Jewish Community of Sokolow

Article written on the occasion of 590 anniversary of the city of Sokolow.

When I first came to Sokolow Podlaski with my father back in 1998, there was nothing, just nothing in the whole town that remembered the beautiful large Jewish Community that was an integral and important part of the town for so many generations. We were very disappointed and hurt. We felt the 5800 Jews of Sokolow were forgotten and banished from their birthplace again. That is why I am so grateful and appreciative of your invitation to include our story which is also your story in this important event. This is a blessed change which will make us all better people - pure human beings who share the same pains and the same dreams, people before they became separated by ideas of religions and countries. So let me first congratulate you, All dear citizens so Sokolow Podlaski, a town that is always in my heart. I wish you a lot of prosperity, flourishment and let All of you have better and better success in all spheres of life.

I am representing about 300 people who are decadents of Sokolow Jews who live all over the world - from Australia, United States, Israel, France and more.
Let me start telling our story from the beginning.

In 1424, when Sokolow became a town, there were already Jews In the area.
The old synagogue was built in 1650, a year in which the owner of Sokolow, Boguslaw Radzivill, gave various rights to the Jews of the town. Another synagogue which exits to theses days was built in Dluga street in 1841. The Jewish people of Sokolow were highly literate - both women and men and they spoke Polish as well as Yiddish. They were mostly engaged in crafts - they worked as barbers, bakers, furries, cap makers, tailors, butchers and also in trade.

Life in Sokolow was flourishing in all areas of life. There used to be various youth movements, libraries, schools, theatres and Sokolow Jewry had one of the most famous yeshiva court in Europe - the chassidic yeshiva of rabbi Yizchk Zelig Morgenstern-One of the most famous rabbis all over Erope. His yeshiva in pike a street included classic students who came from all over Poland and Europe to study Torah and Talmud with this special bright rabbi, who served as a doctor as well. This went on for centuries until dark clouds came wipe it all forever.

At the beginning of the 20th century the difficult economic situation together with the rise of the nationalist government of Poland, made life difficult and many Jews immigrated to the United States and Argentina. Still at the time the Jewish population grew to be 5800 people, which was 60 percent of the whole population of Sokolow in the eve of 1939. The nazis invaded Sokolow on the 1st of September 1939, clearing their way with troops on land as well as areal attacks. My father's little sister, Rachel - Ruchale in Yiddish - was killed that day together with a friend. They were both on their way to school. They were only 10 years old. 19 other Jews were killed that day and a lot more injured. A lot of discussion started among Jewish families. Should we leave everything behind and save our lives or shall we stay and hope that the Germans will be as civilised as they were in the last time they conquered Poland in the First World War. People were very confused and didn't know what to do. My grandfather, like many others in the sorrow ding decided it was enough to lose one child. He wouldn't risk his family and he crossed the Bug river which was set then as the new border between Poland and Russia in the Molotov agreement. My grandmother refused to leave her old parents behind and my grandfather had to take her by force. My family, like all other Jewish families at the time was religious and had many children each. My grandmother for example had 7 sisters and brothers and each one of them had 7-10 children. Nobody survived. Not Share not Henia not Soul, nobody.
On their arrival, the nazis made a ghetto in 2 streets around the synagogue cramming about 5000 people. Another 2000 Jews were brought to live in this tiny area front nearby towns like Lodz and Kalisz. They were all forced to work for the nazis and got in return a small portion of soup and bread. In 1941 the nazis closed the ghetto with a brick wall. Hunger, typhus and death were everyday and everywhere. Jews were desperate and some of them who couldn't bear the suffering killed themselves. According to testimonies, the catholic community reacted with either ignoring the situation or helping the nazis and turn in Jews they saw trying to run. Some of them did risk their lives to save Jews like in the case of Aaron Elster.

On the most sacred day for the Jewish people the nazis forced all the Jews to gather in the town's square- the Maly Rynek and deported them in cattle wagons to Treblinka. After their arrival there they were all burned to death. Those who tried escape were shot on the spot. More than 90 percent of the Jewish citizens of Sokolow Podlaski were killed. This of course happened all over Europe.

Today, there are a few dozens decendants of this community but their children like me and their grandchildren are doing everything possible to remember our dear families who were killed and tortured just because they were Jews. They did nothing wrong.
We live all around the world - Israel, the USA, Australia, France and more. We all remember. We will never forget and even though all of us are very successful and happy. We live in the shadow of our history, of our missing grandparents and aunts and cousins.

I am writing this article with the hope that telling our story which is also this town's story will enable our next generations a better future. A future in which catholic and Jews live together peacefully, knowing we were all made by the same god.
Remembering we are all children of god. God bless you, dear citizens of Sokolow.

Shoshi Shatit


The Ceremony on April 28

You are invited to attend the ceremony of the Day of Holocaust
In commemoration of Sokolow Podlaski’s community
To be held on Monday April 28th at 5:30 pm
Near Sokolow’s matzeva at Holon’s South cemetery

17:00 - 17:30 - gathering and candles lighting
17:30 - 18:30 - Yizkor, Kaddish, El Male Rahamim, Artistic segment
18:30 - Meeting at Sarah Sade’s house; Migdal St. 65/17, Raanana
This year the ceremony will be dedicated to the memory of the life and legacy of Jewish Sokolow
For more information: Shoshi 0506946566; Sarah: 0542198881