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The Jewish Community of Russia

Russia

Росси́я
Российская Федерация / Rossiyskaya Federatsiya - Russian Federation
A country in eastern Europe and northern Asia, until 1991 part of the Soviet Union.

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 172,000 out of 147,000,000 (0.1%). Russia is home to the seventh largest Jewish community in the world. In addition to Moscow and St. Petersburg, there are several dozen Jewish communities of more than 1,000 people. Main umbrella organizations:

Russian Jewish Congress
Phone: +7 (495) 780-49-78
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.rjc.ru

Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Russia (Va’ad)
Phone: +7 095 230 6700
Fax: +7 095 238 1346

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Russia

1772 | Polish Today, Russian Tomorrow

Many believe there have always been Jews in Russia. However, the truth is that save a few traders wandering between country fairs throughout the Czarist Empire, no Jews at all lived there until 1772.
The reasons were mostly religious. While elsewhere in Europe the Catholic Church wished to maintain the Jewish entity in an inferior position as testament to the victory of Christianity of Judaism, the central religious establishment in Russia – the Russian Orthodox Church – strictly opposed the settlement of Jews, held to be responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. This sentiment can be found in the famous remark by Empress Elizaveta Petrovna: “I have no desire to profit by the haters of Christ.”
This was the situation until the year 1772, when Russia began to annex large parts of Poland, which were populated by multitudes of Jews. It was then that Empress Catherine the Great decided, mostly for financial reasons, to maintain the rights enjoyed by the Jews under the Kingdom of Poland. So it was that hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews found themselves living under Russian sovereignty, without having moved an inch.
Catherine promised “equality to all subjects, regardless of nationality or faith”, and to the Jews she granted rights in the “Charter of Towns”, which decreed that the municipalities of the empire would be run by autonomous administration, and the Jews could enjoy the right to vote for these institutions and be employed by them. However, these rights came with a hefty dose of alienation. Catherine also decreed Jews to be “foreigners” in Russia – enjoying the rights of foreigners but barred from the rights of native Orthodox Russians – and finally in 1791 invented the “Pale of Settlement” - a large but remote swath of land in the west of the empire. Jews enjoyed freedom of movement and toleration of their religion within this territory, but needed special permits to move elsewhere in Russian domains.

1797 | A Genius? You Must Be From Vilnius!

One of the most fascinating chapters in the history of Jews in Russia concerns the ethos of scholarship of Lithuanian Jews, despite the fact that most of those known as “Litvaks” lived in areas outside of modern-day Lithuania.
The moniker “Litvaks” came to stand for the spiritual identity of this stream, which developed as a counter-revolution to the Hasidic movement. Litvaks prized scholarship, rationalism and above all a rejection of Hasidism, which was spreading through Eastern Europe like wildfire at the time.
The ethos of the scholar, who devotes his days and nights to the fine points of the debates between Abai and Rabba, dedicating his life to the hair-splitting of the Talmud, was a role model and an embodiment of the creative force born from the merger of faith and reason. Furthermore, being a Litvak scholar made one part of the community elite, opening the doors to a possible match with the daughter of someone rich and well-born, thus securing one's financial existence for life.
The founding father of the Litvak tradition was Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Shlomo Zalman (the Gr”a) of Vilnius, or Vilna as Jews called it, better known as The Gaon of Vilna (1720-1779). Although he served in no official capacity and was rarely seen in public, the Gaon enjoyed extraordinary admiration within his lifetime. His authority stemmed from his personality and intellectual prowess. The Gaon of Vilna had many pupils, the most famous of whom was Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, who founded the famous yeshiva named after his hometown. Many years later that institute of learning would boast a graduate named Chaim Nachman Bialik, the national poet of Israel.

1801 | There Is No Despair

Against the model of the rationalist Litvak scholar stood the common-man's Hasidic model, which focused on his emotional life and religious experience and offered more to hardworking, hard-living Jews.
The struggle between these two schools, known as the Hasidim-Misnagdim dispute (Misnagdim is the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew word Mitnagdim = “opponents”), was replete with boycotts, ostracism and Jews informing on each other to the Gentile authorities. The most famous such case is that of the founder of the Chabad/Liubavitch group, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liady, who was thrown in a Russian jail in 1801 due to information from Misnagdim informants.
Several famous Hasidic dynasties operated within the Pale of Settlement, among them those of Chernobyl, Slonim, Beslov, Ger and of course Chabad. Each Hasidic court was headed by an Admor – A Hebrew acronym for “Our Master, Teacher and Rabbi” - a man shrouded in mystery and the aura of holiness. The Admor was reputed to have magical abilities and a direct line of contact with higher beings. Multitudes of followers (“Hasidim”) thronged to him for guidance on every matter under the sun – from fertility problems to financial difficulties and match-making. The Hasidim had (and still have) distinct dress and social codes. They would gather in the “Shtibel” - a place that serves as house of worship, of study, and a gathering place for Sabbath and holiday meals. At times a Hasid would make a pilgrimage to his Admor's court, even if it was thousands of miles away. The highlight of the Hasid's week is the “Tisch” meal (tisch means “table” in Yiddish), which is held on Friday night, during which the Hasidim gather around their Rebbe and lose themselves in ecstatic songs that drove them to spiritual elation.
According to the basic views of Hasidism, joy is the root of the soul. This view is expressed in the famous saying by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, that “There is no despair in the world at all.” Other key concepts of Hasidism are love of one's fellow man, abolition of classes and removal of barriers. These humane principles are beautifully captured in a prayer composed by the Admor Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk:
“Furthermore, give to our hearts to each see our friends' advantages and not their shortcomings, that we may each speak to each other honestly and pleasingly to you, and let no hate arise in our hearts from one to another, Heaven forbid, and strengthen our love for you, for it is known that all is to please you, Amen so be thy will.”

1804 | Improving The Jew

13 years after the Jews of France were granted equality, Russia passed the “Edicts of 1804”, whose stated goal was to “improve the Jews” and integrate them into the economic and social fabric of the Czarist Empire.
Like many other episodes in Jewish history, the attempt to “correct the situation of the Jews” was attended by purist justifications and religious condescension meant to legitimize the hostility directed at them. While the edicts reflected the liberal approach of the early reign of Czar Alexander I, allowing Jews to attend any Russian institute of higher learning, at the same time Jews were required to “purify their religion of the fanaticism and prejudices which are so detrimental to their happiness”, seeing as “under no regime has [the Jew] reached proper education, and has hitherto maintained an Asiatic idleness alongside a revolting lack of cleanliness.” And yet, the Edicts of 1804 state that the nature of the Jews stems from their financial insecurity, due to which they are forced “to consent to any demand, if only it should benefit them in any way”.
Despite the fact that the Edicts of 1804 were tainted with anti-Semitism, eventually they benefited the Jews. The “Pale of Settlement” was redefined and expanded, with new territories added to it; Jews who chose to engage in farming were awarded land and tax relief; and rich Jews who opened workshops received orders from the state.

1844 – Shtetl, The Jewish Town

For hundreds of years, the shtetl – the Jewish town in Eastern Europe – was a sort of closed autonomous Jewish microcosm. Yiddish was the prevailing language, and the community institutions – the charity, the religious trust, the religious courts and the community council – ran the public life. Figures such as the gabbay (who collected payments for the synagogue and managed its funds), the shamash (the custodian of the synagogue and its upkeep), the butcher and others populated its alleys alongside the town idiot, the aguna (a woman whose husband has either disappeared without proof of death or is refusing to divorce her, leaving her unable to remarry) and the beit midrash loafer. The only contact between shtetl Jews and their gentile neighbors took place at country fairs and the Sunday market, usually held in the main square of the town.
The penetration of Enlightenment (and its Jewish variant, Haskala) and modernism into the Jewish town throughout the 19th century ate away at the traditional structure of the shtetl. Many young Jews removed themselves from the home, the family and the familiar surroundings. Some of them, including Abraham Mapu, Sh.Y. Abramowitz (known by his pseudonym “Mendele Mocher Sforim”) and Shalom Aleichem were to become the pioneers of the Haskala literature. In their descriptions, which ranged from nostalgia to biting satire, they painted the Jewish township and its characters, streets and institutions, at times castigating the town and at times painting it in rosy, yearning colors.
The traditional structure of the town was attacked not only from the inside, but from without as well. In 1827 Czar Nikolai I issued an edict requiring every Jewish community to supply a certain quota of young men, age 12-25, to the Russian army for a period of 25 years. When the community didn't meet its quote, the Czar sent men to lie in wait for the children and kidnap them away from their families and schools. These children were sent to distant location, where they were handed over to gentile farmers for reeducation until they reached the age of enlistment. The “Cantonists Edict”, as the Czar's decree was known, divided the community, which was forced again and again to decide which children shall suffer the horrible fate.
In 1835 the Czar's government issued laws forcing the Jews to wear special clothing, banning them from distributing “harmful” books in Yiddish and Hebrew and distinguishing between “useful” and “un-useful” Jews. Another nail in the coffin of the shtetl was driven in 1844, when the “kahal” system, which was the self-administration mechanism of the Jewish community for many years, was abolished.

1860 | Odessa – Non-Stop City

It is well known that language creates consciousness and consciousness creates reality. An example of this is the policy of Alexander II, who sought to reward “good Jews”, unlike his father Nikolai, who chose to punish “bad Jews”.
The Jews seized upon Alexander's reforms with great gusto. Figures such as Adolph Rothstein, the great financial wizard, the Polyakov Family, who covered the soil of the empire in railroad tracks, and Baron Joseph Gunzburg, who established a large banking network throughout Russia, are but a few prominent examples of Jews whose talent took great advantage of Alexander II's liberal policies.
The atmosphere of liberalism spread to the world of publishing as well, with Jewish periodicals popping up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, including “HaMagid” (1856), “HaMelitz” (1860) and “HaCarmel” (1860).
From the mid 19th century the city of Odessa, on the shore of the Black Sea, became a Jewish intellectual and literary hub. The cosmopolitan city was home to Greek merchants, Turkish barkeeps and Russian intellectuals, who all delighted in Odessa's air of freedom and libertine mores, of which the wits of the time joked that “Hell burns for a hundred miles around it.”
The combination of innovation, globalism and a lifestyle unencumbered by the weight of the past made the city a lodestone for Jews, who flocked to it in droves from all over the Pale of Settlement – Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and elsewhere as well. To illustrate: In 1841 there were 8,000 Jews living in Odessa, but in 1873 that number reached 51,837.
In the 1860s many intellectuals gathered in Odessa, among them Peretz Smolenskin, Alexander Zederbaum, Israel Aksenfeld, and Y.Y. Lerner. Years later other influential figures were active in Odessa, among them Mendele Mocher Sforim, Achad Ha'am and Chaim Nachman Bialik. In Odessa they could live unencumbered by religious restrictions, exchange views freely, make pilgrimage to an admired writer's court and carouse together, without feeling guilty for wasting time that should be spent studying Torah.
At that time some Jews, mostly the richest, began to settle outside the Pale of Settlement as well – in Moscow and St. Petersburg. This in addition to a small Jewish community living in central Russia, in the Caucasus Lands.

1881 | Greasing the Wheels of the Revolution

The Jews' hopes to integrate into Russian society and be, as the revered Jewish poet Judah Leib Gordon put it, “A human being when you go out and a Jew in your own tent” was smashed against the rock of modern anti-Semitism, which reared its ugly head in 1880.
Dazzled by Czar Alexander II's reforms and their accelerated integration in the economic, cultural and academic life of the country, the Jews ignored the anti-Semitic coverage growing more and more prevalent in the Russian press and literature, consistently describing the Jewish “plot” to take over Russia and dispossess the simple farmer of his land.
Author Fyodor Mikhailovich Reshetnikov, for instance, described in his books how Jews buy young Russian men and women and abuse them like slaves. Not to be undone was Dostoyevsky, who in his masterpiece “The Brothers Karamazov” describes a Jew crucifying a four year-old against a wall and delighting in his dying.
Such descriptions and others trickled into the consciousness of the masses and farmers, who sought for someone to blame for their failure to compete in the free market, which appeared following the abolition of serfdom in 1861.
The pogroms of 1881, dubbed “Storms in the South”, left the Jews stricken with grief and astonishment. Great disappointment was caused by the silence of the Russian intellectuals, which at best kept their mouths shut, at worst encouraged the rioters, and at their most cynical regarded the Jews as “grease on the wheels of the revolution,” a metaphor common among Russian socialist revolutionaries. These reactions sharpened the bitter realization for many Jews that whether they joined the local national forces, assimilated or adopted socialist views, they would always be seen as unwanted foreigners and be treated with suspicion and violence.

1884 | Get Thee Out Of Thy Country

Nietzsche's statement that “Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the existence of suffering” may be pessimistic in sentiment, but is most apt to describe the lot of the Jews in Russia in the 1880s. The “Storms in the South” pogroms that broke out in 1881 and the anti-Semitic climate that grew even stronger in their wake with the passage of the “May Laws” and the “Numerus Clausus” laws limiting the number of Jews who could enroll in universities, led the Jews to realize that waiting for emancipation would only prolong their suffering.
From 1881 to the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 some two million Jews left the Pale of Settlement, mostly to the United States and some to Argentina, Britain, South Africa, Australia and the Land of Israel.
The myth of America as “Di goldene medina” (country of gold, in Yiddish) drew the migrants like magic. Reality was less romantic. Upon arrival in America the immigrants huddled in small neighborhoods and suffered from poverty and severe hygiene conditions, which only improved after a generation or two.
At the same time, anti-Semitism in Russia led to a revival of Jewish national sentiments, which manifested in the foundation of Hibat Zion in 1884 in the city of Katowice. One of the ideological leaders of the movement was Leon (Yehudah Leib) Pinsker, author of the manifesto “Auto-emancipation”.
To describe the relations between the Jews and the general society Pinsker used the image of the “jilted lover”: Like a lover courting his beloved only to be rejected again and again, so the Jew tries incessantly to win the love of the Russian, but in vain. The only solution, according to Pinsker, was to establish a national political framework in Israel, the land of our fathers.
The accepted verdict among scholars is that Hibat Zion failed as a movement, but succeeded as an idea. And indeed, the First Aliyah, organized under this movement, was the first of several waves that followed.

1897 | Jews Of The World, Unite!

Dates sometimes have a life of their own. Thus, for example, the muse of history chose 1897 as the official date of birth for two parallel and highly influential Jewish schools of thought were born: The World Zionist Organization and the Bund Movement, the labor party of Russia's Jews.
While the first Zionist Congress convened in the glittering casino hall in Basel, the Bund, as befits a labor movement, was founded in an attic of a house on the outskirts of Vilnius. The Bund received its ideology from Marxist-Socialist sources, and as a result abhorred anything bourgeoisie, all religions and hierarchical social structures. The party called for the abolition of all holidays except for May Day, the holiday on which, the party leaders thundered, “the evil bourgeoisie with their arrogant, rapacious eyes shall shiver in fear.” The Bund opposed Zionism and called on Jews to establish “A social-democratic association of the Jewish proletariat, unfettered in its actions by regional boundaries.”
This should not be understood to mean that the members of the Bund renounced their Jewish identity. On the contrary: The Bund taught its members to be proud of who they were, to refuse to accept the pogroms and to actively react to any injustice and discrimination. The youngsters of the movement even called upon their brethren to take their fates into their own hands.
In the socialist climate spreading rapidly throughout Eastern Europe at the time, the Bund became highly successful, but in the test of history it was the parallel movement, Zionism, that held the winning hand.

1903 | None But Ourselves

In the same year that saw the distribution throughout Russia of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” - possibly the most prevalent anti-Semitic document in the world to this day – a young man was sent to report on the riots that had broken out in the city of Kishinev, later to be known as the “Kishinev Pogrom”. The horrors encountered by this man, poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, were transformed by his razor-sharp quill into one of the most devastating poems in the Hebrew language, “In The City Of Slaughter”. This poem is considered a scathing rebuke of Jewish society, and it wounded the souls of many readers. The dishonor of the Jews, who cowered in their hiding holes praying that evil should not reach them, while their mothers, wives and daughters were raped and murdered before their eyes, was exposed in clear, harsh words.
Bialik's words struck deep, and roused many of Russia's Jews to vengeance and a deep desire to do something, rather than wait in hiding for the killers to come. Many Jews took the realization to heart that a Jew must defend himself, or he was lost.
This was a true revolution of mind. The Jews, who until then were used to the status of a minority in need of another's protection, were forced to grow an awareness of brawn out of thin air. The poems of Bialik and the writings of Berdichevsky may have roused their souls, but the reticence of violence was burned deep in their collective consciousness. Most of them were drawn to the moderate, reserved approach of Achad Ha'am than to that of the tumultuous and combative Yosef Chaim Brener, and yet, many historians mark the Kishinev Pogrom as a watershed line; a formative moment when the collective psychic frequency switched from “None but Him [can save us]” to “None but ourselves.”

1917 | The Global International

Upon the end of WW1, in which tens of thousands of Jewish soldiers died on Mother Russia's altar, a new era began in the land of the Czars, which now became the land of the hammer and sickle. The monopoly on power, which for four hundred years resided exclusively in the hands of the legendary House of Romanov, devolved to the people. Equality became the highest value, and the simple working man was (supposedly) no longer anyone's exploited victim.
For four years civil war raged in Russia, claiming the lives of 15 million people, among them some 100,000 Ukrainian Jews slaughtered by the anti-Semitic White forces. However, the triumph of the revolution and the overthrow of the Czarist regime instantly released immense forces in Russia's large Jewish community.
No-one believed that change would be so swift, as a mere five years before the “Beilis Trial” was held – an infamous blood libel in which the authorities accused a Jew named Menachem Mendel Beilis of baking matza with the blood of Christians, sending anti-Semitism skyrocketing to new heights.
Most of the change happened on the national level. Representative and democratic Jewish communities organized throughout Russia, and attempts to establish an all-Russian Jewish representation began to take shape. The telegraph lines flooded the newsrooms with reports of the Balfour Declaration, promising a national home to the Jewish people, which was the product of efforts by a Jew born in the Pale of Settlement, Chaim Weizmann. All these increased the confidence of the national Jewish circles that their hour of victory was at hand.
And yet, as the Bolshevik revolution grew stronger, the national motivations subsided in favor of the universal ones. Drunk on equality, the Jews embraced the prophecy of Isiah, “For mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people,” and determined that this was a messianic hour of grace, a time to shed the national trappings and unite with the workers of the world, without regard to faith, nation or sex.
It is difficult to overstate the stamp placed by Jews on the face of Russia in the years following the revolution, whether as heads of government and of the Communist Party, as thinkers or as military leaders. In all these fields and many others the Jews played a central part, out of all proportion to their share of the population.
But was it indeed springtime for the People of Abraham? Let the annals of the Jews of the Soviet Union answer this question.

Place Type:
Country
ID Number:
181747
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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The Ginzburg home was a meeting place for liberal scholars, authors, artists and other intellectuals. As well as being a philanthropist he was a patron of scientific, cultural and social institutions. He supported the publication of matter of historical interest including the collection of Russian laws which concerned the Jews which had been edited by V. Levanda.
Erlich, Henrik (1882-1941), journalist, Jewish socialist leader in Poland, born in Lublin, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire) to a wealthy Orthodox Jewish family. His father was a Hassid who acquired some secular education and later joined Hovevei Zion movement. Erlich received a full secular legal education. He studied law in Warsaw, where he encountered Socialist movement for the first time and joined the Bund. He was arrested on several occasions for revolutionary activity and was finally expelled from the university. He therefore continued his studies in St Petersburg, Russia. From 1913 he belonged to the Central Committee of Bund. During the Russian Revolution of 1917 he was a member of Petrograd Soviet executive committee and member of Soviet's delegation to England, France and Italy. After the revolution in Russia, he moved back to Warsaw. In Warsaw he met Wiktor Alter, one of the most influential leaders of Bund. As a member of Bund, he became a member of the Warsaw municipality after Poland had regained its independence in 1921. Erlich took an active part in socialist propaganda activities and edited a number of periodicals including "Glos Bundu" (“Voice of Bund”) (1901-1905) and “Volks Zeitung” (“People’s Newspaper”). In 1925 he was elected to the Warsaw kehilla council as one of 5 Bundists out of 50 members. Bund joined the Comintern in 1930 and Erlich found himself on its executive body.

After the outbreak of World War 2, Erlich made his way to the part of Poland that had come under Soviet control. He was almost immediately arrested by Russian authorities and sentenced to death. However, the sentence was commuted to 10 years imprisonment. Erlich was eventually released as a result of of the Sikorski–Mayski Agreement between the Soviet Union and Poland in 1941. At about the same time Erlich was supposed to join Gen. Sikorski (the Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile) in traveling to London where it was intended that Sikorski should join the Polish government. However, in December, Erlich, together with Victor Alter were once again arrested by the NKVD in Kuybyshev. No reason was given for their arrest. According to various sources at the time, he was charged with spying for “enemies of the Soviet Union”. The Soviet authorities later announced that he had been executed, but it was widely believed that Henryk Erlich committed suicide in the Soviet prison in Kuybyshev.

In 1991, Victor Erlich, Henryk Erlich's grandson was informed that according to a decree passed under Russian president Boris Yeltsin, Erlich had been "rehabilitated" and the repressions against them had been declared unlawful. While the exact place where he was buried is unknown, a cenotaph was erected at the Jewish cemetery on Okopowa Street in Warsaw in 1988. The inscription reads "Leaders of the Bund, Henryk Erlich, b. 1882, and Wiktor Alter, b. 1890. Executed in the Soviet Union".
Berlin, Naftali Zvi Yehuda (1816-1893), known as the HaNetziv from the initials of his names Naftali Zvi, rabbi, head of the Volozhin yeshiva and writer, born in Mir, Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire). His father was a talmud scholar and his mother was a descendant of Rabbi Meir Eisenstadt. His first wife was the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchok of Volozhin, the son of Rabbi Chaim Volozhin. His second wife was his niece, a daughter of Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, the author of the "Aruch haShulchan". A son from his first marriage, Chaim Berlin, became the rabbi of Moscow, a daughter married Rabbi Rafael Shapiro, and his son from his second marriage was Rabbi Meir Berlin (later Bar-Ilan).

Under his leadership the Volozhin yeshiva was a spiritual centre for the whole of Russian Jewry with over 400 students and which produced many important rabbis. Berlin taught the whole of the Babylonian Talmud without omission. He was concerned only with the plain meaning of the text and avoided any hair-splitting pilpul. He gave a daily lesson in the weekly Torah reading which was an unusual innovation in his day. In 1892 the Russian authorities, probably under the influence of the Jewish Reform movement, insisted on many restrictions on the subjects and methods of teaching of the institution. Berlin closed the yeshiva rather than comply. He had no objection to secular learning as such, but considered that the traditional study of the Torah and the production of Talmudic scholars was the basis of Jewish existence. Berlin had an approach to Torah study that was at odds with the highly analytical style of lomdus ("learned intellectual analysis") which that was pioneered by contemporary Rabbi Dov Soloveitchik. Bialik's poem "HaMatmid" describes Berlin's heart-warming personality and love for his students.

Politically, he favored Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel, then under the control of the Ottoman Empire; he was a member of the "Chovevei Zion" movement and urged orthodox Jews to support the settlement the country even if many settlers were not themselves observant.

Berlin wrote a number of important works including a commentary on "Sifrei" (published in 1959-61) and commentaries on the "Torah Ha'amek Davar" (1879, in Vilna).
Kazaz, Elijah (1832–1912), Karaite public figure and scholar, born in a small town in the Crimea, Russia (today in the Ukraine) where he studied there in a yeshiva, and later moved to Evpatoria, a larger centre. He started writing poems in Hebrew when he was quite young. In the town of Kherson, Ukraine, he studied secular subjects together with a priest and met Yekuti'el Berman, a member of the Haskalah movement, who introduced him to the world of modern Jewish literature. He studied at at the faculty of Oriental Studies at St. Petersburg University. After graduating from the university he founded a Karaite school in Odessa in 1859. In the 1860s he taught general history and Latin in Simferopol, Crimea. In 1886 he became director of the Tatar pedagogical college in Simferopol. In 1895 Kazaz became director of the Alexander III School for Karaite teachers and Hazzanim. He held the position until 1908.

He published many poems in Hebrew periodicals. The collections of poems published in the books "Shirim Achadim" (published in 1857) and "Yeled Sha'ashu'im" (1910) are among the few Karaite contributions to modern secular Hebrew literature. Later he distinguished between the Karaites and the mainstream of Jewry claiming that the Karaites were not Semites, but a Khazar tribe which had become converted to the Jewish faith.

