Bankers and entrepreneurs in Lithuania and Warsaw. The family’s most prominent members were Moses David Szereszewski (also spelled Szereszowski; 1844–1915), a banker and businessman in Warsaw; and his son Rafał (1869–1948), who was a banker, businessman, and senator of the Republic of Poland.
Moses David Szereszewski belonged to the first generation of Jews of Russian origin to immigrate in significant numbers to Congress Poland. In addition to his original business activity as a textile merchant, he founded a successful private bank in Warsaw in 1864. Its credit business was tailored to the financial needs of the entrepreneurial Jewish bourgeoisie. He also rapidly acquired several properties in the center of Warsaw. The Szereszewski Bank was one of only two Jewish credit institutions in Warsaw to remain a private company until World War I (the other was the S. Natanson and Sons Bank).
Moses was probably related to Yosef Szereszewski, who founded a tobacco factory in Grodno in 1861. That enterprise grew into the second-largest tobacco processing plant in the Russian Empire and was reorganized into a public company toward the end of the nineteenth century. The business was managed by Yosef’s two sons, Salomon and Grigorii Szereszewski.
Rafał Szereszowski and his brother, Michał, took over the management of the private bank founded by his father. The considerable profits it reaped after World War I were invested in real estate and industrial concerns, such as sugar refineries. During the interwar period, the business provided financing for projects of the Warsaw City Council and enjoyed a reputation as a solid and trustworthy bank. In 1916, Rafał was elected to his first of six terms as an independent member of the Warsaw City Council. In 1922, he became a senator of the Republic of Poland, serving on the Senate Commission on Finance until his resignation in 1925. In addition, Rafał was part of a group of leading Warsaw Jews who, after the Nazi invasion of Poland, founded a national defense committee.
Rafał Szereszowski had a broad range of social commitments: he presided over the Central Association of Merchants (Centrala Związku Kupców), was a member of the Polish Chamber of Industry and Commerce, and supported numerous Jewish philanthropic societies. These included the Association for the Care of Orphans and Abandoned Children (CENTOS), founded in 1924; the Free Loan Association (CEKABE), founded in 1926; a philanthropic labor exchange; and, after World War I, the Polish branch office of ORT. From 1923, he gave financial support to the leading Polish-language Jewish daily Nasz Przegląd, as well as the monthly Nowe Życie, which he and the historian Majer Bałaban founded in 1924; only six issues appeared. As a member of the Society for the Promotion of Jewish Studies, Szereszowski supported research on Jewish culture. Furthermore, as a prominent member of the Warsaw lodge of the B’nai B’rith, he placed large sums of money at the organization’s disposal for charitable purposes. Rafał Szereszowski managed to escape to the West after the outbreak of World War II; he resettled in New York.
Marian Fuks, Żydzi w Warszawie (Poznań, Pol., 1992); Szymon Rudnicki: Żydzi w parlamencie II Rzeczypospolitej (Warsaw, 2004); Katrin Steffen: Jüdische Polonität (Göttingen, 2004).
Translated from German by Deborah Cohen