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Pultusk

PULTUSK (Pol. Pułtusk), town in Warzawa province, Poland. Although there were some Jews in Pultusk in 1486 a settlement as such did not develop because of the privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis granted to the Masovia region during the 16th century by the Polish king, Sigismund II Augustus. Even temporary residence for Jews was authorized only by special permit. The prohibition was temporarily abrogated after the Grand Duchy of Warsaw was created in 1807 but renewed with the establishment of the Polish kingdom in 1815, according to the decision of the Congress of Vienna. The decree was finally abolished in 1866. During the 19th century the Jewish population increased; there were 118 Jews in 1810 (5.1% of the total population), 4,769 in 1856, and 6,950 (45.7%) in 1909. During World War I many Jews fled to Warsaw, so that by 1921 the number had decreased to 5,919 (about 46% of the total population). In independent Poland the Jewish population rose again and by 1931 there were 8,300 Jews (49.2% of the total) in the town.

Despite its proximity to Warsaw, Pultusk did not develop as a center of commerce and crafts mainly because it was removed from railway junctions. Nevertheless, a considerable number of Jews were craftsmen, particularly tailors. Because of the surrounding forests, there were a number of sawmills so that carpentry as well as trade in wood and furniture developed. However, economic difficulties led many Jews to emigrate. In 1894 many wealthy Jews left when a cholera epidemic broke out. During the 19th century the community supported various activities, the most important of which was social relief to the needy. Between the two world wars a Jewish educational program was developed. It attracted most of the community's elementary and secondary school students. Jews were represented in the municipal administration; about one-half of the delegates elected in 1922 and 1927 were Jews. The leadership of the Jewish community itself was elected democratically for the first time in 1927. The oldest synagogue was erected between 1805 and 1815. It burnt down and was rebuilt in 1854. Of the rabbis of Pultusk, the most renowned were R. Joshua *Trunk (from 1853 to 1861), R. Ḥanokh Zundel b. Jacob Grodzinski, who belonged to the *Mitnaggedim (appointed in 1878), and R. Ḥayyim Meshullam ha-Kohen (1909–1929), known for his Zionist tendencies. The last rabbi of Pultusk was R. Israel Ber Lowenthal, who immigrated to Palestine at the outbreak of World War II and died there in 1942.