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SUWALKI (Pol. Suwálki ; Yid. Suvalk ), town in Bialystok province, N.E. Poland. The town began to develop toward the end of the 18th century under Prussian rule; Jews then settled there, numbering 44 (3.5% of the total population) in 1808. In 1815 Suwalki was incorporated within Congress Poland and between 1823 and 1862 restrictions of residence in some of the sections of the city were imposed upon a number of Jews. An organized community was formed at the beginning of the 1820s, and in 1827 numbered 1,209 (32% of the total population). A synagogue was built in 1821. During the 19th century Jews in Suwalki developed trade relations with Germany, in particular for *agricultural produce, timber, and horses. They also engaged in retail trade and crafts including tailoring, shoemaking, building, and transportation. In the second half of the 19th century, Jews in Suwalki engaged in the manufacture of prayer shawls, fulling, and tanning. During the Polish uprising in 1863 many Jews in Suwalki and the surrounding area took an active part in the struggle against the Russian army. Two of them, Leib Lipman and Leib Lejbman, were executed by the czarist authorities. Following persecutions and disasters of nature Jews emigrated from Suwalki, among them, in the early 1880s, a number of followers of the "*Am Olam" movement. In 1866 a "benevolent society for natives of Suwalki" was founded in New York. The Jewish population numbered 6,587 (62% of the total) in 1857, and 7,165 (40%) in 1897. From the latter year until 1914 Jewish traders and craftsmen supplied the garrison stationed in the locality.

Jewish national activity in the community began as early as the movement for settlement in Ereẓ Israel in 1881. In 1891 the Safah Berurah Society for the propagation of Hebrew in Suwalki had 70 members. A Jewish workers' association was formed in 1901. Members of the *Bund and *Po'alei Ẓion in Suwalki took an active part in the revolutionary period of 1905–06, and organized *self-defense against *pogroms.

In World War i the Jews in Suwalki suffered severely during the retreat of the Russian army in the beginning of the summer of 1915. In the interwar period, under Polish rule, Jews opened factories for woolen textiles, and timber and food products. The Jewish population numbered 5,747 (34% of the total) in 1921, and 5,811 in 1931. Jewish institutions in Suwalki included schools of the *Tarbut and cysho (see *Education), a talmud torah (founded in 1861), and a yeshivah (1936). A Jewish self-defense organization in 1936 prevented a pogrom by the Polish population.

Among distinguished rabbis who served in Suwalki in the second half of the 19th century were Isaac Eisik *Wildmann (Ḥaver) (1850–53); Jehiel b. Aaron *Heller (1853–57); Samuel b. Judah Leib *Mohilewer (1860–68); and David Tevel *Katzenellenbogen (in the 1890s). Personalities born in Suwalki or active there include the educator Alexander M. *Dushkin; Pinhas *Sapir (Israeli cabinet minister); and Avraham *Stern (leader of Leḥi).

[Dov Rabin]

Holocaust Period

Before the outbreak of World War ii there were about 6,000 Jews in Suwalki. The Jewish community was liquidated at the end of November 1939 when the Jews were deported to *Biala Podlaska, *Lukow, *Miedzyrzec-Podlaski, and *Kock and shared the fate of these communities. After the war the Jewish community of Suwalki was not reconstituted.


Yisker Bukh Suvalk (1961); B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach xix i xx (1930), 37, 41, 67, 72, 74, 79, 188; S. Bronsztejn, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w okręsie międzywojennym (1963), 278; A. Wein (ed.), Żydzi a powstanie Styczniowe (1963), index; Caret i klasy posiadające w walcz z rewolucją. 190507 w krolestwie Polskim (1956), index; I. Schiper, Dziejehandłu żydowskiego na ziemach polskich (1963), index.