His works include a Hebrew textbook in the Tatar language, "Le-Regel ha-Yeladim" (1868–69), intended for the Karaite youth who spoke Tatar; "Emet me-Erets" (1908), a shortened version of "F. Vigouroux's La Bible et les découvertes modernes en Palestine …" (1879). He translated the Karaite prayer book entitled "Ketoret Tamid" into Russian (1905).
Pogany, Jozsef (1886-1939), public official, revolutionary and politician, born as Jozsef Schwartz into a poor Jewish family in Budapest, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary). A member of the Social Democratic Party of Hungary, before and during WWI., he collaborated in the publication of the party's journals "Nepszava" ("People's Voice") and "Szocializmus". His play "Napoleon", was performed in Budapest. He edited the periodical "Tudas" ("Knowledge") and a series of publications known as the Library of Natural Sciences.

In the post-War revolution of 1918 he was a leading member of the soldier's council and was strongly opposed to the communists. When, however, the latter took over the government (1919), he joined them as one of the war commissars. After the downfall of the communist government, he emigrated to Vienna, Austria, and subsequently to Soviet Russia.

In 1921 he illegally went to the USA, taking up the name John Pepper. He propagated social and communist ideas and agitated workers to organize. Subsequently he became a member of the Workers Party of America. Pogany also organized social and communist activities in the Scandinavian states and in the Far-East. In 1930 he returned to the Soviet Union, where he served as secret emissary in several countries. In 1937, having fallen out of favor because of his Trotzkyite activities, he was arrested by the Soviets on July 29, 1937 in Moscow, Russia. Pogany was executed in 1938 or 1939.
Ehrenburg, Ilya Grigoryevich (1891-1967), writer and journalist, born in Kiev, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) to an assimilated middle-class Jewish family. Although he took very strong positions against anti-Semitism, Ehrenburg never associated with the Jewish community nor did he speak Yiddish. He considered himself to be a Russian. He was among the most prolific and notable authors of the Soviet Union who published around one hundred titles.

When Ehrenburg was four years old, the family moved to Moscow, Russia, where his father had been appointed to be director of a brewery. After the Russian Revolution of 1905 he was involved in illegal activities of the Bolshevik organisation. In 1908, the Tsarist secret police arrested and imprisoned him. After five months he was allowed to go into exile in Paris, France, where he started to work in the Bolshevik organisation, meeting Vladimir Lenin and other prominent exiles. He also began to write poems and translated some foreign writers' works into Russian. During the World War I Ehrenburg became a war correspondent for a St. Petersburg newspaper. He wrote a series of articles about the mechanized war that later on were also published as a book ("The Face of War"). His anti-communist poem, 'Prayer for Russia', appeared in 1917. His poetry of this time was also about of war and destruction.

Between 1921 and 1924 Ehrenburg lived in Berlin, Germany, and Belgium. His first novel, "The Extraordinary Adventures of Julia Jurenito and his Disciples" (1922) ridiculed both the capitalist West and the Communist system. He also viewed skeptically the era of the New Economic Policy in the Soviet Union. "Zhizn i gibel Nikolaya Kurbova" (1923) was about the downfall of a Soviet secret policeman and "The Love of Jeanne Ney" (1924) depicted a love affair between a Russian Communist and a French woman. "Out of Chaos" (1934) was an apologia for Socialist Realism, and in "Ne perevodya dykhania" (1935) the writer accepted the official Communist policy in economic and political matters.

During the Spanish Civil War, he wrote for the Soviet newspaper "Izvestiia". He met Ernest Hemingway in Madrid, Spain. In 1941, he returned to Moscow and listened to Stalin's radio speech after the Nazis had attacked the Soviet Union. His ambitious novel, "The Fall of Paris" (1941-1942), depicted the decline of capitalist France. Ehrenburg's reputation and position as the head of propaganda for the Red Army during the war, made him a target of Goebbel's propaganda. When he reported on Nazi atrocities after visiting concentration camps, he pleaded the U.S. public to believe him. Some of his articles during World War II were extremely anti-German and he was accused of orchestrating a hate-campaign. His article "Kill" published in 1942 — when German troops were deeply within Soviet territory — became a widely publicized example of this campaign. Ehrenburg was a prominent member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.

In 1954, Ehrenburg published a novel titled "The Thaw" which tested the limits of censorship in the post-Stalin Soviet Union. The novel gave its name to an entire era of Soviet cultural politics, namely, the liberalization after the death of Joseph Stalin.

During the remainder of his life Ehrenburg spent as a respected messenger of the Soviet state. Without being a member of the Communist Party, he moved freely in foreign countries and held important cultural positions. Ehrenburg published poetry, short stories, travel books, essays, and several novels, which combined patriotism with cosmopolitanism. Ehrenburg adapted his writings to Soviet political demands and avoided conflicts, that destroyed many other writers and artists.

Together with Vasily Grossman, Ehrenburg edited "The Black Book" that contains documentary accounts by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union and Poland. The book has special historical significance; detailing the genocide on Soviet citizens of Jewish ancestry, it is the first great documentary work on the Holocaust. Ehrenburg was also active as a poet till his last days, depicting the events of World War II in Europe, the Holocaust and the destinies of Russian intellectuals.

At his 70th birthday celebration he said “Even though my passport states that I am a Jew, I am a Russian writer” - implying even in 1961 Jews in the Soviet Union were not fully accepted as being members of the Russian people.
Communist leader

Born in Szilagyeseh, he was educated at Cluj where he joined the Hungarian Social Democratic party and worked as a manager for the Cluj Workers' Insurance Fund. Joining the army in 1914 he was captured by the Russians in 1916 and in Russia became involved in the revolutionary movement. From March 1918 Kun led the Hungarian group in the Russian communist party and edited its newspaper. In November 1918 he returned to Hungary, founded the Hungarian communist party and when the Hungarian Soviet republic was proclaimed in March 1919 he was appointed commissar for foreign and military affairs, that is virtual leader of the government. He ruthlessly suppressed opposition but within a few months alienated many supporters and his government fell. He fled the country, eventually going to Russia where he was an executive member of the Communist International. He was arrested in 1937 during the Stalinist purges, accused of Trotskyism and executed.
Guenzburg, David (1857-1910), philanthropist and scholar, son of Horace Naphtali Herz Guenzburg, born in Kamenets-Podolski, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire). Guenzburg studied at the universities of St Petersburg, Greifswald in Germany and Paris and became a scholar in Jewish and oriential studies. He learned several Semitic languages and studied medieval Hebrew and Arab poetry. He published a number of works including studies on the foundation of Arabic poetry, a book on ancient Jewish ornamentation and illumination in medieval Hebrew manuscripts, and a catalogue and description of Arabic, Greek and Coptic manuscripts. Guenzbuerg was also a connoisseur of Russian poetry. His personal library, which contained one of the most important collections of Judaica, was one of the largest private libraries in the world and is now part of the Lenin State Library in Moscow.

Guenzburg also continued his father's tradition of public and Jewish communal activity. After his father's death he became head of the St Petersburg Jewish community and president of the Society for the Promotion of Culture amongst the Jews of Russia. In 1910 he presided over a conference to deal with the religious problems of the Jews of Russia. He was one of the editors of the "Yevreyskaya Entsiklopediya" (Russian Jewish Encyclopedia) and in 1908 he established and for several years supported financially the Jewish Academy in St Petersburg. He was the Academy's rector and lectured to students on Talmud, rabbinic literature, Semitic languages, Arabic literature and medieval Jewish philosophy. The academy continued to operate until 1916 and was attended by many distinguished scholars and authors.

Guenzburg's brother Pierre was an industrialist who lived in Paris until 1940 when he emigrated to the USA. Pierre's wife Yvonne was for 20 years the honorary president of world ORT. Their daughter married Sir Isaiah Berlin.
Lichtblau, Leon (1901-1938), socialist and communist activist, the son of an architect, born in Bucharest, Romania. Lichtblau political activities started in his school years when he met a number of socialist militants and helped to organize anti-estsablishment demonstrations. In 1918 he and some other militants were arrested in the course of large workers' demonstration in Bucharest and sent to trial for "rebellion and unrest".

In 1920, having graduated from high school, he enrolled in the Faculty of Mathematics of Bucharest University. In 1921 he went to Iasi (Jassy) to support the local workers' movement, but soon returned to Bucharest, narrowly escaping arrest. He participated in the May 1921 Congress of the Socialist Party of Romania where he supported the party's affiliation with the Cominterm. In the summer of that year he was part of the Romanian delegation to the the Young Communist International Congress in Moscow, Soviet Russia. On his return to Romania he found out that the authorities were offering a large reward for his and others communists' capture, and went into hiding. Pressure was put on his family to reveal his location, eventually Lichtblau eventually left Romania moving to Vienna and, after being expelled from Austria, he settled in Berlin, Germany. Meanwhile in Romania he was sentenced to lifetime forced labour and another arrest warrant was issued for him in 1922.

Lichtblau moved to Moscow. There he graduated in economics from the Institute of Red Professors. In 1926 he became Head of the Industry Department of the Central Office of Economic Accounting of the USSR. At the request of the communists in Romania, he translated a part of Lenin's works into Romanian. For a short time in 1928 he was a member in Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Romania, along with two fellow exiles.

While in the USSR, Lichtblau was arrested on April 5, 1937, during the Stalinist purges and was later indicted with "spying and provocative activities and membership in a right-wing counter-revolutionary organisation", and consequently was executed for these offences.

Leon Lichtblau was posthumously rehabilitated by a decision of the Soviet Supreme Court in 1956, as well as by a commission of the Romanian Communist Party in 1968.
Poet. Born in Shpola, Russia, in 1919 he became an active member of the Communist Party and soon became prominent in Soviet-Yiddish literature. Most of his poems are propaganda for the Communist Party. During World War II he served in the Red Army as an officer. In 1943 he visited the United States as representative of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. In 1948 he was arrested by the Stalin regime. Fefer was probably killed by the Stalin regime while in arrest. After Stalin’s death he was rehabilitated and a selection of his works in Russian was published in 1958.
Among his poems there are Stalin, Ikh Bin a Yid (I am a Jew) and Shotens fun Varshever Geto (Shadows of the Warsaw Ghetto). He also wrote poems about the Jewish autonomous region in Birobidzhan, nature poetry and children rhymes.
Moscovici, Gelber (Gelbert) (1889-1937), also known as Ghita Moscu or Alexandru Badulescu), socialist and communist activist, born in Baiceni in the north-east of Romania. His father was a veteran of the Romanian War of Independence (1877-1878) and his brother a socialist sympathiser. Moscovici was a student of commerce until 1910. In the years before World War I he wrote articles for socialist youth magazines. In 1915 he was elected a member of the Social Democratic Party control commission and in the same year he was also elected in the Committee of the newly created commercial employees’ trade union.

During WW 1, Moscu gradually moved toward communism, being engaged with the socialist group that chose to continue its activity secretly in German occupied Romania. In 1918 he was arrested in Bucharest by the German military administration and sentenced to four and a half years in prison for supporting the Communist Revolution in Russia. In December 1918, after the reinstalled Romanian authorities opened fire on demonstrating workers during a general strike, he was arrested again and jailed for "attack on public security".

In 1921 Moscovici left Romania along with his wife Clara, also known as Ana Badulescu, and moved to Soviet Russia settling in Moscow. In the USSR he was named deputy rapporteur of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (Comintern) (ECCI) for the Balkan countries, and in 1927 he was appointed a member in the Balkan Secretariat of the Comintern. In 1924 he joined the Communist Party in USSR and later that year participated in Romanian Communist Party's Youth International.

During the 1930s he served as a consulting editor for the Co-operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the USSR. Expelled from the Communist Party in 1935, he was eventually executed in 1937, during the Stalinist Purge, having been accused of creating a spy ring inside the ECCI.

Moscovici was rehabilitated Posthumously, first in the USSR and later in Romania, during the de-Stalinization campaigns in Eastern Europe.
SIROTA, SIROTO

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name could be a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

Sirotino is a small Ukrainian town in the Donbas, and Sirotinskaya is a Russian village on the river Don. However, it is unlikely, though not impossible, that the Jewish names Sirot, Sirota, Sirotenko, Sirotkin and Siroto are derived from these localities. Sirota means "orphan" or "orphaned" in Slavic languages. It derives from the old Slavic word Siru which has produced several names, among them Siroslaw and Sieroszewski (from the Polish Sierota), Sirack and Sirach. Sirot could be an abbreviation of Sirota.

Distinguished bearers of the Jewish name Sirota include the 19th century German music teacher Lev Sirota, and the famous Podolian-born Hazzan ("cantor") of Odessa, Vilna and Warsaw, Gershon Sirota (1874-1934).
PORTNOY

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name derives from an occupation (also connected with raw material, finished product or implements associated with that trade). Portnoy means "tailor" in Russian. As a Jewish name it is a translation of the Hebrew Hayat which first appears as the term for "tailor" in mishnaic and midrashic literature. Tailors are mentioned more frequently in the Talmud. In biblical times, the name is recorded in an Aramaic form with the 3rd century commentator and author of the Midrash, Daniel Hayyata. The Hebrew form was rendered in Latin letters as Alfayate in the 13th century and Hayete and Hayet in the 14th and 15th centuries. Khayat is documented in 1325 in Pamplona, Spain, with Jocef Bar Yom Tob Khayat. The German translation Schneider is found in the 14th century. Hayyat is recorded in the 15th century with the Spanish kabbalist Judah Ben Jacob Hayyat (circa 1450-circa 1510), Hayatizade in the 17th century with the Turkish physician Mustapha Hayatizade, and Chajjat in Burgenland, Austria, in the 18th century with Moses Ben Isak Chajjat. There are many other variants, among them the Yiddish Chaitman, and Shnaider, the Polish form Sznajder, the English Snyder and Taylor, the Russian Portnoy, Ukrainian Kravitz, Hungarian Szabo, and Romanian Croitor(u).

Distinguished bearers of the Jewish family name Portnoy include one of the pioneers of the Bund, Jekuthiel Portnoy (1872-1941), and the 20th century Russian-born Argentinian educator, editor and author, Antonio Portnoy.
PORTNOFF

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name derives from an occupation (also connected with raw material, finished product or implements associated with that trade).

Portnoff means "son of the tailor" in Russian. The first part of the name, Port, is an abbreviation of Portnoy, that is "tailor", and the ending "-off", a Westernized spelling variant of the standard Russian suffix "-ov", meaning "son of", is a patronymic suffix indicating descent in the male line. As a Jewish name it is a translation of the Hebrew Hayat which first appears as the term for "tailor" in mishnaic and midrashic literature. Tailors are mentioned more frequently in the Talmud. In biblical times, the name is recorded in an Aramaic form with the 3rd century commentator and author of the Midrash, Daniel Hayyata. The Hebrew form was rendered in Latin letters as Alfayate in the 13th century and Hayete and Hayet in the 14th and 15th centuries. Khayat is documented in 1325 in Pamplona, Spain, with Jocef Bar Yom Tob Khayat. The German translation Schneider is found in the 14th century. Hayyat is recorded in the 15th century with the Spanish kabbalist Judah Ben Jacob Hayyat (circa 1450-circa 1510), Hayatizade in the 17th century with the Turkish physician Mustapha Hayatizade, and Chajjat in Burgenland, Austria, in the 18th century with Moses Ben Isak Chajjat. There are many other variants, among them the Yiddish Chaitman, and Shnaider, the Polish form Sznajder, the English Snyder and Taylor, the Russian Portnoy, Ukrainian Kravitz, Hungarian Szabo, and Romanian Croitor(u).
Duration:
00:03:10
Yiddish song
Abraham Moskowitz, T, with orchestral accompaniment
THE SECOND ALL-RUSSIAN "ZE'IREI ZION"
CONVENTION IN PETROGRAD, RUSSIA, MAY 18, 1917.
"ZE'IREI ZION" WAS ZIONIST MODERATE SOCIALIST
MOVEMENT.
(TEL AVIV, LABOUR MOVEMENT ARCHIVE)
"Jewish Tailor".
Relief by Mark Antokolski,
Russia, 1863-1864.
Meir, Golda (1898-1978), Labour Zionist leader, diplomat and Israel's fourth Prime Minister, born in Kiev, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) as Golda Mabovitch. In 1906 the family brought her to the United States and lived in Milwaukee. At school she joined a Zionist youth movement, Poalei Zion. She went on to marry Morris Myerson and the couple emigrated to Mandate Palestine in 1921. They initially joined Kibbutz Merhavia. Three years later they moved to Jerusalem, where Golda Myerson, now known as Golda Meir, became a staff member of the Histadrut labour federation and held a succession of positions in their trade union and welfare departments and also in the federation's construction corporation, Solel Boneh.

Later she was appointed head of the Histadrut political section where she was able to work to further the organization's aims of encouraging Jewish immigration to Palestine. Between 1932 and 1934 Meir worked as an emissary in the United States, serving as secretary of the Hechalutz women's organization. In 1946 she became director of the political department of the Jewish Agency in which capacity she met with King Abdullah of Jordan in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid war between Jews and Arabs when the British gave up their Mandate over Palestine. Elected to the Executive of the Jewish Agency, she was active in fundraising in the United States to help cover the costs of the Israeli War of Independence, and became one of the State's most effective spokesmen.

In June 1948, Meir was appointed Israel's first ambassador to the Soviet Union. In 1949 she was elected a Member of the Knesset and was chosen by Prime Minister Ben Gurion to be Minister of Labour during the years of mass immigration and resulting social unrest and high unemployment. She initiated policies of subsidized housing and social welfare in order to speed the integration of the newcomers into Israeli society.

Between 1956 and 1966 Meir was Minister of Foreign Affairs and inaugurated policies of assisting the development of the newly independent nations of Africa. At the same time, she endeavored to cement relations with the United States and other countries. When in 1969 Prime Minister Levi Eshkol died, she was chosen to succeed him. In the October 1969 elections, she led the Labour party to victory. Shortly after she took office, the "War of Attrition" broke out. Initially this war was a series of sporadic military actions along the Suez Canal, but they escalated into full-scale war which ended in a cease-fire agreement with Egypt in 1970. As Prime Minister, Meir concentrated much of her energies on the diplomatic front mixing personal diplomacy with skillful use of the mass media. Armed with an iron will, a warm personality and grandmotherly image she successfully solicited unprecedented amounts of financial and military aid for Israel.

Although she showed strong leadership during the surprise attack of the Yom Kippur War, securing an American airlift of arms while standing firm on the terms of disengagement-of-forces negotiations, the Prime Minister considered the very outbreak of war and Israel's unpreparedness to be a personal failure. Golda Meir therefore bowed to what she felt was the "will of the people" and resigned in mid-1974. She withdrew from public life and began to write her memoirs.
Singerman, Berta (1903-1999), actress and poetry reader, born in Russia and brought to Argentina as a child. She studied at the Lyceum and Library of the National Council of Women and began to appear in the theatre but the richness of her voice and her sense of rhythm marked her out as interpreter and reciter of Spanish poetry. Throughout north and south America, Portugal and Spain her recitals were enthusiastically received.She appeared in several films.
Kaufman, Abraham (1885-1971), a native of Mglin, a tiny Jewish village near Chernigov, Russia. On his mother’s side, he was a great grandson of Zalman Shneerson, the founder of the Chabad movement. In 1903, he graduated from gymnasium in Perm, Russia, where he was drawn into Zionist activity. He began his studies of medicine in 1904 at the University of Bern, Switzerland. In 1908, he decided to return to Russia, then settled in Harbin in 1912 and became involved in community life and international Zionist activity.

Kaufman was elected as vice-chairman of the National Jewish Council of Siberia and Ural. Between 1919-1931 and 1933-1945 he was a chairman of the Jewish community of Harbin, chairman of the Jewish National Fund and Keren Hayasod; board member of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency and chairman of the Jewish Zionist organization of China. Kaufman inspired the activity of practically every cultural and community organization of Harbin Jews. During 1921-1943, he was a chief editor of the Evreiskaya Zhizn ("Jewish Life") – a weekly magazine in Russian. He served as medical director of the Jewish hospital of Harbin. In 1937, he was chairman of the National Council of the Jews of Eastern Asia (Far East). In this position, Kaufman succeeded in persuading the Japanese occupational forces to abolish the decision of their German allies to concentrate the Jewish population into special ghettoes. He was arrested in 1945 by Soviet Red army accused of collaboration with alien forces and spent eleven years in a labor camp.

In 1956, he moved to Karaganda (now a city in Kazakhstan) and in 1961 immigrated to Israel where he died in Tel Aviv in 1971.
Kazaz, Elijah (1832–1912), Karaite public figure and scholar, born in a small town in the Crimea, Russia (today in the Ukraine) where he studied there in a yeshiva, and later moved to Evpatoria, a larger centre. He started writing poems in Hebrew when he was quite young. In the town of Kherson, Ukraine, he studied secular subjects together with a priest and met Yekuti'el Berman, a member of the Haskalah movement, who introduced him to the world of modern Jewish literature. He studied at at the faculty of Oriental Studies at St. Petersburg University. After graduating from the university he founded a Karaite school in Odessa in 1859. In the 1860s he taught general history and Latin in Simferopol, Crimea. In 1886 he became director of the Tatar pedagogical college in Simferopol. In 1895 Kazaz became director of the Alexander III School for Karaite teachers and Hazzanim. He held the position until 1908.

He published many poems in Hebrew periodicals. The collections of poems published in the books "Shirim Achadim" (published in 1857) and "Yeled Sha'ashu'im" (1910) are among the few Karaite contributions to modern secular Hebrew literature. Later he distinguished between the Karaites and the mainstream of Jewry claiming that the Karaites were not Semites, but a Khazar tribe which had become converted to the Jewish faith.

His works include a Hebrew textbook in the Tatar language, "Le-Regel ha-Yeladim" (1868–69), intended for the Karaite youth who spoke Tatar; "Emet me-Erets" (1908), a shortened version of "F. Vigouroux's La Bible et les découvertes modernes en Palestine …" (1879). He translated the Karaite prayer book entitled "Ketoret Tamid" into Russian (1905).
Communist leader

Born in Szilagyeseh, he was educated at Cluj where he joined the Hungarian Social Democratic party and worked as a manager for the Cluj Workers' Insurance Fund. Joining the army in 1914 he was captured by the Russians in 1916 and in Russia became involved in the revolutionary movement. From March 1918 Kun led the Hungarian group in the Russian communist party and edited its newspaper. In November 1918 he returned to Hungary, founded the Hungarian communist party and when the Hungarian Soviet republic was proclaimed in March 1919 he was appointed commissar for foreign and military affairs, that is virtual leader of the government. He ruthlessly suppressed opposition but within a few months alienated many supporters and his government fell. He fled the country, eventually going to Russia where he was an executive member of the Communist International. He was arrested in 1937 during the Stalinist purges, accused of Trotskyism and executed.
Financier and philanthropist

He came from a distinguished family of Bavarian landowners and bankers and was born in Frankfurt on Main. He received a traditional Jewish schooling and upbringing in Brussels where he joined the Bischoffsheim and Goldschmidt banking institution, marrying the daughter of the head of the firm. Hirsch established a Belgian bank and was successful in various business enterprises, notably the construction of railroads, and especially the famous Oriental Railway. Moving to Paris, he bought as his home the former palace of the Empress Eugenie. His hobby was horse racing and he was intimate with the crowned heads of Europe. Becoming involved in Jewish philanthropy, Hirsch founded the Jewish Colonization Association to resettle the persecuted Jews of Russia and turn them into farmers. He acquired large tracts of land in Latin America, especially Argentina, on which tens of thousands of Russian Jews were settled. He also established the Baron de Hirsch Fund for settling Jewish immigrants to North America on the land.
Moscovici, Gelber (Gelbert) (1889-1937), also known as Ghita Moscu or Alexandru Badulescu), socialist and communist activist, born in Baiceni in the north-east of Romania. His father was a veteran of the Romanian War of Independence (1877-1878) and his brother a socialist sympathiser. Moscovici was a student of commerce until 1910. In the years before World War I he wrote articles for socialist youth magazines. In 1915 he was elected a member of the Social Democratic Party control commission and in the same year he was also elected in the Committee of the newly created commercial employees’ trade union.

During WW 1, Moscu gradually moved toward communism, being engaged with the socialist group that chose to continue its activity secretly in German occupied Romania. In 1918 he was arrested in Bucharest by the German military administration and sentenced to four and a half years in prison for supporting the Communist Revolution in Russia. In December 1918, after the reinstalled Romanian authorities opened fire on demonstrating workers during a general strike, he was arrested again and jailed for "attack on public security".

In 1921 Moscovici left Romania along with his wife Clara, also known as Ana Badulescu, and moved to Soviet Russia settling in Moscow. In the USSR he was named deputy rapporteur of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (Comintern) (ECCI) for the Balkan countries, and in 1927 he was appointed a member in the Balkan Secretariat of the Comintern. In 1924 he joined the Communist Party in USSR and later that year participated in Romanian Communist Party's Youth International.

