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
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
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.
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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
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 (1874'1941), 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.