Rabbi Peysekh Golezynski, head of the Łomża Yeshiva from ca. 1885 until 1920, Łomża, 1923. (YIVO)

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Town in northeastern Poland in the Mazovia region. By the fourteenth century, Jews had settled in Lomza, engaging mainly in trade in timber, salt, raw materials and in various crafts. In 1566 the town received the right de non tolerandis Judaeis (nontoleration of Jews), and so Jews resettled in suburbs and villages nearby. Only at the beginning of the eighteenth century did Jews return to Lomza itself, but their numbers were small, reaching 157 in 1808.

Jewish soldiers from Ostrołęka, at a Sabbath meal, Łomża (now in Poland), 1905. The Hebrew inscription reads: “Soldiers eating kosher food.” Marked with an x: J. Stolin, who later immigrated to America. (YIVO)

After the Polish rebellion of 1831, the Jewish population increased significantly, and in the second half of the nineteenth century, Jews amounted to almost half of the residents. This growth stemmed, among other things, from the opening of the Augustowski Canal and the expansion of trade in timber, grain, sugar, and other products. During this period, relations between Jewish and non-Jewish residents of Lomza were generally peaceful, a circumstance that found clear expression in the significant participation of Lomza’s Jews in the Polish rebellion of 1863. The following years were marked by a rapid advancement in the economic and social development of the Jewish community. A central synagogue, hospital, and home for the elderly were built, and social welfare organizations were founded.

The religious life of the community was diverse, with Misnagdim (traditional opponents of Hasidim) and Hasidim of various courts (including Ger and Aleksander) living in harmony. Among the well-known rabbis of the town were Binyamin Diskin, who served until 1848; Eliyahu ?ayim Meisel (1867–1879); and Yehudah Leib Gordon (1914–1925). Most of the community’s children were educated in heders or at the Talmud Torah founded in 1831. The crowning glory of the traditional educational system was the Lomza yeshiva, the first yeshiva in Poland, founded in 1883 by Eli‘ezer Szuliewicz in the style of Lithuanian yeshivas.

Unlike many other Jewish communities in the region, the Lomza community preserved its religiously conservative character until a relatively late date. Haskalah ideas can be discerned there only toward the end of the nineteenth century. The most striking manifestation of this change was in the realm of education, with the opening of two girls’ schools. The first was founded by Puah Rakovsky in 1889 but was short-lived; the second, Yehudiyah (Jewish Woman), was opened at the initiative of a local group of young women in 1897. At about the same time, a number of other schools were founded: a boys’ school established by Yisakhar Levinski in 1895, a state elementary school (1898), an Alliance Israélite Universelle vocational school (1909), and a ?eder metukan (reformed heder) in the same year. A public library was opened as well in 1894. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Jewish children of both sexes studied in the local general secondary schools.

Nekhame Zlate Golezynski, wife of Rabbi Peysekh; he was head of the Łomża yeshiva, Łomża, Poland, 1923. (YIVO)

At the end of the nineteenth century, ideological ferment, particularly between Zionists and socialists, began to stir among the youth of Lomza. Organizations such as Dorshe Tsiyon vi-Yerushalayim (Seekers of Zion and Jerusalem) and Benot Tsiyon (Daughters of Zion) were founded, and in 1909 the Zionist youth organization Ha-Te?iyah (The Revival) was established. Alongside these groups, the Bund (Jewish Workers Union) and the Po‘ale Tsiyon (Workers of Zion) parties were active. These organizations and others like them played an active role in the failed 1905 Revolution.

During World War I, the Lomza Jewish community assisted thousands of Jews who sought refuge in the town. In the interwar period, political activity intensified, and local branches of Mizra?i (religious Zionist), Agudas Yisroel, and the Revisionist Zionist party were established, along with youth movements such as He-?aluts and Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa‘ir. During this period the Jewish community was also very active culturally, boasting, among other institutions, a Jewish press, a theater group, and a sports association.

The German army conquered Lomza in September 1939, left after a short time, and reconquered the town in June 1941. Thereafter, local Jews were forced into a ghetto, and most were murdered in nearby forests and in death camps—thereby marking the community’s end.

Suggested Reading

Michał Gnatowski, ed., Żydzi i stosunki polsko-żydowskie w regionie łomżyńskim w XIX i XX wieku (Łomża, Pol., 2002); Yom-Tov Lewinsky, ed., Sefer zikaron li-kehilat Lomzah (Tel Aviv, 1952); Abraham Wein, ed., “Lomz´ah / Łomża,” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Polin, vol. 4, V’arshah veha-Galil, pp. 249–262 (Jerusalem, 1989).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 25, Vaad Hayeshivot (Vilna), Records, 1924-1940 (finding aid); RG 497, Pinchas Turberg, Papers, 1893-1940s; RG 851, Lomzer Aid Society, Records, 1914-1917.



Translated from Hebrew by I. Michael Aronson