KISHINEV


KISHINEV (Rom. ChiŞinău), capital of Moldova, formerly within Bessarabia. A Jewish cemetery is known to have existed in a village near Kishinev during the 18th century. In 1774, a ḥevra kaddisha was founded in the town with a membership of 144. When Kishinev became the capital of Bessarabia under Russian rule (1818) it developed rapidly, becoming a commercial and industrial center, and many Jews moved there from other places in Russia. The first rabbi of Kishinev was Zalman b. Mordecai Shargorodski. In 1816, R. *Ḥayyim b. Solomon Tyrer of Czernowitz laid the foundation stone of the Great Synagogue and in 1838, in the wake of the authorities' efforts to hasten the assimilation of the Jews, the first Jewish secular school was opened. In time two other government schools were opened. The poet J. *Eichenbaum and the scholar J. *Goldenthal taught there. The *Haskalah movement won few adherents among the Jews of Kishinev.

From 10,509 (12.2% of the total population) in 1847, the numbers of Jews in the city grew to 18,327 (21.8%) in 1867 and 50,237 (46%) in 1897. At the close of the 19th century most of the Jews were engaged in commerce, handicrafts, and industry. About 20,000 Jews were in miscellaneous occupations, in particular in the garment and timber industries and in the manufacture and trade of agricultural products, for which the region was noted. Jews owned many flour mills and plants for curing tobacco and drying fruit, and wine cellars. In 1898, 29 of the 38 factories of all kinds in Kishinev were owned by Jews. Large commercial houses and printing presses were also owned by Jews and employed thousands of Jewish workers. Because of the policy of the Russian authorities, who deliberately fostered antisemitism and passed legislation restricting the sources of livelihood open to Jews, Kishinev had a particularly large number of poor and destitute who were supported by various charitable institutions. In 1898, the separate welfare organizations amalgamated to form the Society in Aid of the Poor of Kishinev. Until World War I, the framework of Jewish life remained unchanged.

Kishinev was the seat of the Bessarabian headquarters of several Jewish institutions, which included the *Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (after World War I), and the American Joint Reconstruction Foundation. Judah Leib *Zirelson, the chief rabbi of Kishinev and Bessarabian Jewry (from 1909), founded a yeshivah here. There were also Jewish schools with instruction in Yiddish and Hebrew, and a *Tarbut school. In 1898 there were 16 Jewish schools in Kishinev with 2,100 pupils; 700 Jewish pupils attended general schools.

Persecutions and Pogroms

The name of Kishinev became known to the world at large as a result of two pogroms. The first, initiated and organized by the local and central authorities, took place during Easter on April 6–7, 1903. Agents of the Ministry of the Interior and high Russian officials of the Bessarabian administration were involved in its preparation, evidently with the backing of the minister of the interior, V. *Plehve. The pogrom was preceded by a poisonous anti-Jewish campaign led by P. *Krushevan, director of the Bessarabian newspaper Bessarabets, who incited the population through a constant stream of vicious articles. One of the authors of the most virulent articles was the local police chief, Levendall. In such a heated atmosphere any incident could have dire consequences, and when the body of a Christian child was found, and a young Christian woman patient committed suicide in the Jewish hospital, the mob became violent. A *blood libel, circulated by the Bessarabets, spread like wildfire. (It was later proved that the child was murdered by his relatives and that the suicide of the young woman was in no way connected with the Jews.) According to official statistics, 49 Jews lost their lives and more than 500 were injured, some of them seriously; 700 houses were looted and destroyed and 600 businesses and shops were looted. The material loss amounted to 2,500,000 gold rubles, and about 2,000 families were left homeless. Both Russians and Romanians joined in the riots. Russians were sent in from other towns and the students of the theological seminaries and the secondary schools and colleges played a leading role. The garrison of 5,000 soldiers stationed in the city, which could easily have held back the mob, took no action. Public outcry throughout the world was aroused by the incident and protest meetings were organized in London, Paris, and New York. A letter of protest written in the United States was handed over to President Theodore Roosevelt to be delivered to the czar, who refused to accept it. Under the pressure of public opinion, some of the perpetrators of the pogrom were brought to justice but they received very lenient sentences. L.N. Tolstoy expressed his sympathy for the victims, condemning the czarist authorities as responsible for the pogrom. The Russian writer Vladimir *Korolenko described the pogrom in his story "House No. 13" as did Ḥ.N. Bialik in his poem "Be-Ir ha-Haregah" ("In the Town of Death").

