Janów Lubelski – the shtetl
On April 24, 1652, Jan Zamoyski, the 3rd Ordynat of the Zamość Estate, issued an order permitting Jews to settle in Janów.
The beginnings of Jewish settlement
In response to the depopulation of the town caused by the ravages of war and epidemics, on April 24, 1652, Jan Zamoyski, the 3rd Ordynat of the Zamość Estate, issued an order permitting Jews to settle in Janów. Pursuant to this order, Jews were allowed to engage in trade, slaughter of animals, tailoring and furriery. The order also exempted Jews from taxes for 15 years, but forbade them to built houses along the market square and near the Catholic church.
On May 29, 1654, Zamoyski permitted Jews to settle and purchase property in the town, and to erect eight stalls in the marketplace to facilitate trade. In subsequent orders, Zamoyski revoked the previous privileges, and on May 19, 1664, he forbade the Jews to buy houses in the marketplace from the Christians.
The charters of June 8, 1680 and December 28, 1687 granted all residents of Janów the exclusive right to produce and sell liquor, beer and mead. In 1769 the Jews were deprived of that right, which met with protests. The document in question, however, allowed Jews to trade in wax, tallow and leather. Restrictions with regard to the Jewish population were caused by the disruption of the economic balance between the Jews and Christians. The assets held by Jews increased in the 17th century.
Religious organizations – the Jewish community
The tasks of the Jewish community council included organizing and maintaining the rabbinate, synagogue and house of prayer. The small Jewish community in Janów was supervised by the Minister of Religious Affairs and Public Education.
Jews had a synagogue, built with their own funds, and a wooden house of prayer, next to which a bath and school for Jewish children were built. Rabbi Goldstein presided over the community until 1914.
When rabbi Icek Majer Broder died after many years of services, the Jews of Janów became strongly divided into two factions: conservative and progressive. The former wanted Broder’s grandson to become rabbi, while the latter put forward a more liberal candidate. Finally, three candidates were up for election: Herszel Frenkel from Gorlice, Chaskiel Halbersztam from Rudki, and Wejs Pinkus from the county of Turek. Eventually, Chaskiel Halbersztam won 234 votes and became rabbi.
National holidays were observed by Jews and Poles alike, and on such occasions services were held both at the church and synagogue. On hearing the news of Piłsudski’s death, Jews cancelled all parties. They were alarmed by anti-Jewish action carried out by Polish nationalists.
Janów Lubelski features in the short stories by of Isaac Bashevis Singer, e.g. Yentl the Yeshiva Boy, Naftali the Storyteller and His Horse Sus, The Beggar Said So, The Brooch.
The Jews of Janów, similar to other towns, were primarily engaged in trade. A vast majority of stores belonged to Jews. In 1922, during the deepening economic crisis, Jewish entrepreneurs set up the Savings and Loan Cooperative that became the Merchant’s and Crafstmen’s Bank in 1924 and the People’s Bank in 1925. The economic crises of the interwar period brought trade to a standstill and led to higher taxes.
In 1921 a local branch of Agudat Yisrael was set up in Janów; the party emphasized the religious upbringing of young people and the defense of the civic rights of Jews. A county convention of Agudat held in Janów in 1933 gathered 400 participants. The speakers included rabbi Broder, Majer Ajbuszyc as well as Himel Ibenbaum, a representative of the Orthodox Jews in Janów. The convention ended with an appeal dissuading young people from getting involved in politics and persuading them to take care of their spiritual development. Janów was also visited by representatives of Agudat from other cities. In 1934, guests from Warsaw, Fiszel Flama and Hejnoch Rotfarb, advocated the dissemination of faith and restoration of Palestine. Agudat supporters from Janów also travelled and gave lectures, e.g. Rajzla Izraelowicz talked in Kraśnik about the religious upbringing of children.
Zionist organization were also active in Janów, such as the Mizrachi, the Organization of Orthodox Zionists, which advocated the cultural and national autonomy of Jews as well as the maintenance of their religious identity. The party’s share in the town’s political life was small, however. The most active were youth organizations such as the Hechalutz (the Pioneer), Brit Trumpeldor, and Hechalutz Hatzair (the Young Pioneer). These associations focused on improving young people’s physical fitness, and on cultural and educational activities propagating emigration to Palestine. They organized events in memory of Theodor Herzl, the father of the Zionist movement. They also organized lectures, marches and monthly dances, and staged plays such as Der Provokator, Zakątek Brazylii (A Nook of Brazil), Młot życia (The Hammer of Life). The lectures were devoted to subjects such as “The Role of a Wife in a Family in Palestine” or “The Paths of Action and Restoration in Palestine”. On May 14, 1933, scouts organized marches in towns of the county in memory of Josef Trumpeldor.
1931 saw the establishment of a local branch of the New Zionist Organization (previously the Zionist Revisionists party) whose members sought to take armed action in Palestine.
The Jews of Janów were also members of communist organizations: the Communist Party of Poland, the Communist Union of Polish Youth, and the International Red Aid. The best known communist activists in Janów included Nusym Beserman, Chaim Jagerman, Zachariasz Musman, who, along with many other activists were arrested in 1934 for activities against the Polish state.
In the late 1930s the National Party became more active. In 1936, it organized a boycott of Jewish stores. Its members prepared and distributed anti-Jewish pamphlets. During an action on July 15, the following slogans were written on the walls of houses: Poles! On the sixteenth anniversary of repelling the Bolsheviks, you have to fight Jewish communists! Poland for Poles! Do not buy in Jewish stores! These actions led to the establishment of stores run by Poles from the Poznań Province. The Polish stores, however, could not compete against cheap goods sold by Jews.
From the very beginning of the German occupation, Jewish stores were plundered, and Jews were confined to a labor camp established in Bialska Street at the end of 1940. Jews were employed in clearing the rubble and dismantling burned houses, and loading the debris on carts. In 1942, the entire Jewish population of Janów was annihilated. Mass executions of Jews were carried out at the Jewish cemetery, near the prison and at the synagogue. Jews were brought to the execution site on farmer’s carts or in trucks guarded by the police. Then they were forced to dig their own graves before being shot by the Nazis. About 300 people were murdered at the Jewish cemetery. The number of Jews murdered in other places is unknown. In 1942, the surviving Jews were deported to Zaklików, and from there they were taken to the death camp in Bełżec. Actions against Jews in Janów Lubelski were part of "Aktion Reinhard" carried out in the Lublin Region.
Prepared by: Aleksandra Duź