Fire, there were many Jews. So food was prepared for two banquets – one was trayf, with swine flesh, for the gentiles, and one was kosher, under the supervision of Yaakov Shlomo Kukawka, for the Jews. During the feasting, two delegations would come out: A Jewish delegation that would go to offer their greetings to the gentile table, and a gentile delegation, with the pharmacist Skarzynski at its head, to wish the Jews good luck.


C. My Father’s Initiative & Influence


My father, may he rest in peace, Binyomkeh Golombeck, was the Gabbai of the Red Synagogue and of the Chevra Kadisha. As a contractor, who supplied provisions to the two military divisions stationed in Zambrow, my father knew the garrison general quite well. One time, when the threat of a pogrom hovered over Zambrow, because the gentiles had accused the Jews in desecrating the Polish cemetery – my father went to the general. My father told him of the situation, and asked for his help. The general immediately ordered that a military guard be deployed in the city, conducted inspections of the peasant wagons, and confiscating any suspicious arms that they found.

D. Jewish Soldiers Furloughed for Festivals


Hundreds of Jewish soldiers served in Zambrow. For every Festival Holiday, the Rabbi would travel to the division commander, accompanied by a number of other balebatim, mostly with Abcheh Rokowsky, and request to have the Jewish conscripts furloughed for the holidays. A kosher kitchen was set up for them in the city, and even a special minyan in which they could pray, in the ‘Wood House’ of the White Bet HaMedrash. The Jewish conscripts had their own individual to lead services, and their own Torah scroll. Once, on Rosh Hashanah, at the beginning of the service, the Rabbi approaches my father and whispers a secret in his ear: ‘The soldiers have not been given a furlough this year...’ My father immediately set aside his prayer shawl, and immediately ran to the general’s quarters. - What happened? The General asked him, Is not today a very important holiday for you? – But my brothers, the soldiers, today they do not have a holiday, they were not given a furlough... the order was immediately given, and an hour later, the Bet HaMedrash became full of Jewish conscripts...


E. A Soldier Defends Jewish Honor




Binyomkeh Golombeck and Family




Young Girl Schoolchildren


There was an out-of-town soldier who was serving in Zambrow by the name of Zerakh Kagan. He was zealously observant. Accordingly, every day, before going to military exercises, he would arise to pray and put on his tefillin. Gentile soldiers would gather around him to look at his phylacteries, which they had never seen before, and offer him respect. Except one time, when an anti-Semite paused to mock the Jew. Kagan took no note of him, and continued praying. So he went up to him to tear off his tefillin, and Kagan gave him a stout kick with his foot – and he fell down and ailed for 2-3 days, after which he died. There ensued a tumult during which Kagan was arrested, for which he was under the threat of a very serious punishment. My father involved himself, and with considerable effort, caused the military doctors to establish that the soldier died from a heart attack, and not the blow from Kagan. Kagan was then released. When Kagan completed his military service, he was not permitted to travel home. A Jew like this needed to remain in Zambrow. He was found a match with the daughter of Miriam the Wigmaker, and Meiram Burstein. He became a teacher in a reformed Heder, and educated hundreds of students in Torah and to do good deeds.


How A Pogrom Was Avoided in Zambrow

By Sender Seczkowsky
(As recorded by R’ Israel Levinsky k”z)




At a reunion of Zembrowites in Tel-Aviv to commemorate the devastation of the native town. Mr. Sender Seczkowsky and his wife are in the front row, third and fourth from the right.




The Young Girls of the School


On a fine morning, the fear of death fell upon the Jews of Zambrow: unknown persons desecrated the Polish cemetery, breaking crucifixes, and headstones. The suspicion fell on the Jews. Gentiles immediately came forward who saw Jews milling about Ulica Ostrowa, near the cemetery.