During the 1930s he served as a consulting editor for the Co-operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the USSR. Expelled from the Communist Party in 1935, he was eventually executed in 1937, during the Stalinist Purge, having been accused of creating a spy ring inside the ECCI.

Moscovici was rehabilitated Posthumously, first in the USSR and later in Romania, during the de-Stalinization campaigns in Eastern Europe.
Pogany, Jozsef (1886-1939), public official, revolutionary and politician, born as Jozsef Schwartz into a poor Jewish family in Budapest, Hungary (then part of Austria-Hungary). A member of the Social Democratic Party of Hungary, before and during WWI., he collaborated in the publication of the party's journals "Nepszava" ("People's Voice") and "Szocializmus". His play "Napoleon", was performed in Budapest. He edited the periodical "Tudas" ("Knowledge") and a series of publications known as the Library of Natural Sciences.

In the post-War revolution of 1918 he was a leading member of the soldier's council and was strongly opposed to the communists. When, however, the latter took over the government (1919), he joined them as one of the war commissars. After the downfall of the communist government, he emigrated to Vienna, Austria, and subsequently to Soviet Russia.

In 1921 he illegally went to the USA, taking up the name John Pepper. He propagated social and communist ideas and agitated workers to organize. Subsequently he became a member of the Workers Party of America. Pogany also organized social and communist activities in the Scandinavian states and in the Far-East. In 1930 he returned to the Soviet Union, where he served as secret emissary in several countries. In 1937, having fallen out of favor because of his Trotzkyite activities, he was arrested by the Soviets on July 29, 1937 in Moscow, Russia. Pogany was executed in 1938 or 1939.
Berlin, Naftali Zvi Yehuda (1816-1893), known as the HaNetziv from the initials of his names Naftali Zvi, rabbi, head of the Volozhin yeshiva and writer, born in Mir, Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire). His father was a talmud scholar and his mother was a descendant of Rabbi Meir Eisenstadt. His first wife was the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchok of Volozhin, the son of Rabbi Chaim Volozhin. His second wife was his niece, a daughter of Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, the author of the "Aruch haShulchan". A son from his first marriage, Chaim Berlin, became the rabbi of Moscow, a daughter married Rabbi Rafael Shapiro, and his son from his second marriage was Rabbi Meir Berlin (later Bar-Ilan).

Under his leadership the Volozhin yeshiva was a spiritual centre for the whole of Russian Jewry with over 400 students and which produced many important rabbis. Berlin taught the whole of the Babylonian Talmud without omission. He was concerned only with the plain meaning of the text and avoided any hair-splitting pilpul. He gave a daily lesson in the weekly Torah reading which was an unusual innovation in his day. In 1892 the Russian authorities, probably under the influence of the Jewish Reform movement, insisted on many restrictions on the subjects and methods of teaching of the institution. Berlin closed the yeshiva rather than comply. He had no objection to secular learning as such, but considered that the traditional study of the Torah and the production of Talmudic scholars was the basis of Jewish existence. Berlin had an approach to Torah study that was at odds with the highly analytical style of lomdus ("learned intellectual analysis") which that was pioneered by contemporary Rabbi Dov Soloveitchik. Bialik's poem "HaMatmid" describes Berlin's heart-warming personality and love for his students.

Politically, he favored Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel, then under the control of the Ottoman Empire; he was a member of the "Chovevei Zion" movement and urged orthodox Jews to support the settlement the country even if many settlers were not themselves observant.

Berlin wrote a number of important works including a commentary on "Sifrei" (published in 1959-61) and commentaries on the "Torah Ha'amek Davar" (1879, in Vilna).
Delougaz, Pierre Pinchas (1901–1975), educator and archaeologist, born in Russia. As a child he he was taken to Palestine by his parents. He received his initial education in Russian and Hebrew literature and thought from tutors at home. In 1913 he was sent to the Gymnasium Herzliya in Tel Aviv, where he remained throughout World War I. At school he had concentrated on mathematics and science, while acquiring a knowledge of Arabic and a familiarity with Near Eastern life from Arab friends. From 1922 to 1926 he studied mathematics and physics at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, where he developed an interest in architecture, art, and eventually archeology. He is best known as the excavator of the ancient site of Chogha Mish in Persia where he began to excavate in 1961.

Delougaz began his career in field archeology as assistant architect with the Harvard University-Baghdad School expedition to Nuzi in northern Iraq in 1928-1929. For the following two years he worked at Khorsabad also in Iraq, where he uncovered the famous colossal bull ("Father of the elephant"). In 1931 Delougaz directed the excavations at Khafaje in Iraq and in 1952 he directed excavations at Bet Yerah (Israel). In 1944 he was appointed curator of the Oriental Institute Museum at Chicago, and in 1949 became a member of the faculty of the University of Chicago and then in 1960,professor at its Oriental Institute. He moved to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) as Professor of Near Eastern Archeology in 1967, and further excavations at Chogha Mish were for several seasons sponsored jointly by UCLA and and the Oriental Institute in Chicago. In 1970 he also assumed the directorship of the Museum of Cultural History at UCLA.

His method of teaching and research combined archaeology and literature. He considered art objects as social documents to be used as evidence in when interpreting their significance. Delougaz was known for his ability to interpret sites and the finds from them and for his methodological rigor, and especially for a new type of pottery classification. He was also able to convey the technical aspects of field work to students with clarity. He was particularly gifted at identifying the functions of artifacts the use of which was not obvious to modern eyes. In addition to numerous articles he published several books, among them "The Temple Oval at Khafajah" (1940), "Pottery from the Diyala Region" (1952), "Plano-Convex Bricks - Treatment of Clay Tablets in the Field" (1933) and "Pre-Sargonid Temples in the Diyala Region" (1942).
Lilienblum, Moshe Leib (1843-1910, Zionist and Hebrew author. He was born in Kedainiai, Lithuania (then in the Russian Empire), and received an Orthodox Jewish education and established two yeshivot by the time he was 22. But he also studied Haskalah literature and secular subjects which he advocated in public. This led to him being persecuted in Ukmerge (Wilkomir), Lithuania, where he was then living. He retaliated in articles advocating reforms in religion and society and criticizing some of the leading rabbinic authorities. Eventually despairing of religious reform, he sought a solution to the Jewish problem in the Labor movement, particularly in agricultural work in Russia. When these hopes were destroyed by the Russian pogroms of 1881, he began to write Zionist-oriented articles, presenting a nationalist program. Lilienblum joined Hibbat Zion, serving as Leon (Yehuda Leib) Pinsker's deputy and joined the Zionist movement where he sought a combination of political and practical Zionism. Writing in Hebrew, Russian and Yiddish, his books included works on Zionism, literary criticism, and several volumes of autobiography.
Guenzburg, David (1857-1910), philanthropist and scholar, son of Horace Naphtali Herz Guenzburg, born in Kamenets-Podolski, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire). Guenzburg studied at the universities of St Petersburg, Greifswald in Germany and Paris and became a scholar in Jewish and oriential studies. He learned several Semitic languages and studied medieval Hebrew and Arab poetry. He published a number of works including studies on the foundation of Arabic poetry, a book on ancient Jewish ornamentation and illumination in medieval Hebrew manuscripts, and a catalogue and description of Arabic, Greek and Coptic manuscripts. Guenzbuerg was also a connoisseur of Russian poetry. His personal library, which contained one of the most important collections of Judaica, was one of the largest private libraries in the world and is now part of the Lenin State Library in Moscow.

Guenzburg also continued his father's tradition of public and Jewish communal activity. After his father's death he became head of the St Petersburg Jewish community and president of the Society for the Promotion of Culture amongst the Jews of Russia. In 1910 he presided over a conference to deal with the religious problems of the Jews of Russia. He was one of the editors of the "Yevreyskaya Entsiklopediya" (Russian Jewish Encyclopedia) and in 1908 he established and for several years supported financially the Jewish Academy in St Petersburg. He was the Academy's rector and lectured to students on Talmud, rabbinic literature, Semitic languages, Arabic literature and medieval Jewish philosophy. The academy continued to operate until 1916 and was attended by many distinguished scholars and authors.

Guenzburg's brother Pierre was an industrialist who lived in Paris until 1940 when he emigrated to the USA. Pierre's wife Yvonne was for 20 years the honorary president of world ORT. Their daughter married Sir Isaiah Berlin.
Poet. Born in Shpola, Russia, in 1919 he became an active member of the Communist Party and soon became prominent in Soviet-Yiddish literature. Most of his poems are propaganda for the Communist Party. During World War II he served in the Red Army as an officer. In 1943 he visited the United States as representative of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. In 1948 he was arrested by the Stalin regime. Fefer was probably killed by the Stalin regime while in arrest. After Stalin’s death he was rehabilitated and a selection of his works in Russian was published in 1958.
Among his poems there are Stalin, Ikh Bin a Yid (I am a Jew) and Shotens fun Varshever Geto (Shadows of the Warsaw Ghetto). He also wrote poems about the Jewish autonomous region in Birobidzhan, nature poetry and children rhymes.
Abraham Soskin was a photographer who photo-documented the Jewish settlement in Palestine. One of his famous photographs shows the distribution of lots for the first houses of Ahuzat Bayit, later to become the city of Tel Aviv. This event took place on April 11, 1909, when the landscape consisted of a sea shore and sand dunes. Soskin also took photos of the leaders of the Zionist leaders in historical events.
Lichtblau, Leon (1901-1938), socialist and communist activist, the son of an architect, born in Bucharest, Romania. Lichtblau political activities started in his school years when he met a number of socialist militants and helped to organize anti-estsablishment demonstrations. In 1918 he and some other militants were arrested in the course of large workers' demonstration in Bucharest and sent to trial for "rebellion and unrest".

In 1920, having graduated from high school, he enrolled in the Faculty of Mathematics of Bucharest University. In 1921 he went to Iasi (Jassy) to support the local workers' movement, but soon returned to Bucharest, narrowly escaping arrest. He participated in the May 1921 Congress of the Socialist Party of Romania where he supported the party's affiliation with the Cominterm. In the summer of that year he was part of the Romanian delegation to the the Young Communist International Congress in Moscow, Soviet Russia. On his return to Romania he found out that the authorities were offering a large reward for his and others communists' capture, and went into hiding. Pressure was put on his family to reveal his location, eventually Lichtblau eventually left Romania moving to Vienna and, after being expelled from Austria, he settled in Berlin, Germany. Meanwhile in Romania he was sentenced to lifetime forced labour and another arrest warrant was issued for him in 1922.

Lichtblau moved to Moscow. There he graduated in economics from the Institute of Red Professors. In 1926 he became Head of the Industry Department of the Central Office of Economic Accounting of the USSR. At the request of the communists in Romania, he translated a part of Lenin's works into Romanian. For a short time in 1928 he was a member in Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Romania, along with two fellow exiles.

While in the USSR, Lichtblau was arrested on April 5, 1937, during the Stalinist purges and was later indicted with "spying and provocative activities and membership in a right-wing counter-revolutionary organisation", and consequently was executed for these offences.

Leon Lichtblau was posthumously rehabilitated by a decision of the Soviet Supreme Court in 1956, as well as by a commission of the Romanian Communist Party in 1968.
De Haan, Jacob Israel (1881-1924), writer and journalist and representative of Haredi Jews in Jerusalem, born in Smilde, Netherlands. He was one of eighteen children and received a traditional Jewish education. His father, Yitzchak HaLevi de Haan, was poor and worked as a cantor and ritual slaughterer.

De Haan worked as a teacher and studied law between 1903 and 1909. Abandoning his parents' Orthodoxy, he wrote for several socialist publications. In 1904, while living in Amsterdam, he wrote a controversial novel "Pijpelijntjes" ("Lines from De Pijp"). The homo-eroticism of the book, which was to some degree autobiographical, was quite shocking in the early 20th century and led to his dismissal from his teaching job and also from social-democratic political circles. In 1912 de Haan made visited Czarist Russia in order to study the situation of political prisoners in Russia. He published his findings in his book "In Russian Prisons" (1913) and then founded a committee which tried to persuade France and Great Britain to pressurize Russia to improve the prisoners' conditions. In a late publication of Amnesty International he was described as "a precursor of Amnesty International". Between 1914 and 1921 he published five volumes of poems.

In 1919, having developed an interest in Zionism and concern over anti-Semitism, he emigrated to Palestine where De Haan rapidly became religiously committed although scandals about his sexual preferences again surfaced from time to time. He was angered by Zionist refusals to cooperate with Arabs. At first he aligned himself with the Mizrachi movement, but after meeting Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld leader of the Haredi community, he became the political spokesman of the Haredim in Jerusalem and was elected political secretary of the Orthodox community council, Vaad Ha'ir. The secular Zionist establishment did not agree that the Haredi community in Palestine should be represented on the Jewish Agency in the 1920s. In response, the Haredim founded an Agudat Israel branch in Jerusalem to represent their interests in Mandate Palestine. The leader of the Haredim chose de Haan to organize and represent the Haredi position on a diplomatic level equal to that of the secular Zionists. When Lord Northcliffe, a British newspaper publisher, was about to visit the Middle East, de Haan went to Alexandria in Egypt to present the case of Palestine's Haredim. The Zionist authorities both in Palestine and London became very worried. De Haan also met with the Hashemite leader Hussein bin Ali seeking his support for the "Yishuv Hayashan" (the pre-Zionist Jewish community in the Holy Land), and explaining the Haredi Jewish opposition to the Zionist plans of founding a state, and their support for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the whole of Palestine.

De Haan was assassinated on 30 June 1924 in Jerusalem by Avraham Tehomi, a member of Haganah, for his anti-Zionist political activities and contacts with Arab leaders. He is believed to be the first victim of Zionist political violence. De Haan is revered as a martyr among certain sections of the Haredi Jewish community, particularly the Neturei Karta and HaEdah HaCharedit. His activities were perceived as undermining the struggle for the establishment of a Jewish state, but the assassination sparked a controversy.
Sajaroff, Miguel (1873-1958), agronomist, born in the Russian empire who first emigrated to Germany and then, influenced by the ideal of the Jewish masses returning to cultivate the land, he arrived in Argentine in 1899 and settled in a colony established by the Jewish Colonization Association. Sajaroff noted that many of the colonists were losing money; he therefore encouraged them to set up cooperatives which would develop the land together. To this end the Agricultural Cooperative Communal Funds were established in many places in Argentina.

One such cooperative village, "The Chapel", a town of 450 inhabitants located in the center of the province of Entre Rios and named after a small chapel that was in the place,changed its name in 1968 to "Engineer Sajaroff", to remind one of the leaders of the cooperative movement in Argentina, ten years after his death.
Dujovne, Leon (1899–1983), philosopher, lawyer and writer, born in Russia and taken by his family to Argentina as a child. The family settled in one of the Jewish farmers’ colonies in the province of Entre Rios. He graduated as a lawyer from the University of Buenos Aires and went on to study philosophy and letters, finally receiving a Ph.D. His faculty proceeded to recruit him to the teaching staff, taught several generations of students and became a professsor.

He published many books on the history of European philosophy, the most important of which being "Baruj Spinoza: su vida, su epoca, su obra e inftuencias" ("Baruch Spinoza: his life, his times, his works and influences") published between 1941–1944. Among his other books: "Teoria de los valores y filosofia de la Historia" ("Theory of the values and philosophy of history")(1959) was awarded the first National Prize for Philosophy in Argentina.

Dujovne was an original commentator on Jewish thinkers and spoke frequently of Jewish philosophy. His main essays on the subject are "Introduccion a la historia de la filosofia judia" ("Introduction to the history of Jewish philosophy") (1949) and "Martin Buber: sus ideas religiosas, filosoficas y sociales" ("Martin Buber: his religious, philosophic, and social ideas") 1966). Dujovne was the editor and translator of a number of other importnt works of Jewish thought and history. In 1961 he published a new translation of the Hebrew Bible. As a journalist and promoter of Jewish thought, Dujovne wrote short monographs published in the series "Great Individuals in Jewish History", edited by the World Jewish Congress, Latin American branch.

Dujovne’s last book, "El Judaismo como cultura" ("Judaism as culture") (1980), represents his attempt to interpret the Jewish heritage in terms of culture. Dujovne used a cultural framework to describe concepts such as man, nature, God, society, world, people, nation, exile, and redemption by tracing them to Biblical sources. His approach led him to a humanist and nationalist conception of the spiritual development of the Jewish people during the Diaspora until the rebirth of the State of Israel. He was editor of the Buenos Aires weekly "Mundo Israelita", and was elected president of the Sociedad Hebraica of Argentina.

Dujovne settled in Israel in 1966 and taught at the Hebrew University.
Ehrenburg, Ilya Grigoryevich (1891-1967), writer and journalist, born in Kiev, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) to an assimilated middle-class Jewish family. Although he took very strong positions against anti-Semitism, Ehrenburg never associated with the Jewish community nor did he speak Yiddish. He considered himself to be a Russian. He was among the most prolific and notable authors of the Soviet Union who published around one hundred titles.

When Ehrenburg was four years old, the family moved to Moscow, Russia, where his father had been appointed to be director of a brewery. After the Russian Revolution of 1905 he was involved in illegal activities of the Bolshevik organisation. In 1908, the Tsarist secret police arrested and imprisoned him. After five months he was allowed to go into exile in Paris, France, where he started to work in the Bolshevik organisation, meeting Vladimir Lenin and other prominent exiles. He also began to write poems and translated some foreign writers' works into Russian. During the World War I Ehrenburg became a war correspondent for a St. Petersburg newspaper. He wrote a series of articles about the mechanized war that later on were also published as a book ("The Face of War"). His anti-communist poem, 'Prayer for Russia', appeared in 1917. His poetry of this time was also about of war and destruction.

Between 1921 and 1924 Ehrenburg lived in Berlin, Germany, and Belgium. His first novel, "The Extraordinary Adventures of Julia Jurenito and his Disciples" (1922) ridiculed both the capitalist West and the Communist system. He also viewed skeptically the era of the New Economic Policy in the Soviet Union. "Zhizn i gibel Nikolaya Kurbova" (1923) was about the downfall of a Soviet secret policeman and "The Love of Jeanne Ney" (1924) depicted a love affair between a Russian Communist and a French woman. "Out of Chaos" (1934) was an apologia for Socialist Realism, and in "Ne perevodya dykhania" (1935) the writer accepted the official Communist policy in economic and political matters.

During the Spanish Civil War, he wrote for the Soviet newspaper "Izvestiia". He met Ernest Hemingway in Madrid, Spain. In 1941, he returned to Moscow and listened to Stalin's radio speech after the Nazis had attacked the Soviet Union. His ambitious novel, "The Fall of Paris" (1941-1942), depicted the decline of capitalist France. Ehrenburg's reputation and position as the head of propaganda for the Red Army during the war, made him a target of Goebbel's propaganda. When he reported on Nazi atrocities after visiting concentration camps, he pleaded the U.S. public to believe him. Some of his articles during World War II were extremely anti-German and he was accused of orchestrating a hate-campaign. His article "Kill" published in 1942 — when German troops were deeply within Soviet territory — became a widely publicized example of this campaign. Ehrenburg was a prominent member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.

In 1954, Ehrenburg published a novel titled "The Thaw" which tested the limits of censorship in the post-Stalin Soviet Union. The novel gave its name to an entire era of Soviet cultural politics, namely, the liberalization after the death of Joseph Stalin.

During the remainder of his life Ehrenburg spent as a respected messenger of the Soviet state. Without being a member of the Communist Party, he moved freely in foreign countries and held important cultural positions. Ehrenburg published poetry, short stories, travel books, essays, and several novels, which combined patriotism with cosmopolitanism. Ehrenburg adapted his writings to Soviet political demands and avoided conflicts, that destroyed many other writers and artists.

Together with Vasily Grossman, Ehrenburg edited "The Black Book" that contains documentary accounts by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union and Poland. The book has special historical significance; detailing the genocide on Soviet citizens of Jewish ancestry, it is the first great documentary work on the Holocaust. Ehrenburg was also active as a poet till his last days, depicting the events of World War II in Europe, the Holocaust and the destinies of Russian intellectuals.

At his 70th birthday celebration he said “Even though my passport states that I am a Jew, I am a Russian writer” - implying even in 1961 Jews in the Soviet Union were not fully accepted as being members of the Russian people.
Erlich, Henrik (1882-1941), journalist, Jewish socialist leader in Poland, born in Lublin, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire) to a wealthy Orthodox Jewish family. His father was a Hassid who acquired some secular education and later joined Hovevei Zion movement. Erlich received a full secular legal education. He studied law in Warsaw, where he encountered Socialist movement for the first time and joined the Bund. He was arrested on several occasions for revolutionary activity and was finally expelled from the university. He therefore continued his studies in St Petersburg, Russia. From 1913 he belonged to the Central Committee of Bund. During the Russian Revolution of 1917 he was a member of Petrograd Soviet executive committee and member of Soviet's delegation to England, France and Italy. After the revolution in Russia, he moved back to Warsaw. In Warsaw he met Wiktor Alter, one of the most influential leaders of Bund. As a member of Bund, he became a member of the Warsaw municipality after Poland had regained its independence in 1921. Erlich took an active part in socialist propaganda activities and edited a number of periodicals including "Glos Bundu" (“Voice of Bund”) (1901-1905) and “Volks Zeitung” (“People’s Newspaper”). In 1925 he was elected to the Warsaw kehilla council as one of 5 Bundists out of 50 members. Bund joined the Comintern in 1930 and Erlich found himself on its executive body.

After the outbreak of World War 2, Erlich made his way to the part of Poland that had come under Soviet control. He was almost immediately arrested by Russian authorities and sentenced to death. However, the sentence was commuted to 10 years imprisonment. Erlich was eventually released as a result of of the Sikorski–Mayski Agreement between the Soviet Union and Poland in 1941. At about the same time Erlich was supposed to join Gen. Sikorski (the Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile) in traveling to London where it was intended that Sikorski should join the Polish government. However, in December, Erlich, together with Victor Alter were once again arrested by the NKVD in Kuybyshev. No reason was given for their arrest. According to various sources at the time, he was charged with spying for “enemies of the Soviet Union”. The Soviet authorities later announced that he had been executed, but it was widely believed that Henryk Erlich committed suicide in the Soviet prison in Kuybyshev.

In 1991, Victor Erlich, Henryk Erlich's grandson was informed that according to a decree passed under Russian president Boris Yeltsin, Erlich had been "rehabilitated" and the repressions against them had been declared unlawful. While the exact place where he was buried is unknown, a cenotaph was erected at the Jewish cemetery on Okopowa Street in Warsaw in 1988. The inscription reads "Leaders of the Bund, Henryk Erlich, b. 1882, and Wiktor Alter, b. 1890. Executed in the Soviet Union".
Early Zionist

He was a native of Yelgava and graduated in law at St.Petersburg University, Russia. After the 1881 pogroms in the Russian Empire, he joined Hibbat Zion movement and edited books in Russian expounding its ideology. He attended the 1887 Druskiniki conference of Hibbat Zion and was secretary of the official founding assembly of the society in Russia, held in Odessa in 1890. Maintaining that mass emigration was essential for Russian Jewry, he became secretary of the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) founded by Baron de Hirsch which took Russian Jews to various overseas destinations incluing Latin America. Bermann saw this as supplementing - not as an alternative to - emigration to Eretz Israel. He was a founder of the Historical-Ethnographical Committee of the Society for Spreading Enlightenment among the Jews of Russia. He fell ill with tuberculosis and went to live in Cairo, Egypt, where he died.
Zabotinsky, Alejandro (1880-1941), dentist, born in Russia where he attended primary and secondary school before emigrating to Argentina in about 1898. In Argentina he studied dentistry and became assistant professor at the University of Buenos Aires. At the same time he was apppointed director of the Durand Dental Hospital. In 1940 he was apppinted professor of Operative Dentistry Techniques at the school of dentistry. In 1935 he compiled an authoritative textbook on the subject for dental students.
Guenzburg, Horace Naphtali Herz (1833-1909), banker and philanthropist, born in Swenyhorodka, Russia. Gunzburg was a director of the Guenzburg Bank, which had been founded by his father Joseph, and which was one of the key financial institutions in imperial Russia. Guenzburg received a thorough Jewish education from private tutors in his father's home and then worked closely with his father in the management of the bank. He also managed the financial affairs of Grand Duke Louis III of Hesse-Darmstadt, who appointed him Consul General (1868-1872) in Russia. It was the only occasion when the Russian government allowed a Jew to be appointed to such a position on its soil. The Russian government appointed Guenzburg to be a member of the State Council. Guenzburg Bank's success was to some measure due to its close relations with both the aristocracy and the government. The Bank ceased its operations in 1892 due to a crisis in the Russian banking industry.

