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Religious Buildings

Most of the Jews in Bodzentyn were either Orthodox Jews, or Khassidim. They wore traditional clothing and observed the Shabbat and the Holidays. On the Jewish houses there was a mezuzah at the doorpost — a traditional reminder of the commandments as dictated in the Torah.

The religious yearly cycle began in the fall with the High Holy Days, the ten “Days of Awe” that began with Rosh Hashana (The New Year) and ended with Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement). These were quickly followed by Sukkot (the Festival of Booths), Shemini Atzeret and Simkhat Torah (Rejoicing of The Law).

On Yom Kippur, the Jews in Bodzentyn would symbolically cast off sins (their own and off all humankind) for which they had atoned into the Psarka River. During Sukkot, to commemorate the forty years of wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt, it was common practice at each household to build a sukkah (temporary hut) in which meals were taken and sometimes even nights were spent.

The synagogue and house of study (Beit Midrash) was on the Wesoła Street. There was also a Jewish library and a cheder, a religious elementary school such as in the photo.
© Bodzentyn.net, courtesy of Yad Vashem.

The first Jewish settlers in Bodzentyn gathered in private homes to pray. In the late ninetieth century there was an official prayer wooden house at the upper market. The ritual bath, mikveh, was on the Kielce Street.

The synagogue that was originally set up was damaged by fire, as it seems in 1889. Chaim Silberberg was in charge of the reconstruction of the building. In the process he received financial support from the Jewish Community as well as a helping hand from Alter Szachter and Berek Wajngold. The “new” building was to be bigger than the first one. The flight of stairs in this two-story building was to be replaced by a staircase in stone due to security precautions. When the building was finished everyone seems to have been satisfied with the result. According to Samuel Flaumenbaum, who was born in Bodzentyn in 1915, there was a special place in the synagogue where poor Jews that came from other villages were offered accommodation for the night.

The Bazh’tshine rebbe, Moszek Awner Grynbaum (Grinbaum), served as the town rabbi from 1888 until his death 1906. Thereafter a new rabbi was elected by the name Szmul Hersz Zylbersztajn (Silbersztajn). In 1910 he was indeed concerned about the sick in Bodzentyn and thus wrote in a letter to Kielce that 100 people had become infected with scarlet fever. The situation was becoming increasingly dangerous and the rabbi was asking for a doctor that could help the people who had become ill.

The name of Mr Zylbersztajn's successor in the 1930s was Herszka Szwarc (Henry Schwartz). There is supposed to have been a tzaddik in Bodzentyn in the 1920s, but his name is not known. Or else, this may be the tzaddik from Ostrowiec, that some refer to in their testimonies. There is in fact more than one who testifies that their grandfather/grandmother was a Hassid and a follower of the Rabbi from Ostrowiec, (Ostrowiec Rebbe).

In 1917 another fire broke out threatening to destroy all houses and buildings in Bodzentyn. In fact half of the village was destroyed, as was the synagogue. The Jewish Community restored it in 1929, but at the time of the Second World War the Nazis demolished it. Most likely this was ordered during the time of the military post in Bodzentyn (1943-1944), in an attempt to erase all trace of the former Jewish community.

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