On Oct. 19–20, 1905, riots broke out once more. They began as a protest demonstration by the "patriots" against the czar's declaration of Aug. 19, 1905, and deteriorated into an attack on the Jewish quarter in which 19 Jews were killed, 56 were injured, and houses and shops were looted and destroyed: damages amounted to 300,000 rubles. On this occasion, some of the Jewish youth organized itself into *self-defense units. The two pogroms had a profound effect on the Jews of Kishinev. Between 1902 and 1905 their numbers dropped from around 60,000 to 53,243, many immigrating to the United States and the Americas, while many more left after the second attack. The economic development of the town was brought to a standstill.

1914–1939

During World War I, when Russian units retreated from the Romanian front in 1917–18, they looted Jewish houses on their homeward journey. When the Romanian army entered the town soon afterward, it proved no less savage in its treatment of the Jews. Romanian rule, which lasted for 22 years (1918–40), made no improvement in the condition of the Jews, who were still harassed by official and unofficial antisemitism. However, their numbers increased through the arrival of waves of refugees from the pogroms in the Ukraine during the Russian Civil War. As in the past, the local agitators were led by students, especially from the theological seminary and the faculty of agriculture. The local press was once more in the fore in propagating antisemitism; most prominent were the official organ Romānia Nouā ("New Romania"), Cuvântul Moldovenesc ("The Moldavian Word"), and especially the Scutul Nātional ("The National Defender," published from 1921) which declared from the start its aim of fighting "against the Jew-boys, the speculators, the parasites, and the corrupt." There was also an antisemitic periodical, Gîndul Neamului. When the authorities deprived many of the Jews of Kishinev (and Bessarabia in general) of their citizenship in 1924, they lost their very means of livelihood. Hardly a year went by without demonstrations, riots, looting, and threats against the Jews. In these activities, members of the antisemitic organization "National and Christian Defense League," headed by A.C. *Cuza, played a leading role; they organized frequent "parades" with the intention of terrorizing the Jews and fomenting riots against them. In addition, the authorities took official measures, such as the closure of Jewish institutions, schools, newspapers, and cultural organizations. Many Jewish youth left for Ereẓ Israel or America. In 1938 the Jews were further hit by the antisemitic laws of the Cuza government, and more of them lost their civic rights.

Many Zionist movements were active in Kishinev, especially under Romanian rule; almost all trends of Zionism were represented, including a strong *He-Ḥalutz movement. Zionists and Yiddishists waged a sharp struggle to determine the character of the Jewish schools. The Yiddishists at first gained the upper hand. For political reasons – in order to weaken the influence of Russian culture – the Romanian authorities at first encouraged the development of independent Jewish education. Education in Hebrew made steady progress; outstanding among the leading Hebrew schools was the Magen David secondary school, founded in 1923. The authorities later tried to restrict Jewish education but it continued until Russian annexation in June 1940. Among the noteworthy achievements was the Hebrew kindergarten (1918) of the Yavneh society, the institute for the training of kindergarten teachers (1921), and the cultural center, which published its own monthly, Min ha-Ẓad. Sportsmen from Kishinev participated in the First and Second *Maccabiahs which were held in Ereẓ Israel in 1932 and 1935; many of them remained in the country.

From the close of the 19th century, a large number of Hebrew books were published in the town. Rabbinical works, as well as a variety of textbooks for the Hebrew and Yiddish schools, were also published. In 1912 there was a Russian Zionist weekly, Yevreyskaya Khronika. Many Yiddish newspapers appeared but they were shortlived (Dos Bessaraber Leben, Der Morgen, Der Yid, the weekly Erd und Arbet (1920–35) of the Ẓe'irei Zion party). Unzer Tseit, an important daily, was published between 1922 and 1938, with a few brief interruptions, under the direction of the lawyer Michael Landau.

