[Yiddish, Tiktin] - A town in the Podlasie
voivodship in the Bialystok powiat (district); it was granted its town
charter in 1424-25.
The Jewish Community was founded in 1522, when ten families from
Grodno were brought as settlers by the voivod of Wilno and Troki,
Olbracht Gasztold. They were granted the right to found a cemetery and
build a synagogue, as well as market stalls around the town hall. In
1536, they received a "court privilege", which meant they were released
from municipal jurisdiction. In 1576, these rights were confirmed by
Stefan Batory, allowing them to engage freely in trade within the town
and in other locations. In 1633, these rights were guaranteed by
The Jewish Community in Tykocin grew quickly, and began playing a
prominent role among the Jewish communities in Podlasie and northeastern
Mazovia. In 1576, Tykocin's Jews owned 54 buildings. They were
primarily engaged in trade, including the delivery of goods to Gdansk.
In 1621, the Tykocin Community gained its independence from Grodno,
under whose jurisdiction it had been. Tykocin began playing an important
role in the Sejm of Lithuanian Jews, and also gained special authority
over more than a dozen other Jewish communities, including Bialystok,
Orla, Stawiska, Stuczyn, Grajewo, Rajgrod and Bocki. In time, the town
became an important center of Jewish culture and Talmudic studies. In
1642, a Baroque synagogue was built.
The following Talmudists were active in
Tykocin: Menachem David ben Itzhaak (a pupil of Moshe Isserles), Shmuel
Eliezer ben Yehuda ha-Levi Edels, Joshua ben Yosef, Elijahu Shapira
(beginning in 1702), and Shalom ben Eliezer Rokeach (who lived in
Tykocin during the years 1756-66).
The town was seriously damaged during the Swedish invasions. In
1661, the town was awarded to Stefan Czarniecki for his service in
battle; after his death, it became part of the Branicki family holdings.
The Tykocin Jewish Community continued to play an important economic
role, and ran various trade and credit activities (Jewish debts). In
1775, approximately 1,500 Jews lived in Tykocin (57% of the total
population). Towards the end of the eighteenth century, both the
Community and the town itself began to be overshadowed by Bialystok, the
Branicki family seat.
After the Congress of Vienna, Tykocin lay within the Kingdom of
Poland, and its population continued to grow: in 1827, there were 2,700
Jews living in Tykocin (64% of the population); by 1857, this figure was
3,500 (59%). They were for the most part engaged in small-scale trade
and crafts. Over the course of the nineteenth century, Tykocin became a
small provincial town, partially due to its lack of a rail connection.
During the interwar period, approximately 1,500
Jews lived in Tykocin, (50% of the total population). There was a
tallith factory in the town, as well as a Hebrew school, run by Tarbut,
and a branch of the Zionist youth organization, He-khaluts.
When the Second World War broke out, Tykocin was under Soviet
occupation. In August 1941, after the city was taken by the Germans, the
Nazis executed 1,400 Jews; they also sent approximately 150 people to
the ghetto in Bialystok.
Tykocin's seventeenth century synagogue is one of the most beautiful
works of Jewish sacral architecture in Poland. A museum of Judaica is
currently housed there. A regional museum is now located in the former
beit midrash building.