This article was originally published in Polish in the journal of the Ethnographic Museum of Poland (Etnografia Nowa, 2015). It was translated into English with the help of the Gombin Society. The article uses archival material and photographs to explore the religious traditions of the Jews of Gombin, particularly in the context of the terrible period of the 1930s including the ultimate destruction of Jewish Gombin. There are many photographs of the Wooden Synagogue of Gombin, both interior and exterior, and photographs taken in the Jewish exhibit of the Museum, which contains artifacts and models from Gombin.
Abraham Abele ben Chayim HaLevi was born in or about 1633 in Gombin, the son of its Rabbi. He was considered to be an illui, a child prodigy, and became one of the most renown Polish rabbis. His best-known work, the Magen Avraham, is the primary commentary on the codification of the laws of prayer and festivals applicable to Ashkenazi Jews.
“On April 17, 1942 the Jewish community of Gombin, my birthplace in Poland, was savagely wiped out by an act of Nazi brutality. The small number of survivors chose not to return to their hometown, where their ancestors had lived and worked for some five centuries, in an effort to forget the unbearable catastrophe in which their loved ones perished mercilessly. They preferred exile, and so the Shetetl Gombin that I knew is no more.”
“The rules for the appointment of rabbis were established by the Religious Council and approved by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Public Education. The Ministry oversaw the election and appointment of rabbis, who held their positions for life. Their main obligation was to preach on Sabbaths and holidays, and they were responsible for ‘overseeing religious services, the work of teachers in Jewish religious schools, the work of ritual butchers, and other religious matters’.”
Chapter One of Arthur A. Gertzman’s Rissman of Gombin: A Family History
View photographs of people in Gombin from the mid-1930’s here.