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Nowy Sacz

Yiddish: Zantz, Noyzantz


Tourist Attractions
The medieval urban complex with numerous historical buildings such as: the church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Virgin Mary (now Evengelical) from the second half of the 14th century, with the Lubomirski chapel (1611); the church of the Holy Spirit from the beginning of the 15th century (later remodelled) with the Norbertine cloister (today Jesuit); the collegiate church of St Margaret (from 1446, remodelled in Gothic style in 1970-1973); the Gothic House from 1505, now the District Museum; the ruins of the castle from the 14th century, with a reconstructed tower; the Town Hall (1895-1897). In the Falkowa district there is also the Nowy Sacz Ethnographic Park containing 40 examples of the rural architecture of local Polish highlanders and the Lemko minority and a model of a small town. Nowy Sacz is a good starting point for excursions to the nearby mountains. It is also a good idea to visit Stary Sacz located some 12 km away to see the cloister (1280), the church of the Holy Trinity (1332), a number of 16th and 17th-century buildings, and also the synagogue in ul. Staszica 10, erected in 1906. Today it is used a workshop for the local woodwork school.


The first accounts of Jewish settlement in Nowy Sacz come from 1469, when the name of acertain Abraham from Sacz appears in the town's documents. Until the middle of the 17th century the city council blocked the influx of Jews and allowed only for the settlement of well-qualified specialists. This situation changed completely in 1673, when in the face of agrowing economic crisis King Michael Korybut Wisniowiecki lifted all existing restrictions. The local Jewish community was mostly involved in the honey, wine, fur, leather and tobacco trades. An ell, the local standard for measuring length, was placed next to the synagogue. The 19th century brought with it the phenomenon of Chasidism. It exploded with great force in Nowy Sacz and made the town one of the main centres of this religious movement. It was due in large part to the charisma of the local tzaddik Chaim Halberstam and his yeshivah.

Jews constituted approximately 30% of the local population. They lived mostly in the town centre and in Pieklo, apart of the Zakamienica district. Alarge, empty square on the corner of ul. Kazimierza Wielkiego and ul. Boznicza is now the only reminder of the Nowy Sacz Jewish quarter.

The Nazi occupation of Nowy Sacz began in September 1939. Jews were forced into slave labour, toiling in quarries or unloading trains. Already poor, they were impoverished still further by the unwarranted contributions which they were required to make. In June 1941 the Nazis marked out the Jewish Housing District, awalled quadrangle situated between the castle and the Market Square. The doors of the houses were bricked up and curtains were to be drawn all the time. The extermination here started at the beginning of 1942. Its main arena was in the Jewish cemetery in ul. Rybacka, where mass murder and executions by shooting were aregular occurrence. Aday which is indelibly marked in the memory is 29 April 1942, when several hundred people were killed in the space of one day. In honour of the victims amemorial was erected at the cemetery. Poles repeatedly tried to help their Jewish neighbours. Despite this, ninety per cent of Nowy Sacz Jews lost their lives. After the Second World Waruntil 1968 a Congregation of the Jewish Faith operated here. The only private Chasidic house of prayer in Poland still functions here today.

The Grodzka Synagogue
This pretty synagogue, once known as Grodzka, was erected in 1780 on the site of the former wooden one. The elaborate Baroque decor was destroyed by fire in 1894, and afterwards the facade was remodelled. The Nazis turned the synagogue into astorehouse. After the war it was returned to the Cracow Jewish community, which donated it to the city in 1974.

The synagogue, photo: A.Olej&K. Kobus:

The columns of the bimah have remained but there is no recess for the aron ha-kodesh. The ceiling is new. The interior is filled with the works of local painters. Only the vestibule contains amodest display of Judaica, entitled "They used to be among us". Aplaque commemorating the 25,000 Jewish inhabitants of the city and funded by the Nowy Sacz Landsmanshaft can be seen on the wall of the building.
The Dawna Synagoga Art Gallery; the building is marked ul. Berka Joselewicza 12. It is situated on the corner of ul. Berka Joselewicza and ul. Boznicza. Open: Wed and Thu 10am-2.30pm, Fri 10am-5.30pm, Sat and Sun 9am-2.30pm.

