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Pnina (Perla) Trubnikov (later Beit Or) on the left. In the The Inhulets River, Odessa. c. 1920s

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Pnina (Perla) Trubnikov (later Beit Or) on the left. In the The Inhulets River in Sade Menucha (Jewish agricultural colonies) in Ukraine., Odessa. c. 1920s
The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU – Museum of the Jewish People,  Courtesy of Pnina and Baruch Beit Or (Lichthouse) Archive

Photo period:
1920s
ID Number:
19189114
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)
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Odessa 

In Ukrainian: Одeса; in Russian: Одeсса

Capital of Odessa Oblast, Ukraine.

The presence of the first Jews in Odessa dates back to the year 1789. Between the end of the eighteenth century and the outbreak of World War II, the Jewish population of Odessa grew to180,000 (nearly 30% of the total population of the city).

From the start the Jews from Odessa engaged in export and wholesale trade, banking and industry, the liberal professions and crafts.

The community was made up of Jews from all over Russia and also from other countries. The influence of the Maskilim (those belonging to the Enlightenment movement) in Odessa was considerable and also reached other parts of Russia.

The Pogroms
Anti-Jewish outbreaks occurred on five occasions (1821, 1859, 1871, 1881, 1905) in Odessa, as well as many attempted attacks or unsuccessful efforts to provoke them.

Intensive anti-Jewish agitation shadowed and accompanied the growth of the Jewish population and its economic and cultural achievements. Almost every sector of the Christian population contributed to the agitation and took part in the pogroms; the monopolists of the grain export (especially the Greeks in 1821; 1859; 1871) in an attempt to strike at their Jewish rivals, wealthy Russian merchants, nationalist Ukrainian intellectuals, and Christian members of the liberal professions who regarded the respected economic position of the Jews, who were "deprived of rights" in the other towns of the country, and their Russian acculturation as "the exploitation of Christians and masters at the hands of heretics and foreigners" (1871; 1881). The government administration and its supporters favored the pogroms as a means for punishing the Jews for their participation in the revolutionary movement; pogroms were also an effective medium for diverting the anger of the discontented masses from
opposition to the government to hatred of the Jews. After the revolution, during 1917-19, the association of Jewish combatants was formed by ex-officers and soldiers of the Russian army. It was due to the existence of this association that no pogroms occurred in Odessa throughout the civil war period.

Zionist and Literary Center
From the inception of the Hibbat Zion movement Odessa served as its chief center. From here issued the first calls of M.L. Lilienblum ("the revival of Israel on the land of its ancestors") and L. Pinsker ("Auto-emancipation") which gave rise to the movement, worked for its unity ("Zerubbavel", 1883), and headed the leadership which was established after the Kattowitz conference ("Mazkeret Moshe", 1885-89).

The Benei Moshe Society (founded by Achad Ha-Am in 1889), which attempted to organize the intellectuals and activists of the movement, was established in Odessa.

The social awakening of the masses gave rise to the popular character of the Zionist movement in Odessa. It succeeded in establishing an influential and ramified organization, attracting a stream of intellectual and energetic youth from the towns and villages of the pale of settlement to Odessa - the center of culture and location of numerous schools - and provided the Jewish national movement with powerful propagandists, especially from among the ranks of those devoted to Hebrew literature.

The group of authors and activists which rallied around the Zionist movement and actively participated in the work of its institutions included M.L. Lilienblum and Achad Ha-Am, M.M. Ussishkin, who headed the Odessa committee during its last decade of existence, and M. Dizengoff, Zalman Epstein and Y.T. Lewinsky, M. Ben-Ammi and H. Rawnitzky, Ch.N. Bialik and J. Klausner, A. Druyanow and A.M. Berakhyahu (Borochov), Ch. Tchernowitz, S. Pen, M. Gluecksohn and V. Jabotinsky.

These had great influence on the youth, who were not only initiated into Jewish national activity, but were enriched in Jewish culture and broadened in general education.

During the 1920's and 1930's
With the advent of the Soviet regime, Odessa ceased to be the Jewish cultural center in southern Russia. The symbol of the destruction of Hebrew culture was the departure from Odessa for Constantinople in June 1921 of a group of Hebrew authors led by Bialik. The Yevsektsiya chose Kharkov and Kiev as centers for its activities among the Jews of the Ukraine. Russian-oriented assimilation prevailed among the Jews of Odessa in the 1920's (though the city belonged to the Ukraine). Over 77% of the Jewish pupils attended Russian schools in 1926 and only 22% Yiddish schools. At the University, where up to 40% of the student role was Jewish, a faculty of Yiddish existed for several years which also engaged in research of the history of Jews in southern Russia.