The young priests in the church incited the faithful by saying that all troubles emanate from the Jews, leading to the creation of a mood for a pogrom in the city. The gentiles in the surrounding villages designated a specific Sunday to assault the Jews and to rob their businesses. There were only five policemen in Zambrow, who were Polish, and it was not possible to rely on them. So a delegation went off to Lomza to the Governor. Representatives of the Lomza Jews went with them. The Governor, who was from Courland, was a philo-Semite, and immediately ordered a 100-man Cossack contingent sent to Zambrow to maintain order. Also, Binyomkeh Golombeck, the contractor, arranged with the garrison general to have soldiers sent to maintain order. The appointed Sunday arrived, and young and old, man and woman, came out of the church into the city, to rob the Jewish places of business, and they had prepared, in advance, by having axes, staves etc., stored in their wagons. I hauled myself up to the roof of our house, and looked through a crack: the mob streamed out of the church to Ulica Kosciolna. A chain of Cossacks, however, came across them on horses, and dispersed the hooligans with their nagaikas33, removed the axes from the wagons, and the other instruments of violence. The Secretary of the Gmina stood near the Cossacks, and for each peasant, he told the Cossack officer from what town he is – and the Secretary showed the way to travel home. If someone resisted – he got a couple of whacks with the nagaikas. This immediately softened him up, and he retreated. The Poles did not anticipate such a calamitous denouement. So they got themselves ready for another attempt.


That occurred – three months later. A fire broke out on a Saturday night on Kuszarer, and the fire-fighters – all gentiles, apart from the two brothers Yaakov Shlomo and Herschel Kukawka, instead of putting the fire out, threw kerosene-soaked rags and caused the fire to spread, and so the entire shtetl was burned down for the second time. The gentiles took their vengeance for the cemetery... Several weeks later, the following was clarified with regard to the incident at the cemetery: In a gentile bakery, in the house of Mendl Rubin the Hatmaker, one youthful baker stabbed and killed another one. Before he died, he saw fit to tell the boss, that he wanted to tell the truth, that he had broken the headstones and crucifixes in the cemetery, the other party had harassed him, and that is why he stabbed him..

The murderer was arrested and confessed everything. The Jews of Zambrow breathed a little easier...



During Wartime
By Sender Seczkowsky

(As recorded by R’ Israel Levinsky k”z)


A. The City Is Saved from Destruction


In the year 1915, during The First World War, the city was full of the homeless. Tens of families arrived, who were refugees from Jedwabne, Grajewo, Scucyn Nowogród, Ostrolenka, and so forth. They were quartered in the Batei Medrashim, in the synagogue, in private houses, to the extent that we could.


Zambrow was a tranquil town, far from a strategic point, and that is why many refugees fled here in order to save themselves. But a little at a time, the battlefields crept near, and the front already stood near Zambrow. A division of Cossacks arrived in the city, and it felt as if the days of the Russians were numbered – because the Cossacks were the last that left a city, before it falls to the enemy. They received an order: not to leave any town, any city, any repository of grain for the enemy – but to burn everything. Every night the sky was reddened: all around the villages and the stacks of grain burned. When the Cossacks began to behave violently – beating Jews, raping women, robbing, burning – everyone hid out in cellars, and were afraid to stick their heads outside. I sat in a cellar with the family of Yankl Pravdeh.


At one time, in 1905, Pravdeh was a fiery revolutionary. He had a warm heart, and was always ready to take a stand for a Jew. And so, it disturbed him: meaning that they were beating the Jews, they are plundering – so something has to be done. That the Cossacks should not st the city aflame in their retreat, and here, rumors were going about that the Russians have already mined the bridge, and plan to put the city to the torch. Pravdeh wanted to get out and do something, and his wife, Bat-Sheva, Shammai-Lejzor’s daughter, didn’t let him, and burst out weeping: it is worth your life, and you are the father of children, and therefore he is not allowed to go into the city. Nevertheless, somehow he tore himself away, and use the back ways and fences, to reach the municipal secretary Komarowski, who was friendly to the Jews, and together with him, went through all of the cellars collecting money to buy off the Russians so that they not destroy the city.


