The Jewish community of Łódź was founded circa 1810 by a group of about one hundred Jews. A century later, following a period of rapid expansion due to industrialization, there were 166,628 Jews in Łódź, constituting 40.7% of the total population. Many had immigrated from Russia to work in the city’s booming textile industry, although poverty among laborers was rampant, prompting the establishment of an extensive network of charitable organizations to serve various religious or social functions.
The present lot is a pinkas recording some of the history and regulations of the Hevrah (not Hevrat) Tehillim ve-Ner Tamid in Łódź, originally founded around 1820 as an association of men committed to reciting tehillim (psalms) every day – and especially on the Sabbath and the New Moon (when the entire Book of Psalms was to be completed by each member) – and to donating at least 3 grosze per week to fund the ner tamid (eternal lamp) of the local synagogue. After a number of years of operation, the society ceased to function but was renewed and reorganized first in 1830 and then again toward the end of 1855. The sixteen articles included here set forth the minimal terms of membership and the duties of the sextons, the methods for admitting new members and selecting new sextons, the sanctions imposed on delinquent members, and the requirement to gather for special celebratory meals twice a year, among other regulations.
Aside from its historical value, the pinkas is also beautifully decorated. Thirty-four of its pages feature the names of society members, often accompanied by the year in which they joined (the latest being 1935), surrounded by architectural or geometric frames, flora, fauna, and/or other (generally richly colored) motifs. This manuscript thus conveys important information about a significant charitable organization in Łódź in an elegant, artistic key and constitutes a valuable monument to the folk art tradition of Eastern European Jewry.
R[euben ben Joseph] Warszawski, Lodz (f. 1r)
Ch[aim] K[alman] Senderowicz, Łodz (f. 1r)
P.Z. Gliksman, “Tsvey alte khevres in lodzh,” Lodzher visnshaftlekhe shriftn 1 (1938): 267-276, at pp. 267-272.
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