The renowned Jewish libraries of the city were amalgamated into a single library named after Mendele Mokher Seforim. In the later 1930's, as in the rest of the Soviet Union, Jewish cultural activity ceased in Odessa and was eventually completely eradicated. The rich Jewish life in Odessa found vivid expressions in Russian-Jewish fiction, as, e.g., in the novels of Yushkevich, in Jabotinsky's autobiographical stories and his novel Piatero ("They Were Five," 1936) and particularly in the colorful Odessa Tales by Isaac Babel, which covered both the pre-revolutionary and the revolutionary period and described the Jewish proletariat and underworld of the city.

The Holocaust Period
After June 21, 1941, many Jews from Bukovina, Bessarabia, and western Ukraine fled from German and Rumanian rule to Odessa. Some Jews in Odessa were called up to the Red Army, and many others left during the two months' siege of the city.

On October 22, 1941, an explosion wrecked a part of the building of the Rumanian military general headquarters (the former headquarters of the Soviet secret police). General Glogojeanu, the city's military commander, and many Rumanian and German officers and soldiers were killed. In the first reprisals carried out the following day, 5,000 persons, most of them Jews, were killed. Many of them were hanged at crossings and in the public squares. Ion Antonescu ordered the execution of 200 communists for every officer who had been killed, and 100 for every soldier, and ordered that one member of every Jewish family be taken hostage. Nineteen thousand Jews were arrested and brought to the square at the harbor, doused with gasoline, and burned. Another 16,000 were taken the following day to the outskirts, where all of them were massacred. Another 5,000 Jews were subsequently arrested, and soon after the massacres, deported to camps set up in Bogdanovka, Domanevka, Krivoye Ozero, and other villages, where about 70,000 Jews, all from southern Transnistria, were concentrated. During December 1941 and January 1942, almost all of them were killed by special units of Sonderkommando (Russia) aided by Rumanian police soldiers, Ukrainian militia, and, especially, by the SS units, made up of former German colonists in the region. On Dec. 7, 1941, Odessa became the capital of Transnistria. The governor, G. Alexianu, and all the administrative institutions transferred their headquarters from Tiraspol to Odessa. Subsequently, steps were taken to make Odessa Judenrein. After the last convoy left on February 23, 1942, Odessa was proclaimed Judenrein. The local inhabitants and the occupying forces looted Jewish property. The old Jewish cemetery was desecrated and hundreds of granite and marble tombstones were shipped to Rumania and sold.

Soviet troops under general Malinovsky returned to Odessa on April 10, 1944. It is estimated that at the time of liberation, a few thousand Jews were living in Odessa, some of them under false documents or in hiding in the catacombs. Others were given shelter by non-Jewish families. There had been numerous informers among the local Russians and Ukrainians but also persons who risked their liberty and even their lives to save Jews.

During the 1950's and 1960's
After the Jewish survivors returned, Odessa became one of the largest Jewish centers of the Soviet Union. However, there was no manifestation of communal or cultural life. In 1962 private prayer groups were dispersed by the authorities and religious articles found among them were confiscated. A denunciation of the Jewish religious congregation and its employees appeared in the local paper in 1964. Baking of Matzah by the Jewish community was essentially prohibited during the period 1959-65. It was again allowed in 1966. In the 1959 census 102,200 Jews were registered in Odessa, but the actual number has been estimated at about 180,000 (14-15% of the total population).

From 1968 several Jewish families were allowed to emigrate to Israel, following the increased demand for exit permits of Soviet Jews in the wake of the Six-Day War (1967). The emigration to Israel and other countries increased during the 1970's and especially after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Community Institutions
Contemporary Odessa has a variety of institutions serving the needs of its Jewish population, which today numbers about 45,000 (3.5% of the city's total population). Community life has been particularly developed since 1991, when the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee opened its first office in the city.
The religious life of the Community is concentrated around the Osipova Street Synagogue.

The Odessa Municipal Jewish Library opened its doors in 1994. It contains books and periodicals in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ukrainian, Russian and English. The library functions as a community center.

The Odessa Jewish Cultural Society was founded in 1989. The Society organizes activities through its Migdal Education and Arts Center, Association of Former Jewish Victims of the Ghetto and Nazi Camps, Di Yiddishe Leed (Jewish song workshop), Drama Workshop Theater and Mame Loshn Magazine.

Gmilus Hesed is a welfare organization which helps the needy, disabled and solitary Jews of Odessa. Its range of activities includes medical consultations, Sunday meals program, visits to the homes of the elderly and loans of medical equipment.

There are two kindergartens, two day schools, and four Sunday schools.

Of the three cemeteries in Odessa, two (the Old Cemetery and the First Jewish Cemetery) were destroyed in 1936 and 1978 respectively and today only the Third Jewish Cemetery functions.

