ספר זיכרון לקהילת טורק וקדושיה
הוצא לאור ע"י ארגון יוצאי טורק בישראל, תל אביב 1882
A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Turek, Poland
Published by the Turek Organization in Israel, Tel Aviv 1982
Hebrew, Yiddish, English, 468 pages
The Turek Yizkor Book On-line at the New York Public Library
Drawing by Benn
THE HISTORY OF TUREK
By J. Seiffe
Excerpted and translated to English by Nachomeh-Mindel Lipp.
Transcribed from the Yizkor Book and edited
by Susan Pentlin, PhD
email: pentlin "at" ucmo.edu (replace "at" by @ to avoid spam)
Pages 459-476 (I-XVIII)
The Early History of Turek
Turek’s Development from the 17th Century through World War I
Institutions of Turek
Religious | Educational | Governmental | Health and Welfare | Industrial |
Commerce and Labor | Recreational
World War I
Settlement of Jews in Turek
The Zionist Movement
This account of Turek’s history is approached with mixed feelings. One is curious to know its origins and development into one of the most popular cities in Poland. At the same time, much sorrow and pain is there. The knowledge that the place where a vital Jewish life once glowed is now “clean of Jews” cannot be met with equanimity. Turek’s Jewish community, of course, suffered the same fate as all the others which were brutally destroyed by the Nazis.
THE EARLY HISTORY OF TUREK
The exact date of Turek’s beginning is not known. The name appears as early as 1136, with indications that it was part of the Gniesen archbishopric. Turek is mentioned again in several documents from the years 1298 and 1321 but it was not until 1341 that it was recognized as a city. It thus seems that in its earliest years it was a small settlement which grew and prospered over time until it eventually became the county seat and busy industrial textile center we knew.
The name itself underwent several transformations; it was known as Brzednice, Turkowice, Turkowisty, and Thurek. In 1341, Archbishop Janislaw of Gniesen established the name as Turek and included under it the nearby villages of Balle, Penchovzowo, Michlin and Bezblina. Turek derives from the word for the oxen (turs) which used to roam in the deep neighboring forests.
In 1420, Primate Nicholai Tromba permitted fairs and market days to be held in Turek. That Turek continued to flourish is indicated by the large sum of silver and gold which the city loaned to King Kazimierz Jagiello to aid the war against the Germans. In return, the city was freed from the Fair Tax in addition to having a portion of the loan repaid. Later, under Archbishop Wezik, the inhabitants of Turek were granted even more financial privileges. At that time, according to an Act issued at Skierniewice, Turek owned approximately 25 acres of arable soil for which the tax was 20 grosz plus 8 bushels of rye and oats. The 4 acres belonging to the sheriff were tax free. In addition, each artisan paid 6 grosz for his home and workshop, cobblers, tailors and merchants of fabric and clothing paid 4 grosz, and the journeyman tax was 1 grosz.
Turek suffered two destructive fires during those years. One in 1523 and one in 1636 when it was almost totally destroyed. Shortly thereafter, in 1648, Turek participated in the widespread witch hunts of that era. Several local women were accused of Satanic activities, were tried, and ceremoniously burned in the market place.
TUREK’S DEVELOPMENT FROM THE 17TH CENTURY
THROUGH WORLD WAR I
Turek lies at the foot of the Kielbaska, one of the many tributaries of the Warta River. It is bounded on the North by Konin and Kolo, on the East by Lenczicza and Sieradz, on the South by Sieradz and Kalisz, and on the West by Kalisz and Konin. It is situated on a plateau with small rises near the Warta.
The higher portions were originally covered with thick forests. These were gradually leveled to form meadows and cultivated land which was distributed to the early settlers of the region. Uniejev, a village on the Warta, was apparently the center of agricultural activity.
Turek as a city grew chaotically at first, without prior planning. Houses were put up at will in the midst of fields and gardens with no thought about communicating thoroughfares. In 1824, however, Turek was rebuilt in accordance with a unified architectural plan which resulted in a central market place from which four large avenues and several side streets radiated.
