KOBRIN (Pol. Kobryń), city in Brest district, Belarus, formerly in Poland. The earliest information on the Jewish community there is found in a document of 1511 in which King Sigismund I, among others, ratified its privileges. In the 1563 census the names of 23 Jews are mentioned as holding 25 houses, as well as about 20 orchards and vegetable gardens, and a synagogue. In 1589, when Kobrin received rights of a town, the Jews were accorded equal rights with the other inhabitants. In the frame of the Council of Lithuania Land, the Kobrin community was under jurisdiction of the Brest-Litovsk community. The Jews of Kobrin mainly earned their livelihood from local and interurban trade with Lublin, the leasing of inns, and the collection of custom duties. During the *Chmielnicki massacres of 1648–49, some Jews suffered from the Cossacks, and a number of Jews from the Ukraine took refuge in Kobrin. In the first half of the 18th century, owing to the wars with the Swedes, plagues, and fires, the city became impoverished, the economic situation of the Jews also deteriorated, and the community incurred considerable debts. Most of the local Jews in this period were engaged in peddling and various crafts, while a wealthy minority continued to trade in salt, cereals, and timber. In 1766 there were 946 Jews in Kobrin and the surrounding villages who paid a poll tax. Spiritual leaders of Kobrin included *Bezalel b. Solomon of Kobryn (d. 1678), and Jacob b. David Shapira (d. 1718), author of Ohel Ya'akov (Frankfurt on the Oder, 1729), av bet din of Kobrin, who founded a yeshivah.
In the beginning of Russian rule, the town was granted by the czar to the famous army commander Suvorov, and also proclaimed as a county capital. All these helped the development of the town, and the Jewish population of Kobrin and the surrounding townlets increased. There were 4,184 (total population 6,500) Jews living in Kobrin in 1847. In 1882 Jews were prohibited from leasing farms and rural buildings. The introduction of the government monopoly on liquor distilling in 1897 severely affected Jewish economic activity in Kobrin. Many emigrated, especially to America. The Jewish population numbered 6,687 in 1897 (69% of the total). During the 19th century, Ḥasidism, led by the dynasty of *Kobrin, founded by R. Moshe Rabinovich, was influential in the community, and lasted until the Holocaust. One of his grandchildren was the poet Yehuda Leib Lilenblum (YHL"L). Ḥayyim Berlin (the son of Naphtali Ẓevi Judah *Berlin) served as rabbi there. Zionism at first encountered violent opposition from the local Orthodox circles. After the revolution of 1905 Jewish workers, mainly organized in the *Bund and later the *Po'alei Zion, took an active part in the struggle for political, social, and cultural rights. The community had modernized ḥadarim, as well as a religious school, a *Tarbut school, a Yiddish school of the Central Yiddish School Organization (CYSHO), and a yeshivah. The community numbered 5,431 (c. 66% of the total) in 1921, and 5,617 in 1931. Most of them were employed in construction, linen manufacture, embroidering, porterage, haulage, shopkeeping, and retail trade in agricultural produce.
Soon after the outbreak of World War II, on Sept. 20, 1939, the Soviets took the city. The Zionist youth there tried to reach Vilna which was then in independent Lithuania, whence many of them continued on to Palestine. Many refugees from western Poland arrived in Kobrin, and by 1941 the Jewish population reached 8,000. On June 23, 1941, the Germans occupied Kobrin. Soon after the occupation, they established a Judenrat, instituted forced labor, and murdered about 170 Jews not far from the village of Patryki. In August 1941 the Germans imposed a fine of 6 kg of gold and 12 kg of silver on the Jews. In November 1941 a ghetto was set up, into which about 8,000 Jews were crowded. It was divided into two sections: part A for skilled workers and families, and part B for the others. Jews from the neighboring towns of Hajnówka and Bialowieza were also brought to the ghetto, which was greatly overcrowded. On July 27, 1942, ghetto B was surrounded, and about 3,000 Jews were shipped to Brona Gora, and murdered there. The youth organized and began to collect ammunition. On Oct. 14, 1942, another Aktion took place about 2.5 mi. (4 km.) from Kobrin on the road to Dywin. The Jews attempted active self-defense, the Germans were attacked, and attempts were made to take their arms. A group of about 500 persons managed to escape, but only 100 reached the forests and joined the partisans. They were active in the Voroshilov and Suvorov partisan units. A group of Jewish craftsmen was held in Kobrin until the summer of 1943 and then murdered in the prison courtyard. After the war, the community was not revived. A few survivors left Kobrin for Poland and then continued to Israel or other countries.
Dokumenty i regesty k istorici litovskikhyevreyev, 1 (1882), no. 62; Russko-yevreyskiy arkhiv, 2 (1882), nos. 179, 180, 185; S. Dubnow (ed.), Pinkas ha-Medinah (1925), index; B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce… (1930), 80, 83, 88, 192, 202, 211; B. Schwarz and I.H. Biletzky (eds.), Sefer Kobrin, Megillat Ḥayyim ve-Ḥurban (1951).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.