Dow Ber Meisels (1798-1870)

20th February 1870 marks the date of death Dow Ber Meisels. The son of  Izaak and Aurelia (born in 1798 in Szczekociny) passed away in Warsaw. A Chief Rabbi of Kraków between  1832-1856  and a Chief  Rabbi of  Warsaw between 1856-1870. A great advocate of the settlement between the Poles and the Jews in order to regain indepenence.

Dow Ber Meisels  spent his childhood and youth years in Kamieniec Podolski where he took his first steps in the Talmud education thanks to his father.  In 1820 he moved to Cracow where he married Pajcza, a daughter of a very wealthy banker and a salt dealer from Chrzanów,  Zelman Bornstein. Thanks to this marriage, Meisels could fully devote himsef to the Talmud studies. However, he did not resist the temptation to get rich and opened Meizels et Horowitz, a banking house in Kazimierz. In 1830 Meisels financed and organised a weapons supply for the insurgents of the November Uprising. Since he did not have  proper professional qualifications, Meisels was pronounced a provisional Rabbi in 1832. However, thanks to being generous and world savvy, Meisels gained favour with Jews in Cracow.  He fought with the Free City of Kraków authorities for Jewish rights. He was against extensive taxes, demanded political freedom, the freedom to settle and the right for allowing  Jewish children the education in public Christian schools. Meisels supported Poland’s attempts to get its independence back. What is more, he advocated the idea of assymilation of the Polish Jews (he gave sermons in Polish). He backed the Cracow Revolution in 1846. While living in Cracow, we was chosen a Deputy to the Parliament in Vienna where he held an important position. His engagement resulted in an audience with Emperor Ferdinand I. Meisels was perceived as an avid Polish patriot. According to an independence activist, a democratic politician and the first president of Lviv after Galicia got its independence, Florian Ziemiałkowski, ”It is incredibly pleasant to see a Jew who is such an avid Pole, too. How passionately did Meisels describe the amazing feeling that every Pole gets when pronouncing the word Kraków. How proud was he to say that Kraków is the capital city of Poland. No! Meises does not pretend!”. As a consequence of rumours and accusations spread by hostile Hasid, he moved to Warsaw where he used the title of a Rabbi of Kraków, residing in Warsaw. This is where he developed his activity even further. He called the Jews to take part in patriotic demonstrations. Meisels was persecuted by Russian authorities, next imprisoned at the Warsaw Citadel and subsequently expelled from the Kingdom of Poland. 

Dow Ber Meisels was buried at the Jewish cemetery at Okopowa street in Warsaw. A street in Cracow’s district, Kazimierz, was named in his hounour.