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Israel Icchak Kalisz

a Hasidic Jew, founder of the Warka-based Tzadik dynasty


Israel Icchak Kalisz was born in Żelechów (56 miles south-east of Warsaw) in 1779. He studied under the famous David (ben Salomon) Biderman of Lelov, Jakub Izaak of Lublin, and Simcha Bunim of Przysucha. He settled in Warka around 1830. There, he was pronounced a tzaddik, i.e. a model of piety, humility, and justice. It was believed he could perform miracles. Tzaddik Kalisz managed to gather a faithful group of disciples. Hasidic Jews from the entire Kingdom of Poland came to visit him.

Socially, he was very active. Being a shtadlan, i.e. a representative of the Jewish community whose role is to defend their interests, he interceded with an influential Tsarist politician named Nikolay Nikolayevich Novosiltsev regarding the expulsion of Jews from certain towns and villages, the ban on wearing traditional garments, drafting underage conscripts into the army, the abolishment of rabbinical courts, etc. Thanks to the above, he received the nickname ‘Israel-loving.‘ He died in Warka in 1848.

In 1990, an ohel was built where Tzaddik Kalisz had been buried.  Such structures are built around Jewish graves to showcase the prominence of the deceased. It is customary for Jewish people to visit such places and leave pieces of paper with their prayers.

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