SKIERNIEWICE, town in Lodz province, central Poland. Jews settled there at the end of the 18th century. M. Balaban mistakenly attributed a charge of *Host desecration in 1562 as occurring in Skierniewice (in his Historja Zydów w Krakowie i na Kazimierzu, 1 (1931), 156). There were 73 Jews residing in Skierniewice (7% of the total population) in 1808, and 216 (11%) in 1827. At first, up to about 1850, the Jews there buried their dead in the Jewish cemetery at *Lowicz. Between 1827 and 1863 most of the Jews were allowed to reside only within the limits of a special quarter. An organized community was established in 1850, and some years later a large synagogue was erected (in 1970 the building was in use as a municipal club). Jews engaged in small trade and crafts, such as weaving, shoemaking, and tailoring, in transportation, horse dealing, and services to the local Russian army garrisons. In the second half of the 19th century the influence of *Ḥasidism, mainly of Gur (see *Gora Kalwaria) and *Aleksandrow, grew among the Jews of Skierniewice. In 1886 the admor of *Worky (Warka), Simon Kalish, moved his "court" to Skierniewice. At the end of the 19th century the rabbi of the town was Meir Jehiel ha-Levi *Holzstock, later admor of *Ostrowiec. The Jewish population numbered 766 (29% of the total) in 1857; 2,898 (36%) in 1897; and 4,333 (33%) in 1921. At the beginning of World War I, in 1914, most of the Jews were expelled from Skierniewice by the retreating Russian army, and the refugees did not begin to return to their homes until 1916. After the end of the war branches of the Zionist parties, the *Bund, and *Agudat Israel were organized in the town.
On the outbreak of World War II there were about 4,300 Jews in Skierniewice. The German army entered the town on Sept. 8, 1939, and persecution of the Jewish population began. In 1940 over 2,000 Jews from Lodz and the towns in its vicinity were forced to settle in Skierniewice, whose Jewish population
P. Mojecki, Żydowskie okrucieństwa i zabobony (1598), 18; B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce wiekach XIX i XX (1930), 9, 21; I. Schiper, Dzieje handlu ẓydowskiego na ziemiach polskich (1937), index; I. Perlov (ed.), Sefer Skierniewice (Yid. 1955).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.