Religious buildings

The synagogue and house of study (Beit Midrash) were on Wesoła Street. There was also a Jewish library and a cheder, a religious elementary school such as in the photo. Find the Wesoła Street on Google Maps

The religious year

Most of the Jews in Bodzentyn were either Orthodox Jews or Chassidim. They wore traditional clothing and observed the Shabbat and the Holidays. There was a mezuzah at the doorpost on the Jewish houses—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 bySukkot (the Festival of Booths), Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of The Law).

On Yom Kippur, the Jews in Bodzentyn would symbolically cast off sins (their own and of 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

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 Kielce Street. Archival documents show that it may have been hard to keep the water supply and its sanitary conditions right.

The synagogue that was originally set up was damaged by fire, most probably in 1889. Chaim Silberberg was in charge of the reconstruction of the building. In the process, he received financial support from the Jewish Community and a helping hand from Alter Szachter and Berek Wajngold. The “new” building was to be bigger than the first one. A staircase replaced the flight of stairs in this two-store building 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 from other villages were offered accommodation for the night.

The synagogue and house of study (Beit Midrash) were on Wesoła Street (previously Zatylki Street). There was also a Jewish library and a cheder, a religious elementary school. In fact, there were several cheders for both boys and girls. The first ones were in place in 1867, and perhaps even before the Jewish community was founded. In 1912 new schools were opened that Jewish children attended, in addition to the religious school.

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 happened sometime between 1943–1944, with the intention was to erase all traces of the former Jewish community. At that time, there was a Nazi German military post operating on the premises of the presbytery of Bodzentyn, 1943—1944. Older citizens of Bodzentyn still remember those times and that building.

History of the Rabbis

The Bazh’tshine rebbe, Moszek Awner Grynbaum (Grinbaum), served as the town rabbi from 1888 until his death1906. 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.

Mr Zylbersztajn’s successor in the 1930s was Herszka Szwarc (also known as Herszek Szwarc, Henry Schwartz and Hirsh Shwartz). There is supposed to have been a tzaddik in Bodzentyn in the 1920s, but his name is unknown. 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).

The Jewish cemetery

Before the Jewish cemetery was established in Bodzentyn, burials were carried out in Szydłowiec. In 1867 the Jews were allowed to form a communal organization and received a plot of land for the cemetery. In 1898 funds were raised to renovate the ritual bath, Mikveh, and to fence the cemetery.

The Jewish cemetery


Useful information
  • In the 1920s, in Bodzentyn, there was once a well-known, respected, charismatic rabbi called Moshe Szafir. This we learn from a play that bears his name: Moshe Szair – spektakl multimedialny zrealizowany w ramach II Polskiego Kongresu Estetyki, Granice sztuki-granice estetyki, Szkoła Wyższa Psychologii Społecznej, Warszawa 2010.  A booklet about the play, partly in English, was published in Warsaw: Włodzimierz Szymański. Moshe Szafir, a multimedia show, M25 Art Centre, Warsaw, 25 Mińska St. September 22nd, 2010.​
  • Read an article in which regionalist Stefan Rachtan describes the situation in Bodzentyn, Poland, during WWII. Mr Rachtan also recalls that he saw Jews gathered to pray in one of the houses in 1942
  • In the fall of 1940, the Jewish Community, consisting of approximately 300 Jewish families, was faced with the responsibility of absorbing many impoverished Jews from the city of Płock. In the spring of 1941, all of them were confined in the ghetto of Bodzentyn with strict orders not to move in or out of the village. When the Płock (Plotz) Jews were assigned to Bodzentyn, the community had little to offer to sustain them. They were scattered around the town, some taken into homes, and others ended up sleeping on the synagogue floor or in empty stores. Many of the refugees succumbed to the typhus epidemic that struck Bodzentyn in the winter of 1941. Read the English version of the comparative study of Dawid Rubinowicz's diary
  • Herszka Szwarc or Henry Schwartz are transliterations of the German word Schwarz, which means black and was a common family name among Ashkenazi Jews.
  • Kalib Szachter, G., Wachsberger, K., & Kalib S. (1991). The Last Selection: a Child's Journey Through the Holocaust. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press.
  • Rubinowicz, D., Janicki J., Wiernik B, Pałysiewicz E., Pałysiewicz J., & Wymark E. (2010). Pamiętnik Dawida Rubinowicza. Reszta nie jest milczeniem. Bodzentyn: Towarzystwo Dawida Rubinowicza.
  • Wołczyk, A. (1987). Pozostał po nich tylko kirkut ... (6th edition), Bodzentyn.
  • Wołczyk A. (2007). Bodzentyn jako miasto i osada. Bodzentyn.