He was knighted in 1872 by Grand Duke of Hesse. Baron Guenzburg was until 1892 an alderman of the city of St. Petersburg. He was president of the St. Petersburg Jewish Community and the Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia. He was also associated with many other non-Jewish social welfare institutions. He worked, with very limited success, to stabilize the situation of Russian Jews, to prevent the passing into law of anti-Jewish decrees or at least or mitigate their effect. During the blood libel case in 1878 he subsidized the writing of a book to try to stop the spreading the infamous allegations. Despite the ever worsening conditions, he refused to advocate any exodus of Jews from the country. Instead, as chairman of the Russian Committee of the Jewish Colonization Association, he urged that the funds from the Baron Hirsch Fund for the Promotion of Agriculture be used to promote handicrafts and agriculture as a way to aid Jewish victims of the pogroms. He tried to set up an national organization of Russian Jews and to plan action against the pogroms and anti-Semitism.

The Ginzburg home was a meeting place for liberal scholars, authors, artists and other intellectuals. As well as being a philanthropist he was a patron of scientific, cultural and social institutions. He supported the publication of matter of historical interest including the collection of Russian laws which concerned the Jews which had been edited by V. Levanda.
Levin, Shmarya (Shemaryahu) (1867–1935), Zionist leader, Hebrew and Yiddish author, born in Svisloch, Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire). Levin joined the Hibbat Zion movement in his youth, was one of the adherents of Ahad Ha-Am and became a member of the Bnei Moshe society. Levin studied at Berlin University and at the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums in the same city, joining the Russian-Jewish Scientific Society, which spread the idea of Jewish nationalism among Russian-Jewish students in Germany. He served as Kazyonny rav in Grodno (1896–1897) and Yekaterinoslav (1898–1904) and preached in Vilna (1904–1906).

Throughout his career he worked for the Zionist ideals both orally and in the Hebrew (Ha-Shilo'aḥ, Ha-Zeman, Ha-Ẓofeh) and the Yiddish press (Der Yud, Der Fraynd). At the Sixth Zionist Congress in 1903, Levin was among the leaders of the opposition to the Uganda Scheme. He was among the founders of the League for the Attainment of Equal Rights for the Jewish People in Russia (established in 1905) and a member of its central board. In 1906 Levin was chosen to the first Russian Duma as delegate of the Jewish National List in Vilna (with the support of the Lithuanians). He participated in deliberations in the Duma and delivered two speeches on the pogrom in Bialystok. After the first Duma was disbanded, Levin was among the signatories of the Vyborg Declaration, which called for civil disobedience.

Later Levin left Russia and settled in Berlin, from where he travelled to the United States on a number of lecture tours. At the Tenth Zionist Congress in 1911, he was elected a member of the Zionist Executive. He took part in the work of the Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden in Germany and was among the initiators of the technical school in Haifa (the Technion); he also influenced American Jews to contribute to this cause. Levin resigned from the board of governors of the Technion together with Ahad Ha-Am and J. Tschlenow after their suggestion to use Hebrew as the language of instruction was rejected. During World War I he lived in the U.S. and directed propaganda work on Zionism and Hebrew culture orally and in writing. Together with Y.D. Berkowitz he edited the weekly "Ha-Toren" and regularly wrote its editorials. His speeches were a blend of Jewish heritage and European culture, spiced with Jewish folk wit. Some of his articles were collected in "Bi-Ymei ha-Ma'avar" ("In the Days of Transition", 1949).

In 1920 Levin participated in the postwar Zionist Conference in London and was put in charge of propaganda for Keren Hayesod. He was among the founders and directors of the Dvir publishing house. In 1924 he settled in Palestine, traveling from time to time in various countries on missions for the Zionist Movement and its funds. He developed ties of friendship with Sir Arthur Wauchope, British high commissioner for Palestine. He wrote a number of books including his autobiography.

Kerch

Керчь; in antiquity: Panticapaeum

Port at the eastern extremity of Crimea, formerly in Ukraine, now in Russia.

A Jewish settlement appears to have existed on this spot during the period of the independent kingdom of Bosphorus (fifth century B.C.E.) but the earliest extant evidence dates from the time that the town was under the dominion of the Roman Empire. A Greek inscription of 81 C.E. concerning the liberation of a Jewish slave reveals that a Jewish community existed in the town at that period and that there was also a synagogue.

Non-Jewish inscriptions belonging to the first centuries of the Christian era bear numerous Jewish symbols. During the second half of the ninth century the patriarch Photius wrote to archbishop Antony of Kerch thanking him for his efforts to convert the Jews of the city. In his letter to Chisdai Ibn Shaprut the Khazar King Joseph mentions Kark (Kerch) among the cities of his kingdom, and it may be assumed that the Jewish community flourished there during the eighth and ninth centuries under the Khazar kings who became converts to Judaism. As a result of the wars between the Khazars and the Russians during the second half of the tenth century and the wars between the Russians and the Greeks at the close of the 11th century, the Jews abandoned Kerch, so that when Pethahiah of Regensburg visited the city in 1175 he found a community of Karaites only.

During the 17th century the Turks built a fortress in the city and a site was granted to the Karaites for a cemetery.

After the city had been captured by the Russians in 1771, a new community of local and Russian Jews was established but it was destroyed during the Crimean War (1854-1856). After a number of years, the Jewish settlement was reconstituted, and in 1897 numbered 4,774 persons (14% of the city's population), including Krimchaks and Karaites. Most of them earned their livelihood in the dried fish and salt industries and in the oil refineries. There were several synagogues in Kerch, including one built in the 1830s, another in 1875, a separate Krimchak synagogue, and a Karaite one. In 1859 the Talmud Torah had 160 pupils, and there were schools for boys and girls, and a number of charitable institutions. On July 31, 1905, many Kerch Jews were killed in a pogrom; the Jews there organized self- defense. There were 3,067 Jews in Kerch (8.9% of the city's population) in 1926, and their numbers had risen to around 4,500 (including about 500 krimchaks) before the German occupation.

The Overwhelming majority were murdered in German Aktions in 1941-1942. In 1970 the Jewish population of Kerch was estimated at about 5,000, but there was no organized religious life. Most left in the mass emigration of the 1990s.

Ulan-Ude

Known as Verkhneudinsk until 1934

Russian: Улан-Удэ

Capital city of the Republic of Buryatia, Russia


21ST CENTURY

In the early 21st century the community operated a Sunday School, a library, and a sports club.

 

HISTORY

The first Jews to settle in Verkheudinsk were exiles from European Russia. In 1879 the 65 Jewish families living there received authorization to build a synagogue.

In 1897 there were 908 Jews living in the city (11. 2% of the total population), with another 1,220 living in the surrounding district. Most of those who lived in the city engaged in commerce, while several hundred of those living in the surrounding area worked in agriculture.  

In 1997 approximately 400 Jews attended a Passover seder organized by the Jewish Agency in Russia.

Kursk

Курск

A city and the administrative center of Kursk Oblast, Russia. 

Before the 1917 revolution, Kursk was outside the Pale of Settlement.

In 1858 there were 458 Jews in the entire province, most of them army veterans. The numbers for the province had risen to 4,355 in 1897, 1,689 of them (2.2% of the total population) in the city itself.

The Kursk Jewish community was under the jurisdiction of the Rabbi of Konotop. Pogroms occurred in October 1905. In 1926, the Jewish population in the city was 4,154 (4.2%).

When the city was occupied by the Germans in the summer of 1941, those Jews who did not manage to escape were murdered.

In November 1956, after the Sinai campaign, the local Jews were compelled to sign an anti-Israel declaration published in Izvestiya. The only synagogue left in Kursk was closed down by the authorities in the late 1960s.

In 1970 the Jewish population of Kursk was estimated at about 9,000.

Karasubazar

In Ukrainian: Белогорск/ Bilohirsk; in Russian: Belogorsk

A town in Crimea Oblast, formerly in Ukraine, now in Russia

The main community of the Crimean Jews, also known as Krimchaks.

In 1595, Selameth-Girey Khan granted the Jews of Karasubazar a privilege according them far-reaching concessions with regard to taxes and customs duties. This privilege was confirmed many times by the succeeding Khans (for the last time in 1728).

A collection of ancient sifrei torah and manuscripts was removed from the Karasubazar synagogue in 1839 by Abraham Firkovich without the consent of the community; he later handed them over to the imperial library in St. Petersburg. From 1,969 in 1847 the number of Jews in the town increased to 3,144 by 1897, the overwhelming majority of them Krimchaks, who spoke the Tatar language among themselves and prayed according to the Crimean rite (minhag Kaffa). There were also 47 Karaites living in the town. From 1866 to 1899 Rabbi Chayyim Hezekiah Medini, Chief Rabbi of the Crimean Jews, had his seat in Karasubazar. He was able to use his considerable influence to raise the religious and spiritual standards of his communities.

The Jews of Karasubazar engaged in crafts, market gardening, and petty trade. During the civil war, the community decreased in numbers as a result of famine and disease. On the eve of World War II about 2,500 Jews lived in Karasubazar. When Crimea was occupied by the Germans in the summer of 1941, the question of whether the Krimchaks belonged to the Jewish race was raised. On the basis of instructions received from Berlin, they were murdered at the end of that year.

Chufut-Kale

Turk. "Jew castle"

Ancient town in Crimea near Bakhchisarai, between Sevastopol and Simferopol, Ukraine (now in ruins).

Chufut-Kale was probably originally a Greek fortress dating from the time of Justinian I (sixth century C.E.) and perhaps identical with Phyllae (Phyll), later mentioned as a Khazar possession. It had a settlement of Karaites who probably made their appearance there before the Mongol invasion (13th century).

Chufut-Kale retained its importance as a Karaite center until the Russian conquest of Crimea in 1783. It is referred to in Karaite sources as Sela Ha-Yehudim (Rock of the Jews). The Karaite community numbered over 300 families in the middle of the 17th century. A Hebrew press was established by the Karaites in 1734, for publishing Karaite works; the press continued to function until 1741. Under the Russians, another press operated from 1804 to 1806. In the second half of the 19th century the Karaites abandoned Chufut-Kale. Attention was directed to Chufut-Kale in the 19th century as the most 546 of the 751 Hebrew epitaphs published in his Avnei Zikkaron (Vilna, 1872) were from Chufut-Kale, and biblical manuscripts from there are included in the second Firkovich collection, purchased after his death by the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg.

During World War II the Karaites there were spared from Nazi attacks.

St. Petersburg

Санкт-Петербург; also known as Petrograd 1914-1924, and Leningrad 1924-1991

Capital of Russia until 1918. An industrial city and major port on the Baltic Sea.

CONTEMPORARY HISTORY

The Jewish community of St. Petersburg is the second-largest in Russia. Mass emigration reduced the Jewish population from 107,000 in 1989 to about 40,000 in 2002. A 2010 census revealed that these numbers did not change considerably and that the number of Jewish residents in St. Petersburg has remained at around 40,000 people. Prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union the Jews of St. Petersburg were in many ways disconnected from Jewish culture. However, since the end of communism in Russia, St. Petersburg has emerged as a vibrant Jewish community. While a significant segment of the community remains uncomfortable with, and not entirely open about, its Jewishness, an increasing number of the city's Jews identify as Jewish and have begun observing Jewish traditions and rituals.

Jews began arriving in St. Petersburg during the second half of the 19th century, primarily from the "Pale of Residence", which was made up of modern-day Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Moldova, and Lithuania. This time was marked by intense Russification, which included a high rate of mixed marriages and conversions to Christianity. Most of the Jews of St. Petersburg have lived in the city for generations, though there are many who have arrived more recently from other locations within Russia and the region, including the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Georgia. Since the restriction on emigration was lifted in 1989, as many as 230,000 Jews left for Israel.

Two umbrella organizations serve both the community of St. Petersburg and Russian Jewry more generally: the Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Russia, and The Russian-Jewish Congress. With the support of foreign Jewish philanthropy, several Jewish welfare programs, as well as a full range of religious and educational institutions, have been developed in St. Petersburg. Russia's network of Jewish educational institutions includes four Jewish universities, which are mainly located in St. Petersburg and Moscow. A number of smaller religious and social organizations have been established by young Jews in their twenties and thirties. Events such as the Jewish festival take place annually in the community. St. Petersburg has also been host to annual events and conferences organized by Limmud FSU, an organization which specializes in meeting the cultural needs of the Jewish communities of the former Soviet Union (FSU). Since 2011 these conferences have attracted hundreds of Jews from St. Petersburg, providing a safe environment for Jewish youth to learn more about their Jewish heritage. Jewish newspapers and Russian-language media have emerged in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities with smaller organized Jewish communities.

The vast majority of Russian Jewry, including the community of St. Petersburg, is secular and defines their Jewishness in cultural rather than religious terms. Of the religiously observant Jews in St. Petersburg, most are Orthodox. In an effort to support the resurgence in religious observance, many rabbis from outside Russia have been brought to St. Petersburg. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has been very active in the community since the end of the 20th century, and the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism have also been introduced.

The central hub of Jewish life in St. Petersburg is the Yesod Jewish Community Center (JCC). Opened in 2005, the facility houses six of the community's major Jewish organizations, including the Hesed Avraam Charity Center, Adain Lo Family Center, Hillel Student Center, the Granatik Children Center, ORT, and the Library & Eitan Jewish Education Center. Additionally, the JCC offers many cultural and educational programs. It holds lectures, sponsors events, and includes its own Sunday school.

The most notable synagogue in St. Petersburg is the Grand Choral Synagogue. Constructed in the Moorish Revival-Byzantine style between 1880 and 1888, and consecrated in 1893, the Grand Choral is the second-largest synagogue in Europe. Prior to its construction, a synagogue large enough to serve the entire Jewish community in Russia's then-capital did not exist. However, the synagogue could only be built after obtaining a building permit from Tsar Alexander II in 1869.

Located in the Russian Museum of Ethnography is an exhibit dedicated to Russian Jewry. The exhibit "History and Culture of the Jewish people of the Territory of Russia" is considered by many in the community to be the first step toward the development of a completely separate Jewish museum. As one of the city's important cultural institutions, the museum attracts visitors from all over Russia, including Jews from neighboring countries.

Another significant Jewish landmark is the Holocaust memorial, located in Tsarskoye Selo. The monument stands just 500 meters from Catherin's palace where the Jewish ghetto was located during the Second World War.

One of the oldest points of Jewish interest in the city is St. Petersburg's Jewish cemetery. Founded in 1875, the cemetery serves as the burial place for several historical figures such as the sculptor Mark Antokolsky, the 19th century scientist and Jewish community leader David Ginsburg, and Abraham Lubanov, who served as the head rabbi of the St. Petersburg Synagogue during World War II.

HISTORY

There is evidence that there were some Marranos who settled in St. Petersburg soon after it was in 1703 by Peter the Great. "The Portuguese Jew," Jan DaCosta (who was actually a converso), was one of the jesters at the royal court during the first half of the 18th century. The city's first police chief was also a converso from the Netherlands. Otherwise, Jews were not allowed to live in the city. Additionally, Czarina Elizabeth issued intolerant decrees against the Jews, and the few Jews who were living in St. Petersburg were forced to leave. Catherine II (Catherine the Great), on the other hand, was interested in attracting Jewish contractors, industrialists, and physicians to the city, and therefore issued instructions to the authorities to overlook the presence of the "useful" Jews living there with their families and assistants and had the protection of court officials. It was Catherine II who, after the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, created the Pale of Settlement, territories in which the Jews of the Russian Empire were permitted to settle permanently (unless they had special permission to settle elsewhere).

With the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, St. Petersburg became a center for the millions of Jews who were incorporated into the Russian Empire. The city quickly became a destination for upper class Jews, both the "useful" Jews—the army veterans, artisans, and wealthy merchants who had official permission to live outside of the Pale—as well as the Jews who settled in St. Petersburg illegally. The leader of Chabad Chasidism, Shneur Zalman of Lyady, was imprisoned in St. Petersburg from 1798 until 1800/1801.

The situation of the Jews worsened with the accession of Czar Nicholas I. In 1827 he issued the Statute on Conscription Duty, which imposed a draft on the Jews of Russia and cancelled the earlier provision that allowed Jews to pay a monetary random instead of submitting to the draft. The draftees would have to serve 25 years, and would fall on Jewish boys and men between the ages of 12 and 25 (as opposed to the general population, in which men 18 to 35 were eligible for the draft). The idea was to modernize and Russify the Jewish population, and became a communal crisis, particularly for the more traditional Jewish communities.

The situation shifted again with the reign of Alexander II. "Useful" Jews, such as army veterans, university graduates, artisans, and upper-class merchants were once again allowed to legally settle in St. Petersburg. By the end of Alexander II's reign in 1881 there were 17,253 Jews in St. Petersburg, making up approximately 2% of the population. Upper class Jews, including the barons of the Guenzburg family became the de facto leaders and representatives before the Central Government.

Several figures held the position of Kazyonnyy Ravin (Government-Appointed Rabbi) in St. Petersburg, including the German-born Abraham Neiman, Avram Drabkin, and Moshe Eisenstadt. Other rabbis who were not officially appointed, yet who led the Jews of the community, were Yitshak Blaser, Yekutiel Zalman Landau, and David Tevel Katzenellenbogen. After 24 years of dealing with bureaucracy and construction, the magnificent Grand Choral Synagogue was completed and consecrated in 1893. It was built in the Moorish style, and contained 1,200 seats. In spite of this triumph, it is important to note that with the opening of the Grand Choral Synagogue, all of the other existing sanctuaries needed to be closed, and their congregants were compelled to pray only in the Grand Choral Synagogue.

The Yiddish, Russian, and Hebrew Jewish presses were centered in St. Petersburg from the 1870s until the revolution in 1905. The newspapers HaMelitz (1871-1873, 1878-1904), HaYom (1886-1888). Dos Yudishes Folksblat (1881-1890) and the first Russian daily newspaper in Yiddish, Der Fraynd (1903-1908), were all published out of St. Petersburg. The city was also the center of Russian-Jewish journalism and literature. One of the most outstanding publications was the Russian-Jewish encyclopedia, Yevreyskaya Entsiklopediya, which was published in 1908.

In spite of censorship, exclusions, and unremitting police persecutions, the community continued to grow, numbering 35,000 (1.8% of the city's population) in 1914.

Many national Jewish organizations located their headquarters in St. Petersburg. The oldest of these organizations was The Society for the Promotion of Culture Among the Jews of Russia, which was founded in 1863. Others included ORT, the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), the Chovevei Sefat Ever (renamed "Tarbut" after the 1917 Revolution), the Historical-Ethnographic Society, and the Society for Jewish Folk Music. Additionally, a number of institutions in the city housed various objects of Jewish interest. The city's Asian Museum housed a valuable Hebrew department. The Imperial Public Library contained one of the world's oldest and most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts. Under the initiative of Baron David Guenzburg, courses in Oriental Studies were opened in St. Petersburg in 1907. The concentration of public and cultural institutions in the city attracted Jewish authors and intellectuals, including A.A Harkavy, Judah Leib Katzenelson, Simon Dubnow, and father and son Michael and Eugene M. Kulisher.

World War I saw the Jewish population of Petrograd swell to more than 50,000 because of Jews fleeing from the battlefields within the Pale of Settlement, or Jews being expelled by the Russian army who accused them of collaborating with the Germans and Austrians. The influx of Jewish refugees was overwhelming to the city's Jewish residents, though they nonetheless attempted to accommodate them through organizations such as the Jewish Society for the Relief of War Victims.

After the February Revolution of 1917, all residence restrictions affecting the Jews of Petrograd were abolished. As a result, the city became a center for the activities of the diverse parties and factions within Russian Jewry. In June 1917, the Seventh Conference of the Zionist Organization of Russia was held in the city, and plans were also made to convene an All-Russian Jewish Congress in Petrograd. These improvements in Jewish life and national status were, however, short-lived. With the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, all Jewish political parties (along with any other non-Bolshevik parties) were forced underground. The center of government moved from Petrograd to Moscow, leaving the city's Jews far from the nation's political center. The transfer of the capital from Petrograd to Moscow in 1918, as well as the shortages and famine that affected the city during the Russian Civil War, severely shook the Jewish community, and many Jews returned to the provincial towns. It was during this difficult period that Joseph Trumpeldor created a Jewish battalion for the purposes of Jewish self-defense. Additionally, he founded the youth organization He-Halutz, to prepare Jewish youth for emigration to Palestine.

By 1920 there were 25,453 Jews (3.5% of the total population) living in Petrograd. With the consolidation of the Soviet regime, the number of Jews rapidly increased, to 52,373 in 1923 (4.9% of the total population), and 84,505 in 1926 (5.2% of the population).

A small group of Russian-Jewish intellectuals attempted to continue their literary and scientific work under the new regime. They worked to sustain their former cultural societies, and continued to publish scientific and literary periodicals. By the end of the 1920s, when these projects were shut down by the Soviet regime, many of these intellectuals left Russia, including Simon Dubnow and Saul M. Ginzburg. Nearly a decade later, by the end of the 1930s, the remaining Communist Jewish organizations had also been suppressed, as had public expressions of Jewish identity.

On the eve of the Nazi invasion, the number of Jews in Leningrad was estimated at about 200,000 people. During World War II, the Jews shared in the suffering and starvation during the German siege of the city. The author, literary critic, and historian Lidiya Yakovlevna Ginzburg was among the survivors of the siege of Leningrad.

In the census of 1959, 162,344 Jews were registered as living in Leningrad, but the real number was probably closer to 200,000. 13,728 of these respondents declared Yiddish as their mother tongue. The city's only synagogue was the Grand Choral Synagogue, which was still standing in spite of having been bombed by the Nazis in 1941 and 1943. During the 1950s Gedalia Pecherski was the chairman of the synagogue's board. Pecherski was not only devoted to the religious needs of the congregation, he also sent petitions to the Soviet government and the municipal authorities asking to be allowed to organize courses in subjects such as Hebrew and Jewish history. These petitions were always summarily rejected. Pecherski was arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, ostensibly for having "maintained contact with a foreign embassy [i.e Israel]." The rabbi of the synagogue, RabbiAbram Lubanov, who had been imprisoned in a forced labor camp during the Stalin era, was the dwindling congregation's spiritual leader.

In 1962-1964, as in other parts of the USSR, matzah-baking in the Leningrad synagogue was discontinued by the authorities. In 1962, on the eve of Simchat Torah, 25 Jewish youths were arrested while dancing in the street near the synagogue. In 1963 the authorities prohibited the use of the Jewish cemetery, which was ultimately closed in 1969.

In spite of the assimilation and population decline among Leningrad's Jews, they nonetheless took on an important role in the refusenik movement and the Jewish national revival that began to stir in the Soviet Union. After the Six Day War in 1967, Jewish youth more openly displayed their identification with Israel, in spite of the official Soviet anti-Israel campaign. Many began studying Hebrew in private underground groups, others protested publicly against the government's refusal to grant them exit permits for Israel. These protests were publicized abroad, and helped galvanize Jewish communities worldwide to help their Soviet brethren. Many of these activities led to the arrest and imprisonment of these young activists. Another group of young Jews, mostly from Riga, together with 2 non-Jews, were tried in Leningrad in December 1970 for allegedly planning to hijack a Soviet plane in order to land abroad and ultimately reach Israel. Two were sentenced to death, and the other to prison terms of 4-15 years. These sentences led to worldwide protests. On appeal in March, 1971, the Supreme Court of the Russian Republic commuted the death sentences to 15 years of hard labor, and some of the other sentences were reduced.

With the collapse of communism, St. Petersburg saw a Jewish communal revival. Chabad is particularly active in the city, and events such as Limmud FSU help St. Petersburg's Jews reconnect with their Jewish roots.

Ufa

Russian: Уфа (Ufa); other names: Oufa

Capital of the Rupublic of Bashkortostan in Russia.

The Republic of Bashkortostan spreads from southern Ural mountains in the east to the rolling Bugulma-Belebey Upland hills in the west.

During the Khanate of the Golden Horde the land was settled by Turkic Bashkirs and in the mid-16th century it came under Russian sovereignty with the overthrow of the Khanate by Czar Ivan IV the Terrible. From the mid-18th century the area was a center for production of iron and copper and an autonomous Soviet rupublic from 1919 to 1991.

 

21st Century

In the post-USSR period communal Jewish service developed in Ufa situated in a pre-dominantly Muslim republic. A chief rabbi was elected and the Jewish community was estimated at 10,000. Today the Jewish population is around 2000. Ufa is considered center of industry, economics, science and culture of the area of Bashkortostan.

A Jewish Sunday school was opened in 1992 with the renewal of Ufa’s Jewish community. In 19989 along the ongoing perestroika a Jewish culture club Stern was started. Great interest in their native language and culture was expressed by the Jewish population.