They got together a sum of money in a short time, and it was set up so that the greater assignation should be from above, and under a danger to their lives, went off to the commandant, at the bridge. The commandant was not there. His substitute was an officer who indicated that nothing was going to help – the order was to set fire to the city. When Yankl Pravdeh waved the money about, he softened up, and sent to have the commandant summoned. The commandant says to his aide: ‘Берий Денгий и Положий Выещик Козначайство’ – Take the money and put it in the safe. And to Yankl Pravdeh he says: Do you have wine or whiskey? (Because the Russians had confiscated all strong drink in the area of the front, and forbidden it to be sold). Komarowski recalls that in some stable of the municipal chancellery a case of vodka can be found, that had once been confiscated from a storekeeper, and he ran to bring it to the commandant. They stuffed themselves, and half drunk, left the city, not bringing any destruction on it.


We began to kiss Yankl Pravdeh when he returned. His wife now took great pride in her accomplished husband.


B. When Poland Was an Independent Nation


On a fine morning, when the Germans still held control over the city, a bunch of gentile thugs showed up with Jozhombek the shoemaker’s son at their head, and with revolvers in their hands, they surrounded the barracks and ordered the Germans to get their hands up, and surrender. The mighty Germans did not seem to twirl their moustaches, and surrender. The Poles disarmed them, and took away their arms. In a couple of hours later, the Germans took up a position, half civilian – and half military, with small valises in hand, and took off on their way, to the Prussian border. The Poles escorted them with mockery and we Jews, did not know how to behave, because we felt that in the hands of the Poles it would be worse for us.


And in reality, the Poles looked at us askance, and did not include us in their victory. It is true that in matters of money, such as taxes, allocation of materiel, clothing, etc., the Jews were extensively included. The best of the youth went off to serve in the Polish military, and sent to the front. That is, those born from 1896 to 1900.


The Bolshevist invasion drew closer.


The Russians though waged war against the Poles, and for this reason they always trusted the Jews: Jewish employees, in the police, in food jobs, requisitioning, etc. Part of them cooperated in good faith, and part – reluctantly, and under duress. The Poles however, blacklisted them all. When the Russians drew back – all those who cooperated with them, ran off with them. The Polish authorities, however, pursued their parents. Jeremiah Syeta (Yash) was severely beaten because of the misdeeds of his son. Israel Pravdeh was hunted, and his wife was tortured, who jumped off the balcony.


The Polish pharmacist Skarzynski, was sentenced to death by a Bolshevist tribunal. So, temporarily, he left the area, and hid in a booth belonging to Shimeleh Warszafczyk, near the river. He hid himself there for a week’s time, and the Jews took care of him, until the first Polish patrol returned to the city. At that time, Skarzynski came back to the balcony, and he waved the Polish flag. He was nominated as the chief of the civilian populace. When he was asked about the conduct of the Jews, during the Bolshevist invasion, he stammered, but upon seeing those Jewish eyes that had rescued him, he expressed himself that the Jewish ‘ne’er-do-wells’ had fled with the Russians, but that the decent citizens had remained here. In this manner he defused the possibility of a bloody pogrom in the shtetl, even if a number of Jews did get a beating, and their possessions were robbed. One woman was even murdered.


C. The Murder of Szklawyn the Pharmacist


Szklawyn the Pharmacist was a discreet person with leftist tendencies. Despite this he was involved in community work, and even worshiped for a time with a Shas study group, and during the Bolshevist occupation, he was neutral toward them. It is possible that as a pharmacist, that he had to adopt this posture. The Poles looked for him and wanted to arrest him. So he hid himself. His wife went to Skarzynski, the Polish pharmacist and beseeched him to save her husband. The pharmacist requested that he come to him, and nothing will happen. Szkalwyn came to Skarzynski in his holiday finest. Polish young people came running, and demanded that Szklawyn be turned over to them. Skarzynski didn’t think very long about it, and turned Szklawyn over, whom they then stripped naked, and together with a young man from Warsaw, was severely beaten and forced to pull a wagon full of manure all over the city. They were tortured for so long, that they died. The ‘good’ commandant later ordered that their bodies be turned over to the Jewish community, in order that they could be buried.


