Jacob Rothbart published this superb article about the Jewish Artisans of Gombin during the 20th century. Jewish Artsians in Gombin by Jacob Rothbart. The original was written in Yiddish and appeared in the Gombin Yizkor Book (1969); the translation appears on Ada Holtzman’s website, www.zchor.org . The article covers tailors, cobblers, hat makers, tanners, furriers, bakers, butchers, fruit traders (sadovnikes), dryers of fruit, and makers of boot uppers. The Karczewska History of Jewish Gombin also has an excellent historical analysis of the involvement of Jews in various occupations and trading [Karczewska History English translation coming soon].
In June 1997, Ada received a list of Gombiner names, according to occupation/trade, as they appeared in an official Polish Business Directory published around 1925, organized by cities and towns in the region of Warsaw. At the time, the population in Gombin was reported as 5777 (with 2564 Jews – 44%). These numbers are the same as those in “Pinkas Hakehilot”, based on the 1921 Polish census, suggesting that the occupational data were collected earlier than 1925.
The directory describes the commercial, economical and social structure of Gabin in the 1920’s. The majority of Jews worked in commerce and in some fields of craftsmanship, much more than their general rate in the population. Out of total number of 283 names recorded in the Business Directory, they deciphered 182 Jewish names (64%). The list contains all the surnames for each profession, including the local Poles and “Folks Deutche”. There were many “Goy’im” with whom the Jews were involved and had commercial and daily connections.
The list of trades is essential to understanding shtetl life and for genealogical research. Many trades were carried out from generation to generation, and often the “trade” of the family was the “identity” of the person and was one of the sources of the surname of his family.
Many of the trades have totally disappeared from modern life, e.g. pots menders, wheelwrights, makers of spats for shoes, and others. So with this list we can have a glimpse of a lost economic world, gone forever with the technological developments of the 20th century, a world in which our ancestors struggled to survive in means that we cannot even imagine.
Mendelsohn, Ezra. The Jews of East Central Europe between the World Wars. Indiana University Press, 1983.
Tomaszewski, Jerzy. The Role of Jews in Polish Commerce, 1918-1939. In: Gutman, Yisrael, Mendelsohn Ezra, Reinharz Jehuda and Shmeruk Chone (Eds.) The Jews of Poland Between the Wars. Brandeis university Press, 1989.
Landau, Zbigniew. Jewish Artisans. In: Polonsky Anthony, Mendelsohn Ezra, and Tomaszewski Ezra (eds.) Jews in Indpendent Poland 1918-1939. Littman Library o Jewish Civilization, 1994.