Craftsmen and weavers from Chechy and Saxony began to arrive in the neighborhood of Turek in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The encouraging conditions provided by Tsar Alexander I gave impetus to the rapid development of the textile industry throughout Poland and thus encouraged the influx of weavers from Germany. The primitive handloom was gradually replaced by machine power and Turek, along with the larger industrial centers, became known for its percale, calico, and woolen fabrics. The weaving industry there was largely concentrated in the neighborhoods known as Fertl (Pulco) and Novoshviat. The Jews of Turek participated in the manufacture and distribution of the finished fabrics and thus shared in the general prosperity.
Near the close of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, Turek was briefly governed by Prussia. The first documentary evidence of Jewish inhabitants dates from this period (1789). Shortly thereafter, Napoleon made his way through Eastern Europe. When he was driven out by the Russians in 1813, Turek as part of the district of Kalisz fell under Russian domination. Turek was officially declared a member of Congress Poland in 1821 and in 1866 was made a county seat, still under Russian rule. The City Hall, topped by a clock tower and the emblem of a tur (the oxen which lived in the surrounding forests) was built the following year.
Polish Revolts: There is documentary evidence that the Jews of Turek participated in the two major, though unsuccessful, insurrections against Russia. In 1830, a student named Rufinski was hanged for his activities. In the revolt of 1863, there were battles in the vicinity of Turek. There is evidence that a Jewish horse dealer was killed and that two brothers named Portag were imprisoned for giving aid to the Polish rebels. In addition, it is known, via the chronicles of Anton Branikowski, an inhabitant of Kalisz, that cooperation between the Jews and Poles in the district was very close during the period. Jewish women are credited with supplying clothing, food, and medications to the rebels among whose ranks many Jews fought. As a result, the leader of the revolutionaries, Edmund Tatchanowski, proclaimed full freedom for Poles and Jews alike.
Jews were similarly involved in the anti-Russian demonstrations of 1905-1906. When the socialist leader Pilsudski expropriated government funds being carried by the Postal Service from Turek to Kalisz and Orla-Gora, he found refuge in the home of a Jewish dentist in Turek. He as well as a number of other Jews were covert members of the P. P. S. (Polish Socialist Party).
By the end of the 19th century, according to the census of 1897, the population of the county had grown to 87,000, including approximately 5,000 Jews. The population of Turek itself is given as 8,117, a mixture of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, the latter numbering 2,074. The surrounding towns had varying proportions of Christians and Jews.
Institutions of Turek
Religious: The Catholic Church was the major force in the parish of Turek in the early years. It owned most of the land and levied substantial taxes. For example, in 1774, Archbishop Ostrowski was paid 2500 zlotys for land and produce. Over the years, several church buildings were destroyed by fire, once during the Crusades. One of the early wooden churches was eventually converted to a hospice for the homeless. In 1910, the Catholic Cathedral was built on the site of a 14th century church. The Old Catholic cemetery was excavated in 1817 and remains of a still older graveyard were found. Similar finds dating from the Roman era were found near the city of Kalisz.
The Protestants of Turek came later with the development of the textile industry and built their Evangelical Church in 1849. The Jews, of course, also had their house of worship, a walled Synagogue built to replace an earlier one which had burned.
Educational: In 1788. Duke Poniatowski offered a group of young students from Turek the opportunity to pursue advanced studies as teachers and organists. By the close of the 19th century, Turek had two Catholic schools, one Protestant school attached to the Evangelical Church, one Jewish school where secular subjects such as Russian were taught, and seven chedorim. In addition, both girls and boys could attend the city school or a private school, as well as receiving instruction from private tutors. A high school (gymnasium) for boys was founded in 1912 and sometime later a girls’ high school was opened. In 1925, a handsome general school building was erected.
Governmental: These institutions included a bank, a mortgage underwriter, offices of the County Commissioner, Recruiting Commissioner, Prosecuting Attorney, and a squadron of Dragoons.
A voluntary fire brigade was formed in 1874 with 135 active members and 74 honorary members. Only two Jewish names appear among them — Koppel Levinski and Koppel Moszkowics.
