TOMASZOW MAZOWIECKI (also called Tomaszow Rawski), city in Lodz province, central Poland. The owner of Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Count Antoni Adam Ostrowski, invited Jewish weavers and entrepreneurs to settle there in the 1820s. Jacob Steinman from Ujazd acted as the count's agent in charge of the area. Jewish merchants who came to settle received building plots. They soon organized trade in local textile products. On the initiative of the manufacturer Leib Zilber a Jewish community was officially founded in 1831, and was granted sites for a synagogue, mikveh, hospital, and cemetery. The first dozen Jewish families in the city earned their livelihood as hired workers in the local weaving mills; later several became managers and owners of various textile plants. After the defeat of the Polish uprising of 1831, the Russian government of Nicholas I confiscated the Ostrowski estates, including Tomaszow Mazowiecki. Antoni Ostrowski went into exile in France, where he published Pomysfy o potrzebie reformy towarzyskiej ("Thoughts on the Necessity of Social Change," 1834), in which he formulated a plan for improving the conditions of the Jews in Poland.
The town grew from the early 1850s. The 1,879 Jews who lived there in 1857 comprised 37% of the population. By 1897 the number of Jews had grown to 9,320 (47% of the population); it increased to 10,070 in 1921 and 11,310 in 1931. The great synagogue was built between 1864 and 1878. In 1889 a kasher kitchen was built to cater for 120 Jewish soldiers serving in the Russian army who were stationed in the area. The manufacturer and community leader A. Landsberg paid for the building of a community center and donated another building to house the city's first Jewish high school. The community's first rabbi was Abraham Altschuler; Jacob Wieliczkier served there from 1857 to 1888 and Hersh Aaron Israelewicz from 1890 to 1916. In the 1880s David Bornstein founded a textile mill to employ Jewish workers, thus assuring their Sabbath observance. Besides weaving and spinning, the Jews engaged in carpentry, dyeing, and construction; many were employed as bookkeepers and foremen. In the early 20th century a Jewish workers' movement was organized. Between the world wars all the Jewish political parties were active in the city, especially the *Bund, *Po'alei Zion, and *Agudat Israel. Ludwik Frucht served as deputy mayor from 1926. In 1921 two schools merged to form the Hebrew high school. A Yiddish weekly, Tomashover Vokhenblat, appeared between 1925 and 1939. Samuel ha-Levi Brot, a Mizrachi leader in Poland, officiated as rabbi between 1928 and 1936. In the 1930s the Jews were damaged economically by the growing antisemitism. Natives of Tomaszow Mazowiecki include Leon *Pinsker, whose father taught in the city, the writer Moshe Dolzenovsky, and the chess champion Samuel *Reshevsky. The mathematician Ḥayyim Selig *Slonimski lived there between 1846 and 1858.
On the outbreak of World War II there were 13,000 Jews in the town. In December 1940 a closed ghetto composed of three isolated parts was established there. On March 11, 1941 the Jews from Plock were forced to settle there, so that the town's Jewish population grew to over 15,000. On April 27, 1942 about 100 people, including many members of the local underground, were arrested and shot. About 7,000 Jews were deported to the *Treblinka death camp and murdered on Oct. 31, 1942. Three days later another 7,000 Tomaszow Jews met their death in Treblinka. Only about 1,000 were left in the ghetto, which became a forced-labor camp. In May 1943 the ghetto was liquidated and its inmates transferred to the forced-labor camps in Blizyna and Starachowice, where almost all of them perished. No Jewish community was reconstituted in Tomaszow Mazowiecki.
B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach XIX i XX (1930), 28; S. Bronsztejn, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w okresie międzywojennym (1963), 278; M. Wejsberg (ed.), Tomashov-Mazovyetsk Yisker Bukh (1969); A. Rutkowski, in: BŻIH, 15–16 (1955).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.