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Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions
Pnina (Perla) Trubnikov (later Beit Or) on the left. In the The Inhulets River, Odessa. c. 1920s

Pnina (Perla) Trubnikov (later Beit Or) on the left. In the The Inhulets River in Sade Menucha (Jewish agricultural colonies) in Ukraine., Odessa. c. 1920s
The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU – Museum of the Jewish People,  Courtesy of Pnina and Baruch Beit Or (Lichthouse) Archive

Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)

Odessa

Odessa 

In Ukrainian: Одeса; in Russian: Одeсса

Capital of Odessa Oblast, Ukraine.

The presence of the first Jews in Odessa dates back to the year 1789. Between the end of the eighteenth century and the outbreak of World War II, the Jewish population of Odessa grew to180,000 (nearly 30% of the total population of the city).

From the start the Jews from Odessa engaged in export and wholesale trade, banking and industry, the liberal professions and crafts.

The community was made up of Jews from all over Russia and also from other countries. The influence of the Maskilim (those belonging to the Enlightenment movement) in Odessa was considerable and also reached other parts of Russia.

The Pogroms
Anti-Jewish outbreaks occurred on five occasions (1821, 1859, 1871, 1881, 1905) in Odessa, as well as many attempted attacks or unsuccessful efforts to provoke them.

Intensive anti-Jewish agitation shadowed and accompanied the growth of the Jewish population and its economic and cultural achievements. Almost every sector of the Christian population contributed to the agitation and took part in the pogroms; the monopolists of the grain export (especially the Greeks in 1821; 1859; 1871) in an attempt to strike at their Jewish rivals, wealthy Russian merchants, nationalist Ukrainian intellectuals, and Christian members of the liberal professions who regarded the respected economic position of the Jews, who were "deprived of rights" in the other towns of the country, and their Russian acculturation as "the exploitation of Christians and masters at the hands of heretics and foreigners" (1871; 1881). The government administration and its supporters favored the pogroms as a means for punishing the Jews for their participation in the revolutionary movement; pogroms were also an effective medium for diverting the anger of the discontented masses from
opposition to the government to hatred of the Jews. After the revolution, during 1917-19, the association of Jewish combatants was formed by ex-officers and soldiers of the Russian army. It was due to the existence of this association that no pogroms occurred in Odessa throughout the civil war period.

Zionist and Literary Center
From the inception of the Hibbat Zion movement Odessa served as its chief center. From here issued the first calls of M.L. Lilienblum ("the revival of Israel on the land of its ancestors") and L. Pinsker ("Auto-emancipation") which gave rise to the movement, worked for its unity ("Zerubbavel", 1883), and headed the leadership which was established after the Kattowitz conference ("Mazkeret Moshe", 1885-89).

The Benei Moshe Society (founded by Achad Ha-Am in 1889), which attempted to organize the intellectuals and activists of the movement, was established in Odessa.

The social awakening of the masses gave rise to the popular character of the Zionist movement in Odessa. It succeeded in establishing an influential and ramified organization, attracting a stream of intellectual and energetic youth from the towns and villages of the pale of settlement to Odessa - the center of culture and location of numerous schools - and provided the Jewish national movement with powerful propagandists, especially from among the ranks of those devoted to Hebrew literature.

The group of authors and activists which rallied around the Zionist movement and actively participated in the work of its institutions included M.L. Lilienblum and Achad Ha-Am, M.M. Ussishkin, who headed the Odessa committee during its last decade of existence, and M. Dizengoff, Zalman Epstein and Y.T. Lewinsky, M. Ben-Ammi and H. Rawnitzky, Ch.N. Bialik and J. Klausner, A. Druyanow and A.M. Berakhyahu (Borochov), Ch. Tchernowitz, S. Pen, M. Gluecksohn and V. Jabotinsky.

These had great influence on the youth, who were not only initiated into Jewish national activity, but were enriched in Jewish culture and broadened in general education.

During the 1920's and 1930's
With the advent of the Soviet regime, Odessa ceased to be the Jewish cultural center in southern Russia. The symbol of the destruction of Hebrew culture was the departure from Odessa for Constantinople in June 1921 of a group of Hebrew authors led by Bialik. The Yevsektsiya chose Kharkov and Kiev as centers for its activities among the Jews of the Ukraine. Russian-oriented assimilation prevailed among the Jews of Odessa in the 1920's (though the city belonged to the Ukraine). Over 77% of the Jewish pupils attended Russian schools in 1926 and only 22% Yiddish schools. At the University, where up to 40% of the student role was Jewish, a faculty of Yiddish existed for several years which also engaged in research of the history of Jews in southern Russia.