Health and Welfare: Turek had 3 physicians, 3 midwives, 1 veterinarian, 2 dentists, 3 barber-surgeons, 1 apothecary, and 2 drug stores. There was a bath house for the general public and a ritual Mikvah for the Jewish population.
A research station for the study of trachoma was established the slaughter house in 1874. During the following year, Turek built the Hospital of St. Paul. With an annual budget of 5,253 rubles, it supported 27 beds and facilities for welfare cases including a separate section for Jews.
Industrial: Although weaving was the major industry in Turek with 360 workshops and 3 dye houses, other industries flourished also. Thus, there were 2 boiler factories, 3 oil presses, 16 windmills, 1 power mill, and several soap factories. There was also a tannery, a brewery, a distillery, and factories for the manufacture of shoes, matches, bricks, agricultural machinery, and carriages.
Turek also shared in the technological development of the 20th century. A railroad spur connecting with the main line at Opatowek was built during the German occupation of World War I and electricity was installed in 1916.
Commerce and Labor: The business and work force included several large commercial establishments, numerous small food shops, 18 forges, 26 carpenters, 39 bakers, 45 shoemakers, 4 cobblers, 13 wheelwrights, 4 saddlers, 53 tailors, 5 potters, 2 oven makers, 8 tinsmiths, 4 cap makers, 2 wig makers, and 3 milliners. Information and culture was disseminated by 3 bookshops and, after World War I, a local newspaper. Joy was purveyed by 3 winemakers. 40 beer houses, and 3 Jewish inns.
There were 6 annual fairs and 2 weekly market days held on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Recreational: Turek was rich in outdoor recreational opportunities. It is surrounded by many streams and rivulets flowing out of the Kielbaska and bath houses were erected near those which lent themselves to swimming and boating. The area was further enhanced by private orchards and Turek’s two public parks. The larger park, called the Wild Garden, was near the Catholic Church. Its well kept lawns, comfortable benches, and trees shaded walks were conducive to evening promenades. The other park, near the Evangelical Church, was known for the concerts performed by the Fire Brigade Band. Nature lovers could also enjoy the long Alleya Walk, which led into one of the many deep forest surrounding Turek.
Recreation of a different kind was provided by an amateur theatrical group which eventually acquired an establishment of its own with scenery, wardrobe, and a small library. Musical interest and activity was fostered by a choral group established by artisans and laborers, and by an amateur orchestra founded in 1891. During the First World War, a cinema was opened by a Jewish printer named Mornell. Purely Jewish cultural activities will be described below.
WORLD WAR I
Very soon after the beginning of the war, on September 27, 1914, Germans troops occupied Turek. By early November, after several skirmishes, the Russian Cossacks were once more in control. One of their activities, aided by some of the Polish population, was the plundering of Jewish establishments. The Germans soon entered Turek again, however, and remained there until the end of the war.
Although the population as a whole suffered some initial harassment, life soon returned to normal. In particular, the relationship between the Jews and German military was good. Many refuges from the surrounding area came to Turek and a Refuge Aid Committee was established to help the Jews among them.
Germany declared Poland an independent kingdom in 1916, Polish legions were formed to fight with the Germans, and 50 legionaries arrived in Turek. After being defeated in 1918, the German garrison withdrew from Turek. After being defeated in 1918, the German garrison withdrew from Turek. Several shooting incidents occurred as they were leaving, between them and some patriotic Poles. A gentile teacher, Kanczkowski, was killed. He made a strong anti-Jewish declaration at a public meeting the previous evening. Because several Jewish youths had been present, the rumor that they were responsible for Kanczkowski’s death spread quickly. Serious trouble was averted by a priest who quieted the angry crowd at the funeral by assuring them that the teacher had been shot by the evacuating soldiers.
After the Germans left, a temporary governing board for Turek was set up. It included several Jews: S. H. Gerson, M. B. Taube, M. Apt, and H. Mornell. The board administered Turek’s affairs until it became part of the district of Łódż in 1919.
To conclude, it can be said that the Jews of Turek were fairly well integrated with the Christian community. They traded with each other and formed business alliances despite a frequent undercurrent of anti-Semitism which was particularly marked when the Svoi do svega (to each his own) movement was popular. Jewish life in Turek continued to progress positively until World War II destroyed it completely.