Three Who Made Aliyah to The Land of Israel

A. The Old Shammes Kuczopa and His Wife


Once, on a Saturday night, in the year 1903, a tumult occurred on the street of the synagogue in Zambrow. The old Shammes, Fortunowicz, who was called Kuczopa (nobody remembers his name anymore) created a scandal in the city and the Bet HaMedrash: ‘I am a Shammes in the city for over sixty years, serving the community day and night, I was the one who did the burying, the community porter, the Bet-Din Shammes – and now, in old age, when I am close to eighty years old, I want to travel and die in the Land of Israel. So I have no money to cover expenses...I would therefore like the community to help me. I have earned this, and the community is not poor – so the money can be procured’...


The Shammes lived opposite the synagogue, where later on, Shama-Lejzor the Maggid would live. And so people stood under his window, and eavesdropped on how the old Shammes was shouting, cursing and having a fit...also the wife, of the old Shammes, was weeping and wailing about her misfortune. She was a pious and naive Jewish woman, coming before dawn, with her husband to prayers, in the women’s synagogue, and would beseech The Master of the Universe: ‘Good morning dear God, I your servant, Kuczopikha, have come to you to recite the morning service, please accept my prayer!’...


Accordingly, the public took an interest in this demanding request from their little old Shammes, and decided to provide part of the allocation funds that had been collected (after all, the Rabbi of Zambrow was the Gabbai of the allocations committee of the Lomza-Suwalk Kollel). The Rabbi assured him that he would be accepted in Jerusalem, and placed on the allocation list, and there he will receive his weekly stipend.


Apart from this, the following Sabbath, the read of the Torah was delayed in the Red Bet HaMedrash, where he was the Shammes. It was decided to give him half of the travel costs from the community treasury and from the Chevra Kadisha (he traveled with his wife and a grandchild, a daughter’s daughter aged 13, to assist them on their journey to Jerusalem) and the rest, that he was missing would be raised by pledges and contributions: all those receiving an aliyah for the entire month ahead, in the Red Bet HaMedrash, will be asked for a Mi Sheberakh contribution for the old Shammes, and the contribution will be 18 groschen (one time chai) on his behalf.


Several weeks later, it was on a Sunday morning, on the morning after Shabbat Nachamu34 everyone turned out to escort the Shammes, his wife and grandchild to begin their long journey. The Rabbi, the most prominent balebatim, craftsmen – all escorted them as far as the cemetery. Many gave him groschen, kopecks, and ‘ditkas’ even ten-notes – for him to give as charity in Jerusalem, in their name, because an emissary that performs a mitzvah leads to success. The Shammes then put all these funds in a separate red wallet, bid farewell to the deceased in the cemetery, got up on the wagon, and rode off to Srebrny Borek, and from their, by train, to Odessa... Their daughter, and his three sons, Leibl, Elyeh, and Henokh – escorted them to the train...


B. Mendl the Half-Carpenter


Mendl Zusman was a carpenter, and he was called ‘the half-carpenter,’ and was never trusted to produce good furniture, as was the case with Berl the Carpenter, or Mishl the Carpenter. People would shrug [and say]: a man has to support a wife and children, and he spends half his time on foolishness: set down on white paper with a corner and ruler in hand... if someone wants a bench, a bureau, a table, etc., he first does a drawing, fusses over it for hours and the buyer is waiting for his result... and they were not satisfied with his work, and went to others... and so his wife would argue with him, demanding money for expenses, and there was none.