In 2008 was the opening of a Jewish community center and events were staged for the republic’s 13,000 Jews. Prior the community got together at a historic synagogue which was built in 1908 and became the long time location of the philharmonic society of the republic. This was on the backdrop of the 1928-29 liquidation of remains of the ruling market economy, with the entry of new anti-religious legislation bringing about a general closure of religious institutions. A religious connection was thus lost when the Ufa synagogue became home to the philharmonic orchestra of the city.

Made of three stones and a broken Menorah installed, a 3.5 meters high monument was placed at the Jewish National Cultural Center of Ufa, in commemoration of the Holocaust. At its unveiling representatives of the Muslim denomination and the Russian Orthodox Church were present.

 

History

Under the Czars Ufa was beyond the Pale of Settlement. Its Jewish community was established by veteran Jewish soldiers and in 1855 a synagogue was built. The Jews in Ufa numbered 376 in 1897 (0.8% of the total population). In World War I about 1,000 Jewish refugees came to Ufa from areas near the front. The Jewish community suffered from the battles between the Red Army and the White Army in 1918 and in 1923 there were 1,588 Jews (1.8% of the total population).

 

Postwar

In the entire Bashkir Republic there were 7,167 Jews in 1959.

In 1971 some thousands of Jews were probably still living in Ufa, but there was no information available about Jewish communal or religious life in the town.

Vladikavkaz

Владикавка́з

Until 1932 Vladikavkaz; 1944-1954 Dzaudzhikau or Ordzhonikidze; now Vladikavkaz

Capital of Northern Ossetia, northern Caucasus, Russia

In 1784 the Russian government erected a fortress which dominated the road crossing the Caucasus; from the 1830s there were always some Jewish soldiers in the fortress and it was, in fact, demobilized soldiers who founded the community. A prayer room was erected in 1865, and about 20 years later authorization for the construction of a synagogue was obtained. A community of Subbotniki (Judaizes) also existed in the town. During the 1890s the administration began to oppress the Jews. There were 1,214 Jews (about 2.8% of the total population) in 1897 and in 1926 about 1,000 (1.3% of the population).

When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, they were brought to a halt on the outskirts of the town and so the Jewish inhabitants were saved. In 1959 about 2,000 Jews lived in the town.

Sompolno

A small town in the Poznan district, central Poland.

Jews began to settle in Sompolno at the end of the 18th century. During the Russian rule of this area (1823-1862) Jewish settlement was curtailed. The Jewish community of Sompolno gained its independence in the mid-19th century, when they numbered some 430 persons. One of the outstanding rabbis of the town was Yoel Fuchs, who taught Jewish children in the municipal school and was an Orthodox Zionist.

Most of the local Jews traded in agricultural products. Some were engaged in the production of edible oil and alcohol. Jewish day-laborers and artisans were helped by the local branch of the Bund.

Zionism was introduced into the community at the beginning of the 20th century. Between the two world wars Agudath Eretz Israel, Tseirei Zion, Zionim Klalim and the Revisionists were active in Sompolno. There was a lively response to the census for the Zionist Congresses.

In September 1939 the Jewish community of Sompolno numbered some 1,200 persons.


The Holocaust Period

German troops occupied Sompolno in September 1939. They confiscated property and homes of the town`s Jews, curtailed their movements and sent several groups to forced labor camps in the Poznan area. Jews were forced to wear the yellow badge.

In 1940 the Jews of Sompolno were herded into a ghetto. In the summer of 1941 they were forbidden to leave it. All the ghetto inhabitants were transported to their death at the Chelmno extermination camp at the beginning of 1942.

Russian: По́чеп

A town in Bryansk Oblast, Russia.


HISTORY

Jews began to settle in Pochep in the 17th century.  Because Pochep was in the Pale of Settlement, it was among the places where Jews were able to reside legally, without requiring any special permission.

Periodically the Jewish community experienced anti-Jewish violence. In 1648 most of the Jews in Pochep were killed during the Chmielnitsky massacres. Centuries later, the Jews of Pochep would suffer from the pogroms that broke out throughout Russia in 1905, as well as the attacks and looting that took place during the Russian Civil War (1917-1922).

There were 3,172 Jews (about 33% of the total population) living in Pochep in 1897.

During the 1920s most of Pochep’s Jews worked as merchants or craftsmen, while others worked in agriculture. Community institutions included a Yiddish school, and a Chabad yeshiva. The yeshiva was led by Rabbi Joshua Nathan Gnessin, and students included the eventual Hebrew writer Yosef Haim Brenner, and Rabbi Gnessin’s son, Uri Nissan Gnessin.

Among the notable figures from Pochep were the Soviet composer, and writer of the song “Katyusha,” Matvey Blanter.

Jews numbered 3,616 in 1926 (27.1% of the population). In 1939 there were 2,314 Jews living in Pochep (14.9% of the total population). The Jewish population grew as refugees began arriving from Nazi-occupied Poland.

 

THE HOLOCAUST

Pochep was occupied by the German Army from August 22, 1941 until September 21 1943. The Jews who did not succeed in escaping from Pochep were murdered.

 

POSTWAR

The Jewish community was not renewed.

In 1960, a monument was erected over a mass grave in commemoration of the Jews of Pochep who were killed during the war.

 

Kleczew

A town in the district of Poznan, west central Poland.

From 1366 till the mid-19th century Kleczew was a privately owned town. No restrictions existed on the settlement of Jews. The beginning of the Jewish settlement was in the second half of the 18th century, when community institutions were founded. Its development continued during the years 1823-1862, despite restrictions imposed by the Russians because of the town`s nearness to the border. At the beginning of the 20th century two synagogues were active in Kleczew, as well as a beith midrash, a gmiluth chassadim fund and a linath tsedek society.

Among the first Jewish settlers were two coachmen. The others based their livelihood on commerce of agricultural products with foreign countries, peddlery in the villages and on the markets and artisanship.

Between the two world wars a Jewish artisans` union was founded in Kleczew as well as a Jewish bank.

After the First World War a branch of the Mizrachi movement was established and supported by the majority of the Jewish population, as well as a branch of the Zionim Klalim and the League for Working Eretz Israel. There existed also a library where Hebrew lessons were given.

In 1939 the Jewish community of Kleczew numbered some 1,000 persons.


The Holocaust Period

With the occupation of Kleczew by the Germans in the middle wearing of marks of shame, confiscation of property, paying of taxes, enforced labor, as well as the appointment of a Judenrat.

In August 1940 the community of Kleczew was abolished and its Jews were transferred to the ghettos in the four to forced labor camps in the Poznan region Zagorov from where the men were sent to forced labor camp in Inowroclaw and from there to Grodziec and Rzgow. All the remaining Jews were murdered in the forests near Kazimierz Biskupi. Some of the transferees to Grodziec were later sent to the generalgovernment and the rest murdered in the woods of Kazimierz Biskupi.

Samara

Самара

a city in the Samara Oblast, southwestern Russia.

Early History

The city of Samara is situated on the lower Volga Region of European Russia. Between 1935-1991, the city was known as Kuibyshev. The territory of Samara came under the influence of the Khazar Khanate in the 7th century. It was crossed with major trade routes, which connected Khazaria with China. Khazar rule was brought to an end in the late 10th century when the troops of the Kievan prince Svyatoslav defeated the troops of Josef, the Khagan of Khazaria. The city of Samara was founded in 1568 in order to defend the southeastern borders of the Russian state from Nogay and Crimean Tatars. Samara is mentioned in official documents from 1586 during the reign of Fedor Ioannovich (1557-1598) who was responsible for the construction of a fortress on the Volga for protection from the Nogays and Kalmyks.

With the consolidation of the Russian state around Moscow, Samara's strategic significance declined. In 1688, Samara was recognized as the regional city and began to develop as a center of trade and commerce serving communities in the regions of central Russia and the Volga basin. During 17th -18th centuries, Samara served as shelter for the participants in the peasant revolts of Stepan Razin (c.1630-1671) and Yemelyan Pugachev (c.1742-1775). Following the abolition of serfdom in Russia (1861), Samara became a center of the agriculture and flour industries. The first railway that connected Siberia with the Ural region ran through Samara.

Early Jewish Settlement

Samara was located outside the Pale of Settlement1. Because of this Jews began to settle in the city only during the second half of the 19th century when the adoption of several laws made it possible for some categories of Jews to live outside the Pale of Settlement. Former Cantonists, young Jewish boys drafted by force to the Russian army, where among the first to be allowed to settle outside the bounders of the Pale, having completed 25 years of military service. According to the laws of 1859 and 1865, all categories of Jewish traders and craftsmen received permission to settle in cities outside the Pale of Settlement, with the exception of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Only eight Jews (all males, possibly former Cantonists) lived in Samara by 1853. By 1862, the number had risen to 92 and the settlement continued in the following years. By 1871, there were 339 Jews and then 515 in 1878. Most of them were large traders, retired soldiers, artisans, and members of their families.

Jews were among the initiators and organizers of the Orenburg project that led to the laying of a railway connecting Samara with the central Russian guberniyas. In 1874, the first rabbi arrived in Samara. Two synagogues were opened in 1880 and 1887, but the official registration of the Jewish community of Samara was delayed until 1895. A little over 1300 Jews lived in Samara in 1897 representing 1.5% of the city population, and three years later, their numbers had grown to about 1550. Large Jewish traders began exporting agricultural products from the Samarskaya Guberniya. They also established the first beer factory, producing the Zhigulevskoe beer, a brand that is still famous today. The “Great Synagogue,” with a capacity of about 1,000 people, was built in Samara in 1908, and then in 1910 an institution of higher education for the members of the Jewish community was established with the financial support of a branch of the All- Russian society for the dissemination of education
among Russian Jews. An important role in the Jewish community of Samara was played Yaacov Teitel (1850-1939), a celebrated lawyer and by Benjamin Portugalov (1835-1936), a renowned doctor, journalist, and a distinguished member of the Jewish community.

Yaacov Teitel (1850–1939), graduated the gymnasium in Mozyr (now in Byelorussia) in 1871 and in 1875 completed his studies at Law School of the Moscow State University. As a student, he wanted to establish a national Jewish paper in Russian in order to fight the anti-Semitism in western and southwestern guberniyas of the Russian empire. From 1877, he served as an attorney at the regional court of Samara and was a member of the court administration. Nicknamed the “Happy Pious” in recognition of his generosity and philanthropy, he was awarded the title of “Complete State Counselor” in 1912, and retired from public life. In 1921, he emigrated to Berlin where he established the community of Russian Jews in Germany, and in 1933 he settled in France.


Benjamin Portugalov (1835-1936), was born in 1835 into a wealthy merchant family in Poltava (now in the Ukraine) and studied medicine at the universities of Kharkov and Kiev. Already during his early youth, he was involved into revolutionary activities. He was arrested several times and deported to Kazan where he lived under police supervision. He graduated the School of Medicine of Kazan University in 1860 and moved to Samara in 1871, where he lived until his death in 1936. His participation in philanthropic and educational activities in Samara included organizing a series of lectures on literature, history, and culture, held at the city theater, as part of “open educational program”. Dr. Portugalov initiated the establishment and development of the regional medical service for all residents. This was expanded to a regional school for training of medical assistants. A new method for treatment of alcoholism, which became a serious problem for the local Jewish community, was another
of his accomplishments. His views on the future of Jews of the Russian empire were completely opposite to those of Yaakov Teitel. Portugalov stood for the complete assimilation of Jews and fought the “old destructive beliefs” (sic) of the observant Jews on circumcision, ritual slaughter, and marriage.

Jewish Life during the Soviet Era

During World War I and the Russian Civil War, many Jewish refugees from the western regions of Russia settled in Samara fleeing the anti-Jewish violence. In 1926, the Jewish population of Samara was estimated at about 7,000 individuals representing 4% of the whole city population. During the 1920's the Bolshevik party and the Komsomol - the youth organization of the Communist party - held a campaign against religion, including Judaism. In 1929, the Great Synagogue was transformed into a House of Culture and later into a bread factory. The Yiddish language Jewish school that included a Drama school functioned until 1938.

During WWII thirty-nine important Soviet ministries and foreign embassies were relocated to Samara. Jewish life in Samara, during the war years, was closely connected to the activity of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC). The JAC was established in Samara in April 1942. The idea to organize the JAC was proposed by the head of NKVD- KGB, Lavrenti Beria (1899-1953). The organization was intended to serve the interests of Soviet foreign policy and the Soviet military through media propaganda, as well as through personal contacts with Jews abroad, especially in Britain and United States. The key personalities in the JAC were Henryk Erlich (Wolf Herch) (1882-1941), a journalist and a veteran member and one of the leaders of the Bund – the Jewish Socialist Party - in Poland, and Viktor Alter (1890-1941), a member of the executive committee of the Bund in Poland. Erlich, who in his earlier career was a member of the Executive Committee of the Petersburg Soviet from 1917, later
emigrated to Poland. In 1939, he was arrested and sent into prison by the Soviets, but was released in order to build and to organize the activity of JAC. Erlich was assisted in his work by Alter, who was a close friend of him, after Alter too was released from the prison. In Samara, they were in contact with foreign representatives, mostly Americans. They proposed to organize a special Jewish legion in the United States and deploy it on the Soviet-German front. Both men believed that they could change the Soviet political system and turn it into a more liberal regime. They were arrested again at the end of 1942 for “anti-Communist activity”. Erlich committed suicide at the city prison and Alter was executed later.

Solomon Mikhoels (1890-1948), a famous actor and director of the Moscow Yiddish State Theater was appointed as chairman of JAC. Shahne Epshtein, a Yiddish journalist, was the secretary and editor of the JAC newspaper Einikayt (Unity). Other prominent JAC members were the poet Itsik Feffer (1900-1952), a former member of the Bund, the writer Iliya Ehrenburg (1891-1967), General Aaron Katz (?-1952) of the Stalin Chief Military Academy and Boris Shimelovich (?-1952), the chief surgeon of the Soviet Red Army. A year after its establishment, the JAC moved to Moscow and became one of the most important centers of Jewish culture and Yiddish literature. In 1952, all the members of JAC were accused in anti-Soviet activity and executed.

In 1959, there were 17,167 Jews in Samara. By 1970, the number had decreased to 15,929, and then to 14,185 and 11,464, in 1979 and 1989, respectively. The decline in the Jewish population also reflected the start of the Jewish emigration to USA, Canada, and Israel during the 1970's-1980's. Despite the anti-Semitic campaign, the Jewish community in Samara survived during 1960s-1970's and tried to preserve a Jewish way of life. Members of the community decided to finance the activity of a rabbi and a shochet (ritual slaughterer). Shabbat and holiday prayers were held in the old Hassidic synagogue. The revival of Jewish life in Samara began in mid-1980s following the process of perestroika and openness in the former Soviet Union. The Jews of Samara were among the first in the Soviet Union to establish a Jewish cultural center in 1986 and a Jewish library in 1988.

Contemporary Jewish Life

During the 1990's, the Jewish community in Samara began to restore itself when a number of new organizations have been created, including the Union of Progressive Judaism's Haim, the womens' association Esther, and the youth organization Shomron – Bnei Akiva. In addition, three Jewish Sunday schools, a Jewish club, and the Open Jewish University started to function in Samara. The cultural society Tarbut la Am publishes a newspaper with a circulation of 3,000 copies. It is distributed not only to the Jewish community of Samara, but also in the towns along the Volga and beyond. Only one of the synagogues of Samara, a small Hasidic prayer house, was active during the years of the Communist rule. Underneath this synagogue is a mikve: very small but satisfying all the requirements of Halacha. Since 1991, the synagogue has served as the center of the Jewish religious activity, such as Shabbath and holidays prayers, kiddushim, the Sunday school, and a soup kitchen for the needy partially
run on local donations.

In 2002, the governor of Samara decided to return the now derelict building of the former Great Synagogue to the Jews of Samara. Beit Chabad, one of the thirty-one Jewish organizations in Samara, invested three million dollars into the reconstruction of the building with the aim of transforming the four-floor building into the future Jewish Community center of Samara.

In 1992, the Jewish National Center of Samara was organized. Rabbi Shlomo Deutch of the Chabad movement was appointed Chief Rabbi of Samara in 2000. In 2001 Roman Beigel was elected the president of the Jewish Community of Samara. In January 2002, for the first time after 100 years the synagogue of Samara received a new Torah scroll. The city is the center of Jewish activity for all 35,000 Jews living in the region of Samara. In 2003, about 10,000 Jews lived in Samara representing 0.67% of the total population of the city.



1 Following three decrees (ukases) of Catherine II in 1783, 1791, and 1794, a "Pale of Settlement" was created that restricted the Jewish rights of residence to either the territories annexed from Poland along the western border or to the territories taken from the Ottoman Empire along the shores of the Black Sea. Later, other annexed territories were added to the Pale and Jews were permitted to settle there as "colonists." Jews continued, however, to be banned from settling in the old territories of Russia.



Useful Addresses:

Jewish Community of Samara
Chapaevskaya str. 84 b
Samara, Russia 443099

Tel: (7 8462) 33-40-64, 32-05-29
Fax: (7 8462) 32-02-42

Synagogue

Chapaevskaya str. 84 b
Samara, Russia 443099

Tel: (7 8462) 33-40-64, 32-05-29
Fax: (7 8462) 32-02

Jewish Day School "Or Avner"

Maslennikova ave. 40-a
Samara, Russia 443056
Tel: (78462)70-42-74,34-32-79
Fax: (7 8462) 34-32-79

Bryansk

Брянск

A city and the administrative center of Bryansk Oblast, Russia.

Under the Czars it was outside the pale of settlement, and the community established there in the second half of the 19th century was made up of Jews who were permitted to live outside the pale (discharged soldiers, registered merchants of the guilds, etc). In 1896 they were authorized to maintain a synagogue and by 1897 the Jewish residents numbered 1,321. Pogroms occurred in Bryansk in October 1905, and after the 1917 revolution, the Jewish population increased, and numbered 2,500 in 1926 (9.1% of the total). When the Germans occupied the city in October 1941 the Jews who had not managed to escape were murdered in August 1942. The Jewish population of Bryansk province numbered 13,700 in 1959. In 1970, it was estimated that 4,000 and 6,000 Jews lived in the town. They had one synagogue but no rabbi. According to the 2002 Russian census the Jewish population of the entire Bryansk district, of which the city of Bryanski was the capital, was 2,344.

Archangel, Archangelsk

In Russian: Архангельск / Arkhangelsk

White Sea port and capital of Archangelsk Oblast, Russia.

The nucleus of the Jewish community was formed between 1828 and 1856 by young Jewish conscripts who had been sent to the Cantonists' institution in Archangel. In 1897 there were 248 Jews in Archangel. After the Pale of Settlement was abolished in 1917 the number of Jews increased, reaching 850 by 1923. In 1926 there were 1,449 Jews in the entire Oblast (0.3% of the total population). Between 1939 and 1941 many Jews from the western areas, then annexed by the Soviet Union, were deported to Archangel and its environs.

Szadek

A small town in the district of Lodz, central Poland.

Szadek was founded at the end of the 13th century, becoming a King`s domain and therefore had special rights for self-government, judiciary and commerce. It became a textile center, but declined, because of epidemics, in the 16th century and wars in the 17th century.

A few Jews settled in Szadek in the 17th century, despite a ban on Jewish residents and humiliation. After the partition of Poland the Russian rulers lifted the restrictions and from 1802 the local Jewish settlement started to develop. At the beginning it was subordinated to the community of Lask. In the first half of the 19th century a community council was elected and a cemetery consecrated. In 1921 about 535 Jews lived in Szadek.

Trade and crafts were the main sources of income. Between the two world wars the economic crisis and antisemitism increased the troubles of the tenuous existence of Jews in Szadek. When the Zionist parties were founded at the end of the First World War, the Zionim Haklalim received most of the local Jewish votes.

In September 1939 the Jewish community of Szadek numbered some 480 persons.


The Holocaust Period

After the area was occupied by the Germans at the beginning of September 1939, a number of Jews were deported from Szadek to Zdunska Wola and from there eastward. But most local Jews remained in the town. In mid-1940 they were crowded into a ghetto.

The local Jewish population was liquidated in August 1942 when all 405 Jews still living in Szadek were sent to their death at the Chelmno extermination camp.

Astrakhan

Астрахань

A city on the Volga River, capital of Astrakhan oblast, Russia.

The "Jewish Statute" of 1804 included the government of Astrakhan in the Pale of Settlement. However, in 1825 Jewish settlement in this government was prohibited. The "Jewish Statute" of 1835 excluded the government of Astrakhan from the Pale and the 49 Jews were ordered to leave.

Shortly afterward a community was again established by Jewish soldiers stationed in the town.

In 1850 Jewish merchants from the Caucasus obtained permission to visit Astrakhan twice yearly for a total of no longer than six months in the year.

In the second half of the 19th century, Jews in categories with the right of domicile outside the Pale moved there. An Ashkenazi synagogue was established in 1866, and in 1879 the Oriental Jews, who used to visit Astrakhan on business, also founded a synagogue. In 1897 there were 2,164 Jews living in Astrakhan; in 1926, 5,904 (3.4% of the total population).

In 1968,there were 2000 - 3000 Jews with a synagogue and a cemetery. The synagogue was attacked in 1964 and there were reports of Jews having been murdered. Hooligans were arrested but were not brought to trial.

Smolensk

Смоленск

A city in Smolensk Oblast, Russia.

From 1404 to 1514 Smolensk was a Lithuanian possession and from 1611 to 1654 it came under Polish rule. Jews are first mentioned in Smolensk at the end of the 15th century; in 1489 there were three Jewish tax farmers in the town.

Although King Sigismund II prohibited Jews from residing in Smolensk when the town passed to Poland, Jews nevertheless continued to live there. According to the Old Responsa of the Bach (Rabbi Joel Sirkis), about 80 Jews resided in Smolensk in 1616. When Smolensk was reconquered by the Russians (1654), Jews were compelled to convert and those who did not do so were either put to death or taken captive and deported to the Russian interior. Jewish merchants from Lithuania, however, continued to visit Smolensk or pass through the town on their way to Moscow even after the Russian conquest. At the beginning of the 18th century Lithuanian Jews again began to settle in Smolensk and its vicinity. They engaged in commerce and the lease of various utilities. This activity aroused the jealousy of their Christian rivals, and in 1722 two Christian townsmen of Smolensk appealed to the synod for Jews to be expelled from the region on the claim that the Jews derided Christianity.

One Jew, Baruch B. Leib (who was also accused a few years later of having converted a Russian officer, Alexander Voznitsin, to Judaism) had erected a synagogue in his home village of Zverovich, near Smolensk. In 1727, on the basis of Christian complaints, instructions were given for Baruch and his coreligionists to be expelled from the region of Smolensk. During the same year Czarina Anna ordered the expulsion of all the Jews of Russia, but by 1731 Jewish merchants were authorized to visit Smolensk for business purposes. For all practical purposes Jews continued to live in Smolensk on a permanent basis. When the pale of settlement was established in 1791 the region of Smolensk was not included in it, and until the abolition of the pale in 1917, Jews were officially prohibited from living in the Smolensk region. Even so, some Jews who fell into the categories of those authorized to live outside the pale settled in Smolensk during the 19th century, where they continued to play an
especially active role in the timber trade of the region.

In 1897 the number of Jews in Smolensk was 4,651, forming 10% of the total population. In the whole of the region there were 11,185 Jews. The number of Jews in Smolensk increased considerably after the revolution; in 1926 there were 12,887 Jews (16.2% of the population) in the town.

In 1922 the great synagogue was confiscated by soviet authorities. In 1929 the Jewish teachers' seminary founded by the Yevsektsiya, was transferred to Smolensk from Gomel. The Germans occupied the town in August 1941 and almost immediately established a ghetto for the Jews of Smolensk in Sadki. In June-July 1942 about 2000 Jews were murdered. In the late 1960s there was a Jewish population of about 5,000. There was no synagogue.

Derbent

Дербент; former Bab Al-Abwab, Caspian sea port in the Republic of Dagestan, Russia.

Derbent has been erroneously identified with Terbent. Jews evidently originally from Persia, were already settled in Derbent by the time that the Kingdom of the Khazars was established; some ascribe the first propagation of Judaism among the Khazars to Derbent Jews. Jewish-owned caravans used to pass through the city in this period. After the fall of the Khazar kingdom on the Volga in 969, a number of survivors took refuge in Derbent. Jews living there are mentioned in the 12th century by Benjamin of Tudela, and in the 13th by the Christian traveler Wilhelm of Rubruquis.

The first mention of Jews in Derbent in modern times is by the German traveler Adam Olearius in the 17th century. Derbent Jewry endured frightful sufferings during the wars in the 18th century; Nadir Shah of Persia forced many Jews to adopt Islam.

After the Russian conquest many of the Jewish occupants of rural Dagestan fled to Derbent, which became the spiritual center of the mountain Jews. The Jewish population numbered 2,200 in 1897 (15% of total population) and 3,500 in 1903. After the 1917 revolution many Dagestan Jews deprived of their lands migrated to Derbent where they generally took up occupations in crafts or industry.