By German-Russian agreement, in June 1940 Russia annexed Bessarabia. During the year of Russian domination (until July 1941), all Jewish institutions were closed down and the Zionist movement outlawed. In May 1941 the authorities arrested and exiled to Siberia all who were defined as enemies of the regime: these included the activists of the various Jewish movements and the wealthy Jews.

There were 70,000 Jews in the town on the eve of the Holocaust.

[Jean Ancel]

Holocaust Period

On July 17, 1941, Kishinev was occupied by German and Romanian units, who entered it together with units of Einsatzgruppe D. The massacre of Kishinev's Jews began immediately under the auspices of the Einsatzgruppe, and by the time the concentration of Jews into a ghetto was completed, about 10,000 had been slaughtered. The order to establish a ghetto and to wear the yellow badge was issued by the Einsatzkommando unit 11a, which from time to time took a number of people out of the ghetto and killed them. The Romanian gendarmerie acted similarly; German and Romanian reports mention three such operations. On August 1, 411 persons were killed by the Germans. The 39 survivors, who buried the dead, were returned to the ghetto to inform its inhabitants of the deed. On August 7, Unit 11a liquidated 551 Jews on the pretext of their being communist agents. On August 8, Romanian gendarmes removed 500 men and 25 women from the ghetto for forced labor. A week later, 200 of them were returned, as unfit for work, while the rest disappeared. Although documentation is available only on these three operations, it appears from eyewitness accounts that the method was more frequently employed.

On Oct. 4, 1941, deportations began to *Transnistria, the first group containing 1,600 persons. After this, between 700 and 1,000 Jews were deported daily, the last group leaving on October 31. Many of the deportees were robbed and murdered on the way to the Dniester River, while mass murder took place on the banks of the river, carried out by the Romanian gendarmes and German soldiers. In Transnistria Jews were sent to various camps and ghettos, where two-thirds of them died from epidemics, hunger, and exposure. The exact number of dead is not known, but taking into account the proportion of those killed in Bessarabia from the time of the Romanian and German conquest until the deportations to Transnistria on the one hand, and the number of those who died in Transnistria on the other, it may be estimated that of the 65,000 Jewish inhabitants in Kishinev in 1941, 53,000 perished.

Contemporary Period

In 1947 there were 5,500 Jews in Kishinev. In November 1956 Rabbi Greenberg of Kishinev was compelled to sign a government-organized protest against the Sinai Campaign which was published in Izvestiya. Restrictive measures were imposed on the Jewish community in the 1960s. The bar-mitzvah ceremony was forbidden in 1961; all synagogues but one were closed in 1964; and mohalim were repeatedly warned to cease performing circumcisions; the baking of matzah, however, was permitted in 1965. The Jewish cemetery, halved in area to make room for development, was completely closed in the 1960s and tombstones were damaged and destroyed, although the new cemetery was kept in order. Thirty-one Jews were arrested for "economic crimes" in 1962. In 1967 several Jewish students were expelled from the university when they refused to make a public denunciation of Israel's "aggression." A Jewish dramatic society established in 1966 with about 100 members put on a performance of Hershele Ostropoler. The official census of 1959 reported 42,934 Jews in Kishinev; in 1970 the Jewish population was estimated at approximately 60,000; and in 1998 it was put at around 21, 000.

[Theodor Lavi]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

L. Errera, Les Massacres de Kishinev (1903); I. Singer, Russia at the Bar of the American People (1904); C. Adler, The Voice of America on Kishineff (1904); Die Judenpogrome in Russland, 1–2 (1910); American Joint Reconstruction Foundation, Report of Activities 1924/26; B. Dinur, in: Be-Kishinev bi-Melot 60 shanah (1963), 243–59; E. Feldman, in: He-Avar, 17 (1970), 137–50. HOLOCAUST PERIOD: M. Carp, Cartea Neagră, 3 (1947), index; M. Mircu, Pogromurile din Basarabia (1947); Broszat, in: Gutachten des Instituts fuer Zeitgeschichte (1958), 102–82. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Landau, O Viaţă de luptă (1971), 73-97; Hebrew version: Ma'avak Ḥayyay (1970).


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