Until one fine day, the news came out: Mendl the half-carpenter left his wife and children and went off to the Land of Israel. So the wife ran to the Rabbi, to have him write to Jerusalem that he should not be given any allocation and to apply pressure to him – that he should return. It didn’t help, and it was said of him that he was ‘caught in the act,’ God forbid, and the Kollel allocation committee and the Rabbis had not knowledge of him.


Some time later, it was found out: Mendl Zusman the half-carpenter found favor with Professor Boris Schatz the head of the ‘Bezalel’ School of Art in Jerusalem, and engages him as a teacher of table making. Under his direction, he teaches the youth how to do wood turning, and is successful.


Mendl subsequently sent for his wife and children, and they settled peacefully in Jerusalem.


C. Pesach, the Wine Maker’s Son, Travels to Jerusalem




Maccabi Committee


It is 1908. R’ Elyeh Zalman the Wine Maker, Jerusalimsky, had a love of the Land of Israel. The family had a tradition of traveling there, in old age, to die. It is from this that the family name Jerusalimsky is derived.


One of his sons, Pesach, a diligent youth, studied in Volozhin, and got married there. So he comes to Zambrow for purposes of saying goodbye. The shtetl is overwhelmed: what do you mean, a young man discards all manner of making a living, leaves his wife behind with her father, and travels to the Land of Israel, to become a colonist, a peasant, to make wine from real fresh grapes, not like his father, who makes it from raisins... But it is forbidden to restrain him: he is traveling to the Land of Israel!


So, the Zionists, made a going-away evening in his honor at the home of Benjamin Kagan. Abba Finkelstein brought biscuits, his father had naturally sent wine, and the lady of the house put up the samovar, and served tea with jam, egg-kichel, and fruit. Speeches were given in Hebrew and Yiddish, songs were sung, and a hearty farewell was had.


Pesach traveled on a freighter, which was transporting Russian pilgrims. Accordingly, he suffered a great deal along the way. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he wanted to become a teacher – but was unable to find work. Since he had an talent for drawing and sculpture, he came to the ‘Bezalel’ Art School. He studied there for a while, but could not satisfy himself with the work, and in the meantime, he used up the little bit of money that he had taken along with him. And his wife is writing him bitter letters – either he is to take her over to Jerusalem, or he is to come back. So one fine morning, he packed his valise and traveled from Jerusalem to Jaffa, and took the first ship back to Poland. He took a vow, however, that at the first opportunity – he will return...


By Joseph Krulewiecki




Joseph Krolewiecki




The Young Girls of the School


Let my little shtetl of Jablonka, the mother-city of Zambrow, also be recalled in this Pinkas. Jablonka, 9 km from Zambrow on the way to Wysokie-Mazowieckie, was one of the oldest cities in Mazovia, certainly older than Lomza and Zambrow. At a time when Zambrow did not even have a prayer quorum, Jablonka was already known for its Rabbi and congregation. Indeed, in that time, the dead were taken from Zambrow to Jablonka [for burial]. In the year 1863, at the time of the Polish rebellion, Jablonka was the principal headquarters for the revolutionists. Just like at one time, it was not known where Bialystok was located, and it was necessary to add Bialystok, which is found near Tykocin, so it used to be written: Zambrow, which is near Jablonka. It was a poor shtetl, and tragically: it was, but is no more!