A visitor to Derbent in the 1960s reported that some of the Jews were occupied in agriculture, principally vine growing. They were organized in four kolkhozes whose lands bordered on the town. The kolkhoz members lived in town; in general Jews tended to live in the same area.

Russian: Воро́неж

A city in Russia.

21ST CENTURY

Community organizations include a synagogue, a kosher store, educational and youth clubs, as well as a number of charitable organizations.

In 2002 there were 1,522 living in the Voronezh district.
 

HISTORY

Because Voronezh was outside of the Pale of Settlement, Jews were forbidden to settle there until 1917. However, small groups of Jews who were permitted to settle outside of the Pale, found their way to the province during the 19th century. In 1874 there were 319 Jews living in Voronezh, and they received permission to maintain a synagogue in a private house. The community was officially recognized in 1890.

In 1897 there were 2,888 Jews in the Voronezh province, 1,708 of whom lived in Voronezh itself.

The Jewish population was the victim of a number of outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence. They were attacked in October 1905, when anti-Jewish riots broke out throughout Russia, and during the Russian Civil War (1918-1922).  

In spite of the violence, the community continued to develop. In 1910 it opened a Jewish library, as well as a branch of The Society for the Promotion of the Enlightenment.

After World War I (1914-1918), the number of Jews in Voronezh increased significantly. By 1926 the city’s Jewish population reached 5,208 (4.3% of the general population). In 1939, the 8,358 Jews living in Voronezh comprised 2.5% of the total population.
 

THE HOLOCAUST

Voronezh was occupied by the Nazis between July of 1942 and January of 1943. The Jews were transported to the village of Khokhol. While some Jews were shot on the streets of Voronezh, others were killed in the vicinity of Khokhol.

Voronezh was liberated by the Red Army on January 25, 1943.

 

POSTWAR

According to the 1959 census, there were 6,179 Jews living in the Voronezh Oblast, most of whom lived in Voronezh itself.

The city’s synagogue was converted into a storehouse. When the Jews attempted to reclaim the building, the authorities said that they would have to purchase a new storehouse, and renovate the building. Because the community lacked the funds to do so, the synagogue building was not returned to them. The Star of David was removed from the synagogue wall in 1959.

 

Tomaszow Mazowiecki

Also called Tomaszow Rawski

A town in Lodz province, central Poland.

The owner of Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Count Antoni Adam Ostrowski, invited Jewish weavers and entrepreneurs to settle there in the 1820s. Jacob Steinman from Ujazd acted as the count's agent in charge of the area. Jewish merchants who came to settle received building plots. They soon organized trade in local textile products. On the initiative of the manufacturer Leib Zilber a Jewish community was officially founded in 1831, and was granted sites for a synagogue, mikveh, hospital, and cemetery. The first dozen Jewish families in the town earned their livelihood as hired workers in the local weaving mills; later several became managers and owners of various textile plants. After the defeat of the Polish uprising of 1831, the Russian government of Nicholas I confiscated the Ostrowski estates, including Tomaszow Mazowiecki. Antoni Ostrowski went into exile in France, where he published Pomysfy o Potrzebie Reformy Towarzyskiej (Thoughts on the Necessity of Social Change; 1834), in which
he formulated a plan for improving the conditions of the Jews in Poland.

The town grew from the early 1850s. The 1,879 Jews who lived there in 1857 comprised 37% of the population. By 1897 the number of Jews had grown to 9,320 (47% of the population); it increased to 10,070 in 1921 and 11,310 in 1931. The great synagogue was built between 1864 and 1878. In 1889 a kasher kitchen was built to cater for 120 Jewish soldiers serving in the Russian army who were stationed in the area. The manufacturer and community leader A. Landsberg paid for the building of a community center and donated another building to house the town's first Jewish high school. The community's first rabbi was Abraham Altschuler; Jacob Wieliczkier served there from 1857 to 1888 and Hersh Aaron Israelewicz from 1890 to 1916. In the 1880s David Bornstein founded a textile mill to employ Jewish workers, thus assuring their Sabbath observance. Besides weaving and spinning, the Jews engaged in carpentry, dyeing, and construction; many were employed as bookkeepers and foremen.

In the early 20th century a Jewish workers' movement was organized. Between the world wars all the Jewish political parties were active in the town, especially the Bund, Po'alei Zion, and Agudat Israel. Ludwik Frucht served as deputy mayor from 1926. In 1921 two schools merged to form the Hebrew high school. A Yiddish weekly, Tomashover Vokhenblat, appeared between 1925 and 1939. Samuel Ha-Levi Brot, a Mizrachi leader in Poland, officiated as rabbi between 1928 and 1936. In the 1930s the Jews were damaged economically by the growing anti-semitism. Natives of Tomaszow Mazowiecki include Leon Pinsker, whose father taught in the town, the writer Moshe Dolzenovsky, and the chess champion Samuel Reshevsky. The mathematician Chayyim Selig Slonimski lived there between 1846 and 1858.

On the outbreak of World War II there were 13,000 Jews in the town. In December 1940 a closed ghetto composed of three isolated parts was established there. On March 11, 1941 the Jews from Plock were forced to settle there, so that the town's Jewish population grew to over 15,000. On April 27, 1942 about 100 people, including many members of the local underground, were arrested and shot. About 7,000 Jews were deported to the Treblinka death camp and murdered on October 31, 1942. Three days later another 7,000 Tomaszow Jews met their death in Treblinka. Only about 1,000 were left in the ghetto, which became a forced-labor camp. In May 1943 the ghetto was liquidated and its inmates transferred to the forced-labor camps in Bliznya and Starachowice, where almost all of them perished. No Jewish community was reconstituted in Tomaszow Mazowiecki.

Starodub

A town in Bryansk Oblast, Russia.

Jewish settlement in Starodub is first mentioned in connection with the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648-1649, when the Cossacks conquered the town and murdered its Jewish inhabitants. Later, Jews once more inhabited Starodub, but during the Northern War, when the town was occupied by the Swedish army (1708), soldiers again killed about 50 Jews.

In 1847 the number of Jews registered in the community was 2,558, and in 1897 there were 5,109 Jews (42.5% of the total population).

The community was largely influenced by Chabad Chasidism, which during the middle of the 19th century established a large yeshivah. In 1881 the yeshivah was closed down by the authorities as a result of a denunciation by one of the town's maskilim who accused the Chasidim of evading military service and of being involved in forgery and fraud.

In October 1905 pogroms took the lives of several Jews in Starodub. Under the Soviet regime the community and its institutions were dissolved. In 1926 there were 3,317 Jews
(26.6% of the total population).


Under the German occupation (1941) all Jews who did not manage to escape were killed. There is no information on Jewish life after the war.

Kuybyshev

Куйбышев; until 1935 known as Kainsk

A town in Novosibirsk Oblast, Russia
 

Rostov on Don

Rostov on Don / Rostov nad Donu

A district city in southern Russia.

Although the town was founded in the middle of the 18th century, its development dates from the close of the 19th century, when Jews actively participated in the development of its commerce. In 1887 the town was transferred together with the town of Taganrog to the region of the Cossacks of the Don and was thus excluded from the Pale of Settlement.

After the plans to expel the Jews, with the exception of merchants and owners of real estate, from the town were nullified, only Jews who had lived there before 1887 were authorized to reside in the city. In 1897 there were 11,838 Jews (about 10% of the total population) in Rostov. Between 1899 and 1910 Moses Eleazar Eisenstadt held the position of government-appointed rabbi (Rus. kazyonny ravvin) in Rostov.

He was very active in the strengthening of Judaism and the propagation of Zionism within the community, after Russian assimilation had influenced its members.

In October 1905 pogroms accompanied by looting and murder broke out in the town, lasting three days. During World War I many refugees from the battle areas arrived in Rostov.

These included the Tzaddik of Lubavich, Rabbi Shalom Dov Shneersohn, the leader of Chabad Chasidism, who died in Rostov in 1920. Under the Soviet regime the Jewish public life of the town was suppressed. In 1926 there were 26,323 Jews (8.5% of the population) living there. During World War II the town was occupied twice by the German army, but most of the Jews succeeded in leaving. The remainder were exterminated in August 1942.

According to the 1959 census, about 21,500 Jews were again living in the Rostov Oblast, 1,395 of them having declared Yiddish as their mother tongue; but the actual number of Jews was probably closer to 30,000. From 1959 matzah baking in the synagogue was stopped for reasons of sanitation; matzah was brought yearly from Tbilisi, Georgia. In 1970 there was no synagogue, rabbi, or cantor in Rostov.

Tomsk

Томск

A city and administrative center of Tomsk Oblast, Russia

Tomsk is one of the oldest cities in Siberia, and celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2004.

The Jewish community of Tomsk is home to a Chabad center. Additionally, the city's authorities returned a wooden synagogue to the Jewish community in 2013. The synagogue was built at the turn of the 20th century by Jewish Cantonists (Jewish children who were forcibly drafted into the Czar's army).

HISTORY

The district of Tomsk was not located within the Pale of Settlement; consequently, no Jews were permitted to live there. However, a Jewish community was established in Tomsk during the first half of the 19th century by exiled prisoners and Jewish soldiers who served in the area, among them several Jewish Cantonists who had been forcibly drafted as children who settled in Tomsk after their release from the army. During the second half of the 19th century, when Jews were permitted to settle beyond the Pale, a number began to settle in Tomsk.

In 1897 the number of Jews in the entire district of Tomsk was 7,900, of whom 3,214 (6.4% of the total population) lived in Tomsk itself.

In October 1905 the local authorities organized attacks on the city's Jews, as well as on members of the Russian intelligentsia.

At the end of 1969 the Jewish population was estimated at arounds 5,000.

Bakhchisarai

Bakhchysarai 

A town in Crimea, now in Russia.

From the 16th to the 18th centuries it was the capital of the khans of Crimea. A settlement of Rabbanite Jews (Krimchaks) as well as of Karaites evidently existed in Bakhchisarai in the second half of the 18th century. In the 1870s the Karaites abandoned Chufut-Kale, approximately 1.1/4 mi. (about 2 km.) To the east, and moved to Bakhchisarai. A Jewish traveler in the 1870s found about 20 families of Rabbanite jews and some 70 Karaite families the Hebrew poet Saul Tchernichowsky wrote several poems about Bakhchisarai.

The community decreased after World War I. The remaining Jews were nearly all murdered during the German occupation in World War II.

Saratov

Саратов 

Capital of Saratov oblast, Russia.

Before the 1917 Revolution, capital of Saratov province on the west bank of the River Volga. Until 1917 the province of Saratov was outside the bounds of the Pale of Settlement.

Shortly before the middle of the 19th century a small Jewish community was formed by Jewish soldiers stationed in Saratov. A few of these had families, and even engaged in trade and crafts. By the middle of the century, there were 44 such Jewish soldiers stationed in the city. Besides these, a few Jews who were not in the army resided in Saratov, despite the restrictions. In the spring of 1853 this tiny community was projected into the forefront of Russian Jewish affairs when three Jews in Saratov, one of them an apostate, were involved in a blood libel in which it was alleged that they had murdered two Christian children. This incident brought a renewal of the blood libel throughout Russia. When special investigators sent from St. Petersburg failed to prove the guilt of the Jews, the government appointed a legal investigation commission whose task it was not only to investigate the murders, but also to seek information about the "secret dogmas of Jewish religious extremism." This commission, too, was unable to cast guilt upon the Jews. Though its findings were confirmed by the senate, the state council, in May 1860, concluded that guilt had been established, even if no motive for the murders could be shown. The three found guilty were sentenced to hard labor. During the course of the investigation a large number of Jewish books were confiscated. In December 1858 a commission of experts, including Daniel Chwolson, was appointed to examine these books and indicate whether they contained evidence of the ritual use of Christian blood by Jews. The commission concluded that the works contained nothing to support the libel.

During the second half of the century Jews were permitted to live outside the pale of settlement in Saratov. By 1897 there were 1,460 Jews in Saratov (1.1% of the total population). The wave of pogroms of October 1905 reached Saratov, where a number of Jews were killed. During World War I many refugees from the battle zone found sanctuary in Saratov. From 1919 to 1921 a group of he- Chalutz members, calling themselves "Mishmar ha-Volga" ("The Volga guard"), stayed in Saratov while preparing to settle in Eretz Israel. In 1926 Saratov had a Jewish population of 6,717 (3.1%). The baking of matzot was prohibited in 1959. In the late 1960s the Jewish population was estimated at 15,000. There was one synagogue.

Simferopol

A town in the Crimea, Ukraine. Now Russia

Simferopol was founded in 1784 and until the 1917 revolution it was the chief town of the province of Tavriya (Taurida), Crimean peninsula. Krimchaks (Crimean Jews) from other localities in Crimea and Ashkenazi Jews from the regions of the pale of settlement began to settle there soon after its foundation. The number of Jews registered as taxpayers in 1803 was 471.
During the 19th century the Jewish settlement increased considerably as a result of intensified emigration from other regions of the pale to the Crimean peninsula. In 1897 the Jews numbered 8,951 (18.3% of the total population), about 500 of whom belonged to the Krimchak community. Some 1,000 karaites also lived in Simferopol at that time. In October 1905 pogroms broke out in the city and about 40 Jews were killed. During World War I and the civil war years many Jews who fled or were expelled from the battle regions or who otherwise escaped the riotous bands found refuge in Simferopol. The city became an important Zionist center for helping Russian emigrants to Palestine via Constantinople. In 1926 there were 17,364 Jews (19.6% of the population) in Simferopol.

After the occupation of the town by the Germans on October 31, 1941, all of the Jews who had not escaped were massacred. In 1959 according to the census there were again about 11,200 Jews in Simferopol. One synagogue was closed down in 1959, but as of 1968 another was still functioning and "matsot" were officially permitted to be baked there.

Outside the city there is a mass grave of 14,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis. No monument has been erected in their memory. Several kolkhozes house about 50% of the Jews of the area.

Tolstoye

Tłusteńkie; pol. Tluste

Town in Tarnopol Oblast, westen Ukraine.

Jews first settled in Tolstoye in the late 17th century. In the mid-1720s Israel b. Eliezer the Ba'al Shem Tov came to settle with his family and from there he started to preach his doctrine (1736). The gravestone of his mother was in the old local cemetery until World War II. From the first partition of Poland in 1772 until 1918, Tolstoye was under Austrian rule. In the 19th century the Jews traded in agricultural produce, timber, cloth, and beverages. They numbered 2,157 (67% of the total population) in 1880; 2,172 (59%) in 1900; and 1,196 (46%) in 1921. Chasidism was preponderant in Tolstoye; the wealthy members of the community estate owners, contractors and merchants of forest produce and hides were followers of the tzaddik of Chortkov, whereas shopkeepers, grain merchants, brokers, and scholars adhered to Viznitsa Chasidism, and the artisans were followers of the tzaddik of Kopychintsy. In 1914 and 1916 the Jews suffered at the hands of the Russian army. Between the two world wars, in independent Poland, all the Zionist parties were active in the town and there was a Tarbut Hebrew school.

With the outbreak of war between Germany and the U.S.S.R. (June 22, 1941), groups of Jewish youth attempted to escape to the Soviet Union with the retreating Soviet army, but only a few succeeded. The city was captured by the Hungarian army, which was an ally of Germany. The Ukrainians attacked the Jews and looted their property, and Jews were drafted into work camps and agricultural farms in the area. In March 1942 the remnants of the Jewish communities of the entire area were concentrated in Tolstoye. In July 1942, 200 people were arrested and sent off in an unknown direction. On October 5, 1942, about 1,000 people were transported to the Belzec death camp and about 150 were killed on the spot. On May 27, 1943, about 3,000 people were concentrated in the market square and were taken from there to the Jewish cemetery, where they were killed. About 1,000 people remained in the city, and they were murdered in an aktion on June 6, 1943. The last 80 Jews were transported to Czortkow and found their deaths there. Many of the Jews who had fled to the forests fell into the hands of the fanatic Ukrainian Bandera gangs, but some of them joined partisan units. The remnants of the Tolstoye community were liberated from the camps in the area in March 1944. Jewish life was not reconstituted in Tolstoye after the war.

Spisska Stara Ves

(in Hungarian: Szepesofalu; in German: Altendorf)

A town in north-central Slovakia.

Spisska Stara Ves lies at the foot of the Magura mountains, up in the high Tatra mountains, on the border with Poland. The place was first mentioned in records in 1326 and was granted the status of a town by Sigmund, the King of Luxemburg, in 1399. In 1850 the town became the district town of the district of Zamagura. Most of its inhabitants are farmers. Until 1918 it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and then, until 1993, part of the Republic of Czechoslovakia.

It appears that Jews were living at Spisska Stara Ves already in the 17th century, but the time when they formed an organized community is not known. It is known however that there was a synagogue at the place in the 18th century and apparently also a cemetery. A legend is told that around 1750 a famous rabbi and his brother came to Spisska Stara Ves from Russia to die there, because their study of the kabalah convinced them that in the cemetery of Spisska Stara Ves they would find eternal peace, as in the Holy Land. In the community’s register there are entries of the year 1812. From the year 1850 the entries were made in Hebrew and in Hungarian. The wooden prayer house, whose time of building is not known, was burnt down in 1760. In place of it a synagogue was built, and alongside it a prayer room for a minyan. Near the synagogue stood the community building that included three apartments: one for the rabbi and his family, one for the shohet, who was also the cantor, and his family, and one for the beadle and his family. The mikveh (purification bath) and the slaughter house were also in that building.

The community was an Orthodox one, and more than a dozen small communities in the area were affiliated to it. Among the communities’ institutions were a hevra kaddisha (burial society), a women’s society, and a fund for loans without interest. The first rabbi on record is Rabbi Yoel Bloch. In 1922 Rabbi Mark Strasser was the rabbi and Dr. Oskar Shoenfeld the president.

At the end of the 1920’s Rabbi Mor Fischer occupied the chair of rabbi, Alexander Kuecher was the president, Geza Mangl vice president, and Adolf Goldberg the gabai. Later G. Mangl became president. The children attended the state school and were given lessons in religion by the teacher Jacob Apel. Some of the children continued their studies at the German gymnasium in the town Kezmarok.

In the 1920’s there were among the Jews of Spisska Stara Ves 11 merchants, 10 craftsmen, and 3 innkeepers. There were two Jewish lawyers in the town already at the beginning of the century. The chief of the local gendarmerie, the head of the post office, the manager of the workshop, and the only doctor in the place were Jewish. Jews owned also an agricultural estate, a saw mill, a distillery of spirits, a liqueurs work, a central wholesale and store for tobacco, and an inn.

The Jews were integrated in the local society and politics. Jews served in the army in World War I and some of them were killed in action. At the time of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, between the two world wars, most of the Jews of Spisska Stara Ves declared themselves as Slovaks. Jews were members of the town’s council and served in the district offices, in the fire brigade and in other institutions. In those years a Zionist activity also started to develop.

Rabbi Fischer opposed the opening of local branches of Hashomer Hazair and Maccabi Hazair but allowed the opening of branches of Hamizrachi and the religious youth movement Bnei Akiva, and of Betar. In 1937, in the elections to the 20th Zionist Congress, 55 Jews of the town took part, 42 of them voted for Hamizrachi.

In 1930 218 Jews lived at Spisska Stara Ves.


The Holocaust Period

Following the Munich Agreement of September 1938, about a year before World War II broke out, the Republic of Czechoslovakia disintegrated. In March 1939 Slovakia became an independent state, a satellite of Nazi Germany. The Fascist regime removed the Jews from the social end economic life of the country and in the spring of 1942 began the deportation of the Jews of Slovakia to the death camps in Poland.

Members of the “Hlinka Guard” (the folk party) were active in the organization and carrying out of the deportations. The folk party had many supporters in Spisska Stara Ves. Already in 1933 the Catholic Diacon Podolski nursed the hatred of the Jews, assisted in their deportation and influenced the local inhabitants not to save or extend any help to the Jews. It appears that most of the Jews of Spisska Stara Ves were deported between the end of March and the end of June 1942. They were dispatched via the town Poprad to the camps around Lublin and to Auschwitz where most of them were murdered. In October 1942 a lull in the deportations set in. At that time only a small number of Jews, who were exempt from deportations or who found a hiding place, were still in Spisska Stara Ves.

In the summer of 1944 an uprising against the Fascist regime of Slovakia broke out. The Germans entered the country in order to suppress the uprising and the Jews who were still in the area escaped to the mountains and some of them joined the partisans.

In 1945, when the war ended, about a dozen survivors returned to the town. They were met with hostility by the inhabitants, and particularly by the Diacon Podolski, who now served the new regime, and did his utmost to frustrate any return of Jewish property to the owners. The synagogue was turned into a grain depot and one night before it was to become a cinema, the building was destroyed by fire. Pinhas Korach, one of the survivors, managed to remove the scrolls of the torah from the burning building. He transferred a few to Kezmarok and buried the others in the Jewish cemetery. In the late 1940’s most of the survivors went to Eretz Israel.

Visitors form Israel in 1990 wanted to unearth the scrolls but could not find them. The site of the cemetery was now a football ground.

Siberia

Сибирь

Siberia – meaning "Sleeping Land" in Tatar, and "The Edge" or "The End" in Ostyak - one of the local languages of the region – is a vast territory. It spreads eastward from the Ural Mountains to the highlands bordering the Pacific Ocean and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the borders of Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia in the south. The Russian Far East region has also been traditionally considered a part of Siberia.

Geographically, Siberia is divided into the more populous Western Siberia (bordered by the Yenysey river), which was incorporated into the Russian Empire as early as the end of 16th century, and the sparsely populated Eastern Siberia, whose more distant regions began to be settled by the Russians only towards the end of the 19th century.

From its very beginning, the history of the Siberian settlement became synonymous with the history of Russian exile, forced settlements, labor camps and prisons. While the burgeoning Moscow principality achieved its first victories against the Polish Lithuanian kingdom in the early 17th century, Mikhail Romanov (1613-1645), the first Romanov Tsar, established a separate Ministry for Siberian Affairs. By a special decree issued in 1635, all captured war prisoners - Lithuanians, Germans and Jews – were sent to forced settlement in Siberia. This policy was intended to strengthen the developing Moscow principality by bringing about a colonization of Siberia as well as by getting rid of all undesirable political opponents. The next Tsar of the Romanov dynasty, Alexei Romanov (1645-1676), continued with this strategy. Following an extended internal struggle for the throne, Alexei resolved to punish his political opponents and their supporters by banishing them to Siberia. Subsequently,
several dozen Jews and Germans from the German Sloboda district (till the beginning of the 18th century, all foreigners in Russia were called "Germans") were expelled to Siberia in 1659 as numerous opponents of the Tsar sought shelter in the houses of “foreigners”.

In order to properly explore this enormous territory, the Russian Imperial Geographic Society sent several scientific expeditions to Siberia in the early 18th century. These expeditions discovered vast natural resources of gas, coal, gold, iron, silver, copper, etc. As a result, it was decided that a network of state-owned enterprises should be immediately established with the aim of encouraging the industrial development of the region by taking full advantage of the newly discovered natural resources. Such enterprises were founded in Nerchinsk, Achinsk, Kainsk (Kuibyshev), Kansk (Krasnoyarsk), Nizhneudinsk. The work force was mainly composed of administrative and political prisoners, and was later augmented with criminals as well.

Early Jewish community of Tobols'k

In addition to merchants, Jewish political and administrative exiles were among the first settlers of these towns. Jews began to set up communities throughout Siberia. The first reference to the Jewish community of Tobols’k dates from 1813. The document mentions the establishment of a Hevra Kadisha, and of a separate Jewish cemetery and praying house. In 1816, a Jewish merchant called Preisman donated 10.000 rubles in gold for the building of a Russian Orthodox church. Consequently, he was permitted to settle in the town along with his entire family and to open a synagogue for the needs of the local Jewish community. The newly established Jewish communities of Siberia had enough members to ensure the preservation of the Jewish traditional way of life; every Jew was free to study the Torah and the Talmud.

Early Jewish community of Kainsk

At the beginning of the 19th century, the center of Jewish life moved to Kainsk. Count Michael Speransky (1772-1839), a dismissed Russian prime-minister, who later became Governor-general of Siberia, wrote in his diary: ”Kainsk is a newly established settlement. What surprised me here – a lot of Gypsies and Jews”. Sergei Maksimov (1831-1901), a famous Russian geographer and writer passing through Kainsk, wrote: ”The numerous Jewish population makes the city similar to the Russian cities in the Western part of the Russian Empire. They [the Jews] make up four fifths of the city’s total population and wear traditional Jewish clothes and side curls. Jewish presence transformed the city into one of the main centers of economic activity in the Siberian territories”. Kainsk became one of the main trade centers of Siberian furs, which were well prized in Western Europe; each year the local Jewish merchants sent a special shipment of furs to the Leipzig fair. There were 70 merchants, all of
them Jews, among a total population of 700 inhabitants. The number of Jewish merchants increased after 1820 with the discovery of new gold mines in the Altai Mountains, not far from the city. The Jews also owned 23 of the largest and richest houses in the city.

