Aspects of Jewish Communal Life
The Zambrów Bath House and Mikvah

Zambrów is a member of the Museum's World Jewish Communities

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There had been a mikvah in Zambrów for many long years. Without one, a Jewish settlement cannot exist. It was difficult going with the bath house: the authorities were not easily persuaded to permit a bath house to be built – that is to say, a place to bathe in honor of the Sabbath. From the perspective of the authorities, it had not yet been demonstrated that this was necessary for the populace... the Poles actually did not bathe. Up to the nineteenth century, only special towns had concessions for a bath house. It was the gabbai Shlom’keh Wilimowsky, who built the bath house in Zambrów. The Jewish community invested about fifteen hundred rubles in the building. It was built on community land, near the hekdesh. The bath house had its own special brook, a cold and warm mikvah, a sauna to steam one’s self, and a cold room, after being switched with branches.

The bath house was leased for either a year, or three years, and the community had a significant income from it. It was lit and heated on Thursdays for the womenfolk, and on Fridays for the men folk. Occasionally, the baths would be kindled in the middle of the week, and it was shouted out in the streets: ‘The bath is being heated!’ Friday, at midday, when the bath was thought to be sufficiently heated (only men used the steam room) the stones in the oven would glow, and Jozef the Shabbos-Goy had provided for enough switching branches, the Shammes would go out into the street intersections and announce: ‘To the baths!’

The military represented a large clientele for the baths. Soldiers and officers would fill up the baths, sometimes causing a scandal...accordingly, for a while, the bathing season was regulated: after candles were lit – the soldiers can come and a gentile keeps watch and collects the entrance fees.

They did not always succeed in have a good bath house manager. The last of these was R’ Alter Dworzec (Koltun) and it appears that the whole history of the baths came to an end with him.  next ►►



Zambrów 4




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