A small town in Poland, about 30 miles southwest of Warsaw, by the name of Mszczonow was known to its Jewish residents by its easier-to-pronounce Yiddish name, Amshinov. In the 19th century, the town became well-known upon the establishment of the Amshinov Hasidic Dynasty by Rabbi Yaakov David Kalisch (1803-1878). The Amshinover Rebbe had followers in various parts of Masovia, Kuyavia and eastern Greater Poland regions. Tonight, the 4th of Kislev marks the Yahrzeit of the First Amshinover Rebbe, Yaakov David Kalisch.
Rabbi Yaakov David was born in Zarik to the famous Rabbi Yisrael Yitzchak Kalisch of Vorka and his wife Rachel. When he came of age, he married Sarah Leah, the daughter of Rabbi Samuel Cukernik of Parcew who was a Hasid of his father. Supported by his father-in-law, he spent his days in Torah study and prayer. After some time, he was called as communal rabbi to the communities of Gowciow, Gora Kalwaria (before the famous Ger Hassidic Dynasty had been founded), Przysucha (Peshischa in Yiddish) and Mszczonow (Amshinov in Yiddish) where he remained the rest of his life.
Rabbi Yaakov David’s father had been a leading disciple of Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa and a peer of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. When Rabbi Simcha Bunim passed away in 1827, his followers split into two camps, some of them following Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk whose emphasis was on fierce self-discipline, with the remainder adhering to Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka whose approach was one of warmth and forgiveness. In 1848, when Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorka passed away, many of his followers wished to follow his son Rabbi Yaakov David, then rabbi in Amshinov. He, too, followed the Vorka tradition of kindness and striving to rekindle the Jewish faith in those who had strayed from their religion. Rabbi Yaakov David set up court in Amshinov and became known as Rebbe of Amshinov. Rabbi Yaakov David’s brother, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, continued the Vorka dynasty of his father in Vorka itself.
Rabbi Yaakov David, like many Hassidic Jews in Poland, was not fluent in the Polish language but that did not stop him from attempting to cancel several decrees that had been issued by the government, then in Russian hands, that would have had negative consequences for Jews. He was often in and out of the offices of ministers and governors. Once, when the Tsar issued a decree demanding that Jews shave their beards and cut off their sidelocks, he and Rabbi Eliyahu Chaim Meisel of Lodz visited the Governor of Warsaw, and together begged him to cancel the decree. The Rebbe spoke to him in Yiddish and the Governor replied in German, that much as he would like to, he could not do anything because the decree was from St. Petersburg. The Rebbe’s tears, however, touched the heart of the Governor’s wife. She told her husband that if the Rebbe is so moved by this decree, he himself must do all in his power to have it cancelled. Somehow, the decree did get cancelled.
Rabbi Yaakov David and his first wife suffered many personal tragedies as all their children but one daughter did not survive childhood. That daughter, Chaya Fajge, married Rabbi Yerachmiel Meier Yehuda Rabinowitz of Peshischa (son of the “Holy Jew”), but died shortly after her marriage. When Rabbi Yaakov’s wife died, he remarried the daughter of one of his Hasidim. He and his second wife had three sons: Rabbi Menachem, who for forty years was the Second Amshinover Rebbe; Rabbi Yishayahu of Peshischa; and Rabbi Yermiyahu of Opala.
Currently, Rabbi Yosef Kalish II is the Amshinover Rebbe in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn, New York City.
He is the son of Rabbi Yitzchak Kalisch of Amshinov, who was the son of Rabbi Yosef Kalisch of Amshinov, the son of Rabbi Menachem Kalisch, Second Rebbe of Amshinov. There is another branch of Amshinover Hasidut in Jerusalem headed by Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Yeshia Milikowsky, a descendant of Rabbi Menachem Kalisch’s son Rabbi Shimon Shalom.
The first Amshinovsky Rebbe was buried in a family ohel in the Jewish cemetery in Mszczonow (Poland). Every year the hundreds of Hasidim come and pray on the holy place of burial of the great righteous.
Source: Jewish Genealogy Portal