When, in the time of the Czar, it was decided to build barracks near Zambrow, it is told that the engineers wanted to erect barracks near Jablonka. However, they demanded a ‘tax’ from the city in the amount of 100 rubles – and this money was not available, so the barracks were not built. From that time on, Zambrow began to prosper, tradespeople, craftsmen, and small businessmen were drawn to Zambrow and Jablonka, the Lord protect us, became smaller and more shrunken. But no one could take away its pedigree, its ancient pedigree. Its old synagogue bore the stamp of 500 years of existence. The headstones in both of its cemeteries bore testimony to the many generations of Jews who were brought he to their final rest. The new cemetery alone, boasted of headstones more than 300 years old. Not far from the synagogue, there was a live spring of water. It is told that Rabbi Levi-Yitzhak of Berdichev bathed here. When a childhood disease broke out here, may this not even be thought of today, diphtheria, a fast was decreed, and prayers were said for ‘Selichot of sick children.’ When this did no good, Rabbi Levi-Yitzhak was brought to town, he who would carry on conversations with The Master of the Universe, as a man converses with his neighbor, in order that he pray for our children. He saw the poverty of the Jews, with several families living in one room, in a crowded condition, and he made use of the phrase from the Haftarah of that Week (in Isaiah 28:10): For precept must be upon precept, a precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; and he reasoned from this that it was neither in keeping with modesty and not healthy to live this way. It is further told that: R’ Levi-Yitzhak was brought to exorcize a demon: Who are you? He replies: A musician. R’ Levi-Yitzhak says: I will not set you right, until you sing for me the tune that you sang ast a wedding. The demon began to sing, and all the dark names of the dead. So I skipped eating, and fasted with the group, because it took the entire day. Accordingly, that evening, I had to remain for the large and prominent feast.


Apart from the old synagogue and the Bet HaMedrash, there were also Hasidic shtiblakh. The oldest and biggest could be found with R’ Yosha-Yankl, not far from the church. Not only once, did it happen that at the time of shaleshudes35, when the Hasidim went into a state if ecstasy, and began to dance – the church bell would start to ring, which would call the faithful to their Saturday evening mass. The Jews always thought that the gentiles did this on purpose. From time to time the Rebbes of the various Hasidic sects would come to Jablonka, and they were heartily received. In the year 1936, when I had come to say goodbye to my kin, before my voyage to go to Argentina, I found all the houses broken into, and the window panes broken, and I did not see a living thing in the street. Approaching the house of my parents – I heard a choked voice from the cellar: ‘We are hiding ourselves from the ‘Nara’ (???) people who are carrying out a pogrom against us...this is how the nationalist Poles prepared the ground for Hitler... I reminded myself: 75 years ago, in 1863, my grandfather hid himself in the cellar of the Polish leaders of the revolution, among them, the nobleman Skarzynski, the father of the Zambrow pharmacist. My grandfather, at that time, risked his life. Today, his grandchildren sit in the same cellar, and are hiding themselves from the Poles... I documented this, at the time, for the Jewish press...