SETTLEMENT OF JEWS IN TUREK
Old documents found in the archives of the City of Gniezno disclose that Jewish settlement in Poland dates back to the Third Partition of the country. First arrival must have reached the township of Turek in 1798. They showed marked Prussian influence by way of dress, speech, and bearing names such as, Miller, Schiffer, Glicksman, Fuchs, Winter, Oppenheim, Taube. Neighboring towns, like Dobra, Uniejów, Kolo, Konin, Russocice and Rychwal having had an earlier Jewish population came forward with ready help to the newcomers. Some headstones can be found in burial places of Dobra and Russocice with inscriptions of Jewish inhabitants of Turek.
Its population gradually increased. First, the great fire in Dobra drove Jewish people in great numbers to adjacent settlements, many of them seeking and finding asylum in Turek. Then, with the rise of the textile industry, the town reached the status of a manufacturing center. Jewish people participated as, weavers, wool dyers, cutters and distributors. Jewish merchants delivered raw material and carried the finished goods to local and county Fairs in covered wagons. Well-known names are remembered among the merchant weavers, Moshe Glube, David Glube, Hersch Maier Schmul, Heilman Schmul, Fischl Kovalski, Herschl Yakobowich, the Saches, the Stempas. Rachael Mahler, historian, tells of notable Jewish contributions to the town’s prosperity. Jewish merchants arbitrated settlements of strikes, invariably obtaining increases in wages and improved working conditions. Out of the cities of Łódż and Kalisz, busiest centers of the industry, many opportunities flowed. The cotton merchants, Josef Redlick and Ludwig Mamral, extended installment buying of raw material under favorable rates of payment, without interest.
Further, Jews participated and contributed to general trade and commerce, as craftsmen and journeymen, trading in grain, flour, tea, coffee, meat, fish, herring, cheese, wine, heating materials and general goods. Retail trading prevailed in Jewish hands, non-Jewish merchants dominating the wholesale field. A good relationship existed in normal times between Jew and Gentile.
"Die breite Gass" (Broad Street) housed Jewish families of modest income. There the Synagogue stood, the Beth-Midrash, Mikvah (Ritual Baths). People of greater prosperity had their homes in the well-appointed localities of the town. The Congregation ("Kehilla") headed by the Rov (Rabbi), Dyan (Judge), Chazan-Schochet, Schamas (Beadle), and Dozores (Trustees), comprised the clerical Rule over the Kehilla, governing religious life of the community, its institutions of education, charity, application of judicial law in local disputes, and relationships with the outside world.
Of the early Rabbonim, R' David Chaim Braun, austere and pious is reverently remembered. He lived a life of poverty and contemplation. Other Rabbonim were: R' Hersch Leib Wachsman, a man of profound perception, amiability and vast learning. He taught talented young men, of particular endowment, fine young men like Josef Binum Yachimovich, Schmuel Maier Rosenzweig, David Kivala, Yechezkiel, young son of the Rabbi. The writer had been fortunate, indeed, to have gained entry to the Study Chamber of this Teacher, R' Pinchas Wengroff, son-in-law to Rabbi Wachsman. One of the founders of "Agudath Israel" ("Agudah"), the Rabbi wielded consideration authority over secular matters. R' Pinchas Weis, a great Sage, was the last shepherd of the Kehilla. He was of the elect of the Yeshivah of "Chachemei Lublin" (Sages of Lublin) and shared the lot of his people.
In the formative days of the Kehilla, laymen officiated before the Amud (pulpit), the limiting way of life making the engagement of a Cantor prohibitive. Increasing prosperity finally permitted the engagement of Cantor Moshe Litwak (a Lithuanian) much loved by everyone for his warm baritone, warm humanity, scholarly liturgy and great devotion to his calling. People flocked to his Services. The Cantor organized the first choir of young men and boys (Raphael Litmanovich), Avraham Seiffe and Pinchas Seiffe, outstanding among them). The Cantor bequeathed his gifts to his two sons who gained wide renown in large Kehilloth.
