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Encyclopedia Judaica:
Chernobyl, Ukraine

Ukraine: Virtual Jewish World | Berdichev | Tarnopol

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CHERNOBYL, town on the River Pripet, Kiev district, Ukraine. It had one of the oldest Jewish settlements in the Ukraine, dating from the end of the 17th century. It was originally under the jurisdiction of the Lithuanian Council and attached in 1710 to the *Council of the Four Lands . In 1691 a Cossack gang killed many Jews and pillaged their property. There were 695 Jewish poll taxpayers in Chernobyl and the surrounding villages in 1765. In the late 18th century, Menahem Nahum (1730–1787), a disciple of *Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov , settled there. He was the author of Me'or Einayim and Yismaḥ Lev, both printed in Slavuta in 1798. His son Mordecai founded a dynasty of ẓaddikim and made Chernobyl a center of Ḥasidism (see *Twersky family). Mordecai's many sons also founded ḥasidic courts, the most famous being R. Duvidl of Talnoye. The community numbered 3,482 in 1847 and 5,526 in 1897 (59.4% of the total). Many engaged in trade in agricultural products and crafts. The Jews in Chernobyl suffered from pogroms in October 1905, when Jewish property was pillaged, and from April 7 to May 2, 1919, at the hands of the Struk peasant gangs, who killed 150 Jews, injured many, and burned down most of the Jewish shops and houses. With the establishment of the Soviet government in 1920, communal, social, and religious life came to an end. The Jewish population numbered 3,165 in 1926 (39% of the total), dropping to 1,783 in 1939 (total population 8,470). In 1939 most of the Jews worked in eight artisan cooperatives. There were also two Jewish kolkhozes and a Yiddish school in operation. The Germans occupied Chernobyl on August 25, 1941. On November 7 they executed a large group of Jews. Jews returned after the war. In 1965, when there was no synagogue and prayers had to be held in private, Jewish private prayer groups were dispersed by the militia and religious articles were confiscated. After the Jews complained to the central authorities in Kiev, only prayer shawls were returned to their owners. The Jewish population in 1970 was estimated at 150 families.


A.D. Rosenthal, Megillat ha-Tevaḥ, 3 (1938), 118–25; R. Yanait Ben-Zvi, in: He-Avar, 9 (1962), 116–7; B. Hurwitz, ibid., 17 (1970), 110–4; E. Tcherikower, Di Ukrainer Pogromen in Yor 1919 (1965), 77–80. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: PK Ukrainah. S.V.

[Yehuda Slutsky / Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

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