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The texts presented here were originally published in the guide Where the Tailor Was a Poet..., by Adam Dylewski (Pascal).
The Jewish Cemetery
The Nowy Sacz Jewish cemetery is very close to the Grodzka synagogue and practically on the bank of the River Kamienica. It was laid out at the end of the 19th century and extended in 1926. It is now surrounded by asolid wall and as the grass is cut regularly, one gets an impression that the cemetery is well mantained. Some distance away and surrounded by about 200 matzevot (many of them recovered after being used by the Germans as paving stones) you can see the ohel of Chaim Halberstam. During the Second World War the cemetery was the site of the gallows and it was here that Jews and Poles (including those who harboured Jews) were hanged. It is commemorated by amemorial, but the inscription: "To the victims of Nazi barbarity and the heroes in the struggle for the freedom of the Polish nation", seems somewhat incomplete and should be modified. Alongside, there is another monument which commemorates the massacre of 29 April 1942.
Ul. Rybacka (left, on the other side of the bridge over the River Kamienica). The keys can be obtained from Ms Barbara Makuch, ul. Rybacka 3/2, phone +18 4419381.

Beys Nusn (Natan's House of Prayer)
The only functioning Chasidic synagogue in Poland today, as well as the only private one, was built at the turn of the 20th century by Natan Kriszer, amember of the Sendzer Chasidim. During the Second World War it was turned into astorehouse and the wall paintings were destroyed. From 1945 to 1968 it functioned again as asynagogue. It managed to survive until the fall of Communism as it was used once more as awarehouse. In 1992 the synagogue underwent an overhaul. Sabbath services take place on occasion, particularly when groups come to visit. These may include Chasids from Satmar (now the Romanian town of Satu Mare), who have recently joined the group from Bobowa. The matter of the synagogues affiliation is as yet unsettled. At present it is aprivate place of worship, but the warden is making efforts to join with the Cracow Jewish community to ensure the prayer hall's continued existence.
Ul. Jagiellonska 12 (in the courtyard). The keys to the synagogue may be obtained from Ms Barbara Makuch, ul. Rybacka 3/2 (opposite the cemetery), phone +18 4419381.


The Nowy Sacz Chasidim
In accordance with the teachings of their master, Chaim Halberstam, the Chasidim of Nowy Sacz represented an ultra-Orthodox approach which even managed to shock other Chasidic groups, who regarded them as reactionary. Apart from raising asceticism to a point where it became a fundamental principle, they resisted all forms of innovation, including assimilation. Boys were not allowed to attend secular schools; the teaching of Polish language was forbidden; they even condemned the activities of the Agudat Isroel party, which, ideologically speaking, was not that dissimilar in that it forbade participation in politics. The first of many tzaddikim was the master, Chaim Halberstam (1793-1876). His successors were as follows: his son Aron (1826-1903), Moshe (d. 1918), Izaak Tobiasz from Glogow Malopolski (d. 1927) and Jozef Menachem (d. 1935). The dynasty ended with Mordechai Zeew Halberstam from Grybow (d. 1942), who was murdered by the Nazis in the Tarnow Ghetto. The Nowy Sšcz dynasty gave birth to many offshoots and, apart from the most famous of all in Bobowa, there were also dynasties in Cieszanow, Gorlice and Sienawa near Lezajsk.


Chaim Halberstam (1793-1876), founder of a dynasty and referred to as the Sendzer rebe (the Teacher from Nowy Sacz) was one of the most distinguished of all tzaddikim. He was the representative of an ultra-Orthodox tendency recognising asceticism as the basis for leading a true life. His teachings are contained in the three-part work entitled Divrei Chaim, which may be translated in two ways: 'the Words of Chaim' or 'Stories of Life'. The best known fact about the life and teachings of Halberstam is his lengthy dispute with another great tzaddik, Izrael Friedmann from Sadogora near Czerniowce (Chernovitz). Friedmann lived in unusual splendour in a palace, which greatly irritated the leader from Nowy Sacz, who accused him of extravagance and ignorance. In reply to these accusations one of Friedmann's sons, the tzaddik Dov Ber from Leow (Moldova), true to the Haskalah, stated that the Chasidic belief in the supernatural power of the tzaddik was fraudulent. The centre in Sadogora itself intervened, admitting that Dov Ber was insane. This incident, however, so incensed Halberstam that he put a cherem (curse) on the dynasty from Sadogora, which before long replied in kind. It was the most serious conflict within Judaism at that time.

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