Reconstituting a Community: Leszno, Poland

By Ann Rabinowitz

Very often, Jewish communities slip into the mists of time due to wars and depredations.  One such town, Lissa, Posen, Germany, was an early community founded in 1534.  It grew to be a significant place both commercially and in a religious sense.      

Why do I bring this up?  As it so happens, I was looking at the Betholem Cemetery listings in Birmingham, England, and one of the burials was for an Abraham Moses Marbe who was said to be born in Lissar, Posen, Germany, and died in Birmingham in 1859.  Intrigued by where this place might be, I decided to find out where it was and a bit about it. 

The first thing I learned is that it was actually spelled Lissa and that it was now called Leszno, Poland.  The more I Googled, the more I found the names of individuals and families who had lived there.  Invariably, these people were some of the outstanding Jews of their time including Rabbi Leo Baeck (born in Lissa on May 23 1873 and died in London on November 2, 1956) for whom the Leo Baeck Institute in New York is named.

Some of the Leszno Jews were:

BAECK, Rabbi Leo (born May 23, 1873 – died November 2, 1856, London, England)
BERGMANN, George Francis Jack (born April 8, 1900 – died October 21, 1979, Vila New Hebrides)
KALISCHER, Rabbi Salomon (born 1768 – died February 15, 1840, Thorn, Germany)
KALISCHER, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch (born April 1, 1795 – died October 16, 1874, Thorn, Germany)
LORBERBAUM, Rabbi Jacob (born 1760 – died May 25, 1832, Stryj, Ukraine)
MARBE, Abraham Moses (born date unknown – died 1859, Birmingham, England)
MORAWCZYK, Rabbi Moses b. Eliezer (born elsewhere – died 1705, Leszno, Poland)
NEUMANN, Eleonora (born 1819 – died January, 1841, Trieste, Italy)
PELSER, Rabbi Simon b. Judah Lob (born elsewhere, 1690 – died date unknown, Leszno, Poland)
ROSENFELD, Rabbi Jacob (born date unknown – died date unknown, Savannah, Georgia)
SOLOMON, Haym (born April 7, 1740 – died January 6, 1785, Philadelphia, PA)
WEIL, Rabbi Meyer (born 1713 – died 1790, Schwerenz, Germany)

As you can see, the list focuses on individuals who lived during a period of time when society was expanding into new philosophies, new ways of doing things and the Industrial Revolution.  One of the rabbis on the list, Rabbi Jacob Rosenfeld, was one of the first rabbis in Savannah, Georgia.

Apart from the outstanding rabbis on the above list, there is Abraham Moses Marbe, the man who started me on this quest, who was an inventor and engineer.  He contributed to the workings of the Industrial Revolution in his area of England where he settled.   Also, Eleonora Neumann was a well-known and accomplished German musician.  She was a violinist, who played throughout Europe with great success.  She was one of the early female violinists.

Another well-known person from Lissa ended up in Australia, George Francis Jack Bergmann.  He was a soldier and an historian.  He was one of the first to write about the Jews who settled in Australia and their accomplishments.

The last person on the above list of Leszno luminaries, Haym Solomon, is someone that all American Jews should remember.  In case you are having a senior moment, let me remind you of who he was.  He was the prime financier of the American Revolution as he gave $300,000 of his own funds to supply George Washington’s forces enabling them to fight onto victory.  He was very much responsible for the success of the country which became America.


There are also many more interesting resources for locating additional Leszno Jews as seen below:

·         The online DigiBaeck database
·         The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem, Israel and 
·         The 2011 thesis written by Stephen Nicholls about the Interwar Years (1918-1939):
·         The Virtual Shtetl:
·         The JRI-Poland site:
·         JewishGen Locality Page:
·         JewishGen Family Finder has 139 people looking for Leszno family members.
·         A Yizkor Book for Leszno “Geschichte der Juden in Lissa” by Louis Lewin published in 1904.
·         The JewishGen GerSIG site:
·         The Jewish Museum in Leszno:
·        Several databases from the Polish State Archives of Leszno property owners (1793-1808): and Leszno property owners in arrears (1701-1869):

Unfortunately, there is no KehilaLink site for Leszno, Poland.  Such a site could encompass all of these resources and draw in the 139 people who have an interest in the families in the town as expressed by their participation in the JewishGen Family Finder.  I would encourage anyone who is interested in creating a site to do so with the help of JewishGen volunteers, who are there for that purpose.  All it takes is contacting the people on the JGFF, posting about the project and off you go.

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