Under Cantor Przysucher the choir attained great excellent numbering among its members Moshe Seiffe and Favel David Roth. Moshe Seiffe became in his adult years celebrated on the amateur theater stage. Cantor Przysucher achieved great success in Hamburg, upon relinquishing his post in Turek.
Hertzke Landau, another Cantor of considerable endowment, succumbed, as well, to the call of the larger field and accepted the position of Ober-Cantor in Holland (Amsterdam).
From time to time guest Chazonim were summoned before the Amod. We mention here the memorable event when Avraham Bykovski, graduate of the Cantorial Seminarium under the eminent pedagogue Cantor Birnbaum — Częestochowa — Łódż, created a furor during the High Holy Days after outstanding successes in Petrograd. His voice, a dramatic tenor, attracted large crowds paying homage to its extraordinary quality. Pious Chassidim, their customary manner withdrawn from secular religious groups, succumbed, and came in great numbers.
Other Houses of Worship held separate services under Chazonim of their Choice. At the Beth-Midrash, Moshe Senior, also called Moshe Bass, officiated. Others were, Simcha Bunim Golumb, Menachem Arkush, and for High Holiday Days, Reb Herschl Schochet. He was also Baal Korei (Reader) at the Chassidic Shtibel on other occasions. At the "Alexander Shtibel" (Alexander Chassidim — group of adherents to the Rabbi of Alexander), Baal Korei was Avraham Shubinski, the Baal Tephilah was Schelomo Litmanovich (Baal Tephilah — Chanter). At the New Beth-Midrash, Raphael Bikowski and Simcha Ber Vartski. Annually, the Selichos prayers were intoned by Reb Yaakov Rockman at the Gerer Shtibel (another group of Chassidim loyal to the Rabbi of Ger – from Góra Kalawria). Selichos time is the time of penitence when hearts turn to the Almighty to be Judged as sons, by a forgiving Father. Reb Yaakov’s vibrant chanting offered up in humility and supplication, were believed to touch the Throne of the Shekhinah (The Divine Presence).
Reb (Old) Eisek, an unassuming man, kept the Synagogue and the Old Beth-Midrash in good order, announced the coming of the Sabbath using his wooden knocker to remind storekeepers to close up and working people to cease from all labors. Old Eisek’s other duties were to awaken Sabbath afternoon sleepers for prayer, to summon people at dawn at Selichos time to the Synagogue, Beth-Midrash or the Shtibel, and to announce burials, reminding mourners, with his wooden knocker, that "Charity Saves from Death".
Reb Hersh Yaakov Lissack, gaunt and withdrawn, was forever bickering with the young men at the Beth-Midrash for their negligence to keep the Books in repair.
Reb Menachem Shchencinski, the Chief Beadle, was a man of modern leanings, a subscriber to the Hebrew “Hatzephira”. He served as Baal Shacharis at morning services, administered the Mikvah, and was registrar of newborn, the Jewish infants of the Kehillah.
These functionaries, elected every two years, collected the tax, registered births and deaths at the City Magistrate Hall, supervised education, charities: the Hekdesh (Poorhouse), the Chevrah Kadisha (Burial Society) and arbitrated disputes. Providing the poor with Matzos and kosher foods for Passover, and visiting the sick, was a fundamental part of their function. Outstanding members were: Abba Sheiniak, his son, Ber Sheiniak, Avraham Fuchs, Eisek Zahn, Itschok Urbach, Gad Levi, Moshe Apt, Maier Ber Taube, and in later years, M. Marber, Avraham Seiffe, Mordechai Levi, Herschl Zimnavoda and Ahron Yakobovich, Reb Naphtali Moshe Patsanovski and Yaakov (Yekevie) Kivala assumed special responsibility for caring for the destitute and finding meals for all needy, particularly, for the Sabbath and the Holy Days.
