LASK


LASK (Pol. Łask), town in Lodz province, central Poland. The Jewish settlement of the town began to develop at the close of the 16th century. For about two centuries, the owners of the town were favorably disposed toward the Jewish population and protected it from the local clergy. The fires which burnt down most of the town's houses in 1624 and 1747 caused heavylosses to the Jewish population. The ancient synagogue and cemetery were destroyed. Thanks to the right of residence granted in 1640 by Stanislaw Wierzbowski, Lask Jews were authorized to engage in crafts, to trade in grain and *livestock, and to lease and keep inns. They were, however, forbidden to acquire houses and building lots in the market square and the neighboring streets. From the close of the 17th century, the Jews of the town paid heavy taxes toward the maintenance of the army. During the early 1790s the debts of the community increased considerably, to about 30,000 zlotys. According to the census of 1765, there were 891 Jews in Lask and a further 276 in the 54 small surrounding settlements subordinate to the community. In 1827, there were 1,270 Jews (64% of the total population). From 1827 on the new owners of Lask filed suit against the community for the payment of the debts which had accumulated by the close of the 18th century. In 1838 the Jews of the town were ordered, under threat of attachment of their property, to pay their debts with the addition of 7,697 zlotys as accrued interest. Following rapid economic development during the second quarter of the 19th century, the Jews of Pabianice and Zdunska Wola set up their own communal organizations independent of Lask. The first known rabbi of the town was Israel b. Ithamar (d. 1726) who was succeeded by R. Meir b. Eliakim Goetz of Hildesheim. Subsequent rabbis were Phinehas Zelig (d. 1770), author of Ateret Paz (1768), Moses Judah Leib Zilberberg, author of Zayit Ra'anan (2 vols., 1851–69) and Tif'eret Yerushalayim, David Dov *Meisels (d. 1876), and his son Ẓevi Aryeh Judah (until 1932). The last rabbi of Lask was Leibel Ajzenberg, who died in the Chelmno extermination camp in 1942. From the second half of the 19th century, most of the Jews of Lask were Ḥasidim (*Kotsk and *Warka). In 1897 there were 2,862 Jews in Lask (68% of the population). Jewish workers and craftsmen were influenced by the socialist movement. Zionist activities also started at the outbreak of World War I. In 1919 two of the 14 members of the municipal council were Jews. Between the two world wars, there were two Jewish libraries, a reformed ḥeder (founded in 1927), a Hebrew *Tarbut school, a *Beth Jacob school, and *Maccabi and Shtern sports societies. In 1921 there were 2,623 Jews in Lask. After the serious economic crisis of 1929, antisemitism became intensified and an economic boycott was imposed on the Jews.

[Arthur Cygielman]

Holocaust Period

In 1939, there were 3,864 Jews out of a total population of 6,000. After the town was occupied by the Germans, the religious Jewish community was persecuted. Synagogue officials were executed; the bet midrash was converted into a slaughterhouse for horses; Jews were forced to perform degrading acts during the High Holidays. A ghetto was established in several stages. At first a few streets were earmarked for Jewish habitation, but on Nov. 18, 1940, the Germans forced all the Jews of Lask into this area. Toward the end of 1941, the death penalty was imposed for anyone leaving the ghetto. From then on the food situation worsened considerably. The Judenrat organized a hospital, a kindergarten, and a soup kitchen. In mid-August 1942 the ghetto was liquidated. About 3,500 Jews were locked up in a church outside the city and were kept for several days under inhuman conditions; the Germans then picked out some 800 craftsmen to be sent to *Lodz ghetto, while the rest were sent to the extermination camp at *Chelmno.

[Danuta Dombrowska]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

P. Selig, Ir Lask va-Ḥakhameha (1926); B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach xix i xx (1930), 28, 51, 180, 185, 188, 210; I. Krasoń, Z dziejów Łasku (1965); Z. Tsurnamal (ed.), Lask Izcor-book (Heb., Yid., some Eng., 1968); D. Dąbrowska, in: BŻIH, 13–14 (1955); J. Goldberg et al., in: PK Polin.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.