19.08.2020

Chernobyl Jews

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Hasidim of Chernobyl

 

In Chernobyl at the end of the 17th century - the beginning of the 18th century, according to the census for 1765, 96 Jewish houses lived and 696 Jews lived. In the late 18th century - early 20th century, Chernobyl was one of the main centers of Hasidism in Ukraine. In the second half of the 18th century, Menachem Nakhum Tversky settled in Chernobyl - the founder of the Tversky dynasty of tsaddiks, also known as the Chernobyl tsaddik family. Under his son, Rabbi Mordechai from Chernobyl, a courtyard was formed, which was attended by hundreds and thousands of adherents from various cities and towns of Ukraine and Poland. To maintain the court, to maintain a luxurious lifestyle, he instituted a ma'amadot (a tax imposed on the Hasidim in favor of the court of the Tzaddik). The eldest son of Rabbi Mordechai, Rabbi Aharon (1787–1872), became a Chernobyl tsaddik after his father's death. The Tver dynasty left Chernobyl during the civil war in 1920, when Tzaddik Shlomo Ben-Zion (Yanuka mi-Chernobil; 1870–1939) fled the town with his family.


After the second partition of Poland in 1793, the city of Chernobyl became part of the Russian Empire as a town in the Radomysl district of the Kiev province. According to the revision of 1847, the Jewish community of Chernobyl consisted of 3482 people. According to the 1897 census, out of the total population of 9351 people, there were 5,526 Jews (59.4%). In the 19th century - early 20th century, the main occupations of the Jewish population were crafts, trade, fishing and gardening. Three times a year fairs were held in Chernobyl, where Jewish traders from nearby cities and towns gathered.


At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a synagogue in Chernobyl, several Jewish prayer houses, a Talmud Torah, a private female Jewish school, and a Jewish almshouse. In October 1905, near Chernobyl, pogromists destroyed the Shepelich water station, in Chernobyl itself, for several days, they robbed and beat Jewish passengers descending from steamers. Local peasants also took part in the pogrom.

During the civil war in Ukraine, the entire Jewish population of Chernobyl suffered from Jewish pogroms (the exact number of those killed and wounded is unknown). From April 7 to May 2, 1919, the city of Chernobyl was in the power of the gang of Ataman Struk, all this time robberies and murders of the Jewish population did not stop in the town and its environs. The bandits drove the Jews to the river, forcing them to jump into the water, or threw them there, and if someone tried to swim out, they shot at him. The gangs imposed huge "indemnities" on the surviving Chernobyl Jews. During the pogroms during the Civil War, many Jews fled from Chernobyl to larger cities. To provide assistance to the population affected by the pogroms and hostilities, the Russian Red Cross opened in Chernobyl in the summer of 1919 a children's canteen for 550 children and a food center for 800 people. With the establishment of Soviet power in 1920, the Jewish religious community ceased to exist. In 1926, the Jewish population of Chernobyl numbered 3,165 (39% of the total population).

During World War II, German troops occupied Chernobyl twice (the first occupation from August 25, 1941 to September 28, 1943, the second from October 5 to November 17, 1943). During the first occupation, German troops brutally shot the Jews who remained in Chernobyl. After the war, some Jews returned to Chernobyl from evacuation and from the front. In 1965, there was no synagogue in the city, and the militia dispersed the Jews praying in private houses, and the objects of religious worship were confiscated. After a complaint to the central authorities in Kiev, only the Tallites that belonged to them were returned to the Jews. According to the 1970 all-Union census, about 150 Jewish families lived in Chernobyl. If you want to know in more detail the history of the ghost town and clearly see the consequences of the events, then we invite you on a tour to Chernobyl together with an experienced team and a professional guide from Chernobyl Adventure!

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