A Jewish boy, even of impoverished parents, had to go to school. Turek had two Melamdim (teachers) for the elementary grads. "Der Geller" Melamed (due to his great yellow beard), and the "Warter" Melamed (a man from the town of Warta). The children were taught the alphabet, some Hebrew reading and children’s prayers by heart. Advanced Melamdim were Chaim Noah Ehman, Favish Sender, Schmuel Wolf Schmul and Mordechai Yaakov Kibel. Their students studied Hebrew, the Prayer Book, Chumosh (Pentateuch), and the Scriptures. On the highest level stood Reb Yeshaiah Alter, Glicenstein (father of the famed sculptor, Henri Glicenstein), David Senior, Reuven Josef, Avraham Isroel, "Saggi Noer" (Blind), the "Blashker" Melamed, Benjamin Mordechai Friede, Zelig Yaffe and the Sieradzer Melamed. Under these teachers the Talmud was taught (Gemarra, Mishnah). Young Melamdim for the advanced studies of the Talmud were Maier David Yachimovich and David Hersch Davidovich (nicknamed "Yoktan").
Teaching of the Commentaries, Discourses in Halachah and Agaddah, among others, completed these high-level instructions.
Private tutors taught languages and arithmetic. The historian, Moshe Feinkind, native of Turek, taught children of wealthy homes. Shmuel Wacksman, Wolkovich, and Chaim Maier Berkovich were among the most popular instructors. Women taught young ladies. A Government sponsored school of two classes which accepted Jewish girls, was headed by Sanina, a man of fine cultivation, and Mme. Taube, stately and aristocratic. Some young people studied through correspondence, languages and bookkeeping. Joseph Aberstein, Josef Binum Yachimovich and the writer among them.
THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT
The writer’s name appears frequently in these pages. In apology, it may be said, that from earliest youth the idea of Zion, the Land of our Fathers, motivated his existence. Many members of the community of Turek dedicated themselves and spent their energies toward the realization of a return to Zion. Through long centuries of outcast living among strangers, the radiant memory of the Land of Israel eased our burdens. Occasionally, pious messengers from Eretz Israel appeared for donations to help the upkeep of Yeshivahs. Nothing else ever happened to alleviate the gloom, generation after generation. Toward the last quarter of the nineteenth century a pioneering group, “Hovvei Zion” (adorers of Zion), and the “Bilu” (Beth Yaakov L’chu V’Nelcho) (House of Jacob, Rise and Let us Go), pilgrims, preceded political Zionism. The movement awakened Jewish hearts, numb from millennial hopelessness. Young people were thrown into a fever of activity, braving censure of their elders the pious, who with undiminished faith continued in their prayers for the Coming of the Messiah, the Only Redeemer of Israel.
Zionism continued widening its circles, slowly and gradually overcoming opposition. It fathered unto itself the "Mizrachi". "The Zeirei Zion" (Youth of Zion) stood in the foreground in the town of Turek, with its President, Moshe Warshavski, one of the most dedicated sons of Zion; Itschok Seiffe, Secretary. In executive and organizational capacity, men of substance and learning offered their services, men like Isroel Kohn, Isroel Kivala, Lazar Weinreich, Zamulek Glube, Aron Starkman, Josef Aberstein and Michael Zahn. Clubrooms were rented: Hebrew courses for young men and women were formed. Lectures were periodically held on literature, history and discourses on the Bible. Renowned visitors spoke on various occasions, at literary meetings and fund-raising Campaigns for the Jewish National Fund, whose objective were to pay for every bit of land in Israel, to drain malaria-infested swampland, and the reclamation of soil turned arid.
During World War I Zionist activities slowed down. The plight of people streaming in from bombed out Kalisz called for immediate action. A relief committee to provide lodging, food and clothing for the homeless was promptly organized under Zionist leadership and strongly supported by the entire Kehilla. The Beth-Midrash, and Community Chambers were turned into dormitories. Private homes were opened to the needy. The cooking was done on Synagogue ground, and two full meals were served daily. Messengers carried food to the aged and the weak. These activities continued until proper means for relocation and reestablishment of people were found.
The Zionist Party was officially formalized in 1918, after World War I ended. Turning back to the intervening years, the movement accelerated and slowed down its pace, reshaping its inner and outer life, motivating its orientation by the world around it.
Hebrew studies were seriously taken up by people in all walks of life. A library was founded: Books in Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish were collected and purchased. The thirst for intellectual expansion equaled the devotion to Zion.