First half of the 19th century

Despite the law of 1812 that allowed Jewish craftsmen and merchants to leave their villages in the western guberniyas (regions) of the Russian Empire and settle in Siberia, exiled Jews continued to be the main reason for the increase in the Jewish population of Siberia. As a rule, new Jewish settlers maintained close relationships with relatives whom they had left behind in their former places of residence.

Setting up a family was one of the problems facing new male settlers. Numerous shadkhanim (matchmakers) wandered all over Siberia to provide Jewish men with brides from western Russian guberniyas for a sum of 50-200 rubles in gold. Despite the fact that the Jews of Siberia were known as “wealthy grooms,” not everybody was ready to pay such a large amount of money to a shadkhan. In April 1817, the government issued a special decree by which all the new inhabitants of Siberia, including Jews, were permitted to marry women from the native population on the condition that they converted to either Christianity or Judaism. Very often, these newly proselyte women became more religious than their husbands and their devotion became proverbial. Jewish men were forbidden to marry Christian women and were not allowed to follow their exiled wives. Only Jewish wives with female children were allowed to follow their Jewish husbands to the Siberian exile.

As a result of the fact that Jewish merchants were accused of bribery, theft, and illegal trade with gold, furs and precious stones, it was decided, after 1820, to resettle the Jewish merchants further east in Siberia, far-off from the state-owned factories in the Ural Mountains. The Omsk and Tobol’sk guberniyas were selected as the new destinations for Jewish forced settlement. In order to increase the population of Siberia and to simultaneously encourage Jews from the overpopulated western Russian guberniyas to settle in the new areas, a special decree was issued in November 1836. According to this decree every male settler was provided with 15 desyatins (approx. 33 acres) of arable land, the necessary agricultural equipment, cattle, household equipment and food supply for half a year as well as a sum of money to cover the transportation and accommodation expenses. Thousands of Jewish families were willing to be resettled in the new regions. However, in January 1837 it was
unexpectedly decided to stop the colonization of Jews in Siberia under the pretext that “such a policy would lead to unfair multiplication of Jews who then would spoil the native local population as Jews are known for their laziness, thefts and briberies, and the lack of faith”. Nevertheless, 1367 new Jewish settlers were allowed to settle in the guberniyas of Omsk and Tomsk.

The Tsarist government even applied new restrictions to Jewish political and administrative prisoners. They were permitted to settle solely in the Yakutsk guberniya and the Baikal Lake region. Their wives were allowed to join them, but male children under 18 years of age were forced to convert to Christianity and to join the “kantonists.” Male children above 18 years of age were to be left in the villages of the Pale of Settlement.

Second half of the 19th century

In 1855, Alexander II inherited the Russian throne. He was known for his liberal ideas and tried to implement political and administrative reforms. The “kantonist” institution was abolished, Jewish merchants from villages in the Pale of Settlement were permitted to join the merchant guilds and to become city dwellers. Jews were allowed to buy lands in certain parts of the Russian Empire and establish small private enterprises. Certain changes were introduced into the legal status of the Jewish population of Siberia: male and female children who were born in Siberia and who stayed with their parents, were free to receive education in state public schools and were allowed to choose their own occupation. Other decrees issued in 1868 and 1875 permitted retired Jewish soldiers and artisans to settle in every part of Siberia.

The Jewish communities of Siberia, especially those located in large cities began to develop and increase in population. In 1859 a yeshiva was opened. A year later, the Technological College for Jewish men was opened with more than 100 students and was soon followed by a new synagogue and a Jewish cemetery. In the 1860s, there were 2,089 Jews in Tomsk, constituting 8% of the city’s general population.

Almost all the larger Jewish communities were allowed to build synagogues and to open elementary Jewish schools (Heder). Tobol’sk had a population of 1,500 Jews, which represented 8.5% of the city’s population, while in Kainsk the Jews constituted 8% of the city’s population. Every official source of the time emphasized that the Siberian Jews, who mostly earned their living as merchants and artisans, were very well off.

After the assassination of Alexander II in 1881, most of the privileges that had been granted to the Jews were abolished. However, in Siberia, where the local authorities benefited from the economic activity of the Jews, they preferred to “avert their eyes” and did not enforce the instructions sent to them from St. Petersburg.

According to the population census of 1897, the Jewish inhabitants of Siberia numbered 34,477 persons, the majority of whom were city dwellers and represented 0.6% of the total Siberian population. Following the opening of the Trans-Siberian Railroad (1904), many Jewish merchants, traders, artisans, and agricultural workers from the Pale of Settlement started to arrive in Siberia. The Jewish population increased to 50,000 in 1911 and continued to grow in the early years of the 20th century. Some 84% of Siberian merchants were Jews.

First half of the 20th century

The way of life of the Jews of Siberia differed from that of their fellows in the Pale of Settlement. They generally visited synagogues only on the High Holidays (Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, Sukkoth, Passover and Shavuot), they kept their shops open every day of the week including Saturdays and holidays, wore European clothes and had Russian-influenced given and family names. The Jews of Siberia disregarded the religious differences between Chassidic and Lithuanian Jews; in Siberian synagogues there were no old Torah scrolls and other objects of Jewish religious cult. Nevertheless, the education of their children was important for the Jews of Siberia. They wanted their children to learn Jewish subjects and to read something in "Jewish” and therefore they willingly donated money to Jewish schools and other community needs.

Siberia also was known as a center of Zionist political activity. Among the exiled political prisoners were Jews from different political parties and movements: Bundists, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Socialist Democrats (Bolsheviks and Mensheviks), Zionist Socialists, Po’alei Zion. The First Congress of the Zionists of Siberia was attended by representatives from thirteen Jewish communities and was held in Tomsk in 1903. During World War I Siberia was flooded with Jews disappointed by the political regime in Russia as well as by war refugees from the Pale of Settlement. The Bund representatives of Siberia held their conference in Irkutsk in August 1917. During 1918-1922 the Bund published the “Siberian Bund Newspaper ”.

After the end of the Civil War in 1921, Siberia was incorporated into the Russian Federation. Numerous Jews were accused of “collaboration with the opponents of the Soviet regime”; several were executed and some left to China, Mongolia, and Palestine. The private property of wealthy Jews was confiscated as well as the property of Jewish communities, including synagogues. Later, in 1922 the Bolshevik power decided to return part of the property to the Jewish communities. The establishment of the People’s Commissariat on National Affairs, which included the Evsektsia (the Jewish Cell) department, led to the opening of numerous cultural clubs for Jewish workers, Jewish theaters, schools, and libraries in Siberian cities.

According to the population census of 1926, there were 32,750 Jews in Siberia. Of that number, 28,972 lived in cities and 3,778 in villages. In 1928, with strong support from the Evsektsia, the Soviet government decided to establish a Jewish Autonomous region with its center in Birobidzhan, in the eastern region of Siberia. There are no exact statistics about the number of Jews who arrived in Birobidzhan between 1928-1936; generally it is assumed that the Autonomous region attracted some 30,000 Jews, mostly from the western areas of the USSR.

Second half of the 20th century

Another wave of Jews reached Siberia with the outbreak of World War II. Numerous industrial enterprises and institutions of higher education, including the Soviet Academy of Science, were evacuated from the central parts of the USSR to Siberia and Central Asia. Their staff included many Jews along with their families. After the war, many Jews decided to remain in Siberia, instead of returning to their former places of residence. As a result, the Jewish population of Siberia increased by more than 10,000 persons.

State anti-Semitism became an everyday feature of life between the period of the early 1950’s and the mid-1980’s. While many Jews accused of “anti-Soviet activity and propaganda” were exiled to Siberia, others moved from central Russia to Siberia of their own free will in order to escape Soviet repression. All centers of Jewish cultural and religious life were closed with the exception of some model “Soviet” synagogues, newspapers and a theater in Birobidzhan. Jewish cultural and spiritual life went underground and in almost every large city there were clandestine groups who studied Hebrew, Judaism and Israeli history.

Since the late 1980’s and especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a revival of Jewish community life in Siberia. A Jewish school was reopened in Birobidzhan and synagogues and courses for the study of Hebrew and Jewish tradition were reopened in Tomsk, Omsk, and Kuibyshev (formerly Kainsk). While many Jews have immigrated to Israel, others have chosen to remain in Siberia. Various estimations put the current Jewish population of Siberia between 25,000 to 30,000 persons.

Some Famous Jews of Siberia

Konstantin Kaufmann Petrovich (1818-1882) - a famous Russian general, he conquered vast territories in Central Asia and Siberia for the Russian Empire. For two decades he was governor-general of Turkestan and Siberia.

Horacio Ginzberg (1833-1909) - a famous Russian merchant and philanthropist who founded the "Lena Goldfield Company". He, and later his children controlled practically all the gold production of Siberia before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Ginzberg was awarded the title of baron in recognition of his achievements and service for Russia.

Lev Davidovich Trotsky (Bronstein) ( 1879-1940) - a revolutionary and one of the leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. After having been arrested for revolutionary activity in January 1898 and spending two years in imprisonment, he was exiled to the small village of Ust-Kut in Siberia. In 1902, he succeeded in escaping with the help of a forged passport bearing the name of Trotsky, which he took from one of his Russian guards and adopted as his revolutionary pseudonym. During the first Russian revolution (1905-1907) Trotsky was arrested for the second time in 1906 and subsequently exiled to the village of Obdorsk, in the Arctic region of Siberia. Trotsky escaped from Siberia again in 1907.

Avraham Harzfeld (Postrelko) (1888-1973) - a Labor leader in Israel. Harzfeld joined the Russian Socialist Zionist party in 1906. In 1909 he was arrested for revolutionary activity and for the distribution of illegal literature. In 1910, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor and sent to a small village near Yakutsk in Siberia, but in 1914, he managed to escape and subsequently immigrated to the Land of Israel. Was a member of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) since 1949 until 1965.

Halpern Leivick (1886-1962) - Yiddish poet. A Bundist since 1902, he was arrested in 1906 for distributing illegal literature. After spending four years in prisons in St. Petersburg and Moscow, where he wrote several books in Yiddish, he was exiled in 1911 to the village of Vitim near the Lena River. He escaped in the summer of 1913 and later immigrated to the USA.

Alexander Averbuch (b. 1974) - an athlete. Born in Irkutsk, Siberia, he immigrated to Israel in 1999. His outstanding career includes winning the Decathlon in the European Under 23 Championships in 1997, the Bronze medal at the World Athletics Championship in Seville in 1999, the European Indoor Championship in 2000, and the gold medal for pole vaulting in the European championship in 2002.

Sevastopol

In Russian: Севастополь

The largest city on the Crimean Peninsula and a major Black Sea port, formerly in Ukraine, now in Russia.

Shortly after its foundation in 1784, Jews began to settle in Sevastopol, many of them from Galicia. They engaged in commerce and crafts and some acted as purveyors to the local garrison.

The community was severely struck by a plague which broke out in the town in 1825. The development of the community was brought to a sudden halt as a result of the government's decision in 1829 to prohibit residence in the town, which had become the chief Russian naval base on the black sea, to all Jews, as constituting a danger to security, with the exception of those who served in the army. Jews already living there were ordered to leave the town within two years, and even temporary residence or visits were restricted. The order did not apply to the Karaites. The local authorities unsuccessfully attempted to have the order rescinded pointing out the harm which would be caused to the Jews themselves and to the town generally.

The expulsion was halted for three years, after which Sevastopol was closed to Jews. Even a temporary stay by Jews in Sevastopol was limited to one month in 1842. During the Crimean war (1854--56) many Jews took part in the defense of Sevastopol and about 500 fell in battle. A monument was erected to their memory in the city in 1864.

From 1859 various categories of Jews (merchants registered in the guilds, with their servants and clerks, and artisans) were authorized to live in Sevastopol; there was also some alleviation in the attitude toward visits and temporary residence of Jews in the town. Thus the Jewish settlement was renewed during the second half of the 19th century, and in 1880 numbered 400. In 1874 a "house of prayer for soldiers" was opened in Sevastopol, and in 1884 the construction of a synagogue was completed. Jews began to play an important role in the foreign trade which passed through the port, especially in grain commerce. By 1897 3,910 Jews lived in Sevastopol (7.4% of the total population), including about 70 families of "Krimchaks" (Jews from Crimea itself). About 830 Karaites were also living in the city. In 1907 the authorities again began to expel Jews from various parts of Sevastopol, and by 1910 their numbers had decreased to 3,655. With the revolution of 1917 and abolition of all the anti-Jewish restrictions many more Jews settled in Sevastopol. By 1926 their numbers reached 5,204 (7%).

After the occupation of the town by the Germans during World War II (July 1942), the Jews who participated in its defense were evacuated; of the remainder, some joined the partisans. The rest perished in the Holocaust. A small synagogue and Jewish cemetery were maintained in the late 1960's.

Moscow

Russian: Москва (Moskva)

Capital of Russia since 1918. The political, economic, and commercial center of Russia.

Jews were forbidden to reside in Moscow until the end of the 18th century, although many Jewish merchants from Poland and Lithuania visited the town on business. A few Jews had arrived during the Russian-Polish war of the 17th century as prisoners. Among them were some who converted to Christianity and remained in the city. Peter Shafizov, one of the most important advisors to Czar Peter the Great was of Jewish origin.

The First Partition of Poland in 1772 brought a number of Jews to Moscow, particularly from Shklov, which was then an important commercial center in Belarus. In 1790, Moscow merchants requested that the presence and commercial activities of Jews in the city be prohibited; a royal decree forbidding Jewish merchants from settling in the inner districts of Russia was subsequently issued in 1791. However, they were still allowed to reside in Moscow temporarily in order to trade and Jewish merchants continued to play an important role in the trade between Moscow and the Southern and Western regions of Russia, as well as in the export of Moscow's goods. As a result, Russian industrialists in Moscow tended to support granting rights to the Jews of the city.

In 1828, certain classes of Jewish merchants were authorized to remain in Moscow on business for a period of one month only (in 1832 all classes of Jewish merchants were allowed to stay in the city for up to half a year), and could stay only in one inn, Glebovskoye Podvoriye. The inn was a charitable trust which had been handed over to the Moscow Town Council so that its income could be used for the maintenance of a municipal eye clinic. Because it was the only place that Jewish merchants could stay while they were in Moscow, they were forced to pay exorbitant prices to stay at the inn. With the ascension of Czar Alexander II in 1855, restrictions were eased; Jewish merchants of the first guild, university graduates, army veterans, and certain medical professionals were permitted to live anywhere in the city.

The first Jews to settle permanently in Moscow, who became the founders of the community, were cantonists (Jews who had been conscripted to the military as children) who had finished their military service, some of whom had married Jewish women from the Pale of Settlement. In 1858 there were 340 Jewish men and 104 Jewish women in the entire District of Moscow. From 1865 to 1889 Rabbi Chaim Berlin served as the chief rabbi of Moscow, and in 1869 the community invited Shlomo Minor, one of the outstanding students of the Vilna rabbinical seminary, to serve as the Kazyonny Ravvin (Government Appointed Rabbi).

In 1871, the Jewish population of Moscow was estimated at around 8,000. This number grew to about 12,000 in 1882 and 35,000 (over 3% of the total population) in 1890, just before the expulsion.

The governor of Moscow, Prince Paul Dmitriyevich Dolgorukov, was known for his liberal attitude towards the Jews and (after receiving bribes and gifts) the local administration was willing to overlook their occasionally illegal presence in the city (for example, in the cases of those who falsely claimed to be merchants and artisans). While anti-Jewish persecutions and decrees were gaining momentum throughout Russia after the ascension of Czar Alexander III, the attempts to expel the Jews from Moscow were delayed. This peace proved to be temporary when Prince Dolgorukov was removed from office, and Grand Prince Sergei Alexandrovich was appointed in his stead. One of his explicitly-stated goals in taking office was "to save Moscow from the Jews." Shortly thereafter, on March 28, 1891 (Passover Eve, 5651), Jews began to be expelled from the city.

The expulsion from Moscow came as a deep shock to Russian Jewry. Within a short period of time, approximately 20,000 Jews were expelled from Moscow. The poor were sent to the Pale of Settlement on criminal transports and generous rewards were offered for the capture of any Jews hiding in the city. A considerable number of those expelled arrived in Warsaw and Lodz, and began to rebuild their businesses. At the height of the expulsion period, the authorities closed down the new Choral Synagogue, which had just been built in 1891, as well as 9 of the 14 prayer houses. It was not until 1906 that permission was granted for the Choral Synagogue to be reopened.

In 1897 there were 8,095 Jews living in Moscow (0.8% of the total population. Additionally, there were 216 Karaites living in the city). In 1902 there were 9,339 Jews living in the city, with half of them declaring Yiddish as their mother tongue; the overwhelming majority of others declared it to be Russian. In 1893 Ya'akov (Iakov) Mazeh was elected as the rabbi of Moscow, and remained its spiritual leader until his death in 1923.

Increasing numbers of Jewish students arrived in Moscow during the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century in order to pursue higher education. In 1886 there were about 298 Jewish students in the city, and in 1911 there were about 700. Additionally, after the outbreak of World War I, streams of Jewish refugees began arriving from the German-occupied regions. They took part in the development of war industries, and some amassed large fortunes. In a short period of time, Moscow became a center of Jewish life and culture. Hebrew printing presses were set up and a large Lithuanian yeshivah was founded in the town of Bogorodsk, near Moscow. The Hebrew theater Habimah performed its first play in 1917 (its masterpiece, Sh. Ansky's "Ha-Dibuk," would premiere in January 1922). Authorization was given for the publication of a Hebrew weekly, "Ha-Am." The founding conference of the Organization for Hebrew Education and Culture, Tarbut, was held in Moscow in the spring of 1917. While these cultural activities continued through the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the new regime rapidly shut down most of the institutions of Hebrew culture in Moscow. The Habimah Theater was more fortunate; it continued to exist and was protected several prominent members of the Russian artistic and literary world, who defended it as a first-class artistic institution.

The headquarters of the Yevsektsiya, the Jewish section of the Soviet Communist Party, were located in Moscow, where they published their central newspaper, "Der Emes," from 1920 until 1938, as well as many other Yiddish newspapers and books. The Jewish state theater (known in Russia by its Russian initials, GOSET), directed by Solomon Mikhoels, was also located in Moscow. For a number of years, small circles of organized Zionists continued to exist in the city, which was the central location of the legal He-Chalutz as well as of Po'alei Zion. The Yiddish Theater moved from Petrograd to Moscow in 1920, and in 1925 it was reorganized as the Moscow State Yiddish Theater. In 1926 the Second Moscow University opened a department to prepare future teachers to teach at Jewish schools.

This cultural blossoming came to a halt during the 1930s. The last Jewish school was closed in 1936, while most Yiddish language educational and cultural institutions were closed in 1937 and 1938. The mass arrests from 1936=1938 also claimed a large number of Jews from Moscow, many of whom were party elites.

When Moscow became the capital of the Soviet Union in 1918, its Jewish population began rapidly increasing. In 1920 there were 28,000 Jews in the city, which had become severely depopulated as a result of the civil war. By 1923 that number had increased to 86,000, and by 1926 to 131,000 (6.5% of the total population). In 1940 the Jewish population was estimated at 400,000. In the census of 1959, 239,246 Jews (4.7% of the total population) were registered in the municipal area of Moscow; these numbers are thought to be a gross underestimate, and some opinions evaluate Moscow's Jewish population during that time as being as high as 500,000.


During World War II, from 1943, Moscow was the headquarters of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, which gathered together major well-known Soviet Jewish figures in order to assist the Soviet Union in its war effort against Nazi Germany and to mobilize world Jewish opinion and aid for this cause. It published a newspaper, "Eynikayt." The Anti-Fascist Committee attempted to continue its activities after the war, but was brutally suppressed in the years following the war. In 1950 the state security apparatus invented the Stalin Automobile Plant of Moscow (ZIS) Affair, accusing 48 people (42 of whom were Jews) of organizing a Jewish national sabotage group at the plant, led by the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. All ten people who were executed were Jews. Indeed, Moscow's Jews were particularly affected by Stalin's anti-Semitic campaigns after the war. Many of Moscow's Jews were fired from their jobs, arrested, and even executed after being falsely accused of various plots against Stalin and the state.

When Golda Meir, the first diplomatic representative of the State of Israel, arrived in Moscow on September 1948, a spontaneous mass demonstration of Jews in her honor took place on the High Holidays near and around the Moscow Choral Synagogue, angering Soviet officials. Later, the Israel delegation to the Youth Festival, held in Moscow in 1957, was the first opportunity that Jewish youth from Israel and the USSR had to form personal connections.

By 1970, there were three functioning synagogues in Moscow, the most historically significant of which was the Moscow Choral Synagogue (one of the three would be closed down by the authorities in 1972). In the 1950s and 1960s, The Moscow Choral Synagogue was allowed to issue a Jewish calendar and to send it to other synagogues in the USSR. In 1956 the synagogue's rabbi, Rabbi Solomon Schliefer ,was granted permission to print a prayer book from older prayer books. He named it "Siddur Ha-Shalom" ("The Prayer Book of Peace") and deleted all references to wars and victories (for example, the prayers said on Chanukkah and Purim). He is said to have printed 3,000 copies, but it was rarely seen in other synagogues in the Soviet Union. In 1957, Rabbi Schliefer was given permission by the authorities to open a yeshiva on the premesis of The Great Synagogue. He called it "Kol Ya'akov" ("The Voice of Jacob") and for several years a small number of young and middle-aged Jewish men, mostly from Georgia, were trained there. Nearly all the men learning there trained to be shochatim (ritual slaughterers), and the number of ordained rabbis did not exceed 1 or 2. By 1963 37 students had passed through the yeshiva; 25 of them had been trained as shochatim. In 1965 there was only 1 student studying there. Beginning in 1961, a barrier was erected in the Moscow Choral Synagogue to separate foreign visitors, including Israeli diplomats, from the local congregation and the synagogue's officers were responsible for strictly enforcing the segregation. In 1962, matzah-baking and distribution was restricted in Moscow, as well as in most other areas of the Soviet Union.


Yiddish folklore concerts took place relatively frequently in the city and drew large crowds. A semi-professional theater troupe was established, led by the actor Benjamin Schwartzer, and mainly performed Sholom Aleichem plays in provincial cities. In 1961 the Yiddish journal "Sovietish Heymland," edited by an officially appointed editor, the poet Aaron Vergelis, began to appear as an "organ of the Soviet Writers' Union."The Moscow Jewish Tramatic Ensemble was created in 1962 (which would be renamed the Shalom Jewish Dramatic Theater Studio).

The Six Day War and the subsequent rupture of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Israel put an end to cultural contacts between the two countries. But many of Moscow's Jews, particularly the younger generation, began demonstrating their feelings of Jewish nationalism more openly. Simchat Torah at the Moscow Choral Synagogue became a time for thousands of Jews to come together and sing Yiddish and Hebrew songs. These Jews began studying Hebrew in small, secret groups and publishing samizdat (underground publications). Jews organized groups to study Judaism and Jewish history, and held Jewish song contests. They also demonstrated and signed petitions against the refusal to grant them exit permits to Israel. A number of these activists ("refuseniks") were arrested for their activities, including Ida Nudel, Yosef Begun, and Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky.

Yalta

Ukrainian, Russian: Я́лта / Yalta

A resort city on the Crimean Peninsula, Russia. Formerly in Ukraine. 

21ST CENTURY:

In 2004 a Torah scroll was brought to Yalta by a group of rabbinical students, the community’s first Torah scroll in 80 years. By 2005 Yalta had a Jewish community center and a charity center, Hesed Naftul.

 

HISTORY

The winter palace of the Czar's family, Livadiya, was located near Yalta; as a result, Jewish residence in the city was restricted, and from 1837 to 1860 Jews were forbidden to live there. This prohibition was lifted between 1860 and 1893, but beginning in 1893 restrictions were re-imposed on Jewish residence in Yalta; only Jews who were already registered as inhabitants of Yalta, or those who had obtained the right to reside anywhere in Russia, were authorized to live in Yalta. The rest, including sick people who had been sent to Yalta to recover, were expelled from the city.

In 1897 there were 1,025 Jews living in Yalta (approximately 8% of the total population). By 1926 their numbers had increased to 2,353 (6.2% of the total). Most worked in the area’s tourist industry, while others worked as craftsmen or physicians.

