English translation (from the Polish) of the Information Signboard dedicated on April 26, 2022:
There is a Jewish Cemetery here: The cemetery was established around 1778. Its devastation was begun during World War II by the German occupiers, and after the war the necropolis underwent further destruction, as it was easy to obtain building material from the tombstones. In consequence, only about twenty of them have survived. The history of this place began anew in the years 2005–2007, when about a dozen fragments of the matzevot (tombstones) were returned to the cemetery. Most of the fragments were discovered in the foundations of one of the nearby houses. Several matzevot are also kept by the Kurpiowski open-air Museum in Nowogród.
The cemetery and a building at the market square where a Jewish school had operated until 1939 are the sole remnants of the existence of a Jewish community in pre-war Nowogród.
The history of Jews in this city dates to the 15th century, but until the 17th century there were very few Jewish people here. The Jewish community was constituted in the 18th century when a wooden synagogue was built. At the beginning of the 19th century, Jews were 15 percent of the town’s population. Later, Aleksander Połujański in his book Wędrówki po guberni augustowskiej w celu naukowym odbyte [Wandering across the Augustów Governorate for Scientific Purposes] wrote: “The Jews, who make up only a quarter of the population of the city [of Nowogród], deal in the usual small-scale trade of rural products and crockery”. In 1865, almost every second inhabitant was of Jewish origin, and in 1908, the Jewish community consisted of as many as 1,542 people, who owned most of the shops and ran a ferry across the Narew River. At that time, a second synagogue, also of wood, was constructed,
During World War I, about 70 percent of the buildings in Nowogród were destroyed, and the Jews were ordered by the Russians to leave the city. In 1921, only 514 Jews remained, and they were still engaged in trade and crafts on a local scale. The next wave of war devastation hit Nowogród in September 1939. Most of the Jewish population fled to Łomża (until 1941 both cities had been under Soviet occupation, and afterwards they fell into the hands of the Third Reich). In January 1943, about 300 Jewish families from Nowogród and Łomża were transported to the Auschwitz Death Camp.
The life of the Jewish community in Nowogród is mentioned in the preserved documents, including the marriage announcement issued with the seal and signature of Hersz Pelterowicz, rabbi of the Nowogród Synagogue District, in connection with the marriage of his son Shymek from Suwałki with Cypa Levitan. The announcement is kept in the collections of the State Archives in Suwałki. In the collections of the Łomża Archives you can find similar documents issued by Rabbi Pelterowicz to other newlyweds.
Hersh Pelterowicz (1807–1877, born in Poland and died in Nowogród) was an important figure in local social life, a master of Kabbalah and a local rabbi highly esteemed by his community. One of the legends in which Pelterowicz appears as "Rav Hersheleh" tells about the extraordinary power of the Kabbalist: the story says that he blew out a spreading fire approaching the town by waving a handkerchief and saved Jewish dwellings and the town from the conflagration. Later it was said that as long as he lived, the city was never in danger of a major fire. Rabbi Pelterowicz is buried in this cemetery, but we do not know the precise location of his grave nor has his tombstone been found. Members of his family from Nowogród emigrated to the United States, the United Kingdom and Palestine (Israel) and slightly changed the spelling of their surnames. Some of their descendants are still alive, and it is thanks to them that we were able to obtain his portrait.
The wooden building of the Nowogród synagogue was erected at the end of the 18th century, probably on the site of the synagogue that had burnt down during the city fire in 1778. The so-called New Synagogue was rather small: the main hall was built on a square plan with sides of 11 meters. During the World War II German occupation, the synagogue was destroyed by fire, and its structure has been preserved only in a few photos dating from the period between 1919 and 1921 (from the collections of the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences).
This signboard was made thanks to the Friends of Jewish Heritage in Poland, the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, Professor Glenn Dynner and the support of Ms. Gwyneth Paltrow. We also acknowledge the Mayor of Nowogród for aiding the project.
Text by Gniewomir Zajączkowski and others, based on archival inquiries and on the entry "Nowogrod' in: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life. The map of Nowogród comes from the collection of the Polish National Library: Nowogrod Blatt Nr. 2797, ref. ZZK S-3 596 A.
Read more about the FJHP Nowogród cemetery project by clickinghere.