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Rosen, Mathias

(1804–1865), Polish banker and communal leader. Mathias Rosen was the son of the German-born Isaak Simon Rosen, who had established himself as a banker in Warsaw during the Prussian occupation of Poland (1796–1806). In addition to Mathias Rosen’s activities as a partner in the family’s bank, which he ran alone after his father’s death in 1840, Rosen’s business activities included railway construction, tax farming, tobacco processing, and international trade, often as the partner of Leopold Kronenberg.

A prominent member of the Warsaw Jewish community, Rosen served from 1841 to 1844 and from 1856 to 1858 on the executive board of the Jewish community administration and from 1842 to 1865 as an inspector of the community’s elementary schools. He campaigned to reorganize the cemetery and the burial society, and, with other reform-minded and assimilationist community members, financed a Reform synagogue (on Danielewiczowska Street, founded in 1802), on whose board of governors he remained until his death. He supported charitable institutions within the Warsaw Jewish community, including the hospital and the poorhouse (Dom Przytułku dla Starców i Sierot Starozakonnych), which he headed from 1840 on.

From 1847, Rosen was also on the board of governors of the Warsaw Charitable Society. He financed the publication of the scholarly series Biblioteka Warszawska (Warsaw Library; 1841–1914). Between 1856 and 1863, he intensified his efforts at improving the civil status of Jews in the Kingdom of Poland by proposing the abolition of special taxes and by campaigning for equal rights. As an advocate of change within the Jewish community, Rosen called for the establishment of both general educational and vocational schools for Jews.

As a young man, Rosen had played a major part in the Polish patriotic movement, supporting the uprising of November 1831 as a member of the Polish National Guard. In early 1861, he lent his support to the patriotic movement and was a member of the bourgeois delegation, which called for democratic elections and for the introduction of local and regional representation. He summed up their goal in the pregnant formulation “brać ale nie kwitować” (accept but do not countersign), a motto that came into widespread use. As an advocate of moderate political reform, Rosen joined head of government Count Aleksander Wielopolski in the summer of 1862 and supported the latter’s plan for Jews in the Kingdom of Poland to be given universal equal rights.

Rosen was appointed a member of the state council in July 1862. At the outbreak of the January uprising in 1863, he was abroad and chose to remain there in the wake of its defeat. After his return the following year, he spoke out in favor of cooperating with the Russian government. Rosen believed in praca organiczna (organic work), a philosophy whose basic principle was to seek a continual improvement of the general standard of living within existing political frameworks.

Suggested Reading

Stanislaw Konarski, “Rosen (Rozen) Mathias,” in Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. 32, pt. 1, pp. 58–60 (Wrocław, Warsaw, Kraków, Gdańsk, and Łódź, 1979); Jacob Shatzky, Geshikhte fun yidn in Varshe, vol. 2 (New York, 1948), pp. 56–65.



Translated from German by Deborah Cohen