History of The Community from its Beginning
1623 – 1939

History of the community from its beginning (beginning of the 17th century to 1914)

Jews first settled in Tomaszow Lubelski during the third decade of the 17th century. The town is a unification of two local villages- "Yelitow" and Rogoznow". Most of the first Jews there were traders of cattle, fabrics, alcohol, and small craft workers. Members of the community were usually associated with the Hassidic movement, and were divided among the courts of rabbis of Poland.

Tomaszow was one of the main targets of the chmielnicki pogroms in the years of 1648-49. Many of its Jews were massacred, and others escaped or expelled, and the community was nearly annihilated.

The community returned to its pre-pogroms size only a hundred years later, and its inhabitants numbered about 800. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 3700 Jewish residents in Tomaszow, and over 6000 on the eve of WW2, 55% of its population.

Tomaszow was a part of Tsarist Russia until 1915. There was a big Cossacks base of the Tsar's army nearby, and its staff did their business in town. Purchase of the base's supplies was also taking place in Tomaszow. These purchases provided for many families of the community for a long time.

The Austrians and Germans conquered the area, including Tomaszow,  from the Russians in 1915, and they immediately appointed a new city council with Yehoshua  Fischelzon as its head (he was later, in 1939, appointed head of judenrat and murdered by the Germans after refusing to pass a list of Jews for Transport). Members of the community suffered great financial hardship, up to starvation, and charity and other aid societies did as much as they could to assist.

BETWEEN TWO WORLD WARS

A change of ruler

At the end of First World War, in 1918, the Poles took control, but until they were organized, the community went through a difficult period. The forces that freed Tomaszow treated members of the community with much violence- they looted and physically attacked Jews, and cut peyot (sideburns) and beards of men in the town's streets.

During Russia-Poland War, forces of the Ukrainian General Bolack Belkhovitch invaded Tomaszow, and they also attacked Jews- they too looted, raped women and massacred. They imposed a high "contribution" of ten thousand Marks upon the community. The local priest Yulian Bogshack aided Jews in many ways, and even gave some of them a place of refuge in his home.

The community members continued observing a religious lifestyle as in the past, but Zionist parties like those existing in Eretz Israel entered and divided the town. Branches of most Zionist parties and youth movements were organized in Tomaszow, and it brought about much interest among the local youth. Many were trained in local kibbutz movement facilities, and made Aliyah in the 1930's.

Evil winds began waving with increased power, and anti-Semitism in Tomaszow grew more and more, increasing violence against Jews, their businesses, shops and synagogues.