Note. In the formative years of the movement, Moshe Warshavsky presented a leading pedagogue, Rumianek, to a group of students of Hebrew. Assisted by able instructors, Mr. Rumianek’s classes revolutionized the entire teaching system. His courses included Hebrew and Jewish Literature, mathematics and the Talmud. Notable scholars emerged from that school.
The Hebrew Kindergarten was formed in 1916. The children were enchanted by the games, songs, story-telling and outings. The teachers were: Rebekah Wallstein, of Otwock, unassuming and learned. She considered her calling as a sacred trust. Miriam Chereshnia, worldly efficient had great ability as a disciplinarian. Chave Lipp, who could do no wrong, as far as her charges were concerned.
A Dramatic Section was organized and gained great popularity, under the leadership of Avraham Seiffe and Krause. Itschok Maier Gold and Schelomo Gold were musical directors. Talented peopled dedicated their services, in performances like "Barkochva", "Kol Nidrei", "David in the Wilderness" and "The Jewish King Lear". Participating artists were Moshe Seiffe, Abraham Seiffe, Zamulek Glube, a Miss Stein, from another town, niece to the generally admired barber-surgeon, the charming Zamulek Stein. Miss Stein was outstanding as Dinah in "Bar Kochva", and so was Chava Lipp as Princess Michael in "David in the Wilderness" and Cesia Cinnamon as Francesca in "Kol Nidrei". Others, were Levi Lisak, Michael Josef Rosenblum, Edzia Glube and Avrommche Bikowski.
The "Turnverein" came into being in 1917. As it was organized by members of "Zeirei Zion" and the Socialist-oriented "Bund" friction was inevitable, necessitating constant readjustment. Nevertheless, at the great Zionist demonstration on "Lag B’Omer" (the festival of the thirty – third day of the counting of the Omer), 1918, the "Bund" was prominently represented. The two groups marched in triumphant unity, carrying the Flag of Zion blue and white, with the Shield of David emblem emblazoned in gold. This was an event of great daring for a town in Poland. Jubilant people, young and old, sang joyous songs marched together with children free from school, carrying banners of blue and white. Great crowds, Jew and Gentile, watched in astonishment, even admiration. Upon reaching the picnicking grounds of the Folush at the outskirt of the town, repast and entertainment was provided for the crowds. There was singing, dancing, recitation, athletic feats on that memorable day, until late in the night.
To further Zionist activities, members of the party of Turek actively took part in general conferences. Initially, Isroel Kohn and Itschok Seiffe, actively participated in plenary sessions, general debates and special committees, throwing their support toward the election of I. Grinbaum, Jewish Representative to the Seim of Poland.
On the municipal level, a Jewish Labor candidate for representative, Mr. Mornel, gained joint support of the "Agudah", "Mizrachi" and the "Zeirei Zion" when, after much opposition, the "Agudah" was prevailed upon to support him in the best interests of the Kehilla. The Labor candidate won, justifying the faith of his supporters.
In 1920, the first pioneering group left Turek for Eretz Isroel. The pioneers went individually and in family groups. Other groups, of various political leanings, followed in their path as long as migration was possible.
In sum, it is evident that the Jewish community in Turek covered the entire ranged of possible religious, political, and cultural activities. All, we know to our sorrow, came to an end with the coming of the Nazi regime. This document is thus a monument to a vital Jewish community which once flourished and now is no more.
1. Krushinski, L. Monograph of the City Turek.
2. Krushinski and Bartl. Psachodka of Turka. (A walk through Turek.)
3. Jewish Encyclopedia (Russian)
4. Hebrew Encyclopedia.
5. Jewish Encyclopedia (German).
6. Shatski, J. Jews in Warsaw.
7. Geographical dictionary of the Polish Kingdom.
8. Mahler, R. Jews in Poland.
9. The book of four countries. A collection of documents –Va’ad arbah aratzot.
10. Memorial Book of Kalish, 1966.
11. Halevi, B. History of the Jews in Kalisz.
12. Personal interviews with former inhabitants of Turek.
Last updated June 12th, 2007