Novogrudek as part of Poland and the position of the Jewish minority


There were new freedoms from the new government for its minorities but with it went new responsibilities. Institutions and professions that had been excluded to Jews and other minorities were now open and Jews could serve in the police and armies of the region.

As Polish nationals Jewish young men were expected to serve for a couple of years in the Polish Army as any other Polish citizen. Many Jews took a great pride in the opportunity to do this, allowing them to prove that they were loyal to Poland and its people. However, in many areas the prejudice of centuries remained and Jews were frequently intimidated during their time as soldiers.

The Jewish community of Novogrudek had suffered from the effects of the First World War. Many of the institutions within the Jewish community that had assisted the poor and desolate had collapsed and a great many of its people were starving or living in extreme poverty. One of the immediate problems was the large number of orphans that existed.

Over time and with outside assistance life for Novogrudek’s Jewish community gradually began to improve. Charitable institutions of support were created and trade was re-established. Much of the aid was sent from ex-townsmen and women who had found new lives for themselves in America. Under the leadership of Alexander Harcavy relatives and ex-citizens of Novogrudek in the United States raised a large sum of money for the community. In 1920 Harcavy first returned to Novogrudek to dispense aid. He spent several months there, organizing how the money should be spent and planning the future needs of the community. He also helped to write and advise on a constitution for the Novogrudek Jewish citizens. Democratic elections were held. All men and women over the age of 20 could vote and propose candidates to the Main committee and 15 subcommittees, eight for social help, six for cultural matters and one for justice (Bet Din).
In 1931 he revisited Novogrudek on his way to Warsaw, bringing with him a cameraman who filmed the life of the Jews of Novogrudek and a photographer, whose images you see in this exhibition.

This community support was the first from the ex-Novogrudek citizens and one that began a long process.

Aid from America continued to arrive up to the outbreak of World War Two.