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Plonsk

PLONSK

PLONSK , town in Warszawa province, E. central Poland. A Jewish settlement existed in Plonsk from 1446. The princes of Masovia encouraged the settlement of Jews to help develop the economy of the town, although this aroused the jealousy of the Polish merchants, and consequently, Jewish activity was later restricted by various decrees. In 1677 King John iii Sobieski prohibited all Jewish commerce on market days, with the exception of the sale of kosher meat. In spite of the restrictions, the number of Jews increased, as did their importance in the town. In 1887 Jews owned most of the houses and the shops; they dealt in the wholesale trade of cereals and owned brandy distilleries, beer breweries, underwear factories, etc. They were also engaged in tailoring and the fur trade, exporting goods to the interior of Russia. Jews numbered 2,801 in 1808; in 1910 they numbered 7,665 (64% of the population), and in 1939 there were 8,200 Jews in the town of Plonsk. World War i and the advent of an independent Poland restricted Jews to business transactions in the local Polish market where they engaged primarily in the trade of inexpensive ready-made clothing. The economic crisis of the late 1920s and the economic boycott brought on by Polish antisemitism in the 1930s struck a severe blow at Jewish economic life.

During the 15th century the Jewish community was under the guardianship of Plock, the leading community of Masovia. With the organization of the Council of the Four Lands it was subordinated to the community of Ciechanow, but due to its expansion it eventually became an independent community. During the 19th century the community administration was under the influence of the mitnaggedim, even though the courts of the ẓaddikim (especially that of Gur) exerted considerable influence on the Jews of the town. In the 20th century the influence of the maskilim and the Zionists rose. The community supervised the activities of the relief and educational institutions. The rabbinical positions of the community were held by R. Abraham Jekuthiel *Lichtenstein during the second half of the 18th century and by R. Ẓevi Ezekiel *Michaelsohn at the close of the century. On the eve of the Holocaust, the rabbinical post of the town was held by R. Abraham Ḥayyim Horowitz. A synagogue was erected at the beginning of the 17th century and its Ark was a work of art. The Jews of Plonsk participated in the Polish Revolt of 1863. Solomon Posner, one of the commanders of the Plonsk company, was killed in battle.

Jews were elected to both the provincial and the municipal councils. At the municipal council elections of 1927, out of the 23 delegates 13 were Jews. In addition to the religious, educational, and cultural institutions of the town, there were also societies for the propagation of Jewish and general education. In 1865 a society named Doreshei ha-Torah ve-ha-Ḥokhmah was founded by the maskilim, offering lectures on Jewish subjects. In 1910 the Ha- Or society was established, having been authorized by the Russian authorities to propagate Jewish and general education. Zionist societies were also active in promoting Hebrew language and culture. The Zionist Organization wielded considerable influence. It was quite evident in daily life, and especially apparent at the time of the elections to the Zionist Congresses. The author Shelomo *Ẓemaḥ and David *Ben-Gurion originally came from Plonsk.

[Shimshon Leib Kirshenboim]

Holocaust Period

At the outbreak of World War ii there were about 6,000 Jews in Plonsk. The German army occupied the town on Sept. 5, 1939. Some Jewish men were sent to the forced-labor camp in Nosarzewo and Jewish women to the forced-labor camp in *Sierpc. Few of them survived. A closed ghetto was established in May 1941. The Jewish community was liquidated when 12,000 Jews from Plonsk and the vicinity were sent to *Auschwitz in four transports between Nov. 1 and Dec. 5, 1942. After the war, the Jewish community of Plonsk was not reconstituted. Organizations of former residents of Plonsk are active in Israel, the United States, and Argentina.

bibliography:

Sefer Plonsk ve-ha-Sevivah (1963; Heb. and partly Yid.).

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