 

THE HOLOCAUST

Approximately 1,000 Jews left Yalta before the German occupation, which began on November 8, 1941. After the occupation began the Germans appointed a Judenrat of 6 prominent Jews from Yalta in order to carry out the registration of the city’s Jews. Jews were ordered to wear yellow Stars of David, to register with the Judenrat, and to surrender any valuables. 15 Jews were shot to death outside of the city on November 21.

The Judenrat was ordered to establish a ghetto at the end of November, along with workshops, cooperatives, a hospital, and a ghetto police force. The city’s Jews were forced to move into the ghetto on December 5, where they were subject to overcrowding and starvation.

The first mass executions began on December 17, 1941, when a unit of Sonderkommando 11a shot a number of Jewish men outside of the city. The next day a group of women, children, and the elderly, were taken to the same place and shot. Between September 17 and 18 approximately 2,000 Jews from Yalta and the surrounding area were shot.

Yalta was liberated by the Red Army on May 16, 1944.

 

Irkutsk

Иркутск

City and administrative center of Irkutsk Oblast, Russia

Several Jews settled in Irkutsk at the beginning of the 19th century, of whom the majority were sent there as prisoners or exiles.

Subsequently, Jewish soldiers discharged from the army of Nicholas I settled in the city. The Jewish population grew from 1,000 in 1875, to 3,610 in 1897 (7.1% of the total), and 6,100 in 1909 (5.6%). Jews played a considerable role in the city's commerce and industry and in the development of the gold mines in the vicinity. After the 1917 revolution, a Jewish political exile, P. M. Rubinstein, was appointed president of the newly founded Irkutsk University. There were 7,159 Jews in Irkutsk in 1926 (7.2% of the total population) and 10,313 in Irkutsk oblast in 1959. In 1970 the city's Jewish population was estimated at about 15,000. There was one synagogue, but no rabbi or cantor. In the early 21st century, there were an estimated 5,000 Jews still in the city, with community life revolving around the synagogue

Trzebinia

A town in Chrzanów County, Lesser Poland, Poland/

Trzebinia, recorded as a village in the 13th century, was in the area that Austria annexed during the third division of Poland. In the course of time, with the discovery of silver and lead ores in the vicinity, industrial and manufacturing plants were established, around which a town sprang up. The development of Trzebinia occurred after it was linked to the railroad line between Vienna and Cracow. Following World War I (1914-1918) it was once again included within the boundaries of Poland. In 1931 Trzebinia (the town and the village) was granted the status of a city.

Jews settled in Trzebinia at the end of the 17th century. Until the beginning of the 19th century they belonged to the Chrzanow Jewish community, and only later became an independent community. At that time Rabbi Israel Kloger officiated as rabbi of the community. His son, Rabbi Haim Kloger, author of Pri Haim (Fruit of Life) succeeded him, followed by Rabbi Moshe Yonah Levy. His son, Rabbi Yaakov Levy, was appointed rabbi after him. The latter was blessed with many children, and one of them, Rabbi Israel, officiated as the community's judge during his father's term as rabbi. With the death of Rabbi Yaakov Levy in 1923, there Rabbi Benjamin Levy and Rabbi Dov Berish Weidenfeld. The latter was chosen. He served as head of the famous yeshiva Kohav Meyaakov (Star of Jacob), wrote the book of responsa, questions and answers on matters of Jewish law Dovev Miyashrim and was known as the Gaon of Trzebinia (the genius of Trzebinia). Rabbi Weidenfeld spent World War II in Russia, later settling in Israel, where he established the yeshiva Kochav Meyaakov in Jerusalem. Rabbi Akivah, son of Rabbi Yehezkel Gross, founded in Trzebinia the Torah Crown yeshiva of the Domask Hasidim.
In 1921 out of a total population of 1,317, there were 915 Jews residing in the town. That same year an additional heder (religious elementary school) was opened for the town's children. In 1932 the admor (Hasidic leader) of Bobowa, Rabbi Benzion son of Rabbi Halberstam, settled there.

During the second half of the 19th century, with the development of the mines and expansion of local industry, Jewish settlement grew until almost all the inhabitants of Trzebinia were Jews, and in 1914 a Jew, Rabbi Issar Mandelbaum, served as its mayor. On the Sabbath the whole town life came to a standstill, and on Passover it was impossible to obtain bread there.

Early in November 1918, with the end of World war I and the renewal of Poland's independence, the authorities prevented the Jews of Trzebinia from taking part in the celebrations. Fearing an outbreak of antisemitism, the Jews formed their own militia for self-defense. The head of the town's Polish militia disarmed the Jewish organization and just a few days later pogroms indeed began. The rioters attacked Jews, beat them, plundered their shops, broke into the synagogue and desecrated the torah scrolls. An army unit from the district city Cracow refrained from interfering and only a Pole, Adam Tzerlog, came out against the rioters.

The Jews of Trzebinia dealt in petty trade, crafts and peddling in neighboring villages. A few were suppliers for the local industry. In the period between the two world wars, the local Jewish settlement suffered from economic stagnation, and after the war it was in need of aid from the Joint Distribution Committee, which augmented the funds of the local Free Loan Society, thus enabling it to give substantial help to the needy. In the years of the worldwide Great Depression (1929-1931) the women's league ran a people's kitchen. After the court of the admor of Bobowa was established in Trzebinia (1932) with thousands of Hasidim pouring into the town, more opportunities for the local Jews became available.

The first group devoted to Zionist activity was organized in Trzebinia in 1912, a library and lecture hall were also erected at the same time. Between the two world wars the Heatid club of the General Zionists organized evening classes for studying Hebrew and Judaism, and opened an additional library. At the same time, the youth movements Hashomer Hatzair, Hechalutz, the Hebrew Youth subsequently the Zionist Youth and Akivah were active.

The Jews of Trzebinia took part in the 1935 elections to the Zionist Congress, most of them voting for the General Zionist.

In 1939 more than 1,300 Jews were living in Trzebinia.


The Holocaust Period

At the end of August 1939 a number of Trzebinia Jews were drafted into the Polish army and a few of them participated in the preparation of the city's anti-aircraft defenses. Already on September 1st, with the outbreak of war, the German air force bombed the city and its inhabitants began a mass flight, many Jews joining those fleeing eastward in an attempt to cross the border into the Soviet Union. In the meantime, German army units cut off the routes eastward and the Jews stopped in east Galicia, and suffering from want, gradually began to return to Trzebinia. A few of them were murdered on the way, and about 70 of them were executed by German soldiers who ambushed them on the road from Trzebinia to Kashanov. They were murdered there and on the football field and buried in mass graves on the sites of the slaughter. Two years later, with permission of the authorities, they were given a Jewish burial in the Jewish cemetery in Kashanov.

During the first days of the conquest the German soldiers, the Volksdeutsche (Germans born in Poland) and the Polish rabble plundered the stores and homes of the Jews.

Trzebinia was in the territory annexed to the German Reich (in eastern upper Silesia) and the decrees of the Nazi racist laws were already imposed on the Jews at the beginning of October 1939. They were ordered to wear the yellow patch, their movement in town was limited, and they were placed under curfew. Their valuables were taken away, Jewish businesses were closed down, some of them being given to loyal Aryans, and only a few were left to serve the local Jewish population. The Jewish community was required every day to supply workers for forced labor, and to pay ransom from time to time. Jews were seized in the streets and whoever was found disobeying the German orders was liable for transfer to the Auschwitz extermination camp.

In 1940 many young Jews secretly left the city in order to cross the border into the Soviet Union. Those who succeeded met with difficulty in finding employment and housing and some of them were even exiled to distant regions of the Soviet Union.

At the end of 1940 and beginning of 1941 the Germans began seizing Jewish men for forced labor in Germany and fortifying the frontier with the Soviet Union. Many died because of the back-breaking work and the inhuman conditions at the beginning of 1941 the Jews of Trzebinia were concentrated in several streets which became a ghetto. At first the ghetto was open, but gradually the Jews were forbidden to leave it, and their distress grew.

Within the ghetto members of the community developed mutual aid, set up a public kitchen for the needy and took care of the children's education by secretly operating classes on a variety of subjects.
On the 13th of Sivan 5702 (July 1942) S.S. units and German policemen surrounded the ghetto. The Jews were ordered to come to the cattle market square (Targowica) where a selection was held. One group of young men were sent to labor camps in Germany, another to the nearby city, Kashanov, to work in enterprises of vital importance to the Germans, and on the 22nd of Sivan 5702, the rest were sent to the Auschwitz death camp. Only a few of the Jews of Trzebinia remained alive at the end of the war.

In the summer of 1986 members of the Jewish community who visited the city found the Jewish cemetery broken into and in ruins. The few tombstones remaining in place had been shattered. The main synagogue, which had been turned into a garage by the Germans, was destroyed by the Poles after the war, and on the site an apartment building had been put up. The synagogue Chevrat Bikur Cholim was turned into a carpenter's shop for making coffins. This matter was brought to the attention of the ministry of religion in Israel.

In 1990 the Israel organization of former Trzebinia residents arranged for the restoration of the Jewish cemetery, and on August 13, 1990 a monument in memory of the Holocaust victims was unveiled. The survivors of the Trzebinia community and representatives of Jewish institutions and of the government participated in the ceremonies.

Tokaj

A small town in the Zemplen district, north east Hungary.

History

There were Jews in Tokaj during the seventeenth century. At the time of the national uprising during the second half of the seventeenth century, its leader, Ferenc Racosi II and his Kuruc Battalions occupied Tokaj. In 1680 they burnt it, then robbed and plundered the whole district. The Jews suffered especially from their cruelty and because of the lack of general security, they left for a period of time. However, in the first half of the eighteenth century, Jews emigrated from Poland to Tokaj. They were drawn by the trade in Tokaj, the sweet amber colored wine popular in the courts of Louis XIV and Peter of Russia. Jews produced wine for Jews and non-Jews. They leased vineyards, whose products and exports made them very rich. Their neighbors' jealousy was the reason that in 1798, Jews were forbidden to produce high-quality wine, including high quality kosher wine, which only Christians were permitted to produce. In 1800 the Jews also were forbidden to lease or buy vineyards in the Tokaj area. Jews were permitted to hold poor quality vineyards in the district of Zemplen. Nevertheless, the district representatives in Parliament claimed that the Jews concentrated all wine exports in their own hands. However, the municipality supported the Jews. A few local landowners who were interested in the development of Tokaj also supported them. The reputation of Tokaj wine was a credit to the Jews.

In 1879 Jews established a match factory in the town, and others established banks which financed industrial concerns. The community started a hevra kadisha (burial society) and many other charitable institutions such as agudat nashim, malbish arumim, anei haIr, hevrat sandakim, tiferet bachurim, and a merchant's association.  In addition, a school was opened in 1856. In 1888 the language of school instruction was changed from German to Hungarian. Certified teachers replaced teachers lacking certificates. The tradition and religion were observed, but the accent was on patriotism. In 1880, there were 1,161 Jews in Tokaj (the height of its Jewish population).

A new synagogue was built in 1889. The distinguished rabbis of Tokaj were: Gabriel Senditc, who was the rabbi there approximately 50 years, until he died in 1868. David Schuck (1864-1889), who wrote the book Imre David, about the Massechet Hulin (Muncacz, 1890). Natan Halevi Jungreisz was the rabbi from 1929 until perished in the Holocaust in 1944.

Neither the change of regimes after the First World War, not the White Terror harmed the Jews of Tokaj; the local authorities backed them, and prevented the terrorists' entrance. Tokaj was unique in the good relations between the Jews and the local citizens and officials which also served them well until the Nazis entered Hungary.

Between the two world wars there was much Zionist activity. The Ministry of the Interior officially registered a branch of aguda lemaan in 1931. The members of this association, the majority of them middle class, didn't believe in personal Aliyah, but supported the Zionist cause by collecting money and publicizing Zionist ideas among the wealthier classes. In 1931 the Young Zionist Movement, Barisia, began its work among the youth, and attracted many to Zionism. In 1932 there was a branch of the Hungarian Youth Organization, which also included Zionism. The local authorities ignored this activity, and the Jews of Tokaj, especially the young, weren't frightened of Zionist connections. There was no opposition in the Jewish community to Zionism.  All these factors helped Zionism spread and flourish in Tokaj and some young people went on Aliyah. In 1930 the community numbered 959.

The Holocaust Period

In 1938 with the publication of discriminatory laws which aimed at limiting Jewish participation in the economic and cultural fields, the means of livelihood of the Jews was indeed hurt, but not to the point of destroying their economic position. Through the cooperation of Christians in their businesses, these remained in their possession until the German army invaded Hungary. In 1939, when Hungary was posed to attack Romania, Jews to the age of 40 were mobilized to go to labor camps. In 1942 the laborers were employed on flood prevention. After three months they were sent to the Ukrainian front.

In the spring of 1944, after the German occupation, all the special rights enjoyed by the Jews were revoked and Jewish owned businesses and workshops were closed down. An SS unit assisted the gendarmerie to assemble the Jews and drive them from the town. Many of the wealthy Jews were sent as hostages to a detention camp at Kistarcsa. In April, buildings such as the synagogue, college, heder (a school for Jewish children) and homes of the officials of the community were turned into a ghetto, in which all the Jews of the town were concentrated. In contrast to instructions in other ghettos, the Christian inhabitants of Tokaj were permitted to bring food parcels to the Jews in the ghetto.

At the beginning of May, the Jews of Tokaj were taken by cart to Bodrogkeresztur, and then to the Satoraljaujhely ghetto. Several of the detainees succeeded in escaping from the ghetto and getting to Budapest. In the second half of May, the Jews of the town were sent to Auschwitz in four transports. The young people, who comprised a large part of the population, were sent to do forced labor.

Postwar

After the war, 112 survivors returned. They renewed communal life with the aid of the Joint, but the number of Jewish residents kept on decreasing. In 1960 only three Jews remained in the town.

Omsk

Омск

A city and administrative center, Omsk Oblast, southwestern Siberia, Russia

In 2003 the synagogue in Omsk switched its affiliation from the Progressive movement to Chabad. Shortly after the switch was made, the Chabad-affiliated Federation of Jewish Communities (FJC) sent Rabbi Osher Krichevsky, who was originally from Israel, to helm Omsk's Jewish community. Through the FJC, Rabbi Krichevsky runs a Jewish kindergarten and day school, religious services, as well as a number of social and charitable programs. In 2014 a deportation order was issued for Rabbi Krichevsky, ostensibly because he sold unlicensed kosher wine (though many believe it was for politically motivated reasons). The deportation order was repealed a few weeks after it was issued.

HISTORY

The first Jewish settlers in Omsk were those who were exiled to Siberia. Additionally, between 1828 and 1856 Jewish children that were seized for military service were sent to
Cantonist regiments (regiments for Jewish conscripts) in Omsk. The Jewish community of Omsk was founded by the exiles and ex-servicemen after their release from the Russian Army. Omsk's first synagogue was founded in 1855; a second synagogue followed in 1873.

The Jewish population of Omsk was 1,138 (3% of the population) in 1897. By 1926 the Jewish population had jumped to 4,389; in 1939, on the eve of World War II there were 2,135 Jews living in Omsk (1.6% of the total population). The Jewish population was 9,175 in 1959. In 1970 the Jewish population was estimated at about 10,000.

Sarnaki

A small town in the district of Lublin, east Poland.

Sarnaki was established in the 17th century. It lies on the railway line Sidlice-Bialistok, about 6 km from the river Bug.

At the beginning of the 19th century there was at Sarnaki an organized Jewish community, with a synagogue, a bet midrash and “stibls” of Hasidim. The children of the community went to heders, and from the 1860’s also to the Polish state school.

The Jews of Sarnaki were well integrated in the local economy. They owned flour-mills, a factory for soft drinks and a factory for cleaning sheep wool. There were also many craftsmen, such as cobblers, blacksmiths, and tailors.

Zionist activity started at Sarnaki at the beginning of the century and became well established in the period between the two world wars. The Zionist youth movements Hehalutz, Betar, and Dror were active in the place. With time, Betar became the largest of the movements.

On the eve of World War II nearly 1,200 Jews were living at Sarnaki.


The Holocaust Period

At the beginning of September 1939, when World War II broke out, Jews of Sarnaki fought in the ranks of the Polish army which tried to stop the German invasion. When the Germans occupied the town, the Jews were immediately subject to persecution. They were ordered to wear an identifying mark (the Sahield of David) on their arm, their movement in public was restricted, and heavy taxes were imposed on them. In the winter of 1939-1940 Jews tried to cross the river Bug eastward into Russia, but only a few were successful. Jewish refugees from west Poland came to Sarnaki and the number of Jews in the town doubled. The overcrowding and the shortage of food and other elementary necessities caused an epidemic of typhoid fever, which the lack of medicines made difficult to suppress.

Following the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the war front reached the region of Sarnaki in September 1941. Units of the Red Army were stationed in the area for a short time and when they retreated many Jews left with them eastward.

In August 1942 the Jews of Sarnaki were expelled to a ghetto in the town Losice. A few months later they were all transported to the death camp of Treblinka. Some who jumped off the train on the way managed to survive.

Feodosiya

Феодосия, also known as Theodosia. During medieval times the city was known as Caffa or Kaffa. 

Black Sea port in Crimea, formerly in Ukraine, now in Russia

One of the most ancient towns of the former Soviet Union. Founded during the Hellenistic period as the Greek colony of Theodosia, it was called Kaffa (Caffa) until the Russian conquest (1783).

The Jewish settlement was also one of the oldest on Russian territory, its beginnings dating from the Hellenistic period. The old synagogue of Feodosiya, thought to be the most ancient in Russia, had an inscription which testified to its construction in 909. Under the rule of the Republic of Genoa from 1266, Feodosiya became the center of the Genoese colonies on the Black Sea. In order to attract merchants from all nations there, freedom of religion was granted for all Christian sects, Muslims, and Jews. The traveler Schiltberg, who visited Feodosiya at the beginning of the 15th century, relates of the existence of two communities in the town a rabbanite and a karaite one. The Jews engaged in commerce and maintained relations with the Near East and Poland. The constitution of the town, proclaimed in Genoa in 1449, called on the consul and city elders to protect the Jews as all members of other religions, from any robbery, from scheming against their property when one of them died intestate, and from other molestations of the bishop. The situation of the Jews remained unchanged when the government of the town was transferred to the Bank of San Giorgio, a powerful financial company that administered the eastern colonies of Genoa (1453-75). The community continued to develop under Turkish rule also (1475-1783). At the beginning of the 16th century Moses B. Jacob of Kiev, of Lithuanian origin, held rabbinical office in Feodosiya. He composed a uniform siddur for all the Jews of Crimea, the Kaffa rite, and instituted 18 takkanot for the community.

After annexation by Russia, Feodosiya was incorporated in the Pale of Settlement. In 1897 there were 3,109 Jews in the town (12.9% of the total population), mainly Ashkenazim who had emigrated from Lithuania and Ukraine. On Oct. 17, 1905, pogroms accompanied by murder and looting broke out. The Jewish population of Feodosiya numbered 3,248 (11.3% of the total) in 1926. When the town was occupied by the Germans at the end of 1941, all the Jews who had been unable to escape were arrested, and taken to their deaths (Dec. 4, 1941). In 1970 the Jewish population of Feodosiya consisted of Crimean and Russian Jews and karaites. There was no synagogue.

Oryol

Hebrew: אוריול; Russian: Орёл (Orël); German: Oriol, Oryol, Orjol; Polish: Oreł; Other name: Orel

A city south of Moscow, Russia. 

Oryol was founded in the mid-16th century to protect the Muscovite state from Tatar aggression.

21st Century

The local Oryol synagogue was returned to the Jewish community for use as prayer location in 2016. The Jewish community consists nowadays of a few thousand Jews. The synagogue had originally been built at the turn of the 20th century.

 

Prominent Figures

Famous writers and poets were born or lived in Oryol such as Ivan Bunin (1870-1953) and Ivan Turgenev. While not Jewish, living in southern France during World War II Bunin hid Jews in his home. His writing was in the tradition of 19th century classic Russian literature, a model for which Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) stood for.

Oryol was also of geographic significance in the 19th century. It became an important railway location in the Eurasian Riga-Oryol line which was developed alongside the St. Petersburg-Warsaw line linking Russia with the west. Jews at the time were active in smuggling Latin written Latvian and Latgalian books from Prussia, prohibited in Russia around the second part of the 19th century.

 

History

Oryol lay outside the Pale of Settlement. A small Jewish community was founded there during the second half of the 19th century; in 1876 it was authorized to build a synagogue.

In 1897 the Jews of Oryol numbered 1,750 (2.5% of the total population).

Anti-Jewish riots broke out on October 18, 1905, but later, during World War I, many refugees from the battle areas came to the town.

In 1926 there were 3,597 Jews (4.6% of the total population); on the eve of World War II their numbers were estimated at about 6,000.

With the German occupation in 1941 the Jews were concentrated in the central prison. Initially put to forced labor, they were gradually deported to extermination camps. In May 1942 all the Jews remaining in the town were massacred.

Novosibirsk

Russian: Новосиби́рск 

A city in southwestern Siberia. Novosibirsk was founded in 1893. Due to its location on the Trans-Siberian Railway route, which made the city a transportation center, Novosibirsk grew rapidly after its establishment. 

21ST CENTURY

The Jewish Agency has been very active in Novosibirsk, offering Sunday Schools, Hebrew language clubs, and classes about Jewish history and culture.

Another major Jewish organization that is active in Novosibirsk is the Federation of the Jewish Communities of the CIS (FJC), a Chabad-affiliated organization that was established in 1998 to help revive Jewish communities throughout the Soviet Union. In Novosibirsk, the FJC runs Beit Menachem, a synagogue and community center that opened in 2013, as well as the Or Avner preschool and day school. The Chabad rabbi, Shneur Zalman Zaklas, has been living in Novisibirsk since 2000 and is the city’s chief rabbi.

In 2013 there were approximately 20,000 Jews living in Novosibirsk, 6,000 of whom were registered members of the Jewish community.

 

HISTORY

Jews were generally prohibited from settling in Siberia until the latter half of the 19th century, unless they had been sent there as prisoners. With the completion in 1904 of the Trans-Siberian railroad, large numbers of Jewish merchants, traders, artisans, and farmers began settling in Siberia. In 1926 there were 2,301 Jews living in the Novosibirsk region, and by 1939 that number had risen to 11,191. During World War II (1939-1945) large numbers of Jews came to Siberia, both voluntarily and involuntarily, and a significant portion of these refugees and prisoners decided to remain and settle permanently in the region.

In 1948 permission was granted by the city authorities to open a prayer house on Lomonosov Street. It had a general attendance of 30-50 people on Sabbaths, with considerably more attending on holidays. Additionally, another small wooden synagogue was located in the Dzerzhinsky District, on Luchezarnaya Street 23; it would occasionally have so many people attending services that the synagogue ran out of room and additional minyans were held in private apartments.

However, in spite of the considerable presence of Jews in Novosibirsk, between the 1950s and ‘80s it became increasingly difficult, and at times even dangerous, to engage in Jewish practices and build a Jewish community. The synagogues and prayer houses were closed, as were Jewish cultural centers; those who wanted to maintain some Jewish culture or practice had to do so in secret.  

Since 1989, however, Novosibirsk’s Jewish community has experienced a revival. At the end of that year the Society of Jewish Culture (NOEK) was officially registered, and began its work reviving the Jewish natural culture, language, and traditions. A Jewish library was established, Hebrew language courses began to be offered, and a Sunday School was organized. Subsequently, during the 1990s, and particularly after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, a number of Jewish organizations opened in Novosibirsk. The social welfare organization Esther was established in 1993; another charitable organization, Atikva, was founded in 1996. In 1994 the Jewish Agency opened a Siberian branch in Novosibirsk; that same year also saw the establishment of the Israeli Cultural Center.

 

AKADEMGORODOK

In 1957 the Siberian branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences was established. Akademgorodok became a center for education and science in Siberia, and employed a number of scholars. Notable Jewish scholars who studied and/or taught at Akademgorodok were:

BUDKER Gersh Itskovich (1918-1977)-Physicist; founder and first director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics.

GRANBERG Alexey Grigorievich (1936-2010)-Economist

KANTOROVICH Leonid Vitalievich (1912-1986)-Mathematician and economist

SALGANIK Rudolf Iosifovich (1923)-Biochemist and molecular geneticist

CHAPLIK Alexander Vladimirovich (1937, Odessa)-Physicist

KATZ Arnold Mikhailovich (1924-2007)-Honorary resident of Novosibirsk. Conductor, creator of the Novosibirsk Symphony Orchestra; People's Artist of the USSR (1984)

 

Information for this article was obtained through Beit Hatfutsot's "Treasuring Communities" project. Special thanks to Daniel Cherzov, a student at Or Avner in Novosibirsk, for your research.