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The New Synagogue
The Haskalah Movement
The Haskalah ("Enlightenment") movement had its origins in Germany in the mid-18th Century. It had,
at its core, an emphasis on Western culture, use of Hebrew instead of Yiddish, a love of Israel, and it
encouraged the study of secular subjects. It is also credited with laying the groundwork for the eventual
The Jews who came from nearby Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and settled in and around
Częstochowa, including the founders of the kehillah, brought with them the spirit of the Haskalah.
In the late 19th Century, the more affluent of Częstochowa's Jews moved away from the traditional Jewish
quarter to the city's centre, around I Aleja Najświętszej Marii Panny.
It is in this area, in 1893, that they built the New Synagogue, on the corner of Wilson Street
formerly Aleksandrowska Street) and Garibaldi Street.
Due to its style of architecture, the presence of a male-voice choir, the dress of its clergy, the more
modern pronunciation of the Hebrew prayers and its Haskalah philosophy, the New Synagogue came to be
known within Częstochowa's Jewish community as the Deutscher Shule ("German Synagogue").
The Height of Chazanut
In accordance with the ideas of the Haskalah or Jewish Enlightenment, the New Synagogue sought to
combine secular knowledge with religion. They chose outstanding scientists and scholars to be religious
leaders,such as the historian Mayer Balaban.
In 1903, as its first Chazan (Cantor), the New Synagogue apppointed Reb Abraham Birnbaum - a great coup
as Cantor Birnbaum already had a great reputation throughout Europe for his Chazanut.
During his tenure, which ended in 1923, Cantor Birnbaum established a renowned cantorial school at the
New Synagogue. Its graduates found success and admiration in the United States. He was also the first person
to start a Union of Cantors.
In his compositions. Cantor Birnbaum combined traditional Jewish themes with the elements of
contemporary European music.
In 1923, Reb Avraham Fiszel became the New Synagogue's Chazan. He lived with his family in an apartment
on the synagogue premises.
In addition to his duties as Chazan, Reb Fiszel taught music at the Jewish high school and was instrumental
in the formation of numerous Jewish choirs in Częstochowa.
After the Nazis set fire to the New Synagogue, Reb Fiszel decided to remain, living in a small shack in the
synagogue courtyard, where he continued to perform his duties as best he could.
According to some historians, Reb Fiszel perished in Treblinka in 1942. However, other accounts tell the
story of how, when he was caught conducting services by the Nazis, he was was made to run through the streets
in front of a Nazi motorcycle. When he was exhausted and could run no further, he was stood against a wall and
Destroyed by the Nazis
On Christmas Day, 25th December 1939, the New Synagogue was set on fire by German military policemen,
assisted by their Volksdeutsch henchman.
The Judaic library, with its rich music collection, was decimated along with the building itself.
After the Nazis had left, it has been reported that Reb Fiszel, together with three others (Gliksman, Mitz
and Dawidowicz)entered the synagogue ruins and saved whatever they could.
It is quite possible, that the New Synagogue's Aron Ha'Kodesh, which has been
held in the Jewish Historical Institute's Warsaw warehouse until this very day, is still in
existence only due to the daring efforts of these four individuals.
Until his death (whether at Treblinka or in the streets of Częstochowa), Reb Fiszel
continued to conduct services in the basement of the ruins of the New Synagogue.
Sadly, Częstochowa's New Synagogue only stood for 46 years, before
its destruction by the Nazis.
Today, on the corner of Wilson Street and Garibaldi Street, where the New Synagogue proudly stood as a
symbol of Częstochowa Jewry, stands the home of the Częstochowa Philharmonic Orchestra.
Given this site's historical significance to the Jews of Częstochowa, it was more than fitting
that this building has been the focal point for many of the activities during our Reunions
While the New Synagogue stands no more, it is a little melancholic that, even today, when performances
of various kinds are advertised for this venue, occasionally the venue is still referred to as