The Church of All Saints from the turn of the 15th century, remodelled in the second half of the 18th century; the late Gothic cemetery church of St Sophie from the second half of the 15th century; the fence surrounding the cemetery with the 17th and 19th-century gates; the remains of mid-17th century fortifications; the country mansion from the 17th century.
This sleepy, modest little town was once the private property of two families: the Jaworowskis (who invited Jews to settle here in 1723) and the Dlugoszewskis. Along with Belz, Gora Kalwaria, Kozienice and Lezajsk, Bobowa is most probably one of the best-known Polish towns within broad circles of Orthodox Jews. It was never acentre of industry or commerce. It owes its status exclusively to the fact that it was the seat of the court of the Halberstam dynasty, their yeshivah and many thousands of their still practising followers known as the Bobowa Chasidim. Although the town was avery important centre of Judaism, Jews never formed the majority of its population, constituting alittle under 40%.
This original synagogue structure dates from the middle of the 18th century. The main hall is built of stone and the western part of wood. Here you can see the magnificent framework of the aron ha-kodesh from 1778, regarded as one of the most precious in Poland. There is little doubt that the white coat of paint on all the walls conceals polychromies known from photographs taken before the Second World War. Under Communist rule the synagogue was used as aworkshop for aschool of weaving. The bimah and the steps by the aron ha-kodesh were removed. In 1993 the building was returned to the Cracow Jewish community and is in the process of being renovated.
The synagogue, photo: A.Olej&K. Kobus:
The number outside the building says: ul. Bobowa 169. The synagogue is situated close to the market square but is easy to miss. Take the street opposite the Urzad Gminy (local government office), which you will easily identify by the sign "fryzjer" outside the hairdresser's, where the key is kept. To obtain it, adonation of 10 zl is required.
on the internet
The texts presented here were originally published in the guide Where the Tailor Was a Poet...
, by Adam Dylewski (Pascal).
The Jewish Cemetery
The leaders of the of the Bobowa Chasidim rest in the cemetery on the top of atall hill on the south-western side of the town. It was tidied up and fenced off a decade or so ago. You can find there the ohel of tzaddik Halberstam, the remains of approximately 100 matzevot and aditch of what used to be a ritual well.
The cemetery and the ohel, photo: A.Olej&K. Kobus:
Leave Bobowa Miasto train station and go up ul. Zamkowa. From here walk to the right along the main road up towards the Catholic cemetery. Just before it turn into the asphalt road leading eastward and referred to as ul. Sw. Wawrzynca (street names are not marked). Follow this road up to the first crossroads and then turn right. Walk up to afarmhouse in acluster of trees (the gate is painted red). Here you will find another road leading to the right, up the hill and straight to the cemetery. The walk takes 30 minutes. If you want to enter the ohel, you should first telephone the cemetery's caretaker Mr Tomasz Nowak (phone +18 3515103). It will save you the trouble of walking up and down the adjacent steep hills (Mr Nowak lives way down below the hill, on the other side of the cemetery).
The Bobowa Chasidim
The Chasidic group which made Bobowa famous the world over owes its existence to Chaim Halberstam, the tzaddik from Nowy Sacz. His grandson Shlomo Halberstam (1847-1906), rabbi of Oswiecim and Wisznica, teacher of many well-known rabbis and enemy of state education, settled in Bobowa at the end of the 19th century. He created a court and a yeshivah, which quickly gained recognition as one of the leading Jewish colleges in this part of Europe. Lectures followed the teachings of Chaim Halberstam, laying emphasis on Talmudic studies as well the importance of a simple, ascetic lifestyle.
The Chasidic centre in Bobowa reached its zenith during the time of Ben Cion Halberstam (18741941), tzaddik Shlomo's successor. Ben Cion Halberstam stood out even among other tzaddikim. He worked untiringly in the Malopolska region to establish yet more yeshivot, setting up sixteen in all, as well as arranging assistance for Jews escaping from the Third Reich. His musical talent brought him great fame and he composed many songs. The joyous weddings which he gave for his daughters have become a thing of legend. He hid from the Nazis in Lvov but did not manage to elude the Holocaust. He was murdered there together with a group of his followers in July 1941 after Germany attacked the Soviet Union. His son, Shlomo Halberstam (b. 1908) survived and so, as one of the very few, the Bobowa dynasty maintained a historic continuity, moving its headquarters to New York. Today the Bobowa Chasidim are one of the largest and most active Chasidic groups in the world. There are Bobowa synagogues in New York (together with the famous Halberstam yeshivah), London, Jerusalem, Antwerp, Toronto and Montreal.
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