Berek Joselewicz

Infobox Person
name = Berek Joselewicz

caption = On a painting by Juliusz Kossak
birth_date = birth date|1764|9|17|mf=y
birth_place = Kretynga, Samogitia, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
death_date = death date and age|1809|5|5|1764|9|17|mf=y
death_place = Battle of Kock, Kock, Poland

Berek Joselewicz (1764-1809) was a Jewish-Polish merchant and a colonel of the Polish Army during the Kościuszko Uprising. Joselewicz commanded the first Jewish military formation in modern history [] []

Joselewicz was born in Kretinga, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and worked as the financial agent for a local magnate, who often sent him abroad on various tasks, during which he learned to speak French. He spent some time in Paris during the beginning of the French Revolution, and it is thought that this may have later inspired him to join Tadeusz Kościuszko, who advocated similar causes of brotherhood and equality.

Joselewicz initially served in the Polish militia before petitioning Kościuszko for permission to form an all-Jewish unit. On September 17, 1794, Kościuszko officially announced the creation of the unit. Joselewicz, along with another Jew named Joseph Aronowicz, issued a patriotic call-to-arms in Yiddish denouncing Russia and Prussia, eliciting hundreds of volunteers, mostly poor tradeworkers and artisans. 500 men were eventually accepted and formed into a cavalry regiment. At Joselewicz's request, they were allowed to keep their religious customs, including access to kosher food, abstaining from combat on the Sabbath when possible, and growing their beards. Joselewicz's unit was popularly known as "the Beardlings". They took part in the 1794 defence of Praga, in which the unit was wiped out, with only few men (including Joselewicz) surviving the battle []

After the defeat of the Kościuszko Uprising, Joselewicz left for Galicia and then for Italy. There he joined the Polish Legions under Henryk Dąbrowski. As a commander of a sabre company in Polish cavalry units he fought in various battles of the Napoleonic period. Among them were the battles of Trevia, Novi, Hohenlinden, Austerlitz and Friedland. He was awarded the Virtuti Militari medal and the Polish Gold Cross for his merits. From 1807 he fought in various battles in Poland. He was killed in the Battle of Kock in 1809 during an encounter with a unit of Austrian hussars, and today his grave has become a popular tourist attraction.

Berek's son, Josef Berkowicz (1789-1846), also participated in the battle of Kock, and later served as a squadron chief during the November Uprising of 1830, during which he also attempted to convince Jewish soldiers to desert the Russian army and join the Poles. Berkowicz later moved to England and wrote a novel.

The expression "like Berek at Kock" commonly describes a hopeless situation in Polish to this day.

ee also

* Napoleonic Wars
* Kościuszko Uprising
* History of Poland

External links

* [ Diapositive: Traces of the Past]
* [ Jewish Encyclopedia: Berek Joselewicz]
* [ Jewish Encyclopedia: Josef Berkowicz]
* [ This Month in Jewish History: September] , from the World Zionist Organization

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Berek Joselewicz — Berek Joselewicz, Gemälde von Juliusz Kossak Berek Joselewicz, Berek, Sohn von Josel (Joseph), hebräisch ‏דוב בער‎ Dov Ber (* 1764 in Kretinga, Großfürstentum Litauen; † 5. Mai 1809 in Kock …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • JOSELEWICZ, BEREK — (Berek, son of Yosel; c. 1770–1809), colonel of the Polish armed forces, participant in the kosciuszko rising and the Napoleonic Wars. Born in Kretinga, Lithuania, he later became court factor to Bishop Massalski of Vilna. In the course of his… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

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