1   Literally, ‘Mother’s Language’ in Yiddish, and referring to the Yiddish language itself.
2   Plural of the Yiddish baleboss, from the Hebrew, being ‘Master of the House,’ and referring to someone of that social standing.
3   Yiddish was far from a monolithic tongue. There were many dialects and variations throughout all of Europe, and no doubt, Zambrow had its own unique linguistic content.
4   This is a metaphoric assignment of a biblical name, of the people intent on destroying the ancient Israelites, to their latter day equivalents, the Nazi (see Deut 25:17).
5   The Hebrew word for a ledger
6   Yiddish for a ‘strip’ of road, possibly of significant access to the marketplace.
7   Plural of the Hebrew Dayan, for a Rabbi who acted in the capacity of a Judge.
8   Plural of the Hebrew Shamash (Yiddish: Shammes) for a synagogue sexton.
9   The literal translation of Yad VaShem, taken from Isaiah 56:5
10   Sigismund I the Old (Polish: Zygmunt I Stary; Lithuanian: Žygimantas II Senasis; 1 January 1467 - 1 April 1548) of the Jagiellon dynasty reigned as King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1506 to his death at age 81 in 1548. Before that, Sigismund had already been invested as Duke of Silesia.
11   The Yiddish says 1 volok = 30 marg
12   The Hebrew text reads: We have already documented the fact that the name was first written as ‘Zomrow,’ and later as ‘Zombrowa.’
13   Tykocin is variously called Tykocin, Tyktin, Tuktin, and Tikotzin in Hebrew
14   The Polish word for ‘Road.’ We will opt for the Polish word to achieve better conformity with existing maps.
15   The Hebrew text gives this as 668.
16   The title ‘fersht’ is alternatively translated as a Duke.
17   The Hebrew text says 1741, which does not agree with the calendar. The Hebrew seems to suggest the 16th and not the 17th.
18   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.
19   The Hebrew version is somewhat different: After 70 years, approximately, when the walls of the burned synagogue were torn down, the sealed pot was found – however the Rabbi ordered it to be re-entombed anew, and its contents not to be read.
20   The Hebrew suggests that R’ Yisrael was the son-in-law of Yeshia-Bezalel.
21   This information is inaccurate. ‘HaMelitz,’ originally conceived as a Hebrew and German periodical, first appeared in Odessa on September 29, 1860, edited by Aleksandr Iosipovich Zederbaum (EREZ). In the 42nd edition of HaMelitz, Zederbaum put in a large advertisement in Yiddish, covering 4 pages, in which he communicated the news that very quickly he will begin to publish a separate periodical written in plain Yiddish, by the name ‘Kol Mevaser.’ whose first edition appeared in October 11. 1862. It is with this edition, that the first epoch of the history of the Yiddish press begins, and a new era in the history of Yiddish literature.
22   The officially designated Rabbi of the area, as appointed by the government.
23   A ceremonial marker, usually of unobtrusive string hung high, to enclose an area within which the normal Sabbath prohibitions of the outdoors are suspended.
24   Baron Horace Ginzburg was a resident of St. Petersburg in Russia and a person of significant influence in Jewish Russia in the latter part of the nineteenth century. His bent was towards assimilating the Jewish population into the general Russian population. He believed that with secular education, the modification of Jewish dress, the acceptance of Russian language and culture by the Jews of Russia, the "Jewish problem" would be solved. He was one of the prime movers in the building of the great synagogue building in St. Petersburg, a synagogue that the more observant Jews there shunned.
25   Food that is not kosher, and therefore not fit for consumption by an observant Jew.
26   A confectionary festive side dish made with carrots, prunes, honey and raisins.
27   The cholent, was a slowly-cooked stew of meat (usually cheap cuts), potatoes, beans, carrots and sometime kishka, kept in the oven overnight. The practice, in these times, to conserve heating wood, was to take the cholent pot to a baker, who for a fee, would keep his ovens going overnight, to cook cholent, which was then picked up late in the morning, in time for the men returning from their services at the synagogue.
28   The Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partia Socjalistyczna)
29   From the website of the Wysokie-Mazowieckie Yizkor Book:
In 1905, the first Russian revolution broke out, but it passed over without leaving any visible effects on the little town, frozen in its old patterns, whose way of life continued as though nothing had happened. But at about the same time, an event took place in Wysokie which rocked the inhabitants of the town, Christians and Jews alike, and was to remain etched in their memories for years to come.

This extraordinary event was the famous robbery of the Russian Government Bank, the Kaznochestvo, by members of the Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S.) which was headed by Jozef Pilsudski.

The daring robbery, successfully organized and carried out, made a strong impression on Poland in particular, and on other parts of the Russian Empire as well. And the strongest impression of all was upon the residents of the town who were eyewitnesses to the bold and violent deed.

30   The ‘violence squad.’
31   It is important to note that this is the Polish city almost directly north of Zambrow, and not the Byelorussian city of Scucyn, which probably derived its name from it. We will use these two spellings to distinguish between them.
32   This is a consequence of the notorious ukase of Czar Nicholas I, promulgated in 1827, who instituted this program in order to forcibly hasten the assimilation of Jews into the fabric of Russian society.
33   A Cossack riding crop.
34   The Sabbath after Tisha B’Av
35   The Yiddish elision of the Hebrew words shalosh seudot, referring the the ‘third feast’ taken on the Sabbath day, using in middle to late afternoon.


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