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November 30, 2015 / 18 Kislev, 5776
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The Old Shtetl Lipno

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There is evidence of Jewish presence in Lipno as early as the 18th century. The beginning of the 19th century saw the rise of an organized Jewish community; it was then that a synagogue was built and the Jews were allotted land for a cemetery. A decree dated May 25, 1824, limited Jewish residence to a specific quarter of the city, but not an enclosed ghetto.

Prior to 1913, the majority of Jews made their living on minor trade and craftsmanship. A few Jews made their living fishing. The Jewish bakeries and kitchen houses were owned and staffed by Jews. During the second half of the 19th century, the Jews of Lipno erected a second synagogue, called Ha’gadol (The Great), and several shtiblach were built for various groups of chasidim. The new synagogue could accommodate several hundred worshippers. The town also supported a chevra kadisha (burial services), a hospitality charity, and a charity that provided firewood. A bikur cholim group was established in 1889, and in 1903 a gemilut chasadim charity was established.

Among the first Lipno known rabbis is Rabbi Michael Berlin, who served the town throughout the mid-19th century. In 1877 Rabbi Yehuda Leib Schwartzberg was appointed as the municipal rabbi, eventually to be replaced in 1895 by Rabbi Shlomo Wingate. Wingate, in turn, was replaced by Rabbi Shmuel HaLevy Bradt. The latter served Lipno until 1928, when he was elected rabbi of Tomaszow Mazowiecky.

Up until WWI, most Jewish children studied in cheders. About sixty Jewish children studied in the Russian public school for Jews, which only had two classes. When WWI broke out, the Lipno Jewish community dwindled, as many Lipno Jews fled to Warsaw, never to return.

In the first years following the war, the Joint assisted with the rehabilitation of the Lipno Jewish community. In 1921 a soup kitchen for kids was established with assistance from the Joint. The kitchen served hot meals to 250 Jewish children. Many Lipno Jews had difficulty finding work in the first years after the establishment of independent Poland, and were assisted by the Joint. In 1929 the Joint contributed 200 dollars to the gemilut chasadim charity, allowing them to significantly increase the size of loans that were given to the needy.

In the period after WWI, almost all Zionist organizations operating within Poland had offices in Lipno. The first Zionist organization offices were established early in the 20th century. In 1920, the Aguda Ha’Zionit (the Zionist Company) renewed its operation. In the following years, offices were established by the General Zionists, the Workers of Zion, the Mizrachi, and in 1933 the Tzahar. During that time, several Zionist youth groups set up chapters in Lipno, such as Ha’Shomer Ha’Leumi, Ha’Shomer Ha’tzair and Beitar.

During the period between the two World Wars, Lipno Jewry developed education for Jewish children. Most Jewish children continued to learn in cheders, but modern educational institutions were established as well. The Ha’Shomer Ha’Leumi youth group held evening classes in Hebrew throughout the 30’s. There was a library that housed books in Hebrew and Yiddish. During the 20’s a Maccabi sports collective was established.

In the years prior to the outbreak of WWII, the Lipno Jews suffered from continuous anti-Semitic propaganda. In 1938 the local anti-Semites set up watch outside Jewish stores to support a boycott of Jewish businesses. The income of Jewish storekeepers was damaged significantly and many had to turn to charity and public assistance.

As WWII broke out and divisions of the German army approached Lipno, many Jews fled the city and escaped to the East. The flight continued even after the Germans occupied the city. Many of Lipno’s Jews escaped to Warsaw. In November of 1939 the German army banished the remaining Jews to the major cities, particularly Warsaw. The fate of Lipno’s exiles was the same as that of all Jews in those places. Today there are no Jews left in Lipno; any remaining survivors of this once thriving Jewish community are scattered around the world. (www.zchor.org/lipno/lipno.htm)

Shmuel Ben Eliezer can be reached at jpolin2@aol.com

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