The renowned Jewish libraries of the city were amalgamated into a single library named after Mendele Mokher Seforim. In the later 1930's, as in the rest of the Soviet Union, Jewish cultural activity ceased in Odessa and was eventually completely eradicated. The rich Jewish life in Odessa found vivid expressions in Russian-Jewish fiction, as, e.g., in the novels of Yushkevich, in Jabotinsky's autobiographical stories and his novel Piatero ("They Were Five," 1936) and particularly in the colorful Odessa Tales by Isaac Babel, which covered both the pre-revolutionary and the revolutionary period and described the Jewish proletariat and underworld of the city.

The Holocaust Period
After June 21, 1941, many Jews from Bukovina, Bessarabia, and western Ukraine fled from German and Rumanian rule to Odessa. Some Jews in Odessa were called up to the Red Army, and many others left during the two months' siege of the city.

On October 22, 1941, an explosion wrecked a part of the building of the Rumanian military general headquarters (the former headquarters of the Soviet secret police). General Glogojeanu, the city's military commander, and many Rumanian and German officers and soldiers were killed. In the first reprisals carried out the following day, 5,000 persons, most of them Jews, were killed. Many of them were hanged at crossings and in the public squares. Ion Antonescu ordered the execution of 200 communists for every officer who had been killed, and 100 for every soldier, and ordered that one member of every Jewish family be taken hostage. Nineteen thousand Jews were arrested and brought to the square at the harbor, doused with gasoline, and burned. Another 16,000 were taken the following day to the outskirts, where all of them were massacred. Another 5,000 Jews were subsequently arrested, and soon after the massacres, deported to camps set up in Bogdanovka, Domanevka, Krivoye Ozero, and other villages, where about 70,000 Jews, all from southern Transnistria, were concentrated. During December 1941 and January 1942, almost all of them were killed by special units of Sonderkommando (Russia) aided by Rumanian police soldiers, Ukrainian militia, and, especially, by the SS units, made up of former German colonists in the region. On Dec. 7, 1941, Odessa became the capital of Transnistria. The governor, G. Alexianu, and all the administrative institutions transferred their headquarters from Tiraspol to Odessa. Subsequently, steps were taken to make Odessa Judenrein. After the last convoy left on February 23, 1942, Odessa was proclaimed Judenrein. The local inhabitants and the occupying forces looted Jewish property. The old Jewish cemetery was desecrated and hundreds of granite and marble tombstones were shipped to Rumania and sold.

Soviet troops under general Malinovsky returned to Odessa on April 10, 1944. It is estimated that at the time of liberation, a few thousand Jews were living in Odessa, some of them under false documents or in hiding in the catacombs. Others were given shelter by non-Jewish families. There had been numerous informers among the local Russians and Ukrainians but also persons who risked their liberty and even their lives to save Jews.

During the 1950's and 1960's
After the Jewish survivors returned, Odessa became one of the largest Jewish centers of the Soviet Union. However, there was no manifestation of communal or cultural life. In 1962 private prayer groups were dispersed by the authorities and religious articles found among them were confiscated. A denunciation of the Jewish religious congregation and its employees appeared in the local paper in 1964. Baking of Matzah by the Jewish community was essentially prohibited during the period 1959-65. It was again allowed in 1966. In the 1959 census 102,200 Jews were registered in Odessa, but the actual number has been estimated at about 180,000 (14-15% of the total population).

From 1968 several Jewish families were allowed to emigrate to Israel, following the increased demand for exit permits of Soviet Jews in the wake of the Six-Day War (1967). The emigration to Israel and other countries increased during the 1970's and especially after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Community Institutions
Contemporary Odessa has a variety of institutions serving the needs of its Jewish population, which today numbers about 45,000 (3.5% of the city's total population). Community life has been particularly developed since 1991, when the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee opened its first office in the city.
The religious life of the Community is concentrated around the Osipova Street Synagogue.

The Odessa Municipal Jewish Library opened its doors in 1994. It contains books and periodicals in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ukrainian, Russian and English. The library functions as a community center.

The Odessa Jewish Cultural Society was founded in 1989. The Society organizes activities through its Migdal Education and Arts Center, Association of Former Jewish Victims of the Ghetto and Nazi Camps, Di Yiddishe Leed (Jewish song workshop), Drama Workshop Theater and Mame Loshn Magazine.

Gmilus Hesed is a welfare organization which helps the needy, disabled and solitary Jews of Odessa. Its range of activities includes medical consultations, Sunday meals program, visits to the homes of the elderly and loans of medical equipment.

There are two kindergartens, two day schools, and four Sunday schools.

Of the three cemeteries in Odessa, two (the Old Cemetery and the First Jewish Cemetery) were destroyed in 1936 and 1978 respectively and today only the Third Jewish Cemetery functions.