The Rabbi, the Prince and a Promise Kept for Five Hundred Years

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Pablo Edronkin

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One day, Prince Mikolaj Krzysztof Radziwill promised to a rabbi in Italy that he would care for the Jews in Poland; his family kept the promise ever since then.

"Who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure." - Proverb.

The Katzenellenbogen family of rabbis[91] originates in a town of the same name in Hesse Nassau, Germany, in the XIV century. Over time it became ramified across different countries of Europe, and linked with other important families. The Skowronek bankers are in fact, related to the Katzenellenbogen dynasty (see The First Schoenbergs in Warsaw).

Two last instances of marriages between our family and the Katzenellenbogens were those of Krajndla Skowronek[1.122], who married Eliahu Katzenellenbogen[1.67] in 1851, and Manes Blat[1.120] who married Sura Katzenellenbogen[1.121], married in 1910. Other links go way back into the past, and the relationship between the Katzenellenbogen family and Poland stars actually in Italy, in the XVI century.

During the XVI century lived in Italy Samuel Judah Katzenellenbogen[1.124], who was my 12th great grand uncle. He was the son of the MaHaRam Meir Ben Isaac Katzenellenbogen[1.125] who was chief rabbi of Padua and acting rabbi of Venice. His son samuel Judah, after Meir's death, was elected as the chief Venetian rabbi.

Mikolaj Krzysztof Radziwill Sierotka, Grand Marshal of Lithuania.
Prince Mikolaj Krzysztof Radziwill, Grand Marshal of Lithuania, by Marcin
Franciszek Wobe, bef 1758. From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, public domain[92].

At that time Prince Mikolaj Krzysztof Radziwill from Poland was travelling; he was visiting Padua, Italy when apparently, all his belongings and money were stolen.

The son of Rabbi Meir ben Isaac of Padua, Samuel Judah Katzenellenbogen was widely respected in the city, both by Jews as well as non-Jews. Prince Radziwill asked for his help, and the rabbi gave the prince the money he needed to return to Poland, but before that he asked him to treat the Jewish people well back in his land and protect them from accusations of libel. The prince promised he would.

Since then, the Radziwill family has been most friendly with the Jews in Poland, and kept a relationship with the Katzenellenbogen family. A few years after returning to Poland, Samuel's son, Saul, became - according to legend - the King of Poland for a day, thanks to Prince Radziwill (see Saul, King for a Day).

More recently, during the XX century, one of the members of the Radziwill family became instrumental in proving that the book "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is really a concocted hoax created by the Russian secret police.

View of Venice, engraving by Hogenberg and Braun from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum, 1571-1617, with hand colouring.
View of Venice, engraving by Hogenberg and Braun from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum, 1571-1617, with hand colouring, 1565,
by G. Braun (1541-1622) and F. Hogenberg(1535-1590), from the engravings by Bolognino Zaltieri (fl. 1560-80). This was the
aspect of the city at the time when Samuel Judah Katzenellenbogen became elected chief rabbi there.
From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, public domain[93].

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