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  II Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Marii Konopnickiej w Zamościu  
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"To Bring Memory Back" edition 2007-2008


Who are we

We are students of a Middle School in Kock, members of a history club. We would like to spread the knowledge about our town, gain new experience and broaden our horizons. Our special interest is the history of Polish Jews.

Why we do this project

We think it is important to remember the past that influenced and shaped Kock – the past without which our town wouldn't be what it is now. Our aim is to get to know Jewish culture, traditions and customs, and to spread and share our knowledge with others. We would also like to make the inhabitants of our town aware of the fact that we all need to respect and take care of the heritage other cultures left us.

Jewish community in our town

Jews settled in Kock at the beginning of the 17th century and for many years constituted the majority of its population. In 1927, there were over 2500 Jews in Kock (68% of the total number of inhabitants). Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, an aprentice of  the famous 'Seer' Jaakow Icchak Halewi Horowic from Lublin and of the 'Saint Jew' Jaakow Icchak from Przysucha, settled here in 1829. Thanks to him Kock became one of the major Polish centres of Hassidism. Hanna Węgrzynek describes this Kock Rebe in her Historia i kultura Żydów polskich as follows: in his teachings, Menachem Mendel Morgenstern emphasized that spontaneity and zeal are important elements of faith. Author of many aphorisms, Menachem Mendel Morgenstern used to say that humans have souls, not clocks, thus justifying the rejection of faith regulated not by the need to believe but by ritual. He preached that it is impossible to serve God properly if one does it out of habit and that to completely give oneself over to God is to find the ultimate meaning of life. He spent the last twenty years of his life in seclusion, in a room adjacent to a synagogue.” He had three sons: Dawid, Chaim, Israel and Mojżesz Mordechaj. M. Buber in his Tales of the Hassidim recounts how Rabbi once asked a Hassid:

'Have you ever seen a wolf?'

'I have' said the Hassid.

'Were you afraid?' the Rabbi asked again.

'I was’ replied the Hassid.

'Did you think about your fear then?'

'I didn't. I was simply afraid' the Hassid said.

'You see,' Rabbi said, ' it's the same with the fear of God.'

Jews from Kock supported the January and November Uprisings. One of those who sacrificed their lives for Poland was Berek Joselewicz who died in the Battle of Kock in 1809 and is buried near the town. He served in the Polish Legions under the command of Henryk Dąbrowski and participated in the victorious offensive carried out by the  Armed Forces of the Duchy of Warsaw. The inscription on his tombstone, funded in 1909 by Count Edward Żółkowski, says: Berek Joselewicz – Józef Berkowel Berkiewicz, born in 1760 in Kretynga, Lithuania. A Colonel of the Polish Armed Forces, Chief of a cavalry troop of the 5th Mounted Rifle Regiment of the Duchy of Warsaw. Recipient of the Virtuti Militari and of the Cross of the Legion of Honour. Died in the Battle of Kock in 1809. Buried here. Earned his good name with his blood. On the centenary of death. 1909”. His name and surname, as well as dates of his birth and death are inscribed on the second tombstone. 

Holocaust disrupted the quiet life of the shtetl: Tzaddik Józef Morgenstern died in an air raid  on the 9th September 1939; Jews from Lubartów, Suwałki, Serock, Nowy Dwór and Radzyń Podlaski were deported to the ghetto the Nazis established in Kock – all were killed in 1942 in Parczew and Treblinka. 

The majority of prewar buildings which survived to this day belonged to Jews. At the junction of Wojsko Polskie Street and Polna Street is the tzaddik's house with its characteristic tower. The Jewish cemetery lies about a kilometer outside the town limits and the only way to reach it is to follow Hanka Bielicka Street, turn right by the roadside shrine and take a sandy field track. A solid metal fence encloses the cemetery and visitors are let in through the gate by Mr Roman Stasiak, the key keeper living in the nearby house. Unfortunately, few matzevot survived the Second World War because the Nazis used them to pave roads in the marshes. For many pilgrims, the most important place on the cemetery is the ohel where the following are buried:

-         Menachem Mendel from Kock (1787 – 1859), the founder of the dynasty of the Kock tzaddiks, the teacher of Izaak Meir Rothenberg from Góra Kalwaria

-         Beniamin Morgenstern, son of Menachem Mendel, son-in-law of Abraham Mordechaj from Góra Kalwaria, died in 1866 at the age of 26

-         Dawid Morgenstern, son of Menachem Mendel, according to Marcin Wodziński, a well known historian of Jews: 'one of the most brilliant minds of his generation', died in 1893

-         Jakub Jozue Morgenstern, son of Dawid, a tzaddik from 1906, died in 1907

-         Dow Zeew Kohen Rappaport, son of Izrael Kohen from Pińczów, son-in-law of Menachem Mendel, died in 1901

In 1958, at the request of the local authorities, children from local schools planted poplars on the cemetery.

What we do in the project

In the first semester of school year 2007/08 our history club met weekly to discuss issues concerning Jewish religion, culture and cuisine. We talked about Jewish festivals (Sabbath and Hanukkah among them), the basic principles of Judaism, the important role of the Jewish cemetery in Kock. Finally, we have learnt to read symbols on matzevot.

We cooperate with Akademia Obywatelska from Lublin and together we examined the multicultural past of Kock. We went for a trip to Lublin where our friends from AO showed us the most interesting places in town.

We put information about our activities on the new boards the school gave us.

Like the year before, we tidied up the Jewish cemetery and the neglected monument of Berek Joselewicz.

The most interesting and the most successful action we carried out in the first semester was the search for matzevot which disappeared during and after the war. The information about the five matzevot we found and which were returned to their proper places was on the local radio and papers.

What we are going to do next

We will still be meeting at school to discuss issues concerning Jewish culture.

Together with AO, we are planning to make a movie on the subject of Jews, their culture and religion.

In the spring, we will clean up the Jewish cemetery and Berek Joselewicz's monument. We are also planning to make a list of the historical objects at the cemetery.

We will still be looking for lost matzevot and then place them on the Wall of Commemoration we are planning to make. We would also like to organize a meeting with the members of the Rabbinic Commission who could give us advice on how to look after the cemetery better.

If possible, we will visit Majdanek where Holocaust took place.

Who is helping us

  • Fundacja Ochrony Dziedzictwa Żydowskiego
  • Mrs Maria Kowalewska
  • Mr Paweł Szczotka
  • The School Management of the Complex of Schools in Kock
  • Akademia Obywatelska
  • ''Czulent'' organization from Kraków
  • the Municipal Council of Kock
  • occupational therapy workshop

What are we proud of

We are proud of the fact that our town played an important role in the history of Poland and we will keep reminding people about historic events that took place in Kock. We gladly take care of places so closely linked to the history of Polish Jews and we will not let this history be forgotten.


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